|Throughout the early / mid '80s one of the defining features was the growing collection of Kent compilations an awful lot of like minds were putting together. These were predominantly records filled with rare, lost '60s sounds. Northern Soul, uptown, uptempo, deep and bluesy, all packaged together in a distinctively cool manner, often with sleeve notes by one Harboro Horace who became a cult figure in his own right. Young Mods, punks, soul rebels, beat angels all had the chance to delve deep into the soul vaults without having to dig deep into their pockets and without having their aesthetic sensibilities offended by tacky and tawdry tricks on the trade. Kent compilations were something to celebrate.
Time's change of course, and of course they must. However, dare I say, Kent compilations are enjoying something of a renaissance, at least in my life. I would go so far as to say that their catalogue number CDKENT 153 was the most essential purchase of 1997, even ahead of the Sea And Cake and Luscious Jackson. 'Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures' was simply an astonishing compilation. Deep is a beautiful word, and if you need to purge your soul, then deep soul is what you need. Some treasured favourites which friends had taped for me over the years, some others which had popped up on other compilations ('Lights Out' by Zerben Hicks, 'I'm Not The One' by Larry Banks, 'You're On Top' by The Untouchables) and not one weak link. What makes the whole thing more wonderful is the spirit of Dave Godin, soul scholar and activist, which permeates the CD. There's a great story to be told in Dave's involvement with championing soul in the UK, but what I want to cite is his definition of deep Soul: "Deep Soul is unique in as much as it is the only musical genre that reflects deep and profound emotions, and a seriousness of purpose that rejects all trivialities and superficialities. One could perhaps say almost say Deep Soul is anti-pop, rejecting and contradicting all that the corporate music industry sets out to supply. This in turn gives us a clue as to why it has never enjoyed, or, as some might reckon, been allowed to enjoy, widespread acceptance, and finds its strongest appeal mainly amongst the kind of people that those who just can't get their heads around Deep Soul would brand as neurotics, misfits and unstable. Or even deranged. It is certainly the music of the outsider." The words, the spirit, sentiments guaranteed to stir my soul. All the more remarkable as Dave looks a lot like a Chemistry teacher or a clerk who could be sitting beside you on the train in his tweed jacket and you never know what's in their briefcase or what passions and obsessions burn behind steel rimmed glasses.
While we are on the subject of soul-stirring words, here's some of Jim Dodge's :"Yet around the same time, the Lovin' Spoonful released 'Do You Believe In Magic'É So all at once, along with a roots-first resurgence of black music into the mainstream, there was an eruption of possibilities and permissions, a musical profusion of amazing range and open horizons." What can I tell you about Jim Dodge? He is the author of three books and he lives in Sonora County. At least that's what it says on the cover of his three books. The above words are from 'Not Fade Away', published in 1987, a book I picked up for next to nothing around that time and found to be a classic piece of rubbish which I nevertheless hung onto. I should explain: I'm not very good at keeping things anymore. I try not to hold onto things I don't need and I don't keep many books lying around. I did keep 'Not Fade Away' though, because it's like a Lovin' Spoonful song I guess. Far fetched and goofy but touching. A lost soul sets out on a pilgrimage to deliver a pure white '59 Cadillac Eldorado to the Big Bopper's resting place, to fulfil the wish of a recently departed 57 year old virgin who had only ever been stirred once, touched only by the Big Bopper's lascivious leering over the airwaves. Along the way he encounters a series of characters and situations which are way beyond anything lurking in the pages of vintage Richard Brautigan and Nik Cohn. It's a great, poetic romp and for some reason reminds me that I grew up on Marvel comics and the morality of the Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, X-Men. The book was preceded by a modern fable, Fup, surely one of the most remarkable debuts. It's about a nutty old reprobate, his grandson who has a passion for fences and their duck (Fup duck, geddit?) and it's dramatically short and sweet. Now, I know that's never going to make anyone want to go out and buy the book, but trust me! Rebel Inc. have just republished the book in an illustrated hard-back edition and so seek it out. Also reissued by Rebel Inc. is Jim Dodge's third book, 'Stone Junction' (an alchemical pot-boiler) though I found it worryingly hard to find. In fact, I only got hold of it purely by chance while on a day trip to Bath. It's billed as a Cult Classic, which again is a bit worrying. I always have a bit of a problem with cult classics. 'Basketball Diaries', 'Last Exit To Brooklyn', 'Taxi Driver'. I hate them all. 'Stone Junction' is worth it though. It's a vast book, on a par with the best of Paul Auster, William Wharton, Robertson Davies, John Irving, and even more far-fetched than 'Not Fade Away'. It's the same style; an extraordinary succession of weird and wonderful characters and scenarios loosely linked with the Alliance of Magicians and Outsiders. Why should I tell you the story line? What I will tell you is that Jim Dodge succeeds in invoking the same outsider/pilgrim aura as Dave Godin. The sense of heading away from crowds, looking for something hidden, keeping the faith, slyly subverting the norm. Take a tip from me: the next time you are sitting next to the anonymous guy in the tweed jacket and he opens his briefcase, take a close look. Chances are your worst fears will be confirmed and it will be a copy of Model Railways, though you never know. It might just be that unfinished manuscript on the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Either way it could be a field agent of the Alliance of Magicians and Outsiders on an assignment.