Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Leftovers: Cutlery (that Cuts) (and Alabama)/A Knife and Fork

Rockpile: A Knife and Fork

I took some time off from this blog over the summer, so for the Leftovers theme I’m trying to hit some of what I missed--and this post covers three in one!

I have to believe that more food is eaten from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day than any other similar period during the year. At least in my family, this period is filled with big family meals, parties, dinners out, and many, many cookies, thanks mostly to my wife, the master baker. As someone who struggles with weight and diet and the related health issues that this has caused, it seemed appropriate to write about this song, a cautionary tale about overeating.

My introduction to the song came from its inclusion on the only studio album released under the Rockpile name, Seconds of Pleasure, despite the fact that the musicians (Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner, and Terry Williams) acted as the band for both Edmunds and Lowe on a number of solo releases. At the time of the album’s release, I remember being a little disappointed, despite the fact that there were a number of strong tracks, but as a fan of both Edmunds and Lowe, maybe I expected too much. I think that the critical opinion of the album has improved over the years, though.

What I didn’t realize until I started writing this was that “A Knife and Fork” is a cover—which is a little embarrassing for someone who sporadically contributes to a cover blog. It was originally written and performed by a mostly forgotten performer, Kip Anderson, back in 1967. The song was recorded at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama (hey—that’s another theme that I missed), and was produced by Rick Hall. Check out the original version:

Look, I’m a big Dave Edmunds/Rockpile fan—ask my college roommates—and their cover of the song is good—I liked it then, and I like it now, although I was never a huge fan of when Edmunds’ voice sounds processed. But if you compare it to the more soulful, horn-filled original, the Rockpile version feels restrained. So, I have to say, the original is better. Because, in part, everything is better with a horn section.

Edmunds, to his credit, often covered obscure songs, giving them a new life—on Seconds of Pleasure, for example, in addition to giving Kip Anderson some royalties, he covered a lesser known Chuck Berry song.

Although I do expect to indulge during this festive period (and I already have), I hope that the situation isn’t as dire as the song portends.

Sunday, December 15, 2019


I initially thought I wouldn't make it to this party, my macbook's hard disk seeming to be in dire need of  palliative care, the icing on a week of disappointments. Yup, just as you guys are belatedly getting around to impeaching your bleach blond furball, we have elected ours back in, with a steaming majority. Steaming as in, well, you know. So Brexit has been "done" and, pending 5 or 6 years of expensive, extensive wrangling with Europe, our garage sale of goodies will be up for grabs. It is what it is, and chlorinated chicken can't be all bad.

In the UK, our politics is gauged by colour. Red is Labour, a sort of rather more socialist Democrat party, not communist by any means, if still a shade by far too goddam lefty pinko for your Republicans. They were trashed on friday. Orange is the colour of the traditional 3rd party in the usual two horse race we run here, the Liberals, or, as they re-badged some time back, the Liberal Democrats. They came, traditionally, 3rd. Or rather, 3rd in England, somewhat swamped by Scotland's resplendent bright yellow party, the Scottish Nationalists, dominant party in that aspirational stand alone nation for 3 elections now. And counting. And, much as I am despairing the blue tide of the Conservative party in England, more right wing than they have ever been, who have triumphed and some, I doff my bonnet to the SNP. If and when, my scottish parentage may offer me the safety net of a scottish passport, when and if ever should become a reality.

Billy Bragg is the nearest thing we have to a Woody Guthrie. (OK that's harsh on Ewan MacColl and other musical firebrands, but, in terms of success, sales, and ubiquity, Bragg has a greater claim to the accolade, in my humble.) I can't imagine he will have been raising any glasses in good cheer this weekend, if similarly, like me, probably downing some. Of course, he is known in the US, having been chosen by Nora Guthrie to add music to the reams of songs found within her father's legacy, she appreciating their shared stance about fighting (aka singing) for the undertrodden and overlooked. The song chosen would be as much at home in the US as UK; it is an american song after all. All feeling today, mind, as equivalently out of step.

I'm spoilt for choice in looking for something evocative enough for the SNP; music of the scottish tradition is within an equivalent renaissance now as was irish in the 1970's and 80's. In my cups, sentiment is all, and so it is the Battlefield Band to whom I turn, with this tear stained version of the old Charlie Rich standard. I'm not so naive to believe in the the shortbread tin school of scottish thought, as so savagely laid into by Dick Gaughan, another firebrand politico, but you never know.
I think the UK will dissect in the near future, a new referendum demanded by the SNP of the new government, allowing the scots their right to an independent future, if so sought. This time it will be closer. Meanwhile, in Northern Island, the Unionists (stay with UK) are for the first time in a minority with relation to the Nationalists (join the rest of Ireland).......

I was never that much into the Liberals, feeling them often more material for a protest vote or for tactical voting. Sure, they have had some good ideas in their manifestos, and some fascinating characters in their ranks, but their time has rarely seemed right. As for a song with an appropriate link, it is back north I go. The scottish northern isles, Orkney and Shetland, with their respective scatter of tiny islands and far-flung communities, have long been staunchly electing Liberal members of parliament. Too far north to ever consider themselves Scots, I think this is why they sleight the Nationalists, a greater affinity to the Vikings and Scandinavia than to other britons, whether scottish, english, welsh or irish. The song has no political axe, but is as good a place as any to introduce Orcadian songwriter Erland Cooper to these pages, one third of Magnetic North and the Erland of the earlier Erland and the Carnival. He describes the music of Magnetic North as psychogeography. And that's fine by me.