musicology #373

Modernist #1

(Bobby Bland – Turn On Your Lovelight)

‘Modernist’ was a word used by some on the London scene in the early 1960’s to describe the ‘new breed’ of young bloods that had emerged out of the post war doldrums in Great Britain and had begun to throw off the shackles imposed on them by the establishment to do their own thing. They weren’t catered for or to so had to create a new set of ‘rules’, (clothes, music and attitude), and as a predominantly youth movement were unknown and unrecognizable, (this was when adolescents/teenagers were not even seen let alone heard), to all but those in the know. The influences of this movement were varied, (and will be gone into in greater detail as the theme unfolds), but as is often the case, (in England anyway), they were fused together by a creative vanguard to bear Englands first and most important youth movement.

Today’s cut is courtesy of a Modernist icon who has featured a few times on themusicologist and whose output was as important as any single artist’s in defining the new genre that became known as Soul. Born in 1930 Robert Calvin Bland begun his career in Memphis in the early 50’s associating with a collective known as the Beale Streeters but it wasn’t until ,1958 (at the dawn of Soul), that his distinctive vocal style begun to make Modernists sit up and take notice. Up until then he was a Blues singer but in ’58 he begun to set himself apart from categorisation with a string of monumental cuts of the highest order. This one is a classic from 1961 the year that his landmark album Two Steps From The Blues hit the streets. Many artists have cited Bobby as a major influence including original Modernist David Bowie who is reported to have said that the album changed his life.

Of note is that Bowie was born in 1947 making him 14 in 1961 and ripe for being at the forefront of a youth movement that peaked in London in 1964, (not sure about anywhere else as I have no background knowledge), and fell soon after when the media packaged it as ‘Mod’. Just like to add that In no way am I disregarding what came after ‘Modernist’, (especially not as far as music is concerned), but for many who were on The vanguard and had been at it since 1961 the infamous Bank Holiday gatherings signalled the end of the movement they cherished. I know that there will be many who disagree with me about the dates and events and I’m sure they can support their views and present them in their own way but certain dates such as ‘The Scene’ opening in August 1963 can not be disputed neither can the release dates of the musicology that supported and drove the movement as I intend to show. Finally I would also like to add that those born before 1946 and after 1948 must have been on the fringes purely as a result of their age and not their appreciation of either the music, attitude or the lifestyle in question.

All that’s left to say is that this one is for all the Lyceum, Town Hall, Tottenham Royal and Streatham Locarno Cats whose memories of being there can never be replaced.

musicology #359

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #26

(Irma Thomas – It’s Too Soon To Know)

Final slice of the Alternative Hustler Soundtrack and it’s come down to the faceoff between Eddie and Bert. Yesterday’s slice heard Fats declare that Eddie was the new king of pool and Bert showed his true colours. Not that he has done much to conceal them but he hints that maybe it was his boys that broke Eddie’s thumbs and if he, (Bert), commands it his heavies will do more than that this time. But our man has learnt some character and is prepared to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to ensure that Sarah’s brings about a Victory over Bert, (who in my opinion represents the establishment).

Bert on the other hand is only really interested in ownership and money, he has said it throughout the film but what he hasn’t said is how much he envies those capable of showing true feelings and who are not chained by the evils of power and money. Classic Capitalist mentality trying to show that it’s wealth, greed and power that makes the world go round and not happiness, love and integrity, (character). I make no bones about it money and power don’t motivate themusicologist and never will. I have bills to pay and, more importantly, mouths to feed and there are some who may, (and do), call that irresponsible and obviously they are entitled to their opinion but integrity/character don’t come cheap and as with most things there is always a price to pay, (for everyone concerned). Fantastic interchange of dialogue and ideology between the antagonist, (Bert), and protaganist, (Eddie), in this scene that deserves mention. How none of the main actors received oscars for their performances is beyond reason and therefore must have been in some sense political.

The director Robert Rosen had integrity/character but ultimately it was shipwrecked on the rocks of so called ‘Democracy’ and he lost it. Which is not a judgement or criticism, (of Robert Rosen), more of an observation. For more insight into the facts of life it’s worth taking another listen to a slice featured earlier on this theme; Memphis Slim’s ‘Mother Earth’ (musicology #352)

Tough call the final cut..couple of options but going with my gut feeling it has to be this one from Irma Thomas with a slice of pure unaldultarated heart wrenching Soul, (with a capital S), A cover of the song made popular first by the Orioles and then by the irrepressible Dinah Washington a singer who set the standards for every female singer that followed. Rare to find a Dinah song covered that even comes close to her version but for themusicologist this one does. Also as far as I’m concerned it’s fitting that the final call belongs to a female in tribute to the character played by Piper Laurie and the answer, (posthumously), is a resounding Yes. Recorded and released in 1961 for and on the Minit label. Produced, (I imagine), by Allen Toussaint.

musicology #358

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #25

(John Coltrane – India)

Penultimate slice of the Hustler ‘alternative’ finds our man having finally reached the peak of his game. No alcohol or bravado..just one man and his craft. Have to give George C Scott a special mention for his contribution on this scene..full of menace and vitriol as he tries one more time to ‘boss’ the kid...

