inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #201 of 254: Berliner (captward) Fri 3 Oct 03 11:44
    
Dang, I wasn't aware Schoenbaum was dead. He sounded like quite a wise
character, reading between the lines of your interviews in the book. 

Incidentally, although the "official" end of this conversation comes
today, we will, as in the past, continue it as long as y'all come
visiting and asking questions. And Richie, I certainly hope you'll
continue at least to tell us about upcoming book events -- I'm still
salivating over that list of videos. 

Don't mind me: keep talking!
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #202 of 254: Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Fri 3 Oct 03 11:48
    
In that same review
<http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/cd/review.asp?aid=19372> by John
Lombardi is a mention of folk-rock group "Elizabeth."

They reformed as "Good God" and I produced them for Atlantic; they
were, however, a "fusion" band by then.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #203 of 254: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Fri 3 Oct 03 11:53
    
Richie, your are encyclopedic in what you know.
Thanks for all your hardwork and bringing light to 
historic moments of musical brilliance.
The CD publishing thing really has made music available
many of us thought we would never hear again.
Work like your own enables reflections of a formative 
part of our lives in a wider context.

I quess this discussion is closing down soon, its
been a big kick, thanks for all the info, some really
knowledgable participants here, its more like what I 
think the well should be like.

BTW I spent 10 days with David A. Noebel once in the 70's under 
very peculiar circumstances. If anybody wants to hear the story,
email me, or think of an appropriate place on the well and I'll 
post the story.

Now I need to get over to Powells and buy those books.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #204 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 3 Oct 03 13:01
    
Elizabeth -- there's an obscure late-'60s band for you. Their Vanguard
album has actually been reissued as an import CD.

Like Ed says, I'll keep answering questions in this topic after today
if anyone sends them in. I don't have any other book events scheduled,
but if anyone has contacts among people who might be interested in
staging them (particularly in California), feel free to email them to
me.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #205 of 254: Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Fri 3 Oct 03 13:26
    
Another tidbit - two members of Edison Electric went on to bigger
acts:

Bassist Freebo was Bonnie Raitt's long-time sidekick (he's on that
Bonnie track at my site playing with Edison's T.J. Tindall) and
keyboardist Mark "Froggy" Jordan
moved to the Bay area and backed Van Morrison for a spell.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #206 of 254: John Ross (johnross) Fri 3 Oct 03 14:05
    
Can't let the discussion of Sweet Stavin Chain go by without noting that
Danny Starobin had what is possibly the definitive blues version of "Teddy
Bears' Picnic."

Another Boston-area musician who had an interesting career was Peter Wolf.
He was in the middle of the Club 47 scene, and was part of both the
Hallucinations and later the J. Geils Band. He's included in the history of
Cambridge folkies, "Baby Let Me Follow You Down." Was he known outside of
Boston before the success of the Geils Band?
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #207 of 254: ROBERT WORRILL writes... (tnf) Sat 4 Oct 03 08:33
    


From Robert Worrill:



Hi Richie and I guess, David,

    As David knows I grew up in Africa, in Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) during
the 50's, 60's and early 70's, and during that time had many interesting
times with my peer group who were school children moving to and from England.
 We all loved the Byrds and of course Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young as well
as all the others many of whom you have mentioned in your conference here and
before on  'Turn, Turn, Turn'.  I love reading about these times and
remembering the wonderful songs.

    Mostly, IMHO you have got it right but sadly, Donovan was considered to
be a Bob Dylan wanna-be lightweight who was making pop music rather than
serious songs.  Think of "Mellow Yellow' for example, a reference to the
rumours that you could get high smoking banana skins I believe.  I actually
liked his music but would not say because credibility would be at stake if
one liked Donovan.  Since then I have seen him interviewed quite recently and
found him to be not a 'Fool on the Hill' but a rather serious and smart
individual with a sharp wit and coherent point of view, however he was kind
of dismissive of his contribution to that period and I got the impression
that even then, at the time, he was manipulating the media for the benefits
it would bring i.e., money.  In the interview he gave me the feeling that he
knew fully what he was up to in writing songs that would fit into the times
and head-space in just the way they did, which is exactly how we perceived
him at the time.

