I Am Not Your Negro is not a film about James Baldwin: more like a séance presided over by director Raoul Peck in which he summons up from beyond the grave Baldwin’s voice ventriloquised by Samuel L. Jackson in a narration drawn entirely from Baldwin’s work. It is not one of those conventional documentaries cluttered with the thoughts of friends, relatives or experts, but a work of literary archaeology that pieces together a book which Baldwin planned but never wrote, using his notes, plus words – and only his words – from letters, essays and books written in the mid-1970s. It is, perhaps, the best documentary I have ever seen. Continue reading “I Am Not Your Negro: James Baldwin’s words remain as urgent and relevant as they were when written”
Last night I finally caught up with a local musical phenomenon. John O’Connell’s Simply Dylan band has been amassing a growing following on Merseyside and then around the country since beginning as a modest project in 2011 to celebrate Dylan’s 70th birthday. After selling out the Cavern Club six times and several successful UK tours, I saw their rousing show at the Citadel in St Helens.
I’ll admit to a degree of scepticism before the show: though I’d never contemplate going to a show by the real Dylan anymore (voice shot, too many Frank Sinatra songs), I thought it unlikely that a show of Dylan covers would move me. But it did: Simply Dylan are Simply brilliant.
Continue reading “Simply Dylan: simply brilliant!”
Something I’ve remarked on before is that these posts don’t properly reflect the ubiquitous presence of music in my daily life. Occasionally I do mention a new album that has made an impact, and I do record here all the live music events that I attend. But there’s always so much more. So here is a roundup of some of the music which I have particularly enjoyed in 2016. The post ends with a playlist of the music mentioned. Continue reading “The music in my head in 2016”
Patti Smith’s performance of Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm was truly magnificent, perhaps the song’s greatest interpretation. I was moved to tears by the deep feeling that flowed through her rendition of a song even more germane now than when it was written. The moment when Patti was overwhelmed by the imagery of the second verse and her own nervousness only made it even more moving, increasing the humanity of her performance. It was one of the great musical moments of 2016. Continue reading “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall: Patti channels Bob in her moving performance of a song even more relevant in 2016”
They are the sort of people who leave few traces. Virtually anonymous. Inseparable from those Paris streets, those suburban landscapes …
Hearing the news that Bob Dylan had been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, I thought it was about time that I investigated last year’s winner, Patrick Modiano. Like many on this side of the Channel, the French novelist’s name was unknown to me. Now my literary friend Dave reckoned I should read his 1997 novella Dora Bruder, published here as The Search Warrant. It proved to be an excellent recommendation: Modiano’s spare and finely-written excavation of memory is a haunting addition to the literature of the Holocaust and one that is unique, being neither Holocaust memoir nor historical fiction but a skilful reconstruction of a life and a moving reflection on his country’s amnesia surrounding collaboration and the fate of French Jews during the Occupation. Continue reading “Patrick Modiano’s The Search Warrant: missing, a young girl, the sort who left few traces”
While I was in London, I went to the V&A to see the exhibition, You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970. I had expected to be confronted with a mass of memorabilia, images and text. What I discovered was one of best executed and clearly articulated exhibitions that I’ve ever seen. In large part this was due to someone’s brilliant idea of utilising the magic of (I presume) Bluetooth headphones which offered a contextual soundtrack that changed as you drew near to a particular display or video. Continue reading “You Say You Want a Revolution? A brilliant V&A exhibition brings the Sixties to life, and questions the decade’s legacy”
Seven astonishing things I learned today: Continue reading “Seven astonishing things I learned today about Robert Velline, Elston Gunnn, and the son of Evelina Maria Bettina Quittner von Hudec”
My first thought on hearing that Bob Dylan had been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature was a little sceptical: I love the guy’s lyrics which have made a huge impact on me (just see the many entries on this blog) but does writing songs constitute great literature? Continue reading “Bob Dylan: only a song and dance man?”
‘The world that I knew, it has vanished and gone,’ sang Eliza Carthy during Blood and Roses: The Songs of Ewan MacColl, a special concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic this week that marked the centennial of the songwriter and Communist activist’s birth. It was a marvellous evening of passionate songs of politics and love which caused me to reflect on the significance of MacColl’s songs in our changed times. Continue reading “Blood and Roses: The Songs of Ewan MacColl”
There’s a programme on Radio 4 that I hear sometimes when I’m driving in the car. Called Recycled Radio, it chops up old BBC programmes and recycles the snippets into something new. That made me think of all the recycled music I listen to, with album tracks often reassembled into new playlists. As I get older, I listen to a lot of recycled music – but not all the time. Every year brings exciting new sounds. In this post (the first of three) I want to round up some of the music – recycled and new – that I’ve enjoyed in 2015 but never got round to writing about. Continue reading “The music in my head (part 1): recycled and new this year”
Unlike Bruce Springsteen, I can recall no revelatory experience on first hearing ‘Like a Rolling Stone’. Indeed I cannot recollect the first occasion when I first heard the song – or any other track from Highway 61 Revisited, the album with which it opens. I can, however, relive the exact moment when I first heard ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ off Dylan’s next album. Such are the vagaries of memory. Continue reading “Highway 61 Revisited at 50: we never engaged in this kind of thing before”
Fifty years ago, in May 1965, Bob Dylan’s fifth album Bringing It All Back Home was released in the UK. I don’t know for sure when I first began to hear songs off the new album, though it must have been soon after its release since by then I was listening for nearly a year to music beamed from the pirate radio ship Caroline North, broadcasting to sleepy Cheshire from the Mersey Bay. My 17th birthday in September brought a copy of the LP with songs which have remained personal favourites through the years, including ‘Mr Tambourine Man’, ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit’, ‘It’s Alright Ma’ and ‘Maggie’s Farm’. Continue reading “Fifty years of Bringing It All Back Home: through the smoke rings of my mind”