Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-06-22 - 7:14 p.m.
Try the Mandolin song as a precursor riff for One of These Things First. Now back to Chelsea Girls.
Tom Wilson who produced Like A Rolling Stone and Bringing It All Back Home also produced Nico’s Chelsea Girls and indeed an album by Kevin Ayers about a year after that. Richard Witt’s Nico Bio is a good source. At the Dom in the early part of 1967 Tim Buckley played and he would also accompany Nico. The 18 year old Jackson Browne came in to see Buckley – that wasn’t JB’s name then – but he got sucked into the circle, was given a gig if he would back Nico – and that was how he got his name.
JB played acoustic but had to learn electric because they didn’t want the Dom to look like a folk club. The repertoire was pretty much what ended up on Chelsea Girls. Odd too that Jeff Buckley should make it playing electric guitar in Sine and singing – also not a folk club.
Nico looked after Browne – he stayed in her flat. And she picked up his songs – These Days and Fairest of the Seasons. This was at the point when Leonard Cohen was in hot pursuit.
Jackson Browne played on Chelsea Girls which, he remembers, was done amazingly fast in July 1967. Browne was given a contract with Elektra – the same label that handled The Doors and indeed this may have been how the Nico/Morrison connection started up. MC5 and the Stooges were also on Elektra.
Nico didn’t like the flute playing on Chelsea Girls but it sounds good to me. Very connected to its musical environment – both the songs themselves but also what is happening in NYC at that point. The strings are arranged by Larry Fallon who went on to produce The Harder They Come for Jimmy Cliff and also arranged for Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones on Gimme Shelter. No wonder they still sound good.
Nico seems to have taken an ongoing maternal interest in JB and as I keep saying influenced Cale by getting him to listen to the later JB records.
I am not sure when Witcheseason started. I have just found a reference to 1968 recordings for Witchseason where Linda Peters and Elton John do both ISB and John Martyn. My Italian EJ demos of ND songs have one John Martyn song on – by mistake it seems and instead of a promised ND tune.
Anyway I think there is quite a good case for mapping parallels between this cluster of songwriters and guitarists in NYC, for the time being lets hang them round the Dom – and what is happening in London at the same time. Maybe when Boyd saw Nick he thought – oh yes we need a Jackson B too – charming pretty boy with literate lyrics etc.
This Belgrade trader looks promising:
As I have said before the 1965 Ludlow Street VU demos are very much folk – its astonishing that they mutate into the Banana album.
This is John Martyn in 1973:
SS:- The transition from London Conversation to The Tumbler is quite drastic...
JM:- Is it? Well on London Conversation I'd only been playing guitar for three months, so I was only playing to tunings, E tuning and ordinary tuning. And I'd lived in Scotland all my life, and I'd never heard any music at all, and as I said, it was quite by chance that this Kingston thing happened because my mother used to live in Kingston, and I used to go and visit her once a year, so I was playing there and.... I don't suppose I'd do it now, I mean, I was only 18 or 19 at the time. Well between the two albums I got exposed to London, you see, and at that time all the heroes were about, you know, [Bert] Jansch and Davey Graham, and I just kind of listened a lot to music that I hadn't listened to before, and I met Harold McNair.... met loads of people all of a sudden. Between the two I just met all these people that were older and more experienced than me musically. That's the reason for the change.
(PW is on Tumbler)
SS:- A sort of transition from straight guitar to a 'sparkle'...
JM:- Yeah, the album 'sings' a bit more than before.
SS:- How did you become involved with Witchseason and Joe Boyd?
JM:- I went to do a gig at Chelsea Art College, and this very sexual lady, with a big hooter and great big brown eyes was playing away, and I thought I'd love to fuck that, and I was there with a friend of mine called Jackson C. Frank 2), he'd just come over and was very screwed in the brain... We were having lots of fake Leary 'Acid-tests', peculiar things in those days... And it turned out that he knew her, and that was Beverley. So I said, "Come on, roll me in, introduce me," and he said, "Beverley So-So," and...
No. It wasn't my gig, it was Jackson's gig, and he played, and then she played, and then I played, and she said, "Would you like to play some session music to me?", and I said, "Yes." I then went away to Scotland, because at the time I was engaged to this chick and all that was falling apart, because I was turning into a total freak, and really had few remnants of civilisation left, and she was a very straight young lady - very sweet though, God bless her, and I just left her behind, I grew a bit faster than she did. So I came back a free person, and I met Bev one day and took her back to the house, and that's where it all started. At that time Beverley had just been signed by Joe Boyd to Witchseason. She was writing a lot of songs and wanted to do this and that, and she said, "I've got this guitar player," and by that time we'd been together for a couple of weeks, and we'd managed to put a couple of things together, and he said, "Why don't you make an album together?", and that was that, just purely coincidence. None of it had been planned.
In looking at the Boyd-Drake relationship one needs to factor in the Summer of 69 that Boyd was in the US in Woodstock with a major project involving Beverly and then John with heavyweight session musicians. I think he must move back from that into recording 5LL in the UK. Its not clear how these Woodstock sessions are financed – certainly not on the Ł158 it cost to do the London Conversation. My guess would be that its US money – or the expectation of it – just as now Laurence’s son is in Seattle with an erstwhile Nirvana producer.
I don’t actually like Stormbringer that much – certainly not the version of Would You Believe Me which is a cracking song. The Road to Ruin is better partly because it has Paul’s Give Us A Ring on it which is the song which made me introduce myself to him in the first place – pretty much at the point that the Tumbler came out. I find it interesting that John Martyn fell out with Joe over the production approach to be used on Road to Ruin – which must have been recorded in the middle of 1970 – the same period as BL. This needs to be factored into Nick’s decision to do PM as a solo work – an intention enunciated well in advance.
So Joe having invested a lot of someone’s money in Stormbringer has creative problems with both Nick and John in the Summer of 1970 – but not with John Cale.
Paul and I did a version of Give Us A Ring at Capital a bit after that with Cathy’s dad on drums.
I have almost finished the Executive Summary on the 10,000 word production number – without Levon Helm on drums. Mice-Beefheart Jordan says its pretty hot though.