WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . .

Strange, eccentric and sometimes mad people or unusual events in the music world.

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WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . WILLIS ALAN RAMSEY: The love song of two semi-aquatic rodents

14 Apr 2017  |  4 min read  |  1

When Dave Marsh and James Bernard published their brick-sized New Book of Rock Lists in the mid Nineties they included categories such as Artists Critics Believe Can Do No Wrong (topped by Arrested Development, the Beatles, James Brown but oddly enough not including Lou Reed) and 25 People Who Quit or Were Fired Before Their Groups Became Famous (Signe Anderson of Jefferson Airplane).... > Read more

Sympathy for a Train, with Jamie Oldaker (2005)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . GARY WILSON: The retro avant-garde artist at play

10 Apr 2017  |  1 min read

When Beck name-checked Gary Wilson in his '96 song Where It's At, the reference understandably went right past most people: Wilson hadn't recorded an album since '77 and that one, You Think You Really Know Me, had way fewer than 1000 copies pressed on release. Wilson was a cult figure like few others. Equally influenced by lounge music (his father was a jazz bassist and played in lounge... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . DEUTSCHE WERTARBEIT: Presenting, the one and only . . .

6 Mar 2017  |  4 min read

For way more than a decade, the sole album attributed to Deutsche Wertarbeit – which translates from the German as “German Craftsmanship” or “German quality” – was almost impossible to find. And even when it was finally reissued on CD in the mid Nineties it went past most people.  Released in 1981 and locating itself somewhere between... > Read more

Der Grosse Atem

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . CHANCE: Searching for the chancer

27 Feb 2017  |  3 min read

Like the remarkable Vernon Dalhart who had numerous stage and recording names, the man born Chance Martin also used a lot of pseudonyms. Unfortunately unlike Dalhart (his extraordinary story is told here) who sold records by the shedload, Chance -- as he was known to friends -- barely shifted a copy of his sole album In Search, released in 1981. Chance -- who has been variously Mr Freedom... > Read more

Mr Freedom Man

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ROSEMARY BROWN: Music from the great beyond

13 Feb 2017  |  6 min read

When the English composer and pianist Rosemary Brown died in 2001 at age 85 she took with her an intimate knowledge of the works by some of the greatest classical composers. This is not uncommon of course. Classical performers and conductors always have a deep and personal connection to the music of those whose compositions they have studied and played. But Brown's connection to... > Read more

Valse Brillante in E Minor

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . CARL T SPRAGUE: At home on the range in the Eighteen Seventies

27 Jan 2017  |  5 min read

Some musicians are so close to the source they are almost part of it. The young Rolling Stones -- despite their cultural, emotional and physical distance from American blues – heard that music speak to them and, in their emulation of their heroes like Jimmy Reed, Middy Waters, Howling Wolf, Willie Dixon and others, located themselves as part of the lineage. When they first... > Read more

Utah Carrol

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ROBERT GRAETTINGER: The ghoul of Third Stream

16 Jan 2017  |  5 min read

When big-band leader Stan Kenton took a left turn from the dancefloor into music for the concert halls in the late Forties he increasingly left much of his audience behind. By aiming more for the head than the feet he was embarking on a path that had already been laid out by George Russell and Dave Brubeck, and Gunther Schuller gave it the name Third Stream Music because it belonged... > Read more

City of Glass, Second Movement

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . LOLA FALANA: Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl . . .

9 Jan 2017  |  3 min read

When the singer-dancer-actress Lola Falana arrived in New York in the early Sixties with, by her account just US$26 in her pocket, she took whatever dancing jobs she could get, mostly in Harlem clubs. And it was in one such place that she was spotted by Sammy Davis Jnr. In quick succession she appeared in his Broadway musical Golden Boy, recorded her debut single My Baby, appeared in... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE FALL IN A HOLE ALBUM: Almost stopping the Nun taking flight

1 Dec 2016  |  5 min read

Not many records can claim to bring down a successful record company, but the Fall's live album In a Hole (released in December 1983) can claim to have almost done that. In his memoir In Love With These Times, Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd tells of how a mix of passion, fandom, ignorance of legalities and thoughtless business practice made for hard times when the record came out in... > Read more

No Xmas for John Quays (live, from the original 45, extract only)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . MARNI NIXON: The voice of the famous faces

14 Nov 2016  |  4 min read

When the American singer Marni Nixon died in July 2016, her passing was barely noted in the music press. Major newspapers like the New York Times weighed in with obituaries, but the silence from music press was deafening. Maybe contemporary music writers didn't know who she was, and that would be the irony of her life . . . Even though her music was enjoyed by many millions at the... > Read more

I Could Have Danced All Night (from My Fair Lady)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . HARRY KALAPANA: Aloha from Yugoslavia?

