Easter, a time for retreat, reflection and revelation.
So, I have journeyed to the ancient flatlands of the East where the winds hit heavy off the coast.
By passed and forgotten lands filled with ghosts.
The ghosts of Boudicca and the Iceni.
The ghosts of Hereward the Wake and his Fen warriors.
Seried ranks of airmen from Wichita and Warsaw and Winnipeg and Waterford and Wellington and Worcester who flew one mission too many and who now sleep under endless East Anglian skies.
I stirred a few ghosts of my own when I revisited my old Cambridge College.
Looking up at the window of my old room I was teleported back 40 years or more to walk imaginatively beside the curious (in all senses of the word) youth who seemed to have spent a whole year reading Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Summa Theologica’.
614 Questions. 3125 Articles.
Everything that could be said and explained, Explained.
Man and God and Law.
And yet, the great Thomas himself overwhelmed by a mystic insight before his death came to regard his life’s work as nothing more than Straw in comparison to the reality he was attempting to explain.
Some things you know but can’t explain.
Some things you feel in your bones.
Sometimes your heart beats fit to bust out of your chest.
Sometimes the hormones surge.
The blood sings.
If only your heart would give up its secret.
If only you could say the words you are dying to say.
You’ve got a feeling inside you can’t explain
You feel hot and cold.
You’re feeling good.
Down in your soul.
Dizzy in the head.
Ah, but, you can’t explain.
You can’t explain.
Do you think it’s love?
Do you think it’s love?
Try to say it (go on you do)
Try to say it.
I think it’s love.
I can’t explain.
I think it’s love.
I can’t explain.
They had been The High Numbers.
Now and forever they were The Who.
With this record they announced themselves as a great group.
One to stand shoulder to shoulder with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks.
A group bursting with talent and drive and character.
An unstoppable Force.
A group with a distinctive sound and ethos.
Style and Attitude.
Attitude with a capital A.
The energy of the streets and estates.
The experimental approach of the Art School.
A sound emerging like a train from the dark tunnel of post war British History.
Specifically drawing energy from a City, London, throwing off the grey dust of the bomb sites and austerity.
London about to dazzle in thrilling colour after decades of monochrome.
The youth of London ravenous for the New, The Modern.
Purple Hearts. French Blues. Black Bombers.
The Suit. The Scooter. The Sound.
The correct number of buttons.
The barnet cut – just so.
Ravenous for clothes and music that was New.
Fashion and Sound that was Theirs!
Youthful beneficiaries of the 1944 Butler Education Act and the end of Conscription into the Armed Forces.
A generation not exhausted by a depression followed by a world war.
A generation not carrying the guilt of having survived when so many others had not.
A generation released into unlimited ambition.
A youth quake of disruptive, undeferential, talent and energy.
Ray Davies, Richard Hamilton, Mary Quant, Albert Finley, Pauline Boty, Terence Stamp, David Bailey, Julie Christie, Mick Jagger, Bridget Riley, Tom Courtney.
Pete Townshend : A Face among Faces.
Electric, overflowing with intelligence and energy.
Creative and destructive.
Make that guitar scream and ring like an alarm!
Smash that guitar to smithereens!
Write ringing, screaming, songs that tumble out trying to explain all that can’t be explained.
Be honest about how confused life is when you are young and the blood is singing and the hormones are raging.
Record and perform the songs with a natural front man singer.
With a bass player who holds together all the manic energy surrounding him.
With a drummer who plays the drums as the lead instrument and whose energy levels are always in the red, ’about to explode’ zone.
Absorb, contain and volcanically release all this energy through your guitar.
My Uncle Joe was, in the hierarchy of his own mind, first a Kerryman, next a Gaelic Football fanatic, then an Irishman and finally a Farmer.
He was at once; very strong and gentle, full of strong opinions and quietly spoken.
He was not much given to offering advice – least of all to his bookish, non stop talking, citified nephew over from London for the Summer Holidays.
So, on the very rare ocassions when he did offer advice I listened closely.
As we were companionably going to The Creamery one August morning, our conversation proceeding at the steady pace of the donkey pulling the cart we rode, I told Joe I wanted a new pair of shoes, nay Beatle Boots!, for my 9th Birthday.
Joe was not a devotee of the four lads from Liverpool but it turned out to my surprise that he was very interested in the subject of Boots and the necessity, nay the duty, to purchase the very best Boots you could afford (and maybe those that were more expensive than you could truly afford) as a ‘Proper pair of Boots was an investment, an Investment, that would repay you many times over as the years passed by’.
He went further, ‘If you’re not going to wear a proper pair of Boots you might as well go barefoot. Barefoot!’
Accepting his argument a fine strong pair of countryman’s Boots we’re wrapped up before the week was out and once opened I barely took them off for the next year.
Joe died tragically young when he was not yet fifty.
I think of him every time I buy a new pair of Boots ; mentally composing a letter :
’Joe, I spent the money I got for my college scholarship on a pair of Tricker’s Boots – a pure investment!’
’Joe, you’ll never believe it! I found a pair of Redwing Boots (the ones from Minnesota) in a charity shop for £15!’
‘Joe, there’s twenty guys in this office and I’m the only one who had invested in a decent pair of Boots – sure they might as well be barefoot!’
‘Joe, if I get that pay rise I’m going to invest in a pair of New and Lingwood Chukka Boots (actually I’ve bought them already – bound to get that rise!)
Of course, in the right circumstances, being barefoot is just the thing.
If you ask people to supply an image of being carefree I’ll guarantee you a healthy percentage will paint a picture of walking barefoot along a sun kissed sandy beach.
