REVIEW: MICHAEL WILDING’S NEW NOVEL

In the Valley of Weed
A REVIEW BY COLIN TALBOT
IN THE VALLEY OF THE WEED by MICHAEL WILDING, (ARCADIA)
 
Michael Wilding is/was/is a Sydney University academic, a reader in literature modern & less modern. He has written on Milton, Jack London, Christina Stead, himself, and most recently, on 19th Century Marvellous Melbourne’s Yorick Club. The name from Hamlet where in Act Whatever, Hamlet, as I recall from Form 4, High School, while stuffing around in a garden, comes across a skull – that of his former teacher Yorick.
 
A deceased Yorick (to spell it out, though the skull should have been a big hint). Local Literary Giants, Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon &  Henry Kendall were all deviant members of Yorick Club…into the sex, drugs & rock&roll of the time – (Michael Wilding Wild Bleak Bohemia: Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall Australian Scholarly Publishing  $39.95) For this groundbreaking work, Michael received a fistful of $$$ and an award from the Fed Govt, excuse me for not recalling the details of this prestigious award but that woulds require a Wiki assault…
 
In The Valley of the Weed. The title reminds me of, in context, this:
Half a league half a league, 
Half a league onward, 
All in the valley of Death 
Rode the six hundred: 
(from a poem by Tennyson ‘The Charge of The Light Brigade’, re the Crimean War) and appears to have not to do with MW’s novel. Also Psalm 22 or perhaps 23…About fearing no evil in the Valley of Death.
 
 
Well off the track of anything I fear. Anyway MW has been writing fiction and non-fiction and lit crit since he arrived on our shores (okay, that’s jingo-rude, his shores too) round 1963 with an Oxford degree in History or in something, and took up a post at Sydney University. With a little coming and going he was not necessarily to know that this was to be his life. I think his last title was Professor. In his earlier years of Balmain with the likes of Nigel Roberts, Robert Adamson, John Tranter, Vicki Viidikas and others, he became devoted to the cause of modern Australian writing and a scholar of all Australian writing, and world writing. I must admit a connection here because in there 70s I did stay at MW’s Balmain Hacienda and what a fine host he was until I made myself so unsociable as to be inevitable for many years. So it goes.
 
 
Michael spent many years writing at the edge of  modern/pomo fiction, if not central in the avant garde, then in the next phalanx or unit of literary troops (this guy’s metaphors are raging outa the pen!! Hmm. Trifle overdone perhaps. Such is Life Literary figures have probably died at the stake for less, though at the minute no particular name comes to mind. Jean of Arc perhaps but she did find fame with a spear and shield, more the sword than the pen).
 
 
Then it was not so many years ago that Michael moved into his version of detective fiction. I don’t know but I presume it was with a sense of humour (or ‘humor’ as the newspapers used to write the word) that he took his talents this way and I would not call his work noir, noir-esque or even Noir-Lite. In fact, if you will, if one rotates Noir, the word Irony (okay without the ‘y’) appears and there is much irony, wit, cynical pee-pee taking and other humours, so to speak, redolent in these works of fiction.
 
 
His first (I understand) foray into modern detective fiction was in his novel ‘National Treasure’ where we met his hero (well…yes, hero or if you wish, anti-hero, or if you really wish, bloke whose exploits provide the context for the books) who is by name, Plant. Now I’ve read all the Plant novels except ‘Asian Dawn’ and I’ll be blown if I can recall whether I’ve ever encountered Plant’s given name (what we used to call 30 years ago his Christian name but now there’d be a 40% chance of the given name not being Christian-related) so the hero is Plant. The topic within the novels is usually marijuana or related to marijuana or if it’s not about marijuana, then the hero is rolling up, joint-making, dope-seeking etc etc and making the Mary Jane connection.
 
 
In ‘In the Valley of the Weed’ our hero Plant, a sort of private detective, a seeker of the truth, is tasked with locating a disappeared academic named Tim Vicars. The missing gentleman had been teaching (or as a Plant connection termed it, the teaching was unproven, he was receiving a paycheque) at a tertiary institution. (If there’s one thing —what’s the word, perhaps ‘trope’ is the vogue term – which recurs and recurs it is the rather worldly view Plant has of academia. If we are to believe Plant and his kind, these institutions are places where people draw salaries. Books are slowly (actually, quite rapidly) being withdrawn from academy libraries (in case someone wishes to access knowledge of some kind) and any other tactic is employed which might reduce the act of teaching or the wisdom-getting of students to a memory but leave the act of being well-financed for useless projects unspecified —well, I’ll leave the details for the readers’ enjoyments.
 
