Tuesday, 21 May 2013

14 Karat Soul as they should be heard

 Wow! Some kind person has uploaded a session 14 Karat Soul did for Radio 1 in the early 80s to youtube and it sounds the closest yet to my memory of seeing them around that time, much better than the studio recordings available.

I remember hearing 16 Candles on the radio in the evening before going out to see the group at their week long residency/tryout/whatever at the then new Mitchell Theatre in Glasgow. So many great songs I heard over the nights I attended are not included here but it is wonderful to hear a fuller, rougher, more "alive" sound which may give an idea to those who never heard the group during this period just how good they were. Not an elderly group straining to recapture past glories: all young, and the energy is palpable. I've written about them, and that Mitchell Theatre gig, in more detail in an earlier post. Below is an extract:

That week at the Mitchell Theatre is how I remember them. Aspects of the act changed from night to night, suggesting that it may have been a tryout base, although these were fairly minor. Essentially, they were good to go from the first night - and the first number - onwards.

I'm now going to try to remember as many of the songs featured in that week as I can. Quite a number are available on CD, although I cannot stress enough what a long way those antiseptic studio recordings are from hearing (and seeing) five figures with nowhere to hide blasting out at you. I think this is what draws me to acapella doo wop, and acapella in general: the knowledge that you're watching a balancing act, and if there is one weak link in the troupe they will all topple. You're seeing something vulnerable and human.

At around the same time, a lecturer at Glasgow University was trying to explain the twentieth century to us - a good trick in precisely fifty five minutes. His main point was that in previous centuries people were in touch with the objects which surrounded them - eg a door handle would have been carved out of wood, and you could visualise how it was made: by a man, as you were a man. You could have made it. (Unless you were a woman, of course, but that was a whole 'nother lecture.)

Come the twentieth century, however, the advent of mass production and the development of new, artificial materials meant people were surrounded by objects which they didn't really understand and so they lost a secure sense of their place in the world which led to social alienation and lots of depressing - I mean, challenging - literature.

The tutor probably put it better (it was over twenty five years ago) but when I see an acapella group onstage, vulnerable in way that no overamplified rock band can be, all I know is that I feel in touch with something fundamental. There's sense of intimacy involved: the directness of the human voice, rather than a lump of metal in front of the face, to provide the music; the self-exposure and risk in the sharing of that voice, in offering it to others for judgement. Then the magical-seeming, yet utterly human, way in which a group of people can temporarily subdue their egos to create a single entity. To go back to the image of the balancing act: when nobody falls - when, in fact, they all seem to soar - then that is a joyous moment which affirms your faith in humanity. And as the listener, you feel like an intimate part of that group.

[...]  Fast forward a few years and I'm living in London, going to see 14 Karat Soul at the Fridge in Brixton. I'm near the front of the stage, immersed in the performance, when I find I'm one of the people called up to add a few extra dum dums to Come Go With Me.

This is a task into which I throw myself with relish - only at some point one of the singers, grinning, makes a gesture. He slashes his throat with his index finger, which I know now almost certainly means "Shut the *&%! up as you cannot carry a tune in a bucket," but I thought then, and even now would like to present as a remote possibility, that it meant he envied my vocal command, joshingly indicating that he wished my prowess could be curtailed so as not to expose his own limitations quite so cruelly when he next stepped up to the mike.

But I admit it's a bit of a long shot.

You can read the rest, plus some links to other posts, here

Sunday, 19 May 2013

My mind she has mated ...

Remember Joyce Carol Oates? Yeah, that's right, the one who told the Guardian in 2012 that "Situation comedy ... distorts the complexity of the human soul." Now she's only rhapsodising about Seinfeld on a well-known limited-number-of-characters networking website:
Reruns of "Seinfeld" fascinating for the brilliance of the script/ fluidly comic ensemble performances/ background (grocery prices!).

Far from being a situation-comedy about "nothing," in fact "Seinfeld" is a comedy of manners about "everything"--minutiae of NYC life.
I'm really confused now, don't know what to think. Let me jot down these hitherto unimaginable insights and pass them on to the makers of the series; bet their minds'll be mated too.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Round Britain Rejects # 7: answer

As with the previous question, the answer, if you have given up all hope of alighting on it naturally, is below - but you have to make the choice to click. No one's forcing you. I think this one is a good 'un and fairly set out. I think.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Round Britain Rejects # 7

Okay, one more. I found this in an old email but I can't remember the answer. I'm sure there will be one. Ah. I do remember the second bit. I'll try to find the rest but see if you can beat me to it.

If the only way is up for an American Professor's admission, 

and down for a sleepy combo's combinations (as engineered by their manically grinning bespectacled leader), 

furnish me with the boy to make this answer thrice-blessed dramatically.

It may be (I'm honestly not sure now) that the question didn't have a complete answer, but that's unlikely. I suppose I could devise a post facto answer, but that may be like the one from Alice in Wonderland - you know, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" This was just a bit of fun, as Peter Snow would say, and when Carroll did cobble together an answer you could hear the distant whoosh of tumbleweed as you read it: 
 Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat ...
Oh, stop, Mr Dodgson, my sides will split. There is an article with some alternative explanations, on the Straight Dope website, here; this site is also the source of a good piece about the word pismotality, which you can find by clicking the "meaning of pismotality" page above.


Ah! I have just remembered the complete answer. And it does make sense. All the clues are there. I'll fess up that I'm not entirely sure about the first part, but the other two are okay. Bonne chance - and laissez les bons temps rouler.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Previously on King Lear ...

I don't normally do mini-soundbite-type posts but this is irresistible - Paul Merton talking about his forthcoming autobiography:
Until I sat down to write my autobiography I had no idea my life
story was so fascinating - what with its tremendous ups and downs both
in and out of showbusiness. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Apparently it will include a description of what sound like pretty tough early days in South London, packing heat - oh. No. Packing meat, I'm sorry. I mistook the word. I read it wrong and wrote it down wrong. It happens. Deal with it. Blogging is an imprecise art. I misheard and I misspoke, as a penitent Phil was once obliged to say on Larry Sanders.

Do not, however, confuse Merton's forthcoming book with an earlier spoof autobiography entitled My Struggle. I bought a hardback copy of this at the time - think I paid full whack, too - and it was a disappointment. Possibly better as an audiobook or more suited to a small gobbet episode format.

Anyway, you can read a bit more about plans for the real autobiography in the British Comedy Guide here.

And there is a highly recommended King Lear study site by Greg Smith here. This has been around a long time and recently revised. Were I still in dominie mode I'd be a-clicking. I won't say much about Lear here as I'm still mourning the loss of the posts on my Cracklearjack blog. I put 'em back into draft form then they all disappeared. Admittedly the concept wasn't all that amusing - do Lear in end-of-show Crackerjack mode - and even more admittedlyer, I was losing interest in it because you cannot knock Lear - I mean, you just can't. But I would have liked readers to be able to make up their own minds.

This is the only surving post.