Posts Tagged ‘avant-garde’

Julie Tippetts (Julie Driscoll) The Argus Butterfly Peterlee March 1976

Julie Tippetts (Julie Driscoll) The Argus Butterfly Peterlee March 1976
julietippettI’m going to start my meander through acts beginning with the letter “T” with a gig that was strange, musically scary, and unique. And it is also one that I am so glad I attended. But first I’ll think back to when I was a kid in the ’60s.
The image of Julie Driscoll on TV, with her wide made-up eyes and scary hair, singing “Wheels on Fire”, remains forever etched in my memory. I would have loved to see her perform during that period; her work with Brian Auger is simply incredible, and I watch her quite often on YouTube. The first chance that I got to see her live was when she came, with her band Butterfly, to perform at the Argus Butterfly pub in Peterlee. By then she had married, become Julie Tippetts, and had undergone a radical change in vocal style and musical direction. The Argus was, of course, a legendary venue (see below for a picture of the pub) having hosted many bands in the late 60s, when it was the home of the Peterlee Jazz and Folk Club, including an early show by Led Zeppelin, and gigs by Family, Jethro Tull, Free, Deep Purple, Man and others. It was a sparse crowd that gathered to see Tippetts that night in 1976, which was a shame, because what we witnessed was something simply astounding. Tippetts had released the album “Sunset Glow” the year before.
Miles explained in the NME (1975): “In 1970 Julie Driscoll married Keith Tippett, the modern composer, and entered the mysterious other world of contemporary music….She began training her voice and got more involved with experimental work”. All Music Guide says: “After her soul, pop, and R&B beginnings, Tippetts redeveloped her voice… began to extend its reach in improvisation, breath control, and uncommon phrasing. She is one of the most compelling and original singers in recorded music’s history. Sunset Glow is a curious recording, one that walks the razor’s edge of composition and improvisation….strange song structures, varying dynamics”.
Her performance that night was truly way out there in left field. This was vocal improvisation and strange curious songs, and timings. arugusUnlike anything I had heard before. Her band was Brian Godding (guitar), Harry Miller (bass), Mark Charig (cornet) all of who were with Julie in Centipede in 1973, and a “new” guy John Mitchell (percussion) who used to be with Arthur Brown. Julie accompanied herself on piano. One song ‘Mongezi Feza’ consisted entirely of Julie singing the name over and over again, improvising and playing with the sounds. To call the music avant garde jazz does it a disservice; this was experiments in sound, using the voice as an instrument and seeing how far she could take it. It was mind blowing stuff. Sometimes so strange I wanted to laugh, yet compelling and so challenging and moving. Marie and I sat near the front, wondering what on earth we were experiencing.
The gig sticks in my mind today, and I keep promising myself that one day I will go and see Julie perform again. She performs rarely these days, usually with her husband on piano, and in London or the south-west. I really must try and see her again.

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The Monochrome Set Durham University 1981

The Monochrome Set Durham University 1981
monoThe Monochrome Set was formed in London in 1978. The original line-up consisted of Indian-born lead singer and songwriter Bid, Canadian guitarist Lester Square, drummer John Haney and bass guitarist Charlie Harper. The band went through several bassists in the next few years. Experimental filmmaker Tony Potts began working with the band in 1979, designing their lighting and stage sets with the use of film projections for their live shows. The band’s early shows were defined by the shadowy, stage images created by his films and he is often described as being their “fifth member”. Today they are spoken of in reverential terms and are thought of as a seminal, legendary new wave / art-rock band. I only recall seeing the Monochrome Set once, at this gig at Durham University Dunelm Ballroom in 1981. By this point the line-up was John, Bid, Lester and Andy Warren on bass. My memories of the band are of a weird, slightly avant-garde arty new wave ensemble, very black and white (hence their name); quite strange.
From their official site: “You can never pin down The Monochrome Set. They’re so difficult in many ways, yet easy to appreciate.
They’ve been together now …. since the dying days of punk, developing a music which oscillates between furtive seriousness and high enjoyment and tries to connect fantasy with the world. Label them and their music at your peril. Because of the Rough Trade alliance, brief enigmatic press coverage, shadowy pictures, the casualness of the group, their seemingly aloof airs and faces, and the apparent strictness of their live performances, the wrong impression of the group is being communicated. I’m not sure they are doing all they can to change this.” Support came from local heroes the Carpettes.
The band have recently reformed and have been playing concerts to renewed acclaim.