Monday, 31 October 2011

Review of 'Don Partridge and Company,' by John Bentham...

Frank Brown and his old Gibson Twelve String.
Leicester Square 1968.

A very nice review of the book from John Bentham in the Tiger Folk Newsletter (not available on their site but via Dave Sutherland's monthly newsletter):

'Three years ago on a Friday night Don Partridge played the Pack Horse Folk Club in Loughborough. It wasn’t a turn up, perform and off down the road jobs, oh no. Saturday saw him busking in the Market Place; one of his old haunts from the 80’s when he was living on a narrow boat in the town. In the pub later in the afternoon, an old chum of Dons, Rod Warner broached the idea of writing a biography of Don. His response was that it shouldn’t be a biography but a book about buskers. After all both he and Rod were on the busking scene at the same time. It became more than a suggestion and the prospect of writing such a book started to become a reality. Perhaps the catalyst was when Don... contacted Pat Keene. Now Pat had also been earning his living busking but was also a photographer with rolls and rolls of film that he had taken at the time. Of course, busking was nothing new, there had always been street performers, but nearly all of them were “The Old School”, accordion players, banjo and spoon players, jazz bands, individual singers and their ilk but now, suddenly, there appeared in their midst young, guitar carrying lads and the busking world was about to change and Pat was there to capture it on film.
In the book we are taken, in photographs some of which have never been published before and through the reminiscences of Don, Pat and Rod, back to a world that the majority of people only saw or ignored as they passed by on their own journeys. And it would possibly have remained a twilight world if Don Partridge hadn’t have mackled up his one man band kit, worn a snake skin jacket and started singing a song called “Rosie”. The smart thing to say now would be;” And the rest is history”. Well, yes it is, and you can now read the first-hand accounts of that history. Because I know Rod quite well, I felt a little uneasy at times reading some of the intimate details of his life but also fascinated by them, is this just curiosity or voyeurism? Whatever it might be, it proves yet again that we might think we know someone but how much do we really know.
Life was good on the streets and life was bad on the streets. The streets weren’t just in London. They were up and down the country. They were up and down the Europe. They were east of Europe and west to Ireland. Sometimes travelling in style, sometimes bumming it, sometimes with money to burn, sometimes with a scarce two ha’pennies to rub together, sometimes travelling alone, sometimes with fellow buskers and bottlers, sometimes as a loner sometimes with a lover, travelling, travelling, always moving on. Even when the times were good the road would beckon and so they would up sticks and away. Bohemian, I guess it was.
The highlight was The Buskers Concert in 1969 when Don hired The Royal Albert all about it!
Sadly Don passed away before the book was finished but Pat and Rod were determined to complete the project in memory of their old mate and a damn good job they have done of it.

If you don’t see me next spring, I’ll be in Berlin” 
“Transworld Blues”-Don Partridge.'

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