Funny how memory works isn’t it?
Somewhere in the early ’80’s I picked up a book called Christgau’s Record Guide : Rock Albums of the Seventies.
Robert Christgau, the music critic for the Village Voice was unknown to me and probably to everybody else in Ireland. The Voice obviously wasn’t sold in Dublin and back then “on line” was something you did at the chipper or the dole office, except we called it “queueing”.
Anyway, after thumbing through the book at the bookshop and laughing here and nodding in agreement there, I decided I could stand to have my own prejudices reinforced and maybe even expanded so I bought it, took it home, no doubt dipping into it on the train out of town (more laughing, more nodding probably). Already an avid consumer of rock’n’roll, punk, the burgeoning “new wave”, country music, the country blues, Irish folk music (which leaves Christgau cold apparently) and whatever else caught my ear, the book served as a sort of musical compass and pointed me in all sorts of interesting directions. It allowed an absolute neophyte direction and a map into African music, pointed up new artists I had missed or dismissed, sent me back to old favorites with a different perspective.
(Of course there were missteps. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (Polydor, 1972). Seriously Robert I bought that one on your recommendation and fuck me but to these ears it’s well nigh unlistenable. )
Anyway, one Saturday I’m in town and there is a sale at the C.I.E Hall in Marlborough St. You know old clothes, books, records……and for 50 pence apiece (why do I remember that?) I buy Give It Up the Bonnie Raitt album and Kate & Anna McGarrigle.
(Now I can almost hear you say “Really Paul, Bonnie Raitt and the McGarrigle sisters? You were trying to impress some chick with your sensitive, open, more feminine side…..” And I say “oh do fuck off, if you wanted to show your sensitive, open, feminine side back in 1981 you got one of these bleedin’ haircuts and bought Spandau feckin’ Ballet albums……and I don’t do bleach or Spandau feckin’ Ballet”.)
Truth be told I was delighted to pick up albums that Christgau had recommended highly, that were not available new and was more than happy to give them a spin. And I wasn’t disappointed. If I played the Raitt album more back then and hardly ever do so now, as the years turned I am far more likely to pull out the McGarrigle sisters album and give it a whirl. It’s an infectious mix of voice and playing and I find myself laughing and singing along. It has aged to a fine mellow vintage, something lasting and timeless. So when I found out that Kate McGarrigle had passed on I felt more than a touch of sadness, for her yes, but also for a lost time when you could go into a working man’s hall and browse a thrift sale and come out with little treasures for fifty pence.
Slán abhaile Kate….safe home……