The Blues Muse – Belfast – Stiff Little Fingers – Rebellion

The Blues Muse – Belfast – Stiff Little Fingers – Rebellion

The Blues Muse works his way through Punk in Ireland with rebellion and the troubles.

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Belfast

If ever Punk had been invented for a reason then Ireland was surely it. The ‘Troubles’ had been rumbling on since the turn of the century, had their roots back with Cromwell and even before with William of Orange and then way back to 1609 with the imposition of Protestant Scots into Ireland. In the seventies it had reached the height with bombings, knee-cappings, killings and an insurmountable war waged between the IRA, who wanted a united Ireland under Irish rule, and the British government who wanted British rule for Ulster and the protestant North. As an outsider I looked at it with amazement. It seemed incredible to me that Ireland was suffering such sectarian violence when the people were always so nice and friendly. But then I wasn’t Irish.

I walked through Belfast and it was scary with its barbed wire, bricked off roads, brutal grey despair only brightened by political slogans and defiant gaudy murals celebrating victories, hunger strikes and militia. It looked and felt like a war-zone.

But this was the environment that the kids had grown up in. Segregated, threatened, strip-searched, frisked and with the constant threat of violence and death from all sides.

It was fertile soil for a Punk Band and Ireland had a rich musical history. The wonder is that only two bands really emerged. While the Undertones were good and produced that brilliant ‘Teenage Kicks’ which was one of John Peel’s favourites, they never really dealt with the politics. They left that up to the other of Peelies favourites – Stiff Little Fingers.

I could only imagine the bravery of those young lads as they bellowed their fury at both sides and hit out at the stupid violence, repression and threats that they were subjected to. They made no distinction. Nobody has put it better.

It took guts to stand up to the IRA and tell them they had a suspect device, to harangue the British Army for their disrespect and disdain and to ignore the very real threats and warnings. They literally took their life in their hands for their music and held out for a vision of a better future.

Where the Sex Pistols talked of ‘No Future’ they sang about an ‘Alternative Ulster’. Instead of joining in with the politics of separation and hatred they sang about ‘Barbed Wire Love’ and hit out at racism in ‘White Noise’. This was my kind of music. It hit the heart, head and glands. It had substance, balls and quality. Punk didn’t come much better.

I watched them play in Belfast. They had ignored threats from the IRA, talk of a bust by the Brits and carried on through a bomb threat. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. They were young kids but they played their hearts out and Jake’s voice was hoarse and in ribbons by the end, the young kids in the hall packed it out and threw themselves around with gusto. Stiff Little Fingers were putting all their frustrations and anger into words and power chords. Nobody did it better.

This was what Rock music had always been about – rebellion!

Featured Image -- 15200

If you would like to purchase The Blues Muse, or any of my other books please follow the links:

In the UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1479943367&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943367&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin

In the US:

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https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin-ebook/dp/B01HDQEMQ6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943567&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin+blues+muse

https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943578&sr=1-2&keywords=opher+goodwin+blues+muse

For all other countries please check out your local Amazon outlet.

Featured Book – The Blues Muse – Chapter 2 – Crystal Springs

I spent a bit of time going around Mississippi checking out the places where the old Blues guys performed. They’d do their street busking, sing at taverns or jukes and perform at barbeques. In order to attract a crowd they deployed all the tricks of showmen.

My character started off at Tutwiler station but works his way up from the early acoustic blues through Chicago electric Blues and into Rock ‘n’ Roll. He caught Country ‘n’ Western on the way.

The trick was to get him to cover all of the major events, get across to England, back out to the West and East Coast, the 70s scene, through Punk and on. I had to play around with the times a teeny bit.

Crystal Springs

 

Crystal Springs was a typical little Mississippi Town. There were a lot of these towns around the Delta. They were the centres for trade with general stores and places where those with spending money could get a drink, play some cards or find a woman, where the white bosses could meet for business or buy equipment, and where horses, livestock and equipment could get serviced. They were all a bustle. I moseyed into the centre. There was a small square where people sometimes gathered. It was shady which offered some relief from the heat and so it was popular with buskers like me. We’d set up on the street corner and play our hearts out for nickels. I tended to ramble round. It didn’t pay to stay in one place too long. You’d attract attention from the sheriff and he was likely to give you a bed for the night and put you to work for a month or two to pay it off. They didn’t like itinerant ramblers any too much. Besides you had a novelty value and that soon wore off. No – I stayed a day or two and left. Sometimes they’d let me play in one of the taverns and sometimes one of the plantations would take me on. If there was heavy work to be done they liked a musician out there in the fields leading the chant. It raised spirits, put in energy and paid off in productivity. I could do that but it was long and hot all day under that sun. There was nothing easy about that. I avoided it if I could. Besides, there were plenty of guys who had no option. They were blind or crippled and could not work those fields. If they could not play they didn’t eat. I was young and fit; I hated to take food out of their mouths. I was happy to ramble, play the jukes and busk for a living. It suited me just fine.

