If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 8 March 2010

Desert Island Discs 2

I first encountered Pete Atkin's music as a student in 1972. I've mentioned him (and Clive James) before, so I'll be brief. The music was intelligent and literary, and therefore totally uncommercial, and the fanbase was necessarily limited. But as a student getting to grips with the wide range of English Literature, there was plenty in there to amuse, entertain, and provide that spark of recognition between performer and listener that makes you into a 'fan' rather than a mere listener. I suppose the self-satisfaction of spotting the Shakespeare references was a little indulgent, but at 18 you need all the help with your developing identity that you can get.

The pair produced six albums in the late 60s and early 70s, and then fell into obscurity. I kept listening, however, and contacted Pete through the BBC on a whim one day in the 80s, asking if he had any plans for a revival. His reply was polite and generous, and he even sent me a cassette recording of some stuff I didn't have. But he had no plans to start it all again. However, the rise of the internet in the 90s brought some fans together, and one started a website to co-ordinate interest: Smash Flops. Soon, all the CDs were re-released, and I had the chance to dump all my cracked and torn tapes and scratchy vinyl and purchase them anew. A CD of new material was also released, showing that the guys were still able to cut it, although it represented a change of direction, away from the folk/rock basis of the earlier stuff into a cabaret-style approach, which I am still not too sure about. (For an example of the older stuff, listen to 'Practical Man' from this post.)

There is one song on this album which cuts right into me every time I hear it, and this is my choice for No. 2: 'A Hill Of Little Shoes', from Winter Spring, 2003. It's an odd piece, rather disjointed, but it gets under your skin. I'm sure there is no need to explain what the writer is talking about.

1 comment:

  1. A chilling song. That image is something that has haunted me over the years too.


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