Sunday, 22 November 2009

Happy Bobmass!

Christmas music is contentious in our household. My wife loves it so much that until recently it was not unusual in our home to hear it pretty much any time of the year. It all came to a head a couple of years ago, when coming into the house on a very warm sunny July afternoon I heard the strains of 'chestnuts roasting on an open fire' drifting from the lounge. Later that evening I gathered all the Christmas CDs from the storage rack and sneakily hid them away in the attic. A couple of weeks later when my act of cunning was discovered, I promised to reveal the hiding place - but only on 1st December! Now it is generally agreed that waiting until the appointed time, and the opening of the first window on the Advent calendar, makes the wait all the more worth it.

So... what a dilemma I faced when Bob Dylan decided to release his Christmas album 'Christmas in the Heart' in mid-October! I openly admit that my increasing fanaticism around Dylan has rendered my ears incapable of hearing anything negative in his music (except perhaps Self-Portrait), so the quality of the actual renditions of the Christmas songs was not something I was concerned about. My key difficulties were how was I going to 1. find a way to persuade my wife that that the £8.95 was worth spending on pre-ordering the item, so it would arrive on release day; 2. listen to it immediately and not wait until 1 December; and 3. avoid my listening to it before the appropriate time becoming a 'free for all' on all Christmas music before the 1 December deadline.

Well, here's what happened. Firstly, I pre-ordered the album without telling my wife. This was truly justified because I didn't buy it for myself - it was a loving gift from husband to wife. Secondly, on it's arrival, allowing my wife to rip open the package I spontaneously swiped it from her hands and declared - 'I know it's early but because you love Christmas music so much I think we should put it on now, what do you think?'. Of course she consented. And so Bob was slipped into the CD player, the volume turned up and Christmas came to our household in October. And the best thing of all - since all the other CDs are still in the attic well it wouldn't hurt to play Bob's CD again and again and again until they come out on 1st December would it?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Steve Earle>City of Immigrants

Four nights ago I had the pleasure of seeing Steve Earle playing live in London. And for once I had a great seat at the gig - front row! I have to say I enjoyed it immensely when I strutted through the theatre past the lesser seats to park my backside on the front row and then neatly place my jacket and drink on the stage. Earle was pretty impressive - alone on the stage, in an auditorium that seated 2000 people, he kept us all spellbound by his majestic songs (and covers of Townes Van Zandt) interspersed with some witty narrative.

It struck me as I cast my eyes over the audience that Earle clearly plays white man's music. In a city as diverse as London you might expect some racial diversity - but if skin colour is anything to go by, there wasn't much diversity going on in the Barbican on Wednesday night! This struck me as fairly ironic when Earle burst into 'City of Immigrants' from his Washington Square album (2007). This is a song written about New York but could just as easily be written of London. The lyrics state: 'City of black, city of white, city of light, I'm livin' in a city of immigrants, All of us are immigrants, every daughter, every son'. It's a great song, with great lyrics that are absolutely true. It is a smart antidote to the pathetic attempts by the British National Party (amongst others) to claim the contrary and to conveniently forget that, yes, we are all immigrants - not just those who have arrived on British shores since the 1950s.

And so, reflecting on this after the show, I realised that indeed Earle the agitator knew his audience better than I. Of course, if anyone needed to hear his thoughts on immigration it was probably one that looked like this.