Browsing through an antiques fair the other week in the pretty Provencal town of Vence on the French Cote d’ Azur, I stumbled on an interesting book on the history of jazz – in French, of course, itself twenty two years old.
Of all the 250 illustrations and photos, one stuck out as a startling moment frozen in time, the front page of the British weekly music paper Melody Maker fifty six years ago. You may know it.
“Le Monde du Jazz” by Jim Godbolt ( Editions Soline, France, 1990)
(Scanned as large as possible to render the text readable) This front page has no less than ten items related to the seismic new directions in both music and society occuring in 1956. The headline story contains this immortal line:
Down with bebop? Eh? Bebop?? What’s Bebop ever done to you guys? Apart from the small technical matter that the concert featured Bill Haley and his Comets, who as best I recall were a somewhat pale group of musicians. However the claim that Rock ‘n’ Roll is linked to sin, degradation and Communism is pretty well undeniable, and accounts largely for its irresistable attraction to teenagers ever since, so the citizens council got one thing right.
Most of the other Melody Maker stories cover news about jazz musicians – Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dankworth, Stephane Grappelly, Eroll Garner - a reminder of the significance of Jazz in the culture of those distant times even in Great Britain - a measure of how far we have travelled in the following five decades since. Its sometimes easy to forget the turbulent times which produced this great music that is modern jazz. 1956, thank you.
What we have done to deserve the music we have today is quite another matter. It’s enough to get me out on a picket line.LJC says…