Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Moment of Horribly Self-Congratulatory Self-Indulgence

[Okay, this is the last Terry Reid entry for the forseeable future, guaranteed.

I originally ran this in October of 2007, and I have to say -- of all the stuff I've posted here since NYMary gave me the metaphorical keys to the car, it's pretty much the one I'm happiest to have written. I should also add that the video that occasioned it still strikes me as just as ineffably wonderful as it did at the time. -- S.S.]

Here's the deal: I stumbled across this clip yesterday and I'm finding it difficult to describe just how moving I think it is. A caveat before you watch: The video quality is just barely adequate, but the audio is mostly fine. Listen to it with headphones -- you'll miss the bass, otherwise.

Okay, the backstory: The song of course, is The Kinks' gorgeous "Waterloo Sunset," and the guy singing it is Brit cult figure Terry Reid. If you don't know him, suffice it to say that he's a brilliant songwriter and vocalist (think a more soulful Steve Marriott) who made a couple of wonderful albums in the late 60s and early 70s (you can buy them here) but alas his career never really took off for all the usual reasons. What makes him slightly more than a fondly remembered footnote to history is that Jimmy Page actually offered him the frontman slot in Led Zeppelin; considering that he's also a terrific guitarist, the fact that he punted on the gig probably changed the world in unfathomable ways. Seriously -- can you imagine what Zep might have been like with a better singer and a twin-guitar attack? Wow. In any case, the clip derives from a series of club shows Reid did in L.A. in 2002; the band is led by longtime scenester Waddy Wachtel, and apparently all sorts of 70s and 80s B-list rockers did guest shots at one point or another.

So -- why do I find the vid so emotionally shattering? Well, the song itself has something to do with it, of course. Longtime readers are aware that I am occasionally of the opinion that it's the most beautiful song written in English in the second half of the 20th century. To my ears, it's about somebody who, for whatever reason, has concluded that they will never themselves find love, but who can watch other people -- total strangers, actually -- who have, and has decided that the solace they get from that is ultimately enough. It's a perfectly observed little vignette that manages to be both heartbreaking and strangely uplifting in its generosity of spirit; it's also, probably, the most revealing thing Ray Davies has ever written (and frankly, I can't think of another songwriter who could have pulled it off).

Reid gets all that of course, but he adds a lot more. It's a wonderfully theatrical performance, and at the heart of it is the not so dirty little secret of so much 60s Brit rock, i.e, that as much as the English pop boom owed to blues and r&b, it also owed to that now vanished English institution -- the music hall. The examples are almost endless -- see Sgt. Pepper or the Small Faces "Lazy Sunday" -- and one of the first things that struck me watching the clip is that Reid, singing his heart out up on that cramped little stage, could almost be a tragi-comic version of Archie Rice, the title character from John Osborne's The Entertainer. To really understand that you have to remember that back when Reid was an almost star, he was one of those skinny pretty boy rock god types. Here, of course, he looks like nothing less than one of those slightly puffy second tier expatriate Brit actors at Warner Brothers in the 30s. And he's not posturing like the pop idol he briefly was; instead he's swanning around in that ridiculous ice cream suit like Herbert Marshall in The Letter. It's laughably hokey but it's also quite brave; he's playing the fool and yet it's as if his relationship to the song and the audience and to the whole idea of being a rock star parallels the relationship of the song's narrator to the starcrossed lovers. There's something just enormously compassionate about it, and it just chokes me up.

And don't even get me started on Wachtel's solo or that gorgeous riff he introduces at the end to ride the song out (neither are on the actual Kinks record), or how Reid trails off into wordless falsetto, thus finding an unsuspected link between Davies' teddibly Bitish original and the American street corner romanticism of old Doo Wop and Goffin-King songs.

Alright, I''ve gone on about this for a little too long, and yes, perhaps I'm reading too much into it. In any case, I'm gonna go watch it again, and thanks for stopping by.

PS: I forwarded this to my old pal Eric Boardman (who's a fan and lives in LA), wondering if perhaps he'd been in the audience when it was shot. Just got his reply.

I was not (SIGH) at that show, but have been to Waddy's Monday night jam at The Joint quite often. A great scene as who's-who in rock drop by. Check the concert & club listings as to which bands are in town for the week-end and gamble. For instance, I saw Keith play for an hour, including a few Chuck Berry numbers and a torn-up version of "Down The Road Apiece."

Terry Reid's album with "Horses in a Rain Storm" kept me company summer of '70 along with "After The Gold Rush" and Donovan's "Open Road."

By the way, I sing it, "Eric meets Julie."


JZ said...

This just as good as you said it was Steve. I hope somehow Ray Davies gets to see this.

Sal Nunziato said...

Fantastic! Thanks for the repost. It's some damn inspiring work.

MJConroy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MJConroy said...

Your postings encouraged me to go get some Terry Reid! I went to Amazon and found this:

Some really good prices from other sellers on this. I ordered one.

Billy B said...

Now that's the reason I kept a subscription to Stereo Review for 6years or so in the 70s and 80s when I couldn't come near affording any of the stereo stuff the magazine hawked. Great stuff Stevie.

steves said...

Absolutely wonderful!

And I think the crappy video quality actually contributes to making that clip work as well as it does. Although we can't see all of his exaggerated motions, our minds are only too happy to fill in the blanks.

billy b said...

Seed of Memory is nice.

Temsamany said...

Yes- Thanks for posting his awesome cover of this great song. Brings back memories. This song was always the highlight of the shows at the Joint in Los Angeles. Terry stopped performing there when he left for Canada for a tiny part in the 2005 film "The Greatest Game Ever Played." He was gone for months, then moved to Palm Desert, stopped being a Big Monday regular at the Joint.
The shows continued without him, and now still held intermittently on Saturday nights. Still great shows. Check the Waddy Wachtel Band website and get on the mailing list.

ms. rosa said...

What Sal said!

jackd said...

There's a beautiful bit of parallelism between your take on "Waterloo Sunset" and this performance. Reid seems genuinely happy there on stage singing and dancing his mess around. No, he didn't get to be what Robert Plant became, but he can have moments like this with an audience in front of him and a great bunch of musicians behind him and those moments are enough, really.

"It's a sad and beautiful world."

Dave said...

Reid and Simels, both at their best. Thanks for this.