Thursday, 7 July 2016

Laughin' just to keep from cryin'

The girl sitting opposite me on the Metro was Eddie's age or younger. She was wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. Led Zeppelin... A popular recording quartet formed in the late 1960s, some three decades before her birth... [pause for reflection] Wow.

This would be like me, some time around the late 1970s, wearing a t-shirt bearing the image of musicians from the late 1920s.

How implausible would that be, I pondered for a moment before getting off the train.

The answer came to me the following morning. "Laughin' just to keep from cryin'," I thought when observing the overnight comments on Twitter concerning Brexit. The situation is so ridiculous, yet so tragic, that morbid humour is the only answer.

"Laughin' just to keep from cryin'..." Where do I know that quote from...? My mind goes into search mode.

It's a line from the song Bullfrog Blues. Which I know because it used to be a staple of Ricky Cool and the Icebergs' set, played live at the Barrel Organ, Digbeth. The year would have been 1977 or '78... The Icebergs covered songs first popular in America in the late 1940s and 50s. However, Bullfrog Blues - that's a Rory Gallagher number, explained Mr Cool. But Rory Gallagher's version was itself a cover (recorded in 1972) of Canned Heat's version recorded in 1967 (and credited to the band).

Yet Canned Heat did not write the song, they merely added a few verses to the original, including the line "Laughin' just to keep from cryin'". I came across the original Bull Frog Blues on a CD given to me by Krzysztof Osiejuk several years ago (a great compilation of 1920s and '30s blues music). It was recorded in 1928 by William Harris. The CD contained the song, along with other classics that were recorded and re-recorded over the decades.

Listen to William Harris with Buddy Boy Hawkins, from 88 years ago. Still fresh!

We are back in the late 1920s, thirty years before my birth. The Mississippi Delta, home of the Blues, which migrated up to Chicago, went electric, got picked up by hip white young people who turned it into Rock'n'Roll; it went global, in the late 1960s the British iteration of rock music spawned Led Zeppelin. Full circle.

And the headline on the front cover of this week's issue of The Economist - Anarchy in the UK - references a punk rock song originally recorded by the Sex Pistols in 1976 that aptly describes the conditions of the country post-Brexit vote 40 years on.

Full circle indeed.

This time four years ago:
Modlin Airport open day, just ahead of its inauguration

This time five years ago:
Along Austro-Hungary's strategic railway

This time six years ago:
Gone is the threat of Państwo Smoleńskie

This time seven years ago:
Get on your bike and RIDE!

This time eight years ago:
Moles in my own garden

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