Welcome to Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 5 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the 200+ Letters and Postcards From Quotidia over the past 18 months. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.
This letter will deal with anniversaries of one sort or another. For the first, I’ll have to refer to one of the guitarists who, as the saying went back then, blew my mind! This was back when I was a callow youth with pimples and pretensions in the year 1967. The guitarist was, of course, Jimi Hendrix. To be anywhere in the British Isles in those years of the mid-sixties as a music-loving teenager was to be in some iteration of heaven: I really do not exaggerate- just ask any boomer of my generation– and I use that phrase advisedly!
Hey Joe, knocked me sideways when first I heard it and Purple Haze knocked me completely out of the park! Visiting my brother in County Cork in the summer of 67 ‘, I went into a music store to buy Hendrix’s first LP, Are You Experienced? And the strangest thing happened: the girl behind the counter tried to talk me out of making the purchase: I kid you not! Apparently, the cover design with the flamboyant Hendrix with his band and what she had picked up from scuttlebutt and the usual puerile vapouring of presenters on local radio prompted her to attempt to save me from…who knows? I bought the LP after a brief tussle with the assistant- who obviously had yet to complete Retailing 101! I have no ill aftereffects to report more than 55 years later.
The B side of Purple Haze was 51st Wedding Anniversary and I had just started going out with my girlfriend, later to be my wife, and remember puzzling about what such an anniversary would be like for me, for us. I don’t need to puzzle any more as that very anniversary occurred on 3rd July 2022 just a week before this posting. Here is the song I wrote to mark the occasion- Our 51st Wedding Anniversary Song. [insert song]
I guess this song is a PS to a song I wrote upon returning to Australia in 1988 after a nearly 10-year stay in Northern Ireland. The song is called Homebase and I wrote it shortly after visiting Brisbane that year during the bicentenary celebrations which was the prelude to our moving to north Queensland the following year. The bicentenary is another contested occasion as many of Australia’s First Nations people consider it a time for mourning and label the occasion Invasion Day– the arrival of the 1st Fleet into Sydney Harbour on 26th January 1788. And Australia’s aboriginal people are still denied justice.
Mulling on anniversaries, as I seem to be doing, I realise that next year marks the 30th anniversary of 1993’s International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. I still remember the remarkable words of the Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating at Redfern in December 1992: Didn’t Australia provide opportunity and care for the dispossessed Irish? The poor of Britain? The refugees from war and famine and persecution in the countries of Europe and Asia?
That was a time before Australia became a bit of a pariah state over its treatment of refugees since the turn of the new millennium. Keating also said: We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. It was an inspiring and uplifting speech- indeed, it prompted me and my family to take out Australian citizenship at the beginning of 1995. Keating ended his speech with these words: There is one thing today we cannot imagine. We cannot imagine that the descendants of people whose genius and resilience maintained a culture here through fifty thousand years or more, through cataclysmic changes to the climate and environment, and who then survived two centuries of dispossession and abuse, will be denied their place in the modern Australian nation. We cannot imagine that. We cannot imagine that we will fail. And with the spirit that is here today I am confident that we won’t. I am confident that we will succeed in this decade.
Oh dear! Just imagine. Almost 30 years later, and we have not yet succeeded in delivering justice or recognition, but there are glimmers of hope because a new government in the mould of leaders like Paul Keating is again in power. Here’s Homebase with its optimism for the future of Australia written in the same era as Keating’s Redfern speech. It comprises the something old component of this post as it is a reprise of the song I released on the podcast of the same name on 3rd May 2021. [insert song]
The striving for justice seems to be in vogue at the moment, and long may it continue. In the United States Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 when President Joe Biden signed it into law. Juneteenth marks the anniversary of the announcement by Union Army General Gordon Granger on June 19th, 1865, proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas. It has been observed annually, first somewhat surreptitiously and later more or more openly as African Americans gained greater voice and wider rights throughout the United States as state after state acknowledged the importance of Juneteenth.
That admirable site Poem a Day published verse by an 18-year-old Paul Lawrence Dunbar to celebrate Juneteenth. Entitled Emancipation, its first stanza exuberantly proclaims, Fling out your banners, your honours be bringing,/Raise to the ether your paeans of praise./Strike every chord and let music be ringing!/Celebrate freely this day of all days.// I have quoted from the work of this admired poet in previous posts. His parents were formerly slaves and he was born on June 27 1872, dying in 1906. This year is the 150th anniversary of his birth. His sesquicentennial will be celebrated across the US and especially in Dayton, Ohio where he was born. He used his mastery of dialect poetry to delineate the wisdom and wry wit of his people.
I used one of these dialect poems, Philosophy, in Letters From Quotidia Episode 118– Slipjig Philosophising. His poem is a fine example of the genre. He was aware of his talent as were many others. But that talent was held back by racism as well as the bad luck that attends every life. He contracted TB and became depressed, becoming dependent on whiskey which some doctors of the day prescribed as an ameliorant for TB- mmm, I wonder if I could persuade my doctor for a similar prescription. At any rate, he was dead at the age of 33.
I like to think, though, that he would be amused at the song I am going to borrow now from Albert King as the final component of this Postscript- Born Under a Bad Sign. It was released, and I first heard it in that annus mirabilis for me, 1967. Another King, BB was a guitarist that I especially revered and he had a song with the lines, Nobody loves me but my mother, but she could be jivin’ too. I was one of the many teens of that era that sought out the genuine American art form that was the blues, in the wake of our heroes hailing from Britain: the Beatles, the Stones, John Mayall, Cream, and the original Fleetwood Mac among many others, and from Ireland, Rory Gallagher with Taste and Van Morrison with Them. I used to play this final song on my first electric, a Burns short-scale jazz guitar that I ended up pawning to pay my rent arrears- could write a blues song about it but instead, I’ll just leave you with this: [insert song]
The Postscripts are genuinely surprising. I think I know where I’m going, and I start out with a clear direction in mind, but somewhere along the line, things get fuzzy. Dylan knew all about it when he wrote, How does it feel? To be on your own? With no direction home, like a complete unknown, Lie a rolling stone. How, I wonder, do mid-teens today cope with what seems to be a musical wasteland. I know there is a lot of great music out there but it is not front and centre as it was in the mid-sixties and for maybe twenty or thirty years after that. So until our next meeting?
Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.
Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text.
For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.