    I am so pleased that you have written these books and hope for more.
Thanks for the happy hours you have given me on 'the Well' reliving my
younger days.  I remember the first time I heard 'Eight Miles High', it
absolutely floored me and spent ages walking around wondering what it all
meant with its surreal lyrics and images.  Since then I have seen Jim
interviewed and he explained that it is rather mundane, about flying to
London in an airplane, but anyway I still love how it makes me feel and have
just heard a wonderful version of the song by Crowded Hose and Jim on the
radio as I am typing to you.  The magic lives on.

Yours faithfully

Robert Worrill
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #208 of 254: I'm on the Chet Atkins Diet. Pass the BBQ, please. (rik) Sat 4 Oct 03 09:46
    
"Think of "Mellow Yellow' for example, a reference to the rumours that you
 could get high smoking banana skins I believe."

Actually, I believe the song generated the rumors.    I was crashing at the
Dirt Band's house in the Hollywood Hills in late 67, and the band had gone
up to SF to play the Avalon.   Their wives and girlfriends kept in touch by
phone.   We were out of pot, and they were swimming in it up there.   One
of the girls, taking a cue from the song, started experimenting with was to
smoke a banana. (talk about desperation)  She had dried out the stuff you
can scrape out of the inside of the skin, rolled some up, and we smoked the
stuff.  And convinced ourselves we were high.    When one of the guys
called down to chat, we wer all giggling and acting like fools, and let him
know what we were up to.   He carried the story back to the rest of the
band, and they spread it around the circle they were hanging with in SF.
Now I doubt if we were only ones that that had occurred to.   But God only
knows what Donovan was actually singing about.   It could even have been a
reference to the first Velvet Undergound album.  No way to know without
asking Donovan, himself.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #209 of 254: Berliner (captward) Sat 4 Oct 03 09:49
    
I always thought it was a reference to Lowell Levinger of the
Youngbloods, aka Banana. In fact, I seem to remember reading Donovan
saying something like that back then. Smoking bananas definitely came
after the song. As did the Jackson Illusion Pepper and other "legal
highs" that were mostly media hype. 
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #210 of 254: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Sat 4 Oct 03 10:47
    

Could he have been singing about Malawi gold, on 
Mellow Yellow?  
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #211 of 254: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Sat 4 Oct 03 11:38
    
("Quite right.")

Thanks so much to you, Richie, for giving us these great couple of weeks.
Everyone reading here has learned a lot -- I know I have, anyway. Thanks,
also, to Ed Ward for his contributions here, and to all of you who chimed in
to ask or add insights into this whole folk-rock thing.

Richie says he'll hang around, so by all means keep asking, speculating, and
the rest. I just wanted to be sure we said "thanks."

Thanks.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #212 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 4 Oct 03 11:39
    
Thanks for your comments, Robert. The international impact of
folk-rock or indeed English-sung rock of the '60s to audiences beyond
North America and Europe hasn't been explored much and is hard to
measure, so it's interesting to hear such perspectives.

I've gone over the fallacy of the Dylan-Donovan comparisons in my
books and on inkwell.vue so I won't belabor the point, except to note
that once these kinds of things seep into popular culture, it's hard to
erase them or at least put them up for a fair reassessment. One thing
that does puzzle me is: the Dylan-wanna-be-lightweight comparison is
pretty much totally grounded on the pre-"Sunshine Superman" music
Donovan made in 1965 (as well as the public Dylanesque image he
affected that year). One might have expected that if the sub-Dylan
dismissal stuck in the UK post-1965, Donovan's sales might have
suffered at least a little. But actually, Donovan did continue to sell
quite a few records in the UK, if not quite as many as he did in the
States. "Sunshine Superman," "Mellow Yellow," "There Is a Mountain,"
"Jennifer Juniper," and "Hurdy Gurdy Man" were all Top Ten British
hits, sometimes charting higher there than in the US. If the sub-Dylan
dismissal was bought into by a large part of the British public, it
didn't keep at least some of them from buying his records. Perhaps they
were too embarrassed to admit liking in Donovan in public, but not so
embarrassed that they weren't willing to go through the relatively
anonymous procedure of purchasing the discs.

