About Me

"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Thursday, 17 October 2013

From Boo Hewerdine to Afro-funk via Damo Suzuki (who, unfortunately, I am not)

It  starts in a pub cellar in Clerkenwell, a Tuesday evening in October, 2013. We are at that charmingly-named pub, The Slaughtered Lamb, to see a band - or rather, two men with guitars - known as State of the Union.

Already four pints down we stumble into dimly lit basement performance zone where an earnest young  band with a curtain haired Kurt Cobain type of lead voclaist are crammed into one dimly lit corner and are playing that sort of neo-country folk-rock as though their lives depended on it (which I suppose in a way they do).

I realised I have sat down in a space recently vacated by a hippyish looking guy and am told I have just nicked the seat of one of the great steel slide guitarists of our times. Brooks Williams. Sitting next to him is Boo Hewerdine. Yes, this place is that intimate, that cosy - the main act and their friends are watching the support act  in a spirit of absolute decorum - they are quiet when they need to be and applaud enthuisastically.

The young band are good - but the two older guys put on a show of  such accomplished performance that you  are in danger of forgetting what went before. It is just two blokes and two guitars and two voices, and yet so solid a sound, the songs seeming to come out of some long-lost American songbook from the dust-bowl era.

Boo Hewerdine and Brooks Williams are both seasoned performers with fiercely loyal followers: together they're a great  big solid  chunk of Anglo-Americana, whatever that means - it's more American than English, and although Boo is a studious looking native of Cambridgeshire, he sounds like he was also born somewhere along Highway 61.

The songs are catchy, instant classics: the one that really gets me has as its refrain the phrase, 23 Skidoo.

It stuck in my head, and I was even thinking - yes, there was a band, maybe Boo was part of it? And so I resort to Google and learn all about the linguistic roots of the phrase (turn of 20th century New York cop slang, the  Flatiron intersection, blown-up-skirt stuff it is thought) - but also re-confirm that 23 Skidoo was indeed a band, but about as far from Boo's fiercely cheerful rootsy-folk as you could want.

As you all except me know 23 Skidoo was part of that  late 70s, early 1980s post-punk neo-funk Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop-ready alt-rock electro-anarcho-dub-pop goups along with the likes of The Pop Group and the On-U sounds lads. Not surprisingly their first ep emerged from the rancid musical sweatshops of one Genesis P Orage & Co.

How odd that I should be led to them 30 years late by an old folkie.

But how much odder that in seeking out this latest fault-line in my own musical education, I came across another. Looking for 23 Skidoo records in Berwick Street I took a quick look at a Fall disc , live in SF I think, and noticed it had a version of I Am Damo Suzuki.

And this, children, is what they used to call a cassette: The Fall's This Nation's Saving Grace
Best song on Fall's best album?
I Am Damo Suzuki, track 4 side 2
Why - again - had it taken me nearly 30 years to register this direct tribute to (or as some would have it, piss-take of) the Cologne band by Mark E Smith?  I must've heard the song 100 times, mainly  on this cassette: The lyrics are wonderful, the assault and battery delicious, even if the bassline is just a bit too doomy, too Bauhaus perhaps.

But above all, why do I  see these two revelations to be part of the same epiphany? Well it must just be a personal thing. But am exploring the great Damo Suzuki's website. It is sublime, of course.

I am taken off again in directions, the obvious Acid Mother's Temple thing, and on....old E M Forster just did not know what he was kicking off when he issued that command: "Only connect".

No comments:

Post a Comment