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Thursday, 10 April 2008

Musical adventures

It takes a worried man, to sing a worried song,
It takes a worried man, to sing a worried song.
It takes a worried man, to sing a worried song.
I’m singing now, but I won’t be singing long.

Josh White’s album,( we called them LPs) Empty Bed Blues occupied wet Sunday afternoons as I tried to figure out the chords and growled along on a black, second hand guitar. The chords were as easy as the words, but I never quite managed to synchronize the strumming with the halting, tortured howl. Never mind, it was a step up from ‘Little Brown jug’ on the mandolin.

I was into the blues and even tried to like Jazz, borrowing some Thelonious Monk from Dave Galashan: 'Brilliant Corners' and 'Monk’s Dream,' as I remember. I didn’t enjoy them very much but pretended otherwise. Credibility was more important than truth – important in teaching and politics and for the terminally insecure.

Reasons to be insecure. No 1. (Sounds like an Ian Dury record)
The only autograph I ever acquired or even queued up for during the height of the Liverpool explosion was that of the Applejacks, and they came from Birmingham. If you Google them now they compete with a well known brand of cereal. Even then I knew to keep quiet about it, and talked instead about Thelonious Monk.

Then came John Mayall, the British Blues Boom, and the National Jazz and Blues Festivals at Reading. Credibility restored, though not without some hiccups. The first time, we trudged through grey drizzle onto a grey field about ten o’clock at night. We put up our very small children’s tent and settled into the dampness. Early the following morning we heard the puzzled drawls of those cooler than us.

‘Where did that come from?’

‘What is it?’

‘I think it’s a tent’.

We waited until the voices had gone and cautiously peeked out. Our white children’s tent was lost in a sea of pavilions, like a dinghy bobbing amongst the Spanish Armada.

At one of these festivals, a friend got us entrance to a great Jacobean house that had been commandeered by some very wealthy hippies. We were guided from room to room by someone half stoned who spoke in reverential tones.

‘This is the beer room’ and the door opened to reveal a bunch of Anglo-Saxon look-alikes solemnly quaffing beer.

‘And this is the cannabis room.’ Here the curtains were closed and little could be seem through the thick aromatic haze.

We went from room to room; I vaguely remember an 'acid room,' vaguely hoped there might be a sex room.

Finally we came to a door at the end of a long paneled corridor.
‘And this is the quiet room…for those who just want to be quiet.’ There was nobody in it, but I was impressed by those responsible who seemed to have thought of everything. The rich are different to us, even when stoned.

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