Sunday, February 19, 2023


Saturday, February 11, 2023

Obituary City (Bye Bye Burt B)


Well, this is getting a bit tedious - colossi collapsing left right and centre. One a week at least, and at one point back there it was one a day more or less (more o' loss).

Still, on the sunny side, supplies are nowhere near running out. Still a lotta icons, music giants, legends, in the stockpile of the living. 

In his later years, my dad was an obituarist - the main thing he was writing was pieces about deceased notables.  I wonder if this fate will befall me? Elegies and eulogies are bound to increase as a  proportion of the output. Not such a dire fate really - in fact it's a rather satisfying line of work, if usually gruelling (done overnight, mostly). People appreciate them. 

(Here's a piece I wrote about the art of the posthumous paean , tethered to the passing of David Bowie,  a few years ago.)

Burt Bacharach! What can you say?  Such tunes, such arrangements, such wit and elegance. 

I appreciate the look of the man almost as much as the music - the sweaters, the hair, the smile, the twinkle. 

wonder what Burt thought of the Stranglers' version?

Burt disliked Love's version, said they'd got the rhythm wrong. 


Thursday, February 02, 2023

RIP Tom Verlaine

I have a tribute pre-prepared, as it were, with this '87 column about Flash Light exhumed over here. To which I've added a round-up of useful writing about Television and T.V. (most of it posthumous but a few bits that are, er, humous and the best is a rhapsody in real time). I also discuss the challenge of writing about Marquee Moon: the music is a pure technique of ecstasy, the lyrics are visions that can be quoted but resist paraphrase or exegesis. Some of the most useful comments come from musicians, who know the properties of one make of guitar compared to another make of guitar, technicalities of playing, etc. This kind of thing is revealing, but not necessarily illuminating... 

Proof the pudding, from the horse's mouth, a September 1992 bit from Melody Maker's Control Zone:

Even more demystification, from June 9 1990.

Some much earlier demystification (June 1978)

Talking about tributes, I'm surprised this Alvvays tune hasn't come up in anything I've seen written. Then again, in terms of what it actually resembles sonically, the song would be better titled "Kevin Shields". Or perhaps "Harriett Wheeler". 

Whereas this next track is both a genuine sonic tribute-ary of the great man (although strictly speaking the flow is the other direction, from him to them, whereas tributaries flow into and feed rivers and lakes).  It's also a wonderful example of how the exceptional artist can become a style that subsequent others are able to write within, expressing themselves perfectly well through the precursor's language.  The sui generis >>> genre transition, also discussed here

Beyond the guitar tone, the title "Twin Layers of Lightning" itself seems pointedly to contain the intertextual trace of  T.V.'s greatest couplet -  "I remember how the darkness doubled / I recall, lightning struck itself".

Here's another glorious example of a debt transfigured, a sound made triumphantly one's own 

update 2/20/23

Apparently the Alvvays track was in response to Tom Verlaine doing a track called "Always".

And it's not the only song out there titled "Tom Verlaine".

There's at least two more - by Carbon Footprints and by The Family Cat 

I wonder if this a unique achievement for a left-field musician (as opposed to say the Beatles or the Stones, or Elvis - I'm sure there's many many namechecks and songs simply titled with their names). Like Alex Chilton scores 1 - thanks to the Replacements. But three songs for an alt-legend, that's pretty amazing.