From The Desk…Re-Issues

Reissues
Mr. Bing’s by JOtwell

There was time when re-issues (or sometimes first issues) of bygone recorded music was almost exclusively the territory of jazz or classical musicians, and I would try to imagine the feeling of hearing one’s contributions to music from one’s past. After fifty plus years of recording, I think I now know.

The advent of CDs fueled re-issues on a much larger scale, and like many musicians of a certain vintage I’ve been able to hear music I was a part of so many years ago all gussied up for both nostalgia buffs and newer ears.  Older studio recordings nowadays are almost infinitely malleable, via digital manipulation and editing, but filmed live performances from way back in the day tend to be closer to the bone, I feel, because the sound and visuals have to be in sync, so there’s not as much leeway to change or “improve” things.  To me they are the more interesting things to re-view, or re-hear, so to speak.

What I remember most about the recordings I was involved with in the 60s and early 70s in the U.K., which have been the subject of extensive re-issue, was the fact that I was shit-scared, with my heart in my mouth, most of the time, yet the re-issued records don’t convey anything but calm professionalism on my part, and on the part of everyone else involved.

The live concert records and TV performances I did  from that era, with Doris Troy and, particularly Chuck Berry, are alive with swagger and hot licks all round … living in the heady moment, I guess. Mr. Berry, in particular, used to encourage me to play looong piano solos, and he’d whip the crowd up no end, which I appreciated at the time, and still do viewing the footage today.

When I get a compliment from a younger musician about a certain track I played on, it’s a wonderful feeling, whether a studio track or a live one. My idol and dear late friend Larry Knechtel, who played on so many monster records, told me once … and I paraphrase …”The only record that matters is the next one.”  Wise words indeed, but when one has a less extensive track record than someone of his epic achievements, the opportunity to savor highlights of yesterday are something to be savored.

In Nashville there are legions of players who have played on legions of records, both old and new, and the same goes for the brotherhood in the great recording centers around the world, who all deserve the greatest respect. To my brothers and sisters in arms, I would counsel y’all to smell the faded roses whenever they’re available. They may be fresher than you remember!

From The Desk…Three Flags

Three Flags

Upon moving into our 1875 cottage in the Historic Edgefield district across the Cumberland  River from downtown Nashville, one of the first things I did, given the extant horizontal flagpole on the front porch, was to purchase small versions of the three flags that define my life journey and that of my family.  Today they are rigid and fringed with icicles, which gives them almost a sculptured quality.  I suppose it made me take a deeper look.

Each flag is a modest 12″ x 8″, with the Irish Republic tri-color (the green, white and gold) at the top end of the pole, the Stars & Bars in the center, and the Union Jack on the inside.  No conflict on this flagstaff, however … the tri-color honors my first generation Irish roots and the deep connection I’ve always felt to Ireland, and still do. The Union Jack speaks to my birth country and the city I was fortunate enough to be born in, Liverpool, Star Of The Sea.  Although I never felt English, really, England was mostly my day-to-day reality, and  I prospered on that alien shore, especially during the Swinging London period when my musical career was going gangbusters, and I met the woman of my life, a wispy American blonde who loved England more than I did, my wife Patti.

Our first child, Celeste, was born in London in 1970, so she’s a Brit. We moved to the States in 1973 and our son was born in 1977, so he’s an American.  I finally took U.S citizenship in the 90s, which makes me now an Irish-Scouse-Yank.

So these three flags, currently frozen in place, but soon to be free again, sum up our family and our journey. Long may they wave!

From The Archives…The Creative Workshop

Michael Snow with his Gibson-ES-175
Michael Snow with his Gibson-ES-175 (photo courtesy of Travis Turk)

 

Recently sent to me by my old pal  Travis Turk, this is probably the first picture of me in a Nashville studio situation, taken at Creative Workshop in 1972, soon after arriving from England. Travis was the engineer at CW at that time, and I still have that lovely old Gibson ES 175 D. Thanks, T.T.

