Delaney Bramlett RIP

It is with some sadness that I note the passing of Delaney Bramlett, who died last Saturday. For many of us he was just Delaney, as in Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. Friends who played regularly with Delaney and Bonnie, friends who included Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, George Harrison, Dave Mason, Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge. Here’s the full line-up as shown in Wikipedia:

Delaney Bramlett
Bonnie Bramlett
Eric Clapton
Duane Allman
Gregg Allman
George Harrison
Leon Russell
Carl Radle
Jim Gordon
Jim Price
Dave Mason
Rita Coolidge
King Curtis
Bobby Whitlock
Jim Keltner
Jerry Scheff

Oh yes, and he also mentored JJ Cale, amongst others. He encouraged Clapton to sing, taught Harrison how to play slide guitar, both Duane Allman and Leon Russell counted themselves as proteges of his. Some CV.

Most of us of a certain age remember many of the people listed above, some as sessions musicians, many as stars in their own right. Readers of this blog would know that the song many consider to be the rock classic, Layla, was performed by Derek and the Dominoes. But not many would know that all four of the members of Derek and the Dominoes were “friends” of Delaney and Bonnie: Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon. There is enough evidence to suggest that without Delaney and Bonnie, there wouldn’t have been a Derek and the Dominoes.

I first came across Delaney somewhat indirectly; I was watching a film called Vanishing Point which, to people of my generation, defined car chase films along with the incomparable Bullitt. And stuck in the middle of this classic Seventies film was a pair of musicians. Delaney and Bonnie. I had to know more.

There wasn’t an internet in those days, but what I did find out was enough. Delaney and Bonnie had formed the touring support act for a small group called Blind Faith.

I was hooked, and I continue to be hooked. Delaney Bramlett, thank you for all you’ve done, the enjoyment you’ve provided to a whole generation.

more on why retarded hippies like me use Twitter; and a defence of the Long Tail

Today I “met” someone via Twitter. Dallas W.Taylor. The Dallas Taylor, as in “Crosby Stills Nash and Young Dallas Taylor and Greg Reeves“. The Dallas Taylor who played drums on that album shown above (Deja Vu),  on the first album Crosby Stills and Nash, on the first Stephen Stills album, and on the two Manassas albums.

[And not the Dallas Taylor who was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for a short while in 1953. Or any other Dallas Taylor.]

I’m delighted to learn that there’s a new band in the works and that there’s new music to come. For sure I will be buying it, I want to support a childhood legend. My wish to support him grew even stronger when I found out what Dallas has been doing in the decades since. Go here if you want more information on the work he’s been doing on addiction intervention.

An aside I can’t resist, germane to this discussion. I read an article in the Times today trashing the Long Tail, referring to a study I studiously avoided mentioning till now; it smelt of trolling. But now I can’t resist. The headline was, believe it or not, Long Tail Theory Contradicted As Study Reveals 10m Digital Music Tracks Unsold.

Turns out the study was done by Will Page, Chief Economist of the MCPS-PRS Alliance. Yes, as in the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society and the Performing Right Society.

Now I shall resist the temptation to say that it’s a bit like reading a report on why cigarettes don’t cause cancer written and published by Philip Morris, or maybe on why gas guzzlers have no impact on climate change written and published by General Motors. I won’t say that. Having successfully resisted that temptation, I will state that what I can glean about the study looks quite reasonable. Except for a couple of points. A couple of big points.

First, Long Tail actually requires you to make the right Long Tail things searchable, findable, sellable, buyable. Not just any old things hanging around in inventory like elephants-without-colour. The right things. Too much of past inventory management focused on what was sold, what wasn’t sold. Whereas what should be measured is intent, not sale or purchase. How many things, Long Tail things, didn’t get sold despite the intentions of buyers? Mary Modahl, in Now or Never, a worthwhile book written at the turn of the century, makes that point very well. Nowadays, understanding buying intentions is at the heart of VRM, particularly unfulfilled intentions.

The Long Tail may not always be visible in a business environment that has been Hit Culture dominated, at least partly because industries in such environments are so far away from the customer and her intentions. How else can we explain the fact that it would appear no one considered that it would be worth while to re-release the Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen versions of Hallelujah as physical CD singles last week?

Long Tail is about what happens when the costs of discovery and contracting drop in an environment where inventory can be managed flexibly and dynamically, making the case that there’s a lot of people wanting to buy a lot of things that they can’t buy because of unavailability, high search costs, high fulfilment costs and so on.

Second, even if the study’s conclusions were right, they will not continue to be right. Because people like me will buy the songs and albums of people like Dallas Taylor, even more so if he starts connecting up with the Greg Reeves and Chris Hillmans and Joe Lalas and Al Perkins and Paul Harris and Fuzzy Samuels.

You see, these people are part of the Long Tail. Many today have not heard of them. But enough have. Even measured in readers of this blog, there are enough. Even measured in Facebook friends, there are enough. Even measured in Twitter followers, there are enough. Enough to form a Long Tail.

