Over There

Pete has written, and sent a bunch of links to songs that I would call contemporary country rock. I don’t know if that’s the correct term but while we’re both from Pompey, he’s lived a long time in the states. It’s not obviously my kind of music although across country music more broadly, I do love the sound of pedal steels and violins – a bit like the blues, I’m generally more fond of the older stuff (Carters, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Hank Williams etc) although in Scarlet Town I do sing songs by Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss. If you check out the link to the second one here (with a movie clip) there’s some Trump stuff in the Comments, that seems really scary to me.

Here’s Pete – incidentally, he suggests about about the blues that people sing about bigger political and social issues. A few do, but it’s rarely the case. Blues songs are much more often about personal stuff – probably because poor (often Southern) blacks were so utterly disenfranchised that they didn’t dare to protest like these contemporary white singers that Pete’s found. And if they did, the white record bosses probably wouldn’t issue the record (I can put together a compilation of blues ‘protest’ songs, but by-and-large that’s the case). Blues singers did it less explicitly by analogy and metaphor, if at all.

Pete: “What I find interesting is how many of the songs talk about the woes and the change in America. Much in the way the blues artists in the past sang about the hard work and hard life and poverty these newer songs talk about the disintegration of the fabric of the country as the “Big Box” stores forced out the small mainstreet (or high street) shops, such as Jon Anderson “The Little Man https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrTiUHlmCLs  Also about the closure and decay of Detroit and the auto industry “There shutting Detroit down” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMx__6Zc3S0   Yet there are songs about the hope and the future such as Only in America by Brooks and Dunn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GN1iI-DaJNw   and Welcome to the future by Brad Paisley  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0Yg9wjctRw   He also has a very good song called This is country music that in itself tells a story that country music sings about about topics that nothing else does, like cancer and religion.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_KxM4rU38Q Music starts at 0.30  There are many many songs about the veterans fighting in Afghanistan as well.  I don’t have enough insight into current British music but you have to wonder if people are writing  and singing about similar stuff.

Thanks Pete – this is an outrageous generalisation, but it seems to me that white British pop has been taken over by middle-class kids who learn about rock & roll in college. But I think black British kids are for sure protesting – Rap, Grime etc. What do we know about that?


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Death of a Hippie

This is the weekend that coincides with the ‘Death of Hippie’ ceremony in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco in 1967. It didn’t mean that the people who were committed to the key ideas and activities of the so-called hippies suddenly got themselves posh clothes, haircuts and jobs, but rather that they declared the end of the media focus on, and caricature of what had been developed in San Francisco. Many of them eventually took off to communes in the countryside – one of the most successful of which was the Farm:


Over the same weekend, police actions forced the closure of London’s first ‘underground’ venue UFO in the West End – although it moved for a while to the Roundhouse and then became Middle Earth in Covent Garden – I went there a few times with Tangerine Slyde.

I’ve traced the fiftieth anniversary of the ‘Summer of Love’ on this Blog through the past few months, alongside my “Spirit of ’67” exhibition at the Guildhall, a couple of ‘& the Fish’ gigs, and the book Autumn of Love.

While doing all that, I’ve also been 67, but soon I’ll be 68 so with that, what happened 50 years ago – and with great affection – it’s also the Death of Hippie on the Blog. The psychedelic years might come up again from time-to-time, but with the flowers wilting in the garden, I’m going to try to find other things to write about from now.


The Happy Blues

Linda suggested that the blues “are not about hope” but for me, by-and-large, that’s exactly what they are about – listening to and even more singing the blues is cathartic. I do however suspect that ultimately it has less to do with the topic/lyrics than the sound – you either like the (usually) twelve-bar blues, executed well, or you don’t. I love them, always have, always will – and incidentally I think that’s why my favourite rock & roll guys are Little Richard and Chuck Berry and I preferred the Rolling Stones to the Beatles (and so on …).

