As I write this, with a cup of coffee next to the keyboard, I have on my computer’s speakers Keller Williams playing 10 songs with minimal accompaniment—just a piano. It’s the perfect audio complement to a sunny morning in Feb when it’s not yet as hot as Delhi can get nor too chilly. Read more
I’d thought I’d be able to give Bob Dylan’s new album a good long listen and then perhaps write my two bits about it in this instalment of DC. Tempest, Dylan’s 35th album, came out on September 11; I managed to get hold of it a couple of days later but before I could properly listen to it, the deadline of this column was upon me (Brunch goes to press really early in the week and its editor is quite a strict disciplinarian when it comes to deadlines). I don’t know about you but I just can’t casually listen to any of Dylan’s albums, particularly a brand new one from a living legend who is now 71. Dylan’s isn’t by any stretch ambient music. It requires focused listening. Read more
In the late eighties when Neneh Cherry first burst onto the scene with her album, Raw Like Sushi, and won two Brit awards, she promptly melted one of them and got it crafted into jewellery, some of which she gifted to other nominees in the categories she won the award for. Raw Like Sushi showcased the then still incipient trend of hip-hop and rap but with an infusion of electronica, a genre that earned it the label trip-hop. The tracks on that debut album, including two major hits, Buffalo Stance and Manchild, brought her instant fame. And, more important than that, an enviably cool image.
A couple of days after Levon Helm, drummer, singer and key member of The Band, the legendary rock group of the 1960s and 70s (and then again the 80s and the 90s), died in the middle of last month, I got to hear a podcast that excerpted two radio interviews with Helm—one from 1993 and the other 2007. There was a distinct difference in Helm’s voice between the two interviews. In the 1993 interview he sounded exactly like he did on The Weight. Remember The Weight? I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin’ about half past dead;/ I just need some place where I can lay my head. “Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”/ He just grinned and shook my hand, and “No!”, was all he said. What a gorgeous song that is. The vocals were shared by three of The Band’s singers. Besides Helm, there was Richard Manuel and Rick Danko. The song itself was written by guitarist Robbie Robertson who, I read somewhere, was inspired by the films of Luis Bunuel to write The Weight. Read more
I think it was in Mumbai where I was living in 1996 that a friend slipped me a CD by Phish, a band that I’d heard of but had never heard. “Great stuff for former Deadheads,” he said. The album was Rift and its cover showed a man lying in bed diagonally, which I later realised was the depiction of one of the songs, Lengthwise, which features on the album. Read more
When Bob Dylan released his 2009 album, Together Through Life, an album on which all but one of the songs were co-written by Robert Hunter, I raved about it in this very column. I was biased, of course. I have a tender spot for Hunter, a long-time collaborator of the late Jerry Garcia and really an invisible member of the erstwhile Grateful Dead, the band that lived and died with Garcia. Even today, much of the repertoire of the remaining members of the Grateful Dead comprises songs that were written jointly by Hunter and Garcia.
“The brashest, ballsiest, most beautiful women to ever step up to the mike,” screamed the strap-line on an article in GQ’s October issue (the US edition) that landed on my desk last week (you can see that I have seriously high-brow reading preferences). So, naturally, I went straight to page 175 to check out the story headlined, The 25 Sexiest Women in Rock. There were few surprises. It had everyone that you could think of. From the astonishing Tina Turner, who is 70 now and yet as sexy as she was 50 years ago, to Alexis Krauss, the tattoo-sleeved fourth grade teacher-turned-lead singer of the contemporary noise pop band, Sleigh Bells. Of course, there were other great women on the list: Marianne Faithfull, whose wild bohemian lifestyle and love-life in the sixties greatly overshadowed her patchy musical career; Cher, about whom there are unbelievable stories involving plastic surgery; Joan Jett, the edgy punk rock star, whose biopic was released this year (Dakota Fanning plays her in the film, by the way); and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and one of the reasons why I tolerated the band even after it shed its bluesy past and embraced playing-to-the-gallery pop.
The first time I heard John Francis Anthony “Jaco” Pastorius III was when a friend handed me a pre-recorded Columbia Records cassette called Black Market by the jazz-rock fusion band, Weather Report. It was the late 1970s and my friend, a maverick sort of a guy who also was a classmate, predicted while handing over the tape that the bass guitarist on at least two tracks on the album would be like no one I’d ever heard before.
It began a couple of weeks back when, to mark Jerry Garcia’s death anniversary, I wrote a piece remembering my own dalliance with the music of Garcia and his erstwhile band, The Grateful Dead. For much of the next couple of weeks, I found myself delving deeper and deeper into music that I’d first heard decades ago. I fished out a DVD (a gift from a friend) of Blind Faith’s concert in Hyde Park in 1969; I rummaged through my music collection to look for Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats (1969); I found a New Riders of The Purple Sage album, The Adventures of Panama Red (1973) that I hadn’t heard in ages and so on. In other words, I turned retro. But it wasn’t too long before I was jolted out of my nostalgia-laden reminiscing by some astoundingly good new music. Read more
It was all my friend Ashish’s fault. Sometime in the mid-1970s he handed me those three TDK C-90 cassettes. One had a recording of Steal Your Face and the other two, Europe ’72. I heard them and became a Deadhead. My friend, a few years older and much wiser, filled me in on The Grateful Dead and soon I was on my way to a more than two-decade-long relationship with the band, picking up anything by them that I could lay my hands on in those pre-internet days: a second generation tape here, a scratched vinyl there, a coveted, badly-recorded bootleg that someone got from somewhere. Of course, there was one minor issue: The Grateful Dead were best heard at their legendary gigs but no matter how much they toured there was no chance they’d be stopping by at a venue nearby. They may have played in Egypt but India? Forget about it. Read more