Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody”

I grew up in a houseful of nine people spanning three generations. I was always surrounded by love, from my grand-father, my father and mother and from my brothers and sisters. My brother Bob was closest in age and he was, and still is, a great older brother. My older sister Marielle, 10 years my senior, was my baby-sitter and surrogate mother when my mother’s time was entirely devoted to looking after the daily needs of nine people.

Gabriel

Gabriel

And then there was my brother Gabriel, 14 years my senior. You would have thought that a young man would have other things on his mind than the small world of a child but Gabriel was never what you would have expected. Sure, he had girlfriends, worked as a civil servant, water skied and played his piano with his small combo but he always found time to be attentive, which was his nature, and not just with me but with everyone. When he saw that I was captivated by the incomprehensible beauty of music at the age of five, he took me aside, showed me how to take care of his record collection and taught me how to work our gramophone. Gabriel allowed me to play his records any time I wanted, just like a grown-up. And he opened the door to my life-long love affair with music, the greatest gift I have ever received, after his love.

Eddie Cochran

Eddie Cochran

My brother’s record collection was second to none. Every artist who shaped the first wave of rock n’ roll in the 50s was there – Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ivory Joe Hunter, The Everley Brothers, Buddy Holly, The Coasters. When I was 8, a new artist came into the collection – Eddie Cochran. My brother bought three of his biggest successes, “Summertime Blues”, “C’mon Everybody” and “Somethin’ Else.” Cochran was a young, good-looking, strutting rock-and-roller who always played a magnificent Gretsch 6120 electric guitar with a Bigsby tailpiece. I’ve chosen to feature Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody”, played very close to the original 1958 recording.

Like Chuck Berry, Cochran sang songs of teenage frustration and rebellion which are still admired to this day. Cochran’s rise to fame was nothing short of meteoric. He learned music at an early age and released his first recordings at the age of 17. The same year, he was featured in the Hollywood film “The Girl Can’t Help It”, performing another one of his hit songs, “Twenty Flight Rock.”

Roch

Roch

In early 1959, two of Cochran’s friends, Buddy Holly and Richie Valens, along with the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson), were killed in a plane crash while on tour. Cochran was badly shaken by their deaths, and he developed a morbid premonition that he would also die young. Shortly after their deaths, he recorded the song “Three Stars” as a tribute to them. He was anxious to give up life on the road and spend his time in the studio making music, thereby reducing the chance of suffering a similar fatal accident while touring. Financial responsibilities, however, required that he continue to perform live, and that led to a tour of the United Kingdom in 1960. Cochran was on tour in England when he and fellow performing artist Gene Vincent were traveling in a taxi towards London. In addition to Cochran and Vincent, the other passengers in the vehicle were Sharon Sheeley, a 20-year-old songwriter who was also Cochran’s fiancée at the time, Patrick Tompkins (the tour manager, 29 years old), and George Martin (the 19-year-old taxi driver). Towards midight, Martin lost control of the vehicle, which crashed into a concrete lamppost. At the moment of impact, Cochran (who was seated in the center of the back seat) threw himself over Sheeley to shield her. The force of the collision caused the left rear passenger door to open and Cochran was ejected from the vehicle, sustaining a massive blunt force trauma to the skull. The road was dry and the weather was good, but the vehicle was later determined to be traveling at an excessive speed. The occupants of the vehicle were all taken to Chippenham Community Hospital and later transferred to St Martin’s Hospital in Bath. Cochran never regained consciousness and died at 4:10 p.m. the following day – Easter Sunday. He was 21 years old. Sheeley suffered injuries to her back and thigh, Vincent suffered a fractured collarbone and severe injuries to his legs, and Tompkins sustained facial injuries and a fracture of the base of the skull. Martin did not sustain significant injuries.

Linda

Linda

In between the tragedies that befell Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, my family sustained one of its own when my brother Gabriel accidentally drowned on the 28th of June 1959, at the age of 23. They called Buddy Holly’s death the day the music died but, for me, the music died with my brother. However, what my brother gave me has never died and, four years after his death, I picked up my first guitar.