While the majority of blues do have sad lyrics, not all do. Here are my nominations for a compilation album of the ‘Happy Blues”

John Lee Hooker “Dimples” or “Boom Boom”, Little Walter “My Babe”, Albert King “Oh Pretty Woman”**, Albert Ammons “Boogie Woogie Stomp”, BB King “You Upset Me” or “Beautician Blues”, Bessie Smith “Gimme a Pigfoot & a Bottle of Beer”, Big Bill Broonzy “I Feel So Good”, Mississippi Shieks “Sitting on Top of the World”, Sonny Boy Williamson “Bring It On Home”, Willie Mabon “The Seventh Son”, Slim Harpo “I’m a King Bee”, Muddy Waters “Hoochie Coochie Man”, Skip James “I’m So Glad”, Howlin Wolf “Wang Dang Doodle”, Henry Thomas “Fishing Blues”.

And for my title track, my favourite, Jimmy Reed “The Sun is Shining”

** Sorry, I meant Albert’s “Crosscut Saw” (or maybe “Personal Manager”) – “Pretty Woman” is grumpy

Oh Happy Days!

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This Tom Petty business had me thinking more carefully about what I did like once the 1960s were over, as I got fed-up to a large extent with white rock bands. The blues thing was still exciting because, beyond the obvious (Muddy, Wolf etc), lots of the pre-war guys kept turning up on new releases – people like the various Blind Willies and the piano players. Then there were the newer guys like Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder doing very interesting things with roots music. With jazz there was always Miles – In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew etc, In Britain Kenny Wheeler, in the USA Jack de Johnette, Charlie Haden and the funky stuff from Herbie Hancock, Weather Report and so on.

In terms of what little guitar-band stuff I listened to, I liked the Allman Brothers and some bits of what I heard of Little Feat and Steely Dan; otherwise, it was rather mid-late 70s Bowie (esp the Berlin stuff), the magnificent Hejira by Joni Mitchell, soul singers, like Al Green and especially girls such as Ann Peebles, Gwen McRae etc, plus reggae from Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Culture etc. I thought early Roxy Music were fun and then what Eno did afterwards. I listened to loads of what people called Minimalism (Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Terry Riley)

I thought Punk was a great idea as long as I didn’t have to listen to much (apart from the Ramones) but out of that, I liked Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and those Americans I mentioned earlier (Television etc). I was gigging mostly on the folk scene and post-Fairport was very fond of Sandy Denny and Richard (& Linda) Thompson.

The other thing – perhaps because I’m a singer – was that I started listening regularly to Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Vaughan etc. I learned to love that, having grown up in a house where it wasn’t played.

I still listen to all those things today, but very few white boys with guitars and loud drummers. And if you want one pick from today, I’ve developed a real passion for Lizz Wright – love her.


I Tried

After the conversations, I felt a certain obligation to check out some Youtube stuff of Tom Petty. I think I can now say with complete confidence that I’m not aware of ever having heard him, outside of a ‘supergroup’ I’m not allowed to mention.

I can see entirely why people would like him, if you have a fondness for the relatively melodic end of rock. Given that I know very little about such stuff, it seemed to me to fit somewhere around Springsteen (and I note a duet with Stevie Nicks) – but forgive me for any naivety there.

From the USA in the late-70s early-80s I was much more interested in Talking Heads, Television, Patti Smith (etc) but it wasn’t the main stuff I listened to.

I don’t hate the Tom Petty stuff (unlike for example, Black Sabbath, which I really do hate) but I found it completely unsurprising – and I think I would have felt that even back then.

I like surprises …

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Elles Bailey – Bullfrog Tonight

A bit late but here goes (a review):

“She roared, she prowled the stage like a lioness and she won over a very
full Tuesday night crowd at the Tuesday Blues Club. I’ve seen Elles Bailey
once before — at the 100 Club then as well — but last time was an
acoustic set with her opening for `The Ladies Of The Blues’ and here, for
the official album launch, she was headlining over Stacie Collins and Big
Wolf Band with a full electric band.

And what a band – Joe Wilkins on guitar was superb, especially his slide, Matthew Jones on drums, Zak Ranyard on bass and the inimitable Jonny Henderson on organ. So, the question was could she cut it with a band of such renown? She not only cut it, she blew them away. The band were superb, no question, but in the end they were totally her band, and they were benefiting from performing with Elles Bailey.