Pat Blythe – The music melting pot…….and music

We all seem to have a penchant for “the good old days”…..those seemingly free and easy days of the 60s and 70s. Thing is, they really were…..free and easy. Oh, they weren’t perfect. People had their personal challenges but the music, oh the music.

There was a special kind of ambience, a unique kind of camaraderie among the artists. It was an exceptional time and it was happening everywhere. The music sonic boom of 60s was taking place on both sides of the ocean. There’s been a cavalcade of books and documentaries written and produced about the artists themselves and the influences they and their music have on us all today, and will continue to for generations to come. It was the perfect storm of change culminating in Woodstock in 1969, propelling us full speed ahead into the 70s.

The relevancy of yesterday’s music has come full circle, which is partially why it’s still on the top of our hits lists today. War, bigotry, racial discrimination, the starving children in Africa, the homeless, the shootings…..the same or similar problems, crises and struggles still exist in the world today. Some have progressively worsened, some are healing, others are just heating up and some are like the wolf in sheep’s clothing….they’ve always been with us in one disguise or another. Right vs. left, up vs. down, conservative vs. liberal, north vs. south, close-minded vs. open-minded, man vs. woman, old vs. young, (feel free to add to the list) and everything still goes sideways…..but we have survived…..and the music never stops.

Carnaby Street, London, England in the 1960s

The age of social media, in many, many aspects has done the opposite of improving or informing…..it has only exacerbated many situations, amplified the noise and confusion and in many instances, destroyed innocent lives. In amongst all the cute baby and puppy pics, sifting through latest child prodigy video and random gifs that are overpopulating the medium, the “newspaper” of today consists of half-truths, falsehoods, guessing games, accusations, outright lies, and opinions that many count as fact.

However…………

One positive thing social media has done is spread the music. It has informed, enlightened and introduced subsequent generations of a host of possibilities.  It’s opened up a world of song that may not have otherwise been heard. It’s told countless stories of the times, the people and the wonderful musical innovations that unfolded. It shows us how a collective of artists freely collaborated, the likes of which we’ll probably never see again. Social media also reconnected so many of those musicians to each other and to us. It has provided a vehicle to share their narratives, opening a door for the rest of us to hear and read the stories of those times, from those who personify the 60s era.

Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash, circa1969 by Henry Diltz

It was a time of pure experimentation…..trial and error with no judgement. It was a time of discovery, a certain kind of mellowness, of acceptance and whole lot of drug use. A time of simplicity….of writing a song about a walk, a vase, the flowers, the cats and home. The discoveries, the laughs, the anguish, the loves, the silliness, the life stories, the world around us…..all narrated through the lyrics and music that spoke from the heart. If you couldn’t say it…..you’d sing it, and if you listened, you felt it.

We tend to romanticise those times, wishing we could capture and bottle them, cracking open the cap for a just a whiff, a chance to get high on those vibes just once more. The memories we have of the creators and the music itself are buried deep in our psyche. As we age, we pull them out more and more frequently. The veritable rose-coloured glasses sit firmly perched on the end of our noses. The thing is…..we didn’t imagine it. It was indeed a unique and extraordinary time.

Melting pot

Fast forward to the 21st century and those influences have carried forward into the music of today. From a certain period in time that will never be repeated, we carry forward, in the case of music, all the best bits to be used and reused to fashion and produce the music of today.

It’s not a matter of being better, it’s about using your creativity to shape your own musical future and inspire those of future generations.

We may not always like the end product…..too electronic, over-produced, not honest enough, too commercial, not musical enough, too loud, to auto-tune or not to auto-tune…..but it’s their language and their voice. Like the many genres of jazz, or R&B with a dash of funk, or classical mixed with rock ‘n’ roll, music has morphed, changed, revolutionized, transformed, integrated……it has become a melting pot of sounds, rhythms, beats and movement, like something old and something new, something borrowed….. Ever changing, ever shifting, but always there, the backdrop of our lives.

Music links us all, to each other, to the past and towards the future. It’s what unites us and binds us.

