Club Contact

The new MP3 blog from London's club Contact. The idea is to allow people to hear new music they wouldn't have otherwise found but, if anyone has any copyright issues with a particular song, i'll take the link down. Songs are only available for a limited amount of time.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Something of a break with the norm now - i usually post things that are new and foreign, here are two songs that are old and (very) British.

Growing up in the Eighties and Nineties i was given an extremely narrow vision of what youth culture must have been like in the Sixties. You went for the Beatles and Stones or the hippy psych-rock of Woodstock, nothing else really registered. In a rare conversation with my mother about music i was told that the really cool kids didn't think much of either and preferred folk - not the folk-rock of Bob Dylan or The Byrds but the more traditional English stuff of Pentangle and Fairport Convention.

Joanna Newsome and Devendra Banhart's winsome pretend-to-be-a-six-year-old "alt-folk" may be all over the style magazines at the moment but the music of England's heritage is almost universally shunned today. It's regarded as fit only for red-nosed, scrumpy-drinking farmers in backwards outposts where electricity is still regarded by a significant minority as the work of the Devil. Norwich, for example. I must admit, i took this received wisdom at face value until i actually started to listen to it, inspired in part by Paul Giovanni's magnificent soundtrack to The Wicker Man. I was stunned, both at the fabulous quality of the music and the remarkable nature of the lyrics.

The Victorians really fucked up the British mentality regarding death and sexuality in a way we're still attempting to recover from. Prior to the new church moralism a dark pagan heart still beat and that sensibility was reflected in the music of the time. Barely a song goes by without someone being bashed over the head and left to drown in a river. It's a world of gay sailors, female highwaymen, murderous siblings, incest, war, plague, adultery, infanticide, and numerous reasons not to trust a soldier's invitation to meet him in a secluded place. In short, lots of fun.

As the none-more-mighty Pentangle proved, it was also a world where ugly people with bad hair could become superstars. The group was formed in 1967 by the two towering talents of the era, guitarists Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, and fronted by Jacqui McShee. They brilliantly combined traditional songs with their own compositions and contemporary elements. The amazing Light Flight is one of the latter - its layered vocals and almost metronomic guitar have always reminded me greatly of Stereolab.


Buy Pentangle Stuff

Pentangle - Light Flight




When people think of British folk, the name that usually comes first is Fairport Convention, a favourite of the late John Peel. Led by the wonderful Sandy Denny, the group's Liege And Lief album is regarded by many as the genre's finest. Tam Lin, is taken from it. It's an old Scottish tale of virgins, fairies and teenage pregnancy.





Buy Fairport Convention Stuff

Fairport Convention - Tam Lin

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