Monday, December 5, 2011

Pheaturing Pete Brown

Hey there, welcome to a Monday entry of the Phile, how are you? Well,  last week President Obama took his daughters to a bookstore. Barack bought Malia “The Phantom Tollbooth,” while Malia bought Barack “Economics for Dummies.” That’s right, Obama bought eight books for Sasha and Malia. Yeah, I was reading all about it on China’s credit card statement. Speaking of Obama, the president attended three fundraisers in New York City to raise money for his re-election campaign. Seriously? How about holding a fundraiser to raise money for the United States? I just heard about a woman in Germany who just gave birth to a baby boy named “Jihad.” Or as the TSA put it, “Hope you like Amtrak!” A man in Georgia was arrested for burglary after he left his Facebook account open on the victim’s computer. But this is nice: He’s only been in jail a few hours, and his status already says “In a Relationship!” Vice President Biden will travel to Turkey to speak at an economic summit. When he heard he was giving a speech to Turkey, Biden was like, "Ahem, I am SO sorry about Thanksgiving." This is something Jeff didn't mention yesterday when we talked football... Chargers kicker Nick Novak was caught on TV urinating on the sidelines during San Diego’s overtime loss to Denver. Marking the only time fans were really glad a player didn’t go for 2. Well, yesterday Logan and I went to see the movie Hugo. It was completely different than I thought it would be. I thought it was about a 1970's toy puppet that looked like Yul Brynner. Do you remember that thing? It was one of my favorite toys when I was a kid. If you don't remember or know what it was, here is a reminder. 

I wish I still had it. So, are you kids fans of the TV show "Big Bang Theory"? I only watched the first few episodes, but I love the theme song by the Barenaked Ladies. Anyway, they just released "Big Bang Theory" poster. It's kinda odd. 

Well, it's the holiday season and one thing I love about this time of year is Christmas lights. So, here on the Phile, I will pheature different houses. Here's one, which must of been done by the laziest person ever. No, not me.

Robert Cop? Hmmmm. Alright, well, yesterday I read that the Republican party wants to make voting harder next year for everybody. I cannot vote, not being an American citizen at all, but a lot of you readers could vote. I don't know what is going on, so I invited someone to the Phile to help and explain it. Please welcome to the Phile, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Me: It should be "Ask a Chairwoman", ma'am. I am sorry. Anyway, what is going on with this whole "let's make voting hard" business?

Debbie: In at least 40 states, Republicans have introduced laws that would make voting more difficult for everyone... particularly minorities and young voters.

Me: Is this a coincidence?

Debbie: Coincidence? Of course not. It's all for partisan gain. GOP leaders have said it themselves: They do better when fewer people show up to vote.

Me: Okay, let me get this straight, here in America people are actually trying to make sure fewer people show up at the polls next year? 

Debbie: Exactly. This is an issue that Democrats have always fought for... bringing more people into the electoral process. It's central to who we are. That's why we're jumping to action right now, and our vigilant voter protection team is on the case, digging in on these suppression efforts every day. 

Me: What do you think about these new laws?

Debbie: Some of the new laws are downright absurd. You can vote with a gun license in Texas, but not a student ID. In some states, even a Veterans ID card wouldn't be sufficient photo identification to vote. Republicans are trying to justify their suppression efforts by claiming "voter impersonation" is rampant, but here's what's funny: Between 2001 and 2007, there were just nine possible occurrences of voter impersonation. 

Me: Chairman... Chairwoman Wasserman, during that same period, 352 people were killed by lightning, and there were more than 32,000 reports of UFO sightings. What are some of the states the Republicans already passed these laws? Is Florida one of them?

Debbie: Republican lawmakers have already rammed through laws like these in Wisconsin and Florida, and given that they currently control both chambers in 24 other state legislatures -- nearly all of which also have Republican governors. 

Me: I'll bet they're thinking they're going to keep getting away with this.

