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Bebop Spoken There

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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Zoe's gig, 'Ode to Billie Joe' and favourite song titles

As you say a very nice gig with Zoe and the band with great choice of material. As well as the songs you mentioned, I particularly liked the Donald Duck style scat interplay between the trumpet and voice in 'Centrepiece'.
Interesting that you especially mention 'Ode to Billie Joe' as I was planning to ask Zoe to sing it last night but arrived late and didn't want to start shouting out requests. So I was very pleased that Zoe sang it anyway and introduced it as 'a story, a chance to act a part'.
The reason I was going to request the song was that I've just read Greil Marcus's book 'Invisible Republic' which is a meditation on American folk music taking as a jumping off point Dylan's 'Basement Tapes'. In it he talks about 'Ode to BJ' being in the archetypal tradition of folk songs where themes like loss and memory unfold in a distancing, matter of fact way. I guess like most people I thought the question was 'what was thrown off the bridge?' but, of course, that's not the point at all. The girl/young woman telling the story knows what was thrown off but nobody asks her. The family talk about the suicide with the same interest as they have in black-eyed peas and biscuits, while Billie-Joe's girlfriend is sitting there as part of the same family. Apparently Gentry herself described the song as a 'study in unconscious cruelty'. Reading that makes me hear the song completely differently.
Marcus says that one of the Basement Tapes tracks 'Clothes Line Sage' was originally entitled "Answer to 'Ode' ", and in fact applies the language and tone of 'Ode to BJ' to a whole nation. The song revolves around the essential activity of putting out and taking in the washing from the line and towards the end a neighbour walks by and says 'Have you heard the news. The vice-president's gone mad'  and the mother says 'Gee, that's too bad' to which the reply is 'Well, there's nothing we can do about it'. Then the washing is taken in again. And this was written in the social ferment that was early 1970s America.
Just on the question of favourite song titles, how about 'God must be a Boogie Man' and 'the Wolf that lives in Lindsey' (no, I don't think its that Lindsay), which are also from the Joni Mitchell 'Mingus' album where 'Dry Cleaner' comes from. And then there is the poignant 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat' from the same album (maybe that's a track for Zoe and the band?).
JC

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