Richard’s Favourite Things
Guitars, pedals and Amps… Ace instruments
As I write this I’ve only just heard of the death of Les Paul a great sadness is with me but also a great thankfulness too as he made it to the ripe old age of 94 and WHAT a life. He and Leo Fender made it possible (and lots of other inventors) for music as we know it today to exist in fact we take it all for granted.Without them it is difficult to imagine what life would be like – their impact was that huge. I salute you Les, I really do and thank you too. I also thank all fearless pioneers of sound, all the mad pedals and amplifiers and guitars that make it possible to “paint” with sound. I call upon all of us to bow our heads in thanks and then raise them again in celebration of the life of a great, great man who walked amongst us and CHANGED EVERYTHING.
Talking of changing everything, my dog Fred… he changed everything for me, I walk miles with him, I have changed… for the better… man’s best friend? Could be. I suppose I am not writing a lot in words but maybe saying a fair bit in thought.
Oh dear… supporting Wednesday is a life issue, my earliest memory is standing on the Kop holding my grandfathers hand (all football grounds in Britain have a Kop, it came first from Liverpool Football Club after a regiment of Liverpool soldiers were wiped out in the Boar war, at a battle ground called Skion Kop… true… honest). Anyway, in general, Wednesday aren’t very good but I love them, it’s a loyalty thing. I haven’t been to a game for two years ’cause of touring but I always check the results – usually its not good BUT, when they win I float above the ground… well for a while a least, I don’t just sing when we’re winning.
When did being a politician mean that you had to wait in line at the hospital for that spine donor operation? I love this man and what he stands for. I have never met Mr Benn but would like to, he’s semi retired now but he comes from a time when being intelligent, steeped in all kinds of ancient lore, knowledge of our history and a deep understanding of the human condition and its plight weren’t a hinderance to your poll ratings or any of that bullshit. I hope for great things from Barack Obama I think he has the same backbone and strong beliefs, heaven help us if he doesn’t succeed.
Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, The Pearl, Burning Bright… some of the greatest words I’ve read written by any living soul. His understanding of humanity is so piercing, if I had to think of a book that floored me totally it only takes a second to say the words ‘Cannery Row’. I find new things too everytime I re-read them… and I do read them often. If you haven’t read The Pearl maybe you should, not that I would ever tell you what to do of course. It only took an afternoon to read but maybe it would have taken me a lifetime to find out what it is saying.
The Velvet Underground
When I first heard the Velvet Underground my mind was totally absorbed in the music of my Dad’s record collection; old sun rockabilly, rock n roll, doo-wop, hillbilly, urban blues, old music, mountain music and folk music too. I was 13 years old. In their music I heard all those things, but they also showed me a doorway to another way of interpreting all of it without resorting to straight pastiche, they moved it light years forward and I love them still. I suppose it’s all been written about them before but after all these years they’re still the sharpest knife in the drawer. Lou Reeds songs and lyrics still inspire me. I had the great pleasure of touring briefly with Mo Tucker and Stirling Morrison many years ago, they both took the time to show me things which I still greatly appreciate. I know there are others, many of us, that share this.
The 13th floor elevators
Another great American band which I am sure you are aware of, I just wanted to let you know about the amazing ten CD boxset that International Recordings have released recently – it is simply the most essential music, alongside; The Velvets, Chocolate Watchband, Electric Prunes and Captain Beefheart. It opens windows, doors and ceilings, in fact it blows the house up.
The Cristal Bachet and other strange instruments
I used the cristal bachet on my latest offering, played by the great Thomas Block. It is a beautiful instrument you can find out about it quickest through youtube. I also utilised the glass harmonica invented by Benjamin Franklin. It was banned once as folk used to think it was the devils instrument, the edges of the glass were lined with lead and the players used to unwittingly absorb it and go nuts, it sounds so other worldly. I also used the musical saw in honor of my Grandfather who used to play it when I was a boy.
The first man to amplify the harmonica – he was the first, in my opinion the best. I wanted to let you know that Chess have just released a brilliant multi-CD package of all his stuff, it’s beyond brilliant. My Uncle Frank White worked with him In England in the early 60′s, it’s a family story that gets re-told and re-told. I am thankful to have this music in my life.
My dad, grandfather and uncle
As a boy i took it for granted that my family were all either musicians or into music. I didn’t think about it, as an older man I realise how lucky I was. I was brought up in a really rough part of my home town, Sheffield and their influence guided me so massively. But, they also gently moved me away from some dangerous pastimes that were easily available around us, those things I was to discover of my own free will later on in life. If I ever had heroes I think these three men are those –my grandfather was a music hall performer, he had an act where he used to play the violin behind his back whilst stood on his head, this was some years before Hendrix… it didn’t catch on.
John D Loudermilk
One of my favourite song writers of all time, a great American songwriter that has written through most of the second half of the twentieth century. He wrote ‘Tobacco Road’ – need I say more.
The Smoke Fairies
A new British female duo I urge you strongly to check out, when I first saw them live I couldn’t talk for a while. I don’t intend to talk about them much now, just listen. They are worth your time.
The Hawaiian guitar or lap steel
I used to do the shopping once every two weeks for an old man who lived opposite my Uncle’s house called Jack Wilcox, he was a sweet guy, very kind. After about a year he said “your Uncle tells me you’re into playing guitar?” I replied “yes”… he said “well I have a few things you may be interested in”. He showed me his Lap steel, an old Selmer from 1937 and an old Epiphone zenith jazz guitar from ’38. It blew my mind, I was already listening to Santo and Johnny, Bob Wills, Speedy West, Lloyd Green and the slide guitar of Muddy Waters and Elmore James but, to find a guy who not only knew about this stuff but who actually had a lap steel at the end of my street was a bit of a head fuck. It was serendipity… or so i am told by bigger brains than mine. The sound of it in the right hands is the nearest thing to the sound of angels I think I am likely to hear. I still have the Selmer and it’s used on most of records.I think of Jack often, he was good man, he played in long forgotten dance bands in England in the 40′s and early 50′s. His knowledge was vast, he always wore it lightly and shared it freely.