SHQ July Swelter: Wherein we all get a case of the Nixons
Friday July 2: “Insertion Issues”
Auspicious beginning! The Telecaster is out and ‘Give it to The Soft Boys’ starts us off, with some random video looping courtesy StageIt that lends an unintentional arty, cool effect. It’s a bit of artistic trouvé luck so far, but we’ll see if we get it straight before it makes itself unwelcome.
For ‘Vibrating’ RH switches to the acoustic as the Tele’s connection is loose causing a jittery sound, the aforementioned “Insertion Issues.” Robyn brings out the harp--usually the cats’ bane--but the coast seems clear and RH belts out a harmonica accompaniment to ‘Only the Stones Remain.’ Yeoman Andy Washington had posted a video of Tubs, pre-show, snoring wheezily--seemingly impervious to anything. After the song, we get the Tub report from Robyn, like the stones, Tubby remains! Didn't seem to affect him either way.” Are these SHQ shows becoming staples to the kitty boys like they are to us?
Utility support player Andy Washington, who is leading tech on these shows in Emma’s absence, had posted a pre-show video of Tubby the Scottish Fold snoring wheezily and sleeping deeply as he was curled in a chair in “Studio C.”
‘Museum of Sex’ gets a do-over, as RH stops and starts “let’s try that riff again.” I think it is rather enjoyable, but Robyn informs us “that section of the show was complimentary,” He had been trying to nurse the bad cable, but no dice.
‘Tonight’ and ‘Recalling the Truth’ are smoother sailing and then ‘Egyptian Cream’ is rather inspired, replete with a wonderfully rapid chugging guitar as undergirding. We are informed that this was “in E, a very, very positive key.”
We get a shout out, “Happy Birthday, Debbie Harry. I met her once. My biggest moment in show business.” Andy chimes in with an update: Tubs is still sleeping. It may be an SHQ first.
Perhaps a nod to Debbie, next is ‘Blonde Sometimes.’ Out comes the harp again, Tubby still curled up, dozing with Perry the stuffed lobster. ‘This Could Be the Day’ pleases us Groovers but doesn’t aggravate Tub--a great combination. RH tells us it featured “ a little Franz Ferdinand Scots-beat -- not sure if that came through.”
We go “back to the key of D” for “what happened to Morris Windsor and self a few years ago”: ‘Goodnight Oslo.” It’s upbeat and enthusiastic and the commentariat is wigging out. “This gig is awesome!” The show has seemed both exceptionally enthusiastic and comfortable. Just great.
‘Devil’s Coachman’ leads to ‘Raymond and The Wires,’ completing the transportation dyad. The song is so moving, it makes it hard to breathe. Always glad to have it pop up on SHQ. In the nick of time, Tubby appeared for his showbiz moment, held up for the punters to ooh in approval, a perfect sign off.
Wednesday July 7
No review: we must have been vibrating this week.
Wednesday July 14: Return of The Emma! Nashville
It’s Bastille Day, we’re in strange digs in Nashville, and The Emma is here as promised! She’s back from a long Covid-disrupted trip to Australia, we’re meeting up in the US to prepare for the Newport Folk Festival dates for Blonde on the Tracks. Tubby and Ringo have been spared travel for the month or so in the US by remaining in London.
Somebody ring it!?! We start with Groover favorite ‘The Cheese Alarm.’ RH tells us he wrote in 1997 outside a Chicago Hotel. The biggest improvement since those days? One can get oat lattes all over the place! We transition from the dairy to the approaching climate revolt with a song Robyn and KT Tunstall put together on a 2008 expedition of artists who were taken to see first-hand the impact of climate change.”There Goes the Ice.
A pair of birthday dedications were next.To celebrate Tanya Donelly’s birthday Reg played her ‘Feed the Tree’ and for the late Soft Boy Matthew Seligman, ‘Insanely Jealous. Lovely.’
The sweaty Nixons, so prevalent in London’s summer, are in abundance in Nashville. RH needed to “wipe those old Nixons that follow me from continent to continent.”
Enter...Emma! “You look like one of my better dreams,” he beamed. It’s great to have them reunited, as is evident by the next song, their duet ‘Trams of Old London.’ It's perfect and we are all reminded it has been a hard two months.
One of my favorites, ‘Heaven’ is one Robyn tells us he’d been pining to sing again with Emma. We also get wonderful duets on ‘Glass Hotel,’’Sayonara Judge,’ and a “spritely dismal” ‘rendition of The Yip Song.’
A little mock prickly banter and they break into song, RH improvising ‘My Next Divorce’ and Emma jumping right in. Groovy marital decay?
‘Somewhere Apart,’ ‘Queen Elvis,’and a wee bit of ‘Queen of Eyes’’ finishes off this Sweet (Someone else’s) Home Sweet Quarantine. Good to have the voice and the banter and the presence of Emma back.
--Adrienne “Liberte Egalite Fraternite” Meddock
Today is the birthday of your author, and SHQ was an inspired way to celebrate the day. Robyn is resplendent in a purple floral shirt, jumping right in with ‘I’m Only You,” played on the very bright acoustic, you know the one with the light headstock and neck and dark body. Its tone is so bright, it just rings. They are still in Nashville, beaming from borrowed digs.