Photo of Eddie Cochran (public domain), Eddie Cochran – Singer Facebook page

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, electric bass, percussion
Roch Tassé and Linda Challes – percussion

To hear the song, click on the title below

C’mon Everybody

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Carl Wilson plays “Du monde en ville”

Carl avec Elliott et Noémie

Carl with Elliott and Noémie

About 20 years ago, I received an unexpected package in the mail. It was a CD by two guitarists from Québec, Carl Wilson and Richard Trahan, who played duos of songs by their favourite composers. Included on the CD were two of my own compositions, taken from my first recordings in the late 1970s. It seems that both Carl and Richard T. had sharpened their skills by listening to the duos that I had recorded at that time with my friend Marc Beneteau.

Richard Trahan

Richard Trahan

As you can imagine, this was a tremendous honor for me. Carl visited me in Vanier later on and we have been friends ever since. Carl lives in Terrebonne, Qc, with his son Elliott and his daughter Noémie. Richard T. met Birgit, a German girl, out in western Canada and followed her back to Germany! They are married and have four daughters, Ulrike, Julia, Nathalie and Isabelle. Both Carl and Richard T. are still very active in music, as are all of Richard T.’s children, especially Isabelle, who composes and plays her own music, published on YouTube videos.

A few days ago, Carl again rewarded me with a new video interpretation of my composition “Du monde en ville” (People in the Streets), a 1978 recording on which I was accompanied by my good friend Roch Tassé on congas. Roch is still a regular contributor on this site. The title for this piece commes from those Friday evenings in my home town of Rockland, when people from all the small neighbouring villages of Prescott-Russell counties would come into town to do their shopping, or see a movie at the Cartier Theatre, or have a good meal at the Castel Restaurant. A wonderful time in my life that still lives in this piece.

It is very comforting for me to hear both Carl and Richard T. play the music that inspires them. We are always in contact through Facebook and I’m always happy to witness the musical undertakings of these two fine guitarists. Here is Carl’s video interpretation of “Du monde en ville.” To hear the piece, click on the title below.

Du monde en ville

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Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Universal Soldier”

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie, CC (born Beverly Sainte-Marie February 20, 1941) is an Indigenous Canadian-American (Piapot Cree Nation) singer-songwriter, musician, educator, and social activist. While working in these areas, her work has focused mainly on issues facing the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

In 1983, she became the first Indigenous American person to win an Oscar when her song “Up Where We Belong”, co-written with Jack Nitzsche and Will Jennings for the film “An Officer and a Gentleman”, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 55th Academy Awards. The song also won the Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards for Best Original Song that same year.

In 1997, she founded the Cradle Board Teaching Project, an educational curriculum devoted to better understanding Native Americans. She was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1995, named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1997 and presented with Honorary Doctorate degrees from many Canadian universities.

When she was two or three she was taken from her parents as part of the “Sixties Scoop” – a Canadian government policy where Indigenous children were taken from their families, communities and cultures for placement in foster homes, from which they would be adopted by white families. This practice was an extension of the Residential School System where Aboriginal children were taken into the child welfare system, in most cases without the consent of their families or bands. It was the general belief of government authorities at the time that Aboriginal children could receive a better education if they were transitioned into the public school system. Residential schools, however, persisted as a sort of boarding school for children whose families were deemed unsuitable to care for their own. This system, set up by the Canadian government and administered by various churches, had the nominal objective of educating Indigenous children but also the more damaging and equally explicit objectives of indoctrinating them into Euro-Canadian and Christian ways of living and assimilating them into mainstream white Canadian society. The system forbade them from acknowledging their Indigenous heritage and culture or to speak their own languages. Children were severely punished if these rules were broken. Former students of residential schools have spoken of the horrendous physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse suffered at the hands of residential school staff.

Donovan

Donovan

“Universal Soldier” was written and recorded in 1964, when the very existence of a war in Vietnam was being denied by the American government. There is strong evidence that the White House, the FBI and certain radio stations coerced to blacklist “Universal Soldier” and Buffy Sainte-Marie, but a young British folk artist named Donovan (Leitch, b. 1946) recorded the song and it became, against all odds, a world-wide hit. Not only did the song meet with contempt by all belligerent factions but Donovan’s recording only featured him singing and playing an acoustic guitar, at a time when rock ‘n roll and pop radio was getting tougher and more electric.

