‘Tis the season to be jolly!’

Well, it’s certainly the time of giving in the Thom Yorke household. Opting to bring his BitTorrent-only collaborative album ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ to BandCamp, the Nigel Godrich enhanced LP is available right now as a digital download.

Alongside this, Thom Yorke has posted new cut ‘youwouldn’tlikemewheni’mangry’. All threatening ambience, distorted electronics and warped vocals, it fits nicely in line with the parent work.

Check it out below.

As a side note: BandCamp has just notified users that tax will now be subtracted from all European downloads. Will Thom Yorke retain his account in light of this news? Time will tell…

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It’s a little noted facet of her career, but Bjork was actually a child star.

Spotted at a school recital, the Falkinn record label offered the singer the chance to record her debut album in 1977 – at the tender age of 12.

Now footage of Bjork reciting a nativity story has emerged online. Shot for Icelandic television station RUV, it’s a ramshackle, endearing clip with a then 11 year old Bjork appearing alongside class mates and even Santa Claus.

Watch it HERE.

(via FACT)

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Joe Cocker was an unlikely rock hero.

A gas fitter from Sheffield, the singer learned his trade through playing the clubs and pubs of the North of England. Developing a unique, husky, powerful style, his first single was a flop but a recording of The Beatles’ ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ – with a little help from Jimmy Page – became a smash hit.

Invited to perform at Woodstock, Joe Cocker’s powerhouse performance turned him into a star, with his sweat-laden blaze-through of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ becoming one of the festival’s stand out moments.

Earning widespread acclaim – Ray Charles was a fan, Paul McCartney became a close friend – Joe Cocker completed the epic ‘Mad Dogs And Englishmen’ tour in 1970.

Pushing himself to the brink, Joe Cocker’s career in the 70s was dogged by drug and alcohol abuse, but the singer found time to score another hit – a version of ‘You Are So Beautiful’ – while also absorbing reggae influences.

Persuaded to record the duet ‘Up Where We Belong’ with Jennifer Barnes in 1982, the track was eventually used in the enormously successful movie ‘An Officer And A Gentleman’ – winning a Grammy award in the  process.

Continuing to write, record and tour until the end, Joe Cocker passed away yesterday (December 22nd). News was confirmed by the singer’s agent Barrie Marshall, who said that with "the heaviest hearts we heard that our beloved Joe Cocker passed away last night".

"He was without the doubt the greatest rock/soul voice ever to come out of Britain and remained the same man throughout his life."

Sir Paul McCartney also paid his respects: "I knew him through the years as a good mate and I was so sad to hear that he had been ill and really sad to hear today that he had passed away. He was a great guy, a lovely guy who brought so much to the world and we'll all miss him."

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November 2014 saw the release of the latest addition to Bob Dylan’s ‘Bootleg Series’, a supplementary range of albums that have gathered rare or unreleased material from his vaults. The 11th instalment, ‘The Basement Tapes Complete’, is significant, however, in that it documents not only the most secretive and mythical period of Dylan’s career, but also the spark that ignited the genesis of his backing group’s new destiny.

The 138 tracks assembled are legendary, having been the subject of much discussion, coveting and trafficking by fans and bootleggers alike. They bridge the gap between the mercurial, energy fuelled Dylan of ‘Blonde On Blonde’ and the pious proto-country Dylan of ‘John Wesley Harding’, and between the barroom brawl of Levon And The Hawks and their rustic Americana incarnation, The Band, and in their spontaneous grooves reveal the process of each transition.

Levon And The Hawks had been recommended to Bob Dylan in late-1965, upon his requirement of a live band to tour his new and controversial ‘electric’ sound. The quintet – four Canadians (Robbie Robertson on guitar, Rick Danko on bass, Richard Manuel on piano, Garth Hudson on keyboards) and their Arkansas-born leader and drummer, Levon Helm – who had made their name on the rock ‘n’ roll circuit behind rockabilly bandleader Ronnie Hawkins, accepted Dylan’s offer, and braved the baying audiences that largely derided Bob’s transgression from folk and protest music.

Levon quit after just a few months, while his bandmates endured the remainder of the tour, which included Dylan’s infamous date at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall in which a fan was heard to yell “Judas!” to his perceived fallen idol.

