It’s got to end sometime, life that is. As mentioned in my last post, last year saw a fine crop of deaths which got me thinking. There are people I’ll miss a bit and others I won’tmiss at all. But there are a few who will leave a huge void when they shuffle off to that great gig in the sky.
Who are they? Obviously, it’s a personal thing but I’veidentified a handful that for me will leave the musical world a far emptier place. It’s not about being a great artist (although that would help), it’s about losing people who have been part of my life in some special way. It’s not surprising then that they are all British because although I love the music of Dylan or Young or Mitchell they are rather in the same bag as Beethoven, brilliant but distant.
Some of my favourites have already gone, Lennon of course but also Joe Strummer and perhaps Keith Moon and Charlie Watts, the world went on turning but it was just that bit emptier.
So, here are my five people who I will miss more than a little
Marvin was something of a child genius. He’s actually younger than John Lennon but by the time The Beatles hit their stride Marvin and other members of the The Shadows were appearing in panto. That’s the reason why he’s a legend, he conjured British rock and roll guitar out of almost nothing. Marvin had the first Fender Stratocaster in Britain. Quite how he learned to play it in such a distinctive style remains a mystery, there were no lessons and precious little in the way of records to learn from. He was certainly driven, movingfrom Newcastle to London and establishing a reputation as a guitar player while still a teenager. His band the Shadows were the prototype for many groups that followed (lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and drums) and although they were capable of vocals established themselves with guitar instrumentals after backing the English Elvis Cliff Richard.
Marvin conjured his guitar tone out of nowhere, the average teenager could knock this up in their bedroom with a couple of free apps on their iPhone but Marvin had to somehow pluck this out of the either and as a result recordings such as ‘Wonderful Land’ still sound both dated and futuristic.
British rock and roll wasn’t really worth a whole lot, mostly it was Jazz musicians slumming it but despite the cheesy grin and the soppy dance steps Marvin was the genuine article and only about 17 years old.
He survived Panto, in the 60’s and 70’s he was even in a kind of Crosby Stills and Nash type band but the Shadows kept making comebacks of sorts and he also indulged his interest in Django Reinhart type playing. No one expected groups in the 50’s to have any extended relevance but the shadows did it first and let’s not forget it.
For years Marvin has lived in Perth Australia, the first Stratocaster in England which was bought by Cliff Richard is now in the hands of fellow Shadow Bruce Welch, I don’t think he’s expecting Marvin to Collect it in the near future.
The epitome of Glam Rock Slade was hard working 60’s survivors who somehow got lucky aided by Chas Chandlers Management and due in no small part to the song writingabilities of Jimmy Lea and Noddy Holder. I couldn’t be too enthusiastic about the band at the time because the Slade fans at school tended to be the toughest kids even in a Grammar School in Norwich. Like the Faces Slade were the right band at the right time. They had a handful of peerless singles better than Sweet or Garry Glitter (booo!) or even Mud. Like most of Britain I lost interest when they band decided to crack the States and when they came back, they were struggling to make up for the absence and when I got to see them live on my 21st Birthday I couldn’t summon much interest to my perpetual shame and regret.
Noddy always had a career plan and handed his notice into thew band some years before leaving. He’s sustained a minor career since as an actor, broadcaster and all-round celebrity although I’ve not seen much of him in recent years. Holder is one of those people who everyone seems to like and for those of us of a certain age he is the face of Christmas.
Another of my teenage crushes, Wood was a key member of a favourite band of mine the Faces. Since then, he’s always been around, with the Stones obviously but also cropping up with almost any who would have him on stage or on record.The amazing thing about the man is he still loves music, he’s a far better guitarist than his track record might suggest and that just might be because he’s rather play with other people, even if it means playing bass or pedal steel, rather than step out front on his own.
Wood is a survivor of the time when people got together in the same room to play music rather than send files to each other across the internet. In the 70’s his home the Wick was the epicentre of ‘hanging out’ taking drugs and making music. It’s another world and one that could only be sustained by young men in the 70’s. Amazingly Wood has survived and like his mate Keith Richards appears indestructible
But we all know that can’t be the case.
Bragg is about the same age as me so let’s hope he’s not ready to depart in the near future. The reason he’s so important to me is partly the fact that he’s been around and active for most of my adult life, starting from post punk to the present day. Throughout that time, he’s continually remained active in both music and ‘politics’ The latter marks him out as unique but even in the mid-80s when the socialist workers party was trying to claim him as their own Bragg shied away from easy answers. Its fairly rare for anyone from the left to avoid the twin traps of easy rhetoric and intellectual naval gazing. The danger of this is that you get attacked by both sides, he was recently swamped by anti vaxers on a recent Facebook post, there are still people around who want to call him to task for failing to support various lefties in 1979 while at the same time getting flack around controls around coronavirus.
It’s a thankless task but Bragg is usually willing to engage in debate (until things get really silly). Luckily there’s a lot more to him than being a ‘lefty’. He’s a great songwriter especially when he’s covering human relationships ‘Worker’s Playtime’ being a high-water mark to his creativity. The voice remains a problem for some but they probably have the same issue with Dylan (and are therefore idiots). He’s also a writer, and a good one at that, as well as being a broadcaster and general activist.
Ultimately Bragg carved out a career in popular music very different to the traditional on (see Ron Wood) there’s been little in the way of drugs/divorce/hotel wrecking which were mainstays of the rockstar’s CV in the early 70’s. Bragg continues to work as a cottage industry and hopefully long may this be sustained.
A no brainer with this really. There’s the Beatles connection certainly but Wings were just an enormous band in the 70’s who seem better now than they did then. I’ll own up to never having the urge to play Paul McCartney solo album post 90’s but there’s only so many hours in a day. If McCartney has a problem its that he is so accomplished that he can’t recognise what songs are genius and what are crud but his genius is simply his amazing creativity, music just flows out of the man.
Being an ex-Beatle is bound to play some tricks on the mind but for someone who has been insanely famous for almost all his life McCartney still seems to remain pretty level headed. In the 70’s it seemed cool to sneer at him for having his wife in the band, writing songs for his kids and going vegetarian, now it just seems rather sweet. The only time he really seemed to lose it was his marriage to Heather Mills but that’s all in the past now and McCartney is firmly established as a national icon a kind of musical David Attenborough.
And he’s still going, critics have noted that the voice is going but, fuck it, the human voice will go eventually, that didn’t stop Johnny Cash’s late flowering and hopefully it won’t stop McCartney. He’s still playing bass and piano just as well as ever and, significantly, he moves like a far younger man on stage.
Just imagine a world without Paul McCartney, its too awful to comprehend.
That’s my 5 musical icons who I would be very sorry to lose.
Do you have anyone famous who you dread passing on, or perhaps they’ve already gone?
If you’ve been affected by any of the contents in this post just leave a comment below