Rumble, rumble: Jah Wobble at Talking Heads

21st April 2016

And so once again, I’m happy to say, to Talking Heads in Southampton. The Queen is 90, Derren Brown is amazing and puzzling the audience at the Mayflower, and Jah Wobble and the Invaders of the Heart are just over the road.

Briefly, for those who don’t know,  the name came about when Sid Vicious once drunkenly slurred “John Wardle” into “Jah Wobble”. Mr Wobble- that sounds all wrong- played bass with Public Image Ltd, then went on to produce an eclectic mix of music, involving reggae, spoken word, ‘world music’, Chinese traditional, and lots I’ve probably missed.

Talking Heads just continues to delight on the sadly few occasions we visit. There is a front bar which is everything a bar ought to be, with a jumble of old furniture, excellent beer and, I am told, good food. The sound system in the small hall is excellent. This evening there was even a support band: Sombrero Fallout. They play trancey stuff with a world music tinge, involving bouzouki, trombone, bass and backing tracks, with projections (a little like Public Service Broadcasting). They are actually quite good, though I think they’d benefit from live percussion.

Invaders of the Heart are actually very, very good. Now I have to confess that I do not remember who they all are, and I can’t find their names with a web search at present. There is an astonishingly accomplished youngish guitarist, an astonishingly accomplished and versatile youngish drummer, called Mark, and a keyboard player who is probably very accomplished too, although I’m not really knowledgeable enough to comment. At the back is a gentleman with a laptop, a role I believe known as a ‘beat doctor’ in France.

JWobbleseatedFinally, of course, is Jah Wobble. A big man with a BIG bass: an Ovation Magnum, for those who like the details. Yes, he does occasionally play sitting down. He is undoubtedly the band leader, introducing numbers, checking sound, gently joshing along the musicians and even nodding them in to solos. The music is just totally individual. There is a large proportion of reggae, along with sections that even sound like the modern Soft Machine. It’s just glorious, excellent musicianship underpinned by that rumbling, unique bass sound. I can’t tell you all of what they played; I’m a blogger, not a journalist. So my apologies if any of this is inaccurate. They started with ‘Metal Box’, a PiL number. Oddly enough they played the John Barry theme from ‘Midnight Cowboy’ as well as the theme from ‘Get Carter’. They played, I think, ‘The Liquidator’, and other reggae tracks, with real rhythm and verve. They played those transcendental Jah Wobble songs, ‘Visions of You’ and ‘Becoming More Like God’, with stunning, liquid guitar solos. Another song, ‘Every Man is an Island’ is again positive and uplifting.

I loved it all. It still amazes me that such musicians play a tiny place like Talking Heads. They must enjoy it; it certainly looks as if they do.

So… thanks to the Oblique children for the taxi service. What a treat to go to a gig and have a drink. Thanks to Talking Heads. Go there. And especially thanks to Jah Wobble and the Invaders of the Heart. Go and see him. He’s a unique treasure.

Photo: Mark Iverson from Seattle [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Searching for the Ancestors

We have been on the road and on the internet, looking for traces of our ancestors. It’s hardly ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ but it’s an entertaining and sometimes rather moving occupation.

I am highly pleased to tell you that one of my great-great-grandfathers was a pig dealer. I am a little less certain about telling you that his first wife  was so young that it embarasses me too much to give her age here. Presumably the marriage was legal at the time. When he died, my great-great-grandmother, his second wife, married a gentleman 18 years younger than herself.

On our list of places we have visited, or plan to visit, are Bognor Regis, Brighton, Wolverhampton, Bournemouth, Richmond, Mortlake and little villages in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Lincolnshire. We have discovered agricultural labourers (lots of them on my side), servants, ironmasters, teachers, stokers, photographers, caretakers, ploughmen, coachmen, tobacconists and ‘gentlemen’. We have investigated divorces, emigration and have been left with more and more mysteries.