The tour was on a break in the summer of 1966, when Dylan lost control of and crashed the Triumph Tiger 100 motorcycle he was riding on the outskirts of Woodstock, in upstate New York. This incident has been magnified to portentous and fanciful status; speculation mounted that the crash never happened, that Dylan was really in rehab. What is known, however, is that in the aftermath of the accident, Dylan found the opportunity to withdraw from the escalating pressures of a schedule and fame that had increased to maddening levels in recent years.

“When I had that motorcycle accident,” he said later, “I woke up and caught my senses. I realised that I was just workin’ for all these leeches. And I didn’t want to do that. Plus I had a family and I just wanted to see my kids.”

As he recuperated, Dylan extended an invite to The Hawks to join him in Woodstock. Robertson and his wife, Dominique, found a place on the Glasco Turnpike, while Danko, Manuel and Hudson moved into a salmon-coloured house on Parnassus Lane in West Saugerties. (Helm, disheartened by the tour’s response, was working on an oilrig on the Gulf of Mexico at this time.)

Now living in close proximity, the friends would gather and make music – first at Dylan’s family home, then at The Hawks’ house, which they had by now dubbed ‘Big Pink’, where they would assemble and record in the confines of the basement.

– – –

Garth Hudson

– – –

Hudson, speaking to Clash, picks up the story here: “The situation there was nothing but cool. We wrote and we played and then drove around in our vintage cars. With Rick, Richard and myself, it was a three-car family, and we each had our jobs to do in preparing the scenario.”

Every session began in much the same way. First, the musicians would congregate in the kitchen, catching up on each other’s lives, and informing the day’s ideas with a conversation that would cover what books they’d read, songs they’d heard (Garth remembers playing records by Morgana King, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, and The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ in the house), films they’d watched, or, as Garth reveals, discussions about their neighbours:

“We talked about local folks in the area that we had met and admired, and I believe there was talk about people that we knew… It was folks who had moved to Woodstock and were creating and talking.”

Next, Dylan would take himself off to the study, where he’d conjure lyrics at the typewriter, before they’d all meet downstairs and set to work.

Only now can the true extent of those performances be appreciated. Of the 24 tracks on the original 1975 release of ‘The Basement Tapes’ (put together by Robertson amid mounting pressure to reclaim the rights and royalties from bootleggers), 23 were original compositions, suggesting a prolific accumulation of writing in those sessions.

However, ‘The Basement Tapes Complete’ reveals a more informal theme to proceedings, where the days’ work was interlaced with cover versions of songs by artists such as Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Elvis Presley. Dylan, meanwhile, exhibited his keen knowledge of folk and country music by requesting attempts at standards and rare records he’d uncover – uncharted territory for The Hawks.

“He had songs I had never heard before,” Garth remembers, “so I assumed that was what A Good Folk Singer does, and that is to study the traditions by learning, memorising, and doing it forever and ever, amen. I think we certainly took a lesson here as far as maintaining and enlarging our [own] repertoire.”

It was a disciplined yet productive arrangement, where the differences between the worlds of ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ were pronounced. Once descended, they were there to work. “For the period of time that [Bob] was there, we were all creating or repairing,” Garth says. “And what we did there was come in and go out as if it was a regular day at home. Yes, a regular day at home: orderly but loose,” he laughs.

Confined in this close working environment, modest sound levels had to be maintained so the musicians could hear each other. “A lot of the songs were played carefully and not at a high volume. It was a sit-down situation,” Garth says of the scene. “I think the catalyst was Richard Manuel’s piano, and it was the accompaniment to that piano unamplified in that room – the cement block walls had a lot to do with it. So, the guitars played carefully, quietly, working together – and the bass as well. So everything was…I think they say ‘living room ready’.”

– – –

Bob Dylan

– – –

Garth was responsible for recording proceedings, keeping the quarter-inch Ampex tape machines easy to hand on a table behind his back. It’s thanks to him that these momentous sessions are available for us to study almost 50 years later, and you can hear the intimacy immediately in the homespun songs.

They veered from the sublime to the ridiculous – Dylan was in his element away from the scrutiny of his fans, and relished the opportunity of such light-hearted respite. Hence the playfulness of songs like ‘Million Dollar Bash’, ‘Please Mrs. Henry’, and ‘Quinn The Eskimo’. But there are also traces of Dylan’s incisive and inquisitive side there, as references to the Old Testament suggest an ongoing conflict between salvation and deliverance – tracks like ‘I Shall Be Released’ and ‘Sign On The Cross’ are clear paving stones in the direction of ‘John Wesley Harding’’s moral backbone.

