Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mythical Moments: Lou Busch And His Orchestra: "Zambezi"

There are certain moments when you know; you just know and there is no refuting it by any resource of logic or reason. It happened to a Cambridge student, and it was about to happen to a whole nation.

So far I have been following the course of number two songs on the UK charts, but this is an important moment, for many reasons. The time: late February, 1956. The place: the women's union building at Cambridge. A party is being held to launch a literary magazine, made up mostly of Cambridge grads, and it is raucous. A jazz band is playing and student and grads alike are dancing, jiving, getting drunk on the heat in the room as well as liquor. It's a warm evening, so there is a sense of winter being over, the area around the door is muddy and maybe a window or two is smashed in stress-relieving haste or fun. The Fulbright student has an escort for the night who has already taken her to a pub so she is light-headed when she shows up. She is determined to meet the man who has written poems she has already memorized, earlier in the week; she recognizes hardly anyone at the party, but gets to know who is who soon enough. She sees him, he sees her, and that is that. The student is Sylvia Plath, the grad, Ted Hughes.

It is music just like this - loud, giddy, rock without being rock, evocative of African music while being utterly American - that was at number two when Plath and Hughes met. It is happy music that is also a little silly, a little drunk, the sort of music you hear that can fade into the background if something far more important is happening, even if you are in a good mood and want to dance (as Plath did, by the way).

This song also points to what is about to happen. So far most of the songs have been sedate, polite, sophisticated and presentable to one and all. Here, things start to change. "Zambezi" may be an instrumental (I don't count the name of the song as being lyrics, as such) but it is loud and dense and roller-rink/skating rink/ice cream truck simple and repetitive. There isn't much about it that is soothing or calming. It is the first twig, so to speak, that something very big is about to happen; the winter is thawing fast, spring cannot come soon enough.

1 comment:

rembetikahipsters said...

I enjoy your blog enormously. Great, nuanced writing. Thank you!