Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Badgers Beneath My Vest"; the liner notes

Through the WBS system, which consisted of two loudspeakers connected to the pick up of a radiogram, we were able to broadcast from the upstairs to the downstairs rooms. I still have some of the programmes: "The Revd. Percy will play three piano pieces, Buzzards at Dinner, Salute to Admiral Beattie, and Badgers beneath my vest".

Dylan Thomas in
Encounter (1954).

New ground cleared in the field of music. And that's Percy. Bon vivant, they say. Only an hour after landing in New York and he was hard to find, but the sessions went beautifully. New sounds and rhythms; that strange creeping, haunting, Spanish-influenced heavy keyboard work on "Badgers".

He smiles, does Percy, calls out for more free form from the session players.

"Make it crisp!"


They know what he means, one presumes, no, senses. Polytonalities fill the room and the recording of "Badgers" heats up like a Spanish caravan beneath the sun. A gradual rise and fall. No bopping hipster, just a cool piano like a soft edged blade through margarine. Like an icicle drip when you're trying to catch forty winks. Like an overstuffed washing machine on spin-dry shaking itself to bits in agony.

"Badgers" is new ground. Not the long, languid, stretching tones of "Buzzards", or the boiling stew of "Beattie". They had their time, but an artist of this size and temperament must move on into new worlds of free-form presentation!

And Percy leaps up, finally, and we ask for some assesment.

He shrugs.

"That's jus' the way it is."

I walk away from the studio and into the New York night. Cab brakes screech. I smoke a cigarette. And in my head it still rings...

"Badger, Badger, Badger..."

"Badgers" is on wax, and man, are we grateful!

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