Bridget St John – Two Lps and A short introduction


Dandelion Days

It’s been over two years since I posted anything on this blog, shame on me!
More importantly it should be of some indication as to the esteem in which I hold this lady to get back to posting and to write something about her and her music.

So for a good long time I’ve been trying to find my female voice, my female singer. As a collector of records I have over the years realised that my collection is highly male centric, and it’s been a difficulty finding a female voice I really like. I’ve dabbled with Grace Jones, Marianne Faithful, Nico and those that just happened to come along; but just recently I stopped for a second to realise that it’s the English female folk voice I hold highest and went off to search further. Subsequently checking out Anne Briggs, Maddy Prior, June Tabor, Sandy Denny and more before alighting on Bridget St John.

Bridget initially appeared playing at Sheffield University, disappeared off to France for a bit, reappeared and hooked up with John Martyn; Martyn introduced her to John Peel and Dandelion Records the now famous (and highly collectable) Peel funded and often Peel produced label was formed initially to release her material. It released three Lps. She later did one more for Crysalis records, critical acclaim.. shorthand for didn’t make enough money for the label.

Later she gave it up or at least that’s how it reads to those that didn’t live a life, her life, she moved to Greenwich Village, and now happily gigs infrequently in the US and UK. Potted history. She does wonderful things like speak beautiful French to the French crowd that come to see and hear her play at the filmed gig I watched months ago on Youtube.

Sounds?

Like a deeper Nico, a velveteen female Nick Drake. A serious contender, passionate, mature, connected to nature, bound by cosmic debris, wistful, romantic, poetic, mystical, wonder-full, original, a one off, a superstar that didn’t superstar like Joni and thank goodness.

Lps?

Her Lps are not cheap to get in their original form, frankly you’ll probably have to spend over £100 for the first two and a little less on the third for the Dandelion Lps. For you will want to get them in decent and listenable condition. Worth doing as with quieter acoustic passages, you really don’t want too much snap crackle and pop. It detracts.

The first Lp – Ask Me No Questions

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So.. fairly standard fare as far as arrangements and instrumentation, but beautifully written songs with more than one featuring John Martyn too. The title track, I will admit made me uncontrollably boo my little manly eyes out, such was it’s love connectedness.

I love it and as with other Bridget St John Lps don’t expect to gain entry to it straight away, you get value for money with her output, it takes at least two listens, two concentrated listens where you aren’t distracted by the ironing or cooking something to feed your growling belly to get into it.. This is one of the things I do like about her, yes the original Vinyl may set you back (there are lots of reissues) but you get your money’s worth! Her guitar playing is subtle and understated, nothing is too ornamented, everything is there for good reason. It’s very much a debut Lp, feet finding, slightly bigger than baby steps for sure, but you get the feeling throughout that there’s something very grown up going to arrive in later career, and there is… the next Lp, which is one giant leap for mankind and a pretty giant leap for Bridget St John and popular music in general.

The second Lp – Songs For The Gentle Man

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This is the one I think, Ron Geesin takes the production credit and arranged much of the strings, Ron is the Dad of a friend of mine, I know Ron, he’s a bit of a genius, mad genius, but genius all the same and now I want to talk to him about making this Lp.

It’s actually a bit beyond description, there aren’t easy to pluck reference points to throw at you, happy little musical links with other people’s output, it’s too original for that, too special.
It’s going to perplex you a little, widen your ears a little, ask you to engage a little more than most, you may have to work a bit to absorb fully this Lp, but it’s worth it. It also has one of the most beautiful labels ever created, anywhere, ever, or at least one side of the record does. I’ll put it somewhere below for you to enjoy.

 

Dandelion Three

Bridget St John actually recorded three Lps for Dandelion, but look I’ll be honest here, I haven’t got the third Lp yet, sure I’ve heard bits and it sounds damn good, but I was so excited about the first two, I had to write this blog, while I’m saving up.. again.

Get all three!

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Thoughts on the passing of Amy Winehouse


Dead dead dead, dead as a Dodo…

Lilly livered get out clause…

As I begin to write this I have to say, that I, know bugger all of the ‘truth’ in this matter and my perspective can only ever be that of a listener and as a digester of whatever the media cared to throw at me during Ms. Winehouse’s career. Only her family and those close to her will ever know the truth. Everyone though has their angle.

Mourning

Many will not mourn the passing of Amy Winehouse. Many will see her as an average talent amongst much else that is jaw droppingly mundane in the scene of British popular music circa the 2000s. She was undoubtedly disturbed, self-indulgent, inward looking, tearfully sentimental in that way only the lost soul of a teenager can be, without a backward glance or self-critical say so; but she was one great singer, she was a talent I believe to rival the greats, or could have been, given the chance and the opportunity.

On an off day she could vocally out manoeuvre her nearest rivals and I believe probably leave them wishing she do something as stupid as fuck things up. She did this, most royally of course. Talentless ‘squeekers’ like Duffy could never fill the fissures now that a true star has fallen from the firmament.

Above all though, and depressingly so, once success hit, she was a commodity bought and sold and then personally let down I believe by family, friends and her management, by her record label, her minders and everyone else INVESTED in her.

27 and an adult?

Sure she was 27 and no doubt considered herself an adult and capable of making her own decisions when she passed away. Where were the management that professed love for her.. where was ‘love’ when handlers pushed her onto an Eastern European stage only half a month ago when SHE said ‘I don’t want to go on’ and was in no fit state to do so..? It seems as though those that should have cared weren’t there for her, or perhaps there was no opportunity to help. Whatever the true story behind the tradgedy of her addiction and struggle it seems to me, that she was let down.

So family have said that Amy was always a wild spirit who knew her own mind and couldn’t be controlled, I wonder if she was just looking, as young children do, for boundaries, for someone to love her enough to make up some rules, or someone to say ‘enough is enough’. No one did, and after her success no one wanted to dared, or could probably have got close enough to impose any single will upon her. However desperate the situation.

Of course there is always addiction, an affliction that she and many others have, but every addict I have ever known was in some way physically or sexually abused, or nurtured some deep schism in the dark recesses of their un-shared soul. It wasn’t so much the addiction in my experience as the need to plaster over the cracks that led to those that I have known harming and in one or two cases killing themselves as a result.

Devil at the Crossroads?

Many performers I believe are fractured people who ply their trade for more, much more, than financial reward. The average Joe doesn’t feel the draw or need to please other people and the love (supposed) that returns to them by way of this bargain. And will not understand the contract that Winehouse and others like her sign for themselves. Perhaps this is the contract, the very same one, that Robert Johnson who died at 27 years of age, or Jimi Hendrix who also suffered loss when his mother left the family home (and died at 27), signed with the Devil at the Crossroads.

Fractured

It is no surprise to me that she enrolled in Acting school in the same year as her father left home, one wonders what hole is created by loss and how it might be subsequently filled? The adulation associated with succesful performance seems a candidate fo gap filler. But no doubt, like many before her have found, once success comes your way, there is nothing real to fill the gaping hole of loss and sadness with, there is in the end, only you and if you have it, love for yourself. Is this who Amy Winehouse was? Only her family and friends will know, but I think it’s how I saw her and how I see her now.

But what I heard was someone with all the ability of Billie Holliday, (Tony Bennett likened her to Dinah Washington) but with the recorded output of a crowd pleaser. I think, had she lived to a ripe old age, circled by earlier successes and had re-negotiated the contract between herself and the World she might have had the opportunity to show us more than just a spark of genius.

She was that good. As it is, we’re left wondering and wishing.

Amy Winehouse was someone’s child, don’t forget that.