Crystal Springs was good. I was hopeful that I could add to my few coins that I had gleaned. If I was lucky I would eat well and if I was even luckier I might just attract the eye of one of the pretty things who cast an eye in my direction and then I could end up in a comfy bed for the night.

As soon as I got there I realised I was plum out of luck. The two best places were taken and both had attracted sizeable crowds around them. I left my guitar alone and settled back to watch and learn.

I was new to this trade and had a lot to learn. If I was not going to starve I needed every tip I could possibly get.

The Main Street was dusty. Every time a horse or wagon came through it would kick up quite a cloud. It added to the general discomfort and streamed in with the sweat running down your face. We were used to it.

On Main Street there were boarded walkways for when it rained. When it rained in Mississippi it was like the heavens had simply tipped a lake over on top of you. It came down in such a stream that it was a mystery as to how anyone managed to breathe. The dusty turned to mud that sucked you in, the street became a river and the wagons bogged down in the quagmire. If it wasn’t for those covered boards nobody would get around. All the women in their long dresses would be stranded rats.

On the boards in front of the hitching rail I recognised Tommy Johnson. He was one of my favourites so no wonder that he was pulling everyone in. Tommy knew how to entertain a crowd. He was like a magnet. He’d gather them round and magic the coins out of their pockets. I listened as played the intricate patterns on that guitar and watched his fingers closely. Man, he was good! He was singing some song about canned heat. I could relate to that. Many’s the time I’ve had to doss down in the alleys where the down and outs live. I’d clear the sterno tins away so I could stretch out. Those guys were mean mothers. I had to cuddle my guitar to me all night. They’d steal the shirt off your back to get another tin. They never seemed to sleep. All night long they’d be heating those tins up and getting high on that juice. It rotted their minds and made holes out of their eyes but they were past caring. Tommy sure could sing about reality in that high-pitched falsetto voice of his. Not that this was the only thing about his act that the crowd found entertaining, no sir. There was nothing he could not do with a guitar. He was a crowd pleaser. He would work the crowd by playing that thing behind his head; he’d throw it spinning into the sky and seemingly catch it with hardly a stutter in the playing. It drove the women wild and they’d shriek and squeal with delight and grip their cheeks with eyes wide, while the guys shook their heads in admiration. He’d finish off with a handstand on his guitar while still strumming. It sent shivers through me. I knew I was out of my league. I bet Tommy was never short of a drink or a bed for the night. I had no chance.

But as if that wasn’t bad enough on the other side of the square there was another of the legends of the area – Charley Patton. With his wavy hair and pale, red tinged skin he stood out. He was half Indian but it wasn’t just his looks that were striking. He too was a wizard with the guitar and Tommy’s equal at working a crowd. Whatever Tommy could do in the way of tricks he would do better. Charlie had that crowd shrieking. I watched as he played that old box behind his back and then walked it down the boardwalk playing it between his legs. His deep, rich voice was a contrast to Tommy’s high pitched tones and the crowds were lapping it up. A few years before Tommy had idolised Charley and learnt a lot. Now the pupil was giving the master a run for his money; though I could see that both of them were doing alright.

It was time for me to shut up shop and hit the road. I was not going to get much joy around here while these two were in town. They’d monopolise the jukes and drinking holes. I wouldn’t get a look in.

With a smile on my lips I watched them for another half hour. They were mesmerising. From where I was sitting the high voice and low growl blended into a perfect sound as their strong voices carried across the square and the guitars blended together. I couldn’t keep my eyes still as they darted from one to the other drinking it in. I was in heaven but there was no way I was going to compete with that. All I could hope was that I didn’t find Blind Lemon in the next place. That would cook my goose.

If you would like to purchase a copy in either paperback or digital please follow the links below.