Debbie: They're banking on you not doing anything about it. Let's show them that's a bad assumption to make... and that we're just getting started fighting this.

Me: How can we beat this?

Debbie: First, we spread the word about these laws, so that we're poised to fight them. One ballot initiative, one state legislature at a time. Second, we compound our on-the-ground efforts to register and educate new voters in all 50 states. Because here's something we know: One of the best ways to thwart any voter suppression efforts is going to be by making 2012 the largest turnout ever... even larger than 2008. This isn't about Democrats and Republicans. It's not about red states versus blue states. It's about a fundamental right that should transcend the politics that some of our own representatives are foisting on our democracy.

Me: Thank you so much, ma'am. I appreciate it. Where can somebody go and find out more about this?

Debbie: Thank you so much, Peverett Phile. 

Nobody's forcing you to go see a 3D movie. You make that decision on your own. You decide if you want to take the chance that it'll all look like a blurry clump of sparkling trash. And I'm paraphrasing the film critic Luke Thompson here, but the few hundred people in the world who watch movies for a living are the only ones alive who are literally forced to go see every single theatrically released 3D film, so if you never trust them for any other advice, take their word for it, and mine, on this one. In 2011 alone the number of films produced using this "advancement" numbers approximately 40. And that's fine where the process is playful and idiotic and treated like the gimmick it usually is. But when it's not, you mostly just wind up thinking about the possibility of contracting bacterial conjunctivitis from the glasses. All of that to say that Hugo is this year's Avatar. It's a 3D film that injects the technology with a blast of soul, imagination and visual excitement. It's the one narrative live-action movie of the year that you pretty much have to see in 3D if you plan to see it at all. Thank Martin Scorsese for that. In adapting the book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" for the screen, the story of an orphaned boy (Asa Butterfield) who lives in the walls of a 1930s Paris train station, a movie-obsessed child who's equally obsessed with keeping the station's giant clocks running and with fixing a broken automaton left behind by his deceased father, Scorsese is telling the story of his own childhood love of movies and need for connection to the world through them. This personalization is also where the movie stumbles, as it overemphasizes the idea of movies as magical and dreamlike. The characters state and restate this position over and over until you want a post-World War II Italian Neo-Realist to travel backwards in a time machine and duct tape their mouths shut. Meanwhile, it comes crazily alive when it's showing you how magical and dreamlike movies can be. The 3D dives and soars and sweeps you into space, blowing up childhood anxiety, nightmares (one of which involves Hugo and his little automaton friend as nothing less than a pair of mismatched Pinocchios), the overwhelming large-ness of the rest of the world, adult imposition, the wonder of early film experiments by pioneers like the Lumiere brothers and the plain old awesome steampunk spectacle of giant clock mechanisms rotating and spinning straight into your face. And because the plot further involves the sad spectacle of Hugo's unwitting connection to film pioneers like Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), a man involved in a fictionalized but also realistic loss of his own life's work, it's a way for Scorsese to bang the drum for his personal passion for film preservation. It's also a brilliantly sneaky way for him to convince you to watch the documentaries he makes. That's right, he makes documentaries. Perhaps you remember not seeing them. And that's your fault, not his. Never enjoyed his four-hour revel in Italian cinema called "My Voyage to Italy" or his four-hour documentary on American cinema called "A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies"? Why not? Both of them will make you excited to go back and watch every single movie he raves about for all 480+ minutes. This is a fact. You want Martin Scorsese as your film studies teacher. He won't steer you wrong. As long as he shuts up about the "dreams," already. From 1 to 10, it gets a 10, and I will be buying this movie when it gets released. Logan didn't like it as much as he said there's no action sequences. 

This is the 16th book in the P.P.B.C...

Jack Boulware will be a guest on the Phile in two weeks. 

