Archive for March, 2013

Joni and I became hitched the instant I saw some concert footage of her – it must have been on Whistle Test – when I was about 13, and we’ve been together ever since. Ridiculously talented and imaginative, she’s always been her own girl, impossible to categorise or to pin down, and spinning off on experimental musical tangents with each new album. She was working with overseas musicians years before the gormless label “world music” was conceived. And she’s an unrepentant smoker.

She’s never made a duff record. (I remember doing most of my A Level revision to rotation plays of Ladies Of The Canyon). This track is from her 1972 masterpiece, For The Roses.

Oddly – as with Little Feat and The Band – I never saw her perform live.

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It actually scares me to consider the course my life might have taken had I not heard Dylan’s 1965 LP, Highway ’61 Revisited, around 1974 when I was 14. (Sensible law degree? A respectable career and a lifetime of house conveyancing in the Rochdale area?) I explain in the book why Dylan, and particularly this album, were truly life-changing. Thanks Bob.

Here’s a track from Highway ’61 which I have always adored but seldom gets any attention, and never gets any radio airplay. And I love the pace at which Dylan and this fabulous studio band take this. Click on the link. Let’s stroll!

(The photo shows Dylan with Highway ’61 producer, Tom Wilson, in the studio, during the recording, in NYC, spring 1965).

As I say in my book, for some of us working on the concerts at Leeds University in the early 1980s, The Blues Brothers was more than a cinema (and music) classic, it was a way of life. Indeed, alongside one or two of those on my Stage Crew, Jake and Elwood looked like dilettantes and amateurs.

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I never tire of this film. And the music is just outstanding, helped by the band having Steve Cropper and other soul and r&b maestros in its number. And this cover of a Taj Mahal song is one of those rare examples of an improvement on the original. It also provided the soundtrack for the unforgettable opening to the film. A lesser band would have played this much faster.

The Katy was the affectionate name given to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad. (Long gone).

 

Of course, I’d been aware of Neil Young for a while. (Everyone had a copy of Harvest, didn’t they?) But the point at which it became unconditional love, and a life-long relationship, came when I was at a Christmas or New Year party, in the mid 1970s, at the home of my great friend, Jonny Barnes. In one of the living rooms at Jonny’s house, one of those Whistle Test all-nighters was on the television, playing to no one when I walked into the room. Whispering Bob was introducing this very footage. Within seconds – to use Neil’s own words – I was gettin’ blown away. I stood transfixed, and quite alone. That bloke who sang those nice songs, with an acoustic guitar, on the albums I’d heard, was now whipping up an electric gale, with some inspired but always melodic astral guitar. And I’ll never forget his hair flying and standing on end as the passion and romance of this intensified. (And he dressed like me!) Forever after, in school assembly, I could never again hear the line of that hymn, “Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire – oh, still small voice of calm,” without thinking of this. Do I get in Pseuds’ Corner?

 

Seeing the film of Woodstock, in a cinema in Rochdale in my early teens, was another formative moment which, again, somehow I managed not to mention in my book.

I remember sitting there, on my own, feeling a rush of exhilaration. Woodstock, for the naive AK, embodied so much – a sense of possibility, the potential and invincibility of people-power, defiant anti-authoritarianism, a lot of tremendous music and a huge number of that type of girl who would never even notice me. I was thrilled too by the sense of event, one which was staged almost spontaneously, and made a huge cultural and political impact, despite having been a shambles from beginning to end. I wished so much I’d been there. It was possibly in that cinema that afternoon that my appetite for staging big gigs was ignited.

And Country Joe was an absolute revelation. That he could get up there, alone with his guitar, and get half a million people to shout, and spell, “fuck” (for which, if I’d just whispered it, I’d have got a week of detentions at school) and then sing along to an anti-war anthem so it could rattle windows in Washington, well… he became my instant hero. (Notice how the whole crowd rises to its feet towards the end). And I left the cinema a convert to counter-culture – a pretty lonely position for the son of headteachers in early 70s Rochdale. Anyway, all together now…