Black and White Days
The Sound of Soho
This CD has been produced for a workshop.
The songs here use various lyrical and instrumental ideas first explored in the folk blues scene of the late 1960s.
My intention has been to try to help those interested in the approaches of the guitar stylists and songwriters of that time by simplifying them in some songs of my own.
As ever, listen to the past masters, find your own approach and enjoy it!
‘Silver strings and a Turkish ring,
Thumb out on the roadside,
Sleeping bag and West Coast Rag
Can get you on the inside
Of all those all night sessions
With all the six string stars
And all those steamy windows
Of smoke filled coffee bars’
Review from Woven Wheat Whispers magazine:
After reading an on-line review I'd written, someone asked me recently how I knew so much about so many artists he'd never heard of! I explained that I didn't. Many of the artists who come to us at Woven Wheat Whispers are simply unknown to us before we get pointed to a website or a CD drops through the letterbox. The resulting reviews you read on these pages are the result of listening to the CDs, catching the musical reference points and forming a hopefully honest opinion. But as most of you like to know a little of a performers background, we rely on biographies to provide this information and then simply edit, expand or generally re-hash the information supplied to us. Every now and then though, a bio arrives that sums up the artists and songs in a far more succinct way than we ever could and this is just the case with Graham Bellinger and his "Black and White Days" album. So rather than try to re-write or second guess Graham's influences, I will simply copy the background info kindly supplied by the artist. So let me just say here, a big Thank You to Graham for not only making the music, but for also making the reviewers job so easy!
Joe Boyd, who produced Fairport, Nick Drake and the Incredible String Band, amongst many others, has recently said that the 1960s began in the summer of 1956 and ended in the autumn of 1973. I think I know what he means and I’m not going to argue. I know that the high point musically for me came between 1968 and 1972 when I was lucky enough to watch musicians like Ralph McTell, John Renbourne and Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy, John Martyn, The Incredible String Band, Al Stewart, Roy Harper, Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson and even to have a passing brush with Nick Drake , thanks to Paul Wheeler. For a provincial lad from a quiet market town those first gigs I experienced were amazing – before that folk music had only meant Spinners type sing-alongs in the local folk club at the back of Shrewsbury’s Boathouse Inn. But here, in amongst the many other mysteries of Cambridge sophistication, were songs and guitar playing to turn a young man’s head. This was what I wanted to do. So, within weeks of arriving at college, I spent £6.12.6d on a Rumanian acoustic guitar which had strings that required the strength of ten men to hold down and which had all the tone of a garden shed. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so easy.
Over later years I developed other enthusiasms and followed other musical paths (and really came to enjoy Spinners type sing-alongs), but every now and then I’d turn back to those singers and players from the 60s. And lately I find more and more people singing some of their songs and asking me about them. Hence this little exploration of their musical and lyrical style.
I’ve not attempted to reproduce any of the original material in some sort of ‘how to do it’ guide because 1) it’s still mostly too hard for me and 2) slavish imitation was never the spirit of this stuff. Instead I’ve put together some songs and tunes that try out some of the ideas and which I think are reasonably playable – even I can do them most of the time.
This song comes from the early 80s when wicked Keith Harrison started to tempt me with guitars he brought over from the States, and I failed to tell him to get behind me. It seemed an appropriate story to start this record off.
THE MAN IN THE MOON
It’s almost 40 years later and am I older and wiser? This uses some pretty chord shapes much favoured by those under the influence of Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny.
A song inspired by summer holiday farm work and trips to the pub at the end of the working day. Not sure if I didn’t make an overall loss on the season…..