 

In the UK:

 

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In the USA:

 

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Featured Book – The Blues Muse – Chapter 1

The book is made up of a large number of short chapters each of which is focussed on a major scene in the History of Rock. It sets my character in the middle of it and paints the whole scene.

The earliest record of a description of Blues was made by W.C Handy, a black band leader, who wrote about an itinerant singer who he saw while waiting for a train at Tutwiler station. The man sang a repeating refrain while playing the guitar with a penknife. That unknown singer became my main character. He moves through the whole spectrum of Rock Music.

I sat on that station and soaked it up.

Tutwiler Mississippi

 

It was desultory at the railway station at Tutwiler. The Mississippi August sun was unrelenting and the air thick with moisture. No matter how used I became to the sultry heat, it was draining. The sweat beaded on my skin and refused to evaporate into the over-laden air. My overalls were already sodden and my shirt, with all its many holes, was clinging to my body. My red bandana, tied loosely round my neck, soaked up some of the moisture and stopped the sweat running down my back. It was still early morning and sure to get worse before noon. I was grateful not to be labouring in those fields. My guitar was my passport to an easier life. I wanted free of those plantations and that gruelling work but there were only two ways out that I knew and I had no urge to go into the church.

I set myself down on the bench by the brick wall in the shade of a big trees festooned with Spanish moss. It afforded me some shade and a good view over the station. This was a good spot. When there were enough people gathered I would put on my show. I knew that I would be able to have two shots at it because when the train finally arrived I had a second ready-made audience.

My attention was drawn to the only other person on the station; a gentleman was sitting on the other bench nearer the track. He looked to be around thirty years of age but obviously quite affluent. It too was shaded from the sun but I could see that he was greatly troubled by the heat from the way that he kept mopping his brow with his handkerchief. His over-heated condition was not at all assisted by his attire. He wore a starched shirt and tie with a three-piece suit. Although he had discarded his hat, which rested on the seat beside him, he had kept his long dark frock jacket on despite how uncomfortable that must have been. He was desperate to create an impression. He was here on business.

It did not take much working out that although this man was black-skinned, like me, he was none-the-less a man of some importance and a musician to boot. I could see that from the trumpet case he had laid beside his valise. That was highly unusual for the year of 1903. Most dark-skinned men and women were bought and sold. This one was, from all appearances, a free man. He might be a potential mark. It was worth a try. A man had to make a living.

I took up my guitar, took my knife out of my pocket, and began to practice my repertoire. I watched the man. I could see from his suitcase that he was called W C Handy. He looked like he was a young man of means. I plucked the guitar and as soon as my knife connected with the strings I could see from the way his body stilled that I had his attention.

I worked up slowly; setting up the rhythm and making those strings give up their shrill urgency as I applied the blade of my knife, before coming in with the vocal. Some said that it was a voice that was deep and emotive beyond my years. I liked that and strained for every anguished emotion I could summon up from the depths of my short but experienced life. I gave him everything I could. I poured the pain of that heat, the despair of those long days of hoeing, picking and weeding down those endless furrows under that blazing sun, the dust, the scant pleasures and the life in those shacks. The whole of life was in those plaintive songs; not just my life but the life of my people. But I also made sure that I captured the joy and spirit too. Those songs were all my own with their three chord progression, verse and repeated refrain. I had distilled them out of my African roots.

I could see I had his full concentration. He turned towards me and watched intently to see what I was doing, how I had constructed the song, the way I repeated the refrain. I could see he had a trained eye and was taking it all in.

This was my music. I had pulled it up out off the memories of my heritage, from the songs my family had passed on to me and from the white man’s music that I’d heard coming from the mansion in the evening. The local master encouraged us to play western instruments. He would often take in a group of us into the house to entertain his guests. We had learnt his melodies.

I blended them into something of my own that sang of my world and experience.

A few more people drifted in to the station and stood around while I played. I put on my full act and by the time the train arrived I had accumulated some copper in my hat. The smart business man was the last to board. He came over to me, dropped silver in my hat, smiled and nodded his approval. He did not say a word but I could see that he had appreciated my performance from the way he had studied it so intently.

I turned my attention to the people descending from the train. It was time to do it over again.

If you would like to purchase a copy in either paperback or digital please follow the links below.