 
Plant is seemingly unsurprised when acquainted with how things work (or don’t work) at university. For instance his missing person was kicked out for a series of private emails (racist, sexist, anything badist) which were never published by Mr Vicars or the University, but by some online hacker shitstirring ‘journal’. Thus in this adventure Plant is destined to head North to the Valley of The Weed, as he smokes his way to insight along the journey.
 
 
If you are fully opposed to legalising marijuana, to decriminalising legislation, to alternative culture, then this wouldn’t really be the book for you. I can think of several MP’s who would have a hard time with this novel, (the big words as well as the notions) all the names I have come to mind here are, as Mungo once wrote, sitting ‘to the right of the oyster fork’ on the table of fascism. I think there are about five Plant novels and I am familiar with four of them. I may even have the 5th in the bookshelf, I had better check. I could check. I’ll roll up and think about it. That’s a joke…I think. The terms of Plant’s adventures follow the notion, that from the small, grows the large. You never know where the tendrils of a Plant novel will take you —usually to a well-stoned world.
 
 
For years and years, Michael Wilding has urged the word, particularly Australia, to leave pot smoking alone, and his books advertise this notion. Plant needs his dope.
 
 
And if supporting smoking dope can assist a writer produce about 25 novels, nearly a dozen non-fiction works and many other contributions to the literate world in this country, well why the fuck can’t people be left to consume what grows by the side of the road? Ask Plant, he might have the answer —or some of them—or, like, what was the question, man?#
 
Colin Talbot. (the reviewer’s own latest novel is ‘The Country Jesus (Moody Place $29.95)

Rickie Lee Jones – A Review by Colin Talbot

Rickie Lee Jones
Rickie Lee Jones
Rickie Lee Jones–Me & Ms Jones, there’s a thing going on…She & band played the Recital Hall which is a far far cry from Festival Hall or Rod Laver, thankfully. It is a mature venue, the like of which did not exist in my youth. And I’d never heard hardly anything RLJ had done apart from ‘Chuck E’s in Love’ which did very well around the traps. It is said she was in the sack with Tom Waits, so there’s that beatnik/jazz connection, that staccato thing.
The band was minimal, Ms Jones to you on semi-acoustic & a lead guitar & drums/vibes (both players subtle and excellent but I didn’t catch their names when she gave them out because there was random applause which drowned that out. One can always research it or find some program notes but I didn’t. Ms Jones said they’d all been living and playing in ‘New Orleans Lousiana’ for the past few years) and later in the set she went to the piano.
Her stage craft is cool and wry and polite enough and that’s okay by me. The big surprise was ‘Horses’ which I probably heard many years ago was one of her songs but forgot, and she invited Darryl Braithwaite to come on stage and sing which he did. It was a highlight because, yes, I recall Darryl from Sherbet all those years ago, and he sang well then, but with ‘Horses’ he found a true song for himself. They sang together well, and he was hanging off-stage and it was even remotely piossible they’d encore with it. They didn’t. Anyway, it went over well, very well. and she told the story of how he’d taken her song to #1 in Australia and she thanked her music publishers (why wouldn’t ya?) and Darryl and told the story of arriving in Melbourne into a hotel and turning on the TV (fighting over that with her daughter, about who the song was written 29 in a few days she said, —but ‘that’s another story!’ – and on the TV was a horse race and everybody seemed to be singing ‘that’s the way it’s gonna be’ because Darryl was doing his thing at the Races—I remember that time, I think there was a problem with the timing and the real horses  the song about the Horses were on a collision and a few million $$ worth of horseflesh started shying…Melbourne Cup or Cox Plate, I forget…anyway…back to last night.
So Rickie Lee slowly began to warm up to her best and in the end, tho she was 15 minutes late, went to about 10.15pm and whattya want? I’ve never been ‘into’ Ms Jones but that’s as may be, for she had many many fans there who knew the stuff, which I didn’t. But I did warm to the oblique style and the sparse but critical way the band played and she has a very strong voice that has charm and wit.
She’d been on guitar and then she moved to piano and that’s where her sublime talent at the piano showed. It turns out her grand folks were some kind of performers (circus, tin-pan alley, musicals, I forget) and her father was an accomplished performer & songwriter and in fact her encore was his song written in 1954 ‘The Moon is Gold’ which was a  nice tune that gave Rickie Lee Jones a time to sound a little like Billie Holiday’s phrasing.
 But that was last Friday and I have been thinking…and then from Sydney, Amanda Dweck wrote of seeing RLJ in Sydney… so…
here is that letter from Amanda:

