Friday, June 3, 2011

A Woman in the Background: Jet Harris and Tony Meehan: "Scarlett O'Hara"

The past is sometimes just the past; I sometimes wonder why it is that people would ever worry about it being 'hunted' or 'mined' when the past is like a vast cave that in reality most people are happy to consign to, well, their own past. There have always been periods of unease that can create (later on) nearly inexplicable crazes for this decade or era or that; while other times collect dust, or are overshadowed.

Jet Harris and Tony Meehan left The Shadows - they were the rhythm section - and had immediate success with "Diamonds" (much later sampled by Chipmunk in a song that was about being aspirational without talking about pushing himself to the limit). The follow up was this, a Jerry Loudon composition that takes the Gone With The Wind heroine and makes her into something of a cool 60s "dolly bird." It is a jaunty instrumental, rocks just as hard as The Shadows could, with that cool man-about-town edge that Harris simply exuded (what is it about bass players?) - a cool that was unfortunately aided and abetted by his troubled life, including a chauffeur-driven limo accident that left him and his then-girlfriend Billie Davis in a mess, both physically and other ways (she was 17 at the time, he was married*).

As incredibly popular as Harris and Meehan were, it is a sad fact that they - and so many other UK acts from this time - are more or less forgotten** (save for Brian Matthew's Sounds of the Sixties) by what I call State Radio. There the past is lovingly and almost obsessively catalogued and enshrined; and yet perhaps this is part of the problem itself - the past as a museum cannot fly beyond the lives of those who remember the music in the first place, who were there. In popular received history The Beatles simply own the charts now, with everyone else running a poor second,

*In case it needs underlining, we are in the 60s now, when being a ladies' man was very much in vogue; how much embarrassment this caused I don't know, as keeping things secret was just as in vogue.

**Cliff Richard and The Shadows did do a tour and new album recently - a single of theirs scraped into the Top 40 for a week and left again, but the tour was a rip-roaring success. But they are the exception here.

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