Dylan’s intentions for these sessions, it appears, was to feed the insatiable appetite for those artists clambering to cover original material from him, and was collecting ideas that would later be offered out for him to profit from the publishing royalties. Those who rushed to the bait included Manfred Mann (‘Quinn The Eskimo’), Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger (‘This Wheel’s On Fire’) and The Byrds, who included ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’ and ‘Nothing Was Delivered’ on their 1968 album, ‘Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’, which kicked down the country rock door Dylan had opened.

The Hawks, meanwhile, could take advantage of their home studio, and continued to work on their own without Bob. Put to tape were their own first forays into a new sound that was primitive and pastoral. ‘Katie’s Been Gone’ and ‘Ruben Remus’ are two examples of the group’s maturation as songwriters, introducing their vivid use of characterization in stories that owed much to Dylan’s influence, advancing them to pursue their own vision and, upon the return of Levon Helm to the fold, rechristen themselves what everyone around Woodstock referred to them as: The Band

Fast-forward 47 years, in which time Dylan obsessives have tirelessly sought out the 100-plus missing tapes that he features on, and we finally have his Holy Grail. ‘The Basement Tapes Complete’ arrived as an offshoot of a project began 20 years ago when Toronto-based archivist Jan Haust approached The Band with the idea of sourcing and collating all the Levon And The Hawks recordings for a proposed boxset.

In 2004, he was requested by EMI to contribute tracks to their forthcoming Band boxset, ‘A Musical History’, and set to restoring the tapes with sound engineer Peter Moore. A decade later, and all the Dylan sessions have been cleaned up and delivered for this release – a long and arduous job, with Garth participating; his contributions, according to Haust, proved “very, very revealing”.

“It’s quite marvellous to be able to have the original producer of these recordings there with us,” Haust enthuses. “We were very fortunate to be able to work with him.” Garth was able to recall first-hand the special acoustics of the basement.

– – –

– – –

“I’d listen to my part, and the sounds of the instruments and so on,” Hudson reveals. “The process in restoration allowed me to evaluate and listen and make notes about a particular song or two. Of interest to a producer or, I suppose, to anyone was the curious – I would say – background sound of the guitars and so on, and that’s one of those observations about the sonic quality of the tapes: it has an unusual background sound.”

The renovation process involved more than just studio playbacks, however. Aside from having to investigate and find the remaining elusive tapes that weren’t in Garth’s personal collection, Haust and Moore braved the unenviable task of salvaging and repairing the half-century-old tapes, which had deteriorated over time.

“They were fairly dry, there was some mould, and there was one tape that was stretched somehow, or crinkled,” Garth confirms. They required custom-built tape heads to meticulously transfer the reels (from the same company that provided Neil Young with the equipment to renew his own tapes for his ‘Archives’ collection), and retrieve its original contents.

“Mr Hudson wouldn’t speak like this and might disapprove of me saying this,” Jan starts, “but I like to say that by the time Peter Moore and I get finished with a tape, you can get about as much music out of an analogue tape as you can shit out of a buffalo on the American nickel. I mean, there is nothing more to squeeze out; we’re done. When we’re done with a tape, you’re not going to get anything else out of it.”

What they’ve achieved, in ‘The Basement Tapes Complete’, is a crystal-clear window into the past. The warmth and definition of this new release is testament to Haust, Moore and Hudson’s efforts, and perfectly captures the earthiness of those sessions.

“The way we’ve presented this is that we have really tried to take the audience into the basement, and have them sitting next to Bob Dylan, or sitting on the same piano bench as Richard Manuel, or maybe sitting behind the drums that aren’t being played in a particular song, and include the audience within the sonic atmosphere of that basement, and therein lies part of the magic of these recordings as you hear them now, in that they are earthy: we have preserved them as they were recorded, I guess you’d say. It was really like, ‘How would it have sounded to Garth, sitting at his organ with the tape machine behind him on the bench?’”

– – –

Bob Dylan

– – –

True enough, in being privy to Dylan’s improvisations, the musicians’ tentative takes and the joyful indulgence of all concerned, the listener is taken back to the point of conception, finding Dylan at the crossroads, and The Band at Year Zero. It’s difficult to imagine the impact these combined forces had on music and the world. A few dozen 14-track acetates were produced in late-1967/early-’68 for Dylan’s original publishing purposes, two of which made their way into the hands of Eric Clapton and George Harrison.