In Memoriam… Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker by Naaman Saar Stavy Creative Commons
Joe Cocker by Naaman Saar Stavy Creative Commons (http://goo.gl/1drwOx)

“Joe came to Nashville with The Crusaders to sing on a couple of songs for an album they were recording.  This was Joe’s first foray back into music after his self-imposed hiatus, and he, the band, and Will Jennings, lyricist extraordinaire, were in our midst for several weeks.  The big hang-out in those days was Close Quarters, a/k/a the rock ‘n’ roll hotel, which actually was a boutique hotel, but the bar and lounge were ground zero for the local record people and for the visitors, too.  Joe and Will were actually staying up the street at Spence Manor, which was even more exclusive, while The Crusaders were ensconced in The Quarters.  For many a night, after their sessions, they all held court in the conversation pit, around a roaring fire, and I made a point of being a regular, as I was anyway, only living around the corner myself.  I’d run into Joe a time or two, back when he was still living and working around Sheffield, but I couldn’t say we’d been even passing acquaintances, yet he was happy to have another northern lad to chat to, so we got quite matey.  Very late on the night the album was finished, after the celebratory intake had done its work, Joe decided that he had to have a full English breakfast …

Spence Manor prided itself on the fact that they could get their guests anything they wanted, at any hour, so Joe asked me to come back and do the ordering, as he was somewhat compromised, and Will wouldn’t know what to ask for.  Armed with a fresh bottle of Scotch, we took the short walk to The Spence, and arrived in Joe’s suite at about four-thirty (that’s a.m.).

I figured I should call my wife to let her know I was OK, as this looked like it might take a while. I no sooner had a very sleepy Patti on the line, when Joe commandeered the phone … “Ello, missus, I’ve kidnapped your husband, ‘cause I’ve got to have an English breakfast and I need him to order it from these folk … y’don’t mind, do you?  Aye, good, well thanks then.”  Handing the phone back, he said, “Yer alreet, son,” and addressed the bottle while I got busy with the concierge.

You can imagine explaining the intricacies of a full English breakfast to someone who’d never heard of such a thing: “Yes, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, yes, that’s right … no, that’s fried bread, not rye bread, you heard me right, fried bread, fry it in the same pan you cook the bacon and sausage in … ,” etc. etc.  Now, I wasn’t stone-cold sober myself, but eventually the task was accomplished, and by dawn’s early light we tucked into a brilliant full English … Joe was a happy man!  (When I saw my wife that evening, she said, “Was I imagining it last night, or did Joe Cocker call here.”  Affirmative, my dear, affirmative.)” – an excerpt from Mersey Me! A Liverpool Lad On The Loose In The Swingin’ 60’s

I trust the heavenly kitchen had the full English Brekkie ready for Joe when he arrived – complete with black pudding!

On The Fly…Our First Country Christmas

Urban Snow
Urban Snow by JOtwell

Forty years ago, we experienced our first Nashville White Christmas, not the sooty snow of London or Liverpool, but pristine powder, shin deep on the side roads, ankle-deep on the main stems. We were nesting in Madison at the time, which was still a town on its own, rather than a bedroom community of Nashville, and as our little girl was safe with her grandparents in Florida, we decided to venture out on foot to seek some Christmas cheer. The nearest tavern on Gallatin Road was about half a mile away and the streets and the main road were hushed and muted , bereft of traffic, either motorized or pedestrian, except for us foreigners in the Southland….until we arrived at the bar, which was full of locals, creating their own warmth, and willing to share it with us.

Thus fortified, we trekked back through the drifts…the only people walking, or so it seemed. The experience led to a song, natch, as such was the way of things in those far off days. A sorry effort  at a country tune, it was, as that genre was still as foreign to me as I was to it….I didn’t even know that the general area was referred to as Middle Tennessee, so my little refrain referred to” the only people walkin’ in Central Tennessee”. When this faux pas was later pointed out to me, I dropped any further effort on the wee tune, reasoning that if I couldn’t even get the geography right, I was not yet ready to be attempting to write country songs.

Over the years we developed the British tradition of a Boxing Day party on the 26th., which grew and grew until people were marking it on their calendars in January, and our initial Xmas adventure was stored away in the memory banks as our legion of friends brought the season to us, White Christmas or not, and that first adventure receded, except for the very real warmth two strangers experienced in that little snow-bound tavern so many years ago.

May your season be filled with precious warmth, kindness and love !