This is so bloody cool. Today's guest is  is an English performance poet and lyricist.
Best known for his collaborations with Jack Bruce, he also worked with The Battered Ornaments, formed his own group Pete Brown & Piblokto!, and worked with Graham Bond and Phil Ryan. His new album with Phil Ryan called "Road of Cobras" is available in stores and on iTunes and Amazon. Please welcome to the Phile British blues legend... Phil Brown!

Me: Hello, sir, welcome to the Phile. It's a huge pleasure to have you here, and I have a lot of questions. How are you?

Pete: Great, hello JP.

Me: You're from Surrey outside London, right? What part? My grandmother lived in Sutton and my cousins live around Caterham. Where do you live now?

Pete: Was born in a place called Ashtead, between Epsom and Leatherhead, where I spent my first ten years. Whenever I am interviewed, especially in the US, I always say that it was the Surrey Delta, where all the British blues players come from, such as Eric, Jeff Beck, Peter Green, many others. I can't think for the life of me why, it's a very conservative middle class place. Maybe we were the rebels.

Me: My dad and Rod Price from Foghat played on a tribute to Peter Green called "Rattlesnake Guitar", sir. You produced their tracks, right?

Pete: Yes I did produce a lot of the tracks for "Rattlesnake Guitar", including those by Dave and Rod. 

Me: How was that experience producing them? I bet you guys talked about the blues quite a bit obviously. 

Pete: Your dad was a terrific singer with a considerable feel for blues type material. Rod I remember as being a bit grumpy, but a good player. The sessions were very varied and enjoyable. I think it's an interesting record. The tracks I am most proud of were Arthur Brown's version of "Green Manalishi" with Heckstall-Smith on saxophones and Southside Johnny's version of "Baby When the Sun Goes Down", with Rod having to be persuaded to play on it. The tracks were recorded at the Showplace in New Jersey, a great studio and still going.

Me: The songs they did, did they pick 'em out or did you or somebody else? And was it Arnie that put it all together?

Pete: The project was put together by Arnie Goodman. The artists mostly chose their own songs from the Peter Green catalogue, though occasionally I did the choosing. Arnie is a good exec producer, and we still work together. The business needs people like him who actually like music.

Me: You have been called "Jack Bruce's poet", sir. When did you first meet Jack and get to know him?

Pete: That's the first time I have been called Jack Bruce's poet and I'm actually nobody's poet but my own, and sometimes not even that! It's true I worked with Jack for over thirty years and might even do so again one day. He is one of the greatest musicians in the world, and it was important for me do it. The body of work we produced is I think quite unique. I don't call it all poetry. Poetry is very personal, and a lot of those songs had to come from Jack's point of view, not mine. Having said that, I came from being a professional poet (made my living from readings before becoming a singer) and obviously some of what I learned from all those years of writing poetry got used in the songs. But I always tried to do what the music demanded, whether it was "poetic" or not.

Me: I have to tell you, it's cool you co-wrote Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love"... my son who is twelve is learning to play guitar and that's one of the first things he learnt. That beginning riff is so memorable... anyway, when you guys wrote that song did you think it would become such a legendary song, or even a single?

Pete: "Sunshine" has become a standard, and a song many kids learn to play. That's down to what Jack and Eric did musically. I only wrote some of the words! When we wrote it , it was during the few days we could get together during vast Cream tours. We never thought it would be so successful, we were just trying to write songs for the record ("Disraeli Gears") which was about to be made. As you might know, initially the record company wanted just a blues record, and called the song (and some of the others) "psychedelic rubbish". It almost didn't make it onto the record. It became their best selling single thus far! 

Me: How did you guys decide that two vocalists would be singing different parts of the song?

Pete: The two vocal parts idea was either down to Jack, who is an excellent arranger, or down to producers Felix Pappalardi and Tom Dowd. I wasn't there at the time.

Me: You wrote so many fantastic songs, Pete, what is your favorite song you wrote and is there one you wrote that you thought you didn't like it, but recorded it anyway?

