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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32. No. 25. October 9, 1969


They ask me where the Blues comes from The Blues Comes From Your Life If You have Got a Life Than already YOU have The Blues

Undoubtedly the greatest pleasure that the blues affords its modern afficionado is the ability he gains to see "as upon the vantage ground of truth" the musical inadequacies of those Judas-like erstwhile blues exponents who have 'sold out'. While trite comments as to the intolerance of those who indulge in this musical bear-baiting are rapidly growing uncomfortably fashionable, I would like to examine this because it Opens the way into a discussion of what blues is, should be, and has become.

And blues has become the following, firstly, a fashionable Fad for young kids who rarely have the temperament or the desire to truly appreciate the feelings that Blues should involve. This is sad, because it is upon these kids that the financial stability of the current "Blues Boom" depends. Secondly, a musical form, again rarely understood, (though deluded wits think it understood), which is a basis about which to build an intellectually inclined clique—who devote great energies to esoteric discussions of "Catharsis" and "hermeneutics of art" (cf. liner notes for Elektra's record "Blues Project"). Further it provides a basis for arguments as to whether long hair, denims, alcohol poisoning, and V.D. are prerequisites of being able to play blues.

The Blues also involves the phenomenon witnessed in jazz—the record collector and annotator. Many of these individuals truly appreciate and love the music, and collect in order to hear. But unfortunately, others collect records like stamps, and rarely even listen to their vast collections. This is a great shame, because the blues is submersed in a sea of academia. This is not to condemn all discographers and annotators, but to indicate that such activities should be undertaken through love of the music, not as a hobby or end in themselves.

The various posturings of many of the groups involved in blues at the moment are really totally meaningless. The blues is not to be analysed and made the subject of intellectual exercise. Discographics, and books such as Paul Olivers' are indeed valuable, but only in so far as they are servants to greater expression through blues. All relevance is lost otherwise.

It is also wrong to be totally obsessed with Blues, if this means all other music is rubbished out of hand. To me the blues is more relevant and important than any other music, but this doesn't mean I can find nothing of value in jazz, the classics, or good pop. But Blues is a far more intense expression, and to me a more meaningful one, than other musical forms. It's true that to higher musical wits there may be more stimulation in Britten or Handel, but the blues is a folk music, and one whose origins are such that it has become a highly emotional and incredibly expressive form.

It dosn't really matter whether a blues performer has long hair or not, though it's unfortunate that blues has come to be identified with long hair and denims. Some of the socio-economic analysts would have US believe that the white youth of today have adopted blues because they are alienated from society etc. There is probably some truth in this argument, but perhaps it's just that blues has been brought to the attention of people and they've adopted it because that's the way they feel.

Blues is a feeling, and an attitude. It's futile to go into deep definitions. If you don't ever feel what it is, you'll never know what it is, and it is impossible to convey all that the word "blues" implies except by performing the music. There really doesn't seem much to talk about. Blues is a performing, and a participating, thing. The audience will experience something of what the performer is going through if it is a true page 27blues and they are a blues audience. This sick thing of musical backbiting, bitter accusations against Clapton (who I think has played blues in his time) and May all and all the others has no relevance at all. Can white men play the blues? Anyone who listens to some of the white blurs singers and then says white men can't play the blues doesn't know what blues is. There has been just as much crap produced by negro singers (but it is black crap) viz. the pornographic blues of the 30's and some of the bad Junior Wells and B. B. King tracks. You can't just turn on the blues every time. It has to be there at one moment.

So don't talk to me about esoteric definitions, about how bluesmen should dress, about who plays blues and who doesn't, because blues is a thing you have, and that you've got to express, and it doesn't matter who or what yon are, if you have the blues, you'll know what they are. "People ask me where the blues comes from. The blues come from your life. If you have got a life you already have the blues". It seems to me that many people don't have lives, only existences.

Drawing of African men working at machinery