In the month that a new London The Who gig is announced, it is worth remembering where they came from. Or at least played. Here are The High Numbers, apparently playing in The Railway Hotel, Harrow, London, 1964 – 41 years ago!
Hands up if you’ve seen Freaks and Geeks? Came across it by chance on Amazon Love Film. A series produced by Judd Apatow starring James Franco and Seth Rogan, who have been in the news for other reasons lately. A charming account of high school life in the 1980s in the overlapping spaces between the Freaks, into Zeppelin, hanging out, soft drugs and just about getting through at school, and the Geeks, into sic-fi, maths and anxiety. It also features the Jocks and Cheerleaders. Many Family of Rock rebels will identify with both the Geeks and the Freaks, though perhaps less so with the Jocks. I refrain from comment about the Cheerleaders.
But the main interest was that it made me listen to Grateful Dead’s album American Beauty perhaps for the first time, but certainly for the first time for decades, which features strongly in one episode. Very calming, which is its role in the plot, after all. And the Dead are there in the trees, of course, which is a perfect excuse for this post.
Following on from the success of the brilliant Rock Family Trees exhibition at the Barbican last summer, the discerning folks at the Music Library (thank you Michael Southwell!) have decided to put on another, on an even bigger scale. Not only that but they have twisted Pete’s arm (not his drawing arm, thankfully) to come and talk about the Trees and the characters in them, his experiences as editor of Zigzag, and as Pete himself puts it, generally ramble on about his bizarre life in the music business.
An Audience with Pete Frame – a rare event indeed – takes place on July 2nd, at 7.00pm. Tickets, from the Barbican Music Library, at the amazing bargain price of £6. You’ll kick yourself if you miss it. Email [firstname.lastname@example.org] or telephone [020 7638 0672] to reserve your place.
The exhibition – a summer spectacular – runs from July 3rd to August 30th. No ticket necessary.
The Barbican music library is paying Pete the honour of an exhibition of his work. In fact a double honour: two exhibitions. The first one runs from August 8 to September 28th. Don’t miss it. It will be over before you know it and then you’ll kick yourself. Details here.
Gallery Different, at 14 Percy Street, London W1T IDR, in the centre of the West End, is celebrating the Olympics with an exhibition of art related to London music. And what better than Rock Family Trees? Downstairs in the exhibition you’ll find some of the signed framed limited edition prints, so you can see what they look like in real life. And if they appeal, you can order one from the gallery, to be signed by Pete who will add a personal message if that’s what floats your boat.
The exhibition, has a wealth of really exciting art, including the shocking work of Keith Haynes, former art director on Rock Family Trees TV programme. Shocking not because of the subject matter but he makes his art out of real records made of real vinyl, as in the example above. We are assured that he chooses only unplayable scrap vinyl, but still it is a challenging concept. Go and take a close look for yourself. The exhibition runs to the end of August.
OK, so you should be in with the spirit of things now. If not, click here for a spot of revision.
So, where to next? How about Rolling Fork and Vicksburg, 45 miles apart, mostly on Route 61, skirting the Delta National Forest. And here we find two giants of the blues, Muddy Waters, born in 1915, and then Willie Dixon born the same year. But then it gets a bit murky. Robert Gordon, in his biography of Muddy Waters, called I Can’t Be Satisfied, says the correct birth date is 1913, at Jug’s Corner, Issaquena County, a few miles away. That’s the blues for you.
Here is Pete’s take:
We’ve discussed Willie Dixon before in detail, so here we’ll focus on Muddy Waters. Pete generously credits a book called Deep Blues by Robert Palmer (no, not ‘Addicted to Love’ Robert Palmer, but the superb music critic). Published in 1981, and now in its 39th impression, it is a must-read for anyone who has got this far in this post. The Library of Congress recordings that Pete mentions are available as The Complete Plantation Recordings, and include a few interviews as well as the first Muddy Waters recordings. Here is one of the first two numbers he cut: I Be’s Troubled.
Think you recognise it? This is the version you probably know better:
One of our favourite Rock Family Trees is not so much a tree but a visual and historical map: Mississippi, Cradle of the Blues. A remarkable account of the blues artists originating in the state of Mississippi. Here are the four short columns at the start the tree, top left:
In the coming weeks we will bring you some of the highlights of the tree. Here is one to start with, the blues artists associated with the town of Clarksdale:
We all know this born-in-Clarksdale bluesman:
But what about Brother John Sellers?
And this beautiful number from Maxwell Street Willie Davis?
All enquiries and orders to :
And of course, if you need a copy of More Rock Family Trees you know what to do:
With the temperature beginning to stir it is about time to end this blogging hibernation. And what better way than to trace some wonderful classics as they appear in Trees through the ages. Lets start with that gritty classic, Midnight Special. I’m always a sucker for a song where a new line starts just when you think the singer should be taking a breath, and this is one of the best.
Leadbelly got there early on:
And Odetta sings it how it should be:
So, who in the Trees has done justice to the song?
Not, in my humble opinion, the otherwise fab Spencer Davis Group:
And here is a short take from Journey, who happen to get a whole Tree just to themselves:
Then there’s Ken Colyer’s skiffle version with Alexis Korner:
Luckily we have Van Morrison, to bring it all back home. There’s hope after all:
And if you haven’t had enough yet, here’s Van, with Lonnie and Chris Barber, in a skiffle revival version of 2007.
Not so long ago we drew your attention to the new Creation Records film, Upside Down. Well, you can see it on BBC4 tonight at 9.00 pm and if you like it, stay tuned for Creation at the BBC, archive footage of Creation bands, and if that isn’t enough, a documentary of Alan McGee (proud owner, by the way, of number 1 in the limited edition of the Creation Records fine art print. Which, of course, appears in Pete’s new Even More Rock Family Trees).