|Updated: 7/02/14 | © 1999 - 2014 Cool Bunny Media | Da Cool Bunny sez 'Spank the Plank, Baby!'|
As a writer, I tend to use music heavily for inspiration. Some tracks have scomplete stories bursting out of them, as it were, others are so intensely moving and emotional they generate creativity by their very vibrations. One of those tracks is Raining in Baltimore from the Counting Crows' album, August And Everything After. Adam Duritz may be a class clown in the fashion stakes and an idiot when it comes to show biz relationships but for sheer plaintiveness of voice and heart tearing ability with lyrics, there are few to match him. The whole album is a paean to loneliness, from the more upbeat hit Mr Jones and Me to the incredible Rain King but for me, Raining In Baltimore captures every lonely rain filled night when the phone doesn't ring and the wallpaper is boring.
Scott Walker - Neil Diamond -
Although my daughter insists Dire Straits have had it, yesterday's men, so middle of the road they wear white lines, much of their music holds good in today's scene, none more so than the Brothers In Arms track from the album of the same name. Here, Mark Knopfler's gravel pounded voice lifts in a melody of praise to all those who bore arms together, accompanied by the most beautiful guitar playing this side of the invention of the instrument. The backing is sympathetic, the Dire Straits workforce not attempting to drown him out, for once. Listen to the same track on the live album of their 'Every Street' tour and hear the massed voices of the fans lifting the lyrics for him. They bring it a new sense of life and direction, but for me the original is best, as always.
Way back when I had a husband and therefore someone to go to live gigs with, I went to a Blues Festival in Gloucester because Louisiana Red was playing. He, ex husband, wanted to see Louisiana Red. I went along for the ride, not expecting too much, as I was not a fan of that gentleman. His live performance underwrote that feeling - as often happens with Big Stars they rely on their name and not on performing at their ultimate best. What made the gig for me was the unannounced, unexpected performance by a huge black gentleman, and I do mean huge, named Lucky 'Lopez' Evans, who walked on stage and sang his heart out. He can rock a blues song with the best of them, but for me his classic spine tingling track is on the Evil album: Walk Out Like A Lady. He finds his lady busy packing to leave with the guy in the Cadillac outside. He sings this with everything but the actual tears at the relationship breaking up in front of his eyes: you're weak enough to leave/I'm strong enough to let you go/walk out like a lady/don't go slipping out no back door. A typical blues song but powerful enough to be THE one of all Lucky's albums which reaches me.
Neil Diamond. Not sure if anyone would expect to find his name in this connection but - he is a force to be reckoned with, having been around this business for a long time and sold XX millions of records. One track out of so many? Cold Water Morning from the Tap Root Manuscript album. For imagery, for simple melody, for simplicity of emotion that cuts to the heart Cold water morning/kick off your night time shoes/cold water morning/I've waited so long for you. A hundred stories in there, who, how, why, where and when for starters! Very short track, deeply emotional (to me) reaches me every single time.
My last choice, Walker Brothers, No Regrets, a Tom Rush song. The album, No Regrets, came out in 1975. I bought my copy in Spain, the titles etc. are all in Spanish. Why this one is something I cannot answer, except that it speaks to me, it did then, and I had only been married five years, and it does now, five years into being alone. The album says 'Walker Brothers' but as always, it is the incredible quality and timbre of the voice of Scott Walker which carries this track, and this album, into the 'cannot be parted with' category. I woke last night and spoke to you/not thinking you were gone/and it felt so strange/to lie awake alone. It does. No regrets, no tears goodbye/I don't want you back/we'd only cry again/say goodbye again. Been there, done that, too. No regrets, but throughout the song Scott Walker is saying how much he misses her... been there, done that, too.
Very difficult to choose just five tracks, leaving aside so many others which also mean a lot - maybe this is this week's choice, next week there would be others. I'll go with these for now.
1970 and newly married. We had a small flat, a record player, a budgie (Toby Joe) and a transistor radio. This radio had cost my new husband 20 guineas some years before, a lot of money for a small radio. The reason for the cost, a short wave band. Vic was a short wave fanatic. Night after night he would sit with the two aerials extended, carefully dialling, to see what he could find. Apart from the UK stations and the police (boring for the most part) he would pick up music and stations from around the world, giving us fascinating glimpses into other lives, other ways of life, with the flashes of Arabic music, radio stations in France, Germany, Austria, and one night, Delhi! I want to tell someone! he shouted, leaping around the room. Youve told me, I said but I wasnt enough...
Toby Joe broke the aerials in the end, using them as a swing. Fly at them when they are extended and they go down. Walk along them and they go up again...
The radio went on pumping out the music, though. Once the car went into a skid (not with me in it, I hasten to add) and bumped up a verge, went through a hedge and came to a halt on the other side. During that process the back door flew open, the radio shot out and the door shut again. It went on playing music, even with a dent in the chrome trim.
