Saturday, February 5, 2011

Layer 437 . . . Peter Green, Great Music, Fleetwood Mac, Shivers Down The Spine, and Hands Off Our Libraries

There was a bizarre piece in the Guardian today about the break-up of the White Stripes.

There was an outpouring of grief this week when the White Stripes announced they were to split.


As far as I can see, Jack White is a talented and creative musician, a very good guitarist, and a lover of the blues - whereas the White Stripes was a very poor vehicle for expressing his ideas and his work. The image of Meg, the world's worst drummer, sitting around drinking whiskey and chatting whilst Jack was next door being creative just about says it all. Good musicians need to work with people of equal talent. And that red and white thing of theirs was always a nonsense.


According to BB King, a man who knows better than anyone about music and the blues, there's only one guitarist who's ever sent shivers down his spine.

John Mayall, the grandaddy of British blues, said our man was a better guitarist than Eric Clapton, the man he'd replaced in Mayall's Bluesbreakers.

Carlos Santana still has a kind of reverence for him.

Peter Green is the man.

Last night BBC4 re-broadcast their documentary about Peter Green - his origins, his life and times, and his troubles. It's one of the best music documentaries I've ever seen. Possibly even the best.

Only Peter Green could, or would, put together a blues band that featured not one but three lead guitarists, plus the best rock/blues rhythm section of all time - Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. He'd met Mick and John during their time together with Mayall's Bluesbreakers. "Peter loved rhythm, and percussion."

He'd asked Jeremy Spencer to join his band because Jeremy was 'the first guitarist who'd put a smile on his face since Jimi Hendrix'. You can hear him at his best on "Oh Well" - a real spine tingler of a track. As are Peter's original 'Black Magic Woman', and of course 'The Supernatural', which Peter recorded whilst he was with the Bluesbreakers.

Peter spoke in the programme about his 'love of thinking', and how mescaline gave him 'pure spiritual thoughts'.

At some point, some time after the band had become rich and famous, Peter figured they had made more than enough money. He wanted the band to just buy a big house where they could all just live together and play the blues. The rest of their money they could give away to charities for famine relief.

"Then Play On" was an album I couldn't stop playing when it first came out. A faultless piece of soulful and rocking  blues from start to finish. 'Rattlesnake Shake' - especially the extended version - has to be a desert island disc.

Danny Kirwan, the third of the trio of lead guitarists, blew his brains out with some bad acid on exactly the same day as Peter Green. One bad day in Germany.

I'm not the only one who felt genuine grief when I found out about Peter Green's mental disintegration, and how he'd had his brain even more damaged by electric shock 'treatment'.


Hands off our libraries

This Saturday sees a national day of protest against 400 planned library closures. The Isle of Wight stands to lose more than most – a staggering nine out of 11 – and resistance there is mounting

by Jon Henley

Along with a staggering nine out of the Isle of Wight's 11 libraries – and 400-plus more across the country – Ventnor library is, however, currently under threat of closure. Oxfordshire could lose 20 out of 43, Brent six out of 12, Buckinghamshire up to 14, Dorset up to 20 out of 34, Gloucestershire up to 18, North Yorks 24 out of 42, Somerset 11 out of 34, Wiltshire up to 10.

Faced with the need for brutal budget cuts, many councils have settled on their library services as a good way of making them. Steve Beynon, chief executive of the Conservative-led Isle of Wight council, makes its financial position plain: overall spending has to come down by £17.8m in the first year. The council's not sparing itself: around £12m will come from "what you might broadly call management and infrastructure efficiency savings". But of the remainder, £500,000 is going to have to come out of the library service in the first year, £750,000 thereafter.

They can't believe libraries are being treated like this. "My mother-in-law is 95," says Christine Benson. "She has taken four books out of the library every week, all her life. How can I be expected to abandon that principle? How can we even be considering this in a civilised country?" Sue Morgan is equally impassioned. "Libraries are incredibly important," she says. "They're the gateway to literacy. In a library, you can say to children: have whatever you like! You can pick up a book that will change your life. But you can also make mistakes in a library; pick up something you don't enjoy and it doesn't matter. You can't do that on Amazon."

Under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, councils are obliged to run "comprehensive and efficient" services: is the Isle of Wight really doing that, if these plans go ahead?

Paul Richardson, a genial professor, rails that on an island with a large number of retired people, a higher-than-average unemployment rate and a child literacy problem, the council's proposals "will hit hardest those who most need, and use, libraries". If the current plans go ahead, he says, the council may be "failing to fulfil its statutory responsibilities. It would certainly be drastically reducing the access of a substantial proportion of the island's population – and especially the young, the old and the least well off – to reading for pleasure, information and instruction. And it would equally be reducing access to connectivity."

"This isn't just misconceived, it's a tragedy." 


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