Gil Scott-Heron | Reflections – 1981

“Mandate, my ass!”

Was it the fun, the funk or the wit?

Whatever it was, for me it was the beginning of an un-televised revolution

A few weeks ago Gil Scott-Heron died. He was a poet, a novelist, and a singer. Son of a soccer player. He was the grand father of rap.

I first heard this through 2JJ and had to hear more. This was very different to my normal diet of rock, this had a message and a purpose. This was the year that Billy Idol began a solo career. Sheena Easton had a number one hit. The Buzzcocks, Generation X, The Slits, The Bay City Rollers, Steely Dan, Throbbing Gristle, The Knack all broke up. In one way or another, these bands affected me. A sad and bizarre year.

It was the year of “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell and “Just like Starting Over” by the recently late John Lennon.

I had a number of spoken word records, poems from various poets. This is decades before slam poetry. I still have the albums, mouldering in a box that I am currently resting my legs on. The poems tended to be either punk, surreal or psychedelic. An example of this was the 1975 album “Biting off the Tongue of a Corpse” featuring readings from William S Burroughs, John Cage, and Gary Snyder. Other favourites were Roger McGough and Adrian Henri.

My later favourite would be Ivor Cutler, introduced to me by Jimmy D.. A few years later, another friend, Georgina M. went and introduced herself to Ivor in London. Would like to do a posting of Ivor in a future post.

Around 1981 I ran a poetry night with the idea of wooing a specific woman, friend of a friend whose name I can no longer remember. It was at the house of Karla H. Jenny S (nee Monti B.) read a semi risque piece by a Mersey Beat Poet (not the one that was Paul McCartney’s brother).

Wooing woman with poetry is a fine and romantic pursuit, and one destined to embarassing failure. I know that now, 30 years later.

The Album. The song played most often on JJ was ‘B Movie’ a long rant about rant about American politics. It was full of verve and piss and vinegar about long forgotten powerhouses of Washington; Cheeney, Bush (snr), Weinberger, Reagan. God, we don’t even know who Matt Dillon is anymore. The lyrics read like an essay. In ’81 it was earnest and important. The album now should be released with a concordance to help understand the references. It is all so many years ago.

Today I find it a little difficult to even get angry at John Howard, unless I see his photo or hear him speak. In those days, it was wonderfully liberating to be disenfranchised.

The real surprise of Reflections is how musical it is. This is a good Jazz / Soul album. Gil’s voice is strong, strident. He sings and raps the Marvin Gaye song “Inner City Blues” fiercely. The opening track has a subtle reggae drum. The gentle songs are moving, and none more so than ‘Grandma’s Hands’ a song about his grandmother Lillie Scott who brought him up from childhood until her death when Gil was 12. In 2010 he released a new album and was still singing about her, 29 years later.

Gil Scott-Heron inspired so many and the influence continues. It is hard to hear Michael Franti’s music without reference to Gil. The Gorillas latest album “Plastic  Beach” begins with a homage to his most famous song ‘The Revolution will be Televised’.

Reflections is another album I revisit every years, the strident has become comfortable.

He died on the 27th of May, 2011 from HIV. After having spent several of his later years in prison for drug possession, he had released his final album, ‘I’m New Here’ in 2010, another album worth hearing.

Storm Music    Written-By – Gil Scott-Heron
Grandma’s Hands  Written-By – Bill Withers
Is That Jazz?  Written-By – Gil Scott-Heron
Morning Thoughts  Written-By – Gil Scott-Heron, Vernon James
Inner City Blues (Poem: The Siege Of New Orleans)  Written-By – James Nix, Marvin Gaye
Gun  Written-By – Gil Scott-Heron
“B” Movie (Intro, Poem, Song)  Written-By – Gil Scott-Heron
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One Response to Gil Scott-Heron | Reflections – 1981

  1. Pingback: A life in albums | michaelsprott

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