Covid19 pandemic... Tuppaware skies, rule of two inside, 6 outside (or is it), rain, rain, rain, Newcastle and Manchester, united in weather, pandemicitus, and lockdown, no more “Party on down Dude” for a couple of months. In the air, not even, undelivered hints of sun, no flirtations, not even a turned ankle. It’s got me thinking, well thinking about something more than, “what’s for tea, “do I want to bake a tart”, “what’s on the tele”, “what should do next in the garden” all mundane, all - - well lazy hazy just;
“ticking away the moments that make up a dull day,
You fritter and waste the hours in a offhand way”
Strange what flits into your mind in idles moments. Time – Pink Floyd - an insight to us all, hmmm??
Flicking through 357 TV channels not a lot on, (basic cable and one minor sports channel for me. caught a Toots, tragically recently deceased, Hibbert memorial programme on Catch Up TV, was reminded of just how great he was, and a voice wow deep as South African Gold Mine, soft as Butterfly, and a mover too. Live performances, old pre colour 60’s and century’s start colour film was reminded of my Toots gig, a few years ago, not as good a mover as the 70’s 80’s, but still Toots, the magician, still getting up there and getting down with the sweating, skanking, baying for more, believers’ crowd. Glad I caught him when I did, a magic night in Newcastle.
Sadly never saw that other great reggae voice, recently departed, Jonny Nash – He was Top of Pops, tamed, sterilised, a BBC orchestra. No way for the I Can See Clearly Now star, to eke out a living, but as any reggae artist will testify you take what you can, when you can, so many shared the same fate early blues men, BB, Muddy, John Lee, to name those who survived, shared a fate. Never saw the great man live and direct, and catching some live footage, mine is a poorer life for it.
These two deaths, pubs, clubs, concert halls furloughed, dimmed and silent, an epiphanal realisation, I’ve missed out, I heard radio tributes, even Radio 4 tributes rock and roll now, that’s babyboomers for you, seen press obits, I did the usually thing and wikkied this list of departed music stars that have dimmed leaving only memories. Those Wikki deaths, names leaping out, some I’d heard, others heard off, some just a name, a band, a poster, an unread review. Surprise at some ages, young and old, I’d disregarded in their prime, now listened to in requiem, remembered and mourned.
There’s self gratitude... I had the sense, interest and money to see them live, in their prime, at the start, or best of all, at the top of their game, Andy Gill / Gang of Four, Dave Greenfield / Stranglers both touched the blue paper of memories, Student days in Preston, trips to St Georges Hall in Blackburn, or the Free Trade in Manchester, great nights, great bands, lucky to catch Greefield’s gang when the agro, spit, fights and abuse were dying embers of the punk revolution. Trains to Manchester, undiscovered pubs, unsampled beers, mates, Ford, Paul, Charley where are you now, pre gig pints post gig, pints, n pies peas, chips, n gravy and a wet walk, last train rattling from a dark foreboding Victoria, soaked as ever in England’s Rainy City
The mid 80s mid 90s a cosmopolitan, London living - open eyed, eared, and souled me, or so I loved to style myself, saw me grab the London gig scene with both hands, a good salary, determination to be different. Despite two left feet, a pre Michael Jackson, (think an Sinclair ZX version of Robot), dance, delve into London’s explosive African, diasporas. White liberal (that’s me) African scene, Township Jazz and… from Zimbabwe first loves, but then with each year, each new tour, Charlie Gillett and Andy Kershaw, - you tempted and cost me so much! It was the super stars of Congo, Nigeria and Cameroon that swooped me along the Northern line to Camden, Hoxton, and Stockwell.
Mory Kante, and Mano Dibango, great gigs, stars in the world, great playing dancing and music, power, passion and exuberance. A real antidote that was never really matched on Vinyl or CD. Gigs brought memories treasured as music, and now in sentimental moments, memories of friends and lovers gone, but not forgotten with each discs’ play.