Buffy Sante-Marie recalls a San Francisco layover while traveling from Mexico to Toronto where a group of medics came into the airport in the middle of the night, wheeling in wounded soldiers. She asked one of the medics if there really was a war in Vietnam, in spite of all the political denials in the U.S. The medics assured her that there was indeed a huge war going on. Sainte-Marie started writing “Universal Soldier” in the airport and on the plane, and finished it in the basement of the Purple Onion coffee house in Toronto.

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s lyrics about Hitler mention Dachau, the first concentration camp built by Nazi Germany in 1933 responsible for 32,000 official deaths at the camp, and thousands of others that are undocumented. In his recording, Donovan substitutes this reference for Liebau, a training centre where the Hitler Youth were indoctrinated into the Nazi culture.

Richard au Festival de l'ail des bois, ca 1975

Richard at the Wild Garlic Festival, ca 1975

For those who were not there in the 1960s, it is difficult to imagine the hard-fought antagonism on both sides of the Vietnam war that disfigured and stained all aspects of our society. The musical protests were many, from Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” to Edwin Starr’s magnificent “War” (What Is It Good For). John Lennon and Yoko Ono were very vocal in their opposition to the war. During their 1969 Bed-In protest at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Lennon wrote and recorded the song “Give Peace a Chance.” Released as a single, it quickly became an anti-war anthem sung by a quarter of a million demonstrators against the Vietnam War in Washington, DC, on 15 November, 1969, the second Vietnam Moratorium Day. Later in December, Lennon and Ono paid for billboards in 10 major cities around the world which declared, in the national language, “War Is Over! If You Want It”.

In this traditional time of peace, the Geneva Academy lists more than 100 armed conflicts currently being waged in around three dozen countries, most of them in the Middle East, North West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Merry Christmas to all my listeners.

All photos are in the Public Domain.

To listen to the recording, click on the song title below.

Richard Séguin – voice and acoustic guitar

Universal Soldier

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Jelly Roll Morton’s “Winin’ Boy Blues”

Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941) was born Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe into the Creole community of New Orleans. “Creole” designates a person of mixed French or Spanish and Black descents originating from the early French or Spanish settlers of the U.S. Gulf states and preserving their speech and culture. His father left when he was three and when his mother married William Mouton in 1894, he took his stepfather’s surname, anglicizing it to Morton.

Morton learned to play the piano at an early age and was already performing in the brothels of the Storyville district of New Orleans at the age of 14, where he acquired the name “Jelly Roll”, a euphemism for a lady’s private parts. The song “Winin’ Boy Blues” dates back to this early era. At that time, jazz was also being formed by musicians such as Buddy Bolden (1877-1931), Kid Ory (1886-1973), King Oliver (1881-1938) and Sidney Bechet(1897-1959). Although Jelly Roll Morton famously claimed to have invented jazz, all agree that he was a very predominant pioneer of the genre.

Richard with his Eastman mandolin

Richard with his Eastman mandolin

When Morton’s grandmother learned that he was playing the “devil’s music” in brothels, she disowned him for disgracing the LaMothe name. Morton started touring in the US South, working in minstrel shows and composing a great deal of his repertoire. In 1926, Morton signed with the Victor Talking Machine Company, recording until 1931, when his recording contract was not renewed due to the Great Depression. He briefly had a radio show in 1934, then toured in a burlesque band. In 1938, Alan Lomax (1915-2002), an American ethnomusicologist best known for his numerous field recordings of folk music, invited Morton to record for the Library of Congress. Because of the suggestive nature of these recordings, some of them were not released until 2005. They were issued as 8 CDs and two booklets, a collection which won two Grammy Awards in 2006 as well as awards for Best Historical Album and Best Album Notes.