To again elaborate on territory I've treaded here before, I'm also
puzzled by this pop vs. serious music or pop vs. real folk-rock debate
that comes up sometimes, more in Britain than in the US. Yes, Donovan
did pop, if we define "pop" as something that's popular. If that's the
case, so did Dylan, who also had big hit singles and albums. Because
something's "pop music" to my mind doesn't mean it's bad; it can be
great. And just because it was pop doesn't mean it wasn't folk-rock.
Donovan, and some others, proved you could be pop, folk-rock, and good
all at the same time, and the world was better for it.

I'm a little surprised that in the recent interview Robert saw,
Donovan was dismissive of his contribution to that period. When I
interviewed him (in 2001-02), he seemed quite proud of it and not at
all reluctant to talk about his place in the era. In fact, current-day
Donovan fans who see him concert nowadays have told me they're a little
disappointed that he sticks too heavily to his proven '60s hits,
underselling himself by not playing more material to prove there's more
dimension to his output.

If Donovan was manipulating the media in the 1960s, in part because it
would give him commercial benefits, he wasn't alone in that regard:
Dylan was a big media manipulator too, as were many other '60s
musicians. Also, he was hardly alone in writing songs with an eye as to
how they'd fit into the times; the Beatles did this, Buffalo
Springfield did this with "For What It's Worth," Neil Young did it with
"Ohio." Perhaps there were varying levels of sincerity in these cases,
but again, the larger point is that whether it was calculated or not,
the music was good.

I don't want to come off as too much the ultra Donovan-defender here;
he did some music that wasn't so good, and some of it was contrived.
Whether writing about folk-rock or other music, though, I try not to
accept party lines that have been perpetrated to stereotype performers
or genres, but bring out the shades of black and white that accompany
any career or historical movement. In Donovan's case, I think history's
underestimated him some.

Although "Eight Miles High" was not about (or at least mostly not
about) the drug trip that many assumed it was, for the Byrds it was
about something less mundane than a single airplane ride, although that
did figure into the lyrics. It was as a whole about their entire
experience on their first tour in England, which didn't go too well and
which made them feel rather disoriented and disconnected in general.
Part of the brilliance of "Eight Miles High," as is true of many
folk-rock songs, is that the relatively mundane inspiration was
translated into a lyric that can be interpreted and experienced on many
different, more exciting levels.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #213 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 4 Oct 03 11:48
    
I heard a rumor that Country Joe McDonald had spread a rumor, probably
as a prank, that you could get high smoking banana skins, and that the
rumor was picked up, supposedly in all innocence, by Donovan, who put
it in "Mellow Yellow." If the opportunity ever comes up in a future
book or article, I'll try to corroborate this. I have the feeling that
if this happened (which I doubt it did), it's been forgotten.

It might also seem doubtful that Donovan would have used something
picked up from Country Joe in late 1966 (when "Mellow Yellow" came
out), considering that Country Joe & the Fish had done just two EPs at
that point that were hard to find outside of California (and sometimes
very hard to find *in* California). Yet, *if* this somehow happened,
it's not beyond credibility that Donovan knew who Country Joe was
already. He'd already spent a good deal of time in California by late
1966, and was hip to some bands that had barely recorded, as
demonstrated by his reference to the Jefferson Airplane (who at that
point had just one single out) in mid-1966 on the "Sunshine Superman"
LP cut "The Fat Angel."
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #214 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 4 Oct 03 13:46
    
A couple lingering notes to add to some previous posts I've just
thought of:

Another regional folk-rock hit was Phil Ochs's "Outside of a Small
Circle of Friends," probably his most famous song, and possibly his
best. It got into the Top Ten in Seattle and got a lot of airplay in
L.A. But then it ran into airplay problems because of a lyrical
reference to marijuana, which could have well kept it from being a
national hit. A&M actually subsequently released two different edited
single versions, but to no avail.

If it had become a hit, things might have turned out differently not
only for Ochs's career, but maybe for his life. As much of a political
activist/idealist as he was, from reading his two biographies, there's
the impression that he wanted nothing more than commercial success.
"Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" was his best shot, it missed
partly due to censorship, and his lack of success was one thing which
threw him into a downward spiral in the 1970s, culminating in his
suicide.

Also we talked about David A. Noebel's book about the connection
between the International Communist Conspiracy and popular music, where
he postulated that the Communist influence had trickled from Sing Out
through Folkways through Verve through MGM. And Ed remembered  how
Broadside, a mimeographed magazine of social protest
music, was run by a couple of old Communists from Oklahoma, Sis
Cunningham and Gordon Friesen.