31 Oct 2016  |  4 min read

Of all the many hundreds of musical styles across the planet, only one has managed to embed itself in popular, post-Fifties music which exists along the Western axis of London-New York-America's West Coast: reggae. Yes, there are belated flickers and influences (if not downright copying) of Fela Anikulapo Kuti's Afrobeat and some aspects of Sahara blues and Indian music out there. But... > Read more

Hawaiian Lullaby

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . BYUNGKI HWANG: a Korean master musician at home

17 Oct 2016  |  5 min read  |  2

In Seoul, the vibrant capital of South Korea the old and new, the raw and polished, frequently rub together in odd juxtapositions. So a butcher’s shop with pig trotters on the wet floor is perhaps to be expected in the suburban street where the country’s most famous musician lives. Byungki Hwang, at 72 when I visited him in 2008, was still Korea’s leading player of the... > Read more

Byungki Hwang: Sounds of the Night Part 4, from the album Kayagum Masterpieces, 2001

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE BEVIS FROND: Scuz me while we kiss this guy

6 Oct 2016  |  6 min read

For a man with his name on almost 30 albums in the past three decades, you'd think the name Nick Saloman would be pretty well known. Okay, the albums all come under his band's name, but even that is hardly familiar to most: the Bevis Frond. England's Saloman (confusingly sometimes spelled Salomon in some overseas media) and his fellow travellers – the Bevis Frond has had a few... > Read more

I Can't Cry from Superseeder

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ROY BUCHANAN: The Messiah who isn't coming back

29 Aug 2016  |  3 min read

There have been any number of Southern blues, soul and rock'n'roll musicians who have struggled with their pull of their secular and spiritual sides: Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Son House, Al Green . . . and the great guitarist Roy Buchanan. Arkansas-born Buchanan -- who died in an apparent jail-cell suicide in 1988 at age 48, although that has been seriously questioned -- was plagued... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . GLOOMY SUNDAY: Death by Hungarian music

15 Aug 2016  |  3 min read

In small, conspiracy-theory pockets of popular culture there is the belief that some songs are poison, in the same way that theatrical types don’t refer openly to Shakespeare's Macbeth but rather say, “the Scottish play”. The fatalistic songs of Robert Johnson – who allegedly made a pact with the Devil down at the crossroads outisde Clarksdale, Mississippi... > Read more

Gloomy Sunday, by Billie Holiday

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . HANK GARLAND: The forgotten star of the six string

25 Jul 2016  |  4 min read

When guitarist Hank Garland's '59 Chev station wagon spun out on a road in Tennessee and hammered into a tree in September 1961 it left him unconscious in hospital for weeks. And although he recovered and lived another 43 years he never went back to work . . . but what a career he'd had since he'd arrived in Nashville as a precociously gifted teenager 13 years before the crash. At... > Read more

Sugar Foot Rag

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . BERT JANSCH: The most reluctant hero

23 May 2016  |  8 min read  |  1

Few musicians have recoiled from the glare of fame as assiduously as British guitarist and singer Bert Jansch. This solo artist and founder member of the seminal UK folk group Pentangle – less a band perhaps than a grouping of unlike minds and revolving membership -- was often an indifferent solo performer despite his obvious genius, was frequently drunk on stage (and admitted... > Read more

Needle of Death

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS: The singer not the song, unfortunately

30 Apr 2016  |  2 min read  |  1

If you type in "world's worst singer" into Google and hit enter, the usual spew of teenage drivel comes up: people having a go at Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and so on. This kind of anti-fan rhetoric backed up by impeccable logic ("I hate her") is fun if you are 14 and doing it, but -- conceding there is no objective method of assessing "the worst" --... > Read more

Biassy

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . SANDY BULL: He had the whole world in his hands

26 Feb 2016  |  5 min read  |  1

Just a thought, but if Sandy Bull had been British, magazines like Uncut and Mojo would be running major, rediscovery features about him and placing him in the pantheon of innovative guitarists like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Richard Thompson and – especially – Davy Graham. But Bull – who recorded fewer than a dozen albums between his debut in '63 and death in 2001... > Read more

Improvisation for Oud 1 (live 1969)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . EVIE SANDS: Ever the bridesmaid

1 Feb 2016  |  3 min read

When the pub quiz question comes up, be prepared: The guy who wrote Wild Thing, Chip Taylor, is the brother of actor Jon Voight and therefore the uncle of Angelina Jolie. For bonus points, he also wrote the country song Angel of the Morning which was a big hit for Merrilee Rush and further popularised by Olivia Newton-John and Juice Newton. Unfortunately it wasn't a hit for the first... > Read more

Women in Prison