WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . .

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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 . . . Lizzy Mercier Descloux

23 Nov 2015  |  3 min read  |  2

So who was it rocked into downtown New York in the mid Seventies with her head full of Rimbaud? Who fell in with the CBGB crowd, had Richard Hell as a partner who saw her as his muse, and whose aesthetic ran from poetry and music to art and film? And who wasn't Patti Smith. Lizzy Mercier Descloux from Paris arrived in New York when the city was – unbeknownst to itself at... > Read more

Tso Xin Yu Xin

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . HAYSEED DIXIE: The wacky world of hillbilly humour

24 Aug 2015  |  6 min read

The remote community of Deer Lick Holler in the Appalachians isn't on the way to anywhere, so there aren't many outside influences. It's where musicologists go to study authentic hillbilly music -- and be fearful of the sound of Duelling Banjos. So it was a significant day when a stranger drove into the valley on a crisp autumn afternoon two or more decades ago -- and promptly crashed into... > Read more

Hayseed Dixie: Strawberry Fields Forever

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JACO PASTORIUS: High times and low notes

3 Aug 2015  |  3 min read  |  2

For a jazz musician, Jaco Pastorius died in pretty creditable rock n’ roll style: drugs, delusions, alcohol and itinerancy. And beaten to a pulp by a nightclub manager who didn’t recognise the persistent drunk battering on his door at 4am as a former genius on electric bass. Pastorius’ remarkable but brief life is inscribed in an almost too convenient arc. He was left for... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . WENDY O. WILLIAMS: Baby you can trash my car

13 Jul 2015  |  5 min read

The spirit and essence of rock'n'roll is impossible to define. For some it was encapsulated by Little Richards' visceral scream and shout of “Awoobopaloobop Alopbamboom”. For others it might be more like, “Make a fucking racket, show us your tits and blow up a car”. If you are of the latter persuasion then New York's Plasmatics – fronted by Wendy... > Read more

Dream Lover

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . GEOFF LOVE: Man of international mysteries

8 Jun 2015  |  3 min read  |  1

Britain's Geoff Love has no place in the catalogue of the mad, bad, dangerous and disturbed. He was just so utterly normal. And that's why he joins our collection of odd characters in music under this banner We Need to Talk About . . . He was almost abnormally normal, and enormously prolific.  Composer, arranger, band leader and producer Love – that's his real name,... > Read more

Somewhere My Love/Lara's Theme from Dr Zhivago

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . STRINGBEAN: Long lean banjo picker

20 Apr 2015  |  3 min read

If Truman Capote hadn't already written his brilliant “non-fiction novel” In Cold Blood (about the collision of two murderers and their victims in rural Kansas in '59), and he was still sober enough to focus, he might have found a great story in the 1973 murder of country music star Stringbean, David Akerman to his parents. Stringbean was one of those idiosyncratic stars... > Read more

Stringbean and His Banjo

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . TEX WITHERS: Country'n'Western from the East End

6 Apr 2015  |  4 min read  |  1

The more you try to find out about Tex Withers, the more confusing it can become. One thing everyone agrees on however is that this country music singer in London – who insisted he had been born in the States – was a very recognisable character: He was a hunchback who stood no higher than 4'6” (137cm) and always wore classic Western attire. In later life he... > Read more

Crazy Arms

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . SPADE COOLEY: Shame on him

16 Mar 2015  |  4 min read

When country singer Spade Cooley went face down after a heart attack in November 1969 there were doubtless a few would have said he deserved to die, and that it should have happened sooner. The were ironies aplenty also: Cooley – born Donnell Clyde Cooley in Oklahoma in 1910 – was attending a benefit concert for sheriff's deputies where he played, having been released on... > Read more

You'll Rue The Day

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . FRANK ROSOLINO: The night the lights went out

20 Feb 2015  |  3 min read

He doesn't really deserve to be in the same company as the misfits, oddballs, eccentrics and the certifiably crazy-psychotic musicians in this on-going series We Need to Talk About . . . But the wonderfully expressive jazz trombonist Frank Rosolino is here because, in the early hours of November 26 1978, he did something so unexpected and unthinkable it shook the world, and most... > Read more

Twilight

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . KORLA PANDIT: The Man from the Mystic East

2 Feb 2015  |  2 min read  |  1

The exotic looking Korla Pandit – who died in 1998 aged about 77 – had a fascinating background: He was born in India to a traveling French opera singer and a Brahmin priest and eventually ended up in Los Angeles in the mid Forties after spending time in Europe and Britain. His music was just as interesting as his somewhat mysterious life. He played the organ but... > Read more

Procession of the Grand Moghul

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . DARONDO: The soul man who went AWOL

10 Nov 2014  |  4 min read

To hear William Daron Pullman tell how he got his non-de-disque at the dawn of the Seventies gives an insight into both his smarts, and how he could just as equally be seduced by the money-image thing. Although he'd been a San Franciscan musician since the mid Sixties (when as someone barely out of his teens he was known as Junior), he'd put aside the guitar and revealed himself an astute... > Read more

King's Man

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . LAIBACH: The politics of noise

12 Jun 2014  |  2 min read  |  1

Out of the old Yugoslavia in the early Eighties they came, their industrial sound grinding like tank tracks across the earwaves of Europe, their look unacceptably miltaristic, their irony bludgeoning all before them into submission. Laibach - who took the name from the German version of their hometown Ljubljana -- were a four-piece band like no other. They brandished slogans and wore... > Read more

Dear Friends

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . PETE BURNS: What's on the a-gender?

21 Apr 2014  |  3 min read

A lifetime and career trajectory from beautiful young New Wave pop-boy star to a very alarming botoxed older woman is not what most people would chart for themselves. But welcome to the world of the always androgynous Pete Burns who came to attention in the Eighties as the lead singer of Dead or Alive out of Wirral, across the Mersey from central Liverpool, and went on to become a media... > Read more

Sex Drive (Glam Driving Mix)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . HP LOVECRAFT: High, here and gone.

31 Jan 2014  |  4 min read  |  1

Now, I'm neither ashamed nor proud of this, but some while back – decades ago – I enjoyed perpetrating pranks and hoaxes, especially postal pranks. Of the latter I would, for example, anonymously send increasingly large blocks of wood to a friend in some far flung place inviting him to join my “Plank of the Month Club”. Or I would send off elaborate... > Read more

The White Ship

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . LIBBY HOLMAN: Sex, scandal, shooting and suicide

23 Jan 2014  |  3 min read  |  1

When they found singer Libby Holman dead in her Rolls Royce of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1971, her suicide brought an end to a life marked by scandal, sexual promiscuity, one dead husband and a murder trial, overt bisexuality, the death of a son, depression . . . and some pretty steamy blues songs, although among her repertoire was the uncharacteristically domestic Cooking Breakfast for the... > Read more

Why Was I Born?