 

In the UK:

 

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In the USA:

 

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Featured Book – The Blues Muse – The Introduction

Introduction

 

This is a novel. This is the often told story of Blues and Rock Music but like it has never been told. My character is the man with no name, the muse, the witness, who has been there through it all. We see it through his eyes. My character is fictional but he’s as real as the day is long. I’ve taken liberties with some of the events, and a few of the timings, but the spirit is as real the day is long. It’s more real than it was when it happened.

This is Blues and Rock. I have taken the main characters, the important scenes and stepping stones and brought them to life by painting the picture around them, filling in the background, embellishing the stories. What we have is not real, not history, not just dry facts. This is more an impressionist painting than a photograph. But often you can get more reality from an impression that a stark record.

Each scene is a vignette that is self-contained. The timing is by necessity approximate. While my man is a spirit he cannot physically be in two places at once. All I ask is that you suspend your credibility and give full rein to your imagination. If you do that I will take you there and show you what was really going down. There was a social context, an establishment response, a rebellion and new youth culture that accompanied that rhythm. It meant a lot to the people who lived through it. I was one of them. It gave us hope. It gave us a new way of looking, raised our awareness and gave us sight of a different future. Through the excitement there was a fraternity that crossed race, national boundaries and creed.

That music was new and it was ours.

Music is elemental. It was created right back in the dawn of time; it is in the DNA of man. When that first percussion created that initial beat, that first voice found its range, something was released that has never died.

Africa was our home and where that beat was first invented. Maybe as a backdrop to aid substance to a religious ceremony? Maybe as a unifying force to raise the courage for war? But maybe, I like to think, as a celebration, to dance to, lose yourself in and become as free as the wind.

That beat is centred in our body and our mind, built on our heart-beat, generating emotion and excitement, liberating and elevating.

Who knows when the first instruments were invented, the first harmonies, choruses? Certainly a long time ago. Music is in our blood and has permeated our lives.

Back in the early twentieth century it was revitalised and reinvented. The black slaves in America reached back to their roots, pulled out that rhythm and created the Blues, Gospel, Jazz and Soul. They married it to the white country jigs, reels and barn-dance, to the Cajun and Creole, to electricity and came up with Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The winds of the Blues blew straight out of Africa, straight from our ancestors, to talk to us through our genes. They stir our spirits, our passions and raise up our minds. The young recognise its power and are moved by it.

The world has felt its power and the establishment has been shaken by the hurricanes it releases.

It was first mentioned by W C Handy in his memoirs. He claims he was sitting on the station in Tutwiler Mississippi, where a black man was playing the blues using a penknife to create the sound on the guitar strings and singing a plaintive refrain. He said it was the weirdest sound he had ever heard but it stirred his imagination and caused him to change from playing Sousa to performing and popularising the blues.

Tutwiler is where our story starts.

The wind from the Blues is a spirit that blows through us, in us and out from us into the world. It is transformational.

This is the story of that spirit. It’s a spirit that lives in all of us. This is the story of Blues and Rock told through the eyes of that spirit, that essence. It is there in all of us and was there throughout, witnessing, inspiring and creating energy, change and emotion. It has the power to move mountains and bring down nations.

This is the muse of the Blues, the story of Rock.

It hasn’t stopped blowing yet!

 

Opher 1.10.2015

If you would like to purchase a copy in either paperback or digital please follow the links below.

 

In the UK:

 

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In the USA:

 

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Thank you for your purchase and please leave a review.

 

Featured Book – The Blues Muse – The Cover

I made the cover of the book out of a photo I took of Arthur Brown at a gig in Hull.

Arthur Brown is an amazing performer with a really tight band. His voice is still as good as it ever was and he is such a showman – never a show to disappoint. He is not merely the God of Hellfire – there’s more strings to that bow.

It seemed a nice colourful photo for the cover. Arthur exudes that kind of energy that the book is all about. It tracks the whole history of Rock Music through a character who was there and part of it all. I don’t think there’s been a novel like it.

If you would like to purchase a copy in either paperback or digital please follow the links below.

 

In the UK:

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1532104422&sr=8-4&keywords=The+Blues+Muse

 

In the USA:

 

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Thank you for your purchase and please leave a review.

 

Featured Book – the Blues Muse – Cover Notes

I wrote this book two years ago. It is actually a novel that spans the whole history of Rock Music. You get to hang out with all the stars, live it and smell it. My man with no name was there!

I don’t think there has ever been a book quite like this – certainly not in the realm of Rock Music.

