Thursday, 16 September 2010

Non-textbook Memphibians, volume 2

Memphis's musical heritage is so rich and varied that inevitably people have to resort to categorization, stereotypes and cliches to try to make some sense of it all. I see it all as one continuum, but I guess some people find it easier to ghetto-ize it as "country," "rockabilly," "soul," "blues," "funk," "trashabilly," "lo-fi shitrock," etc. The term "avant garde" doesn't get bandied about much, because I guess Memphis is seen as having made very little contribution to this arena, at least in the sense of "serious music," but it did give the world one very remarkable and influential character in the shape of Jon Hassell.

Most Memphians have probably never heard of him, and to be fair, he doesn't make much of his affiliation with his home town, yet for all his relative obscurity, his profound influence has been acknowledged by many more familiar musicians. The seminal Eno/Byrne collaboration "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts," which I listened to religiously upon its release, had a tremendous and lasting influence on the direction of electronic music (hello Moby?), and it was initially conceived around Jon Hassell, though he seems to have been rather abruptly written out of the project before it really began - a turn of events which he seems to have been very bitter about for many years. His rich and varied body of work rewards exploration, and he just keeps on going.

No comments: