Country

Country. A song that was played so many times that it became a continuous, prolonged soundtrack to scenes of late 1970s family life in our house. Imagine children’s bare feet on pilling brown carpet, French windows with an inflection of light coming though each pane picking out dust and fibres, plus a piano, in the corner where we composed our own, unsophisticated songs, and a wireless. And the house, Rose Cottage, along the main street of a small village, two houses knocked into one. I knew this song as well as I knew every brown and yellow leaf on our William Morris Sofa, every tear in its upholstery and every mark on our antique furniture was echoed in every tear and statement of the song.

It was jazz, but not how I have since known jazz; not busy but a structured play-off, between Saxophone and Piano, tempered by a string instrument.  Then the addition of a wailing voice acts as an extra instrument, at the end.  It was an immediately recognisable narrative and I realise now that the reason for this was it relayed the regulated, insistent tone of negotiations that adults and children play out constantly.  The saxophone is the child and the piano is the rational adult.  The piano, with its replies is reasoned, balanced and mildly instructional.

This song has the ability to epitomise an era  both in my own childhood and on a wider scale; it is all at once about dated furniture, flares, summer ants, the tree house at the bottom of our garden, the sepia tone of everything, bees, Woody Allen films set in new York, The Beatles. It expressed an overarching innocence and an intrepid freedom.

As it turns out my vision of the 70s is skewed – according to my Father it was a hedonistic time and ‘all the lovey dovey stuff’ was from the 1960s. But somehow this song picks up on all things good about an age that cannot be re-invigorated.

Published in ‘The Guardian’, December 2017:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/dec/30/blackpool-grandparents-keith-jarrett-turkish-cigarette-pie