Classical music, I am ashamed to say, has never particularly been my bag. It’s not that certain pieces don’t rouse me (I don’t have the time or energy to prove myself with specifics) it’s just that the format tends to lean towards those with enough attention span to endure it, let alone adore it. As for opera I just cannot be bothered. That may make me ignorant but we can’t be up to speed with everything, can we? At least opera has some pedigree (well, old opera anyway) which is more than can be said for modern opera and especially musicals which, as a collected art form, is the equivalent of two tins of Pedigree Chum that have sat for 3 days in the guts of an overweight Labrador with bowel retention issues. Thus, nothing good has ever come from it.
So you’re unlikely to ever catch me, eyes closed, fingers wafting, to Aida (which is only one letter away from ASDA) and it’s also very unlikely that I’ll ever start listening to music based on the recommendation of Zoe Ball, the lucky so and so with empty pockets who will be replacing Chris Evans on BBC 2’s breakfast radio show. She is, I suppose, marginally less grating that Evans. No part of that assessment should be confused for a ringing endorsement.
But this isn’t meant to be a moan. This is meant to be a celebration; of good music and the marvel of discovering it out of the blue. If I said Boz Scaggs to you would it mean anything? What about Duane Allman? Or Muscle Shoals Studios. You either like this kind of music or you love it. If you’ve heard it at all then it should mean something good. A quick potted history then, for those not in the loop.
Boz Scaggs: Highly amiable chap from Canton, Ohio who, after quite a few years of graft hit pay-dirt in the late 70’s with the album Silk Degrees and irrepressible little nuggets of guilty pleasure like ‘What Can I Say?’ and ‘Lido Shuffle’.
Duane Allman: Spookily gifted young guitarist who lit up a sequence of late 60’s soul and blues recordings as a session player and lent his hand to the formation of The Allman Brothers Band, they being the ultimately tragic but highly accomplished fathers of the Southern Rock band genre. Poor, drugged up, gentle Duane had a motorcycle crash in Macon, Georgia in 1971 and promptly died. He was 24 and it is humbling to accept that he achieved twice as much as you and I in half a lifetime.
Muscle Shoals Studios: The coolest recording studios ever. To be found in Sheffield, Alabama and definitely much higher up on my visits list that the one in Yorkshire. This is where Aretha and Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding and Bob Dylan and Paul Simon and Willie Nelson and The Staple Singers and The Rolling Stones all recorded material. So did Cher, Dr Hook and Julian Lennon but let’s try not to hold that against it. The Muscle Shoals house band, known as ‘The Swampers’, were about as tight and funky as a band could be; maybe even tighter and funkier than Booker T and the MG’s. And that’s really tight and funky.
Back to the point – discovering a new song that rattles your barrel is something to be savoured. You’ll know when it happens because you won’t want to listen to anything else for at least 3 days. You may well disagree with me on this but at least try a song called ‘Finding Her’ by Boz Scaggs. Recorded at Muscle Shoals with ‘The Swampers’ and featuring Duane Allman, who can’t have been more than 21, on a slide guitar part that is almost beyond words. It’s a simple enough waltz kind of set up but the sum of its parts add up to a special something that, trust me, you won’t hear the likes of in music today. Allman’s solo at 2.06 is not the kind of music anyone should be able to make at that age. And that’s what’s stupid: to be that gifted and die that young. Well, if there is a God then at least it proves the Devil still has all the best tunes.
G B Hewitt. 04.10.2018