Walking along Tottenham Court Road, something we did regularly, Vic would stand looking at the Yacht Boy short wave radios, hankering for one, but with a baby on the way and a place to buy there was no way we could do it. They were well over a hundred pounds then. The little old transistor was getting tired, so we made do with records, bought expensively in import stores, by the likes of the Blind Reverend Gary Davies, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Skip James, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee and others who were not available in the High Street record shops. Paul Jones had a weekly blues hour on Radio 2 which we assiduously taped because the music was hard to get.
We moved to Oxfordshire, and struck gold. A local DJ started playing blues among the other music on Radio Oxford which proved so popular he was given three hours every Friday night. Magic! Our musical tastes were clearly defined by then, Vic went for the old guys, the originals, as he termed them, and I found myself drawn to the more urban blues, from Muddy Waters onwards, including the wonderful blues ladies. Our tastes did coincide with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials, Big Sugar (from Canada) and the Blues Band themselves, (Dave Kelly has a stunning blues voice) but the blues are wide enough and big enough to encompass us all. We only disagreed over John Lee Hooker, who I said had sold out with the Healer album, and when we went to see him at the Hammersmith Odeon, yes, he had sold out. The high spot of that gig was supporting act John Hammond, a white man singing blues like a black man.
Even more gold - The Old Fire Station in Oxford began having blues bands play there. Live blues from relatively local bands - Londons not that far - and we would stagger out at 1.30 am, sweating (80 bodies crammed in a club with low ceilings and high decibels), deaf and musicked out. One night we were so deaf we couldnt even tell if the car had started!
More gold was to come - I earned enough royalties to buy Vic his own short wave radio.
A long aerial came out of a little box, was strung round the room, was hitched up here there and everywhere, and the short wave radio fanatic would sit and listen to marker buoys, to ship-to-shore telephone conversations (deadly dull) to morning radio from Australia and afternoon radio from the USA, including the Bible Belt radio stations preaching The Word 24 hours a day. In between that was raw blues from Louisiana and genuine Arabian music from everywhere in the Middle East. Eclectic, if nothing else.
The gold became tarnished, the DJ lost his job in the shake-up at the radio station and got a job with Jazz FM, playing 3 hours of blues on a Sunday and ordinary jazz from 10pm to 2am all week. Jazz FM is London based. Between London and Oxfordshire is a row of hills called the Chilterns. They block radio signals.
To hear the blues every Sunday, the radio had to be positioned thus: take one bookcase, add the two smaller tables from a nest of tables, one atop the other, add three or four hefty books from book- case, point aerial toward London, dont allow anyone to walk around upstairs for three hours When the parting came, the short-wave radio was handed to my daughter. Of all the shocks of the break-up, this was the worst one. He had loved that radio so much, spent so long with it, I could not imagine him parting with it so easily. But we were not looking gift horses in mouths at that time.
The radio is still working well, pumping out Radio One all day every day for two budgies who need entertaining while their owners are at work. Never a blues record to be heard any more, for it hurt too much at the beginning to play the music we shared, and after a while life changes and tastes change to suit the change of life. A move toward Spiritualism, with its attendant need for meditation, brought me into contact with so-called New Age music, which now fills much of the listening time. Thats mainly drive time, as music at home is dictated by those who need to listen to it as well, so the listening time is now REM, Beth Orton and Natalie Merchant. Im not complaining, its a move away, thats all. The memories and the blues themselves are still there, one features in my five top tracks. For a time life was almost like an old blues song anyway, my man done left me for that low down dirty gal.
Deep inside everyone of us is a chord the blues touches somewhere, somehow.
I just wish it had been a little easier to do the touching at times!
The poster showed a bearded brooding figure with a heavy background, and the emphatic words 'Out Of The Dark, Dennis Locorriere, The Voice of Dr Hook. '
I was just leaving Ryde Theatre, having spent 2 1/2 hours in the company of the Blues Band, who turned on the power and almost took the theatre roof off, when I saw it. Leaving, wondering if there was any chance of another gig this year that would equal the musical sensation I had just experienced. The posters were everywhere, it was the theatre's next big gig, having had Womack and Womack just before the Blues Band and Abba Gold to follow, (heaven save us from tribute bands, they are also having the Hamsters later, Hendrix and ZZ Top soundalikes, along with a Queen tribute band - what happened to originality?)
The posters intrigued me enough that I called and reserved a ticket the next day.
I had the Dr Hook albums, as most of us did, and whilst the big hits - Sylvia's Mother, When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman, Cover Of The Rolling Stone etc. etc. etc. are the ones I instantly remember, there are also the extremely funny and witty songs as well as the really sad ones. Yes, I was seriously looking forward to Dennis Locorriere.
The theatre was quite simply packed. For the Blues Band it was 'standing' - tables around the sides and a dance floor which never really filled up to the point when you could not dance, but for this gig there were numbered seats and every last one was filled. No, not everyone, the one next to me was empty but that had been 'bought' by a lady in a wheelchair who decided to stay in her chair so we all heaped coats on the empty seat. The lights went out and came up with a single spotlight as Dennis came 'out of the dark.' Theatrical? Perhaps, but it worked. For 3/4 hour he entertained us with his guitar, his jokes, stories and the songs. Oh, the songs! This is his very first solo tour as himself, last year he toured with Dr Hook's Love Songs, but this was Dennis himself, his own CD, his own songs mixed with those of his hero, Shel Silverstein. Dennis' own songs; The Right To Walk Away, The More I Am, Right Off the Top Of My Head and Shine, Son had the entire theatre in total and absolute silence - surely unheard of in an age when we want everything glitzy and fast and neon decorated. One man, one spotlight, one song, silence until we all exploded into applause and appreciation.
