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Monday, May 09, 2011

Skiffle- the music of change


I have a theory about how and why music styles change. Each decade since the end of WW2 has seen incredible advances in musical playing technique and performance- followed by a "back to basics" revolution. Music runs in ten year cycles. The Forties ran from 1945 until 1955, the Fifties, from 1955 to 1965, the seventies from 1975 to 1985, etc. And each decade ended with the overthrow of the old and the establishment of a new and exciting music style.
Let me elaborate. The Forties was the era of the big band. 18 piece bands packed with star soloists playing out of their skin. Who wouldn't like that? Well, the youth for a start. What's the point of listening to music that is so technical it goes over everyone's head? By the mid fifties the big bands of the day were bigger than ever, louder than ever, more technical than ever, and yet..

Within a year or two they'd been swept away. What started the revolution?
Skiffle.

It started out as a novelty interlude in a jazz band's concert. The rhythm section would play a few songs to minimum accompaniment. People liked it. It was easy to get into, and more importantly, easy to play. Anyone could buy a guitar and form a skiffle band.

I remember hearing the sound of do it yourself music everywhere in the little town in the far west of Cornwall where I grew up back in the mid fifties. The skiffle craze reached every corner of this country. Most bands were awful, but a few skiffle groups spawned a host of stars. The Quarrymen in Liverpool became the Beatles. Two young lads from Newcastle came to London to enter a skiffle contest and never went back. Their names? Hank Marvin and Bruce welch of the Shadows.

A simple, easy to play music form gave young wannabees a chance to learn their trade and make music that would change the world.

By the mid sixties the beat boom had run its course. Skiffle had evolved into rock n roll, which had then evolved into beat music.

Psychedelic drugs and big amplifiers heralded the Sixties- a decade of afro haircuts and long guitar solos. Cream, Hendrix and the Who morphed into Emerson Lake and Palmer and Yes, and suddenly the music had become overblown and technical. It was time for a musical revolution. It was time for punk.

More later, but for now a couple of videos to show the difference. First up is a recording from 1971 of Buddy Rich's band playing "Straight no chaser" which could have come from the 1950s


And a clip from 1957 featuring a very young Jimmy Page.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Positive feedback


We played a couple of shows this week. The first was on Thursday at Raunds Cricket Club where we took part in an open mike night to celebrate the start of the Raunds Music Festival. It was hosted by our good friends Stevie Jones and Mark Gill and also featured an appearance by Moulton Morris Men. I loved watching them perform, especially as they played the "Princess Royal" my favourite Morris Dance tune (which I first heard back in the 1970s when I bought a copy of "Morris On" an album by Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchins, Dave Mattacks et al. It's hard to find these days, but I recommend you search it out.)
We were able to secure an early slot and we played a set that was well received but which I felt hadn't come up to the standard we'd set ourselves. There were too many little mistakes and scruffy endings.
Luckily enough, we had a standing invitation to play a set at the Dukes Arms in nearby Woodford, so we loaded up and drove over. They were pleased to see us and put us on to close the night.
This time we didn't make a mistake. It was spot on. We played exactly the same set only without the niggly mistakes. We came off stage feeling like we'd done a good job, and the reaction of those who stayed on afterwards to chat bore that out.
We're doing this for the love of the music (but with an eye on paid work as soon as we have enough material)and the positive feedback and encouragement from your fellow musicians is very welcome.
This Sunday we head off to pastures new when we play a pub in Northampton. I wonder what they'll make of us?

Monday, May 02, 2011

May Day


We played another showcase today at a local pub in Kettering. These shows serve more than one purpose. Firstly we're providing live entertainment for a good sized crowd that turned up with their families. They had bouncy castles and face painting out in the garden, and live entertainment inside.
The second reason we asked to play is that we're looking for bookings and this gives the landlady a chance to check us out. She liked what we heard so we're hoping to pick up some bookings in 2012.
Lastly, a live show is worth ten rehearsals.

Here's a clip from today's show.


And another


We have over an hour of good-time music now. Only another hour to sort out!