Listening to recent news… High street horror, fashionistas, scroll, tap, pin, popup, rat-a-tat-tat, “You have mail, that parcel is delivered.” That’s shopping now. I heard Primark and Wilkinsons, Wilko(!), are now your hometown’s Anchor stores. Dropped jaw amazed - Primark still face-to-face, rail-touch-try, pay fashion, have Millions, Millions of pounds of stock to sell, and are gambling, well they’ve no choice, on leading a retro look in clothing.
Fashion is the ‘new’ ‘old’ ware. Hope for all the lives PRIMARK support in the soon to be lost art of retail sales, it works. Our high streets need tasters to draw us in, past never to return shops, shuttered pubs, boarded clubs. Memories of pints and wines, Gin slings and Sunrises, laughs, hugs, shared rounds, new friends made. At clubs, posters for bands now now a long time no-show, artists quarantining in Chicago’s windy embrace, locked down in Laredo, closed out in Coventry, you get the idea.
Checking the upcoming “parole gigs” - when we’re finally let out into clubs, amazed, perhaps I’d never noticed, at the number of old, and I mean old artists on tour, just for reference I am just over half way between the golden speeds for records, (if you don’t know ask your mum what vinyl is).
Apart from the first Artist due near me after Lockdown, in a seated venue, Richard Thompson, (the curmudgeon’s curmudgeon), I was amazed at the number of old, older than me, bands on tour; Deep Purple, Uriah Heap, The Stranglers, Moody Blues, and then the “tribute bands” - UK Foo Fighters, REM ed, Cheep Tryck, Australian Pink Floyd, The Legal Eagles, there all over our UK home towns, from local pub bands, to semi–arena tours, across Europe, but the number of tribute acts is amazing, what’s the story there?
It got me thinking, (music does that, suppose that ‘s the idea), perhaps there’s something in this retro fashion thing spilling over into music, culture and our lives. You can see all across local face-book pages, retro photos of your home town, your birth town, your music, cinema. It’s understandable, there’s no films to see, (net-flicks ain’t the same, despite what they say), and no live music. Replaced by popular sites, reviews, word of mouth shares, likes, shared themed play lists, Alexia picks. Thing is, they pick what you like, using the ‘Amazon Algo-rhythm” we’ve all seen it “those who bought..... also bought .... “ it’s shopping based on “listen lazy slob, we know what you like, soooo - here it is,” that’s fine, but how many pairs of Levi 501’s do we need, how do you hear new sounds?
This obsession and reference, past times and forms is common, this love of retro, courses through music, players, listeners, promoters, music influencers, and reviewers, we all listen to “new music” with “old ears”. Some music goes around, comes around, rehashed, rebooted, re-recorded, remixed, remodelled, old bands, new bands, songs, old new, borrowed, and blue, (great album title for someone). Nothing wrong, it’s been Music’s core, recorded and live since music began with improvised drum patterns, through Bach, Beethoven, Beatles, Beck, up to today. Old genres rehashed, rediscovered, Slade and Sweet, become Oasis, you get the idea. Some genres never seem to die, replicating, reforming, new variants, Heavy Metal is one. Others seem to transform completely metamorphosed into something utterly inconceivable. Who’d have thought Prog Rock, Tangerine Dream, Can, Faust, Gong would have transmogrified into techno, ambient and chill room, a path I can hear. Hard house, I never imagined, Mike Oldfield, and Steve Hillage as chilled out, Ibiza cruizing, record producing, disc spinning, top draw, peasta earning DJs, not me. Just goes to show there’s style in old stuff, cut, stitched, sampled, moulded and melded. I found myself thinking, perhaps with this music stuff, Primark are onto something there’s tons of retro out there, we all, lots of us love it, music as clothing, revival is the new future.
But then, then I popped on a Mahavishnu Orchestra CD, Birds of Fire, Jazz Fusion, at it’s best, 70’s Prog rock for folks wot don’t like Hobbits, (that’s me). Fire, passion, tunes well mixed up, mashed up, motifs, tributes before samples, played live with love and affection. Fast furious, but not angry in a punk way, contemplative, but not in a beard stroking jos-stick way, musical brilliance but not in down your throat guitar hero style, keyboard finger master manner no doodles just oodles of skill. As I listened, and I mean listened, to the music that four people were able to make, I wondered, where was the Jazz Fusion revival, reboot. I flicked through the clubs here in toon, lots tribute rock and metal bands, even plans for a ‘fake festival’. But no Jazz Fusion revival, no “Re-Return Forever”, No “Weather postcasted”, “New Clear Us”, you get the idea.
Are these bands, originals just tooooo good? That can’t be true, there’s Eric Clapton tribute bands, several Jam tributes, and we’ve seen Oasis, and the rest. Have Jazz fusionistas moved on, or the music fused and blown, morphed and moved on. Perhaps it was the Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead, ‘no concert is ever the same’ that frustrates. Can you tribute-copy uniqueness? That’s going to be very hard. Sure there are new musicians playing, influenced, by, in the style of, ........... perhaps it’s a Jazz snob thing, Jazz fusion, Jazz Rock like all tribes has it’s ‘taliban’ self appointed keepers of the faith, and I meet more than a few in Jazz gigs, perhaps the top dogs have decided no tribute acts, no copyists, “keep it improvised”.
But then, but then does it matter, do I want Jazz Rock Tributes, retro music played note for note, last year’s themes, last year’s coats, and shoes, musical shades, trousers in red, one sax or two, pleated skirt, shoes heeled one inch or two. Do I want these bands standing in the light, exposed, heard and enjoyed? I know the artist will, despite all the popular romance, no-one and I mean no-one wants to starve in a freezing garrett for art. BUT being selfish when these artist play live, seated gigs, (never seen anyone throwing shapes to Miles Davis), I can get seats, and have a bit of space (vital in these COVID still active days), so for me the new Jazz sounds, influenced by Jazz Rock hero’s spark my brain and fire my soul. No copies, no last year’s tunes, greatest hits, or maybe they’re just re-cut and re-stitched.
Whatever, Primark, recycled fashion, may be onto something, the downloads tell us that. Reviews in Outsideleft tell us there’s a lot of recycling of sounds, messages and ideas. I hear new songs, and old sounds, I hear young voices and old wisdoms, and what’s wrong with that, we all need memories. But for Jazz Rock, un-tribited, un-rebooted, the question from a clothing fashion perspective looks harder to fit into last year’s style.
Jazz Rock – think PRIMARK and fashions equivalent of Mullet hair, Cheese Cloth tops, and Rupert Check - half mast trousers, I’m fine with that, out of fashion, out of time and out of sight, in both a keep it hidden, and ahead of time sense. Jazz Rock for me is an acquired taste, like Islay Malts, not for everyone, and utterly unfashionable but that’s its delight. Out of time, out of style, out of fashion, and for me, left Outside, Outside left.
Main Photo: Markus Spiske / freeforcommercialuse.net