For the past 30 years Michael Weston King has toured the world as a musician, singer and songwriter. From back street Bootle bars to Las Vegas stages, from folk clubs in Hong Kong to protest festivals in Berlin, Texan honky tonks to Italian opera houses, his songs have taken him to places he would never have imagined going to, and some he wished he hadn’t.
Through his work and travel he has met and collaborated with some of the leading lights in music, literature and theatre of the past 40 years. He has never been a diary keeper – a look back over 20 years of his diaries just shows a series of notes, things to do, gigs to play, places to be but also always lyrics. His songs are his diary.
The one constant throughout his adult years have been the songs, that have documented his journey, his travels, his life. Always a note book in hand, or a Dictaphone inside his jacket pocket, a wallet full of receipts and train tickets with scrawls on, fag packets full of scribbles, ideas and lines that maybe are the start of a new song.
100,000 Words is the story so far, a songwriter’s life’s work, MWK’s first ever collection of lyrics. Each song is individually introduced giving the background story behind it, not an explanation – we need to let the mystery be – but what inspired it to be written, why it was written, what was the influence. For the guitars players amongst you, each song also includes chords and tunings while the main opening introduction to the book is a personal insight into his career as a singer, songwriter, collaborator, working musician and world traveled troubadour.
Here are just some of the people Michael has collaborated with; Townes Van Zandt, Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen, Jackie Leven, Ron Sexsmith, John Doe, Peter Case, Graham Parker, Kinky Friedman, Ian McNabb, Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, David Morrissey, Carolyn Hester, Andy White, Rab Noakes, Eric Taylor, Tom Ovans, Mick Thomas, Steve Wynn.
Spending the vast majority of his adult life on the road has seen him tour and perform with Nick Cave, John Cale, Roger McGuinn, Steve Earle, Nick Lowe, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Nils Lofgren, Arlo Guthrie, America, Steve Forbert, Joe Ely, Giant Sand, Los Lobos, Son Volt, Janis Ian, Terry Allen, Joe Henry, Blue Rodeo, Maria McKee, Boo Hewerdine, Johnny Dowd, The Handsome Family, Susanne Sondfor, Mark Olsen, among many others.
Having seen the likes of good friends and great artists such as Townes Van Zandt, and Jackie Leven leave us before a book containing all their collected writings came to pass, MWK sets out to ensure his life time as ‘a slave to the song’ does not go unrecorded by presenting this, his first ever complete collection of lyrics.
Mr Cool’s Dream is a wonderful book dedicated to the The Style Council and offers an amazingly detailed and accurate biopic of the band, their music and what has being described as Paul Weller’s ‘forgotten’ years, I’ve consumed many similar books but never one quite as exhaustive and in-depth as this one, it’s a real labour of love and it’s great to see it back in print – this time as a high quality 360 page paperback, a must for any fan of the band, of Weller and of the era – you can buy direct from the author / publisher here, highly recommended
Thought I’d go all literary on you – really looking forward to this new book from the Richmond Fontaine frontman Willy Vlautin, highly recommend his previous books, The Motel Life, Northline and Lean on Pete too, bit late posting this but Willy is in Belfast tomorrow then London and Manchester on 30th and 31st.
Willy Vlautin’s stunning fourth novel opens with Leroy, a young, wounded, Iraq veteran, waking to a rare moment of clarity, his senses flooded with the beauty of remembering who he is but the pain of realising it won’t last. When his attempt to end his half-life fails, he is taken to the local hospital where he is looked after by a nurse called Pauline, and visited by Freddie, the night-watchman from his group home for disabled men.
As the stories of these wounded characters circle and cross each other, we come to learn more of their lives. The father who caused Pauline’s mother to abandon them both, and who Pauline loves and loathes in equal measure, the daughters with whom Freddie yearns to be reunited and, in a mysterious and frightening adventure story, the girlfriend Leroy dreams of protecting.
Evoking a world which is still trying to come to terms with the legacy of a forgotten war, populated by those who struggle to pay for basic health care, Vlautin also captures how it is the small acts of kindness which can make a difference between life and death, between imprisonment and liberty. Haunting and essential, The Free is an unforgettable read.
THE FREE UK and Ireland tour dates:
Jan 28 @ 6:30pm : The Gutter Bookshop, Dublin (Willy to be interviewed by Roddy Doyle)
Jan 29 @ 7:00pm : No Alibis @ Ulster Museum, Belfast (Willy to be interviewed by Glenn Patterson)
Jan 30 @ 7:00pm : Rough Trade East, London (Willy to be interviewed by Sarah Hall)
Jan 31 @ 7:00pm : Manchester Lit Festival, Anthony Burgess Foundation
More big news… Willy has started a new band called The Delines, featuring Amy Boone (The Damnations TX), Jenny Conlee (The Decemberists), RF’s own Sean Oldham, plus Freddy Trujillo and Tucker Jackson. A full length record titled COLFAX is slated for a spring release and tour. You won’t be hearing much of Willy’s voice on this one — he wrote the songs for Amy to sing. Stay tuned for more details and dates.Lastly, RF has a new record nearly completed. Word has it even the surly members of RF are excited about this one! More news on the release date and tour to come.
Fuelling the nostalgia there’s some great 30 year reading to accompany the listening, including an Uncut special edition The Changing Man – The Complete Story, a feature article on The Jam in Mojo, the wonderful Thick as Thieves – Personal Situations with The Jam which I can’t recommend enough and some fantastic original writing, thoughts and commentary in All Mod Icons – again a highly recommended for any fan or indeed music aficionado.
Really enjoyed this book, undemanding in a good way – because it’s a collection of anecdotes and memories from specific times in his life it’s one of those books you can pick up and dip in and out of.
In it’s style it mirrors Radcliffe’s radio demeanor, it’s written in a laid back conversational way, the best chapters are the the one’s dealing with the artistes, Jagger, Bowie, Kate Bush, Dr. Feelgood, Kylie, The Pogues, the most poignant about John Peel – particularly where the author learns of his death. Radcliffe’s passion for the medium shines through in his writing, there is some insight into the workings of the BBC and some criticism although his reverence for “The Beeb” is evident, given his tenure I suppose it’s not surprising.
You can get a preview of the book at Amazon here
Some related tunes for you, Bowie covering the The Who, The Pogues covering the Stones, and a couple of classics from Dr. Feelgood and Kate Bush