Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Layer 335 . . . Tom Jones, Soul, Blues, Praise, Blame, Glam and Glitter

Tom Jones was always a great soul and gospel singer, and now he seems to be increasingly turning to the blues and boogie. It also seems his new album has been rubbished by the head honchos at his new label. They had apparently signed him in the expectation that he'd crank out more Sex Bombs and maybe another Delilah. Ha!

On Jones' 70th birthday, 7 June 2010, the single "Burning Hell", a cover of the John Lee Hooker classic, from the forthcoming Praise & Blame album, was released. In July 2010 it was reported, however, that David Sharpe, vice-president of Island Records (to whom Jones had moved, from EMI, for £1.5m in October 2009), had emailed colleagues demanding that they "pull back this project immediately or get my money back" and asking if the record had been "a sick joke". Jones later attacked Sharpe and revealed that he was furious about the leaked email. - Wikipedia

First track on "Praise and Blame" is Dylan's sublime "What Good Am I?", which is about a million miles away from the green, green grass of home. Or Las Vegas. Lyrics here:

Performance on 'Later' here -

One of Yentob's 'Imagine' documentaries was shown recently, featuring Tom J, obviously as a tie-in for the release of the new album. He really came across as a very decent and likeable guy, and very honest. If it's still available on iPlayer it's worth watching.

This is a decent page about Tom -

Also on this site is a brilliant video of Tom duetting with the amazing Janis Joplin - a song called Raise Your Hand - an Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper soul classic.

The sheer joy on the faces of both of them as they belt out the song makes you realise all over again what an incredible loss it was to the planet when Janis died. She's never been equalled as a blues and soul singer.

Janis singing it on her own (with her band) here:

Incidentally there's an interesting version of Talking Heads' excellent 'Burning Down The House' by Tom Jones with The Cardigans available on Spotify.

"I'm just an ordinary guy
Burning down the house."

And did anyone know that Tom recorded an entire album with Jools Holland in 2004? Boogie Woogie! Some nice Hammond playing on this. Track 1 is terrific - "Life's Too Short". Listen here:

Also on Spotify I came across an album Tom made in 2002 called 'Mr Jones'. First track is a very funky thing called 'Tom Jones International', which is credited to Tom and Wyclef Jean. Practically hip-hop.
'Younger Days' is also a great piece of funk, with brilliant drums and bass.
"I was young and rowdy
Now I'm old and rowdy."
Way to go, Tom.


Tony Palmer's an interesting guy. His excellent 17-part documentary "All You Need Is Love, a history of popular music", is being re-broadcast nightly by Sky Arts.

Last night's episode, Glitter Rock, focused on the bands and singers that emerged in the early 70's, sandwiched between the eras of 60's Hard Rock and Punk. Lester Bangs ( laid into it with relish, calling the music slick, shallow, superficial and deeply depressing. Also vacuous, bland, ignorant, stupid, mindless, drab, dumb and self-indulgent frippery. And you can't say fairer than that.

He also pointed out that this music had no intellectual energy whatsoever - it had nothing to say of any interest. Which is generally very true, and in contrast to the traditions in jazz, blues and rock, where emotional honesty and honesty about the state of the world was taken for granted. As was great musicianship.

Glitter and glam were pure escapism - shiny and dumb. It was hard to see how it could appeal to a teenager with even half a brain, but easy to see how retards of any age could get off on it. Its only goals and values were fame and riches.

Stupid clothes, stupid hairdos, ridiculous attitudes. Nothing countercultural or rebellious whatsoever. Vacuous materialism - like the rest of society, only taken to extremes.

Music for escapism, 100% style, packaging and presentation; 0% content.

As Ian Anderson said in the programme, rock isn't meant to be a professional, organised branch of show business. Though Pop is.

So-called Glitter Rock was strictly for kids who were looking for self-aggrandisement, seeing it as a business, and not a calling, or an artform.

Bryan Ferry couldn't even hold a tune. His use of pin-ups and glamour girls on his album covers certainly had nothing to do with art and everything to do with blatant eye-catching packaging. Art has something to do with the communication of feelings and the revelation of truths.

None of the individuals in the bands that peaked in the early '70's had any soul, any authenticity, any truth to reveal. T Rex? Gary Glitter? Alice Cooper? Kiss?

Bowie said on the programme that he'd started out as a jazz sax player, but wasn't much good at it. Therefore he'd gone into pop and rock, which he could 'fake' (his word) quite easily. Theatricality and showmanship came very easily.

Elton John and Bowie were maybe the most interesting of the glam rockers, in that they were extremely good at what they did, and actually recorded the odd exceptional track. You could possibly same the same of Roxy Music. Unfortunately these people were all posers and fakers, to use Bowie's word. They had much more in common with Gary Glitter than, say, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, BB King, the Stones, Doors, Neil Young, etc.

Did Glam and Glitter have any durability and quality? Would anyone pay to see it performed now? Maybe if you were an adolescent in the '70's and felt like wallowing in nostalgia for stuff you thought at the time was pretty exciting. After all, a reformed Roxy did a show in Victoria Park about 10 days ago, and it seems plenty of people paid to watch.

Roxy Music: as decadent as ever, they noodled their way beautifully through a bunch of slowies, before ending on an intoxicating blast of Virginia Plane, Let’s Stick Together and Love is the Drug. A band once described as 'the triumph of artifice’ proved they were the perfect headliners for a crowd of East End peacocks.

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