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  A SIMPLE DESULTORY PHILLIPIC

by Richard Lewis

 

Cast your mind back. How easy is it for you? I find that I can not recall years and years of what I did in the 80s but can still remember, as clearly as when it happened, everything that happened in 1965. Let us travel back to the spring of 1965. 

I was in my first year of the 6th form and had just discovered books. Up until then my main reading had been comics – Superman, Green Lantern and Flash. I had managed to pass my English Literature ‘O’ Level without actually having read the texts. But that Summer (August 1964) I read Kinsley Amis’ “Lucky Jim” and Iris Murdoch’s “Under The Net” and I was hooked. Early in my first term at Woodhouse Grammar School in North Finchley I was banned from the Library for two weeks for “laughing too loudly” at JD Salinger’s “The Catcher In The Rye”! 

That same Autumn I went to see Long John Baldry and his Hoochie Coochie Men (featuring Rod Stewart) and The Yardbirds (both at The Marquee), a Russian Dance troupe (Royal Albert Hall), Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames (The Flamingo) and The Beatles Christmas Show (Hammersmith Odeon). In the Spring of 1965 I saw Jesse Fuller (Ealing Town Hall), Art Blakey and Jimmy Guiffre (Finsbury Park Astoria), Bill Evans (Prince of Wales), ‘Spider’ John Koerner (Cecil Sharp House) and the Motown Revue including The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Stevie Wonder, Tom Paxton (Bunjies), The Who (Marquee) and Davy Graham and Julie Felix (Cecil Sharp House). A great time! 

That Easter I went on the CND March that ended with a rally in Trafalgar Square where performers included Alex Campbell, Tom Paxton (The Willing Conscript), Joan Baez (The Times They Are A Changin’, With God On Our Side), Donovan (Colours), Carolyn Hester (Playboys and Playgirls) and Bob Davenport ( H-Bomb’s Thunder). It was around this time that I went into a record booth of a shop in Bond Street and heard “Subterranean Homesick Blues” for the first time. As you can see from the concerts I went to, I was not a dyed in the wool folkie and I loved what I heard. As I wasn’t buying the shop only let me listen three times! Money was precious then and I was saving it for when the album came out. 

The next month, May, was the highlight of the year for me when on the 9th and 10th I saw Dylan at the Royal Albert Hall. At around that time Paul Simon was in a London recording studio making what became “The Paul Simon Song Book”, a solo album that was never released in the USA. In fact he re-recorded many of the songs later that year with Tom Wilson for “Wednesday Morning 3am” and early the next year with Bob Johnston for “The Sounds of Silence”. Included on the London album was “A Simple Desultory Philippic” which as Simon acknowledged was “a take-off, a take-on, a private joke”, a spoof in fact of Dylan complete with mock voice. It featured rhymes like “Union Jack / Kerouac” and “Mick Jaggered / Silver Daggered” and after the phoney Dylan voice he sings “its alright ma, its just something I learned over in England”. 

All of the above came to mind as I read the chapter on “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in Andy Muir’s new book “Troubadour”.

 
 
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