Stop the Week


(Mark Sampson) #1

What is it they say? ‘When the girls are away, the boy will play…’ Something like that.

Actually, I’ve been far too busy with my latest ‘project’ (the details of which I dare not disclose in case someone has sent a Trojan horse via Gobble or Yazoo into my motherboard to gag on my gigabytes and compromise my data), so the absence of the ‘girls’ has, in Franglais, ‘arranged me well’.

Despite spending far too long staring at a screen, I’ve managed to drip-feed some culture into my blood during the week gone by. For one thing, their absence means that I can dig out some of the more difficult jazz that I dare not spin in polite company. I’ve even found myself pumping out a bit of Soil & Pimp Session’s Japanese death-jazz when I’ve needed an invigorating blast of noise.

I’ve been re-reading Saul Bellow’s dazzling Humboldt’s Gift in nibble-sized chunks during the five-minute windows of opportunity each night between my head hitting the pillow and the book hitting the floor.

And I’ve taken the odd meal in front of the telly so I can follow the protracted Death of Mr. Lazarescu, a so-called comedy from Rumania that has been lurking on the hard drive for almost a year, because I’ve failed to engender any family enthusiasm for it. Poor Mr. Lazarescu, who has so far passed through the hands of countless callous, patronising and/or disinterested hospital doctors… I’ve deduced from the title that he’s not going to make it and I’m very worried about his three beloved cats incarcerated in his dowdy apartment. If I manage to get through it unscathed, I might just try next the Bergman trilogy I recorded the other night. Mmm – lashings of Nordic solemnity and misery.

Probably because I’ve spent such an inordinate amount of time at the computer, I settled down on Saturday night to watch an excellent drama-documentary about the life of Vincent Van Gogh (using the correspondence between Vince and his brother Théo) only to fall asleep even before we got to The Potato Eaters.

Friday night is music night on BBC 4 and fortunately I managed to stay awake for a new documentary on the history of LA’s Troubadour club. Did anyone see it? I thought it turned into a bit of a James Taylor/Carole King love-fest. There are worst metamorphoses to be had (you could, for example, turn into a beetle), as both James and Carole are terribly nice people, but I could have done with more of the peripheral characters – like the ever-incisive David Crosby, like Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt, and (I should be so lucky) like Laura Nyro.

I’m always fascinated to see how well or badly stars from my youth have worn. Jackson Browne doesn’t seem to have changed a jot, but he was younger than the others. David Crosby is a wreck. Roger McGuinn is still recognisable. Carole King is in her late 60s now and still looks remarkably cuddlesome. James Taylor is obviously no longer ‘sweet baby James’, but he wears a hat well, which certainly endears the man to me.

In fact, I never used to listen to either Carole or James when I was earnestly imbibing lyrics as an over-sensitive teenager. Pete Hammill’s dark, doom-laden lyrics for Van der Graaf Generator appealed more to my brooding teenage sensibility. I tended to lump James Taylor with Cat Stevens as fodder for girls and I couldn’t tolerate the fact that Carole King’s marvellous Tapestry (I see it now of course) sold in its millions.

These days, apart from notable exceptions such as Joni Mitchell, I tend not to bother too much with lyrics. Half the music I listen to is African, Cuban or Brazilian anyway – so who knows what they’re on about? Which reminds me… The UK’s very own Far Out label publishes some of the best Brazilian music on the planet. They were kind enough to send me a promo of the re-formed and legendary Banda Black Rio’s Super Nova Samba Funk. If you like your Brazilian music smooth, melodic and funky, you could do a lot worse than this toothsome morsel.

On that cheery note, I must away and prepare my supper. I need to find out what happens to Mr. Lazarescu. More to the point, I need to find out whether anyone will bother about his poor cats. Ha, will they heck-as-like.