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Electric Eden

mikesamwild 09 Oct 10 - 11:46 AM
GUEST,John Miles of Smiles 09 Oct 10 - 12:48 PM
Howard Jones 15 Oct 10 - 08:34 AM
GUEST,Warwick Slade 15 Oct 10 - 09:45 AM
theleveller 15 Oct 10 - 09:49 AM
Howard Jones 15 Oct 10 - 09:58 AM
SophFFS 15 Oct 10 - 10:18 AM
Howard Jones 15 Oct 10 - 10:55 AM
theleveller 15 Oct 10 - 11:28 AM
SteveMansfield 15 Oct 10 - 12:15 PM
mikesamwild 18 Oct 10 - 06:17 AM
Folknacious 18 Oct 10 - 11:33 AM
Phil Edwards 18 Oct 10 - 11:49 AM
mikesamwild 31 Dec 10 - 08:55 AM
GUEST,matt milton 31 Dec 10 - 10:54 AM
Desert Dancer 13 May 11 - 02:08 PM
MGM·Lion 17 May 11 - 12:41 PM
Les in Chorlton 17 May 11 - 02:43 PM
Jack Campin 17 May 11 - 03:11 PM
MGM·Lion 22 May 11 - 10:17 AM
Desert Dancer 07 Jun 11 - 11:44 AM
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Subject: Electric Eden
From: mikesamwild
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 11:46 AM

I've just been reading Electric Eden by Rob Young (Faber, 2010). He writes for The Wire magazine


Although it has some irritating mistakes it is quite a good look at the evolution of the folk scene.

Has anybody else read it?

I was surprised that there has been no mention on Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: GUEST,John Miles of Smiles
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 12:48 PM

There's a bit od discussion of it in the 'What is Psych Folk?" thread that is still bubbling under. We were hoping that Rob would be able to compere a show that we've organised at CSH on 30th October, but no such luck sadly - he'll be taking the book to a literary fest in Hebden Bridge.


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: Howard Jones
Date: 15 Oct 10 - 08:34 AM

I've just finished it. It's a huge piece of work, mostly well-written, and with copious references. However I disagree with Mike that it's about the evolution of the folk scene. It's not, and in fairness I don't think it's intended to be. The book is subtitled "Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music" and it's about the influence of the English pastoral and paganism on popular music.

Young attributes this influence mainly to folk music, and much of the book is about folk-rock and folk-influenced singer-songwriters. However to attribute these ideas to "folk" is only partly true - some folk song is about these, but much isn't - and Young himself illustrates that influences also came from literature, poetry and philosophy.

The zenith of this was the 1960s, when popular music was a mixture of pop, rock, folk, jazz, world music, early music and musicians of all backgrounds were being influenced by aspects of these, and influencing others in turn. Of course, folk-rock eventually turned out to be a dead end.

Young ignores, indeed is dismissive, of the mainstream folk scene. He describes it at the end of the 1960s as "stagnating" - I didn't get involved until 1970 but the club scene I entered was far from stagnating. Musicians like Nic Jones get barely a mention, while Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick feature mainly because of their involvement with Steeleye Span and Morris On. The Watersons feature mainly because of the imagery of Frost and Fire. He devotes considerable space to Nick Drake, Vashti Bunyan and others who were virtually unknown at the time and most of whom remain obscure.

He describes the 1970s as a "slide back to the traditional repertoire" and describes band names like Hedgehog Pie, Pyewackett and Fiddlers Dram as "irritatingly parochial", while allowing names like Dr Strangely Strange or Fairfield Parlour to pass without comment. The unspoken implication is that folk-rock was the true direction of folk music and that folk can only be regarded in terms of its interaction with the mainstream music scene - a point of view which I reject.

In short, it's a fascinating but blinkered history of a particular facet of the music scene where folk, pop and rock music overlapped, before being killed off by punk.


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: GUEST,Warwick Slade
Date: 15 Oct 10 - 09:45 AM

Sorry but I could not get into this book, mainly because it did not seem to cover the extensive area of the jobing folk singer and local clubs. Surely this was where all the work was done throughout the 60s an 70s. So many names not mentioned or just touched upon. I'm also afraid I am unfamiliar with the work of Vashti Bunyan but I will accept the title was 'electric' folk.
Maybe someone should write the definative 'I was there' story of British folk


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: theleveller
Date: 15 Oct 10 - 09:49 AM

What Howard says. An interesting, thoughtful, enjoyable and at times irritating (especially the over-abundant adjectival adulation of Incredible String Band) book that has prompted me to further reading (Peter Hancock's superb book, Albion - The Orgins of the English Imagination).