One could say that an indirect Communist influence filtered through
from them to the Folkways/Verve/MGM path because Janis Ian, who had a
hit on Verve with "Society's Child," was one of numerous young
singer/songwriters who'd been encouraged by Cunningham and Friesen. I
don't think they encouraged her to be a Communist, but they definitely
encouraged her artistically. Broadside was the first place where her
songs were printed (when she was twelve and a half, she told me). One
of those songs was "Society's Child," and in fact a previously
unreleased Broadside acoustic tape she made of the song for Broadside
is on the Smithsonian Folkways box set "The Best of Broadside
1962-1988." After the song was a hit and Ian gave a concert in Avery
Fisher Hall, as recounted in Cunningham and Friesen's joint
autobiography "Red Dust and Broadsides," she had a limousine take them
and her parents to the venue.

"Society's Child" of course wasn't a song promoting Communism, but it
was about an interracial romance, which was probably about as
objectionable to many in the right wing.

All this is not to say that there was any sort of Communist conspiracy
filtering into the upper levels of MGM Records -- there wasn't -- or
that the Communist/Socialist backgrounds of some of the mentors of the
first folk-rock singer-songwriters resulted in strong
Communist/Socialist leanings in the singer-songwriters themselves. But
there is in fact some connection leading back from folk-rock to Leftist
politics, in which many Socialists and Communists were involved.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #215 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 4 Oct 03 13:56
    
I just mentioned Sing Out, published by Irwin Silber, and I kid you
not, an email announcement just came through about a book signing for
his new book, "Press Box Red." It's about how Lester Rodney, the Sports
Editor of the Communist Daily Worker, launched the campaign to end
baseball?s notorious color line, apparently also including other
coverage on Rodney's work and the relationship between the Communist
Party press and sports of the mid-twentieth century in general. Silber
and Rodney will be doing a book signing Friday, Oct. 25, 7:30-9:30, in
San Francisco at Park Branch Library on 1833 Page (the same place I'm
doing my "Eight Miles High" event on October 8).
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #216 of 254: Jacques Delaguerre http://www.delaguerre.com/delaguerre/ (jax) Sat 4 Oct 03 22:52
    
It's easy to dis the CPUSA for the leadership's absolutism and
Stalin-worship, but the rank and file included many noble (and
musical) souls, many of whom joined because the CPUSA was the most
influential political party supporting civil rights for blacks. The
Weavers, Pete Seeger, Paul Robeson come to mind. Outside of music
Richard Wright comes to mind.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #217 of 254: Berliner (captward) Sun 5 Oct 03 02:54
    
But the Communists were always so doctrinaire that the art they made
was stiff and boring. Fortunately, few real CPUSA folks were involved
in the folk-rock or even the folk scene of the '60s, and I think most
of the decent folk like Seeger and the Weavers distanced themselves
from the Party because it had become so inflexible. 
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #218 of 254: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Sun 5 Oct 03 13:50
    
Many intelligent people became Communists, back then, they were
not likely getting the straight story on Stalin. On the otherhand
Life for many was hard, very hard, and many could not see how either
capitalism, or democracy had delivered or could ever deliver it's
promise.

We need to remember that Franco, De Gaulle, and other leaders of the
era were not exactly saints, Stalin we know, as more is unearthered,
was one of the worst.  

David A. Noebel's form of musical McCarthyism though was a sad thing
to watch. Talk about choosing the wrong battle.  As one who attended
Noebel's lectures I can say Richie has Noebel's hypothesis on the CP
legacy of folk down.  Noebel though had other lapses of judgment;
IMHO, with his psuedo psycho-acoustic theories, general fanaticism,
and unfortunate choice of associates.

Where I now live in the Czech Rep. I've met a few rock musicians who 
were interrogated by Party officials convinced rock was a 'Capitalist
plot'.  Some did time, some left the country. 'Folk' as well was
frowned on in many ways here in the Czech Rep., by the party,
especially as a lifestyle choice by a subculture known as the
'trampers'. The trampers were part-time mountainmen who would
disappear into the forest with their guitars to sing songs. Songs a
good part of which had their melodies directly borrowed from the
popular folk hits from the west.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #219 of 254: Berliner (captward) Mon 6 Oct 03 02:15
    
 Aha, Darrell! Have you ever been to the Czech Rock Museum? It's over
by the church where the Infant of Prague is, and is dedicated mostly to
pre-1990 Czech bands. I dare say Richie could even learn about distant
areas of folk-rock not in his book. I didn't have the Czech -- or, to
be honest, the patience -- to go through all of the exhibits in detail,
but I did spend some time listening to some of the music on the
horrible cheap headphones they have there. 
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #220 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 6 Oct 03 08:15
    
There was actually an LP compilation of 1965-68 Czech rock issued in
the 1990s by an Italian label, "Czechoslovakian Beat (65-68) Vol. 1."
There's no folk-rock of note on there, at least no folk-rock as we
might recognize it in the West. There are the same lo-fi fuzz guitar
riffs, cheesy organs, and endearingly clumsy approximations of British
Merseybeat, mod, and early psychedelia (mostly sung in Czech) that you
might find in groups from Holland, Spain, or Texas. There are
occasional minor-key folky melodies that sound as if they might be
drawing from Czech folk sources, but that influence isn't overwhelming.

I did a chapter on perhaps the most famous Czech rock band (again, at
least in the West), the Plastic People of the Universe, in "Unknown
Legends of Rock'n'Roll." They formed in the late 1960s and were active
over the next few decades, and are the most celebrated of the rock
bands persecuted under the old regime. Their music drew much more from
experimental influences akin to Zappa and the Velvet Underground than
it did from folk or folk-rock Central European or Western, though.

I'll check out the Czech Rock Museum if I ever get back to Prague.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #221 of 254: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Mon 6 Oct 03 12:11
    

<captward> I need to get over to the Czech Rock Museum sometime.
The directors of the Czech Rock music museum did a 10 part 
series on the subject, which we watched, a couple of years ago.

In Czechoslovakia "Folk-rock" was mostly an import, from what I can
gather here in the Czech rep.  CSNY Deja Vu was one of the few 
official LP releases from the west allowed one year. One
or 2 LPs from the west were legally available per annum.
The trampers had an odd identification with the west, 
which led to almost embarassing renditions of John Denver 
and Johnny Cash songs.  With a high degree of classical 
musical education in the schools, there were quite a 
few prog-rock spin-offs Plastic People included. Can,
Zappa, Pere Ubu later were big influences.

I don't want to sound wierd, but you know in many countries,
like the Czech Rep., Chile, Mexico, Greece... there are guys and 
girls with guitars that sing.  But their songs  rarely
have any compelling musical dynamic to resonate beyond a 
specific limited geographic sphere. Maria Bonet in Catalonia,
Malicorne in France is another exception, and Quebec had an intense
Folk-rock scene back in the late 70's and there are a few others no
doubt. For the most part though there is not the feeling of riding on
the edge of a wave like hit us when much of the music Richie is writing
about happened. The drive of synthesis does not seem to exist as
strongly where nationalism is better cultivated in the imaginations of
the populace.

[admitingly speculating somewhat.]

I wonder sometimes if the constant American groping for
identity pours more psychic intensity into the music somehow.
It's like if you are born in the Czechlands and you speak 
Czech and the founder of the country was named Czech, and 
you eat Czechoslovakian food, there is not the whirlpool 
of denied and forgoten history, the detachment from the land,
and the abigiuity of racial origins to justify as intensly
as Americans do their musical pursuits.  In the pioneer countries
starting with Iceland, then New Spain then New France and New England,
cultures had to be [re]created somehow.  England is an exception
where class creates a void of alienation (both percieved and real)
apparently as powerful as any transatlantic migration or diaspora.
Jamaica is a crowned jewel of human cultures facility to recreate
itself, musically, visually, philosophically...there is a spectrum
though to this facitliy which might be indexed against degrees of human
need, based in part in distance from a real or percieved home.

Sometimes it seems historically Gypsies & Jews were the only 
european peoples attemping to proactively stamp their validity
in both the soundscape and to reassure their fragile identities.
These were musics that stayed alive more full of the germ of 
constant adaptation.

Didn't Jung write a bit about how his theories might not apply to
Jews, Gypsies and Americans?

