The Last Miles - the Music Of Miles Davis 1980 - 1991
the last miles
the music of Miles Davis 1980 - 1991
a book by George Cole

published by Equinox Publishing in the UK
and University of Michigan Press in the USA
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Writer and musician Anthony Reynolds recently interviewed Green Gartside, former lead singer of the band Scritti Politti. Miles not only recorded Scritti Politti's "Perfect Way" on his album Tutu (Miles even planned to name his album after it), but he recorded with the band, appearing on the album Provision. He also became friends with Green. In this interview extract, kindly provided by Anthony, Green talks about Miles.


Green and Miles - © Scritti Politti Fan Club

The full interview will appear on Anthony's website www.anthonyreynolds.net

AR: I'm a big Miles Davis freak and I then went back and found Cupid And Psyche in a charity shop in the village and so I got to hear "Perfect Way" with vocals. It was so weird.

GG: Oh yeah, it would be weird. I haven't listened to it since I made it so.see, we're off to America in a couple of weeks and I've a horrible feeling that people in America will want.I've never played live in America - and people will shout out for old songs. Which is.errr.I never know how to feel about that; whether you should oblige the people by playing a few or a lot. But anyway, we decided as a band that we'd have a listen to "Perfect Way" tomorrow.

AR: That was a hit in America, right?

GG: That was the one big hit - pop hit anyway - in America, so.

AR: You even did it on the Dick Clarke show, right?

GG: Yeah. American bandstand, that's right. A lot of madness. That's when it started to go pear shaped for me. I can remember that very day that it was... "Hang on this is not really the right line of work for me", that's what I thought. From that point in time 'till I was back in Usk [a village in Wales where Green settled down] a few years later.it just felt wrong. I thought I'd enjoy being a pop star and I was messing around with 'pop music' but I wasn't really, I was just a bit of product. It wasn't fun. I stopped at that point finding it amusing. It was...the insincerity that really fucking pissed me off. They don't really care. It was just ruthless and heartless and it'll do your fucking head in, I reckon. It did mine in anyway.

Scritti Politti - Cupid And Psyche

AR: Going back to my "Perfect Way" experience. When Miles covered that, were you a fan of his at the time?

GG: I had gone through a phase of listening to him when I was an art student but I hadn't listened to him in a long time. When I got to meet him, because I knew my memory was so bad, I made sure that on the occasions I went to meet him in his apartment in New York or when I went into the studio with him, I made sure that when I went back to my own apartment I would write it all down. And I found one of the notebooks up in the attic not so long ago. What I found was an account of the trip to visit him in his flat and I wrote down absolutely every detail of what we talked about, what we listened to, what people were wearing what he said, what I said.its quite amazing reading. It's only about three or four pages long.

AR: Have you considered publishing it?

GG: Erm.I'll look into it. I've got film of him too, video of him me and Dave (Gamson - producer) working in the studio together. No one has ever seen that. I know the BBC wanted it a few years ago.

AR: That would have been the Provision album sessions, right?

GG: Yeah, it was interesting. I did spend quite a bit of time with him. He used to phone me a lot.

AR: It's refreshing that you haven't done an impression of his voice during the telling of all this. Almost anyone who ever met Miles seems to do their impression of him.So that's pretty cool that you didn't, I think.

GG: No, on this occasion I won't do the voice. But then of course the bugger died. And that was a shame. But it was amazing to find these notebooks.

Scritti Politti - Provision

AR: I think a lot of his final works - Tutu in particular - have transcended their era now. I think maybe at the time a lot of people heard it as Miles trying to be hip and down with MTV or whatever, but I think it's beyond that now.

GG: Yeah, I remember being at his place and he was still very actively interested in music and very discerning and listened to a lot. Including his own stuff. I remember he had a whole wall of recordings of himself playing live in various places and he would go very specifically to find one gig say that he did in Germany eighteen months earlier where he'd played something that he particularly liked. And he's play it for us. And that showed someone who really did know where he was at. A lot of people thought he had lost it but not at all. He was also very into hip-hop and into listening to himself very critically.

AR: What did you think of the hip hop album he did?

GG: I haven't heard it in such a long time I don't know if it stands up.what was it called again?

AR: Ach.I can't remember.some kind of pun.

GG: 'Hip-bop' or something?

AR: Something like that. I thought the raps were a bit lame on it but everything else was.ok.

GG: I'll have to go back and check it out.

AR: The raps were just mostly bigging up Miles but in a really lame way."Miles with the horn/Sharper than a thorn." Actually that's probably better than the actual rhymes on there.

GG: They were pretty cringeworthy on the rhyming front, huh?

AR: Did Miles seek you out?

GG: Yeah he did actually. I didn't.I made no effort. He rang me first and kept on ringing.when I got back to London he'd ring me at odd times of the night and day and talk about working together and asked me to write stuff.it was strange.

AR: Did you ever figure out why he was drawn to you? I can imagine, after hearing the Cupid And Psyche album that he loved the production of it as much as anything. Cos he had a very progressive...aesthetic.