Octave Amos (fiddle) and Stavin' Chain

Octave Amos (fiddle) and Stavin’ Chain (Wilson Jones)

The sessions expanded to over eight hours, with Morton talking and playing piano all along. Lomax was interested in Morton’s days in Storyville and the ribald songs of the time. A long and bawdy version of “Winin’ Boy Blues” was recorded by Lomax but, thankfully, some more decorous versions were also recorded afterwards. The song makes mention of stavin’ chains, an expression open to much interpretation. In a Lil Johnson (places of birth and death unknown) 1937 recording of her song “Stavin’ Chain,” he was the chief engineer on a train who possessed great strength and stamina. The term “staving chain” may come from the chains used by barrel manufacturers to hold barrel staves together until an iron band can be fitted around the end of the barrel. Another theory is that staving chain was the name for the chain used to chain prisoners together by their ankles in a chain gang. Jelly Roll Morton believed that Stavin’ Chain was the name of a pimp in New Orleans while Stavin’ Chain, also known as Wilson Jones, was an American blues musician that Lomax himself photographed and recorded in 1934.

Shortly after the Library of Congress recordings, Morton was stabbed in a fight with a friend and suffered wounds to the head and chest. A nearby whites-only hospital refused to treat him, as the city had racially segregated facilities at that time. He was transported to a black hospital where doctors left ice on his wounds for several hours before attending to the injury. His recovery from his wounds was incomplete, and thereafter he was often ill and easily became short of breath. He continued to suffer from respiratory problems when he traveled to Los Angeles with the intent of restarting his career. He died on July 10, 1941, after an eleven-day stay in the Los Angeles County Hospital.

Gabriel

Gabriel

I think of my brother Gabriel (1936-1959) most every day but especially when I hear the sound of a piano from a distant past, like that of Jelly Roll Morton. At a time when everyone treated me like the child I was, Gabriel insisted on treating me like a person and took the time to teach me, despite our fourteen-year difference in age, the wonderful grown-up world of music. I wouldn’t be playing if not for him.

The pictures of Morton and Jones/Amos are in the Public domain.

To hear the recording, click on the song title below.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, mandolin

Winin’ Boy Blues

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Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”

Richard et sa Stratocaster

Richard and his Stratocaster

Bob Dylan’s song, “Just Like a Woman”, was released as part of his “Blonde On Blonde”album in 1966. Dylan’s recording was not released as a single in the United Kingdom but the London pop band Manfred Mann recorded and released the song as a very successful European single in 1966, reaching number 1 in Sweden. Joe Cocker, Ricky Nelson, Rod Stewart and Richie Havens are among the many artists who have covered this song.

Roch

Roch

The song has been widely criticized for supposed sexism or misogyny in its lyrics but this was the 1960s. Anyone who lived through that decade will surely remember that nothing escaped the raised fists, painted banners and marching, shouting hoards of denim-clad individuals outraged by the Vietnam war, women’s rights, racial inequality and anything else that rubbed them the wrong way. At the time, I doubted the sincerity of the whole protest era although it was certainly fashionable and young people have always been slaves to fashion. I remember that in my first year at the University of Ottawa in 1968-69, young people took over the Administration building and disrupted all classes taking place in that building. The revised class schedules were communicated to students through typed messages stapled to telephone poles, a communication strategy that the Administration failed to mention to the students. Consequently, I missed half of my classes, unaware of their location, and I decided that the whole university experience was not for me. I quit before the end of my first year. To this day, I have no idea what so upset these protesting individuals. From then on, I have always chosen the path of least resistance.

Otis Redding en 1967

Otis Redding in 1967

My arrangement of “Just Like a Woman” is heavily based on Otis Redding’s series of soul ballads of the 1960’s, songs like “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember”, “These Arms Of Mine”, and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” Redding (1941-1967) had a unique style of singing which gained inspiration from the gospel music that preceded the new “soul” music. Otis Redding died at the age of 26 in a plane crash that occurred on December 10, 1967, near Madison, Wisconsin, during a multi-city tour with his band, the Bar Kays. Trumpet player Ben Cauley was the accident’s only survivor. Besides Redding, the other victims of the crash were their valet, Matthew Kelly, the pilot Richard Fraser, as well as guitarist Jimmy King, tenor saxophonist Phalon Jones, organist Ronnie Caldwell, and drummer Carl Cunningham.
(Image of Otis Redding – Public Domain)

Richard Séguin – voice, electric guitars, acoustic guitar, electric bass
Roch Tassé – drums

To hear the song, click on the title below.

