I have music playing pretty much the whole working day and, often, not in the background. I have a specially constructed – by the estimable James Johnston – 240 gig iPod which I carry with me at all times in case I should suddenly get the urge to listen to some obscure set of noodling by Garcia and Cippolina, or a forgotten single by Mouse and the Traps, or that Dylan show in Avignon in 1981. Last night I sat in Wilde’s and listened to a remarkable set of cool and clever jazz played by the Interplay Duo - Richard Baker (trombone) and Adrian Litvinoff (bass). I have moments ago booked my seat for the Atrium String Quartet, four young Russians who are as good as it gets in this genre, and will be playing Haydn, Prokofiev and the extraordinary Beethoven Opus 132 at the Pump Rooms in 10 days or so.
At the same time, we are scheduling more Mondays Unplugged, an eclectic Mayday extravaganza featuring The Rosenberg Appeal and the Swaps, and choosing between a plethora of gigs at assorted bars, pubs and clubs in Leamington and Warwick.
Is it all too much? Is the surfeit of sound making it impossible to make any kind of judgement about the quality of what we are hearing? Does it all merge into a single soundtrack with fewer and fewer distinguishing elements?
This last has been facilitated by Wolfgang’s Vault. I have been a subscriber to Bill Graham’s archive since it started, primarily because it offered some soundboards of the Dead in the great days when they were still raw, before they got so fucking good. Recently, members have been inundated with shows and fragments of shows from a remarkably diverse assemblage of bands.
Much of the stuff I want I already have. But I listen to each at some point, even U2. And occasionally, down from the ether comes something of which I have never heard.
This happened over the weekend just gone with a show from The Dream Syndicate. From the first song, which took me back to the first time I heard the Velvet’s Live at Max’s Kansas City, I was hooked. And when they launched into a version of Neil Young’s Mr Soul, I was riveted.
Who were these guys? It turns out they were part of what was known as the Paisley Underground, a phrase I had heard but never bothered to investigate. Something to do with Scotland maybe? According to one profile, they were “critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful”. Just my kind of band! How come I missed out on all this stuff in the 80s?
And that is why, despite the fact that quantity is dominating quality, I will continue to play and listen to too much music. It’s for those moments – a sublime Jerry exploration, an unreleased Bob song, an exquisite Shostakovich riff played by the Atrium, a Flo melody under Pip’s hard rocking guitar at a Rosenbergs show, Tommo’s blues harmonica at a Swaps gig, or a thousand other spots of time in basement bars and on headphones.
Is there too much music? Yes. Is it a problem? If it is, I can live with it.
Today from the everysmith cellars: Marquis Anselme Mathieu 2010, a Chateauneuf du Pape which was a gift from my Red Sox Nation brother Myers. 90% Grenache but with all 13 allowed grape varieties. Exemplary. Thanks, bro.