With more and more of the earths populations living in cosmpolitan
realms, I suppose we will hear more strong attempts to bridge the
wild cultural gaps, similar to the American experience.

As to the Czech musical scene as Capt. Ward may of seen, at
the museum, at first it was rock for the fun of it like any 
backwater. Sure one or 2 good groups came of it but it was
similar to somewhere in the middle of Indiana, but sung in 
language that could only speak to a small nation.

The music of the Czech post-60's resistence though seemed to be a mix
of Dadaism, Pataphysics, strong nods to the the avant-
garde of the former Austrian/Czech/Hungarian conglomerate
and Germany, Stockhausen and Zappa.  To revert to indigionous
Folk forms would of been too strong of a salute to the Pan-Slavonic
movement that was a subplot to the U.S.S.R.'s spread.

I have a hunch that folk-rock's strongest bastion outside of
the U.S. may have been Quebec, where a combination of constantly
challenged ancient idenitidies needed to be validated in new terms for
a post-industrial generation. Where also there were many fully informed
and respectful youth to both traditional and modern musics, and the
material culture to support it. It is though just a guess.

In Spain similar threads wove on the outside of Flamenco, but
Flamenco has (like Jazz) older mechanisms that push inovation forward,
while not allowing as strong a break, as the diversity we found
with Folk-Rock.  Flamenco is seen by many as adequate expression
as needed in its more or less pure forms. It's pure forms are very
liberally defined. This has changed in the last 10 years somewhat, as
increasing material wealth and a pushy recording industry has
encouraged more expermentation.

This West-Coast folk-rock thing was similar in someways 
[to these other 20th century guitar based non-english pop forms]
but something altogether different in others ways. A bit of the
universal dynamic of the cowboy movie mixed with voodoo,
pre-historic techno and factors only people like Richie have 
begun to help us gather a clue as to what. IMHO
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #222 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Mon 6 Oct 03 13:13
    
Thanks for these interesting speculations, Darrell. When you wrote
"England is an exception where class creates a void of alienation (both
percieved and real) apparently as powerful as any transatlantic
migration or diaspora," I think you meant that England's an exception
to the strong cultural identity that might limit the expansion of the
folk music of many other cultures, am I right? That England is similar
to North America in the intensity of its creation of a cultural
identity through music?

If so, I would agree with that. The British Invasion of rock bands in
the mid-1960s was in part, I think, a collective (probably unconscious)
effort by young musicians to find a cultural identity by immersing
themselves in American musical forms -- the rock'n'roll of the 1950s
and early 1960s, and rock'n'roll's roots in R&B, blues, and even some
country music. I believe this was in part spurred by conditions
specific to post-war Britain, where life was austere as the country
struggled to rebound, materially and spiritually, from World War II. In
the meantime Britain, the second most populous English-speaking
country in the world, was bombarded by media and popular culture from
the far more affluent United States, via not only rock'n'roll music but
also films and even comic books. This seemed far more exciting to
British teenagers than their relatively tame homegrown popular culture,
and a kind of popular culture to which to aspire. Then in trying to
recreate American music on their own shores, inevitably some other
influences, some peculiarly British, crept in, and by combining them
they were crucial to taking rock'n'roll to another level, via bands
like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Who, the
Animals, and the Kinks.

Though as we've discussed in this topic there were a lot of purist
elements in British folk and British folk-rock, the American influence
was extremely strong there as well, particularly in the blues influence
absorbed by major players like Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, and in
the Woody Guthrie/Jack Elliott influence of the American cowboy-drifter
type folk. (Elliott, incidentally, lived in the UK for quite a while
in the 1950s, influencing some musicians there first-hand, not just
through records, as did his friend and fellow traveler, American
expatriate Derroll Adams.) You also had the influence of beatnik
literature on artists like Robin Williamson and Donovan. And even
Fairport Convention, thought of as one of the most British of folk-rock
acts, got started covering work by contemporary American folk-rock
singer-songwriters, and found the inspiration to go back to their own
roots partly from a desire to be a British equivalent to the Band.

Ian Matthews split from the early lineup of Fairport, in fact, due in
part to his desire to continue to take more of an American sensibility.
As he told me, "The Americans carried the ball as far as I was
concerned, no contest. All the great songs from that era came from the
USA. The British scene was so very different, different attitude,
different social structure and very different things to say. To me the
American writing was so much more glamorous and worldly. I related to
it much stronger than anything Al Stewart or Bert Jansch had to say."

I think folk-rock, along with other factors, had an influence in
getting listeners more interested in what is now called "world music,"
whether because of a particular influence (Simon & Garfunkel getting
influenced by Bulgarian singing, for instance, which they were quite
public in acknowledging even in the 1960s) or because it sparked a
greater interest in general in the roots of popular music, and in the
aesthetic of cross-genre blending. When world music started to get much
more popular in the West in last two decades of the twentieth century,
there was a lot of hope and even expectation that this would result in
the kind of cross-cultural and cross-musical blending that might spawn
new forms as exciting and popular as the ones that emerged in the
first two decades of rock'n'roll.

In my opinion, this hasn't happened, due to a confluence of many
considerations that goes way beyond what I examined in my books. It's
not politically/critically correct to say this in some circles, but
much "worldbeat," to my ears, sounds much more homogenous than it
should, and often grafts on Western technology to water down indigenous
forms rather than expand them. And although world music and worldbeat
is far more known and popular than it was even 25 years ago, it seems
like English-language music has such a firm hold on the international
pop consciousness of the West (and some other regions) that it's hard
for world music to make a serious dent in commercial sales or popular
culture. There might yet be a mass alchemy of world folk forms
resulting in an explosion of creativity and sociocultural impact, and
I'd be interested to see it, but I'm not expecting it around the
corner.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #223 of 254: Berliner (captward) Tue 7 Oct 03 02:46
    
Actually, France is a good exception to that, Richie. They've done a
good job of integrating Western pop and foreign (particularly Algerian
and former French colonial African) musics, and some of the best of it
has charted fairly high. The groups tour constantly and get good
audiences. One I like in particular is a hip-hop group (whose success
may, ironically, have destroyed them), Bisso Na Bisso, whose stuff
relies heavily on the "style internationale" of the Congo, the
pre-soukous music which was the basis of much pan-African pop in the
'80s and '90s, stretching across the continent all the way to Kenya,
where Orchestre Super Mazemba took the style to anotehr level. Rai, the
Algerian pop, started out pretty mechanically, with singers grafting
their lyrics over pre-recorded backing, but that's gotten a lot more
creative in recent years, particularly (and unfortunately) because
fundamentalism has made things too hot for the artists in Algeria and
rai has become, unwittingly, a music of exile. 

World music hasn't happened in the U.S. for the painfully stupid
reason that no radio station will play a song with lyrics in a language
nobody understands. Audiences, once they come into being, don't seem
to mind, but gee, the radio guys know best, right? Yeah, right. 
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #224 of 254: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Tue 7 Oct 03 13:37
    
"<folkrock>...am I right? That England is similar to North America in
the intensity of its creation of a cultural identity through music?"

that's what i'm guessing, i'm facinated by the relation between U.K.
and U.S. musical culture, and particular to this discussion what
happened with folk-rock, (and if i can diverge a little country-rock).

<captward> though has illuminated that similar things are occuring
within the reaches of the other european linqua franca [French] and
the other former european colony [Africa], that may match the
inventiveness, experimentation, eclectiveness, beauty and 
wide demographic spread similar to Folk rock. As well this
seems to be a wellspring based on pre-industrial musics mixed
with post industrial musics, and emerging and/or challenged 
identities.

Folk-Rock though seems like one of those American genres though like
Motown that just could only happen in the U.S. when it did.  
Possible to emulate somewhat, but in order to get it right they 
had to really be there somehow. 

Then it again it could happen again and likely is happening again
elsewhere. I'm just trying to say that it did not happen as much
in Europe outside of England during the 60's-70's as one might
of guessed, and that there are likely reasons for it.

The way the U.K. echoes or (in some instances practically 
creates) these U.S. genres is uncanny, its as if they
embrace U.S. culture as their own culture somehow.

Maybe the relationship to France and Africa, or especially Paris
and Africa  share characteristics, to how the U.S. and England,
culturally interact.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #225 of 254: I'm on the Chet Atkins Diet. Pass the BBQ, please. (rik) Tue 7 Oct 03 14:19
    
The Irish had a similar period of pop-folk to folk-rock in the 70s-80s, and
the Scandinavians are having one right now.
  

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