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Diamonds are Forever

I’ve been thinking about this idea of trying to listen to records which are old, while being new to you, by placing them in context – Graham was suggesting I should try to picture myself 30+ years ago listening to Tom Petty.

It makes lots of sense, but then I wondered, are there some records/albums that don’t need any historical context because they transcend all that and work for ever – sparkling like Diamonds?

I’m not suggesting they are necessarily the same for everyone. Lots of people might say Beethoven which isn’t for me, but is there anything that is?

There might be a few, but I think way out in front for me is a ‘go-to’ album that I’ll never tire of, and can listen to anywhere, anytime (and I’ve a few different versions). Since it’s from 1959  I certainly didn’t hear it in its original context and probably not for at least another decade – maybe more.

It’s Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, Coltrane, Bill Evans etc. I think it’s perfect.

You got one like that?



Petty Messages

My very good friend Mr Tench wanted to post something about Tom Petty but has emailed to say his Comments aren’t appearing. I can’t find out why, but I’m wondering whether it’s happening to anyone else? If so, since you can’t post a Comment to tell me, don’t forget you can contact me on dave.allen@port.ac.uk. I’m sorry not to hear from Mr T as he’s not been on here since mid-June (although I’ve seen him).

I was telling my buddy Denis, with whom I played in RP & Gone and now play in Scarlet Town and the Skiffle Orchestra, about the Tom Petty discussion and he said he’s very fond of an album called Into The Great Wide Open.  I’ve just listened to “Learning to Fly” which I thought was entirely pleasant until the drummer fell downstairs halfway through, but he seemed to recover. I’ll try some more.

Yet another good pal Mick Legg has just sent me a range of fine portraits of many of my favourite musicians – lots of blues guys there. I’ve spent hours today listening to one of my great favourites Muddy Waters. That’s generally seriously deep blues although he did once record a version of “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain” as well as “The Muddy Waters Twist”! Mick put in a note with the pix to say how he thinks as we get older we tend to stick to listening to the people we liked way back, which I think is largely true of me. Occasionally I discover exciting new stuff (I mentioned Lizz Wright recently) but mostly I revert to the tried and trusted. Do you?


‘Nobby’ Glover

Heaven Southern Sounds

Here’s ‘Nobby’ left with Ray and Dave of the very fine band Heaven back in 1969, while recording their first, unissued, album in Denmark Street. ‘Nobby’ has continued playing over the years despite poor health for some time, but I’ve heard from Vinyl Tap that he’s finally had to put the sticks away. Best wishes to you in your retirement ‘Nobby’ – take it easy.

Incidentally Vinyl Tap have a new drummer (Chris …) and are at the Curlew on Friday. I don’t know where that is, but I guess fairly local.

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Strange Fruit and other stuff

I’ve been suggesting that the blues is not the place to go for black ‘protest’ and social comment, despite the few exceptions that tend to prove the rule. It’s not always the case with other forms of black music however, although protest and agitation was sometimes hidden – especially in Gospel songs.

An interesting early ‘black’ protest song is Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” which caused all kinds of interesting difficulties – but it was written by a white, Jewish, communist teacher Abel Meeropol as a poem – he published it under the name Lewis Allan. It protested the black experience in the southern states but it was a white man’s work.

By the 1960s however, contemporary black singers were giving voice to their concerns, whether explicitly or by implication – and some of those songs were magnificent. An obvious example is Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come” and others include Ray Charles’ “Busted”, the Staple Singers’ “Respect Yourself”,  Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and James Brown’s “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”. A little later Marvin Gaye’s album Let’s Get It On seemed a step too far for commercially-minded Berry Gordy, but he got that wrong.

Perhaps the best of the lot was Curtis Mayfield, both with the Impressions and then afterwards as a solo artist. It seems funny to think that in our teens we were dancing to the Impressions at the Birdcage because they were perfect for that purpose, but songs like “Keep on Pushing”, Meeting Over Yonder”, “We’re a Winner”, “We’re Rolling On”, even “People Get Ready” (for what exactly?) were doing a job that the bluesmen rarely did.

By the early 1970s black music was embracing all kinds of social and political issues – not merely in what it said but also in how it was presented and marketed. Our generation isn’t much fond of Hip Hop, but its musical consequences in the Rap and (new) R&B artists have been doing the business now for nearly 50 years, and they’ve transformed popular music, whether we like it or not.

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The Political Blues

Feeling lazy (it’s still early), I thought I’d Google’ the topic and I found this


I wasn’t surprised that on the whole the people on this thread (going back nine years) had to nominate some pretty obscure stuff, although JB Lenoir (Eisenhower Blues and I’d add Alabama Blues) was an obvious choice, so too Leadbelly’s “Bourgeois Blues” (covered by Ry Cooder on Chicken Skin Music. I was surprised nobody mentioned Big Bill Broonzy singing “If you’re white, you’re alright, if you’re brown, stick around, but if you’re black, oh brother, get back, get back, get back”.

One or two nominations were new to me but they quickly ran out of titles and spread the genre which I think makes my point.

A good example of the way most blues singers expressed unhappiness with their lot was a song like “I Can’t Be Satisfied” by Muddy Waters, covered by the Stones on their second album. Muddy first recorded that in the early 1940s on his famous Library of Congress recordings for John & Alan Lomax, then called “I Be’s Troubled”, but he made a number of other versions. There’s nothing explicitly political in it, but he sure is down.