These are the cover notes:

I was in conversation with a good friend who, like me, is a Rock Music fanatic. We have both been everywhere, seen everyone and have had our lives hugely affected by music. However it is not who you have seen but what you failed to catch that you dwell on. I said to him that it would be brilliant if we had a time machine and were able to go back and see all the major events in Rock history; Robert Johnson play in the tavern in Greenwood, Elmore James in Chicago, Elvis Presley in the small theatres, The Beatles in Hamburg, Stones in Richmond, Doors in the Whiskey, Roy Harper at St Pancras Town Hall…………….. and a thousand more. Then I realised that I could. I knew it all, had seen much of it first hand, and had the imagination to fill in the gaps. All I needed was a character who worked his way through it, was witness to it, part of it and lived it; someone to tell the story and paint the picture. I invented my ‘man with no name’ and made a novel out of the History of Rock Music. This is that novel. It starts in Tutwiler Mississippi in 1903 and finishes in Kingston upon Hull in 1980. On this journey you will breathe the air, taste the sweat and join all the major performers as they create the music that rocked the world and changed history.

If you would like to purchase a copy in either paperback or digital please follow the links below.

 

In the UK:

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1532104422&sr=8-4&keywords=The+Blues+Muse

 

In the USA:

 

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The Blues Muse – Belfast – Stiff Little Fingers – Rebellion

The Blues Muse works his way through Punk in Ireland with rebellion and the troubles.

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Belfast

If ever Punk had been invented for a reason then Ireland was surely it. The ‘Troubles’ had been rumbling on since the turn of the century, had their roots back with Cromwell and even before with William of Orange and then way back to 1609 with the imposition of Protestant Scots into Ireland. In the seventies it had reached the height with bombings, knee-cappings, killings and an insurmountable war waged between the IRA, who wanted a united Ireland under Irish rule, and the British government who wanted British rule for Ulster and the protestant North. As an outsider I looked at it with amazement. It seemed incredible to me that Ireland was suffering such sectarian violence when the people were always so nice and friendly. But then I wasn’t Irish.

I walked through Belfast and it was scary with its barbed wire, bricked off roads, brutal grey despair only brightened by political slogans and defiant gaudy murals celebrating victories, hunger strikes and militia. It looked and felt like a war-zone.

But this was the environment that the kids had grown up in. Segregated, threatened, strip-searched, frisked and with the constant threat of violence and death from all sides.

It was fertile soil for a Punk Band and Ireland had a rich musical history. The wonder is that only two bands really emerged. While the Undertones were good and produced that brilliant ‘Teenage Kicks’ which was one of John Peel’s favourites, they never really dealt with the politics. They left that up to the other of Peelies favourites – Stiff Little Fingers.

I could only imagine the bravery of those young lads as they bellowed their fury at both sides and hit out at the stupid violence, repression and threats that they were subjected to. They made no distinction. Nobody has put it better.

It took guts to stand up to the IRA and tell them they had a suspect device, to harangue the British Army for their disrespect and disdain and to ignore the very real threats and warnings. They literally took their life in their hands for their music and held out for a vision of a better future.

Where the Sex Pistols talked of ‘No Future’ they sang about an ‘Alternative Ulster’. Instead of joining in with the politics of separation and hatred they sang about ‘Barbed Wire Love’ and hit out at racism in ‘White Noise’. This was my kind of music. It hit the heart, head and glands. It had substance, balls and quality. Punk didn’t come much better.

I watched them play in Belfast. They had ignored threats from the IRA, talk of a bust by the Brits and carried on through a bomb threat. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. They were young kids but they played their hearts out and Jake’s voice was hoarse and in ribbons by the end, the young kids in the hall packed it out and threw themselves around with gusto. Stiff Little Fingers were putting all their frustrations and anger into words and power chords. Nobody did it better.

This was what Rock music had always been about – rebellion!

Featured Image -- 15200

If you would like to purchase The Blues Muse, or any of my other books please follow the links:

In the UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1479943367&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943367&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin

In the US:

https://www.amazon.com/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1479943510&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin-ebook/dp/B01HDQEMQ6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943567&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin+blues+muse

https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943578&sr=1-2&keywords=opher+goodwin+blues+muse

For all other countries please check out your local Amazon outlet.

The Blues Muse – The cover and title.

