Echoes of A New Tomorrow: Life after Revolution in the Commonwealth of Britain

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DensleyBlair

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I have to admit that the Soviet music environment isn't exactly my strong suit, so I can't necessarily chime in too much
I won't be following the Soviet example all that closely seeing as, well, I hope I've managed over the past couple of years to illustrate how Britain and the Soviet Union are fairly different. But also primarily because I too know very little about the Soviet music scene beyond broad strokes, whereas I know a heck of a lot about what was going on in Britain, so it's easier just to play with what I know and love.

but I do question if their sound would be quite as hard-edged as it was OTL, at least. If they're not gigging in Hamburg in the worst clubs ever, they might sounds more like the Kinks circa Village Green Preservation Society (with a jazzier twist, maybe, given TTL's environment) than Please Please Me at first. Of course, they could be gigging in Britain in the worst clubs ever, so...
You hit upon a key point here, which is that The Kinks are sort of the absolute ideal band for the Commonwealth. (I mean, they even started out as a trad jazz outfit!) I once saw someone suggest that the real answer to the question Beatles or Stones is in fact "Kinks", and (without giving anything away) in the Commonwealth this is (even) more true. But we'll get to this properly soon enough.

You are absolutely right, though: the Fab *Four have been growing up on jazz and folk rather than Chuck Berry and Little Richard, so the early stuff will probably sound more akin to the OTL mid-period stuff (Beatles For Sale thru Rubber Soul, say). This sort of gets at the heart of where music in the CW is going over the next decade or so, because the OTL idea of Beatles and Stones being Year Zero will apply very differently, and to a vastly varying degree.

Incidentally, I've been collecting playlists of songs that I think could be "Commonwealth music" for months now, so I'll be sure to illustrate as best I can what things sound like at every available opportunity. For now, I'll leave this as a tantalising hint of where pop might be by the latter stages of the 1960s:

(yes, this is the same Lionel bart who did Oliver)
 
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DensleyBlair

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With the conclusion of the YAYA season, I'd just like to thank those of you reading who were kind enough to fill out ballots in favour of this AAR. I'm deeply humbled and very grateful for you all. To newer readers, thank you for joining the ride almost two years in. To those of you who have been here from the start (if there are any of you while stnylan is away), thank you for sticking with me!

Otherwise, despite the fact that I've been spending far too much time this week saving England from Nazis in TNO, I can finally announce that the last part of the slice-of-life quartet is now done pending revisions. Forcing myself to dedicate a day to writing about British jazz in the mid-Sixties was perhaps more of a task than usual, but we've got there in the end.
DYAEiOu.gif
Expect to see it up some time over the weekend.

Cheers!
 
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Commonwealth 1965: Louis Balfour's Jazz Club

DensleyBlair

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ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



COMMONWEALTH 1965

"Louis Balfour’s Jazz Club"


Louis Balfour’s first thought as he flicked on the switch by the door was a secular prayer. Please let it be tidy down here. In a jittery movement from front to back, the room flooded with electric yellow light. Relief: everything was in order. This was always a bit of a lottery; Violet and David, publicans at The Jeweller’s Arms, in whose basement Louis now stood, were good at their jobs – and good friends besides. But it was not unknown, usually on busier days than this one, for Louis to open the basement door to be greeted by empty glasses on tables, and chairs sat pell-mell about the room. Those days were always a bit fraught, the extra fifteen minutes given over to making the place look presentable fifteen minutes which couldn’t be spent checking acoustics or fixing the lights. But it was all part of the thrill in the end.

Louis had first come to The Jeweller’s Arms six years ago, soon after he moved to the area for work. He’d seen an advert for their music night one evening on the way home from the Exchange Building, his eyes flitting over unfamiliar surroundings while waiting for the bus to pull off from a stop that wasn’t his. Nothing he’d seen since coming to Birmingham had pleased him more than that sign. In Nunhead, Louis had religiously attended a Wednesday-evening jazz night at a pub called The Red Rose. The Rose didn’t attract many ‘big names’ – maybe the odd group who had cut a session for the radio, but the Camberwell scene was nowhere near as hip as its cousins north of the river. Still, if it was the music you were into, the names didn’t matter. Louis had adored jazz since even before the Revolution, when as a child his father had first played him fuzzy records from New Orleans. Later, in Burma with the Engineers, he had met Americans who introduced him to newer sounds: Charlie Parker and the boppers in New York, and Otis Spann and the Chicago bluesmen. After the War, these newer sounds were not as widely tolerated as the more traditional styles, but you could still hear them if you knew where to go.

