Pip Pyle’s desert island discs

For this particular post I am thankful to my good friend Ian Chippett, who was also friendly with Pip, and as a birthday present to me in 2003 concocted a special interview with Pip (which even included contributions from Dave Stewart) which I have used a few excerpts from in the book. The one part that didn’t find its way into the book was this – Ian asked Pip to indulge in the venerable tradition of Desert Island Discs, and Pip was happy to oblige. Here is a slightly edited (and fully illustrated) version of the result.

Pip Pyle : I’ve always dreamt of doing Desert Island Discs ever since Ronnie Scott cited a Faye Dunaway blow-up dolly as his luxury ! Actually, though, it’s a really hard question to answer as my tastes change from day to day and my memory with it. Asking for five is harder than asking for ten, so here’s twelve. I’m feeling really jazz this week so the selection is predominantly jazz and in no particular order of preference (more chronological) :

beatlesrevolverThe Beatles “Revolver”
A very conservative choice maybe, but honestly, I can’t leave them out; they were so influential on what just about anyone did who was born in the Fifties. I did prefer them after they got into drugs, though.

milessketchesofspainMiles Davis/Gil Evans “Sketches of Spain”
I could add plenty of other Miles albums too, at least from the Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter period and from the later Bitches Brew Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Johnny Mac era. But this one has some astonishingly beautiful trumpet solos, you can hear every beautiful nuance of that SOUND Miles has. And of course Gil Evans has to be the all-time guvnor of jazz arrangers. Just the idea of a Rodriguez’ guitar concerto for brass – brilliant !

bluesbreakersJohn Mayall’s Bluesbreakers “Bluesbreakers” & Jimi Hendrix “Axis Bold As Love”
Both these groups I saw when I was about 17 in London. I was (and still am) a big rhythm and blues fan. hendrixaxisMayall’s band with Eric Clapton was very fine musically, especially with Aynsley Dunbar on drums. Mayall was the ‘purist’ rhythm and blues specialist and Clapton was God.

I needn’t say much about Jimi – he just nailed me to the wall.

dolphyouttolunchEric Dolphy “Out to Lunch”
Not only for Tony Williams, but that alone still is terrifying to me today. The rhythms are fresh out of space, mathematical, analytical, clever and cute. And he’s only 17, the complete bastard ! But this whole record has a sound helped by the atmospheric sense of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and feeling of Freddie Hubbard and Richard Davis that is totally original and never been got close to by any band since. It’s a one-off musical environment.

bonzodoughnutBonzo Dog Doo Dah Band “The Doughnut In Granny’s Greenhouse”
I saw this group at the Marquee once and noticed a really appalling smell as soon as I got inside the club. They had hung really rotten meat all around the stage. If that’s not avant-garde, I’d like to know what is ! Funniest thing I ever heard, saw or smelt.

coltranecrescentJohn Coltrane “Crescent”
I could cite just about any one of the recordings of this monster quartet, with Elvin, Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner. Everything they did was of a spirituality so beyond anything I’d heard before…

liberationmusicorchestraCharlie Haden “Liberation Music Orchestra”
Just such lovely tunes and playing and you feel that everyone is having such a great time together !

gibbsjustaheadMike Gibbs Orchestra “Just Ahead”
I saw this band often in the Seventies, and this is one of those concerts recorded live at Ronnie’s. Mike Gibbs is a prodigious arranger and composer. The band boasts the best in the English jazz scene – Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Babbington, Chris Spedding, Henry Lowther, Harry Beckett, Malcolm Griffiths, Ray Warleigh, Stan Sulzmann, Dave MacRae, John Marshall, Frank Ricotti, Alan Skidmore, etc.
clloydsovietunionCharles Lloyd Quartet “In The Soviet Union”
This is a little known record of the quartet live in what sounds like a great concert (the vodka must have been flowing). It was the first American jazz group to come to the Soviet Union. The Estonians just didn’t know what hit them ! With Jack DeJohnette on drums and Ron McClure on bass, and a very young and exuberant Keith Jarrett hammering shit out of the piano. He didn’t used to sing in those days !

lifetimeturnitoverTony Williams’ Lifetime “Turn It Over”
I saw this band too in 1970 at the tiny Hampstead Theatre Club. Christ, they were LOUD!! But I was completely mesmerized by the sheer brilliance and technique of Messrs Williams, McLaughlin, Bruce and Larry Young. You felt like you’d just got off a big dipper when you got outside.

rockbottomRobert Wyatt “Rock Bottom”
‘Nuff said on these pages, I think.

There you go. Already I feel guilty for leaving out Frank Zappa, Harry Partch, Carla Bley, Miroslav Vitous, Weather Report – still, there you go.


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