Thanks to Davy Graham we all got into some pretty strange tunings, broke a lot of strings and bored a lot of audiences with aimless chatter whilst we tried to get in tune. This recording is in a particularly strange tuning learnt from Martin Thompson; E F# B F# B E, low to high. Usually these days I just play this song in D. It’s simpler and quicker. There’s a reason why standard tuning is standard you know……………
NICK AND PAUL AT ASCOT
According to Patrick Humphries’ biography of Nick Drake, after his friend Paul Wheeler left Cambridge he lived for some time as a sort of caretaker in John Lennon’s mansion near Ascot. The house was furnished, guitars hung on the walls and the famous white piano was still there, but John and Yoko were in New York and never returned. I’m fascinated by the thought of Nick Drake going to visit Paul there, full of all the promise and disappointment that he carried. I wrote this when I heard that Ian MacDonald, another great talent of that generation, had somehow lost all his hope and promise and taken his own life.
But hey cheer up – it’s a happy tune by Bill Malkin with some vaguely Beatlesy chords.
IN A SUMMER MARKETPLACE
In the melting pot of ideas that was the club scene, influences were grabbed shamelessly – a bit of blues, a pinch of India, a touch of Africa. Much of the study behind this rummaging came from Davy Graham and a lot too from jazz composers - Bobby Timmons, Dollar Brand, Junior Mance and so on
GIMME A BREAK
Back in the mid 60s there was no rock music – (there was rock ‘n’ roll, but that was pretty old hat). There was pop music, which term covered almost everything that wasn’t serious enough to be jazz or acoustic enough to be folk. But some pop music was starting to sound pretty jazzy and some folk was starting to sound pretty rocky. I liked it all (except for Country and Western, of which more later). I was particularly taken by the mixture of pop and folk which was produced by Al Stewart, Roy Harper and Donovan, following where Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel had lead. I really loved Al Stewart’s crisp rocking acoustic guitar, his elegant way with words and his electric guitar fills – little did I know they were played by Jimmy Page in his pre Zeppelin days.
RALPH AND DAVY GO PICKING IN PARIS
The most influential guitar piece of the era has to be Davy Graham’s Angi. Everyone who was anyone played it, and many stilI do. And everyone played it differently. I suspect most of us who were less in the in crowd first heard it not from Davy Graham but from Paul Simon on the ‘Sounds of Silence’ LP which was so a big hit you could even buy it in the Shrewsbury branch of Woolworths.
When The Byrds released Sweetheart of the Rodeo in the autumn of 1968 and Dylan followed soon after with Nashville Skyline we didn’t quite know where to look. This was ‘Country ‘n’ Western’ and we’d never liked that. But we liked The Byrds and we still worshipped Dylan. Time for a rethink then…. Hey – these songs were fun to sing and play! Before long we understood – this was white blues; rural, working man’s music, real and rich with emotion, great tunes and good stories. So this song’s just an appreciation of all that. It’s in C with a chorus that starts on Am and a bridge that starts on F. As John Prine said, ‘ That’s all the chords I ever needed’.
BLACK AND WHITE
Nobody can play like Bert Jansch and I wouldn’t dare to try. This guitar arrangement just gives a few pointers – I can do no more. Bert rarely used as regular a bass as I do, and rarely played straight chords, but hey - I’m just a mortal.
It’s worth remembering too that Bert has always regarded himself as a songwriter who just uses the guitar as the song’s vehicle – the antithesis of a guitar show off.
RED RAG BLUES
Even before country music got respectable in our eyes, old time country guitar picking by the likes of Doc Watson was OK by me. Stefan Grossman seemed to spend most of his life playing in college concert rooms back then, while rows of young men (always men) watched his fingers like a dog watches the last sausage. This piece just uses a few Doc type phrases mostly picked up from Stefan.
GONE AWAY FROM YOU
Al Stewart, before he went to California and became rich and famous with The Year of the Cat had a great line in songs about the seedier side of the scene. This is in his style.
I had to end this set of 60s influenced songs with this – written in about 1979 (just after Joe Boyd’s 60s ended). I think that the social history of the 60s scene needs to be written in terms of a clash between anger and optimism, impatience and acceptance, challenge and opting out. That’s what this story is about. It’s a sort of novel and only partly true. For the benefit of those less grey haired than I am, I should explain that the Bader Meinhoff gang were pretty scary Euro terrorists who killed people and looked just like me.
So there you have it. Graham's latest album as described by himself. Take a listen, download and enjoy.