One of the other things in my life . . . I help out (a little) on the Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour compilations put out by Ace Records — and my old friend Roger Armstrong. Among other things, this time round, for the third volume, it involved such burdensomeness as dinner at Moro. It also involves my writing about music — something I don't do that often these days.
Each album is a double with forty or fifty songs that Dylan played on his show. There is no Dylan voice on there. (Actually, there is one tiny, tiny snatch of him and I'll provide a reward to anyone who can tell me where it is.) There is a really extensive booklet for each album — and now a cardboard slipcase to hold all three albums. If I didn't already have it, I'd command you to buy it for me this Christmas. (So buy it for someone else instead. You won't regret it. The range and quality of the music is astonishing. The latest one has Jerry Lee Lewis singing as Iago in Othello. Can pop get any better than that?)
I've written a few bits for the sleevenotes etc now and thought you might be interested in them. I'll be posting one a day till I've finished them (then get back to Lacan's con). First up is Laura Cantrell's version of 14th St. If you don't know the tune, post a comment or email me with your address and I will send you a link to my dropbox which will enable you to fetch it etc. So . . .
21. 14TH STREET (Emily Spray) LAURA CANTRELL
Taken from the album “Humming By The Flowered Vine” Matador LP OLE 651 (2005) 3.16From Show 83 “Street Map”
A song about boundaries and borderlines - crossed, uncrossed and uncrossable - sung by Laura Cantrell, a Nashville emigrant to New York whose biggest champion was an Englishman, John Peel. It's a pinhole view, she said, of 'the moment when you see someone you're obsessed with - and decide whether it's worth it to say hello or stay safely in the background.'
Love and not-love, desire and rejection: they couldn't have a more evocative setting than the broad crosstown street which is not just the unofficial divide between uptown and downtown Manhattan but an interzone between the ancient and modern worlds. It's where the city's rigid street grid plan begins. It's where they put the barricades on 9/11. Originally, it was - as Bob Dylan put it on Theme Time Radio Hour - 'the old artery of Manhattan'. By the 1970s, it was meat-packing joints, gimcrack shops and dangerously louche gay sex clubs - The Anvil, The Toilet, The Manhole. These days, it's upscale fashiony.
The song's writer, Emily Spray, lived on its eastern reaches in its crack low-day of the late 1980s/early 1990s. 'It's quite literal. I had a crush on a guy who was unavailable and I used to run into him on 14th street and have this emotional experience. I could tell he enjoyed my attraction to him and played with my feelings a little. From there came the song.' With, at its core, a borderline never crossed. And a heart-rending shard of psychogeographical word-play - 'not counting the blocks between you and me'.
Next up The Zion Travelers' ecstastic religiosity