GG: Yeah. He was interesting and he told me that as far as his interest in me and my work went, he liked the attention to detail and the whole approach to vocals and melody reminded him of some Latin American music that had interested him years before. I can't remember the names of the singers but that kind of non-ornamented non-vibrato.in a way that like, I guess he played very often. So yeah we had some interesting discussions about that kind of stuff.


Many thanks again to Anthony, who's also a big Walkers Brothers fan and has written a great [and sadly unpublished] book about them!

The full interview will appear on Anthony’s website www.anthonyreynolds.net

back to Interviews index




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‘The best Miles Davis book ever.’ Randy Hall, singer/guitarist/producer, who worked with Miles in the 1980s

‘An important book.’ Brian Priestley, co-author of ‘The Rough Guide to Jazz’, jazz pianist, critic and reviewer

‘Very moving, emotional material.’ Gordon Meltzer, Miles’s last road manager and executive producer of the ‘Doo-Bop’ album

‘George Cole’s writing, his choice of references, his descriptions of many incidents – it is all so clear and respectful, and shows a deep understanding.’ Palle Mikkelborg, composer, arranger and producer of the ‘Aura’ album

"Wow! What a great book. Finally, something that really gets it right. Thank you for capturing what was going on, the mood, everything." Adam Holzman, Milesís keyboardist and musical director 1985-1989

"Wonderful job, congratulations! An immense amount of work must have gone into it, I can't even imagine. But it was very cool to see that era of Miles treated with the same respect as every other... someone gets it!" Benny Rietveld, Miles's bassist 1988-1990

"The book is wonderful. Congratulations for your very important contribution to the historical documentation of many [musicians] who would otherwise have been overlooked!!!!" Robert Irving III Miles’s musical director 1983-1988

"I have to say that you did a marvellous job! It brought back strong memories of that time period and answered a number of questions I had, especially the chapter on the Rubberband sessions. A brilliant job!" Patrick Murray, who worked on the road with Miles from 1986-1990 and was Miles’s concert sound mixer from 1988-1990

"It is truly an excellent body of work that literally takes a reader from hearing rumours to realising truths about the Chicago group and our collective take on the Miles Davis comeback." Glenn Burris, co-writer of "Shout"

"The most immediate impact that this book had on me was to make me listen again to Miles’ later recordings with a completely regenerated ear and this really is the reason why this book works so well and is an essential read for any true Miles Davis appreciator… you will be hard pressed to find a more inspirational read, written by a man who quite simply loves Miles Davis’ music." Mike Chadwick, Ejazz.fm

"There are large chunks of fresh material here…Fill[s] in quite a few gaps and dismisses blanket condemnations of [Miles’s] pop phase." Stephen Graham, Jazzwise

"Cole does for Miles’ late work what Ian Macdonald’s ‘Revolution In The Head’ does for The Beatles, examining each album in meticulous detail." John Lewis, Time Out

"Cole’s analysis has a meticulous, forensic character… [and] is able to bring a wealth of new information to light….This book should get people talking. It should be the first rather than the last word on an intriguing chapter of the life an extraordinarily complex artist. And Davis’s vanity would surely have loved that." Kevin Le Gendre, Independent on Sunday

"The book is beautiful. I think you did a great job on covering Miles’s life and legacy." Sid Reynolds, hip-hop producer

"GREATFUCKINJOBWITDABOOK" Foley, Miles’s lead bassist 1987-1991

"Cole’s certainly produced a fascinating book." Chris Ingham, Mojo

"As with any good musical biography, Cole had made me think again about those albums such as Siesta, You’re Under Arrest, The Man with the Horn, that are now stashed in my attic."  John Bungey, The Times

"I thought it was wonderful. It’s a very detailed look at a certain part of the career and life of Miles Davis. A lot of people didn’t pay attention to this and I’m glad that George Cole took the time to focus on these final years of Miles’s life." Easy Mo Bee, co-producer of Doo-Bop

"Many people have come to me in the past about how the "last miles" bands had been overlooked and ignored by journalists. This book is a comprehensive answer to these omissions. From my discussions with musicians from the latter years with Miles it seems pretty clear they feel some vindication as a result of this book. I thank you sincerely for telling our story. Most everything I have read is as close to my memory of how things happened as any book could hope to be. I think you've done a wonderful job." Darryl Jones, bassist with Miles 1983-85, 1986-1988

"The title is likely to send most jazzbos running, with received wisdom having handed down the rule that in the 80's Miles was only good for playing live; and half of that was just the pleasure of seeing him in person.  For a single man to take on the 400-page+ task of changing popular opinion is a very tall order indeed.  For him to make you want to actively revisit the decade in question is a near-miracle. Detailing album histories and giving final verdicts, Cole has made every effort to lay the evidence out bare.  The analysis could have been a chore were it not for the presence of first-hand interviews with all the major players, making this not just a scholarly study, but a tribute to the man himself,  And for a book such as this, you learn more about Davis that could have been expected." Jason Draper, Record Collector

