Hello! Is this an empty room? Oh Good – I shall start A Fight….
As a long-time hopelessly dedicated lover of all the fabulous musical sistas of the blues: old, new, shouty, sophisticated, cool, super-smart – and frenetically, energetically, slightly barmy… I was wondering the other day about the UK music scene and thought … What Happened To All The Blokes?
Where Are They? Can they not sing? Do they need a guitar plugged into their navel to stand in front of a mic on their own? Do they only sing when they are clutching a harp and hunching their shoulders? Maybe it’s not regarded as proper to just stand up there naked and just do it with your voice?
There used to be frontmen – and crikey – it was the most super macho thing in the world to stand there, arms akimbo, mic stand twirling, legs apart, flares flapping and hair ablaze in the revolving spotlights… (sit down Robert – it’s not all about you!) but now, outside of the pop scene, you can count the solo male singers on your fingers.
Yes of course, here in the UK there are a good few very fine blues guitarists and other musicians who are also fine front-men and singers… but you have to look closely to locate the stand-up-all-by-yourself vocal guys. I’m not going to list them here – this is my private fight and I’m not going to tell you in case I get tied to a mic cable and trolled to an inch of my typing finger – there are some and they are bloody brilliant – but trust me, there are not many.
In his great speech on being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Tom Waits said that apart from saving him from a career in air-conditioning and refrigeration, songs were ‘a very interesting thing to be doing with the air’. He does play piano and guitar but he’s not bad with the solo frontman stuff. He has a point. Just looking at the present day blues scene – (and you will know that I am talking about the ‘broad church’ and not just the bit the purist police love) – where are the UK frontmen who want to do something interesting with the air?
Everywhere I look or listen in the UK today, at festivals, clubs, gigs and on the radio shows, I am overwhelmed by simply spectacular female vocalists.
They are growing in numbers and just go on being brilliant. They can give it some head-banging welly, whisper in your ear, pinpoint pitch a note at a hundred yards, make you cry, make you punch the air, strip wallpaper and cover you with honeyed butter whilst punching you with screw-you lyrics. And… a good few of them play a musical instrument when they are not doing the air thing, but that’s beside the point. They are good at standing up alone and they are a growing number.
I wouldn’t dream of offering a single reason as to why there are no blokes. There has to be the talent out there. Maybe it’s not a proper job any more. Maybe there is no demand. Maybe, if you have to have a band to front, then the competition from the other axemen would be too fierce and they will make you redundant. Maybe there are just not enough black smarties to go round if there is one more to feed.
I’m not complaining. I’m just saying. I’m quite happy with any of the sistas telling me they need me – or, more likely, to leave now – in perfect pitch. I was just wondrin’….