Blighted and Delighted
Shop Around Ö part 37

What I hadnít realised on rediscovering The Pratsí 'General Davis', arguably the greatest pop single released by Rough Trade, was that it had been used by director Jonathan Demme as part of the soundtrack of the Hollywood blockbuster remake of The Manchurian Candidate starring Denzel Washington. Well, thatís pretty cool I think. Thereís me championing the cause of a great lost 45 when probably millions of people have to some degree heard it in the cinema or at home on DVD. Excellent! Itís the best thing Iíve heard of since Dave Eggers mentioned the June Brides in a short story.

But you could write what I know about Hollywood blockbusters on the back of my hand. Iím just not good at that sort of thing. I secretly envy people like Toby Young who are the same age as me, but have grown up loving the mainstream big budget films, the bestselling novels, the pop and rock the commercial radio stations play all day. He would have a field day at the irony of me missing out on 'General Davis' being heard by so many people in such an expected way.

Of course itís easy to be a Toby Young, and strike a contrary pose and say youíre more into Kevin Costner than say Jean Pierre Leaud, or would rather hear Chris De Burgh than The Fall. Heís even made something of a career out of it. Iím sure he would even turn into a positive the fact that his book How To Lose Friends and Alienate People has become something of a charity shop staple. I genuinely despise the Toby Youngs of the world. But that book is wonderfully entertaining in its pure repulsiveness.

Itís all about how Young, after the collapse of the Modern Review, went to New York, determined to be a success in the world of Conde Nast publications. This in itself is odd to me. I really donít get the world of American publishing. I donít think Iíve ever read Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Spy, or Rolling Stone, Details, Interview, and so on. I donít even think Iíd want to. And the picture that Young paints is not of a world Iíd want to be part of, no matter how desperate I might be to make it as a writer.

And Young really is desperate to make it there. He wants to be on all the party and premiere lists, to be enticed into the most exclusive restaurants, to mingle with the most well-known. But he fails so spectacularly and so stupidly that you almost feel sorry for him, particularly when like a rabbit in Watership Down he wakes up to how horrible the meritocracy of New York really is. So he fails to be a make it Manhattan, and be one of the insiders in the way, say, the editors of the Rock Snobís Dictionary David Kamp and Steven Daly succeeded in being. Thereís a moral there somewhere. Oh well, I have to say Youngís blighted book is as entertaining as the Rock Snobís Dictionary, and well worth the 50p youíll probably be asked for it!
Another book about a young man going to New York, determined to make a name for himself, is actually Bob Dylanís Chronicles if you want to strip things back to their most base. I know everyone has been drooling about Dylanís memoirs, and I almost apologise for adding to the evangelical chorus, but it really is a lovely book. In true Shop Around tradition, I found a paperback copy for less than a fiver last week, and itís not even out for a few weeks. And I galloped through it in a day or so. Ironically I thought Greil Marcusí dragged-out musings on 'Like A Rolling Stone' had put me off Dylan for life, but Bobís trumped the leeches trawling through his back pages by capturing some of the poetry, pith, and perversity that made people love Bob Dylanís songs and persona. And Bob keeps the mystery caged rather than give everything away. Itís a real treat whatever your current position on the manís music and the industry thatís devoted to him.

So did it make me go scurrying back to my Bob Dylan records? Not exactly, but I like his thoughts on covers of his songs, and that prompted me to dig out that Lou Adler 1971 Brothers and Sisters project of gospel renditions of some of Bobís songs, which is wonderful. Well, it would be when you consider the Sisters included Patrice Holloway, Gloria Jones, Merry Clayton, Clydie King, Sherlie Matthews, and the Honey Coneís Edna Wright and Carolyn Willis. These voices were part of an incredible West Coast Soul Experimental Conglomeration, whose magic touched an amazing amount of music around that time.

Indeed I would argue that you could die happy were you to buy and listen only to records somehow associated with one of these special ladies. For example, the recently released second volume of A Cellarful of Motown features an unearthed Patrice Holloway number in 'Those DJ Shows', and another more spectacular song in 'Crying Time' from her sister Brenda. Volume One in the series also featured the breathtaking version of Ed Cobbís 'Touch Of Venus' sung by Patrice. Soul fans will be more familiar with the Sandy Wynns version, and may know that Sandy is better known as Edna Wright of the Honey Cone who recorded a cracking version of 'Youíve Made Me So Very Happy' which was written by Patrice and Brenda Holloway. Patrice and Brenda also recorded a number of Mirwood soul sides with Sherlie Matthews as the Belles, a couple of which are featured on the excellent Kent compilation, the Mirwood Soul Story. Another Belles number, 'Cupidís Got A Hold On Me', is included on Aceís Where The Girls Are Volume 6, which interestingly also features Carol Connors covering 'She Belongs To Me'. You see what I mean? How can you get excited about a Hollywood blockbuster when there are all these linkages to unravel?

© 2005 John Carney