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: Howard Jones
Date: 15 Oct 10 - 09:58 AM

Warwick, the book does not aim to cover the folk club scene, and seems to regard it simply as a stepping stone to the greater things offered by folk-rock, which it appears to view as the apotheosis.

For a view of the folk scene itself, there's Fred Woods' Folk Revival, however this was published in 1979 so it's now a bit out of date.

I think it's a little disappointing that there's still so much attention given to the 1960s-early 70s period and so little to what came after. As Ian A Anderson has written here in fRoots, the 1970s is in danger of getting written out of the history of folk.


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: SophFFS
Date: 15 Oct 10 - 10:18 AM

I loved Electric Eden. I couldn't put it down. And I thought it was great how he kept personal anecdotes out of it (I think there was just one in the whole book, apart from a couple of scene-setting sentences) because too many music writers like to shoehorn their personal lives into their writing.

What irritating mistakes were there, mikesamwild?


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: Howard Jones
Date: 15 Oct 10 - 10:55 AM

There are a few minor but niggling inaccuracies - describing concertina-player William Kimber as "accordionist" for Headington Quarry morris, for example. Nothing which undermines the validity of his writing, but minor errors which I wouldn't expect someone writing knowledgeably about folk to make.

I wanted to read this book because it is clearly an important and thoughtful piece of work about folk music, and you don't get many of those. However, I'm just not very interested in the particular branch of folk music he writes about, so I had no trouble putting it down, and fast-forwarded through several sections.

As a study of that particular branch of the music, it's very good. However he does seem to imply that what he's writing applies to all folk music. It doesn't, which is one of the reasons the divide between the traditional and contemporary folk worlds widened.


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: theleveller
Date: 15 Oct 10 - 11:28 AM

"Peter Hancock's superb book, Albion - The Orgins of the English Imagination). "

That should be Peter Ackroyd. DOH!


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 15 Oct 10 - 12:15 PM

I have just finished reading it, but can't really add anything to the discussion that Howard Jones hasn't said already.

It's a fascinating read, I enjoyed it, and would and have recommend others to read it.

With that said, I occasionally raised an eyebrow as certain acts and artists were co-opted into the central theme of 'visionary music', especially as Rob Young never really seems to have decided whether the visionary music he sought was down to a specifically British sensibility, an agrarian romance, or just the result of overindulgence in pharmaceuticals.

Musicians and their chroniclers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may well have somthing to say about whether he meant 'Britain' or whether he meant 'England'.

But it neither is, nor intends to be, a history of the folk revival, only in as much as the theme of the book intersects with, rather than encompasses, the folk revival.

However as I say, well worth a read. It's also been an interesting Summer, re-reading The Imagined Village after many years and Electric Eden in fairly rapid succession; two very different viewpoints (and the Jeanette Leech book IAA mentions in his article 'Seasons They Change' sounds like it provides a third angle).


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: mikesamwild
Date: 18 Oct 10 - 06:17 AM

Fair point Howard, I meant it adds to the story of 'folk''s evolution in this country.

A I got a steady job, married, had kids , started doing up a house and so on I found folk clubs in the late 60s too twee and way out everythin gtom 'My baby done left me i Hunslett, singer songwriters and too micuh fairyland as well , so I stopped going and went back to playing with ordinary guys in Irish music pubs , local carols and traditional singers all arounfd the country.

So this book filled in a lot of stuff that I missed as a non 'head' or 'stoner'


Punk didn't kill folkrock , just added to its variety. No Clash, no Pogues, Levellers, Oyster Band even Bellowhaed ?   Elecricity and Merrie England seemed to be the theme, as the cover indicates..


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: Folknacious
Date: 18 Oct 10 - 11:33 AM

Punk didn't kill folkrock , just added to its variety

There are some who say that the punk rock movement was folk rock, in retrospect. Certainly in terms of its infrastructure - DIY ethic/ pick up an instrument and start a band/ start your own label or venue/ small fanzines/ politics etc - it was just an extension of what the folk world already did. Strip away the surface things and the two had a lot in common, as Billy Bragg, Shane McGowan and Joe Strummer all knew. There's no more about that in Electric Eden than there is about the folk club scene of the 1970's onwards. Seems that Rob Prince is a bit of a prog sympathiser at heart!


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 Oct 10 - 11:49 AM

If you stand far enough back you can liken anything to anything. As far as I was concerned, not so much in retrospect as living through it, punk killed folk-rock stone dead - it took me a long time to get back into folk, and there's a certain sound that I still can't listen to because it sounds so out-dated.


