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About the author

Richard WilliamsSince the late 1960s I’ve written about music for the Melody Maker, the Times, the Independent on Sunday, the Guardian, Down Beat, Jazz Journal, Mojo, the TLS, Granta, Uncut and other publications. A list of the people I’ve most enjoyed interviewing during that time would include Marvin Gaye, Laura Nyro, Booker T Jones, Miles Davis, Curtis Mayfield, Charles Mingus, Brian and Dennis Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Max Roach, Mable John, Steve Cropper, Chet Baker, Isaac Hayes, Mac Rebennack, Phil Spector, Ry Cooder, Bob Marley, Ellie Greenwich, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Stan Getz, Boz Scaggs and Martha Reeves. My books on music include Out of His Head: The Sound of Phil Spector (1972), Bob Dylan: A Man Called Alias (1990), Long Distance Call: Writings on Music (2000) and The Blue Moment: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music (2009). I live in London.

47 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kevin Garside #

    Good luck with this. Beautifully evocative and steeped in detail. Best of all I can hear your voice.

    February 6, 2013
  2. Hi Richard
    Re your blog on Cash – it’s his childhood home in Dyess that is slated to become a tourist destination. His home in Hendersonville – the one on the lake – burned down shortly after his death.
    Steve

    February 6, 2013
  3. George Foster #

    Martin Colyer put me onto this blog, which has stirred up lots of memories – espeially of the Jazz Centre Society’s Monday night gigs at the 100 Club, where we were both regulars.

    By coincidence a friend had given me some Bob Downes reissues and Mike King of Reel Recordings had sent me a copy of his latest issue of Brish Jazz in transition, assembled from private recordiings and cassettes. It goes with Duncan Heining’s book “Trad Dads..etc”. It underlined to me just how good the music was about 1967 – 72: Mike Taylor, Joe Harriott, Mongezi Feza, Chris McGregor, Dudu Pukwana, Ian Carr and many others were pushing the boundaries of music. It’s an unforgettable reminder of the period and of many departed characters. But it’s also a reminder of those still performing: Gary Windo, Kenny Wheeler, Stans Tracey & Sultzman and the incredible Norma Winstone (heard here with Graham Collier). There were giants on the earth in those days, and some are still around.

    Your blog is also very welcome for its breadth of music. I was part of a purist Jazz coterie but was a closet listener to Dylan, Beefheart, Terry Riley, Zappa and Tim Buckley. Your writing at the time gave me many paths to explore and it is very gratifying to see that those paths are still being kept clear and new ones opened up by your “Blue Moment” book and this blog.

    Congratulations!

    George Foster

    February 23, 2013
    • Very good to hear from you, George. Glad you’re enjoying the blog. The memory of those Monday nights at the 100 never fades.

      February 25, 2013
  4. Brian #

    Great to come across this blog. I’ll never forget working at Virgin Marble Arch when one time we were playing The Skys The Limit by the Temptations; suddenly you stuck your head around the corner to give us the thumbs up. It made our day! Mind you the record deserved it and is still insufficiently acclaimed, I think. (People seem to have forgotten Smokey’s Quiet Storm too.)

    March 17, 2013
    • You must have been playing the epic “Smiling Faces Sometimes”: best-ever use of bassoon on a soul/R&B record… And Quiet Storm was a wonderful album, particularly the title track.

      March 20, 2013
  5. Dear Richard, I’m very pleased to have discovered your new blog, there’s lots here to catch up on. I just skimmed through and lovely to see Don Cherry outside Munich KunstHaus. I think my musical taste was formed by many of your recommendations in the Melody Maker and on Disco 2 too! Keep up the good work. I’m pinning The Blue Moment to my blogroll. Best wishes, Chris.

    March 18, 2013
  6. Paul Crowe #

    Terrific blog, Richard. Just came across it today as a Twitter neophyte. I recall emailing you on your journalistic versatility a few years ago when your reply suggested you were considering setting up a music-related blog/site. I am therefore claiming a morsel of credit for the inspiration !

    Some wonderful writing within. Good of you to remember the late Kevin Ayers.

    Keep it going !

    Paul Crowe

    April 4, 2013
  7. Mark #

    Hi Richard, given your enthusiasm for both music and motor racing, I thought you might appreciate my rather tenous linking of Django Reinhardt and Ayrton Senna: http://www.f1professor.wordpress.com

    April 12, 2013
  8. Pierre Ragnehag #

    I just read your excellent piece on Chet Baker. Can´t say I´m a genuine jazzfan, but I just had to check out the Tokyo concert after I finished reading. You were – of course – right. A truly splendid album. / regards Pierre Ragnehag, Sundsvall, Sweden.

    May 14, 2013
  9. Richard – a Facebook post by Michael Cuscuna alerted me to the existence of this blog. Your ’70’s Melody Maker output was a fundamental source in shaping my youthful taste in challenging music, and I’m delighted to renew my connection with your music writing.

    May 14, 2013
    • That’s very kind of you, Jon. Thanks.

      May 14, 2013
      • Jon Arnold #

        If memory serves, you once wrote a glowing preview of a demo of Sly and the Family Stone’s ‘Fresh’ in the Melody Maker. Shortly after, when the actual album came out, it consisted of different takes and mixes of almost everything – and you wrote a somewhat disappointed re-review. That, of course, immediately made the alternates something of a Holy Grail for funk fans. The five added tracks to the ‘Fresh’ remaster of a few years ago somewhat assuaged the decades-long curiosity, but…now I find that the initial 1991 cd issue mistakenly had an alternate mix – presumably the one you first heard back in 1973. On its 40th anniversary (released June 30, 1973 in US, at least), any reflections on this tangled ‘Fresh’ history?

        June 25, 2013
  10. Hi Richard – stumbled on here via a Cafe Oto retweet and spent a very enjoyable time re-acquainting myself with your music writings. As always, impressed with the breadth,depth and eclectic range of your sonic interests (something in the East Midlands air back in the old days,perhaps?). Look forward to more…

    May 29, 2013
  11. Santiago Segurola #

    Wonderful blog, Richard. I’ve recommended it to my friends here, in Spain. Thanks, maestro.

    June 12, 2013
  12. Good piece. My own take on the evening, perhaps more from the heart than the head, at http://nicelyoutoftune.wordpress.com

    June 16, 2013
  13. I really enjoy reading your blog Richard – long may it continue.
    Hope you can write about Don Cherry or Roy Haynes in the future…
    I’m reading Philip Larkin’s letters at the moment, and found an interesting snippet: he references a 12″ recording of Summertime by Bechet on which the musicians ‘burst into spontaneous applause at the end of the record’.
    The notes say: recorded in 1939 for the fledgling Blue Note label as a farewell to Tommy Ladnier, a friend of Bechet’s, who died four days previously. It was Blue Note’s first hit etc etc
    Some sentiment.

    July 1, 2013
  14. Chris C #

    HI Richard
    I know I’ll enjoy reading whatever you write, just like I always have.
    CC

    August 16, 2013
  15. nice blog m8..looked high & low..ya missing a little gem..Mick Farren’s Tijuana Bible

    September 21, 2013
  16. I found your blog on a link from “The Band” Guestbook today. I’ve often quoted you as the one reviewer of the 70s who I trusted blindly. I always read you and Chris Welch and found if you liked it, I probably would, and if Chris liked it, I probably wouldn’t, though you must have coincided sometimes. I enjoyed Chris’s writing, but was never into Yes.

    I still thank you for your review of the 1971 “Link Wray,” an album which has given me forty years of pleasure. You compared it to “The Band.” But I do urge you to get the full 4 CD / DVD version of “Live At The Academy 1971” by The Band. The soundboard mixes of the complete December 31st show by Sebastian Robertson (Robbie’s son) are definitely different and crackling with sheer energy.

    October 16, 2013
  17. Pete Fowkleer #

    Just a footnote on your Bobby Parker piece…..as you said, his single was one of those that defined the sound of the British breakthrough, and most of those groups playing live in ’63 and ’64 included it in their repertoire. Cliff Bennett sang it well, the Yardbirds got the riff right, the Beatles built on it in a couple of songs….I, not a musician but an occasional writer, assumed, by 1970, that every single British rock player of that period would have heard it….and I made a terrible error, in the early 70s, when I was the question setter for Johnny Walker’s Pop the Question, an insert in his Radio 1 series of the time, of asking the celebrity guest, Elton John, the question: ‘What was the B side of Bobby Parker’s most celebrated single’. Elton, not knowing, nearly hit the roof….and whoever produced the programme was on to me that afternoon saying, ‘that was an impossible question!’. I’m still not sure if it was.

    November 6, 2013
  18. Hello Richard,

    Watching The Necks at Cafe Oto last night – and with a ticket in my pocket for Lee Konitz’s gig in a couple of weeks – it occurs to me there’s a fine documentary to be made about the nature of improvisation. If I was a radio producer than a trade magazine publisher I’d be commissioning the work right away.

    On the one hand you’ve got a trio that never rehearses and never plays the same thing twice, and on the other there’s this virtuoso alto saxophonist who has been improvising around the same core group of tunes for more than 60 years. And The Necks and Lee Konitz both sound as fresh as spring daisies. How do they do it?

    Coincidentally, I was listening to an LP of David Oistrakh playing Beethoven’s violin concerto the other day and the cadenza he plays is an improvisation too, but it seems to me it’s become fixed in stone in the same way as Richie Blackmore’s guitar solo on Smoke on the Water. An improvisation once upon a time, but never again, and now it’s some kind of show piece.

    In any event, it was nice to talk to you briefly yesterday evening. Thanks for pointing me to your blog, and of course for reminding me of the bad news about Dupree Bolton!

    Best regards,

    Chris

    November 6, 2013
  19. jeffstarrs #

    Hi Richard, glad to have caught up with you after all these years – I still have that fond, gob-smacking memory of listening to Astral Weeks for the first time with you, in the MM reviewing room. I look forward to following your writing here …

    December 16, 2013
    • Great to hear from you, Jeff. Still playing, I hope.

      December 16, 2013
      • Yup. Too late to stop! Here’s a taste :

        December 19, 2013
  20. Gregor Alvey #

    Dear Richard, Over the years I have really enjoyed your writing about both music and sport. As a boy i was mad about football, and would get on the train to school from Bellingham station in the sixties clutching my copy of ‘Goal’. My dad had a season ticket at Stamford Bridge and so I got to go with him in the old East stand so see Cooke, Osgood, McCreadie etc. Various celebrities would arrive in the bar, Richard Attenborough, Racquel Welch!
    Meanwhile my friends , who were not the least bit interested to know that Bobby Tambling had scored five against Aston Villa, would be there clutching their pristine copy of Melody Maker and showing off their latest vinyl purchases, early Fairport, John Mayall, Chicken Shack, John and Beverley Martyn, Free.
    I gradually started to take an interest, and soon was going to gigs with them (plenty to choose from in London) and started my own music collection, which has broadened and developed over the years.
    This combined interest has continued, and I have been blessed to get so much pleasure from both areas. The sporting side ended up being my job, and I have had much enjoyment from being a P.E. teacher since 1977 (just retired!).
    So how did your journalistic career develop in the two areas? I seem to recall reading your musical work in ‘Street Life’, and have read your wide ranging sports writing , mainly in the Guardian. A couple of years ago I realised that I had read ‘The Perfect 10′ and ‘The Blue Moment’ within a few months of each other.
    Do you think there is any kind of link between the two areas ; the way that both seem , on occasion, to touch the human psyche in a really powerful manner.
    Do you have a sporting blog?
    I really enjoy receiving your blog alerts, and am thrilled by the diversity of the music,
    the historical perspectives, the links to a wide range of cultural events and the eloquence of the writing.
    Thank you.
    Gregor Alvey

    January 14, 2014
    • Dear Gregor — Many thanks for your kind words. I’m lucky to have been able to spend such a large proportion of my professional life writing about the things that interest me most. Common factors? Two things: I’m on the lookout for beauty, whether it’s in a Peter Osgood goal (to mention one of your favourites) or a Miles Davis solo. And I like it when nobody, neither the participants nor the audience, knows what’s going to happen or how it’s going to turn out, which is the link between sport and jazz. Re your mention of Street Life: I’m not sure I actually wrote anything for that magazine, although I’d just sent the editor an interview with the 18-year-old Ray Wilkins (conducted under Eddie McCreadie’s watchful eye) when it folded. Best, Richard

      January 14, 2014
  21. Charlie Banks #

    Hello Richard

    It’s nearly 3am and I’m lying awake with raging toothache and distracting myself by catching up on my reading. Part of that was your lovely Guardian appreciation of Tom Finney. I’m 64 today and never saw Tom play, although I nearly did get to see Sir Stan play for Stoke against my team – Sunderland – in his really latter years. He cried off with an injury, poor bloke. Who was the better player – discuss.

    Anyway, I started to think about “way back when” and your time at Melody Maker – my weekly music fix. You were the person I relied on to keep me right. I recall a very vivid review of Miles Davis’ “On The Corner” that brought out the smells and clash of sounds from NY tenements….and a wonderful review of Bill Withers Live At Carnegie Hall. Loads more…and your description/insight into Across The Borderline.

    So, here I am musing about the possibility of you doing an interview/feature on Geraint Watkins who has a new album – Moustique – due out at the beginning of March. He has a history and is still a much in demand session musician, and also a cornerstone of Nick Lowe’s band. Quite a character albeit someone who seems to slip under the musical radar. He released 2 “EPs” last year as a lead up to this album and some of those tracks will be be on it.

    I’ll end here and pop another Ibuprofen! I hope you’ll think about the possibility. There again, you may be completely disinterested but as we say in my neck of the woods – shy bairns get nowt!

    Kind Regards

    Charlie Banks

    February 17, 2014
    • Thanks for the kind words, Charlie. Geraint Watkins is a very good idea. I love that song “Only a Rose” that he did a few years ago, and that Dylan played on a Theme Time Radio Hour devoted to horticulture. I’ll check out the new stuff. And I hope the drugs worked.