Sure works for me.
I’m also reminded of a lovely (though possibly apocryphal) about two Irish athletes lining up at the start of the 1960 Rome Olympics Marathon.
Looking around at the assembled greats of the long distance running world they were startled to see a rail thin African runner who seemingly had neglected to bring his running shoes with him.
They agreed that whoever else they had to worry about they would surely have no trouble in outpacing this competitor!
As it turned out the mystery runner was none other than Abebe Bikele from Ethiopia who would run barefoot every step of the 26 miles through the glorious rubble of Rome before cruising to the Gold Medal!
Sometimes barefoot is just the thing.
Come on … Everybody get on your feet … you make me nervous when you in your seat … take off your shoes!
Barefootin’ … Barefootin’ …. Barefootin’
Doin’ a dance that cant be beat!
No word of a lie – can’t be beat, can’t be beat!
Robert Parker from 1966 with yet another classic from New Orleans which became a huge R&B and Pop Chart Hit.
Brilliantly arranged by the great Wardell Quezergue, ‘Barefootin” showcases the superb rhythmic sense of Crescent City musicians.
Robert’s vocal is graced by ambrosial guitar and a horn section that demands you dance and keep dancing as long as your feet hold out!
Robert Parker was already a veteran of the New Orleans music scene in 1966 when his name briefly hit the headlines.
Growing up with Huey Smith and Sugar Boy Crawford he haunted the Caldonia Inn to watch the legendary Professor Longhair strut his stuff,
By 1949 Robert was playing with The Shuffling Hungarians (got to get that T Shirt!) and recording Mardi Gras in New Orleans with the great man.
He moved on to lead his own band at The Tijuana where he backed up Bobby Marchan, Guitar Slim and Little Richard.
Taking his band, The Royals, on the road he laid down the groove for R&B stars like Roy Brown, Big Joe Turner and Solomon Burke – what I wouldn’t give to time travel back to those days to catch them burning the house down in a club in Florida or Texas!
Robert’s recording highlights before ‘Barefootin;’ include appearing in 1959 on the wonderful, ‘Don’t You Know Yockomo’ with Huey Smith and on Irma Thomas’ characteristically smouldering, ‘Don’t Mess with My Man’.
The same year he also made his solo record debut with, ‘All Night Long’.
All this time Robert was primarily a Sax Man and Bandleader who could handle a vocal when required.
Though Robert was well known around New Orleans and on the southern touring circuit I doubt anyone was expecting him to write and record an R&B classic that would sell a million copies and have a continuing afterlife in cover versions both in America and the UK.
Strange things happening everyday!
One day Robert fetched up at Tuskegee University in Alabama and he noted that as he began to play the college girls all took off their shoes in front of the bandstand.
This incident was filed away and when about to start a show in Miami he heard the Comic/MC announce – everybody get on your feet; you make me nervous when you’re in your seat’ the creative tumblers turned and clicked and Voila! a song was born.
Now when Robert took the song to Wardell at NOLA Records it was swiftly recorded … but.. but .. the other powers at NOLA didn’t hear a Hit so it languished in the tape vaults for a year until sharp earned local DJ Hank Sample heard it and persuaded NOLA to issue some copies to his Record Store.
They promptly sold like hot cakes and Robert had a great big fat Hit on his hands!
The crowd at New York’s Apollo Theatre went wild when Robert kicked off his shoes and kickstarted the band into, Barefootin’’.
Robert never had another Smash but he remained a much loved figure in The Crescent City and he was properly inducted into the Lousiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
Regular readers will know that I would take some persuading that any other city can truly rival New Orleans for the accolade of being dubbed the premier Music City.
However, one of the few cities that might be considered a genuine rival is Nashville.
And, from there comes the next version of, ‘Barefootin’’ featured today courtesy of some of the finest players ever to record there – Barefoot Jerry.
Key members Wayne Moss and Charlie McCoy had been part of an A Team that gathered around Bob Dylan when he brought his kaleidoscopic imagination to Nashville in yet another of his artistic rebirths.
Take off your Shoes!
We got ourselves a Hootenany and a Hoedown!
Next we move downriver to Memphis which cedes to no City in musical eminence.
So many great singers, songwriters, musicians and producers!
And, right at the very top of that tree undoubtedly one Willie Mitchell who is one of the all time great exponents of finding the secret alchemy for making classic records.
Find a great band of musicians and find the songs and the arrangements and groove!
It worked countless times with Al Green and Ann Peebles in particular.
Less well known are the addictive sides Willie made under his own name.
Once the band locks into the groove here even Zombies would be getting Barefoot with some despatch!
Take off your shoes and throw them away!
I was born far, far away from the fabled Music CIties above yet it turns out that London, the home of some of the most knowledgeable and fanatical music devotes on the entire globe, was just the place to imbibe the sounds of all those great American conurbations.
Whatever kind of music you groove to someone in London knows all about it in exhaustive detail.
Growing up in London, one Pete Townhend fed the creative muse that would make him one of the most gifted and celebrated songwriters of his age through deep immersion in the traditions of R&B, Rock ‘n’ Roll and Soul Music.
And, that love of the drive of those 40s and 50s sounds fed into the astounding attack of his records and live shows.
Wonderful to see him celebrating his musical heritage in the joyous performance below.
Surely Pete has been Barefootin’ ever since he was Two!
Anyone sitting in their seat as this one plays must have a serious back problem!
Doesn’t he cut a mean rug!
I like to Mambo.
I like to Samba.
Never go too long without Twisting the Night Away.
Always ready for The Locomotion.
I’m partial to a Polka and never weary of The Waltz.