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: mikesamwild
Date: 31 Dec 10 - 08:55 AM

Jeanete Leech's book Seasons They change is now out.


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 31 Dec 10 - 10:54 AM

I found the 'irritating mistakes' to be more writerly than factual: I appreciate it's a huge book, but every couple of pages there'd be a clunker of a mixed-metaphor or dangling clause or sentence that didn't semantically mean quite what its author seemed to think it did. I did feel like Faber took the eye off the ball on the editorial/proofreading front.


In general I found it a bit hack-ish: it suffered from the music journo's impossible desire to cram in every single thing he likes about music. His stated remit - the visionary in English music - gave him a baggy enough tent to house most of his interests under, conveniently allowing him to write about people like Kate Bush as well as Pentangle or Fairports. It even let him cheat a bit - he writes about Ewan MacColl and industrial folk music precisely because of its *difference* from the visionary, pastoral aesthetic he was supposedly writing about.

There was also not a great deal about the actual *music*. I don't mean the instrumentation, or the musicians - I mean the music. That's one of the funniest things about music journalists - they generally prefer writing about musicians to writing about music.

In short, I felt Rob Young is an excellent (and dedicated) historian, a slightly wobbly theorist and a tolerable writer (with a tendency to think he's Iain Sinclair that really doesn't suit him).

That said, it didn't prevent me from enjoying it as a whole. I liked the bits about the classical composers best - Vaughan Williams, Peter Warlock et al - and I thought he had the most insightful things to say about them.


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 13 May 11 - 02:08 PM

There's a quite positive review in the New York Times, today: Primordial Soup, a Musical Brew, by Dwight Garner.

Though the reviewer does say,

'The second half of "Electric Eden" grows, occasionally, mossy. There's an awful lot of earnest talk about Druids and Stonehenge and Tarot cards. You may begin to hear the clotted chords of the Spinal Tap song "Break Like the Wind" welling up in the background.'

He concludes,

'Mr. Young's book is a declaration: England is not just older than America. It's weirder, too.'

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 17 May 11 - 12:41 PM

My dearest wife has just [last week] given it to me as a birthday present ~~ she's a poppie rather than a folkie, but supports my interest [she's a good techno & is the establisher & maintainer of my u-tube channel]: I thought it a wonderfully thoughtful choice.

I find it [uncharacteristically for me, who am in general a non-skipper] a book rewarding to dip into ~~ I just turned at random and found some halfway-thru most cogent remarks on Shirley & Dolly Collins' relations with David Munrow, Christopher Hogwood & the Early English Consort ~~ having got fed-up with the early preoccupation with the, no doubt phenomenologically fascinating but to me intensely boring, Vashti Bunyan, Nick Drake & the Incredible String Band.

I will read it right thru eventually ~~ promise!!; but I am at present enjoying dipping & skipping; &, having worked out enough of the nature of his thesis, finding many local insights of value: a course some who find the book a bit unwieldy as a gestalt might like to try.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 17 May 11 - 02:43 PM

So few books about 'The Revival' in general compared with Rock, pop or jazz. I enjoyed it but I suspect that the range of opinion registered here would require a thousand different books to 'satisfy' us folkies

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: Jack Campin
Date: 17 May 11 - 03:11 PM

The bits I dipped into about clasical composers suggested he hadn't dug very deep. If you were looking for somebody genuinely far-out in that world, where were Sorabji and the other musicians who brought Oriental influences into British music from a position of real knowledge?


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 22 May 11 - 10:17 AM

Rob Young is obviously a young man, writing about a lot that he doesn't actually remember. His assertion that 'the ubiquitous image of the folkie strumming an acoustic guitar is a product of the late-50s & 60s' {p 160}, is great nonsense ~~ as indeed are the whole of pp 159-161 on this topic. We had a thread a while back on the history of the British folk guitar; suffice here to say that his assertion that you couldn't get a roundhole flat-top guitar in England for love nor money much before then is - er - inaccurate. My uncle Alex Burns's musical instrument shop in Shaftesbury Avenue from the 1930s-40s onwards was absolutely full of them. Elton Hayes [whom Mr Young neglects entirely to mention] did a roving troubadour act with guitar from the late-30s on; a man called Eric sang, accompanied by one, in my Uncle Alec's & my mother's restaurant Chez Cleo in Harrington Gardens from 1951, & so did I from 1956; & my cousin Alan Katz was singing songs to such a guitar at least, in my recollection, from 1945.

Why will people spoil good books with such inaccurate, ill-researched nonsense!

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Electric Eden
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 11:44 AM

A new thread, containing a second review from the NY Times (among other commentary!).


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