I flew back from Las Vegas last night.
Here’s the story. Paul got me a great cheap flight back home for today’s chemo, but it was from Vegas and our place is in Palm Springs. That means a road trip through the Mojave Desert, which is beautiful in the desolate bonewhite kind of way that we just don’t get in BC.
A roadtrip that still ends in Vegas. When it comes to Vegas, I am learning to suspend judgement and simply watch and enjoy. I’m up to two days max. But this post is not about that. It’s about music, really great music.
My flight left at 8 PM. The day was good but the afternoon at the pool could have been better on account of me letting my nerve and neck pain get out of control.
It’s been ramping up lately and I haven’t followed with the medication. As I get older I realize that manning up is usually just getting stupid with it.
So I popped some extra painkillers and got through the flight nicely, thank you very much. The drive back from Bellingham was good, too. But not the night.
Lying down to sleep is a big problem when things aren’t going well, nervous system-wise. It particularly hurts for my head to even touch any part of a bed. Unwisely, I haven’t yet learned to sleep sitting up.
So, I woke up every hour and a half as my meds wore down. About 2 AM I gave up, propped myself, plugged-in the computer and searched for music.
About 4AM I got it in my mind to stop cruising old TV rock and soul and look for a clip from my youth buried deep in my psyche.
But first listen to this clip of Aretha singing ‘Don’t Play That Song’ from the Cliff Richard Show in 1970. It starts about 45 sec. in but the intro is priceless.
Now I love Adele but when I listen to this I want to say “match, check out the candle”. Writing this post I replayed the song and ended up dancing around the computer. I never dance.
Anyhow… Old TV clip from my youth… Right. Van Morrison.
The show I was looking for is a ’71 or ’72 PBS broadcast from a club that turned out to be the Fillmore East. It featured Albert King, Elvin Bishop, the Byrds and Morrison. Another bit, filmed but never broadcast, came out as the Allman Brothers live at the Fillmore East.
For this 16 year old it was all life changing.
Victoria wasn’t and still isn’t a very bluesy town. Albert King got me listening to the blues (you can still find his set released as the ‘Blues Power’ record).
The Byrds set was released as the first half of ‘Untitled’. It helped me find my way to – well the show and my dope dealing friend Dick – ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ and then ‘The Gilded Palace of Sin’; Elvin Bishop, the Butterfield Blues Band East/West.
And Van Morrison got me listening to… Van Morrison.
I recognized the clip from Morrison’s Prince Valiant shirt and green-fringed vest, just like the ones my older friends with money wore. The other great thing was that underneath that cool vest, Van looked somewhat like me – chubby, short, very shy but at the same time a little too intense.
And then he sang and his great band played. Unbelievable. This is Cypress Avenue from that show, dramatically different from the ‘Astral Weeks’ original:
I didn’t realize it at the time but this was my introduction to soul music.
That summer I saw Ray Charles, his band and the Raelettes at the PNE of all places. I had no idea who they were or what I had stumbled upon but I knew it was related to the Van Morrison TV show.
Later it was Stevie Wonder and Rufus at the PNE; then the Talking Heads at the Commodore and the Gardens, a reunited Sam and Dave, Parliament and Funkadelic, Prince, the Roots, and now Janelle Monae and yes, Adele.
As I replayed the clip I remembered there was another, even greater version from a similar PBS show. My Ketoralac happy brain conflated the two.
It was from the 1973 tour that produced “It’s Too Late to Stop Now”, still one of the best live albums ever made.
Cypress Avenue, recorded in 1973 at the Troubador in LA closes that album. It’s the definitive version for me, as is that album’s version of Caravan.
This performance is from London’s Rainbow Theatre on the same tour. Check out Jack Schoer on sax and the great string arrangments.
But really, it’s about the voice, the band and whatever was rolling around in his head to produce this: