Ben Sisario has a lovely piece about Charlie’s music and place in the music world in the NY Times today. Read it here. (It’s one of my 10 monthly “gift” links, so maybe it will work for nonsubscribers.)
The Watts story is one of thwarted desire, but the fulfillment of professional duty. He’d have preferred to play with Charlie Parker, but if he had to play with the Stones? Obviously yes.
My favorite factoid. He collected cars but never learned to drive. Evidence against his supposed lack of decadence.
My favorite personal anecdote. Sometime back in the 80s I took my friend Mo to JFK. He was flying off to Germany. In the International Departures section we ended up sitting next to Charlie and his wife, Shirley, on some banquettes on a long corridor. It was hard not to look, but also embarrassing to be seen looking. Mo was a master of such moments, gave a wave of acknowledgment, and said Hi. Charlie and Shirley politely said Hi back, and then we went back to our waiting. More comfortably.
For me the magic of the Stones was the way the pieces fit together in surprising and completely agreeable ways. Charlie fit that aesthetic to the t.
I was cooking on Mardi Gras, shrimp etoufee by the way, and had a playlist of Mardi Gras songs on. Lots of good stuff I knew, but then this song came on. It’s not in any way obscure. It was written by Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint and I gather it was used in a grocery store commercial at some point. It’s been covered quite a bit, too. But it was new to me.
It was just a few years ago that I regularly ran into Sylvain’s Rampage of Songs, a night of youtube clips on Facebook. They were the delightful mashup of rock, old rock, rnb, and great stuff you’d expect. His energy in that enterprise was so so Syl!
We’re on first person terms because I lived in an apartment on Mott Street near Prince back in the 70s that had some carvings in the window sill that convinced me that the previous tenant was Syl Sylvain.
It may not have been true, but the carvings were real (they said Syl Sylvain if I remember correctly) and there were plenty of musicians in that building. In those days when I walked through the village I was often mistaken for Lenny Kaye. Why wouldn’t we live in Syl’s bathtub in kitchen tenement apartment?
I hadn’t seen the Dolls back then. I was in high school when they broke up. I did see them when they got back together in the late aughts with Earl Slick playing Johnny, at Bowery Ballroom. Earlier that day I was at the dentist, and the radio was promoting an REO Speedwagon show at the Garden, an oldies show. I went to see the remainders of the Dolls and they were very fine, most notable because Syl was so committed to bringing back all they had before with them to the now. Old but not oldies.
And it worked, mostly. David is great, first name though I don’t think I’ve lived in one of his places, but Syl seemed to believe that that night mattered completely. Like a Phil Spector production.
Which doesn’t say that much about the magnificence of the Dolls who I championed in high school over the logorrheic Bruce Springsteen. But the music says all about Syl.
I didn’t know Erik, I think I emailed him once, but maybe it was someone else in Hans Condor. They were a Nashville band that gloriously went on a Japan tour, and leave behind a great album and at least one terrific video.
So this isn’t a personal reminiscence.
But a lot of Nashville loved Erik. Reading the remarks would be emotional (a young person dies) but his generosity is legend.
From “half way to Memphis” to rocking Cleveland and everything in-between, Ian Hunter has now brought us five generations of songwriting wit and musical prowess. This ode to a dear friend, David Bowie, reminds us of better days. Days when we smiled, we laughed, and we enjoyed the camaraderie and friendship shared between two amazing human beings.
“Dandy – the world was black ‘n’ white You showed us what it’s like To live inside a rainbow Dandy – you thrilled us to the core You left us wanting more And then we took the last bus home”
Wesley Morris wrote about this version in the Times today, while making a bigger point.
I’ve always thought the Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes version was great, but even if you agree with that you’ll want to watch Patti LaBelle sing it.