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Rock and Roll and the Western Soul


  • Rock and Roll and the Western Soul

    The Burgeoning Generation of Love

    The highpoint of Patrick Halling’s early Pop career was undoubtedly his leadership of the string section for "All You Need Is Love", transmitted live at the height of the so-called Summer of Love on July 25th 1967.

    The programme, entitled "Our World", was the first satellite broadcast in history, and it secured an audience of 350 million, which was unprecedented at that time. And among those taking part were such legendary figures of the swinging sixties as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Marianne Faithful and Donovan.

    But this was not Pat’s first involvement with the burgeoning Love Generation. For the previous year of ’66, he’d taken part in the recording of Donovan’s "Museum", destined to see the light of day on the "Mellow Yellow" Album, which reached the number 14 position on the Billboard Hot 100. Although it failed to secure a UK release due to contractual complications.

    Also involved with the "Mellow Yellow" sessions were close friends Mickie Most, who produced, and John Cameron, who did most of the arrangements, as well as session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan, and future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. A year later, he worked on a project that was as much a concept album as any of the Beatles’ records of the same period, Ken Moule's superb "Adam's Rib Suite", which fused elements of Jazz, Pop and Classical music to recount the history of womankind from Eve to Cleo Laine.

    Needless to say though, it was infinitely less successful than any comparable record within the Rock genre, Rock being at the vanguard of popular culture in a way that Jazz had once been, but no longer was. However, by the turn of the decade, a reconciliation between the two alienated factions was well under way, with Jazz-Fusion coming from one camp and the more populist Jazz-Rock from the other. In '75, Pat served as leader for Mike Gibbs' "Only Chrome Waterfall Orchestra", an unsung classic of British Jazz fusion, which was finally released on CD in 1997. Adam's Rib followed it on CD exactly ten years later.

    By the time of his involvement with "Adam's Rib", Pat had already moved into the worlds of film and television. And his early career included solos for the 1960 movie "Exodus", produced and directed by Otto Preminger, with music by Ernest Gold…and for British sitcom "Steptoe and Son" (1962-1974), with music by his close friend Ron Grainer. He also served as concertmaster for the great Johnny Green on Carol Reed's version of Lionel Bart's "Oliver" in 1968, and for John Williams on three movies beginning with the musical version of James Hilton’s "Goodbye Mr Chips".

    And going on to include "Jane Eyre" (1970), directed by Delbert Mann, and "Fiddler on the Roof" (1971), by Norman Jewison.
    Directed by Herbert Ross in 1969, "Chips" featured a screenplay by no less a luminary of British literature than Terence Rattigan. And as he was the author of such quintessentially English tragedies as "The Browning Version" and "The Winslow Boy", both centring on the English private school system, he was the perfect choice. Sadly, though, for all its virtues, including a lovely score by Leslie Bricusse, it was not a critical success, although it was nominated for several major awards, and has gone on to enjoy something of a following on the internet.

    Also in '69, he worked on David Lean's "Ryan's Daughter", a visually beautiful epic set in rural Ireland during the First World War, which was another film that has grown in stature since its initial release. Written by playwright and screenwriter Robert Bolt, with music by Maurice Jarre, it was poorly received by the critics, although today, it’s considered by many to be among Lean’s finest works.

    In addition to Williams, Green and Jarre, he's served as concertmaster for a panoply of major 20th Century musical figures working within the media of film and television, including Dimitri Tiomkin, Nelson Riddle, Georges Delerue, Wilfred Josephs and Christopher Gunning. But to return the world of Pop, which became renamed Rock as a means of investing it with some respectability at some point in the late 1960s, while yet including Pop as a sub-genre.

    As the ‘60s ceded to the ‘70s, Pat’s close friend Mickie Most was poised to enter the second phase of his glittering Pop career. For while he’d been briefly involved with the nascent Rock movement through his management of the Jeff Beck Group, it ultimately became clear that Rock was not for him. For even at that, he’d sought to turn guitar virtuoso Beck into a major Pop star…while apparently remaining impervious to the star quality of his one-time front man, Rod Stewart.

