Friday, 28 December 2012

Shinto and rock and roll at the Buddakan

Pick of the Week

“This is Japan” by Jack Green (1980)

With its references to ‘Highway 2’1 and ‘Indian Summer’2 Jack Green’s “I Call No Answer” seemed like it was about Alberta. In fact Alberta seemed to have a profound affection for this English rocker in the early 1980’s – it was a regional anomaly which does not happen very often.

 In the early ‘80’s I recall driving this particular piece of highway (the #2) a bit and one of my favorite road soundtracks for the ride was ‘Humanesque” (of course vinyl recorded onto cassette tape – which always sounded better than the cassette tape format to me).
 I had a pair of white canvas Nikes that lent themselves to the style of the times which I would sometimes wear a dress jacket over a  tee-shirt and narrow leg jeans. It just was the style. If you look at the videos of the time, that is what they wore – the post-punk uniform if you will.

Jack Green seems to be underrated and somewhat forgotten except by his most ardent fans. Was he ahead of his time? Behind the times? Or was it a lot of things like life usually is?

The sound Jack Green made was derivative of a few experiences he had. He had been a member of the T-Rex and The Pretty Things (he was on the recording of ‘Silk Torpedo’ and “Savage Eye’). He had been writing songs professionally since he was 16 years old and had already had two hit singles in Holland and Germany. He was in the cast of ‘Hair’ and played with Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Not bad credentials!

The influence of punk and then more new wave opened the door for his more punchy power rock. The guitar was the thing and he played it well.  Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple) even came out to help out on “I Call No Answer” when Jack recorded it.

‘Humanesque’ still plays well from beginning to end (That is if you can get a hold of a copy – seems to be somewhat rare strangely).

Born in Glasgow Scotland Green was inspired by his aunt who owned a record store and his cousin who collected those records and was in a rock band. By age 13 Jack had his own band, writing over 100 songs with his buddy Laray Collins. Soon a producer in London would hear one of their songs and before they knew it a few bands had hits with their songs in the Netherlands and Germany. By the time he was 21 he was in London with his own band signed to Warner Records. It did not go so well and he lived on a sack of potatoes in 1973 for 3 months he claimed and the sympathy of others. Later in ’73 he signed on with T-Rex and played all over the world staying in luxury hotels and riding in limousines. It was feast or famine literally.

Between ’74 and ’79 Jack continued his career with The Pretty Things and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow before going solo.

Four albums were produced starting 1980 when he went solo. They were: Humanesque (1980), Reverse Logic (1981), Mystique (1983) and then Latest Game (1986).

There was a DJ at K-97 in Edmonton who knew of and started playing Green’s songs. Soon it spread to the other prairie provinces of Canada. Green really did not get much support from his record company and besides he just did not embrace the rock star attitude – he was much to grounded for that. Having played extensively in the U.S. Green said “I found the Canadian people in general really warm, friendly and genuine”.

In 1983 he got a lung infection and terribly sick while touring and moved to Spain for his health. His recording contract dried up with his record company. He tried to make a come-back in the late ‘80’s but just could not get it together. He moved to the Isle of Wight with his wife of something like 38 years now and has lived there ever since.

With fans still in Canada and the Isle of Wight, I don’t think he is wearing a jacket over his tee-shirt anymore. Thanks Jack!

1.        Highway #2 is the main central highway in Alberta Canada. Now called the Queen Elizabeth Highway it connects the major cities Calgary and Edmonton.
2.        Like they say in the song ‘Four Strong Winds’: “I think I’ll go out to Alberta, weather’s good there in the Fall” – Indian Summer is like an unusually warm period in the Fall and it is dry and dusky.

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