Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tom Morton's Orcadian Dalliance, Tuesday 24 October, BBC Radio Orkney: The Vietnam War and its music

The Vietnam War was the first televised, image-mongering conflict, and visual portrayals of it possessed my TV-watching childhood and youth. Some remain imprinted not just on my memory, but on the watching world's: Eddie Adams' photograph of South Vietnamese police chief Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan killing a Viet Cong suspect; Nick Ut's astonishing, opinion-altering shot (and a BBC crew's film) of a napalm-burned child, Kim Phuc. many, many more.

It was a movie war, too: At least three classics - Apocalypse Now, The Deerhunter, Full Metal Jacket. And so Ken Burn's recent TV documentary series had a difficult job: to enliven and indeed remake those images in the minds of those who had seen them many times before. To find new ones. And to deal with the fact that it was also a war soundtracked by some of the best pop and rock music ever made, indeed, inspiring much of it.

It was the music that for me joined up the straight conflict reportage with the wider history of what was an incredibly turbulent time in world politics. Ken Burns used some of the best-known and lesser-remembered tracks of the time (with added original music from Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor) to weld together a masterful series which combined intensely moving interviews with participants from all sides with music, moving and still pictures. Brilliantly.

How powerful were these songs? How bleak and terrifying are the Stones on Gimme Shelter? How ragingly appalled John Fogerty on Fortunate Son? And contrast today's wearily cynical anthem from The Killers, The Man. It's a good song, smart; but it has no real anger, no social power.

Where are those songs that can change everything? Mean everything? And help us remember everything?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beatcroft Social 13 October 2017. A mere snippet of Susan Bowie's 60th Birthday bash playlist!

Only an hour long this week, as I'm running about organising food, drink and shenanigans for Susan's bash tonight. But if you have Spotify, enjoy four hours and 40 minutes of dance-party-soul-pop-rock and extend your listening!

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Beatcroft Social 7 October 2017 - Thomas Earl Petty special

Even the Losers
Get lucky sometimes...

Thomas Earl Petty. I think it was the fact he was such an evident fan, that the music he loved was so obviously in the music he made, yet forged into something very much his own. Roger McGuinn of The Byrds is alleged to have heard American Girl and puzzled over the notion that he couldn't remember writing and recording the song.

But the merging of that Rickenbacker 12-string jangle with the raunch of the Stones, the harmonies of the Beatles, the mordant lyrical wit of Dylan, classic US garage rock and southern soul, brought us this astonishingly powerful 40-year career. And let's not forget - it was Britain where he broke through first. There was an initial aversion in the US to his spindly, too-pretty androgyny. It was only later that he was adopted as 'heartland' and there was always a distance, a suspicion.

Tough guy, too, taking on the music industry to the extent of declaring himself bankrupt to regain control of his material and his life. On the side of the victims and the poor. And for a fan, to join the Travelling Willburys, to back Dylan on the road, to sing with a Beatle...

Those songs. From the soaring emotional power of The Waiting and the desperate obduracy of Refugee to the whimsical cynicism of Into The Great Wide Open ("under the sky so blue...a rebel without a clue") and his LA masterpiece, Free Falling, he had a mystery and a vision that seemed effortless, but was the product of determination and sheer hard work. Yet he made Springsteen seem bludgeoning and occasionally lumbering.

Floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee.

I could go on and on. Instead, watch Peter Bogdanovich's superb 4-hour documentary Runnin' Down A Dream, the best rock biopic ever. It's on Netflix. Listen to the music.

Listen to your heart.