Monday, 31 October 2011

Review of 'Don Partridge and Company,' by John Bentham...

Frank Brown and his old Gibson Twelve String.
Leicester Square 1968.

A very nice review of the book from John Bentham in the Tiger Folk Newsletter (not available on their site but via Dave Sutherland's monthly newsletter):

'Three years ago on a Friday night Don Partridge played the Pack Horse Folk Club in Loughborough. It wasn’t a turn up, perform and off down the road jobs, oh no. Saturday saw him busking in the Market Place; one of his old haunts from the 80’s when he was living on a narrow boat in the town. In the pub later in the afternoon, an old chum of Dons, Rod Warner broached the idea of writing a biography of Don. His response was that it shouldn’t be a biography but a book about buskers. After all both he and Rod were on the busking scene at the same time. It became more than a suggestion and the prospect of writing such a book started to become a reality. Perhaps the catalyst was when Don... contacted Pat Keene. Now Pat had also been earning his living busking but was also a photographer with rolls and rolls of film that he had taken at the time. Of course, busking was nothing new, there had always been street performers, but nearly all of them were “The Old School”, accordion players, banjo and spoon players, jazz bands, individual singers and their ilk but now, suddenly, there appeared in their midst young, guitar carrying lads and the busking world was about to change and Pat was there to capture it on film.
In the book we are taken, in photographs some of which have never been published before and through the reminiscences of Don, Pat and Rod, back to a world that the majority of people only saw or ignored as they passed by on their own journeys. And it would possibly have remained a twilight world if Don Partridge hadn’t have mackled up his one man band kit, worn a snake skin jacket and started singing a song called “Rosie”. The smart thing to say now would be;” And the rest is history”. Well, yes it is, and you can now read the first-hand accounts of that history. Because I know Rod quite well, I felt a little uneasy at times reading some of the intimate details of his life but also fascinated by them, is this just curiosity or voyeurism? Whatever it might be, it proves yet again that we might think we know someone but how much do we really know.
Life was good on the streets and life was bad on the streets. The streets weren’t just in London. They were up and down the country. They were up and down the Europe. They were east of Europe and west to Ireland. Sometimes travelling in style, sometimes bumming it, sometimes with money to burn, sometimes with a scarce two ha’pennies to rub together, sometimes travelling alone, sometimes with fellow buskers and bottlers, sometimes as a loner sometimes with a lover, travelling, travelling, always moving on. Even when the times were good the road would beckon and so they would up sticks and away. Bohemian, I guess it was.
The highlight was The Buskers Concert in 1969 when Don hired The Royal Albert all about it!
Sadly Don passed away before the book was finished but Pat and Rod were determined to complete the project in memory of their old mate and a damn good job they have done of it.

If you don’t see me next spring, I’ll be in Berlin” 
“Transworld Blues”-Don Partridge.'

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Form is what happens...

Meg Aikman - 'The Piccadilly Nightingale.'

The book is now launched, people are buying it, which is gratifying, with not too many problems so far.
Of course, after publication, one is always thinking of the material you wanted to put in, things that you might have approached differently, stylistic choices that were or were not made. The list goes on... Pat and myself hit the basic problem when Don suddenly and tragically died: should we continue or should we abandon the book in its planned form and try to resurrect it as something else?  In the end, we fell somewhere in the middle, deciding that, yes, the book would be incomplete from the original ideas that had been thrashed out, because we needed more of Don's input for that, and short of a Doris Stokes moment or two, this was not going to happen in this life. But what we had was maybe enough to justify the project. So we went with that. Three stories that elliptically reflect and refract on each other. The other issue was: time and mortality. With Don gone, the two of us not exactly spring chickens, the owld wingรจd chariot was hurrying near behind us somewhat.  Et in busking arcadia ego... (I have a rather drunken fancy that after death, crossing the bar (to borrow from Tennyson) might be turned from the sombre process of changing continuum, so to speak, if the Pilot suddenly turned round and revealed himself as my old friend, professional loon and busking partner, Jumping Jack/Earl of Mustard/Norman Norris: 'I'm the guv'nor. Whorr hor hor.' I assume the old bugger has left this level sometime back and would like to think he found a good gig beyond... ).

In the end, the book followed one of the literary precepts which CharlesOlson appropriated from his younger friend and fellow poet, Robert Creeley: 'FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT .'.
Many years later, when asked about his famous quote, Creeley responded:
'I would now almost amend the statement to say, "Form is
what happens." It's the fact of things in the world, however
they are. So that form in that way is simply the presence of
any thing.'
From here...  (scroll down).

So the form of the book is created by what we had left to play with. 'Form is what happens.' Hopefully something interesting came of it.