So people will buy their music. And not necessarily through traditional routes either.

In the meantime, I will continue to relish the sensation of being in touch with someone whose name used to adorn my wall as a teenager.

Hallelujah chorus: time to lay down a generation challenge?

I can’t help smiling at the news that there are likely to be three separate versions of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the charts shortly, including two in the top three:

  • The Alexandra Burke version, the X Factor winner’s single (likely to be No 1)
  • The Jeff Buckley version, the one that people my age think is the best version (likely to be No 3)
  • The original Leonard Cohen version, which I still stay loyal to (likely to be No 30 or so)

Three versions of the same song in the charts, twenty-four years after the original was released. Who’da thunk it?

Why was I smiling? Because an imp of mischief got to me. I began to wonder. Shall we use the web to make the Jeff Buckley version number 1? Against all odds? Wouldn’t it be a fitting posthumous tribute to a master musician? Wouldn’t it be more of a good thing for the songwriter? And wouldn’t it be a fun thing to try?

So. Are we up for it? Can we make the Jeff Buckley version number 1?

Incidentally, there have only been two instances where number 1 and number 2 were by the same artists (the Beatles in 1964 and Usher in 2004). There has never been an instance where No 1 and No 2 are the same song, by two different people. We have the chance to help make history while having some fun across different generations: I cannot imagine anyone buying both versions next week….

Old Man’s River: Electra Glide in Blue

Okay, time to move slightly further afield than is usual, even for me.

Recommendation 4: (film)

Electra Glide in Blue. Great movie, great soundtrack, great style. Every now and then, a movie comes along, and the critics say “that one’s going straight to video”. Well, when I saw this film, my immediate reaction was ‘this one’s going straight to cult classic”.

Music fans shouldn’t be surprised. The firm was produced and directed by James William Guercio. Now why does that name appear familiar? Because it was he who produced Blood Sweat and Tears and Chicago. That will give you an idea of what the music is like, and what the pace of the film is, its atmosphere and ambience. Oh, and by the way, Pete Cetera and Terry Kath have roles in the film, as also Walter Parazaider and Lee Loughnane. What’s that make, 25% of Chicago, they were such a large band….

Electra Glide in Blue. A must-see if you like Chicago or even BS&T; if you like motorcycles; if you like good-cop-befriends-hippie plots; if you like your suspense seventies-style. Oddly enough, you should think about seeing it if you were a Hill Street Blues fan: Frank Furillo has the movie poster adorning his office wall.

Old Man’s River: On The Road To Freedom

One of the things I’ve been trying to do with Old Man’s River is to stay away from the big hits, try and introduce people to stuff they wouldn’t have come across easily.

So, today:

Recommendation 3: (Album)

On The Road to Freedom. Alvin Lee and Mylon Lefevre and some very interesting sessions men.

When I was in my mid-to-late teens, one of my favourite pastimes was to take a gentle wander down Free School St, stopping at the second-hand shops, loitering with intent and going through each shop’s stock of used books, comics and, occasionally, vinyl.

An aside. For people like me, “Western” music was limited in supply those days: there were only four ways of getting it. One, you waited for the then local monopoly, Gramophone Company of India, to issue it. Because they believed in traditional forms of marketing and distribution, they were driven towards a hit culture, which meant I could buy Boney M but not Blind Faith. So if you waited for them you could be waiting a long time. A second route was to go to the Kidderpore Docks, where there was an active and open smuggler’s market straight out of Dickens. Dark and dank, ill-lit and illicit. There, amongst the t-shirts and the watches and colognes, you would occasionally come across a “Japanese” or “Singapore” copy: these had covers which were obvious photocopies of the originals, with a poor cut-and-paste of the vernacular titles over the English original, laminated in thin polythene. A third way was “taping”, when you made a copy of someone else’s album (something I didn’t like doing even then). And the fourth was the most productive: you waited for some passing hippie to sell his stash of records for drugs, and, if you were lucky, you had first dibs on his erstwhile possessions….. the Calcutta 1970s variant of the pawnshop.

Actually there was a fifth way: you had someone go abroad and bring something back for you. But in those days this was so rare it wasn’t worth counting: the number of people you knew who were going abroad roughly equalled the number of divorced people you knew. Counted on the fingers of one hand.

I digress. On the Road to Freedom. An album I bought in a second-hand store, probably as a result of hippie bartering. Absolutely fantastic. A soft and gentle album, one that grows on you the first time you listen to it. Guest musicians include Steve Winwood, George Harrison, Jim Capaldi, “Rebop” Kwaku Baah, Mick Fleetwood, Ron Wood and Boz Burrell.

By the time I heard the first four tracks I was toast. This is such a one-off album; it’s not a supergroup, it’s not cult, it’s not anything I can describe easily. Alvin Love-Like-A-Man Ten Years After Lee meets Mylon Holy Smoke Doo Dah Lefevre; friends join in, and some wonderful music was made.

It’s only recently been released on CD, four or five years ago. One of my favourite albums.

%d bloggers like this: