Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Being the Son Of... - Baxter Dury

One of the few decent things I did for the artist formerly known as (?) was to introduce him to this superb singer, songwriter, musician, Baxter Dury. It was not an act of kindness but rather one of unbelievable excitement. Times move on, things change. In the early 70's, amid all the good music produced, and in that statement, I include the likes of Free, Sparks, King Crimson, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Van Der Graaf Generator, Thin Lizzy and of course Led Zeppelin, came to a load of dross. Stuff that was plodding, moribund, filled with testosterone and then injected with diazepam. The band's collective name was Black Purple Priest and their fans, young males mostly, meandered about with no clear direction humping walls, furniture and small furry animals too with their constant erections. There was no drive, no spirit of youthful rebellion just a desire to masturbate over a leaden sound. It was smooth, mechanical, contrived. Not that I dislike metal. Any fan of said music please do not leap on my back.  I saw Metallica recently and loved their set and the music played. They have that ingredient missing in the majority of those early seventies acts - energy - as did Motorhead and AC/DC

Purple Black Priest? They were nice enough chaps but they weren't Jerry Lee were they? There was no spirit or galvanised energy, no danger, so a sense of something violent erupting. They were not of the root and branch, nor of the music that helped create them. They were not Rock and Roll.

This young man isn't Rock and Roll either but he is from the same wellspring. This young man came not unknown but with a deal of baggage. Dad had paved the way but the path laid, great and fantastic as it was and still is, was not the one Baxter wanted to walk down. He was, still is, his own man.

That first album, Len Parrots Memorial Lift, dug deep into his soul engraving his name deep onto its spinning circle. There were tracks here, songs rather, that slipped out slippery and unlike the sound we thought he was obliged to make. The fact he didn't was a testament to his own individuality. The album had touches of trip hop, of psychedelic rock, of something from the other side of the tracks, a place where all good folk music comes from. There was a solid feel of something crafted from real situations, from nights spent sitting in the public bar nursing a pint and chatting with mates.

Blimey, it was rough and dirty and the way it should be but nothing like Daddy.

You would have thought that the follow-up would be much the same. It wasn't. Of course, it wasn't. You see, Baxter, bless his cotton, has that raw, sawdust and spit, attitude. It is apparent in his music. It is earthy, uncultured, of the garage, not the stadium. It is this ingredient that charms his songs. Having many of the Blockheads work with him helped. Unlike so much music of the modern era which comes over produced and marketed to the Nth degree, Baxter's comes with little packaging, few frills or gadgets and rough as old boots.
From that fundamental first album, used more as a platform to spring from, with its trippy subtleties, its laid back uncaring suggestions of being slightly pissed-off, followed the most upbeat sequel, Floor Show. Songs such as Francesca's Party had a fruity appeal; Cocaine Man was naughty but was it? That inferred indifference to the way life now is, that yearning for something of the past mixed with the now took centre stage. It was a rough arsed statement of denial, the nineties had gone the self-same way as the sixties - promising much but delivering little. This sense of disappointment was pervasive. We really don't like what's going on and, anyway, we'd rather do this than do that 9 to 5 crap. Listen. This is not his Dad's music, it is nothing like it. No bawdy music hall chops, no ribald lyrics of women of loose virtue. It is very much a modern Britpop groove.
Floor Show

Stripped back and bare of soul, this is the same source but of a far different gravy. This brings me back to my earlier point. Disconnected as it was from the mainframe of its tributary, 70's metal, laden with plodding riffs and a desire to eat bats, look hard and shag the living daylights out of vicars wives was in fact fake, a fraud. It took punk, not that I was enamoured with that movement either, to leap onto the back of the already moving zeitgeist which had in its ranks the likes of Doctor Feelgood, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Eddie and the Hot Rods and others, bands who were plugged directly into the mood, the feeling of that which was created twenty years prior. This is the same with Baxter Dury's music. It doesn't have the pizazz of Little Richard nor the duck walking craziness of Chuck Berry but it is of that world. It has the same feel. And frankly I much prefer it.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.


Elena Horowitz-Brookes said...

I just listened to Baxter and Ian. I know Rhythm Stick from long ago. I like Cocaine Man. See what you mean some of Baxter's gets lighter. Thank you for your post. I always learn something new from you. I'm glad you were able to introduce a friend to Baxter Dury. Well written, Russell!

Russell Duffy said...

Thanks Elena. Ian Dury never made it over with you guys. I think he was far too English, far too Cockney for American tastes. Rhythm (I always struggle spelling that word!) Stick was probably the only hit he had in the USA. Baxter is very different. Thanks for visiting.

Elena Horowitz-Brookes said...

You're right, I only knew him by that one song.

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog

A Utility Fish Shed Blog