    And it fell to business partner Peter Grant to prosper within Rock music, first as co-manager of the Yardbirds with Most, then as sole manager of Led Zeppelin, who went on to become the ultimate Rock band; and second only to the Rolling Stones in terms of legendary darkness and mystery. And by the time of the Zeppelin’s conquest of America, the face of Western society had yet been altered almost beyond recognition by the Rock and Roll revolution. Yet, in all good conscience, responsibility for this transformation can't be laid solely at the feet of Rock.

    For, after all, tendencies hostile to the Judaeo-Christian fabric of the West can be traced at least as far back as the Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th Centuries: Much of the groundwork had already been done in other words, and that's especially true of the forties and fifties. It was in these two immediate post-war decades that the Existentialists and the Beats became international icons of revolt, while lesser groups such as the Lettrists of Paris served as scandal-sowing forerunners of the Situationists, believed to have played a major role in fomenting the Paris riots of May ’68.

    At the same time, Britain's first major youth cult surfaced in the shape of the Teddy Boys, and a cinema of youthful discontent flourished as never before. Movies such as Stanley Kramer’s "The Wild One" and Nicholas Ray’s "Rebel Without a Cause" fostered a desire among millions of young Americans to be identified as rebels themselves, reacting against the stifling conformity of Eisenhower era America. For all that, though, none of these phenomena enjoyed a tithe of the influence of Rock in terms of its effect on the Western soul.

    Glam and the Gender Revolution

    My Pangbourne years coincided with the rise of Rock, which was Pop transmuted into an art form, while somehow including Pop as its less intellectual counterpart. And the music we listened to as self-styled lads had "lad value"; and we called it Underground for its shadowy exclusivity, while at some point it became known as Progressive. But as I recall…it included both Hard Rock and Soft Rock, and the sophisticated Art Rock of acts and artists as diverse as the Beatles, Frank Zappa and the Doors. And for me, there was no real difference between the experimental Hard Rock of Deep Purple, and the out and out Prog of Yes or ELP.

    For Rock was split into two categories…Underground…and Commercial…a term we tended to spit out like some kind of curse, as this was pure Pop, whose domain was the despised hit parade featured weekly on British TV show Top of the Pops. The Underground, on the other hand, was composed of bands who made music largely for the growing album market. And there were those Rock acts such as Led Zeppelin, who never graced the singles chart despite earning fortunes through concerts and album sales. And from about '69, they constituted one of my prime facilitators into the murky depths of the Underground.

    But by the time I quit Pangbourne in 1972, a new Rock revolution was underway in the shape of a heterogeneous mix of Rock and Pop allied to an outrageous androgynous image…and known as Glam. Glam had begun to infiltrate the British charts as early as ‘71, while making little impact on the US, despite the fact that many of its pioneers were American. While its true roots were to be found in the Blues and early Rock and Roll, more of which later.

    But it had been carried into the mainstream by one Marc Bolan, born Mark Feld in 1947 into a Jewish family of working class origins, who had been featured in 1962 in a magazine called "Town", as one of the Faces, or leading Mods of Stamford Hill in East London.
    Although by then he'd moved with his family to a council house in Summerstown in West London. He went on to achieve major success as one half of the acoustic duo, Tyrannosaurus Rex; the other being multi-instrumentalist Steve Peregrin Took who, like Bolan, was a leading figure of London’s Hippie Underground centred on Ladbroke Grove.

    But In 1970, Took was replaced by percussionist Mickey Finn, who shared Bolan’s love of old-time Rock and Roll. And as T. Rex, they had their first top 5 hit in the shape of "Ride a White Swan". And by the time of their first number one the following year, T. Rex were a four-piece band, with Bolan the biggest British teen sensation since the Beatles. While the Bolan phenomenon was dubbed T Rextasy by the British press…and all throughout the land, bedroom walls were adorned with Bolan’s fascinating fallen angel’s face. However, for the true roots of Glam one must return to the very earliest days of Rock and Roll. And specifically to a certain Rhythm and Blues shouter by the name of Little Richard.

    As a boy, Richard had attended the New Hope Baptist Church in his native Macon, Georgia, and sung Gospel songs with his family as The Penniman Singers. And aged just 13, he joined Gospel legend Sister Rosetta Tharp onstage in Macon after she heard him singing before the concert. And he had serious ambitions of becoming a full-time minister of the Gospel, while demonstrating extraordinary gifts as a boy preacher.