 

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The cover for the Blues Muse was a photo I recently took of Arthur Brown when he played Hull. I thought there was something forlorn in the expression that juxtaposed against the bright psychedelic colouring. It resonated with me as it seemed to capture some of the elements of Rock Music and the emotion that is in it.

I struggled with the title for the book. The title Blues Muse does not conjure up the feeling of Rock Music. Although it started with the Blues it progressed into many other forms and this did not capture it. Although I tried many different titles I kept going back to this one. In the end I decided that it was the one I should go with.

If you would like to purchase The Blues Muse, or any of my other books please follow the links:

In the UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1479943367&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943367&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin

In the US:

https://www.amazon.com/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1479943510&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin-ebook/dp/B01HDQEMQ6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943567&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin+blues+muse

https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943578&sr=1-2&keywords=opher+goodwin+blues+muse

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The Blues Muse – West London – If it ain’t Stiff

In the wake of Punk the Independent labels flourished. This was a break from corporate control. It was as if the music was unleashed. There was a flurry of creativity and energy. The Stiff Label led the way.

West London

When Jake Riviera told me that he was setting up business with Dave Robinson and did I want to come in on it I was interested. I knew Dave Robinson had previously worked with Jimmy Hendrix. In my book anybody who worked with Jimi had to be OK. Not only that but Jake had been manager of Dr Feelgood and instrumental in the whole of that seventies Pub Rock scene and Wilko Johnson was one of my favourite characters. He was an original. I’d seen Chuck Berry do his machine gun stance but Wilco had taken that a stage further and his robotic, head jerking, staccato movements, complete with bulging eyes and open mouth belied an amazing guitar ability.

I soon found out I’d be working with Nick Lowe as a producer. Things just got better and better.

I asked Jake just what he was intending to do. He told me that he was the garbage collector. They were looking to get all the rejects that nobody else wanted and give them the production they required and turn them into stars. They were going to call the label STIFF because they were dealing with the dead, they were the undertakers to the business.

On the face of it this did not appear to be much of a business plan. Most of the rejects were that way because they had no commercial potential or expertise. But then I had faith in Jake. If anyone could pick out talent it was him. Besides the rules had changed. This was a different ballgame. Punk had blown the old game out of the water and whenever there’s a sea-change the big corporations were slow to adapt. I had a feeling that this was Decca letting the Beatles slip through their fingers all over again.

Perhaps Stiff was just the place to be. I was in.

That is how I got to meet Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Wreckless Eric and a host of others.

I connived to go out on the Live Stiffs tour with Ian, Elvis and Wreckless. It was a package tour in the nature of the old Rock ‘n’ Roll packages. It might have lost money, I don’t know, but the publicity and mayhem more than made up for that. When you’ve got a busload of characters you’re going to get a riot. Every night they rotated the headlining act but all came together for a finale of Ian’s Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll. That about summed it up.

I’d stand at the side and watch the mixture of genius, hilarity and pandemonium take shape. It made me feel proud to be associated with an independent label. If the corporations had got their mits on Elvis and Ian they would have sanitised them into oblivion. Fortunately they’d kicked them out. Talent like that deserved the best and they got it. I’ve always rated those guys as among the greatest. The music they unleashed had all the power and fury of Punk coupled with intelligence and originality – just how music should be.

Working for Stiff was always different. They did things that no big label ever would like the release of the 12” entitled ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan’ which was blank on both sides.

I’ve still got my ‘If it ain’t Stiff it ain’t worth a Fuck’ badge.

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If you would like to purchase The Blues Muse, or any of my other books please follow the links:

In the UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1479943367&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943367&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin

In the US:

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https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin-ebook/dp/B01HDQEMQ6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943567&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin+blues+muse

https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943578&sr=1-2&keywords=opher+goodwin+blues+muse

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The Blues Muse – Nellcote – The South of France.

This is a patchwork of a novel that meanders through space and time to tell the story of Rock Music and put it in context with the world around it. It breathes excitement.

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Nellcote – South of France

That was when Mick contacted me. They were splitting. Things were not at all good. I listened as he rambled on. He seemed very down and disturbed. They were still reeling from the Altamont fallout. The press had pointed the finger at the Stones, accusing them of being decadent, arrogant and stupid; as if they were to blame for Meredith’s death and the end of the sixties counterculture dream. It hurt. Marianne Faithful had nearly died from an overdose and, although they were estranged, it had affected Mick a lot. Then there was the constant harrying by the establishment in Britain and the obnoxious sniping British press. It looked like they were targets. The Redlands bust was still at the front of his mind. He thought it was brewing again. They were out to nail the Stones. It was a matter of time. On top of that they had managed to break away from Allen Klein and his empire of devious deals but it had cost them and there were still ongoing disputes about the rights to their music. It was going to rumble on. The upshot was that they had no money, they were sick of the hassle; they thought everyone was against them so it was the Stones against the world and – FUCK YOU. They were going.

