I have known my friend Jayne for over 37 years…from the olden days maybe, but we did our very best to live our life in colour. The 1970s in the UK are being remembered for us through a woebegone wash of grey tinted spectacles. These abject adducers were not just turned 20 with a bunch of interesting and good friends. They were not newly & happily married with a love of books, art, music and new experience. We had an optimism about the life we wanted to lead & were taking the first steps in making those lives happen. The 1970s were, for us, a time of independence (jobs were easier to get), laughter & making sense of the world with people we loved & trusted. It is no surprise that we are still connected to those with whom we shared these good times.
My friend has problems that are occupying her at the moment. The music in this piece reminds me of her and is intended to raise her spirits at this difficult time.
In the early 80s we no longer lived in the same city & could have lost touch. It was a Saturday night at the Glastonbury Festival when we chanced upon each other again. Magical things happen at the festival & who cared what others thought as we rolled around shouting & laughing. The next year we met at the festival and she brought along a new friend. Jayne introduced her month old baby girl to me. I was helping on a friend’s stall. We had a big old tent and the new mum had her very own baby station in the rear. This not only saved her a lot of back & forth but meant the three of us got to hang out regularly over the weekend.
The festival was not only about the music in those times but all our crew assembled at the Pyramid to see Jackson Browne on the Sunday evening. We exchanged true & tall tales of Glastonbury excess then settled to hear music we all knew well. Jayne, who was behind me, said that if the baby kept her own counsel for the next hour then any of the bother of the weekend would be worth it. Browne played a fantastic set, all of those anthemic commentaries which finished his LPs . There were no hits but he did play his greatest. The gathering (unsteadily) rose for a standing ovation & some seconds in I realised that the music had not once been enjoyed with backing vocals from one month old Joanne. I turned around and saw my friend cross-legged on the floor, baby sleeping across her lap. She had the loveliest, happiest smile of anyone at the festival, believe me that is big time happy.
File under “Exquisite”. Those first two LPs by Kate & Anna McGarrigle enchanted us. They even impressed our younger, punkier friends. If you loved the sound made by human voices in combination, if you loved beauty, then you loved their music.
Through the 80s Jayne’s family grew. Her husband was still there (still is). A son joined the growing girl (6 going on 26 as I remember). I went on holiday with them. I shared Xmas at their house.I fed her children forbidden sweets full of evil E-numbers & was the crazy “uncle” all kids need. I always felt I was lucky to do these things. I would stay for a week, left to entertain myself while the family were at work & school. On these days I would discover records by the McGarrigle sisters that I had not heard. Their music continues to confirm the simplicity of beauty. It also reminds me of a family house full of music, books, laughter, toys, badges (don’t ask) and full of life.
Jayne was a cool mum precisely because she did not think she was & did not particularly try to be one. That’s how it works. Anyone who has read this blog will know I love music & I do like to pass new music on to friends who can make of it what they please. It was Jayne who put me on to P J Harvey almost 20 years ago & wasn’t she right to do so. Polly Jean was a skinny young bad ass who hooked up to no fashion & made her own path. I could see why my friend would want to leave the kids with dad & go to see some real rock music.
I almost chose “50ft Queenie” because that tune still rocks out & sounds like today. I went for something from one of the best records of last year because I still trust my friend’s taste 35 years after we would listen to new records together. Her lovely children are now lovelier adults. The old uns still go to gigs, still listen to the good stuff. The last concert I went to was with three-quarters of the family. I had a great, I mean great, day. Good friends, good music…constants in a changing world.
My friend has some stuff to deal with right now. My thoughts, the thoughts of others, are with her.