Well I have been back from Paris together with a few days in the London area for almost two weeks now. It was a good trip, marred only by a train strike which prevented a planned trip to Versailles, and a few Paris thunderstorms. Otherwise it was great to be there. It was also great to have a few days just outside London with my cousins. Its a long story, but I never knew them growing up, but with the aid of social media, and more trips across the Atlantic we are making up for a lot of lost time. I love them all dearly, so any time spent with them is a real treat.
In a way this post is a summary of several previous posts, because the entire trip seemed to intertwine in a unique musical sense, culminating with meeting some really special people. I’ll leave that for the end of the post though. I thought it might be fun to share with all of you how such different styles of music makes its way into my head (and on to these posts). I would not quite call it a ‘best of’ Soundtrack Of A Photograph, but maybe a cross section of the way my brain is wired to music instead, and how I bounce around so much. That is actually a question I get often! What often starts off innocently enough with playing one song, leads to a 5 day marathon of soul music, classical, vintage country or folk. Maybe some blues, maybe some jazz, maybe some world music. What follows is an example of how that sometimes comes to be. I encourage you to click on the links in red and at the very least, play the music to hear for yourselves.
In Paris, I made a special excursion one day to a record store in order to buy some wonderful Breton music, including some Dan Ar Braz, who I wrote about in one of my most favorite and well received posts of all time. Honestly I surprised myself in writing that one! The more I listen to his music, the more I am enamored by his approach to the guitar. The tone he gets out of his guitar is unique and always recognizable as his playing. I say that in a positive sense of course. A lot of players never find that sort of sound. It doesn’t matter if you are a heavy metal guitarist or a folk guitarist. Having a unique sound is critical, and I find Dan’s guitar sound to be very evocative, very visual, and very much a part of where he comes from. As a composer I find his melodies in my head quite often. The chords are often deceptively simple to the ear at first listen, but then you realize that the structure is not quite like anything you have heard before.
Also in Paris, while roaming around the hilly streets of Montmartre, I sat for awhile and listened to some jazz in the Hot Club de Paris vein of Django Reinhardt on guitar and Stephane Grappelli on violin. I touched on this style in a very small way in posts I wrote about both Hot Club Of Cowtown and the accordion player Ginny Mac. It says something about the legend surrounding Django Reinhardt that this style of music is still popular some 60 years or so after his death. Something about being in Paris, and Montmartre in particular made me feel especially connected to that music. As I watched the musicians pictured above, I imagined a smoky Paris club in the 1940’s. An audience mesmerized by the playing while onstage Django and Stephane kept court and stretched out the Gypsy rhythms.
Then we took the train from Paris to London. After the modern day necessities of security checks and all of that, I was really looking forward to this train trip. In my head I imagined it a lot differently. I was expecting some sort of triumphant grand entrance into the Chunnel full of fireworks and excitement like the stirring music of Handel, but instead it felt about as exciting as a trip to the dentist. But no matter, soon I was with my family and that was more exciting than music…and I literally don’t say that too often! But it is true, and I thank my aunt and my dear cousins and all the kids who came to visit. It meant so very much to be with them again.
Next came a day that I will long remember. It started off with a meeting with Dan, an online friend I initially met in a music forum called Talkawhile. The origins of the forum centered around the music of Fairport Convention and friends, but has since turned into a place to discuss all sorts of music. Dan graciously came a long way just to meet me in a great pub across from the Borough Market. We discussed all sorts of music over several (many!) pints of beer. I was especially grateful to Dan, because last year for my fourth ‘blogoversary’ post, he kindly provided me with a lot of input which worked its way into the post. Dan’s help was invaluable and I used songs from my favorite live album of all time by Bob Seger. Getting back to how my brain seems to be wired to music-the mere thought of Bob Seger’s music earlier today sent me scrolling through the Ipod and picking out just a few of my favorite songs to listen to on the way home from work.
But then when Dan and I parted ways, I was off to my next meeting. And it was one I had been excited about for weeks. I could not believe it was actually the day. A long time ago on this blog I wrote a post about The Mint Juleps, an a cappella soul group I had seen on a PBS special with Spike Lee one night in 1990 or thereabouts. I won’t repeat what I wrote about in the original post, you can click on the link to read the full story. Suffice it to say that not long after I wrote and researched the post, I realized a lot of people wondered what had happened to the group. I decided to start a Facebook page dedicated to their music and solo work. It was a bust, until one day out of the blue, a member of the group saw it and told their friends and so on.
But back to 2 weeks ago. I had butterflies in my stomach. It wasn’t about meeting people I had seen on TV or in video clips before. New Yorkers tend to see lots of people walking about or having dinner out. I really just could not believe I was there and this was about to happen. The agreed upon meeting place was in a pub that was refurbished from the same theater where the Mint Juleps actually got their start. I arrived a few minutes early and nervously looked around (that’s the introvert in me) and decided to order a drink. Right on time, in came the first member of the group. Before long we were joined by two others and I had a quick phone conversation with a fourth who had to cancel at the last minute. Sadly I just missed another two members who had just flown off on a trip, but maybe next time!
I will carry the memories of this night with me for a very long time. There was lots of laughter and stories. A lot of memories revealed to me. A lot of music shared. But more than anything else, it was special to me because to be honest with you, I have never really felt like I’ve had much purpose in my life up to now. Nice guy, yeah sure…dependable employee, yes definitely…all the usual kind of things. But I never have felt like I stood out. Like I have done something truly worthwhile with my life that matters. That is appreciated. I have written about these feelings here before. First working in photography, and then writing have opened up a lot of these bottled up thoughts for me and I am starting to see a glimpse of what I think that purpose is meant to be. But that is a revelation for another time I think.
There was a time when I once thought that these disparate musical themes running through me were not getting me anywhere. But I know now that it feels right to me. Every time I put these thoughts together, I know that for probably the first time, it is ‘me’ standing out there, the way I have always wanted to. Meeting some of the members of The Mint Juleps was special in the musical sense and as a fan for me, but beyond that, it made me feel like I was there because I had done something no one else had done. To say-your music is remembered. To say I was listening. To say the music meant something to me and did to a lot of other people. Everyone deserves to hear that at least once in their lifetime I think. The music in my head has lead me down a lot of paths. Joy and sorrow. Laughter and tears. Discovery and truth. Honesty and compassion. When I have days here struggling to put ideas, photos and words together I have my doubts. But then I have a day like that one two weeks ago where I meet faces from a TV show one night 30 years ago in person. It makes me think that the path was there all along…I just had to find it. And I chalk it all up to the music in my head.
Dedicated with love and gratitude to The Mint Juleps-Lizzie, Debbie, Marcia, Sandra, Debbie & Julie. The photo I used at the top of this post reminds me of the idea I had for writing about you in the first place.
Here’s a clip of the group absolutely tearing it up on French TV in 1994.-https://mytaratata.com/taratata/44/mint-juleps-soul-ville-think-1994
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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle
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