We seem to be living in an era of re-discovery. The past is usurping the present and influencing the future in terms of all things art, design and music. Could it be that our retro-mania is due to a dissatisfaction with the new? A realisation that, due to the speed of the 20th century, most of the new is simply a re-hashing of something that has already been before. We are repeatedly witness to blatant reinvention, a simple case of watering down of old ideas (just look at all the movie remakes!). The revolution will not be televised because it’s simply not happening anymore.
This may sound like a loss, a grieving for our generation’s lack of imagination – it is, but it is also a celebration of the previously overlooked and forgotten. Linda Perhacs definitely fits into the second category.
Releasing her only album ‘Parallelograms‘ in 1970, Linda Perhacs soon returned to her career in dentistry when the album was essentially ignored by the public following a complete lack of promotion by the record company. For the next 30 years the vinyl album gradually became a collector’s item and gained cult status.
When a CD edition was released Perhacs was thought to be lost to the world. Eventually she was found and a Californian radio station arranged a live show of her original album, performed by a range of artists who took on different tracks (Linda didn’t think she was up to performing the whole thing herself, which was understandable). The experience made her realise just how many people had been influenced by her ‘lost’ psych-folk album, which she later found out actually including artists as diverse as Devendra Banhart and Daft Punk! It spurred her on to tour and record her second and follow-up album – ‘Soul of All Natural Things‘ (44 years after her first one). The new album is due for release early next year on the Asthmatic Kitty label, home of Sufjan Stevens and Pepe Deluxe.
Linda Perhacs is the fourth singer/songwriter or band I’ve seen live in the past couple of years who released an unappreciated album in the early 1970’s then quietly disappeared, before returning nearly four decades later! The first one I saw was Vashti Bunyan (‘Just Another Diamond Day’) at the Union Chapel in Islington, the second Comus (‘First Utterance’) at The Borderline in Soho, and the third was Rodriguez (‘Cold Fact’) at the Round House in Camden. Their stories are all quite similar. I guess because there was so much quality music produced at the time, people like David Bowie and Cat Steven were the fortunate ones.
It is another example of what I mentioned in my review of Hugh Walpole, just because a book or album is not successful when it is first released does not mean that it doesn’t have value – I also love discovering the forgotten and neglected, it’s somehow more personal that way.
I had never been to Cecil Sharp House before, it is the home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society and a huge archive of folk songs (collected by Cecil Sharp at the turn of the 20th century) which were raided throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s by the folk revivalists and folk rock bands of the time for great traditional folk songs to revamp.
We got there early and had a really nice lamb rogan josh for dinner in the cafe – highly recommended, there was a lot of lamb in it and it tasted lovely!
I’m not sure when the building was constructed, I would guess sometime in the 1930’s (it could equally have been the 50’s), but it had a village hall feel to it, a civic simplicity and functionality that suited its folk preservation purpose.
The support act was a guy with a guitar and a raspy voice, called Graham Marshall. He was Ok but I felt he was trying too hard to be a Bob Dylan without the strength of Dylan’s songs, they were quite earnest and a bit too strummy. That said, his finger-picking was far more satisfying and I would have been a lot happier if he’d stuck to that.
The main act followed swiftly after the support. I was surprised that Linda Perhacs was quite so frail, I do not know the age difference but Vashti Bunyan strode onto the stage when I saw her, whereas Linda had to be helped on. When she started to sing though, I was relieved to hear that her voice had not lost its youthful quality.
They began the set with ‘Chimacum Rain’ which although I had not heard it before was a great introduction to her songs played live (which has only been realised forty years after the songs were realised!). The following concert was filled with a selection from ‘Parallelograms’ plus a song each from her band mates – Chris Price, Durga McBroom Hudson, Fernando Perdomo and Michelle Vidal – which made for a pleasant and varied concert. A couple of songs from the soon to be released album were also played and fitted perfectly, musically and lyrically, into the set amongst the older songs (whereas I felt that Vashti Bunyan’s new songs were more of a pastiche of her older style and were not as satisfying).Interspersed between the songs were little stories – for instance how ‘Hey, Who Really Cares?‘ was written (the only song of her I knew because it’s featured on 60’s/70’s singer-songwriter compilations). Apparently Linda was phoned up, quite out of the blue, to write some new lyrics in about three days (during a severe case of the flu). The production company were not happy with the song they had for a new TV series, so she read the script and played the music repeatedly until the words came.
She also mentioned how she had always seen vibrations (I assume she has a degree of synesthesia – she’s never taken drugs) and this effect was the source of the song ‘Parallelograms’ – she warned the audience that if they did not know it my find it a little frightening. It certainly had great effect and power live.
“We love you Linda” came from a member of the audience – “We love you too” was the reply. This was the last gig on an eight date European tour (and Linda’s first time out of the States, as well as her first passport!) and there was a lot of love in the room. This fitted perfectly with the dreamy feel of the songs and Linda’s talk of the need for peace and good will in our turbulent times, and nebulous talk of energies and harmonies – it really was like stepping back into the early 70’s and the old hippy dream. And there’s nothing wrong with that, now and again!