Pete's Blog

Buena Vista British Invasion

I've been listening to the first Buena Vista Social Club album, which I loved the day it came out and have loved ever since. But before I say why let me just get something off my chest: I sure wish Ry Cooder would make another blues album. The self-effacing folklorist thing is cool and all, but if any young players want to hear what the fuss is about, find "Into the Purple Valley." It's one of the Top Ten albums of the '70s. Anyway, the thing I love most about BVSC is the thing that would most completely disqualify them from consideration by any outlet of Big Media: They're old. Once you pass forty in this society you don't exist to record companies, either as a listener or an artist, unless you had lots of big hits in your twenties, in which case you're going to spend the rest of your life playing those five songs on the nostalgia circuit. The songs on BVSC may have been written by young people and performed by these artists when they were young, but in their eighties and even nineties the singers bring a grace and subtlety to their performances, a valedictory quality that makes up for any loss of upper register or breath capacity. It's really moving. I've been thinking about this "vintage" quality more than usual this week as I get ready for a private party gig I'm doing next month, playing British Invasion pop in a four-piece rock band. These are Beatles and Stones tunes that all four of us have been hearing and playing for forty years (as Mike said, "This is the exact set list for every band I had in High School.") and I'm wondering what new levels we'll find there after all this time. Of course, this stuff, almost without exception, was conceived and certainly marketed as a self-conscious product of that hoary shibboleth Youth Culture. (Hoary Shibboleth - there's a stage name!) So I suppose Mark, Mike, Ian, and I are going to be a nostalgia act. This is especially true given Ian''s uncanny resemblance to Ringo Starr. Still, we're not kids and the audience won't be kids either. I wonder what will happen?

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