Word podcast 292 – Kenneth Womack on the sideways genius of George Martin

Kenneth Womack, who actually teaches a course in the Beatles at Monmouth University in New Jersey, has just published “Sound Pictures”, the second part of his mammoth biography of Beatles producer George Martin, and he came to Word In Your Ear to talk about it. There was plenty to cover: from his childhood in the Depression through a transformation thanks to the Fleet Air Arm and the Guildhall School of Music to an apprenticeship at EMI which led him to produce everyone from Flanders and Swann to Peter Sellers and then confronted him with the challenge of making something of the four boys from Liverpool that the publishing division were keen on signing.

He wasn’t convinced at first but as soon as they did something he thought was good he was the first to recognise it and he was the only person apart from Brian Epstein who believed they were going to be huge and helped make sure they were. Kenneth provides a gripping account of what was arguably the most productive creative partnership of the 20th century. How does he think they would have fared if they had ended up with some other producer at EMI rather than George Martin? “I think they would have had a few hits and then faded away,” he says. “What make it all work was that they came at everything sideways.”

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Word Podcast 291 – Billy Bragg talks about the vital role played by skiffle in the story of British rock

David Hepworth writes: We dropped off Billy Bragg at his London hotel after this evening at Word In Your Ear and on my way home I started spooling back through the dizzing range of subjects we had touched upon in the course of the evening: Izal medicated toilet paper, the Beatles, Joe Henry, the restorative effects of finishing the evening signing tea towels, Bovingdon tank museum, an old copy of the East London Advertiser, meeting Bob Dylan, watching old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, the importance of accountability, what the Clash could do and what they couldn’t do, meeting Ray Galton in the pub, what poems could each of us recite from memory, Lead Belly, the cultural importance of TV cowboys, how many of the Quarrymen are still alive and then there was a joke about a doctor and a cat which I can’t recall enough of to relate here.

In the middle of all that we recorded a podcast where Billy talked about “Roots, Radicals and Rockers”, his acclaimed book about skiffle.

The following day I asked Mark if there was anything I’d forgotten and he added: Conscription, rationing, availability of post-war foodstuffs (sugar, sweets), embouchure re brass instruments, Italian fashion and screen idols, American ’50s pop culture, the birth of ITV, cowboy mythology, Dixie, blues, trad jazz, bop, jive, rockabilly, skiffle, punk, garage rock, ragtime, syncopated rhythms of New Orleans, Spasm band instruments, the laws of the railroad & transport of livestock and, well, you get the idea. Thanks to Billy for giving us one of the great nights at Word In Your Ear. If you enjoy the Word podcast don’t forget to favourite it in all the usual places.

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Word Podcast 215 – with Chas Hodges

For all the people who have been asking to hear the long version of our chat with Chas Hodges, who was our guest in the podcast on June 1st 2012, here it is. It’s all here: growing up in Edmonton, playing in Joe Meek’s house band, hearing “Revolver” on acetate, playing with Heads, Hands and Feet, the amazing story of Chas and Dave and much more.

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Word Podcast 290 – Mark King on forty years of funk

In the entire firmament of those who busted the charts in the 1980s there was nobody more reliably sane than Mark King of Level 42. Before they start on their 2018 tour he came in to the Islington to entertain an enthralled house with his account of importing the first Mahavishnu Orchestra album into the Isle Of Wight, turning up on Lenny White’s doorstep in America at the age of seventeen, treating the bass as a percussion instrument, his ride on the giddy carousel of chart success in the 80s, prodding Sean Penn in the chest at Madonna’s party, appearing with Elton John and Eric Clapton at the Prince’s Trust and a recent run-in with Ginger Baker. Level 42 tour dates are here. This was one of the best evenings we’ve ever had at the Islington.

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Word Podcast 289 – Mark Kermode on his life-long struggle against musical instruments

Ever since first hearing the siren call of The Rubettes’ “Sugar Baby Love”, Mark Kermode, TV and Radio’s Mr Movie, has been possessed by a determination to find out how it feels to be on stage with a band and to make the noise that bands made. His new book “How Does It Feel?” recounts every step on that journey, from making his own guitar while at school through leading his own bands The Bottlers and The Dodge Brothers and masquerading as the musical director of Danny Baker’s late-night chat show to trying to learn the chromatic harmonica on stage in front of a large orchestra and an even larger audience. It has been a life devoted to the noble objective of getting some kind of noise out of just about anything he has been confronted with and being prepared to treat the twin impostors of approval and derision both the same.

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Word Podcast 288 – the uninterrupted Seymour Stein

We couldn’t get over the fact that Seymour Stein actually met Buddy Holly. It shouldn’t surprise us really because after all he is 76 and his first job in the music business was at Billboard when he was a teenager. It’s well known that as the boss of the Sire label he signed the Ramones, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, the Undertones and Madonna. What’s less well-known is the part played in the Sire story by Focus, the Deviants and the Climax Blues Band. The full story is written in “Siren Song” which he’s written with Gareth Murphy. He came to Word In Your Ear to talk about it. We let him get on with it.

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Word podcast 287 – Stuart Baillie on his brilliant book about music, Northern Ireland and the Troubles

Stuart Baillie’s book, “Trouble Songs” is, as he told us at this Word In Your Ear, his personal story as well as the story of music and the Troubles. Born in Belfast in 1961, Stuart came to London to work on the NME, returning to Belfast in the late 90s to run a music project in the city. His book paints a rich picture of a place with unique virtues as well as unique problems.

It’s the story of how entertainment has reflected both and how live music re-emerged from behind the ring of steel and came blinking in the daylight following the Good Friday agreement. It’s the story of Christy Moore, the Miami Showband, Stiff Little Fingers, Rudi, Van Morrison, the Undertones, Terri Hooley and scores of others, many of whom were interviewed specifically for the book. It’s also the story of the part played in the events of the time by outsiders like Lennon and McCartney, U2 and The Clash. It’s the story of how music both brings people together and sometimes drives them apart. It’s one of the best books we’ve ever covered in Word In Your Ear.

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Word Podcast 286 – with Kenney Jones – we can use the word “legend”, can’t we?

Drummer with the Small Faces, the Faces and the Who, supplier of the distinctive drum sound on the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only ‘N’ Roll”, guest at Mick Jagger’s wedding in 1971, Kenney Jones is one of the few people born in Stepney in 1948 who wound up owning his own polo club. It’s all in his newly-published autobiography “Let The Good Times Roll”. He came to the Islington to talk to David and Mark about it. The new air conditioning was working and a splendid time was had by all.

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Word Podcast 285 – with Simon Mayo talking about his first adult novel – soon to be a major motion picture

Award-winning broadcaster and podcaster, successful novelist and former Word subscriber Simon Mayo makes his debut on the pod to talk about his ascent of the greasy pole of broadcasting, his experience fronting the Radio One Roadshow in the days when that was a very big deal, his radio husband Mark Kermode, his radio wife Jo Whiley, his first adult novel “Mad Blood Stirring”, soon to be a major motion picture, and the real reason why Dave Lee Travis always got the biggest cheer.

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Word Podcast 284 – with old friend of the pod Andrew Collins, Boswell to Billy Bragg

It was a delight to catch up with Andrew Collins on the occasion of the publication of “Still Suitable For Miners”, his biography of Billy Bragg which was initially published in 1998 and is now updated with additional material. He talked to David and Mark about the days when a biographer had a carrier bag of clippings instead of the internet, how the self-described big-nosed bastard from Barking managed to turn himself into a national institution and kept his brand burning bright for the best part of forty years and also tells us the one about the stripper and the banana. All this and an education too!

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