What a treat Rickie Lee Jones must have been in Melbourne with Daryl Braithwaite singing “Horses”. I saw her last night said daughters birthday and I didn’t know that she had written this song for her daughter. But I listened to the lyrics for the first time and was choking back the tears. What a beautiful gift! Rickie’s unique voice was also a gift to us because she had caught a miserable lergy that she could only have caught in Melbourne. Sydney’s Basement was packed in like sardines on the second of two nights. She was simply amazing. I bought her album on the way out and the liner notes revealed that she had to rely on friends support to produce the album.

PART TWO RICKIE LEE:

The thoughtful note we received did not prompt this addition yet it helped me to concentrate the mind, like the hangman’s noose at dawn – or the hangperson as the case may be.

Amanda’s letter mentioned  how she missed Sherbet’s former lead singer doing ‘Horses’ and it got me thinking – was it a ‘special moment’ because it was so good? Or was it such a moment because it was totally unexpected and then well done, so we the audience were generous? Possibly both, as the audience surely responded to the surprise with much more than good grace…and Darryl B with Rickie Lee nailed it, IMO.

Now I mentioned before that when Rickie Lee went to the piano, something of a revelation occurred, as the playing was pensive, dynamic, thoughtful and inherently beautiful all at once. Yet as she said while noodling, (ie: foolin’ around) she said how she had a gift for recalling tunes and songs—once heard, sort of never forgotten. Then she started to recall a tune right then…half under her breath singing ‘smiling faces, badabadabing blah yadda ya traces’ and hung that on us before moving on. Now that really stuffed me up because I could not recall what song it was and I spent the rest of the concert flicking thru my mind’s catalog of pop stuff but I freakin’ could NOT find it. Jeez to heck! No!!!!! Hold back the dawn!! Ye haw, hey jest a minute! Hold on, ’Smiling faces, going places aaah ha’ …And I find it kinda funny I find it kinda sad that I just can’t recall —I mean it were not a couple of things I looked up later that night on Gargle.Cum I really did start to lose it—and I remembered ‘smiling faces going places’ and I realised, like I saw I was in a mad place because it is a mad world—YES!

I had fund the Missing Link. The sog was the soundtrack for that movie where the guy sees a big rabbit. ‘Mad World’. Lots of minor chords I suspect. It had been written by I forget, maybe the band that sang ‘Life in a Northern Town’ maybe not, maybe by The Cocteau Twins –that sort of thing. What a beautiful song (to me), just piano (probably viola or whatever sitting behind so subtle that I don’t know I’m hearing it.) I don’t ‘hear’ everything, I become captured by the song and can no longer analyse it, I’m caught in it like what happens in the song Grace Jones sings, ‘Sometimes the Hunter is Captured by the Game.’ Incidentally on that Grace Jones album from 30 or 40 years ago (Jeeez!!) right there was ‘Walking in the Rain’ by the Easybeats songwriting team. And Grace kills the song so beautifully, who else would ever dare do it? I certainly don’t know, that’s the version I carry in my head catalog. But back to the concert, Amanda.

Then RLJ, after freakin’ me out and leaving me with half a song in my head, began to speak of a group called Left Bank and their album. I never knew they ever did another but maybe they did. She mentioned a song on it ‘Pretty Ballerina’. Now that song , the version by the Left Bank, was used in a movie about bent US Army Police in Thailand, the song playing over a scene where the body of a murdered bar girl is shown…I was not happy but I was happy. Because I loved and still love that song and that version – the only version besides mine that I have ever heard and I’m confessin’ you really wouldn’t want to hear mine.

But I found it most disturbing that in the film (name forgotten -please insert, dear editor and knower of all things) the song was played over an example of the human plague of murder that was kicked off all those years back by Cain, the selfish Biblical metaphor for the bad in us perhaps –unless you believe every word in the Bible is gospel (so to speak) and is the word of God handed down via ‘prophets’ and just guys who wrote stuff down they heard in their heads, and therefore Cain is real history…maybe it is…probably it is not. ASnyway and it is so that all murdering types carry the Mark of Cain — it’s just that I don’t know what that Mark is and so I’ve never been able to identify it—perhaps it is a different mark for each member of that evil fraternity. And I do not class self-defence or the elimination of certain gutter trash  as murder, more as restoring equilibrium (note: some may find the following language not to their taste…you may overlook this paragraph thus: when these cases are come before court apparently the wise lawyer employs what is called the ‘f*cking c*nt’ defence…as in, ‘Your Honor, my client pleads not guilty to murder because he knocked that rabid tosser because he was a f*cking c*nt.’ The judge then says. ‘Oh, sweet, no worries. Case dismissed.’)