‘Acid Bird’ shows Robyn in great voice today, hitting the highs quite well. He’s picked up the Gibson and it is ringing. Borrowed digs are great for guitar sounds, including this one. Love the sound. Robyn points out on the heels of the song marking decay that he “didn’t instantly turn grey, I gradually turned white.” Me too, Reg.
Next up, ripe for July is “I Got the Hots For You,” and while London has been toasty, the wet air of the American South is nonpareil on the kind of heat that just bastes its objects. RH in TN and ME in NC. The song ends without a bang, RH proclaiming “instead of a butch John Lennon ending” we got a “rather exhausted diva on a lilypad in the middle of a lake, rehearsing.” We’ll take it!
Robyn coaxes his acoustic into delivering a wonderful, persistent drone for ‘Strange.’ RH announces “I’m requesting this because you (Emma) quite like it.” Aww. They duet on ‘Fifty Two Stations.’
We are in Newport Folk Fest prep mode, where Emma will sing songs from Blonde on the Tracks to Robyn’s guitar accompaniment. Emma gives her take on ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ and it is solid as ever. Emma says Reg is now a “Nashville picker like Dave Rawlings with a slightly more ambitious shirt and a slightly cheaper guitar.” Fair play. RH notes that on this short trip to the US they are without the Folds, so that they are like The Beatles without John Lennon or the Jimi Hendrix Experience without Jimi.” We do love to see the kitties!
The second BOTT cut was ‘I Contain Multitudes,’ which Dylan has never performed live. The live score stands at ES: 7 and BD:0 for live renderings. She might need to give him pointers before he trots it out on stage.
RH’s ‘Feathery Serpent God” gets the melodic, folky treatment; someone in the comments mentions Nilsson. That singer-songwriter feels summoned by this one. Lovely.
Robyn tells us the next album will feature “weedy, Nordic backing...weedy things in a clump.” After a stream of consciousness he informs us that the iPhone 17 will be part of us as we evolutionarily merge with our phones. I, for one, welcome the hands free convenience.
To get in “Newport Folk Festival mode” RH plays a song he recorded with “Gill and Dave,” ‘Television.’from Spooked. RH digresses on his failed attempts to woo the ladies with his Beefheart inspired lyrics.
That leads us to the lady in the room. We are in full-on Newport Folk inspiration, with another Bob number, ‘You’re A Big Girl Now,’ the final track on Emma’s Dylan album and the final track for us Groovers on this Friday SHQ.
--Adrienne “Another Year Older and Deeper in Debt” Meddock
7/30: Welcome Back to Studio C, London
RH is in great spirits, safely ensconced in Studio C after the unfamiliar digs and Newport Folk festival shenanigans. Our London home feels familiar and safe. ‘Sudden Town,’ ‘Surgery.’ and ‘Mr. Rock ‘N’ Roll give us a Robyn in great spirits. Emma is still jet-lagged and I am a bit too. Well exam-drafting lagged, not quite so globe-trotting and glamorous as the jet kind.
RH has the folkie/troubadour acoustic Gibson out, its white rectangular pick guard giving us full-on Newport Folk hangover. Nice. Sounds great on ‘Autumn Sunglasses.’ Tubby, who we’ve missed terribly during the US break, appears, a fairly disdainful participant. RH assures us he’d been watching attentively.He may be an aviator yet remains a haughty feline to the core. Even Ringo allows himself a moment on camera. We Groovers gush. RH requests a “Nixon remover” and informs us, ominous, that the SHQs “may continue for sometime.”
It’s on to Dave’s request, ‘Let’s Go Thundering,’ and for afters, a musical Mary statuette, which RH plays for our entertainment while he tunes. It actually made for a nice effect. Perhaps Mary will join the SHQ gang in future.
The slide comes out for ‘Going to Live in the Trees,’ and it is incredibly energizing. Yay! It leads into the elegiac ‘NY Doll,’ invoking the late Arthur Kane. Emma is running support today, assisting with song request acknowledgements from off camera. Emma is such a trouper and faced down the clumsy festival schedulers at Newport Fest to ultimately triumph in a lovely set on the main stage.
‘Sleeping with Your Devil Mask,’ a 1987 tune, which RH tells us is when “the world went to hell, but it took a while to get there.” A medley of Dylan’s ‘Lo and Behold’ sliding into ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ is an unexpected and nice pairing. This grouping ends with recent song ‘Upgrade Me,’ which I really like.
“Tip me or I’ll play ‘Desolation Row’” Robyn taunts. But the Groovers dig it immensely, tipping in support, comments demanding more. “I don’t understand people; I understand cats,” RH remarks.
We get a weather-related song, “a dismal song of mine,” ‘Old Man Weather.’ Mid-song, RH tells us “there was supposed to be a flute solo here, but I couldn’t face putting one on the record.” He does play harmonica, I guess that’s the working man’s flute. Sounds great, anyway.
That’s back to London, where in bidding farewell and “Love on ya,” RH proclaims they are taking Perry the lobster out for a curry. Nice to be back in Studio C.