    By 1951, however, the world had begun to beckon, and he won a talent contest in Atlanta that led to a recording contract with RCA Victor, but the four records he subsequently released all flopped. While around about the same time, he came under the sway of an outrageous Rhythm and Blues musician by the name of Esquerita, who shaped his unique piano style.

    Esquerita is also believed to have influenced his increasingly flamboyant image, although self-styled King of the Blues Billy Wright, who piled his pomaded hair high on his head and wore eye liner and face powder, was also an influence in this respect.

    Real success came for Richard in 1955 with "Tutti Frutti", which has been cited as the true starting point for the Rock and Roll revolution; but within two years, he'd quit the business and returned to his faith. And as a Christian myself, I can only hope that for all his struggles, the good Reverend Penniman is a saved Christian man, and there is a good deal of evidence he is.

    For few Rock stars have been as vocal in their condemnation of Rock and Roll as he has been. Yet, in his wake, androgyny went on to become one of its major features; and this was true of several of its earliest pioneers. And that includes the single most influential phenomenon in Rock and Roll history with the possible exception of the Beatles, Elvis Presley.

    For as masculine as Presley was, he was as much a Glam pioneer as Penniman with his early use of make up, and the the flamboyant outfits he’d worn even before he found the fame that proved a mixed blessing to a boy raised in the Pentecostal Assemblies of God. And the mantle was taken up in the mid to late sixties by such pioneers of Glam as the Kinks, Barrett era Pink Floyd, early Soft Machine, the Rolling Stones and Alice Cooper. But the decade as a whole witnessed an extraordinary explosion of androgyny on the part of the Western male, which served to pave for the way for the ‘70s.

    And Glam swept a host of musicians who'd been striving for major success since the early ‘60s to fresh levels of stardom in the UK and elsewhere. Such as David Bowie, Elton John and Rod Stewart. For all three had first appeared on record as part of the British Blues Boom…Bowie and Stewart in ’64, and John in ’65; and despite being idolised at the height of Glam, they continued to be admired as serious album artists.

    For there were two major strands of Glam in its hay day of 1971-‘74, one being allied to the consciously artistic tradition of Progressive Rock, the other, to the purest pure Pop. And among those acts and artists affiliated to the former were David Bowie, Roxy Music and the Alex Harvey Band; while the latter embraced T. Rex, the Sweet, Gary Glitter, Slade and Wizzard. While there were many more who either flirted with the genre from within the confines of Prog, such as the Strawbs.

    As to stateside Glam; pioneered primarily by Alice Cooper, it went on to include such cult icons as Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, the New York Dolls, Jobriath and Brett Smiley; as well as singer-songwriter, Todd Rundgren, a serious candidate for the most gifted Rock artist of all time. While several major acts were briefly touched by it; such as Aerosmith and Kiss, but it would not be until the 1980s that Glam entered the mainstream in the shape of Glam Metal. Also among those who leaped on the Glam bandwagon was the band that effectively invented the genre, the Rolling Stones. Although they didn’t adopt its more flagrant trappings until around 1972, the year they released the album which is widely considered to be their masterpiece, "Exile on Main Street".

    Initial sessions took place in the basement of the Villa Nellcôte, a 19th century mansion on the waterfront of Villefranche-sur-Mer in France's Cote d'Azur, which had been leased to Keith Richards in the summer of '71. However, several tracks had already been recorded at Mick Jagger’s country estate, as well as at West London's legendary Olympic Studios. Originally a theatre, then a film studio, Olympic was converted into a recording studio by the architect Robertson Grant, while his son Keith Grant – a very close friend of Pat Halling’s - completed the acoustics in tandem with Russel Pettinger. It went on to become the virtual nerve centre of the British Rock movement.

    Much has been written of the "Exile" sessions, which saw various icons of the counterculture passing through Nellcôte as if to lay blessings on the decadent antics taking place therein, which stand today as the very quintessence of the benighted Rock and Roll lifestyle. While less than a decade had passed since Rock’s true inception at the hands of the clean-cut Beatles, Western society had already been altered almost beyond recognition within that short space of time.

