Shelter From The Storm

Hi there, thanks for dropping in. I've been recording as usual, the new one is Doctor Doctor, which will be on the second Village Green Machine album. It is influenced by stuff like The Ballad Of Tom Joad, and signed DC by Arthur Lee. A pretty moody piece about, stuff I'd rather not think about now. I was saying to my manager, it is always a silver lining situation when you are a songwriter, and some lousy piece of crap happens in life, and you can turn it into a piece of art - a song.
This one was written and recorded in a week, and produced. If you haven't downloaded any Village Green Machine stuff, please have a listen, and if you like it either buy the CD or download some stuff from any one of the major download sites. We were discussing how, people may think we have money, when in fact, we do not. We spend more than we earn, and this has been the case for a while now. I take what I do (Village Green Machine) very seriously. I have sacrificed everything and continue to do so, to do this music thing in a very serious and focused way, and this is how I will always continue. But yes, I'm paying the price- I think illegal downloading knocks us for six. If we sold all the music which people are listening to, I think we'd be doing ok. but apparently 19 out of 20 songs these days are not paid for. In the old days, I used to copy an album for free, I did it myself. But I also paid for lots. Now, how can musicians in my position earn a living?

The thing is, it is a labour of love, and I will do the music for no money if I have to. but it is a shame for David who works with me all the time, he engineers, humps a load of gear like me, does promotion and is working on the video. He isn't getting much financial comeback, so, you know, custom is appreciated. Anyway, David is casting some magic across the video, I suggested he does a dream sequence in it, having once seen and heard this extraordinary thing by Salvador Dali in a Hitchcock movie. I await with bated breath to see what David comes up with. He has built a kaleidoscope for one part. It will be a trip! The rest of it is made up from 4 mimed takes of the song filmed in Port Meirion, David took the best bits from each short then pieced a video together. It is our first. I love being in at the deep end not having a clue what one is doing, it is the best way. And, I like that video - it is for the song One For The Mods, which is a northern soul/early Who influenced song, equally influenced by The Small Faces (hoorah!!!) and 60's West Coast band Love. There's a touch of Satanic Majesty era Stones about it, but basically it is a mod/soul stomper with a bit of psychedelic piping around the edges, and I have to tell you I am dead excited telling you guys about this, since I know that these days half of you reading this are hardcore mods.
Well, I wrote One For The Mods for you. It was such a fight to save the track at one point, as I had to overdub a snare drum and get it good. Without the overdub the track would have been discarded so I fought dead hard to save it that day, and the song made it. You can download it now if you like, or it is on England's Dreaming Spires, my album. Of course I am better known as Village Green Machine.
You know, it is such a great thing to do music, seriously, in a serious way. Especially when the goods keep coming. The truth is, there are now 70 or more songs completed over a 3 year period, in various states of production. The recordings are finished. The second album is sounding really good- it is less poppy than England's Dreaming Spires, more bluesy and more garagey, but still with a lot of hooks. It is hard to categorise or define, as every song I do is different, but rest assured, it is completely retro. I made a pledge a while ago not to let down people who buy my music, I have stuck to this. It means, only releasing really good stuff. A few hit the scrap heap, but its rare these days. I think people will come to trust me by my output, can I be a) a bighead and b) self promoting and come upfront and tell you, the tunes are all happening? They are. Please come back and hold me to my word. You know it is like POW and OCS in as much as, those people don't compromise. Someone told me to prostitute myself once, but there is no question on the matter- I do what I want. There is this big body of very good unreleased stuff. Please believe me and please tell your mates. We don't have the money to pay for promotion, so we are relying on you. I will not let you down.

Ronnie Wood

Phew....this week I have been reading Ronnie Wood's extraordinary biography. I will tell more soon, but briefly, Ronnie was the first land living offspring of water gypsies. Now there's a good band name. Its mine, you can't have it! I have seen RW interviewed a few times, and generally warm to him, he seems a sincere and genuine man. But, any suspicions we might have about him and the boys living an outrageous, decadent life is completely founded. I will read again before telling one hilarious tale, see next week for the Stones smalltown drug bust- for now I will tell you about what happened to Ronnie with freebase cocaine. Once turned on to it, he spent 5 years in its spell. He lived in his bathroom with Bobbie Womack. Got hooked. Keith said enough was enough, went to see Ronnie in his hotel room and told him to cool it. To get away from Keith, Ronnie moved rooms, but Keith caught wind of it, and made for Ronnie's room with a bunch of cronies, on the war path. Keith picked up the freebase bowl and smashed it, going for Ronnie. Ronnie punched him in the stomach and kicked him in the balls, then staggered to Mick's room covered in blood, where Mick and charlie asked him to help out with a song they were working on. Ronnie went back to his room, where Keith got a blade out and held it at Ronnie's throat. They stared each other out, finally Keith said, "I'd kill you, but your girlfriend wouldn't like the mess". So, it was business more or less as usual in the Rolling Stones camp. I read a review of ronnie's book in I think Mojo, where the reviewer complained the autobiography doesn't pinpoint what makes Ron Wood tick, but I think this is an irrelevant point to have made. MUSIC makes Ron Wood tick for goodness sake. And how much does Mr Mojo get paid to pontificate?

