Monthly Archives: November 2011

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day

Number 1 in an occasional series.

There are some things that after they’ve been seen or heard, life is never quite the same. The posts “Totaalvoetbal” and “The Truth About Catalonia” are about that. Obviously personal events like getting married (or divorced?) or having children also fall into that category. But for me the majority are musical. So I intend to instigate an occasional little series around musical events that changed me – albeit imperceptibly, perhaps –¬† forever.

People of my age and gender missed the Beatles, the British Blues Boom and the hippies of the Sixties, unaware that we were only a heartbeat away from the “progressive” era, and grew up exposed to the Zeppelin – Purple – Sabbath triumvirate. All well and good. Of course there was some other good stuff around – Eric Clapton, tired of the “God” moniker and his membership of “supergroups”, sought¬† anonymity among some American musicians, eventually emerging as a (ordinary?) member of Derek and the Dominos. The album Layla and Other Love Stories still sounds good today, despite it’s apparent genesis in a drug-induced haze.

One day, as I was browsing a local record store, I came across, quite by chance, an album called Duane Allman – an Anthology. I’d heard of, but not heard, the Allman Brothers Band at that time, and knew that they were huge in America. I also knew that Allman had died in an accident. That was the sum total of my knowledge. But Layla was on there, and it turned out that Allman had played on the album, although not an official member of Derek and the Dominos. So I bought it.

There were four sides. At the end of side 1 was an old blues classic that Allman had recorded under his own name – Goin’ Down Slow. I’d never heard it before, but apparently it’s very much a blues standard. The best known recording was that of Chester Burnett (Howlin’ Wolf) but anybody who is anybody seems to have recorded it at sometime. This includes Huey Lewis, and the mind boggles to think what that must sound like.

Never mind, it was the Allman version I heard. He had a passable voice, even though he didn’t sing in his own band. And the Les Paul…This song taught me the sheer power of the blues and I’ve never forgotten it. It introduced me to the great bluesmen of the deep south – Muddy Waters, Bukka White, Albert King, Robert Johnson – and their imitators – Clapton, Peter Green, Stevie Ray Vaughan et al. If anyone plays this video, I recommend they turn the volume up.


The truth about Catalonia.

Speaking the Truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.

The post “Totaalvoetbal” recounts a memorable episode in my life – an epiphany of sorts. We all have these, where to sense something, which could be of any nature, leaves such a mark that things never again seem quite the same. Although to some it might seem trivial, seeing the Dutch football team in 1974 is an example. And there are others.

When I was at school I abandoned the study of English literature, without even telling my family, and therefore received one less “O” level than my contemporaries. This didn’t seem a big deal at the time, and doesn’t now. However, even in those days I was a prodigious reader, so that decision does come across as a little incongruous even to me. The problem I had was the selection of texts that we had to study, which to me at the time were the dullest bunch of books ever written, and at the discretion (from a set selection) of the particular teacher. I was in the top set, and the class just below got Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm and My Family and Other Animals. All of these, I read in my spare time. But we were expected to study Jane Eyre, Vanity Fair, A Tale of Two Cities and the like. I would read them and not remember a thing about them five minutes later. The tipping point came with Silas Marner by George Eliot. Again I read half of it which didn’t register – this was the last straw and I went to the teacher and asked her if I could drop down a set. Her response was no, but I could drop down three sets and just take language only. I agreed to do this. I was now relegated to the company of those of lower expectations. But the teacher, Mr Hawley, was rare in that I responded to him, and the class, in my last year before sixth form, was just about the happiest I was ever in. Continue reading