After the break, he came back with a band. Pick Withers, (ex of Dire Straits and everyone else) on drums, Benny Gallagher of Gallagher and Lyle on guitar, Mike Gibbs on superb keyboard and Dennis' best friend, Rod Smarr, on bass guitar, then proceeded to rock the old stuff, from Cover Of The Rolling Stone through other great hits and new numbers written by Dennis.
He encored with Sylvia's Mother, solo.
And I went and bought the CD he had on sale without a single reservation.
Now I challenge Ryde Theatre to come up with a musical experience to equal that one! Somehow I think it will be some time before I can say anything equalled that night's performance, for Dennis gave us his all: stories, anecdotes, heart felt memories from the Hook days, laughter when he took the camera which had photographed him and photographed us for the guy and when he apologised for the cover of the souvenir booklet, saying it had looked pensive and actor-like when he saw it on his desk but now it looked like someone with a migraine! Never once did he appear big headed, egotistical or in any way to be flaunting his fame or his reputation. This is a man building a new career, one away from the 70s label of drinking, stoned musicians mating hits, but a man building a career with a voice equal to the finest you have ever heard, a range such as few singers can achieve and with songs which truly wrench at the heart.
My only question is - when is he coming back to do it all over again!?
Idle thoughts recently, sitting reading, wondering if I had to give up one sense, what would it be? Could I live without sight or sound? Tonight, listening to an album, I know the answer. If I had to choose it would be giving up sight. I could live without reading for there are books on tape. I could not live without music and music doesn't come in books.
Whether it is the soaring voices of the Irish National Chamber Choir on the stunning Dreamcatcher album from Secret Garden, the talented Moby (listen to 'Play' for yourself!), the seriously dramatic and meaningful lyrics of Live or the plaintive and beautiful songs from Counting Crows, the sweeping melodic works from Medwyn Goodall, Phil Thornton and John Richardson in the so-called New Age music, or the gentle voice of Alice Bergin on "I Know You" there is no substitute for music. If I am not actually listening to something, there is usually music running in my head. If our TV is not on (TV viewing is a rare thing in this house) we have the radio on for non-stop music. In a somewhat stilted 'getting to know you again' visit from my ex recently, he asked "what music are you listening to these days?" a measure of how important music is to both of us still. It always was, it probably always will be.
There is probably nothing else that can give you so much pleasure. Memory flashes in of a friend who does not appreciate music, who told me his wife used to go to concerts and 'come home on a cloud of music' which is a great way of describing it. Music can lift my spirits, give me inspiration to write, calm a troubled mind, lift a migraine, relax my partner during a massage, be a background to meditation - you name the time the place and the occasion and there will be music.
Recently two albums have come my way which are worth mentioning to the greater world :-
Secret Garden - Dreamcatcher (New World)
Every so often an album comes along which stops you dead in your tracks, makes you wonder where you've been all this time not to know about the duo who call themselves Secret Garden. A glowing review in the last New World Music catalogue made me take a chance on an album called "Dreamcatcher" and so I entered the world of Fionnuala Sherry and Rolf Lovland with their talented musicians and the entire RTE Concert Orchestra making some of the most beautiful music you will hear in a long time.
There are different voices on this exceptional album, ranging from Fionnuala herself to Rhonan Sugrue (Boy soprano) and there are many different instruments lifting this music from the ordinary to the extra-ordinary, from traditional Irish to oboes.
It is an album you cannot categorise, it's one to put on the earphones, relax and lose yourself in the lilting haunting Irish music, the rich orchestration, the massed voices of the Irish National Chamber Choir, or delight in the drifting keyboard and piano of Rolf Lovland - who incidentally wrote all the music.
The sleeve notes say Secret Garden have sold over 2.5 million albums to date and their music is now available in over 80 countries around the world. Their website www.secretgarden.no is well worth a visit for more information on this talented pair and the music they make.
And it's an album I shall return to time and again.
I Know You from Alice Bergin is the most beautiful spiritual book you will ever own. Incredibly simple and meaningful poems matched with colour photographs which complement the poems so well. It is a book I pick up and read before going to work, to calm me for the day. One reviewer said "when I look at this book, I feel so still, I forget to breathe."
Take that level of poetry, deceptively simple and moving, get the poet herself to read them in her gentle voice and match that with music, classical, modern, and you have the CD, "I Know You" from Alice's Angels Publishing. If I have interested you, contact Alice Bergin at Alice's Angels Publishing, 4 Lynwood Avenue, Lowton, Warrington, Cheshire WA3 1HJ. You won't regret it!