Bob Dylan

Now, I've got to watch it here, because coming up is my interview with a man who is among the most distinguished music journalists in Britain, who works for Mojo magazine. Sid and I have been chatting for a couple of years or more - Sid Griffin. I am hoping Sid will write something (nice) about my Village Green Machine work; however it is nice to chat with Sid irrespective of any such requirements, and I talk to Sid cos I like to. Sid Griffin was in 80s heroes The Long Ryders, he wrote for them, sung lead vocals and played a mean guitar. Live they were more of a rock & roll band whereas the records had more 12 string Rickenbacker on them. Loosely linked with the US phenomenon popular among we UK music fans starved of a decent soundtrack to grow up to, known as The Paisley Underground, Sid was one of the cool dudes and leading lights here in the UK. Indeed, Long Ryders packed the clubs and hit the singles charts with songs like Looking For Lewis and Clarke, a really rocking 45 which helped shake the rafters which were clogged with vampire bats like Duran Duran, Wham!, and other hideous vulgarities, Sid, thanks for helping save the day. I remember jumping around when the LRs played, it was exciting and real rock & roll, a rare phenomenon in those days of sterile sounds. Sid has recently written a book about Rolling thunder era Bob Dylan, having already written a successful book about The Man. Sid's band have a new LP out, which he considers alternative bluegrass. I asked Sid about this, about Long Ryders and about Dylan.

Interview with Sid Griffin

ML Tell me about your new album with the Coal Porters, what is it like, and what are its roots?

SG We recorded our album DURANGO just outside Durango, Colorado USA. It is a further extension of our "alt-bluegrass" idea. The record was produced by my old pal Ed Stasium who was the producer for hit acts like The Smithereens, Belinda Carlisle and the Jeff Healey Band. Ed was Phil Spector's main engineer for years and years too. We recorded like The Band recorded the Basement Tapes...with all the musicians in one room relatively close together and playing as live as possible. Vocals were usually sung later though one of my scratch vocals was kept.
I wrote five songs on the album, our guitarist Neil Herd wrote three and our banjo man Dick Smith wrote one. Mine tend to be anthemic like the old Long Ryders hit Looking For Lewis & Clark was. You can hear that best in the second track on the album, No More Chains. It has that YEAH, RIGHT ON, BROTHER!! feel to it.
When you record quickly and with all the parts together you always get a very coherent sound and the record ends up with a very coherent feel. I like that. This new album DURANGO really sticks together as a themed unity as opposed to a simply collection of the most recent songs we have written.

ML The music you are doing now seems quite removed from the sounds of The Long Ryders, but the sensibility you have now was presumably developing back in the 80s. How receptive have Long Ryders fans been to your shift in sound?

SG I don't play a music anywhere near what the Long Ryders played now. The Long Ryders played 4/4 rock and roll, like the Kings Of Leon today, and that was fun then but now I play acoustic music. No more amps, no more electric guitars, no more drums...we are a quieter band who rely on musicianship and dynamics to get our point across, not volume or a big Nazi beat off the snare drum. In the 1980s I never dreamed I would play this kind of music but here we are! The Coal Porters now turn down work and gig only when the fee is at a certain level. A few years ago when I was still playing electric gigs we'd drive about anywhere in the UK for a gig playing £300 and those days are over, thank God. I don't expect to be rich but I don't want to lose money doing this either. Plus I am now playing a kind of music which is less reliant on fashion and trends, I am playing a music you can grow old performing. No one wants to see a grey-haired Long Ryder attempt to "rock out". Johnny Ramone said no one should be playing rock and roll past age 45 and he is dead right. As opposed to just dead.

ML Tell us about the most famous people you have met, known and interviewed as a music journalist, please do describe some of the meetings and how it went, and any little things which stick in your mind. Plenty of scope here I'm sure!

SG The first famous person I met was Dizzy Gillespie in 1975 when he brought his jazz group to my university in South Carolina. I was extremely nervous. There are too many names to mention but I have interviewed all the original Byrds and that is always a thrill for me to think about as they are my favourite band of all time. Keith Richards asked me if the interview was over, I said yeah, and he leapt up outta his chair and left the room before I could shake his hand goodbye much less get my photo taken with him! Brian Wilson and I were on a TV show together twenty years ago, he was really nervous and shy. Joe Strummer was an acquaintance, one of the best guys you could ever sell a guitar to and I sold him two about eight years apart. A sweet, warm hearted man.

The Coal Porters
More info at Sid

ML You tell me you have written another book on Dylan, focusing on his Rolling Thunder period. I would like to ask you more about this nearer release date, but for now I would like to know if Dylan was enthusiastic about the project, and if he co-operated and was involved personally.

SG My new book is out in April and is called Shelter From The Storm and is about Dylan's Rolling Thunder/Renaldo & Clara era. Again it is about 92,000 words and I have interviewed all sortsa people for the book but, alas, not Dylan. But he knows of me and I dig that alot. It sounds awful and very fan-ish but Dylan has said my name and that makes me smile.

Reading Village Green Machine's ezine. Shelter From The Storm
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