The sixties saw Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green and the Pretty Things’ Phil May, stars and heroes, to some, Pretty Things toured near and far, never saw them, not even on TV, never really heard them, but know they’ll be missed. Peter Green star of first Fleetwood Mac, when they were a hard rocking, rollicking, top notch, eat your heart out Eric Clapton, bad bad blues band. Saw them on TV and was amazed by him, dropped out of music, and dropped in, maybe even dropped out, again. Could have seen him, in second career, a sorta regret, I’d lost my Blues mojo when he was playing live, sad to say, a regret there.
Little Richard, far too young to have appreciated him, he’d toured tons of times, a ex work mate, Des played upright base with him in a UK pick-up band, early films, later films tell a decline, comes to us all, even if I’d caught a gig he’d way passed his best
Betty Wright sure she’s been on tour, here in UK, but I missed her, may have been my Jazz jaunts, or the folk fetishes for me. But her sad passing reminded me of ONE week sometime 2008/9 saw THREE great SOUL voices, Martha Reeves Newcastle, Mavis Staples Clapham, Candi Staton Newcastle, three wonderful passionate voices, three true stars, all still close to the top of their game, effervescent shows, each knew their limits, and stretched them with magical, fabulous nights. Glad I saw them, especially as no disrespect, as they are ladies of a certain age. Glad I saw them an over indulgent 7 day soul feast.
Kenny Rogers, never a ‘Cuuntreee’ boy, and he had me harrumphing in front of Top of the Pops, remembered my mum loving his songs and voice, she was a bit of a country girl, but then a lot of pre war Irish mums and dads were. Memories, hazy summer tinged, washed over me, no really memory of the songs, one about a war victim drifts into mind, but not real memories, of was in a wheel chair in a Top of the Pops film. But memories of mum, tenderly linger, cut knees, school gate hugs, college cakes, inspired and treasured, may not have liked Kenny’s music, but tender, treasured memories, sparked and remembered in my own memories embers.
Saw the sad demise of Bill Withers (main image - the one that got away!), wonderful singer, great voice, remember only one song, never see him, sure he’s been on tour here in UK, though I missed him New Orleans, one weekend, two great festivals, Blues and Jazz. And the new Mayor’s inauguration concert, AND AND the TRICENTENIEL. Magical days, but looking at that line up... Yeah saw Aretha, saw Smokey two great soul voices, no Bill Withers, but if he was in ‘the Big Easy’ I know I made the right choice sorry Bill, but could never pass up the chance to see those two defining soul voices.
Looking at these, and other stars sadly no longer with us, the closed down, locked out, shuttered up, gig and club world, there’ll be more people I’ll regret never seeing, more will pass. The glorious music, LPs, CDs memories and not memories, like a family photo album. It’s the before and after that lives, as much as the present. Each death flashes memories, the gigs and gigsteers, beer, dances, and elation. Flashes of people and incidents, train strangers now friends, and the expectations, elations, disappointments, and resigned despair.
The lesson for me, save some pennies and pounds, and be ready for a Tsunami of gigs I need to get to, not quite “50 bands to see before you die” – there must a book out there, more a bit selective, but be ready to get there while I am still able too, and that’s as much mortality taking its slow toll on me, as it is on artists playing live and direct in a town near me.
I don’t want my epitaph to read
I coulda seen the Rollling Stones - Leeds Roundhay Park
I shouda - seen Sonny Rollins – RFH in London
I woulda seen Bruce Springsteen – St James Park
U2 in Boston Fenway Park, - no idea why... Just do, Tons more, BUT let’s save the pennies for one rock and roll dream that’s keeping me going on a rain lashed, 2nd locked downed, Toonside, non travelling day.
Wikipedia: 2020's departed stars
Born - happy family, school great mates still see 7 / 8 in year, degreed, beer n fun, work was lazy but usually happy, retired. Learning from mum and dads travel exploits.