    Yet, responsibility for this transformation can't in all good conscience be laid exclusively at the feet of Rock, given that tendencies inimical to the West’s moral fabric can be traced at least as far back as the Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th Centuries. So, how had society come to be so successfully and swiftly revolutionised by Rock?

    Part of the answer lies in its sheer popularity, itself arguably born of its extraordinary eclecticism. Yet, in purely artistic terms, its decline was so rapid that by ‘72, it was already wholly jaded as an art form, even though it remained creatively vibrant for a further decade and a half…but little more, despite sporadic flashes of the old genius.

    It’s as if it carried within it the seeds of its own destruction as a result of its reluctance to embrace progression, and persisting returns to the simple rhythms whence it sprang, and worship of those who’ve refused to transcend these. Many would cite the Rolling Stones as foremost amongst these, and yet this has not always been true, far from it.

    For all throughout the ‘60s, thanks to the extraordinary musical versatility of founder member Brian Jones, they were among those who sowed the seeds of the Progressive movement to come. However, once Jones was no longer able to significantly contribute to their music, the Stones made a conscious effort to return to their roots in the Blues, and this process reached an apogee in the shape of "Exile on Main Street" in 1972.

    In that selfsame year, Pat Halling was involved with an album that was greeted with little of the ballyhoo of "Exile". This being "Slides", by the great Irish actor Richard Harris, who’d launched a Pop career on the back of Jimmy Webb’s 7 minute Pop tour de force, "MacArthur Park".
    In 2005, it was released on CD with "My Boy", receiving very high ratings from Amazon reviewers both in Britain and the US. However, as the ‘70s progressed, Pat became involved with several far more successful projects on the fringes of Glam, more of which later.

    The Ultimate

    When such acts and artists as David Bowie and the Sweet had first appeared on television in full make up, some unreconstructed British males were moved to revulsion and rage. Yet by about ’74 it had almost entirely shed its revolutionary trappings, But by the time it had done so, it had effectuated a minor sexual upheaval by making male androgyny more acceptable than ever before. And it did so in defiance of the Bible’s strict delineation of the sexual roles, and prohibition of any form of cross dressing.

    And one can only wonder what effect it had on the psychological development of young men such as myself, who’d already been weaned on the ferocious rebel sounds of Rock, only to swoon at the feet of the gorgeous androgynes of Glam. But by ’74, Glam had entered the mainstream as teeny bop Pop, although an avant-garde form persisted in the shape of a nostalgic love affair with Europe’s immediate past. And it was shared by acts and artists as diverse as Bowie and Roxy Music; as well as newcomers Sparks and Cockney Rebel, who were lavished with critical praise in some quarters of the British press. While Roxy were especially indebted to the decadent café and cabaret culture of pre-Rock Europe, when Modernism was at its point of maximum intensity. And the persona Bowie adopted in 1976, and which he enigmatically termed "The Thin White Duke" was the apotheosis of this romantic Europhilia.

    But little of this was in evidence in the happy world of Pop which continued to mine the Glam Rock craze for all it was worth, propelling a multitude of entertainers into the charts in the process. Such as one David Cook, a startlingly handsome young cockney Londoner of Irish Traveller extraction who as David Essex became a major star on the fringes of Glam. But rather than Rock or teeny bop Pop, he did so largely through acting. And it was his own song, "Rock On", that really put him on the map as a major heart throb in 1974 when it became a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic, due in no small part to its distinctive string arrangement, featuring one Pat Halling as concertmaster. Its follow-up, "Stardust", was the title of the hit movie of the same name, a salutary tale of a young Londoner who achieves his dreams of superstardom, only to end up holed up in some Spanish castle as a drug-addicted recluse.

    Like its predecessor, it had been produced by New Yorker Jeff Wayne, with whom Pat worked both on "Rock On" and his own "Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds", widely viewed today as a masterpiece. That same year of ’74 saw the release of Cilla Black’s "In My Life", produced by David Mackay, and "The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast" by Rod Edwards and Roger Hand from an original book by William Plomer, both with orchestra led by Pat. While he was still a close colleague of Mickey Most, who was enjoying the second phase of his glittering Pop career. For as previously stated, he’d been briefly involved with the burgeoning Rock movement Rock in the shape of the Jeff Beck Group, which had been formed in early ‘67.