"There simply hasn’t been another book published on Miles Davis, in any period that has managed to obtain the wealth of interview material and cover his recorded work and various live tours in such a complete and comprehensive fashion... Engagingly written from start to finish, filled with more facts than you’ll be able to remember first time through, The Last Miles is an essential portrait of Miles’ last decade and a strong argument that his music was both valid and perfectly in keeping with a musical philosophy that would ultimately stretch over six decades." John Kelman, All About Jazz.com

"We veterans of Miles’ last bands are lucky to have such a thorough and insightful look into Miles last period...I really enjoyed the book!" John Scofield, Miles's guitarist 1982-1985

"Cole has spoken to practically everyone who worked with Miles in his final decade. He has traced the evolution of each of those final albums, cut by cut, splice by splice….[Miles] comes out of Cole’s account larger, warmer and if anything even more important than ever." Brian Morton (co-writer of The Penguin Guide to Jazz), The Wire

"Through lively analyses of all Miles’ recorded work from this period and much that went unreleased, including the ‘lost’ album Rubberband, [Cole] does enough to send readers back to the original albums." Simon Evans, Choice

"... Cole is a persuasive writer: he prompted me to go and dig out albums that I'd dismissed as inconsequential and listen again with fresh ears. ...  A rewarding read" Charles Waring, Blues & Soul

"Cole takes us on an exhaustive journey deep into the heart of Miles’ late recordings…The Last Miles needs to be covered by working musicians, producers and Miles’ fans alike." Livingstone Marquis, Straight, No Chaser

" George Cole has written a book that should be required reading for anyone with a serious interest in Davis’ life and work irrespective of which period of his music you prefer. It offers a valuable insight into this most complex of personalities, and reveals a side to Miles that many may not have known existed…for this reader it has prompted a re-examination of this decade which has revealed a fascinating area of music that I had previously overlooked." Nick Lea, Jazzviews.co.uk

"In the flurry of books since [Miles Davis's] death, none has dealt in depth with the music of this period. Music writer George Cole fills this gap. . . It is so detailed and intimate that the reader feels he is virtually living with Davis as he seeks to reinvent himself… a rich and rewarding read." Irwin Block, The Montreal Gazette

"This is a must for every Miles fan." Neal Gardner, Blogcritics.org

“A fantastic book, an amazing insight into Miles. Guy Barker, jazz trumpeter

“For Miles fans, this book is a must.” Jez Nelson, presenter BBC Radio Jazz on 3

“I really do recommend The Last Miles…it is a fine work.” John Cavanagh, presenter Radio Scotland’s Bebop to Hip-Hop

"A great book that plays a great tribute to the last years of Miles’ life.” Erik Telford, presenter Miles Radio.com

"The fact of having personally interviewed all those characters...without much recall to interviews already noted and the usual anecdotes, renders "The Last Miles" as excellent...a book that certainly is seen as a work of reference."Maurizio Comandini, All About Jazz.com Italy

"[Cole] has written a comprehensive account of the comeback and the albums it produced...He takes the reader through each of the albums, cut by cut, examining the musical choices, the musicians and their successes...Cole's book is a valuable resource on the last 11 years of a true music legend's life."Chris Smith, Winnipeg Free Press

"I've been thoroughly enjoying your book. I'm sure it'll go a long way towards rectifying some of the negative historical appraisals of  Miles' later works that have become prevalent." Kei Akagi, keyboardist in Miles's band 1989-1990.

"Cole gives an exhaustive account of every track recorded [and, it seems, every live show] in that decade and of every one of the dozens of musicians who played on them but what's most interesting is the portrait of Miles Davis that emerges from it all. Sometimes an asshole and a bully, yes, but also a very funny guy who was a good friend to many and a mentor to even more, a man with drug problems who was more often in great pain from other maladies. Through it all, Davis was obsessed with moving his music forward with anyone who could help him do it - from Prince to Public Enemy, from Scritti Politti to a violinist he saw on Johnny Carson and hired on the spot." Rock & Rap Confidential

"I thought your book was awesome and straight to the point. To tell stories the way it really happened is nothing but the truth! Congratulations and thanks!"Ricky Wellman, Miles's drummer 1987-1991

"George Cole has made a major contribution to jazz scholarship...written over a three-year period, the degree of detail is quite astonishing and the research so extensive that it becomes possible to contradict claims made by Miles himself in his autobiography. Every track on every 1981-1991 album is discussed in length …a very valuable book.” Chris Yates, The Jazz Rag

“This book is a model of how these types of books should be…If late period Miles is in the readers’ interest, the reader should rush out and purchase this volume. It is invaluable.” Robert Iannapollo, ARSC Journal

The Last Miles was voted one of the top ten music books of 2005 by Record Collector magazine.

The Last Miles was joint winner of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections’ Best Jazz History Book 2006 award.

 

the last miles:
the music of Miles Davis1980 to 1991 a book by George Cole
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