‘Blues & Chaos: The Musical Writing of Robert Palmer’


“I knew I didn’t know much. I kind of had to be like ‘Is that the kind of thing you mean?’ I really was a student.I still am, but at the time I knew [expletive] about American music, but I was just naive enough that it didn’t stop me. He’d say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, you got that.’ I’m happy with that – it was the insurance policy! If he thought everything was fine, we could turn it off. ”

Later, when U2 began to seriously explore American music, Bob took U2 singer and bassist Adam Clayton to Junior guitarist Kimbrough’s juke joint near Holly Springs, Mississippi on a sort of educational road trip. “Deep Blues – that was it,” Bono recalls of the book which first developed his understanding of the blues. “Around the time we were starting our naive journey into American roots music, Adam and I met him in Memphis, and we went out on a trip to the woods, where there was an illegal juke joint on Sundays.

“We traveled a long way,” Bono continued, “and everyone was drinking this moonlight thing. It was like peach schnapps. Everyone was drinking moonlight, and it was amazing – like an IV introduction to the blues. He was like that übertutor Hanging out with him was like doing a doctorate in any subject he was interested in. I guess some people saw him as some kind of bohemian, but I did. Seen him like this gentleman from the South. This type of academic, who was the best introduction to the blues you could meet. And the more I got to know him, as eclectic as his musical tastes were, he had this way of making it very accessible. J Thought it was great that he was in The New York Times, because he could open up this world not only to music fans, but to ordinary people. He made me laugh. It was, like , from Sonic Youth to Rod Stewart! I just thought, this is awesome. He just hasn’t seen the he world with the same kind of eyes. It was like, Is there a voice? Is there an air? Is there a spirit here I hadn’t met before? ”

Robbie Robertson first met Palmer in Arkansas, where he spent a lot of time in the early 1960s as a teenage guitarist in Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. As a teenage saxophonist in Arkansas, Palmer had worked in some of the same venues as the Hawks, and recalled that they “were especially admired for their tough stances on the most intense black R&B of the day … The Hawks also had a reputation for unparalleled pill-taking, prostitutes, and brawls. ” Bob then wrote about Robertson and the band, once for an interview with Rolling Stone in 1991, when he reunited with Robertson in New Orleans, where Bob was living at the time.

“When we were in New Orleans chatting, we would go out, drive and go through different neighborhoods, and it was great with him,” recalls Robertson. “How colorful his musical knowledge was from neighborhood to neighborhood. You would drive and drive through the Thirteenth Quarter or something, and he’d say, ‘Oh, that’s the area where Chief Jolie taught the songs. meters, and eventually they plugged in and became the Wild Tchoupitoulas … “- that was just such a rich acquaintance. When you’re in New Orleans and driving around doing that, it hits you really deep. , because it’s so colorful and right in front of your eyes. ”

The breadth of Bob’s tastes shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a lack of standards, or a willingness to embrace any trend that finds its way down. And he had certain blind spots – blind spots, that is if you didn’t agree with him. Bob believed in authenticity and therefore fabricated pop artists like Madonna, for example, made little sense to him. He regarded them as if he was an anthropologist who had discovered a ritual of vague familiarity, but the meaning of which was not simply unknowable but not worth knowing.

Here’s Bob’s response to Madonna’s first concert tour in 1985, which he reviewed when she stopped by Radio City Music Hall in New York City for three nights. “The Music Hall crowd, stimulated by the records and videos, screamed with joy when they first saw Madonna, before she sang a note,” Bob wrote. “They kept screaming for every song, their Pavlovian responses suggesting the results of an experiment set up by behavioral psychologists to prove Skinner was right after all.

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