Pete: Favourite songs? Of the Cream stuff, "As You Said", which is mainly Jack, and "Dance the Night Away". Of the stuff I wrote for Jack solo records, I am fond of "Theme for an Imaginary Western " (indeed I still sing it myself sometimes) and "Jet Set Jewel". Of my own stuff, I like "Hard to Say" , "Dark City", "A Hint of Blonde" which I wrote and performed with my longterm music partner Phil Ryan, and "Hereford Girls", which I wrote with and for a band called Cold River Lady, whose record ("Better Late" on Angel Air Records) I also produced. I've written so much stuff, I don't regret too much of it and some of it improves with time. I didn't like my own performances until recently, but others do, and I don't argue about it any more. What's done is done.

Me: What do you think about Clapton's solo career? Did you follow it?

Pete: Eric is a fine musician and he has largely deserved his fame. It is a pity Jack's solo work didn't get the same acclaim, because he was the real voice and musical leader of Cream,, whether people like it or not. When Cream reunited I liked what they did even better than the old days, partly because they could play quieter and the technology allowed them to hear each other better and do more nuanced work.

Me: When Cream broke up, you must've been around them, right? Was that a surprise to you and other people or did you see that coming?

Pete: By the time Cream broke up I was touring a lot and already involved with Jack's solo work, so it didn't bother me that much nor was I around them enough to see it coming. I didn't think of it as a cash cow as I was as surprised as any of us by the success, and being the cynic I am, didn't expect it to last anyway. I just got on with my own lives.

Me: I have to ask you about your band Pete Brown & Piblokto!... where did that name come from and what does Piblokto mean? It sounds Japanese. And it has an exclamation mark, right?

Pete: Piblokto or Pibloktoq is an Eskimo word meaning itchy skin disease. A friend of mine found it in Ferlinghetti's novel "Her", and used to use it in an exclamatory way. Hence the continued use of the exclamation mark.

Me: You had this band after you had another band, Pete Brown & His Battered Ornaments, which is a great name. Always one of my favorite band names, sir. Where did that name originate?

Pete: The Battered Ornaments was my first band, before Piblokto. The name came from Boswell, he was describing over-used adjectival phrases.

Me: My mum was at the Stones show in Hyde Park (she dated Brian Jones a few years before and that was right before or after he died... I can't remember). Anyway, you were supposed to be at that show opening with your band but your band kicked you out. You were kicked out of your own band. How the hell did that happen? That must've been one helluva argument. Can you tell us what happened?

Pete: Yes, I was fired from the Ornaments before the Stones in the Park gig, much to their detriment, as some of them now admit. Although I wasn't a good singer then, I had a good stage act and it would have been a success. For the full story, read my autobiography (plug) "White Rooms and Imaginary Westerns", which you can get on Amazon. We are trying to get it out in paperback soon.

Me: I imagine you must've been angry, but recovered well. I am surprised they didn't change the name of the band to Chris Spedding & His Battered Ornaments. Did you try to stop them from using the band name, Pete?

Pete: No, I didn't try to stop them using the band name, in retrospect I should have. But I'm generally not a malevolent or litigious person and I let them stew in their own juice, which they proceeded to do. 

Me: I know what it's like with band members fighting over a band name, but we won't go into it here. Anyway, you released two albums I think with this band and on the second didn't they redo your vocals? Did you listen or have you ever listened to this other version of the album? If it was me I don't think I could ever talk to them again... but then again time heals all wounds as Nick Lowe said.

Pete: I possess all the Ornaments recordings, I rarely listened to them unless involved in the occasional remastering project. I regard them as juvenilia, although the songs are okay but the performances are, to be charitable, early efforts (at least on my part. I am not so worried about Nick Lowe, but Groucho Marx, one of my heroes, said "Time wounds all heels", and that perhaps is relevant in this case.

Me: I have to ask you about the album "Party in the Rain". That album was recorded in 1976 but wasn't released until five or so years later. What happened? Why did it take so long to release? When it came out that must've been such a relief for you.

