“You Did It! You Did It!” Two poems for Roland Kirk

 

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A fascinating piece about Roland Kirk in Richard Williams’ always interesting blog, thebluemoment.com sent my back to these two poems of mine, which I used to read in and around Nottingham with a fine little band led by tenor player/flautist Mel Thorpe, the exchanges between voice and flute giving Mel the chance to give his best humming, whistling, growling impression of Kirk at his most fiery.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

What would you say of a man who can play
three instruments at once – saxophone,
manzello and stritch – but who can neither
tie his shoelace nor button his fly?

Who stumbles through basements,
fumbles open lacquered boxes,
a child’s set of drawers,
strews their contents across bare boards –
seeds, vestments, rabbit paws?

Whose favourite words are vertiginous,
gourd, dilate? Whose fantasy is snow?
Who can trace in the dirt the articular process
of the spine, the pulmonary action of the heart?

Would you say he was blind?
Would you say he was missing you?

 

YOU DID IT! YOU DID IT!

It was Roland Kirk, wasn’t it?
Who played all those instruments?
I saw him. St. Pancras Town Hall.
Nineteen sixty-four.

The same year, at the old Marquee,
I saw Henry ‘Red’ Allen,
face swollen like sad fruit,
sing “I’ve Got the World on a String”
in a high almost falsetto moan.

Rahassan Roland Kirk,
on stage in this cold country,
cramming his mouth with saxophones,
harmonica, reed trumpet, piccolo and clarinet,
exultant, black and blind.

“You did it! You did it!
You did it! You did it!”

Daring us to turn our backs,
stop our ears, our hearts,
deny the blood wherever it leads us:
the whoop and siren call
of flutes and whistles,
spiralling music, unconfined.

 

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Georgie Fame at the Flamingo

The first time I laid eyes on Georgie Fame would have been at an all-nighter at the Flamingo, somewhere around 1962 or 63. Georgie, already renamed by agent Larry Parnes and no longer Clive Powell, leading a band called the Blue Flames, the nucleus of which had been Billy Fury’s backing band, and was now playing a potent blend of blues and jazz with ska overtones, the overall sound, with Georgie on Hammond organ, owing a lot to Jimmy Smith and Booker T and the M.G.s, his vocals suggested he’d been listening to not a little Mose Allison.

They were great evenings, great nights, dancing up a sweat or just standing around on the side lines, trying to look cool – or, as we used to call it, hip. And there was always the frisson stemming from the rumour  that the place was frequented by gangsters and other dangerous types from the Soho demi-monde – a rumour substantiated when Johnny Edgecombe and Aloysius Gordon fought there over the affections of Christine Keeler and gave traction to what became known as the Profumo Affair.

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Now the BBC [God bless them and the licence] have revisited the first Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames album, Rhythm and Blues At The Flamingo, recorded in September 1963, for its Mastertape series, resulting in two hours of material, music and memory, which will be broadcast in December.

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For more details of this, take a look at this post on Richard Williams excellent music blog, The Blue Moment, here …