The cut is a second one from mind blowing virtuoso John Coltrane whose command of the language is out of this world. Again let me state that I’m not a big fan of the genre but more than once when the ‘Trane has spoke themusicologist listens. For me it’s like he’s reaching beyond the boundries of tonality to deliver authentic spirit and even though I’m trying, words can’t do the Cat justice.

Recorded for Impulse in 1961 at New York’s Village Vanguard..another live performance that I would ‘give me right arm’ to have been present at and ably supported by Eric Dolphy, Roy Haynes, Reggie Workman and Ahmed Abdul-Malik. What has it got to do with The Hustler and themusicologist? in a word..synchronicity.

musicology #357

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #24

(The Twistin’ Kings – Congo Twist Pt1)

Martin Luther King was quoted to have said

“No Victory without Sacrifice”

Well Sarah has made the Ultimate sacrifice and took her life..I think it was the philosopher Schopenhauer who said/wrote that suicide was a cowardly act and not one of bravery and much as I check for some of his philosophy as far as this act was concerned he was wrong. Sarah took her life for more reasons than one…Eddie. She sacrificed her body to Bert and in the process her heart to Eddie. Some might call that selfish but again they would be wrong. If you know the film, (and if not I hope the dialogue has provided some insight), you may agree that Eddie’s salvation was uppermost in Sarah’s heart and mind. ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson wasn’t cut out for the world in which he found himself…he thought he was but in reality he wasn’t. As Bert said “You’ve got to be hard Eddie” where what we meant to say is “You’ve got to be heartless Eddie” and he is right. There’s no room for ‘weakhearts’ in an environment like that you’ve got to be a killer and grind your opponent into the dust and when they plead for mercy you have to twist the knife harder and further and take no prisoners…and as far as I have read it, Eddie isn’t that kind of person. He just loves to play Pool. A few scenes ago when Eddie asked Sarah whether she thought he was a loser, (as Bert never stopped telling him), Sarah answered that he was a Winner because of the love and passion and childlike joy he got out of playing Pool at the top of his game. He retained the child and that is what made him a winner. Bert on the other hand for all his money and material possesions was twisted, crippled and alone and Sarah knew that. She is the film’s hero not Eddie and in this scene we hear him clarify that. All too late. Remember “No Victory without Sacrifice . If you want something chances are you have to make sacrifices…and very few of us are genuinely willing/able to do that….anyway enough of the philosophy and back to the action.

Eddie’s back at Ames Pool room, the place where it all began to unravel and he’s looking to take Fats on again. But this time he has a lot more to say…

Today’s music is an early Motown, (1961?) instrumental cut by a collective known here as ‘The Twistin Kings’. Who were they? I can only hazard a guess that it’s the same band who backed almost all the Motown artists from 1959 right through. None other than what became known, (after The Soul Brothers), as The Funk Brothers. Far too many Cats were a part of this collective to namecheck here but if they are listening they know who they are so I won’t even begin to list them

musicology #356

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #23

(Bobby Bland – St James Infirmary)

Leaving it all to the dialogue and Bobby Bland today..(both from 1961). So you’ll just have to take a listen for yourself if you want to know what’s occured.

musicology #355

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #22

(Dee Clark – Raindrops)

As yesterday’s slice of musicology pronounced…themusicologist is ‘A Little Busy’ at the moment so i’ll keep it brief. The dialogue today says it all. Eddie’s done his conkers and still hasn’t learnt any ‘character’, Bert still hasn’t learnt any compassion and Sarah, (who comes down to the arena unnoticed), learns that maybe Eddie is not the man of her ‘dreams’. Heart wrenching….

The music is courtesy of the majestic Delectus ‘Dee’ Clark whose voice is how I have always imagined an angels would sound. Yet another BIG mod/ernist dancehall classic, (and eary musicologist memory) from the dawn of a new era, (1961), and yet another on the Vee Jay label which between the years 1960 – 1962 did as much as any label to direct the new sound. Unfortunately that wasn’t backed up by artist renumeration and even though the record sold TWO million copies and hit #2 on the ‘Pop’ charts it signalled the end rather than the beginning for Dee who never scored another hit and ended up absolutely ‘pot-less’ in a Welfare motel in the 1980’s….Tragic.

But his memory lives on and the music he made is as good as it gets…So even though he is no longer with us…Dee this one’s in honour of you..

musicology #350

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #17

(Betty James – I’m A Little Mixed Up)

So Eddie has taken Bert up on his offer and is planning a trip to Kentucky to get back on the Hustling trail. He takes Sarah out to a fancy restuarant to break her the news that he’s going away for a few days and it doesn’t go down too well. We pick up this soul searching piece of quality dialogue after they have returned to the apartment.

Today’s cut must have been made for this scene. A 1961 cut again from the Chess Records vaults but this time a slice of the emerging sound that fused Rhythm, Blues and Soul. Featuring a little known female singer by the name of Betty James. Big early Mod/ernist cut that had London’s young, (and not so young), Cats throwing tight shapes at clubs like the ‘Whiskey’, The Scene, The ‘Disc’ and The Marquee, (to name but four), from late at night until the early hours.