Pete: "Party in the Rain" was made up of demos by my 76-77 band Back to the Front, which I co-led with keyboardist Ian Lynn. Although we were a busy road band, no record company wanted to know as it was the time of the dreaded Punk Plague. After the band broke up a tiny record company got interested a couple of years later and eventually put the record out. Due largely to the efforts of the engineers at Pathway Studios and Ian Lynn, it still sounds okay.

Me: I was surprised you got into film scores and even scripts, but you were a writer with your songs and poetry, so why not do scripts. Was writing a script or coming up with a story harder then writing a song?

Pete: I quit the music business in 1977 largely (although nobody noticed) and got a chance to write a movie for the BBC, which led to me getting an agent and commissions etc., and being encouraged by Martin Scorsese, who I had met at the Edinburgh Film Festival. I was always a film buff and jumped at the chance. I did it for quite while until being dragged back into my musical addiction by becoming a producer. I now have a tiny film company (BrownWaters Pictures) with a young Irish director, and we are close to getting our first feature off the ground.

Me: You and Phil Ryan started a record label together called Interoceptor. Where did that name come from? Did you release your own music on the label or other musicians? 

Pete: I started Interoceter Records because we had the first Brown/Ryan record ("Ardours of the Lost Rake") and a Heckstall-Smith record ("Wosa Nasu") which no labels would take, but the distributors liked. Phil and I then formed a band called the Interoceters, which lasted on and off until 4 years ago. Interoceters are communications devices from a l952 sci-fi movie called This Island Earth which we both loved. The label still exists, although mostly as a production company.

Me: Okay, I am a huge film buff  like you so I have to ask, what is your favorite film of all time, Pete?

Pete: Favourite films would have to be 1) Vertigo by Hitchcock 2) The Searchers by John Ford 3) Man of the West by Anthony Mann plus several films by the Japanese director Kon Ichakawa including The Burmese Harp and Alone on the Pacific. Also very fond of the Pole Andrej Wajda (Lotna, Ashes and Diamonds) plus just about anything by Bunuel or Billy Wilder.

Me: I read that you collect model aeroplanes and even the band Blurt wrote a song about this. What was the name of the song and what was the first thing you thought of when you found out about it and heard it? 

Pete: I don't know of any Blurt songs about my aeroplanes. I do occasionally buy die-cast aeroplanes, mostly old ones when I can afford it, though in recent years model buses (also diecast) have taken up some spare time. These are side-issues compared to my love of records, mostly blues, jazz and soul.. Some of my favourite artists, whose work I collect, include Eddie Harris, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Mose Allison, Phil Upchurch, Fathead Newman, Allen Toussaint, Bobby Rush, Horace Silver, Duke Ellington, Red Allen and Coleman Hawkins.

Me: I collect many things myself, Pete... "Doctor Who" items, t-shirts, Graham Parker recordings and Spider-Man comic books, and a few Beatles stuff. I am a big Beatles fan and you have a Beatles connection that I know of. Everyone in the music biz does, right? Yours is unusual... can you tell the readers what it is?

Pete: A Beatles connection? Only that I sawed shelves with Paul McCartney for the Indica bookshop in 1964 or thereabouts when he was supporting it, and also met Lennon and Harrison at Allen Ginsberg's birthday party around the time of the Albert Hall Poetry Incarnation in '65. It was also rumoured that Lennon attended some of my poetry performances at Streate's Coffee Bar in Liverpool in the earlier 60's. Other than that, nothing to speak of. I was surprised when my picture appeared in Miles' McCartney book, but then Miles is an old mate...

Me: My dad always said there are Stones fans and Beatles fans, what were you?

Pete: I like both the Stones and the Beatles. Beatles for melody, Stones for grit. I have enormous respect for Jagger as lyricist, think he's often better than Dylan. "Undercover"- bit of a masterpiece. Also early stuff- "Who Wants Yesterday's Papers" springs to mind. Of course the Beatles had the greatest ever Brit producer/arranger, George Martin, on their side. What a genius! Also loved the work of Stones producer Jimmy Miller...

