Mar 082021

Ok, I may be in a minority here, never having heard, or heard of, the late, great John Russell before today. I just read his obituary in The Guardian, and thought he sounded like a bit of a character.

Like, who couldn’t love a guy who built his own record deck out of wood and an old radio so he could listen to The Rock Machine Turns You On and We’re Only in it for the Money?

The comments on the article also piqued my interest.

I don’t know what it’s like over there, but here, apart from axe murderers and TV personalities who disappeared after being caught doing something dreadful, everyone speaks well of the deceased and raises either a real or rhetorical glass to speed them on their way. I’ve even done it myself, on occasion. It helps pass the time during lockdown.

I was interested, therefore, to find them ranging from “what the…” to “what the actual…” and “interesting, but not for me”

Then I spotted the link to the video.

I watched the first two and a half minutes, which, at the length of a Freddie and the Dreamers or Buzzcocks single always feels like the right length of time to formulate an opinion. Nine minutes, in my opinion, is a little on the long side, but I’m probably out of practice.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the Hall, I would love to hear what you think of this, and possibly learn what I’m missing.


  6 Responses to “He was a great man, or if you can’t think of something nice to say, you decide: John Russell”

  1. Huh. Some people just hear things differently from me and it seems that John Russell is one of them.

  2. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard the music of Derek Bailey, but if I did, I would imagine it sounded like this. It makes a lot of sense – I think – that he was a protege of Bailey.

    Likewise, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a lick of Blodwyn Pig, but if I did I could imagine them being the sort of band who would have influenced a young John Russell.

    Honestly, I have probably a dozen albums like this stuff in my collection, mostly involving Fred Frith. I do like it a bit in the background now and then, but I think I liked it even better in the background when I was young and hoping to piss people off.

    I would be interested to know if an artist like this can reproduce what they do, or if it’s only random.

    He was a great…man.

  3. BigSteve

    I’d never heard of him before. My main takeaway is that he’s got an impressive manicure that seems at odds with his music.

  4. Happiness Stan

    Mr Mod, I think his ability to reproduce his music has been somewhat curtailed during the last week

    I used to know a member of Blodwyn Pig and don’t think I’ve ever heard anything by them either.

  5. Sounds like he’s been hanging out with Ornette Coleman!

  6. Yes it does sound very much like Bailey and Frith’s solo guitar stuff. I love Frith’s playing in more structured settings, Henry Cow, Art Bears, his own records with composed pieces, but the noise improvisation has lost its charm for me, especially since I saw him in late 2019 with a trio and the only thing he did was bang on the guitar and fuck with pedals,

    That said, “Hello Music,” the first tune on his first solo guitar record is short and sweet. This link is to the whole album, but I will only endorse the first piece, which is about two minutes. He gets a very cool effect by including mics at both ends of the string, so there is wthis weird contrary motion going on throughout.

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