Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Songs Of The Old Days
Recently I've been updating, or more properly retro-dating, my music collection, replacing some of the crackly old vinyl of my teens and early-twenties with nice shiny CDs. The last time I played some of them was back in Uni days, on a tiny, held-together-with-Blutac Dansette record-player with one built-in speaker that had all the sound quality of a battered tin can.
So listening to them again on hiss-free and remastered CD is like catching them for the first time. There are nuances and melodic themes I'd never picked up on before, simply because back then I'd only ever hear them in mono, rather than stereo. For instance, there's that really fantastic background bit in "Fugue for Tin Horns" from Guys and Dolls where – You mean, you never noticed? Oh, you mean, you don't particularly care? Ah, right then.
Now, long before dancefloor music and the Pet Shop Boys and my dear Kraut-poppets Rosenstolz, before Ella and all my other sophisticated ladies, before my Mahler and Ferrier and Phillip Glass, and even before the showtunes and dotty old Dory (and who remembers her now?), I was, as some of you already know, musically at least, a bit of a folkie.
So much of last year was spent slowly rediscovering my old scratchy Joan Baez LPs (or albums as we're supposed to call them these days), and in particular her early sixties stuff, back before she became a bit of a right-on bore, and when she was into traditional songs, civil rights and disobedience, and Bob Dylan, although possibly not in that order.
It's a breath-taking re-acquaintance with a voice that even at eighteen is as clear as crystal and as sharp as a silver dagger, projecting such power and confidence that the songs of love lost and betrayed send tingles down the spine. Just a girl barely old enough to be out alone on stage with only an acoustic guitar, and a cut-glass soprano about as achingly pure and perfect as achingly pure and perfect can ever get.
Now, excuse me, my dears, but there's a nut roast and some lentils waiting for me down the neighbourhood commune, and then we're all marching off in our beads and Jesus-sandals to the anti-war demo for a few rousing rounds of "Kumbaya".