    But in time Most bequeathed the band to his friend and business partner, Peter Grant, and under Grant’s aegis, they went on to enormous success in the US. And by so doing, they anticipated the mega-glory of another Grant-managed band led by a one-time member of the Yardbirds. I’m referring of course to Led Zeppelin, a band second only to the Rolling Stones in terms of legendary darkness and mystery, if you’ll excuse the leitmotiv. While Grant went on to take the US by storm with Led Zep, Mickie set about turning RAK, which they’d formed together in 1969, into one the key Pop record labels of the '70s and home to several classic Glam, Pop and Teeny bop acts. These included Disco-Poppers Hot Chocolate which had been formed as early as 1969, and former Detroit native Suzi Quatro, both of whom Pat worked with on several occasions with Mickie at the helm; as well as Mud, Arrows, Kenny, Smokie and Racey. Quatro benefited from the brilliance of songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who also wrote for the Sweet, Mud, Arrows, Smokie and Racey, and for a time was one of the few female stars of the Glam-Glitter genre. But Pat’s work in the mid 1970s was by no means restricted to the purest pure Pop, far from it.
    There was a major movie project in the shape of "The Day of the Jackal", directed by the great Fred Zinnemann, whom I have always admired enormously.

    I was fortunate enough to be introduced to him by Pat. And he was the second of two legends of the cinema I met around about that time, the first having been the great Charles Chaplin, and they were both quite delectably charming to me. Pat was the concertmaster, serving under the Frenchman Georges Delerue- whom I also met – who both composed and conducted the music. In terms of recorded music, Pat became caught up in the final stages of the Prog Rock boom when he served as leader for Jethro Tull, for despite himself, he’d been part of the growing Rock movement from the outset. And notably through his association with the Beatles, who by '67 were at the forefront of the Rock revolution; although their Rockwas ever replete withbeautiful Pop melodies. But the same could be said of Tull, one of the most purely artistic bands of the genre, which yet achieved both commercial and critical success on both sides of the Atlantic. And the first of these projects, "War Child" from 1974 could be said to be the quintessence of Rock as an art form, whose earliest expression was the aforesaid Prog. For by fusing elements of Classical, Folk and Rock, the Prog phenomenon created a music that at times amounted to high art, as in the case of Tull.

    But it was Frank Zappa and the Mother of Invention who effectively birthed the genre; although the notion of Rock as art had evolved by degrees in both Britain and America, with both the Beatles and Bob Dylan being especially influential in this respect. Yet while both Britain and America served as the cradles of Art Rock, Prog was characteristically British, with King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, Gentle Giant and Genesis serving as early exemplars. And in keeping with its position within the rebel music of Rock, its lyrics often inclined to a darkness of tone which was characteristic of much of the musical Underground of the late 1960s. Speaking of which…from about ‘73, Prog set about returning to the Underground whence it emerged. And from there, set about informing a vast variety of genres, including Glam Rock, Jazz Rock, New Wave, Post-Punk, Alt Rock and Indie…in fact, one might go so far as to say it’s been ubiquitous ever since. So that as things stand, several of the most successful acts in the world could be said to be Progressive in varying degrees. While at the same time, its arch-enemy Punk languishes on the sidelines as little more than a fashion concept. But by ’73, pure Prog was already starting to look stale in comparison to the Art Rock of figures such as Todd Rundgren and David Bowie, who were operating as progressives within the Glam Rock genre.

    And in that selfsame year, Pat worked on two concept albums that were nowhere nears as commercial as anything by these two innovators, namely "Cosmic Wheels" by Donovan; and Johnny Harris’ "All To Bring You Morning", for which he led the strings. And which featured no less than three one-time members of Yes, who just happened to be recording next door at the time as Johnny and friends, and were great admirers of his work.

