In My Little Pocket Of The ’Net

Originally posted June 15, 2007

It’s all too easy to feel old these days. And I fear it’s only going to get easier.

The Texas Gal and I have recently become involved with an on-line community called BookCrossing, a way to share books, essentially, with whoever might come along. We registered a few books with the site before we took our recent trip to Texas and left them along the way, in shopping malls, in restaurants, in motel lobbies and elsewhere.

Only one of them has showed up on line as having been found, a military novel that we left at a motel in Cameron, Missouri. Oddly enough, the woman who found it – and then went to the BookCrossing site to report her find – was also from Minnesota and brought the book back here before sending it to her son in Iraq.

Along with leaving books for others to find, the Texas Gal and I have begun meeting with other BookCrossing devotees once a month for evening coffee. . . .  There were nine of us this week when we met at a local coffee spot. The conversation stayed on books and plans for book-related events for a fairly long time, but, [with fellow blogger] Sean and I being who we are, our conversation eventually gravitated to music, as we discussed his work on a major research project and my own research and finds. I told him about a treasure trove of out-of-print recordings by Delaney & Bonnie and related musicians that I’d gotten from my Alabama friend Mitch. He whistled softly and said, “Oh, I’d like to hear some of that.”

And the faces of the younger couple on my right had blank looks. The names of Delaney & Bonnie and Bobby Whitlock and the rest of the Friends meant nothing to them. And why should they? It’s been more than thirty years since D&B and their friends were a vital part of American pop music, for more reasons than we really need to go into here. And for a moment, I felt like my father must have felt when he tried to explain to me how exciting it was during the early 1940s to hear a new Benny Goodman record.

(Should they read this, I’m not trying to make them feel bad and I hope they don’t. I’m more bemused than anything at the passage of time and at how I feel like I flip back and forth: When I’m writing here about the music that moves me, or when I’m sharing that same music here and at a couple of bulletin boards, I’m joined – in cyberspace, anyway – by thousands of folks who have similar tastes and memories. In my little pocket of the ’Net, it’s always 1975 or 1966 or whatever year I happen to be thinking about and writing about. Out in the world of coffee shops and gas stations and grocery stores, it’s very clearly 2007 and much of the music that moves me is no more than a vague idea to most people. That’s an interesting duality, one that reminds me more than a little bit of the duality between cyberlife and real life that Arthur C. Clarke predicted in two works that dealt with the same plot and the same theme: the 1953 novella Against The Fall of Night and the 1956 novel The City and the Stars. Some of Clarke’s ideas regarding the impact of technology on us and on our lives were so prescient that it’s spooky.)

Anyway, in my little pocket of the ’Net today, it’s 1970, and Merry Clayton has released her first solo album, Gimme Shelter. Clayton, of course, was the wailing back-up singer for the Rolling Stones when they recorded their version of “Gimme Shelter” for their Let It Bleed album in 1969. According to All-Music Guide, that work came not long after Clayton took part in the recording sessions for Dylan’s Gospel, an album by a group called The Brothers & Sisters of Los Angeles. In 1970, as well as recording her debut solo album, Clayton provided backing vocals for B.B. King’s Indianola, Mississippi, Seeds album. The juxtapositions simply show that Clayton – whose most recent work listed at AMG includes supplying backing vocals for Joe Cocker’s 2007 release, Hymn For My Soul – is at home in a multiplicity of genres, including but certainly not limited to blues, rock and gospel.

Those three genres, along with R&B, are at the core of Gimme Shelter, an album that is criminally out of print. From the gospel-tinged “Country Roads,” the James Taylor-penned opener, through the Doors’ “Tell All The People,” the title cut of “Gimme Shelter” and Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and on to “Good Girls,” the R&B-tinged closer, Clayton shows a mastery of each and every genre. I only wish I had some information about the other musicians on the project. I got the album as a download from my friend babalu at a forum.

But at least I have the music.

Merry Clayton – Gimme Shelter [1970]

Track listing
Country Road
Tell All The People
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Gimme Shelter
I’ve Got Life
Here Come Those Heartaches Again
Forget It I Got It
You’ve Been Acting Strange
I Ain’t Gonna Worry My Life Away
Good Girls

A personal note:
Today’s post is the 100th since I began this blog so tentatively in January. I have to say that I’m thrilled (and sometimes baffled) at the wide-ranging and positive response to my ideas and the music that I love. Thanks to all of you who stop by.


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