Nina Simone.

There’s a piece on the Guardian’s front page today by a guy who joined Nina in a hot tub, my experience with her was not so exotic but here’s how it happened. I posted this some years ago on the Spill but there’s enough new faces here to warrant a repeat.

One day back in the ’80’s Bob Andy, pioneer Jamaican musician, was staying with us in Long Beach California. On the Saturday I noticed that there was a free reggae festival in a park in south central LA. We decided to go. We were standing around between sets, sort of backstage, though there wasn’t any real backstage when I saw Nina Simone standing alone about 40ft away. I couldn’t believe it, I’d been a huge fan for all of my adult life, I’d never seen her perform, but there she was. I knew that she had a gig at the Wiltern theater in LA the following Tuesday so I excused myself from my wife and Bob and walked over to her, I introduced myself and told her how much I’d appreciated her music over the years and how much she’d meant to me. She was very cordial and we chatted, then I said “Nina, I’d like you to meet my friend Bob and my wife”; we walked back to where they were and I said ‘Nina, this is my friend Bob Andy’. 

Everything changed at that moment, I’d not even remembered that Bob Andy and Marcia Griffith had had an English hit single back in the 70’s of Nina’s song “To be Young, Gifted and Black”. ‘Bob Andy’ she screamed ‘you’re that Bob Andy?’ ‘You god damn motherfucker, you ripped me off, I never got a penny for that song and you made millions!’ Bob and Marcia were a young Jamaican vocal duo back then, they recorded the song for Harry J’s studio in Kingston. Very doubtful that they made millions! Marcia went on to join the Wailers as one of Bob’s backing trio, the I 3’s.
What had been a pleasant surprise encounter had suddenly taken a nose dive, all there was now was anger and embarrassment. I tried to smooth things over but she obviously wasn’t having any so we gingerly backed off and I said something to the effect that I looked forward to her concert. ‘You show your face at my fucking concert you bastard, and I’ll have security throw you out!’ Oops, nothing I could say was going to work so we beat an ignominious retreat, but as we left I was approached by a guy who said that he was managing Nina and did I have any influence with the mayors office, I told absolutely none, I wasn’t at all involved with any of that. 

On the way home I had a thought. Whenever there were high end celebrity visitors to LA I noticed that there were day’s proclaimed in their honour and the mayors office would issue proclamations, in the form of very ornate heraldic hand lettered documents listing that person’s contributions to society etc. The guys question made me think it might be appropriate to send a note to the mayors office and suggest this. I had an image of some flunky coming onstage before the show and making a bit of a fuss and then giving it to her so I sent a note and promptly forgot about it. 
Regardless of Nina’s threats we went to both shows, the 7 pm and the 9 pm, I had a press pass that got us into the Wiltern and we could always grab any empty seats; we had two right in the front row and I had all my camera gear with me. I shot her discretely throughout the first show and then sat back and enjoyed the second. I didn’t even notice that there was no representative from the Mayors office. 

The next day I went to work and when I came home at around 5pm I checked the mailbox as usual and there was a large 16″ by 20″ envelope screwed up and stuffed into it, I opened it and it was the proclamation for Nina! And there was a nasty note attached to the effect that if I requested a proclamation, then it was my responsibility to come and get it! Oh dear! Little did I understand the inner workings of LA politics. So what to do with it? The guy, who I later realised was the Ethiopian Orthodox minister who had conducted the ceremony for Bob Marley’s funeral at the National Stadium, had given me his card, so we called him and explained the screw up. He asked if we would bring it to her since she was leaving for Paris early the next day; she was staying at a place in the San Fernando valley which was about 75 miles from us and given her reaction on the weekend I didn’t really feel like 150 miles of LA rush hour traffic just to be Mr Niceguy. But we weakened, we found the address, her apartment door opened, the ‘manager’ stood there, we handed him the envelope with the wrinkled, creased proclamation, he thanked us and closed the door. It’s probably in her archive now.
And that was how we met Nina Simone!

I Was Wrong

I like to think of myself as a tolerant and open-minded person, at least within certain parameters (so, exceptions for Brexit, Trump, Niall Ferguson etc.). Mrs Abahachi might interject at this point with a “You kept saying you hated X, until you actually went there/tried it” list (you know, things like Austria, Gavin and Stacey, the USA), and I’ll admit that this does sometimes happen – but I hope I’d get credit for being willing to change my mind *and* admit it, rather than trying to pretend that I loved it all along… Continue reading

A 2017 playlist

Is it just me, or has 2017 been a great year for music?

I don’t pretend to have my finger on the pulse anymore. Most years now I struggle to come up with a credible top five albums before the end of December (though I often discover great things through the Festive Spill and other end-of-year lists). This year, I’m struggling to whittle it down to a top 10.

Partly, that’s down to several old favourites releasing new records. And I’ve also made more of an effort to listen to new releases on Spotify.

Anyway, here’s a playlist of songs from 2017. I’m not claiming this is any sort of definitive or comprehensive list of the year’s best records. But I hope you’ll find things in here you enjoy.


Continue reading

The Future of The ‘Spill

Hi ‘Spillers – I’ve just sent an email to everyone I have an address for.  This is what it says – would be good to get your comments here too.

Hi ‘Spillers,

Sorry again for the round robin email.  I hope you all recall my email from March re the future of The ‘Spill?

We’ve now received the email from WordPress asking us to pay for our annual subscription.  Again, it’s time to think about what we want to do about this.  The subscription is £85 and Ali paid it for 2017.
After my last email we did see a spike in activity; new posts, regular commenting etc.  Things have tailed off again more recently.  It’s difficult to determine whether the readership is going down as WordPress has changed the way it counts views, but looking at the stats we have seen month on month decreasing number of visits and comments.  The irony is, collectively we have published more this year than we did in any of the 3 years prior to 2017. 
And yet, dear ‘Spillers, the place does still feel like it has life left in it, and when things look tough for some of us we do rally and provide virtual support for each other – there’s warmth there.  But I do have to ask you all – do you think there is enough life for us to go on for another year??  If the answer is a resounding “Yes”, my next concern is covering the cost of the WordPress subscription in a fair way.  Would you be willing to make a contribution to keep The ‘Spill going?
Let us know what you think by return – I’m going to stick this up at The ‘Spill as well.  This place has been so welcoming to me and you all have such wonderful things to say about the posts, you provide insight, debate politely and willingly share your huge musical knowledge.  It would be a shame to see that lost.
All the best,
Sarah, Ali & Carole

No Wheel of Your Tune

I didn’t get a chance to sort out WOYT this week. I’m at Cheltenham literature festival till Sunday. This has kept me company on my walk to the festival site just now. Beautiful. And made me think it’s the kind of music I could have on in the background while I read. You know what I mean? There is the music you can read with and the music you can’t. What do you have on on the background when you read?

Btw – @carole; you might be amused to know that my first event today is MP Jess Phillips talking to Jacob Rees-Mogg. Bound to be a riot!!