In the wake of their exposure and continued appreciation, Clapton split his heavyweight supergroup, Cream, while Harrison – after making a pilgrimage to Woodstock and visiting Dylan and The Band – eventually walked out (albeit temporarily) on The Beatles; both aspired to the natural and holistic sounds that captivated them. History was changing, and Big Pink was in the eye of the hurricane.

Bob Dylan, as we know, finally emerged from hiding in December 1967 with ‘John Wesley Harding’, before consolidating the country rock sound he pioneered with ‘Nashville Skyline’ in 1969, and progressed into the ’70s as the single most influential songwriter of his generation, his post-basement work markedly more self-conscious than what came before.

For The Band, persisting as mere backing musicians was no longer an option. “We needed that time to secure our position in the industry,” Garth says of their enterprise. “It had to be proven that The Band could write most of the songs.” ‘Music From Big Pink’ followed in July 1968, and included three Dylan co-writes that dated back to the basement. It was the prelude to a distinguished and influential career that formally came to a halt in 1977 when main songwriter Robbie Robertson announced their split. The remaining members reunited in 1983, persevering after Richard Manuel’s suicide in 1986, but ground to a halt after Rick Danko’s death in 1999. In 2012, Levon Helm succumbed to cancer, leaving Garth and Robbie holding the reins of The Band’s significant legacy.

This pivotal period of gestation in the basement is therefore extra meaningful to Garth Hudson, who is thankful to Bob Dylan for the opportunity he gave The Band, and his best friends, who grasped it, and turned it into magic. “Bob showed us that source material is everywhere and beauty can be apprehended anywhere, anytime,” Garth concludes.

‘The Basement Tapes Complete’, and the endeavours undertaken to release it, is tribute enough. The long-awaited Levon And The Hawks collection is due in 2015 (we’re promised), but in the meantime do yourself (plus Jan, Peter and Garth) a favour and experience the product of 20th century music’s greatest pairing and bear witness to the dawning of a new era. It’s time to go downstairs.

– – –

Words: Simon Harper
Photography (top to bottom): Barry Feinstein, Paul LaRaia, Elliott Landy x 2
Homepage rotator image: Elliott Landy

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A contemporary menswear label for people ‘who don’t follow a path’ – they say – London based Roux just released its second AW14 drop.

Titled ‘Scuro’, the new collection is sports focused, boasting tees, sweats and a token varsity jacket; a palette of grey, white and black creates a clean aesthetic, while texture is created courtesy of several mesh panels.

To shoot its latest pieces, Roux brought noted street photographer Mr Whisper on board (50,000 plus Instagram followers in a post-Insta spam cull world), the resulting images mirroring the contrasting light and dark shades of the collection.

The off centre angles from which Mr Whisper shoots, similarly replicate the offbeat placement of the aforementioned panels, resulting in a series which neatly reflects the subject.

weareroux.com

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Clash’s Good Trip, Bad Trip asks interviewees to reminisce on some of their best – and worst – touring experiences, and recall the colourful characters they’ve met on the road.

Here, we’ve spoken to Paul Smith, livewire frontman of Maxïmo Park, sometime solo artist and currently one-half of an excitingly different duo beside Field Music’s Peter Brewis (pictured), whose new album ‘Frozen By Sight’ is out now on Memphis Industries.


Paul Smith and Peter Brewis, ‘Los Angeles Street Cleaner’

– – –

Best Trip…

“In Japan a few years ago, going to Kyoto on the bullet train from Tokyo was amazing. It felt like being catapulted from the future into the past – I’m not sure where that leaves the present. Japan is always a favourite destination, edging out New York and Berlin, where I also like to spend time if I'm not at home in the northeast.”

Worst Trip…

“Going to Nashville and having no time to look around. We just flew in and flew out for a TV show – which wasn’t great either! There are plenty of times when we’ve been stuck due to a cancelled plane or a traffic jam, but knowing you’re in a place with a rich history and an interesting landscape, and being unable to see any of it is uniquely frustrating.”

My favourite foreign venue…

“There are so many cool venues abroad, places where you’re looked after really well, or are given nice meals; gestures that are much appreciated after travelling on a bus for 12 hours or so. I could name so many, but I’m going to say Lido, Berlin because it has a modern yet theatrical appearance, always has a great atmosphere and is in a good location.”

We are surprisingly popular in…

“Germany. Whether it’s with Maxïmo Park or with my solo stuff, the audiences are really respectful, well-informed and responsive.”