Anyway, Rickie Lee having mentioned ‘Pretty Ballerina’, the only singer I have ever heard to mention this song and this band,  she turns to the other song of note on that album. Most would think the Four Tops were the true agents of this song she turned to, but as I recall, it was a Left Bank Original. Rickie Lee talked genuinely of the Left Bank and if she’d done nothing else, that would have won me over. It brought to mind a scene from my ragged life back in West St Kilda when I was a journalist just beginning to learn the amount of alcohol a journalist must consume so as to deal with the absolute horror of this world —of having to meet and write about some of the people who perpetrate the worst acts humanity can dream up —and the worst is really really off. I had been a Pollyanna type, I couldn’t even listen to cautionary tales like Handsome & Gretchen without coming out in a rash. Anyway we’d had a party at my rooms (as they used to say) in York Street and I had intended to clean up, as had Steve and Dennis who shared the (Between the Wars) abode. But it was a busy time with news and newspapers that June. We didn’t have time, honest…sort of. Oh yeah it had been my birthday party and someone had decided I should have a party at my place but they’d forgotten to inform me so when I returned to the house after the evening shift finished at 10pm, and I thrashed the FC Holden home to get there by 10.38pm the joint was jumpin’, yo man it was absolutely packed to the freaking rafters with people I’d never met before all helping me to celebrate my 20th.

Anyway, sometime later, on another day, I woke with a remarkably clear head to find two policepersons standing in my room , regarding me. Fortunately the two girls who had been evicted from the hacienda next door and had sought refuge in our joint were not around, as one of them had decided it was better to sleep with me than to sleep in the room that the house’s owner (we were renting) used to keep his spuds—and he had thousands of them…(It wasn’t until years after I even wondered why he had crates and crates of spuds in this locked room. Odd when ya think about it, which I’m doing now…still odd. Who would have thousands of spuds in a locked room with three journos who were just out of childhood (but not mentally) in the same house. Anyway we’d broken the lock of the room to see WTF was in it. Spuds was the answer. Oh how we dined on mashed potato, roast potato, boiled potato and potato salad (with just potato)…so the de-homed, the de-domesticated. de-domiciled girls could try and find a spot in amongst the spuds after they were evicted. We made a nice level area so they could lie flat on the potatos. But, as I say, one of the lasses didn’t like spuds, and I was a preferred option but believe it or not, sometimes at 11pm after a horrible shift of reporting, chasing some dopey missing figure from the alleged on-the-run Czech consul up in the hills and being told by a local from those hills that my quarry ‘I baint seen him like but he be living a few chain down that ways.’ A chain being a unit of measurement in the Imperial System (which I’d called the Empirical System for a long time until some kid told me I was an drongo, not even ‘a’ drongo mind you), that was no longer in use after WW1, let alone in 1969. That’s the length of a cricket pitch for those of a sporting bent….where was I —oh yeah, sometimes after a bad night reporting a stupid story, you don’t want company in bed, even if it’s a girl, even if she’s a nice person, even if…(redacted dirty bit), even if you are not a terribly bad bloke, you yell out the locked door ‘Stay with the spuds, I’m quite done in.’

The door rattles, expletives are hurled, but you finally hear footsteps tromping off…but it accounted for why I woke up alone with two coppers standing over me.
And they ask a question or two about whatever and then one points to the pyramid of beer cans in the centre of the rather large room with mid-morning sunlight streaming in through the East-facing window —and the can pyramid is tall as a seven-year-old child (either —or these days any- sex) and the copper goes , ‘Did ya’s have a party here last night?’ And I thinks (‘to myself’ as the sports writers say) for a minute or two and I replies through the mental fog —‘Yeah…Nah, I think…yeah, the party was about two weeks ago.’ And they got a frown and a sneer & the hump and turned on their well-polished heels and exeunt.

