Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Farewell, Century 20

The half century since the birth of Rock n' Roll has seen the unfortunate demise of almost all of its creators. A healthy lifestyle this Devil's music?...........hardly, and if it had been, then it would never have outlasted the men and women who barged their way into our collective heart and soul, not so very long ago.

The varieties and variations in the music form that we first heard from Carl Perkins, Elvis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, only served to foster the illusion that time sped up toward the last quarter of the century, as we raced through rhythm n' blues to funk, to soul, to soul r&b, to hip-hop, to rap, right up to the present melting pot where the right concoction of all and any of the above guarantees a great concert - a packed nightclub - a crazed crowd - a BIG record .........a bloodletting, if you will. And they said, in '58 and '64 that it wouldn't last! Well, they were right in a way - it didn't simply last - it changed and twisted and morphed into a vast collage of sounds and cultures that no one could have readily forseen. However, the world was never the same again.

That quarter century has been our home, too, and it is odd to think that if somebody had told me in my early teens that this is where I'd be now, I'd have taken his candies AND followed him home just to hear more. This is the dream of a lifetime being able to create that concoction and perform it afresh night after night, and then be able to conceive new music, make new records, and have them accepted by an audience as sophisticated (and spoilt) as it is in the beginning of the new Millenium. By the way, I'm sorry if you disagree that the new one begins now, especially after all that money you must have spent last year on champagne and party favours, but you see I've always remained a Millenium separatist, in that this is the actual, factual thresh- hold of the new, glittering 21st Century. Official, certified, rubber-stamped and approved by Romans, Saxons, Huns, the Mongol hordes, and whoever started the old clock running at 'Year One' (not year None).

Hence 2001. God bless you, Stanley Kubrick, 'Hal', and the tribe of apes we rode in on to the tune of "Thus Spake Zarathustra", and the feeling of gobsmacked euphoria as we left the cinema that afternoon in London. It didn't hurt either that John Lennon, Paul and George were also standing on the same pavement, equally gobsmacked and totally oblivious to the mild frisson of excitement that ran along Old Compton Street as we realised we were in the presence of royalty. Such are the rewards (small but hugely meaningful at times) of risking one's all for the vagaries of the business of show - a career that allows for the oddest hours and therefore the strangest of rendezvous and encounters that will sometimes keep your spirits up and your disappointments diminished. So it has been for Onnie and me since forging a partnership in 1967, and seeing it develop into what would eventually become AWB, in 1972, along with the other great characters that took the icy plunge with us.

And amazing, too, that the start of the new century sees the start of a brand new regime in the United States - albeit one that has a long way to go to legitimise itself in the world's eyes. Great Britain has one of the strongest voices in real international terms that it ever has in our lifetime, Scotland has her own parliament for the first time in hundreds of years, and no millenium bug in sight anywhere. Yes, there's much to be thankful for but yet much to be mindful of in light of the awful conditions that many people in our so-called civilised countries live under, never mind the third world and the strife-ridden war-torn wastes of the mid East and the Balkans.

So we are lucky and fortunate to be in our relatively safe havens at this juncture and privileged to have been this year the honourees at the Nordoff Robbins awards in Glasgow, Scotland back in September. I thought it might be fitting to include a selection of photographs from the gala evening that Onnie and I had with the local intelligentsia and high- lifers in our homeland, not just to show off......although there's nothing shy about either of us if there's a whiff of posturing to be done, and a gullible crowd of onlookers to be bedazzled......simply to share our obvious pride and gratification at being given the kind of recognition that goes way beyond anything that charts, sales, or 'industry' can give. This was a night to celebrate a long road with old and dear friends who had started alongside us, and who have similarly made it through all the puddles and pratfalls, and are still in our corner when push comes to shove.

And a reminder that charity (Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy is one of the most successful and meaningful children's charities) is the keynote at this time of renewal and festivity. Please give as much as you can to the bellringers and the tin-rattlers who brave the cold to warm someone's Christmas season or fill someone's belly who would otherwise stand outside hungry. We all spend far too much on ourselves and our inner circle anyway, so throw some extra to the collectors of conscience while there is still time for it to get to the people who are desparately relying on it for any glimpse of the Holiday cheer that we take for granted.

Finally, let us wish all of you a very healthy and happy holiday season, and I hope you will join me in making a toast to the new era, even if you did that last time - I know we did, as we were part of a rather large and salubrious gathering in Dallas for the occasion - and remember, there's never an excuse for not celebrating something or other, so it might as well be a new Century.

We'll see you in the new we begin the countdown all over again!

Merry Crimble, everybun, and a Hairpiece New Ear.