A German musical wunderkind hit a kind of peak with his celebration of the XVIII Olympiad

© Jeremy Gaunt

Ever since the Olympics began in Tokyo on July 23, I have been stuck with a recurring musical memory. It’s called “Tokyo Melody,” and it’s by Helmut Zacharias and his Orchestra.

The very catchy — if somewhat schlocky — tune was used by BBC TV in 1964 for the Tokyo Games. As the video below attests, it was a Western interpretation of how Japanese music should sound. But it was popular enough that pre-teen me went out and bought it.

For the longest time, I thought the song was called “Teatime in Tokyo.” There are two reasons for this. First…

A wonderful side project for banjo and fiddle

Source: JP Harris website

It’s been a pretty good year so far for lovers of traditional American music — sit back on the porch variety. First we had Jake Blount’s magnificent “Spider Tales of black string band music, now we have a glorious new Appalachian album from award-winning country singer JP Harris.

“Don’t You Marry No Railroad Man” is on the face of it a major change of pace for Harris, who is usually more of an outlaw country man with a muscular stage presence dominated by his impressive beard and tattoos.

His previous full album…

A musical response to citizen frustration in London

Hammersmith Bridge ©Jeremy Gaunt

The closure of one of London’s landmark river crossings — the 133 year-old Hammersmith Bridge — has prompted a musical protest over government failure to fix it.

“Hammersmith Bridge” by Susie Webb expresses the boiling over frustration of local people who want to cross the Thames but who “can’t walk on water” and “can’t learn to fly”.

Its accompanying video (see below) clearly shows the public mood. As an aside (heads up, music geeks) the building shown at 0.5 …

If you can, it’s a gift

Source: Discogs

Among the many, many things that have made my life happy are two abilities that not everyone shares: I can nap anywhere at any time, and I can work while listening to music.

The first is probably the result of years working as a journalist and often having to grab what shuteye I can when I can. (You try waiting until 4 a.m. for an EU official to come downstairs and tell you they have lifted the ban on British bull semen!)

The other, however, precedes that by many years and is still an essential part of the way I…

Sweet Home Alabama, Brown Sugar, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

© Jeremy Gaunt

Bill Cosby is a funny man. But given his other side, would you pay to see him do stand-up? You don’t have to be “woke” to say no.

But what if you love music that has undertones that make you feel queazy? Do you stop listening? Not so easy.

Here are three songs that I really like, but which make me uncomfortable because of their lyrical “celebration” of America’s racist past. I still listen to them, but deep down inside, reckon I shouldn’t.

Sweet Home Alabama — Lynryd Skynryd

The guitar riff on this song is one of the greatest…

And a few personal reflections to go with them.

© Jeremy Gaunt

Loathe as I am to get involved in such chain-type things, Facebook had one that I could not pass on. The challenge was to list 10 albums over 10 days that were “influential” to your music taste (and to nominate each day some other poor devil to join in).

Influential is not the same as favourite. Few of the albums I chose were the ones I initially thought I would put up. But in the end, they covered rock, prog rock, world, reggae, folk, rockabilly, jazz, folk-rock, and blues.

I found that not only had they influenced the music I…

Does travel constantly remind you of songs?

America in Lights ©Jeremy Gaunt

One of the great things about travelling is being reminded of music wherever you go. During a pre-pandemic trip to the United States, for example, I stayed on Seventh Avenue in New York and kept thinking of Paul Simon’s riff on the street’s whores in “The Boxer”.

Asking only workman’s wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there…

It was cold, too, so Bruce Springsteen’s three-blocks-away “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” also seemed…

You can drift away with lovely sounds at London’s famed botanical garden

The Hive, Kew ©Jeremy Gaunt

One of the great things about music is that it shows up everywhere when I travel — an ancient musical instrument in a Tbilisi museum, Stéphane Grappelli’s gravesite in Paris, a fado recital in Madeira, a Sufi record shop in Istanbul, Strawberry Fields in Manhattan.

Remarkably, I — and, by extension, you — can add London’s famed botanical garden at Kew to the list. And it’s all thanks to the bees — yes, the buzzy kind.

Kew, founded in 1759 by George III’s mother Augusta, has slowly built up a miscellany of buildings over the years, both to house plants…

Photo of album cover by Jeremy Gaunt

“Missa Luba” was everywhere in the late 1960s/early 1970s

You don’t have to look very far on the cover of the album “Missa Luba” to get an idea about how and when it came into being: the artists are identified as Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin.

Baudouin (1930–1993) was in his seventh year as king of the Belgians when the music on the album was first produced in 1958. He was also monarch of what was then the Belgian Congo, with its capital Léopoldville named for his colony-grabbing great-great uncle, who at one stage ran the country as a private fiefdom.

The album — which continued to be released…

How to name an asteroid for your favourite rock stars

© Jeremy Gaunt

It is not easy to get yourself named if you are an asteroid. First, you have to be found by someone on Earth. Then boffins linked to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) give you a number. Finally, you get a name.

If you are a lucky asteroid, you will be named for a rock star.

In recent decades, an increasing number of minor planets, as asteroids are deemed, have been named for modern musicians.

For example, there is (3834) Zappafrank, which ranges from 307.7 million km and 455.6 million km…

Jeremy Gaunt

Music writer, historian, reviewer and broadcaster

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