      February 17, 2014
  22. Charlie Banks #

    Hi Richard – just discovered that Geraint Watkins has recorded a session for Jools Holland’s BBC R2 show. It’s to be broadcast during March – specific date to be announced. April’s Mojo offers a very positive review of the album

    March 1, 2014
  23. Charlie Banks #

    Hi Richard – just to follow up on Geraint Watkins. He is to play regular Sunday afternoon free gigs with “The Mosquitoes” – effectively Nick Lowe’s band. The venue is The Wheatsheaf pub in Tooting (2 Upper Tooting Road). He played last week and the next one has been confirmed by producer Neil Brockbank (Goldtop Studios) for 30 March around 3pm. The pub must be a regular haunt close to the studios. So, the gigs be of interest to you. I’m hoping to travel down as some point to catch one and I’ll be tracking through Neil. GW was on Jools Hollands BBC R2 prog on 10 March: chat/album track/one live tune, I’ve tried to send you mp3 of his segment but had problems – never mind. CD (Moustique) out Monday, but iTunes downloads available now, I think.
    Charlie

    March 20, 2014
  24. Really nice piece about Evelyn King. You write about music so well. I agree with you about the ‘human’ side of dance, which is probably why I’m drawn towards the earlier years of disco/jazz-funk than to the more Euro/electro sound. If you listen to Sylvester’s cover of Ashford and Simpson’s ‘Over and Over’ and compare it to his more well known stuff, you really see the difference. There’s a great bit in Sylvester’s (highly recommended) biography where the author describes the recording session. I think everyone was pretty high during the recording, and Sylvester’s backing singers the Two Tonnes (later the Weather Girls) were stuffing their faces with fried chicken between takes. You can just hear and feel in the music that they’re having a great time. I didn’t know about the Bunny Sigler and Instant Funk connection with Evelyn King – both great acts.

    Thanks again.

    May 12, 2014
  25. charlie banks #

    Hello Richard – been away and now catching up on recent stuff eg Lou Johnson. Wonderful. Just read that Teenie Hodges has passed away at 68. Very sad. That news led me to other news (to me anyway) of a new documentary about Memphis music – Take Me To The River. Here’s a YouTube link:

    June 24, 2014
  26. Hello Richard. you may not remember me, Tim Hinkley. I had a band called Jody Grind back in the 1960’s. I believe you once gave us a good write up ! My autobiography is finished and currently at the editing stage. I live in nashville and before you say anything, no I have nothing to do with the country music scene here! I made a solo album with Dan Penn producing and co writing, “A Little Bit Of Soul” back in 2001. I’ve ordered your “The Blue Moment” and Enzo books and I’m getting on your mailing list. Rock on Tim hinkley

    August 29, 2014
    • Great to hear from you, Tim. Jody Grind — surely the best band ever to take its name from a Horace Silver (RIP) tune! I’ll look forward to your book and I’ll get hold of your album. Dan Penn, eh? One of my heroes, of course. Have you bumped into Troy Seals in Nashville? He once gave me a guided tour. Very underrated singer and songwriter.

      August 29, 2014
  27. David Jackson #

    Hi Richard – just curious – did you ever work for Alitalia? I ask because my predecessor there was a Richard Williams, who apparently went off to work in the music business.

    September 1, 2014
  28. Michael #

    Dear Richard, someone else on this site mentioned they were on the foothills of jazz. I’m even further below, with much to find (away from the more ubiquitous jazz releases). I’ve recently discovered your blog and have also bought your Miles book. I have a quick, more general question: I’m keen to buy the new Wadada Leo Smith album (Great Lakes Suites) but am having trouble sourcing it from a UK site, apart from Amazon of course. Any suggestions of decent jazz UK CD/vinyl sites? Appreciate any guidance and thanks for the illuminating blog posts.

    September 11, 2014
    • Michael — Thanks for the message. I don’t have an immediately helpful reply, I’m afraid, but I’ll have a think and look around and see what I can come up with. RW

      September 11, 2014
  29. Jack Rieley #

    Thank you, Richard, for this excellent site. Your calm, clear writing and unobtrusive, clean design are a welcome departure from the shrill sites that overpopulate online media. They provide superb access to your enthusiastic articles and vast knowledge of music .

    October 1, 2014
  30. I’ve got recently a press statement from Berliner Festspiele that you are going to be the next artistic director of the Jazzfest Berlin 2015. Congrats, good choice. (I’m author and editor of the german magazine Jazz thing and freelancer for the german public radio WDR a.o.)

    October 17, 2014
    • Thanks, Martin. I’m doing the job for the next three years, all being well.

      October 17, 2014
  31. Lothar Lewien #

    Good luck, Richard, and congratulations for choosing as the artistic director of the famous Berlin Jazz Fest. I’m looking forward to your personel footprints in 2015.
    Lothar Lewien, Berlin

    October 18, 2014

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