Lady Jane – The Rolling Stones

Tomorrow – Strawberry Alarm Clock

Oye Como Va – Santana

East of Underground – Popcorn/Santana

Oh…..and down that rabbit hole we go…… This is what happens when I start to look for “stuff”. Here’s what I found about East of Underground…..

“A pundit once described the American involvement in Vietnam as “the first rock & roll war,” and East of Underground band whose story reflects some of the ways that notion played itself out. The United States Army has a long history of using music both as a recruitment tool and as a way to shore up morale among troops, and in the 1960s, as rock & roll and soul became the dominant popular music among young people, the Army’s Entertainment Division began including more contemporary sounds in their programming. Off-duty soldiers enjoyed hearing modern sounds at enlisted men’s clubs, and landing a spot in an Army band was considered a good way for personnel to avoid dangerous combat duty. 

East of Underground was a multi-ethnic seven-piece band formed by American soldiers stationed in Germany in 1971, eager to make music and create a home away from home during their stay in Germany as the war in Vietnam was at its height. That year, the Army staged what they called “The First Annual Original Magnificent Special Forces Entertainment Show band Contest,” and East of Underground one of many groups that entered the competition. Playing a tough, enthusiastic fusion of R&B, funk and pop/rock tunes of the day (including numbers by James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Sly & The Family Stone and Santana), East of Underground’s sound was dominated by the vocal harmonies of Bobby Blackmon, Larry Watson and Austin Webb, accompanied by tight, concise arrangements laid down by guitarists Lewis Hitt and Gus Marquez, and the rhythm section of bassist Ronald Hall and drummer George Daniels (the latter claimed to have worked with James Brown).East of Underground won second place in the contest; one of the judges was Kurt Loder, who later became a respected rock journalist, and in a review of the show he described them as “a beautiful soul band with three exceptionally good singers.” Along with the first, third, and fourth place winners, East of Underground were given studio time in the Armed Forces Radio Network’s recording facility in Frankfurt, Germany as one of their prizes, and they cut an album’s worth of material. East of Underground‘s studio session was issued as a promotional album by the Army, but it received scant distribution and quickly fell into obscurity, and after the group’s members finished their military commitments, the band broke up. Many years later, the album came to the attention of the crate diggers at the magazine Wax Poetics, and in 2007 the magazine launched their affiliated record label with a reissue of East of Underground’s LP. At the time, little was known about the group and its members, and Wax Poetics produced a short film (also called East of Underground) about the album and the efforts to unravel the mystery of the band. In 2011, Now Again Records reissued the East of Underground album in a special box set that also included albums recorded by the three other winners of the 1971 show band contest, Soap, the Black Seeds, and the Sound Trek. So far, guitarist Lewis Hitt is the only member of East of Underground whose whereabouts have been confirmed; he works as an ambulance pilot in Alabama and still plays guitar in his spare time.” – Artist biography by Mark Deming

East of Underground (documentary)

Go Where You Want to Go – The Mamas and the Papas

Our House – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Deja Vu – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Alone Again (Or) – Love

Doing Alright – Queen

Desolation Row – Bob Dylan

The times they are a-changin’ – The Byrds

Each subsequent generation will make their own stamp…..blending old with new. A new release by a fresh new artist, David Jane has done just that. David began his musical odyssey influenced by those musicians of the 60s and 70s. Triggered by Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row, David set in motion a major shift in his life, learning the songs of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones…..absorbing the sounds, the impressions, the feeling and emotions, but most of all the music from those times. The opportunity to see Bob Dylan in concert was a turning point.

David Jane

Connecting the storytellers of the past with the storytellers of the present…..never limiting himself to a single genre, but incorporating many, David has released his first EP, Welcome to Today. Flavoured with all that’s come before with a dash of something new, David is taking us forward, and beginning to make his own stamp.

Velvet Queen – David Jane

….and for your listening pleasure, the last podcast. Blues artist Shakura S’Aida at https://luvthemusic.podbean.com

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay sane.

Cheers!

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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