Just Like a Woman

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The English ballad “The Death of Queen Jane”

Jane Seymour, Queen of England by Hans Holbein the Younger

Jane Seymour (c. 1508-1537), third wife of King Henry VIII, was Queen of England from their marriage in 1536 until her death the following year. Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife, had failed to produce a male heir to the throne which led to her banishment from court after Henry’s request for an annulment of the marriage was refused by pope Clement VII. In retaliation, Henry VIII instituted the English Reformation where the Church of England broke away from the authority of the pope and the Catholic Church. Henry sanctioned the complete destruction of all shrines to saints. All dissident monks were also executed. In 1542, England’s remaining monasteries were all dissolved, and their property transferred to the Crown.

Henry VIII married six times and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, miscarried three sons and fell out of favour with the king. Henry began courting Jane Seymour and, in order to marry her, he had to find reasons to end his marriage to Anne. He had Anne investigated for high treason and she was eventually beheaded based on fabricated charges of adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king. Henry was then betrothed to Jane the day after Anne Boleyn’s execution.

Richard and one of his Taylor guitars

Richard and one of his Taylor guitars

Queen Jane’s brief but significant reign led to the birth of a male heir, Edward VI, under very arduous circumstances. The English ballad “The Death of Queen Jane” is about the death of Jane Seymour following the birth of Prince Edward. Most versions of the song end with the contrast between the joy of the birth of the Prince and the grief of the death of the Queen. No direct evidence documents exactly how Jane Seymour gave birth but the popular view of a birth by cesarean section is unlikely, though ubiquitous in the versions of the song. Medical science at that time was not capable of such an operation. Cutting open a mother generally only happened when the mother died whilst labouring, in a desperate hope of saving the child. It is historically believed that Prince Edward was born naturally, and that his mother succumbed to an infection and died 12 days later.

Francis James Child, public domain

The song “The Death of Queen Jane” survives to this day in great part to the work of Francis James Child (1825 – 1896). Child was an American scholar, educator, and folklorist, best known for his collection of English and Scottish ballads now known as the Child Ballads. “The Death of Queen Jane” is Child Ballad 170. The earliest record of the song seems to be a publication called The Lamentation of Queen Jane, licensed in 1560.

In the Harvard library, Child accumulated one of the largest folklore collections in existence, studied manuscript rather than printed versions of old ballads, and investigated songs and stories in other languages that were related to the English and Scottish ballads. His final collection was published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads which contained 305 ballads. The melodies to most of the ballads were collected and published by Bertrand Harris Bronson (1902-1986), professor in the English department at the University of California, Berkeley, in and around the 1960s.

 

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, mandolin

 

To hear the piece, click on the title below.

The Death of Queen Jane
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The Ravens Play Bob Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately”

Richard

Richard

“Queen Jane Approximately” is a song featured on Bob Dylan’s 1965 album titled Highway 61 Revisited. Highway 61 extends from New Orleans, Louisiana to Wyoming, Minnesota, cutting across the entire country from north to south. The highway is often called the Blues Highway because of its long history in blues music, part of the route lying on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

In 1965, I had already started playing guitar, as had two of my best friends, Martin Cunningham and Pierre Lafleur. Another friend, Roch Tassé, played drums and still plays on this site. We formed an orchestra called the Ravens. All four of us were dressed in black – black turtlenecks, black pants, black stockings, black shoes. More than 50 years later, my childhood friends are still my friends. Friends for life.

Marty

Marty

Over the years, there has been much speculation about the identity of Queen Jane, with the popular options being Lady Jane Grey, who held the throne of England for 9 days and was beheaded for treason in 1553 while still a teenager; Jane Seymour, Queen of England and third wife of Henry VIII who died in childbirth in 1537; and Joan Baez, a popular 60s folksinger romantically linked to Dylan.