I have written before about my great-grandfather  , Isaac. We have been to Nottingamshire, where he was born and lived his early life. Magically, the school where he must have been educated is still standing, though now a derelict (but just purchased) house.

It was donated and endowed for the poor children of the parish. I speculate, rather idealistically, that the basic education he received here was the first step on the road that led to his daughter becoming a teacher, my father gaining professional qualifications in insurance and computing, through his own hard work in his own time, and to my teaching career and M.A.

I frequently wonder what our ancestors would have thought of us. So many lived their lives all in one place, in the same place as generations of their forebears. In the rural areas, I think they would not have found so much changed. There are still fields, trees, hedgerows and little villages. What would they have made of me, sitting tapping this on a machine which would have appeared magical, for a medium which is virtually virtual…? I suppose much of it would be beyond their comprehension. Sometimes I fancifully imagine myself in a line, with my father next to me, his father (who I never met) next to him, Isaac next to him, and so on. Or with my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my great-great grandmother the pig dealer’s wife….  All people, all the same, with all the hopes, joys and fears we have ourselves.

 

War and Peace

 

I’ve finished it. After over half a million words, I’ve finished this “masterpiece of world literature”.

486px-Leon_tolstoi

First, a warning. I am not a literary critic- I stopped studying literature at 15. (I am generally grateful for this, as it has enabled me to read what I like and form my own opinions. However, I am also grateful for being introduced to Shakespeare, Browning, Hardy and e e cummings at school.)

I started ‘War and Peace’ with a great deal of enthusiasm. Having seen the excellent BBC TV dramatisation I broke my long-standing resolution not to read novels in translation, which I had adopted because there is so much I will never have time to read in English alone.

I read it on a Kindle; the eldest Miss Oblique pointed out its unwieldy size as a physical book. The Kindle show how far you hve read. I didn’t at first see it as a challenge, but did gulp at realising I’d only got to 30%. I stalled at 70% and started to read Trollope’s ‘Dr Thorne’, again inspired by a (somewhat less good) TV adaptation. The two novels continued side by side, but inevitably the good Dr Thorne finished way earlier.

At the 70% mark, I must admit to finding the ‘spiritual’ passages of ‘War and Peace’ tedious. Possibly this is just a personal problem- I’ve always been a plot-driven reader. Additionally, I started to find that the analyses of historical motivation, causes and effects dragged.

So, reverting to my old principle that life is too short to persist with a book you are not enjoying, I stopped and a little guiltily skimmed through to the end. (After all, this is Tolstoy, right? It’s meant to be uplifting and improving.) I’m glad I took this decision.

Now purists may say that I have done this all the wrong way, especially by starting with the TV series. I have very successfully done this before with Dickens and others. ( See In praise of our mutual friend, Mr Dickens) However, it does mean that the “discovery” aspect of the plot loses impact. To be honest, I don’t think I would have followed the plot without an introductory guide. Now here I get a little controversial, and will no doubt be dismissed by serious literary types. I found the plot rather thin. Some of the characters are very appealing: I especially liked Pierre Bezukhov, although this may also be coloured by the very sympathetic TV portrayal. Generally, though, I thought it lacked a main narrative thread. ‘Our Mutual Friend’ has a similar cast of characters, but the plot, although tortuous, is strong.

The narrative thread is diluted by the passages, mentioned above, of spiritual and historical philosophising. I must be missing something here. I have a different view of what a novel should be; I think the fiction itself should develop ‘insights’, rather than them being spelled out explicitly. Wow, I’m developing a literary philosophy. Or theory. Or rationale.

In the end, I didn’t care too much about the fate of the characters. I like a happy ending; I suppose it was. Two long epilogues dissipated the effect of the conclusion, such as it was.

Anyway, I’ve read it. Perhaps I should have learnt Russian first… or not have watched the TV version… or have read it with no distractions. I wouldn’t recommend it; it has made me decide to revert to my principles of not reading literature in translation and not finishing anything I am not enjoying.

Footnote: while checking a few facts, I noticed that Tostoy said ‘War and Peace’ was not a novel.