Well the point of that silly story is that leaning against that pyramid of cans was my Left Bank record. And on that record was the song that Rickie Lee now chose to sing at the piano. And that was ‘Walk Away Renee’. The Four Tops did a great version but for me, it was always Left Bank. And Rickie Lee gave us a beautifully pensive version at the piano. Just so good. Thankyou. And a lover of Left Bank…just perfect.#

There’s a Red Stitch Over Yonder…Theatre Review: “Rules for Living” by Sam Holcroft, directed by Kim Farrant

Rules for Living

The new play at Red Stitch is very modern, original and quite long – a two act show with each act at about 90 minutes, and add a decent interval, so pack your lunch and an overnight bag. (yes yes, I’m kidding) Though the theatre is in the grounds of a St Kilda church at Chapel & Dandenong Rd,  and you can park your vehicle ten metres from the theatre, so…

That said, the play is easy to watch, with an ensemble cast (six and a half players) doing a sterling job of bringing the piece to life. “Rules for Living” is written by English playwrite Sam Holcroft, who has written a few theatre pieces to some acclaim, and it is no surprise, after seeing the play, to find that Sam is a woman, for the insights into the characters suggest a female hand.

The plot: We’ve seen this before but that’s okay. A post-nuclear family finds a reason to come together again. Not a death this time, but the mundanity of a xmas meal. It’s a fairly tight unit, two sons, mother & father. But the older of the kids, Adam (played by Mark Dickinson) is married to Sheena (Jessica Clarke) and they’ve got a mildly crook teenager (Ella Newton on my night, but I think shared with Lily McCarthy) who seems to have 21st Century disease. The younger bro is Matthew (played by Rory Kelly) who has dragged along his new squeeze, the daggy doofus Carrie (Jem Nicholas).

So let the play begin, and to mis-use Hamlet, “for the play’s the thing
Wherein we’ll catch the conscience of the King.” But the patriarch of this suburban joint, Francis (played by Ian Rooney) is in no state to have his conscience caught. And we begin to understand the dominance of Francis in this household, and where the ‘Rules’ for living came from. He dominated his children and enlisted his wife Edith (Caroline Lee) to uphold the law. Both his sons were in love with performing – Adam as a talented cricketer who starred at Lords, the very home of cricket, and Matthew who strutted before the theatre lights.  Yet the father drove them to careers with more reliable futures and incomes…but less passion.
This is where playwrite Sam throws in some psychology to inject a large dose of black humour into the bleak suburban tapestry. Using tenets of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which aims to correct negative behaviour patterns formed in childhood, the play commands the actors to  follow certain social rules when they play out their unconscious social response patterns. And the CBT is driving the play.

Director Kim Farrant, I am told in the Red Stitch program notes, is set to direct a feature film based on a Luke Davies’ (“Candy” etc) script. And here she has pulled the ensemble cast into a mostly relaxed and (insert useful word here, please, editor) performance. I’d imagine an ensemble cast is most difficult to write for and to direct, with many many sub-plots or meta-plots and schema being woven into and through the central issue which is—well I don’t know really. Perhaps social repression. Perhaps childhood self-preservation methods which later in life occlude real living, whatever that might be. So that’s the recipe for this xmas dinner and it has produced a most entertaining evening with the entire ensemble delivering, though I was particularly taken with the performances of the actors behind Sheena and Matthew, yet lest this opinion seem to take kudos from the rest of the cast & crew, I would hasten to add, shove that up your jumper, they were all good. “Rules For Living” is on now, see Red Stitch for further details, I would imagine…#

ROCK&ROLL: Roll along with the breeze – if you can’t find your knees

Like, Just A Short Note: R&R & the new Rolling Stones Record…”BLUE & LONESOME”

”Blue & Lonesome”– or somesuch, and no, not from the record label Nonesuch,  this disc is apparently on Polydor, though one is not so sure just what a record ‘label’ means anymore when much of the sales are delivered via Spotify, not quantifiable in the standard way, or on I-Tunes, which for many moons had the drop on downloadability and is now just one of many…or one of two or three, I don’t know, I can’t keep up….”Blue & Lonesome”, that’s what it’s called, the new Rolling Stones album, their 45th, their 13th, their ‘n’th album (Felicity, sweetie, babycakes, could you check what number this is, excluding best of’s but counting the live albums, if they had ’em? Ta. Cheers, owe ya bigtime.) and it takes one (well, this one, me) right back to their first album, “The Rolling Stones”, with a lot of blues, R&B, Chuck Berry & Bo Diddley covers, and also a Jagger-Richard song, ‘Tell Me’ and a couple of Nanker-Phelge credited tunes (the name for a song credited to the whole band–at that time Mick, Keith, Charlie, Bill & Brian).