“Queen Jane Approximately” is one of many Dylan songs of the period which featured adverbs and other qualifiers in their titles. Some examples are “Absolutely Sweet Marie”, “Obviously 5 Believers”, “Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine”, “Positively Fourth Street”and others. Dylan never revealed the reason for this particular preoccupation.

Roch

Roch

In 1965 and 1966, Dylan released three albums which were to change the face of contemporary music forever. “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde On Blonde” formed the heart of Dylan’s very best work. Musically, he collaborated with the best studio musicians from Nashville as well as rock and blues dignitaries from The Band and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Lyrically, the words came from another world, one which was eventually recognized for its unique brilliance and would earn Dylan the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. “Queen Jane Approximately” is an integral part of this imposing output which rivals and indeed surpasses that of any artists in any discipline.

Richard Séguin – voice, electric guitar, electric bass guitar
Martin Cunningham – acoustic guitar
Roch Tassé – drums

To hear the piece, click on the song title below.

Queen Jane Approximately

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Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me

La partition originale 1919

The original sheet music 1919

“ Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me” was written in 1919 by Carey Morgan (1884-1960), Charles McCarron (1891-1919) and Arthur Swanstrom (1888-1940), who were Tin Pan Alley composers and lyricists. It was first recorded the same year by singer Irving Kaufman (1890-1976), a very popular early recording artist who sang with such jazz greats as Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931) and Eddie Lang (1902-1933). Tin Pan Alley refers to that area of New York City where music publishers, lyricists and songwriters operated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The end of the Great War brought much jubilation to the American public and, in a few short years, the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age unceremoniously barged through the door. The transition was rapid and dizzying. Music in the immediate post-war era had still favoured the sentimental and often corny offerings of vaudeville with shades of ragtime but, by 1925 and the first electric recordings of popular music, that sentimentality had disappeared and been replaced by a very contemporary brand of revelry. Many songs of the early post-war era, like “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me”, featured a slow intro to the later more lively proceedings but these intros were quickly abandoned and were not to be heard in any subsequent recordings.

My Taylor 30th anniversary guitar

I first heard “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me” in the 1960s as part of the amazing repertoire of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. It was a dynamic, short piece, enthusiastically delivered by the band. It was only through research into the piece that I eventually heard the intro that was part of its earliest incarnation. The intro is certainly dated and I can even understand why everyone decided to ignore it for the last 100 years. However, I surely don’t agree with the practice.

History, as it relates to any discipline, is the repository of all human knowledge. It is all we have. Consequently, it is in my view a very grave error to rewrite it or change its facts in any way. If a musical idiom falls out of favour in more modern times, is it not the height of arrogance to simply erase it? Are contemporary people superior to those who came before? So, not surprisingly, I have chosen to play “ Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me” in its original form, complete with its intro, corny to some but completely legitimate.

Richard Séguin – voice, mandolin, acoustic guitar, electric bass, kazoo

To hear the song, click on the song title below.

Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me

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Bob Dylan’s “Gates of Eden”

Richard

Richard

The 1960s was a very different time where popular musicians didn’t dance. They didn’t have to dress up in outlandish clothes and they didn’t perform in gigantic arenas backed by light shows and multimedia presentations. They stood or sat, played their instruments and sang into a microphone. And almost all of them had something to say.

I remember when news of a singer named Bob Dylan reached Canada. I was 13 years old. The word everywhere was that he sang about socially important things that people of my generation valued : peace, civil rights and everyone’s belief that young people were really changing the world. Then, in 1965, when nobody really expected it, things really did change.

Alrick

Alrick

Previously, Dylan’s songs had been laid out in front of you – nothing was hidden, nothing was obscure. But a change started to cast its shadow on us with Dylan’s 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home”, which featured some very different and disturbing songs. The lyrics began to be more surreal and non-linear. When I heard “Gates of Eden”, featured on the album, it made me wonder where this very new direction in music was leading us. I was a smart 15-year-old but I didn’t understand the song’s juxtaposition of plain English words that flowed into a foreign landscape of four-legged forest clouds, lampposts with folded arms and iron claws, wailing babies, ships with tattooed sails, black Madonna bikers and gray flannel dwarfs, all of this on display outside the gates of Eden, where no sound ever escaped, a place where there were no kings, no sins, no trials. Coming on the heels of Dylan’s previous songs, something as obscure as “Gates of Eden” simply did not fit.

Nobody expected Dylan to release 34 songs, excluding 14 outtakes and singles like “Positively 4th Street”, on three separate albums (“Bringing It All Back Home”, “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde On Blonde”, a double album), in a little more than a single year, This unequaled artistic output formed the heart of Dylan’s extraordinary impact on contemporary culture and created a path leading directly to his Nobel prize in Literature, awarded in 2016.

Roch

It should be noted that some of these songs were over 10 minutes long, which was controversial at that time. Songs over 3 minutes did not fit into any radio station’s commercial platform. To circumvent this, some disc jockeys created what became known as “underground radio”, where long and more controversial songs were played, often during the early morning hours. In Ottawa, the contribution of Brian Murphy, who developed a weekend overnight radio show called Free Form Radio on Ottawa’s CKBY-FM station, needs to be underlined and appreciated.

I’ve often wondered where Dylan’s exploding consciousness might have led him, had it not been for a motorcycle accident that left him with a broken vertebra and a concussion, on July 29, 1966. He was never the same afterwards and many say that the accident prevented him from pursuing his previously reckless and potentially destructive lifestyle. Certainly, Dylan’s later songs, many of them superb in their own right, never matched anything on those three mid-sixties albums. I intend to revisit this exquisite era in future posts.

My arrangement of “Gates of Eden” features our trio, with Roch Tassé on drums and Alrick Huebener on bass. We play “Gates of Eden” in honour of three of the most outstanding musicians of our time in Pat Metheny (guitar, b. 1954), Jaco Pastorius (bass, 1951-1987) and Peter Erskine (drums, b. 1954).

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic 12-string guitar
Alrick Huebener – electric bass
Roch Tassé – drums

Gates of Eden

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“Sitting on a Fence” by The Rolling Stones

Richard et sa mandoline Eastman

Richard and his Eastman mandolin

When The Rolling Stones came to North America in 1964, they brought with them American blues and R&B, with some stinging original compositions, everything as raw and electric as could be. As the decade progressed, many rock bands, both American and British, began to temper their electric repertoire with more acoustic songs, likely another Dylan influence.

“Sitting on a Fence” was recorded in late 1965, in LA, during the sessions for the album “Aftermath,” but did not make it onto the pressings of either the UK or US editions of that album. The song made it to North America on the catch-all album “Flowers” in the summer of 1967, the much publicized “Summer of Love” which introduced the “hippies” social phenomenon to the world. The song was a departure for The Stones, featuring a more bluegrass flavoured instrumentation.

I remember hearing the lyrics to the song and thinking that, as a child, I had been the direct opposite of Jagger’s persona singing the song. My older sister sometimes brought me a small trinket back from a date in Ottawa with her future husband, a small red, white and blue rubber ball or a stuffed animal. This was like heaven to me, the kids in our big family not used to being pampered. I was also raised Catholic so, contrary to the song lyrics, I was very easy to please and I definitely knew wrong from right.

By the time I was 18, things had changed. I had no idea what I would do with my life and could not see myself as an adult, living on my own, getting married, raising a family. Dreams that I had fostered had dissipated with the many setbacks in my life – the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, as Shakespeare so brilliantly put it. I found myself sitting on a fence. I could not commit to anything, I was angry and disappointed and simply resigned myself to going wherever my life would take me. I made no decisions for the next decade. So, this song that was so unlike me as a child, ended up fitting me like a glove as a young adult.

I dedicate this song to all of the men, women and children in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, many of whom have been hard hit by our recent devastating storm. From what I have seen in my visits, I especially sympathize with the municipalities of Hammond and Bourget, where the devastation is very harsh indeed.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitars, mandolin, electric bass

Sitting on a Fence

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