Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Yardbirds: I'm a Man

When David Bowie died local newspapers scrambled to find a local angle on the story.

The Leicester Mercury did rather better, reprinting a rather sniffy review from 1973 of a concert he gave at De Montfort Hall:
He's become the figurehead of a new phase of rock sub-culture with its transvestitism and glitter trappings. There are those who have dubbed the Bowie-Roxy-Cooper glam-rock as the decadence preceding the demise of rock. 
But I can't believe that Bowie or his followers really take the Gay Liberation bit seriously. 
Certainly the man himself seemed to have his tongue firmly placed in cheek throughout last night's performance as he pouted and minced his way through all the best numbers from his exceptionally fine last four albums. 
Bowie has brought show-biz back to rock with a vengeance, and judging from last night's hysterical response, the younger fans are only too eager to accept the theatrical trappings that their elder brothers and sisters once rejected. 
But the Larry Grayson aspect is just a pose - albeit a highly successful one. Bowie has become Ziggy Stardust - the focal character of one of his songs. 
'The music' I can hear some of you saying. What about the music? Good point. Well to be frank, there's nothing new about that. It's mostly rough and raucous rock, power-pop as Pete Townsend calls it. The sound is based on Mick Ronson's strident rasping chord work with bass Trev Bolder and drummer Woody Woodmansey providing perfect support for Bowie's strong Anthony Newleyish vocals. 
Bowie's biggest recent hit for example, "Jean Genie" is a straight rip-off of the Yardbirds' 'I'm a Man', and last night Bowie performed the song with even more of an R and B flavour, swapping harmonica with Ronson's lead work just like Keith Relf and Becky used to do. 
But the music's not important. Presentation is what today's rock is all about, and no-one could complain about that last night.
I'm not sure you would get such an opinionated review in a local paper today, and that is a shame.

There was also a good letter published in the paper yesterday from someone who attended this concert as a 15-year-old:
I am sure if you talk to anyone present on that night they will have the same opinion: it was the gig of a lifetime. Those of us who loved Bowie are gutted at his passing in a way that non-believers can never understand. He, for me, was the man that opened my eyes to all art in a way my teachers never could. 
It is true to say that every book I have chosen to read, every painting admired, every play, show, ballet and gig that I have attended since that June evening in 1973 owe something to it for the beautiful spark it ignited. 
Thank you, David, your show was life-changing and life-enhancing and it took place in the city I love.
Anyway, thanks to that 1973 reviewer, here are The Yardbirds with "I'm a Man".

There is an earlier, live version with Eric Clapton, but I can't find it online, so here is Becky (as I have never heard Jeff Beck called before). The link with "Jean Genie" is obvious.

1 comment:

Walsie said...

i terms of a local papers scrabble to get a local Bowie angle, you cannot get better than this one