This, really, was what Louis liked most about London. He had been born there, sure, like his dad and his grandad before him, but he was not one to get romantic about it. After all, what was there to get romantic about in Nunhead? You could get a fast train into the city centre, and there were a decent number of parks and gardens for the kids when they were growing up, but these things were probably true of half of Britain. No, none of that mattered much to Louis. For him, life was never better than between 8 and 11pm on a Wednesday evening, when he could hear something that sounded truly out of this world.



1955 CAMBERWELL GREEN.jpg

Camberwell Green, 1955.
Two miles up the road from Nunhead. Classic South London.


Birmingham, by contrast, had been an unknown quantity. When Louis had the offer to move up north, he knew logically that it was too good of a chance to turn down for the sake of music. Quite why the Post Office wanted him of all people to come to Birmingham, when presumably there were plenty of qualified people in the area already, he had no idea. In those days, in the chaos of the months after Windscale, which eventually grew into four long years, Mosley’s directives seemed to change with his mood. Maybe the engineers unions in Birmingham were not be trusted and the state managers decided an external candidate was needed to break things up? Had I been a wrecker without ever knowing it? Louis asked himself, suddenly horrified. Was I really so trustworthy, so unassuming?

The heavy, hollow march of footsteps approaching brought Louis back into the basement of The Jeweller’s Arms. He looked over to see the door open as Violet led a stream of maybe six or seven people into the room, all carrying bulky cases and talking among themselves like old comrades.

Your talent, Louis! Violet announced with a flourish, more (Louis thought) for the musicians’ sake than his own. (Louis knew full well who these people were, but he also knew that artists liked hearing themselves being spoken of in glowing terms, however procedural.) He thanked Violet and walked over to introduce himself to the group. A tall man carrying a saxophone extended a courteous hand, which Louis shook:

Stephen Green, said the saxophonist with a smile. Pleasure to meet you, Mr Balfour.

Louis, please, Louis replied with a matching smile. It’s a pleasure to have you playing for us tonight, Mr Green. Or should I call you Stepney?

The saxophonist laughed and said that Stephen was fine. Louis nodded and moved on to meet the rest of the group.

Stephen ‘Stepney’ Green was very much a rising star of the Birmingham jazz world. Twenty-five years old, he had burst onto the scene with his group The Headhunters three years earlier, playing in a fast and loose style that had far more in common with the Partisan underground than the traditional British sound. In the post-Mosley world, Birmingham had gone crazy for it; the Second City was one of the more dependably Mosleyite parts of the country, but these days his influence seemed to be vanishing like dew in mid-morning. Having been associated with the man himself since his days as a Labour MP, the youth undercurrents that had charged places like London and Liverpool had hardly touched the West Midlands. With the Bevanite accession, however, almost overnight the new style had become the sound of ‘New Britain’. De rigueur, you could even say. What had been a rebellious avant-garde for most of the last decade was now not only fashionable, but mainstream. And in Birmingham, which until so recently had remained fairly conservative in its tastes, anyone who could offer a hint of the new style was eagerly embraced. For Stepney Green, this had been an immense stroke of good fortune.



“Bad Penny Blues”, Humphrey Lyttleton and His Band (1956) – a standard of British trad jazz.
‘Trad’ as a style was fairly popular in Britain during the middle of the 20th century, but its reputation has suffered massively since in comparison to contemporary styles like rock ’n'n roll, skiffle and RnB. Trad’s explicit emphases on revivalism and purism, harking back to the Dixieland sound of New Orleans in the early 20th century, marked it as an essentially conservative cultural movement – albeit one with an enduring reach. Lonnie Donegan and The Who both started out as a trad jazzers, and echoes of the style can be found in tracks by The Stones, The Kinks and The Beatles – not least on “Lady Madonna”, which actually lifts its boogie-woogie piano almost wholesale from “Bad Penny Blues”.​


In Louis’s mind, booking Stepney Green and The Headhunters to play the Jeweller’s Arms Jazz Club was another stroke of good fortune – although, if pushed, he would probably have admitted to having given fortune a helping hand. When he first came to Birmingham, everything had been very ‘trad’. Which Louis didn’t mind, necessarily – all jazz was good jazz in his book – but from time to time he had missed the variety to be found back in London. On a few occasions over the years, Louis had been able to bring friends up from Camberwell to perform, and very slowly – not without resistance from the purists, who saw smaller groups and excessive improvisation as an aberration – the Club acquired a local reputation for pushing the boundaries without turning its back on the past.

He knew others would disagree, but, for Louis, this was the perfect balance; he was no iconoclast, just open to new things. Now that Mosley was gone, a lot of the younger audiences wanted to chuck ‘his’ music with him: switch off the soundtrack to his old grey Britain. Louis could not see things this way. His life was virtually identical to what it had been five years before. Even if things were generally less repressed these days, it was not as if there’d been a great decisive break in his life. Why pretend that there had been?