Best or worst exotic foodstuff…

“In South Korea, recently, we sampled spicy jellyfish. It was a little rubbery, but it gets a thumbs up – mostly because I’m still alive!”

The most interesting individual I’ve met on the road…

“In Atami, Japan, earlier this year, I was taking a photograph of a building and a local man approached me. We got talking about his son who lived in England and it turned out he was a Noh theatre performer who translates Shakespeare into the Noh performance style. He even appears on a Björk album I’ve got – the music from Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9. He gave my girlfriend and I free tickets to the MOA Museum, which is a fantastic place at the top of a hill, with beautiful gardens full of cherry blossom. His name was Kuniyoshi Munakata.”

Worst on-tour injury, accident or infection…

“I recently did a whole tour in sunglasses due to painful eye surgery and I wasn’t supposed to exert myself otherwise my right eye would’ve potentially exploded due to high blood pressure. Maxïmo Park songs rarely lend themselves to emotional or physical tranquillity so it was quite tricky… I felt like a right Bono.”

My essential travel item…

“Fully-loaded Classic iPod or my mini-sketchbook.”

My essential travel tip…

“Take a big bag so you can bring souvenirs back. I buy lots of records…”

– – –

Photo: Andy Martin

Paul Smith online. See him live with Peter Brewis as follows:

December
19th – St Giles-in-the-Fields, London
20th – Sage, Gateshead

More Good Trip, Bad Trip features

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A mighty independent institution, Fierce Panda made its name through a series of vital single releases, picking up soon-to-be-stellar names when they were still playing for three pints and a packet of crisps.

Now, the label is set to come full circle after announcing a new singles project. The first in what will presumably be a series of releases comes from the rather excellent London based producer Fake Laugh.

Reminiscent of the woozy fluorescence which imbued Only Real with such promise, ‘Kinda Girl’ is a hypnotic, swirling, warped-synth jammer. Out on January 19th, you can check it out below:

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A devoutly solo artist, Royce Wood Junior is perhaps most readily known through collaboration.

The producer has worked with everyone from Kwabs to Rosie Lowe, George Maple to Denai Moore – but now he’s ready to step out on his own.

Recent EP ‘Rover’ is out now, with Royce Wood Junior currently focussing on the fine points of upcoming debut album ‘The Ashen Tang’.

For now, though, Clash is able to bring you the final track from ‘Rover’. A superbly poised piece of work, ‘Valentine Virus Part II (Ode to Prod)’ is all heartbroken synths, crunched percussion and an effortlessly emotive vocal.

Teasing, toying with the listener, Royce Wood Junior threatens to reveal his true self-  but then never does, only ever allowing a fleeting glimpse.

Check it out now.

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One of the most renowned nightspots in Europe, fabric is a vital force in club culture.

Sadly, reports are emerging today (December 18th) that the venue could lose its license following an annual review. The Evening Standard has run with the story, claiming that a series of recent incidents surrounding drug use has raised concerns of the police.

In a recent report, Ch Supt Steve Deehan stated: “Immaturity of lifestyle of the patrons leads to them becoming actively involved in the taking of illegal drugs and this could account for the disproportionate and wholly unacceptable number of deaths and near death incidents at the venue.”

Over the past three years at fabric eight people have collapsed from ecstasy use, with four later passing away. An 18 year old girl died in September, with the club facing criticism from police over their reaction.

An annual licensing hearing takes place tonight (December 18th) amid rising fears that fabric could close. Many observers – such as those commenting on a FACT story and on the Save Fabric Facebook group – believe that police will instead push for maximum safety controls, including the potential use of sniffer dogs.

For now, we simply have to wait. To get involved in the Save Fabric Facebook Group click HERE.

Alternatively, sign a petition in favour of fabric's license renewel HERE.

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Starting the year by claiming the BRIT Critics Choice Award, Sam Smith has moved impeccably through 2014.

Debut album ‘In The Lonely Hour’ was warmly received by fans, and has remained consistently in the upper echelons of the charts for almost 12 months.

Today (December 18th) it was revealed by the Official Chart Company that Sam Smith has now sold more than one million copies of his debut album on each side of the Atlantic; ‘In The Lonely Hour’ reached this milestone in the United States some time ago, with the UK following suit sometime last night.

Sam Smith told Official Charts: “OFFICIALLY sold 1 MILLION copies of In The Lonely Hour! To say I am ecstatic is a huge understatement. Thank you so much to every single person who has purchased my album.”

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