Sunday, 5 March 2017

Influential Albums #4: Is This What You Want?

In 1969 we were bothered, bewildered, but still bewitched by the Beatles.  John had embarked on his dead-end solo career, Paul was on a desperately controlling mission to keep the dream alive, Ringo was, as always, going with the flow…  The only one who seems now to have had any forward-pointing focus was George Harrison.
I was marooned, geographically and musically.  My band had broken up but was contractually obliged to go through the death throes in Italy.  I’d entered into a mistaken marriage which left me, I suppose, emotionally marooned too.  Records seemed my route to salvation.
Just then, Paul invented Apple Records, launching it with Mary Hopkins’ delightfully charming ‘Those Were The Days’ and then following up with two superb albums: James Taylor’s first, about which I’ve previously blogged, and this one by Jackie Lomax, produced by George, with a stellar cast of backing musicians.  It’s probably available online if you want to have a listen, I can’t be bothered to find a link.  If you can’t either, you’ll just have to take my word for it: this is interregnum pop at its very best.  I’ll have to explain that.
Popular music has always been an industry, and as such governed by the laws of industrial economics, which operate to drive quality down to the lowest common denominator.  It happened to jazz, swing, rock’n’roll, disco … the best was forced out by the worst.   Of course, there’ve always been swerves around the outside curve, which I’ve kept an ear open for; but ‘the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.’  But there was that brief break when nobody knew what was going on or who was in charge – and some wonderful things popped up out of the vacuum.

We’d been playing the ‘random record’ game, whereby you point at a CD or an LP in the stack, eyes closed, and have to listen to it.  Last night Z came up with Gill Scott-Heron’s last CD; tonight I fished this out.  Not my original vinyl – when my bandmate Andy returned from Italy a few months after me, penniless and with a family in tow, he had hardly any music, so, having got a job in the meantime, I gave him my copy and bought another.

That’s probably why I count it as influential.