Actually, where the new 95th album actually takes me, metaphorically, musically, not really a physical displacement, I’ve used an expired poetic licence, is to the next, the 2nd album (note: the first album was preceded by two singles and an EP – an EP is an Extended Play, which is  the same physical size as a single, but with three or four or five tracks on it)) and that’s called “12X5”. (An EP came out first titled ‘5X5’).

Where was I? Oh yes, reviewing the Rolling Stones. And yes their new album, “Blue & Lonesome” is good…but really. I’ll take the first two R&B albums by The Stones, and then I’ll take “Let it Bleed” and “Beggars’ Banquet”, albums next to each other in the procession of albums, at the turn of the 60s/70s, and at the end of Brian and the introduction of Mick Taylor. There is a simply great extended version of ‘Sympathy for the Devil with Mick Taylor helping on guitar. I always assumed (okay, not always, for the longest time then) that it was mid-labeled and meant ‘Symphony for the Devil’ but I have/have had no proof of this. Thus I’ll accept the title as has been presented.

this clip isn’t the one I was looking for but it’ll do…they do a pretty good job on all the clips. It reminds me of standing outside Madison Square Gardens in 1975 trying to find a scalper for the Rolling Stones concert and an odd fellow struck up a conversation. He was from the deep very deep south, but an innocent type. He said he’d been to RS concerts in every state of the Union and now he was trying to get into this one. Okay. He said The Stones knew him because he was at so many of their concerts and sometimes they slipped him a ticket and they called him The Midnight Rambler —or as he called it The Meridnarht Reeemblah. He would have been super-spooky if he hadn’t been dressed in blue velvet although he did rub his hand along the velvet in a crazy crazy fashion and come out with some awfully rude & dirty adjectives & nouns. Hold on. Allright, I might have lied a little bit about the touching stuff and swearing, but he did wear blue velvet, just like in the Bobby Vinton song.There were so many Bobby’s. Bobby Vee, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Charlton (though he didn’t  sing very much) Bobby & Laurie and Bobby Darin…anyway Bobby’s up the keister, almost a plague of Bobby’s but I never heard a Bobby song I didn’t like and you can take that to the bank and deposit it. So the Midnight Rambler (or the Mudnaahht Reembluh) and I were chatting away as I watched girls going into the Gardens and of course boys were going in too but I didn’t pay much attention to them. Anyway I had Bobby (I think that was his name), my Midnight Blue friend who was telling me about Alabama and Twirling at Ole Miss (cheerleaders at Mississippi and He found us tickets but by then I couldn’t be stuffed going in…it was more fun watching others go in and I’d seen The RS back in Melbourne only two years before, at Kooyong, and so… And as a noted drug philosopher acquaintance I had, once said, ‘the one you don’t have is the one you miss out on’…which I thought extremely profound. One thing leads to another and that brings to mind Helen Garner’s novel “Monkey Grip”, set in Fitzroy and Carlton and Nora the heroine swimming at Fitzroy Pool and being struck by the sign for the Deep End, in Italian, Aqua Profunda. Or maybe it was in Latin for the only two Latin scholars who lived within 20 kilometres of the pool.

Anyway anyhow, the reason for the nostalgia, the time when the Rolling Stones were an excellent R&B covers band who had a very decent dress sense and Brian had a haircut to dye for, was that while the RS were in the studio getting their new new album sorted, they started (I am led to believe) dicking around with some old standards, which is the stuff that brought them together. The Chicago Bues, the Delta Blues, Robert Johnson (wasn’t he the first electric bluesman? –anyway a legend’s legend.) And The Stones had offered listeners a very reasonable white boy version of ‘Love in Vain’ about the two trains running…a Robert Johnson classic.

And Robert Johnson was the template, the guy who made the Faustian deal with the d-d-d-devil down at the Crossroads, who appeared on the scene and was okay, who went away for a bit, and who came back absolutely an all-singing, all-playing electric genius and everybody knew the evil one had purchased the guy’s soul and given him talent in return. And there is no “Return to Sender” with this arrangement. You gots to pay up. And so the Rolling Stones had returned to their roots with “Blue & Lonesome”, they didn’t need to write their own songs anymore to get those fat royalty cheques, they had heaps (well Mick & Keith did), they could go get authentic. So they played the songs of old, credited them, unlike some, and it sounded okay.
(to be continued),