Me: Speaking of the Stones, you recently released a CD called "Road of Cobras" which I downloaded from iTunes and love. That was an album you did with Phil Ryan, but Mick Taylor plays on it. When did you first get to know and work with Mick?

Pete: "Road of Cobras", our current record (but new one due around March 2012) was our first for about 14 years. Phil had become a fulltime carer for his ailing wife for nearly ten years until she died in 2008. We decided to use guests and different lineups (our new one is just our band, Psoulchedelia). Hence Maggie Bell, Arthur Brown, Clem Clempson, Jim Mullen and of course Mick Taylor. I had produced a few cuts with him previously and we had become quite friendly. Also, his manager (now and at several times in the past my drummer) Jeff Allen, is a good friend and lives in the same North London street as me. So it wasn't too hard to persuade Mick to contribute, and we did his stuff at Jeff's studio Sensible, which is not far from home.

Me: I am trying to get Mick on the Phile so next time you see him if you can mention it, but both Clem and Maggie are gonna be on the Phile soon. Anyway, I think Mick and my dad were doing to do a project together. I know they talked on the phone at least once. Anyway, "Road of Cobras" is a great album, sir. Did you and Phil both discuss what songs were going to be on it?

Pete: I'm glad you like "Cobras". Phil and I had a good look at all the material we had (we write together all the time) and chose what appeared on the record out of what we thought was best. The songs run from 1978 ("Men Only") to the very recent, such as "Psycho and Delia".

Me: Psycho and Delia... who are they?

Pete: This title arose from walking down the street one day and seeing these two names inscribed above the windscreen of an old car. The idea came into my head for a modern song set in maybe London's Camden Town derived from the old New Orleans classics "Frankie and Johnny" and "Stackalee"- in other words a murder ballad. 

Me: Where did the title "Road of Cobras" come from?

Pete: The "Road of Cobras" title came from Benny Hill- he used to use the expression in a fake Chinese accent meaning "load of cobblers", a London expression for "load of old rubbish". The idea of life as a a road full of hazardous snakes (especially the music biz) appealed. 

Me: I like the album cover, it is very 70's looking, is that what you were going for? Who did the artwork?

Pete: The designer, Helen Litherland, does all our stuff, including my book cover, and is married to guitarist James Litherland, ex-Colosseum, Bandit, Chris Farlowe, etc.

Me: Pete, what instruments do you play?

Pete: I am just a singer although I do play a lot of percussion, both live and on record.

Me: I also downloaded a Pete Brown CD called "Not Before Time" from iTunes and played it quite a few times. Is this you? There's a cool Nick Lowe cover on the album.

Pete: I know nothing of this record. I can only conclude that it is by one of the other Pete Browns... probably Joe Brown's son. He is also both artist and producer, and we were once in the same studio complex, causing endless confusion. So can't help with any of that. Another Pete Brown was a Beatles helper, that's perhaps who you were alluding to above. Again, no relation or connection. My real name is Leibowitz! But that's another story...

Me: Ahhhh, that explains what I was thinking about with the Beatles conenction. I am an IDIOT! Man, I asked you lots of questions and could ask you a million more, but I'll let you go. I hope this was fun and you will come back on the Phile again, Pete. It was truly an honor to have you here. 

Pete: Well that's all folks... enjoy.

That was one of the most amazing interviews ever. I hope Pete can come back on next year when his next CD comes out. Thanks to Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and of course Pete Brown. The Phile will be back on Wednesday with the great Ron Sexsmith, and the announcement of the next artist to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Art Gallery. I will give you a clue who he is... he is also a British blues legend. Then next Sunday it's local musician Burt Wilson and on Monday it's Shanna Delaney, lead singer for the band Bethesda. And then a week from Wednesday it's Luther Dickinson from North Mississippi Allstars. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.




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