Keith had a big old mansion that he’d rented in Nellcote, outside Ville Franche in the South of France. They were going to be tax exiles for a year or two. It should solve the financial problems. They’d be free of tax and they were going to record an album there. It was a huge mansion – idyllic and ideal for this project

Did I want to come along and help set it up?

I didn’t need asking twice.

I arrived at the Villa Nellcote and stood in wonder of it – a big rambling place sat like a palace, all windows, patios, trailing plants and beauty. It looked like the ideal place to me.

Outside, the mobile recording studio was already parked up.

Inside it was like I’d walked in on a party. Music was blaring out at full volume, scantily clad girls, wandered around, there was cocaine in a bowl on the table, joints doing the rounds and a big bottle of brandy. Keith was sitting on the balcony with an acoustic, guitar and cigarette in his mouth playing to himself and totally focussed. Though how he could hear anything over the noise was beyond me. Charlie had a big tumbler in his hand and seemed content to be knocking it back. Anita Pallenberg was sitting in an armchair looking totally spaced out.

Nobody seemed to pay the slightest attention to me. It was open house. People walked in and out. Anything went.

I found Mick with Jimmy Miller in the basement. It was hot, dank and claustrophobic down there but that was where they had decided to set up and record. It was cavernous but divided into lots of sparse, dingy rooms, some with swastikas daubed on them from when the Nazis had occupied the house during the war.

Mick Jagger was trying to supervise. Bill was morosely setting up his bass in one of the rooms. There was a drum kit in another and wires, microphones and guitars all over the place. The coordination looked to be a nightmare. I could see why he’d wanted me on board.

I set to work helping organise and set up.

Downstairs in that basement was like a different world. It was overpowering, stark, sweaty and basic. Upstairs it was light airy and one continuous party that went on without pause month after month.

It all centred round Keith. Much as Mick tried to instil some organisation it was Keith whose free and easy approach set the tone. He was impervious to Mick’s cajoling. He and Anita Pallenberg would spend days in a heroin haze. Then he got some songs together, absorbed himself in producing a riff or two and we were away. Charlie Watts put the bottle aside, Bill Wyman, who seemed to spend a lot of the time bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t get his Bird’s custard, Branston pickle or piccalilli, and that his PG Tips did not produce drinkable tea because of the bloody French milk, took up his bass. Mick Taylor drifted in from wherever he’d secreted himself, and they were away.

The continuity wasn’t helped by what was going on all around. It may have been Rock ‘n’ Roll heaven but it wasn’t exactly conducive to recording an album. After a few weeks Mick decided to marry Bianca in nearby St Tropez and bring the entourage back for a honeymoon in the mansion, Gram Parsons turned up with Gretchen and hangers on and immediately resumed as heroin buddies with Keith. I could see Mick boiling with frustration and the tensions mounting.

Dubious Mafiosi from Marseille would wander in with deliveries of heroin, cocaine and hash to keep the supplies topped up. Various musicians, friends and free-loaders would wander through. The party rumbled on. At one point seven guitars walked out – probably as a result of an unpaid drug bill to the Marseille underworld.

In the midst of this chaos the recording proceeded in fits and starts. It was free and easy, ragged and raw, lowdown and dirty. Somehow it was bearing fruit and sounding brilliant. I’d not heard them play so raunchy in a while. Mick Taylor certainly added some creative rawness and brought the best out of the others. His excellence made them respond.

It had to come to an end and it did. There was only so much that the authorities could turn a blind eye to. Ville Franche resonated to the roar of their non-stop Rock, night and day.

Eventually the bohemian dream was brought crashing to an abrupt end and they were busted.

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If you would like to purchase The Blues Muse, or any of my other books please follow the links:

In the UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1479943367&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943367&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin

In the US:

https://www.amazon.com/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1479943510&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943578&sr=1-2&keywords=opher+goodwin+blues+muse

For all other countries please check out your local Amazon outlet.