    He went on to work on a series of Art Rock projects which while not as successful as international best-sellers by the likes of Tull have received fresh critical acclaim through the internet. They include "Beginnings" (1975) by Steve Howe, "Octoberon" (1976) by Barclay James Harvest, "Visionary" (1976) and "Perilous Journey" (1977) by Gordon Giltrap, "Donovan" (1977) by Donovan and "Woman in the Wings" (1978) by Steeleye Span lead singer Maddie Prior. While a very early Progressive project of Pat’s was "Definitely What" by Brian Auger and the Trinity.

    But for Pat, involvement in the rebel music of Rock and Roll was ever but a means of earning the amounts of money necessary to support a home and family. While in my case, it was entirely voluntary, and one after the other I immersed myself in its messages of revolt.
    Which is not to say that all Rock music is overtly dark or iconoclastic, far from it. For much of it is relatively innocuous, and there is much beauty to be found in all forms of Rock, both musically and lyrically, as I’ve already made clear. Yet from a historical perspective, it could be said that few art forms have been quite so effective in challenging the Judaeo-Christian foundations of Western culture as Rock.
    And for a time, it was as if a civil war was being fought for the hearts and minds of the young. And that’s especially true of the ‘60s, where in both Britain and America, the conflict was quite extraordinarily fierce…and this persisted into the ‘70s. With the result that the British Punk insurrection provoked a reaction from ordinary members of the public which would be inconceivable today in a West that has become so utterly inured to outrage. While by the ‘80s it could be said to have started to wane, as the values of the counterculture started percolating the mainstream. And while this was concurrent with a famous conservative backlash, the latter hardly constituted a wholesale return to traditional values. For these were still in terminal recession, and fighting desperately for their very existence. And the backlash was but an expression of this desperation as I see it.

    And to those who disagree, I can only say they have failed to realise just how deeply embedded into our society these values once were.
    While today, they are merely the province of a minority, and a relatively powerless one at that. So for the time being, it could be said that the culture wars of the past half century or so have been won…and that Rock and Roll stands tall among its victors.

    • brakelite
      brakelite commented
      Editing a comment
      Even to the point, dare I say it, of being 'baptised' into the Christian sanctuary and accepted as a form of worship.

    • teddyv
      teddyv commented
      Editing a comment
      Somewhat tangential perhaps, but it’s interesting that many Christians seem to abhor "traditional" when it comes to religion, but then start to wax poetic about “traditional” values.

    • Eyelog
      Eyelog commented
      Editing a comment
      Mr. Halling, fascinating article.I was curious how you'd place disco within this latter phase you describe. Disco seemed to take the nation's mind off real rock, and its then nascent instantiation as rarified sincerity in the singer-song-writer-entrepreneur phenomenon. But I was a conscoius youth about the time Saturday Night Live and Travolta hit their Fever pitch. It was becoming increasingly clear the music was making buffoons of us all. The stage had been set for the great Chicago fire at Cominski Park to help us realize, not just that disco sucks, but that this whole pop rock obsession, especially as it had been tied to ideological and sexual revolution, was both tired and saccarine. The sexual revolution having been long won by then, the causes having long given way to the desire to just live the good life admidst Carter malaise, and disco itself having shown us the absurd limits of how far a civilized people could go trying to take their music seriously, Disco Demolition Night was The Night the Music Died, and it had nothing at all to do with the Viet Nam war -- despite the hole left in center field by the explosives.Never again would music be taken quite so seriously in that way. -- "We are the World?" I don't think so. ... just more buffoonery. They filed in like so many cartoon super heroes ....But Jesus is the real deal. Rock has been resurrected.As Brakelite points out, Rock found its nation of rebels with a cause in contemporary worship music (though it took another 15-20 years, notwithstanding "Jesus Christ Superstar" having been musically brilliant years before but untrue to its message in its Crucification of the Gospel, "Godspell" being so dull, touring rockers Petra being so true to Rock, and singer-songwriter-entreprenuer Keith Green being so sincere and spiritual). ... How about an article tracing that resurrection? ... And would you say the worship wars have mostly died down now, along with the generation that lost the culture wars of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s? In the 90s and the oughts, such little mercy was shown those embatteled, entrenched troops, who had lived to see the enemy tide envelope their civilization, all the way up the steps to their hallowed sanctuaries. They were all that slowed the march for 60 years.... But now, the rock that made them stumble, ... has it truly become the capstone?
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