“Johnny One Note”, The Tubby Hayes Quintet (1962) – ‘modern’ British jazz, as sampled here live from Ronnie Scott’s.
Saxophonists Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott were two of the leading figures of the ‘modern’ style in British jazz, playing in together The Jazz Couriers quintet between 1957–9, and later going on to achieve individual success at home and abroad. In the early 1960s, Hayes played with some of the key jazz figures of the time including Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus and Miles Davis, and during the first half of the decade he helped to establish a post-bebop ‘cool’ sound in Britain, as pioneered by Davis across the Atlantic. Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, meanwhile, was an epicentre of this sound in Britain, featuring modern jazz players from Britain and America.
OTL, the fortunes of modern British jazz declined as The Beatles shot to prominence, rendering Hayes, Scott and their contemporaries outmoded by about 1965 (although, in a nice bit of coincidence, Scott later lent his services for the sax solo on “Lady Madonna”). In the Commonwealth, it is precisely the modern jazz sound that has taken the place of rock ’n’ roll in the countercultural imagination, and by 1965 the style is arguably at the peak of its powers one year after the overhauling of the CBC and music broadcast services. The flip-side is that the ‘New Style’ is thus perceived as the music of the Bevanite Thaw, and so liable to challenge from the RnB sounds of Radio Free Europe, belatedly finding their way into Britain after 1962. The ‘party jazz’ of the Partisans has acquired an ironic association with the party establishment…​


But Louis was not overly concerned by the generation gap. Not when having Stepney Green on the bill would bring in a far younger crowd than most other nights. Usually, Louis’s daughters were not all too keen on sharing their father’s passion for jazz music, but both of them had made a point of asking to come to the Club tonight. Louis was delighted, although being only fourteen Lydia would have to stay with him at the side of the stage (something she was not altogether happy about, even if she did concede that it was a better arrangement than not being able to go at all).

Prompted by the thought of his daughters and their arrival, Louis checked his watch. The hands showed just after half-seven – still half an hour to go until showtime. Lydia and Margaret would probably be getting on the bus about now. He better have a word with Dave and Violet so they knew to expect them, maybe even put a lemonade aside for each of them. Come to think of it, Stepney Green and The Headhunters would probably want drinks too. On stage, they had just finished tuning up, now ready for Louis to go through the mics.

This was the closest he would ever come to performing for himself – not that he would trade this backstage promoter–technician role. He still shared in the nerves and the adrenaline, and of course in the moment it brought its own sort of elation, sitting back and watching a crowd of people enjoying the fruits of his planning. He’d do it full time if he could – but then who would keep the telecommunications networks of Birmingham in proper working order? Louis would have put money on the fact that there would be a far longer queue of people able to replace him as an engineer than could replace him at the jazz club – although in a way this told its own story. And he didn’t dislike his job. Maybe if he did jazz full time then he’d start pining after telephone exchanges? It was always a danger.

The band had put down their instruments, all in tune, and were stood about on stage lighting cigarettes. From upstairs, Louis could hear loud conversation. Should be a good crowd when they come down, he thought. He signalled to Stephen Green to ask if the band were ready to check the sound. Stephen, cigarette in one hand, beamed back a strong thumbs up. Great, thought Louis. Showtime.
 
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Bullfilter

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Still perambulating in a relaxed, even indolent way through the archive. Up to AJP Taylor’s essay on Mosley’s increasing prominence as MacDonald was elected.

In the last decade, coinciding roughly with the period surrounding Mosley’s exit from power, it has become fashionable to promote revised opinion of the scale of his originality, or indeed the utility of his ideas.
Another prime example of the upside down cake that is this alternate history.
Mosley’s cabinet allies were in the minority; India Secretary William Benn
I wonder if Mosley’s programme was ever described as a ‘Bennite solution’? :D
The message, in Mosley’s ears, was quite clear: he had gone as far as he could within the Labour Party; the implementation of his programme would require a vehicle more accommodating of the scale of his ambition.
This sounds like a parallel vision for the real-life egoist, but with no doubt very different outcomes.
 
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El Pip

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Another interesting vignette DB. I did like Louis' horror at the thought of being a 'wrecker', another little way in which the Commonwealth's grimness seeps into everyday life. He clearly cannot comprehend the idea of having earned the promotion through being good at his job (doubtless the system discourages such individualism) so it must either be a bureaucratic mistake or some nefarious plot.

His life was virtually identical to what it had been five years before. Even if things were generally less repressed these days, it was not as if there’d been a great decisive break in his life. Why pretend that there had been?
Ironically if Louis were to express the view that aside from less repression things were virtually identical he would end up discovering the repression was the same as before, just applied to different people, such as those who deny the incredible and glorious progress of the Bevan regime. The beatings will continue until morale improves and all that.

Musically you will doubtless be shocked to hear I think I fall into the 'trad' jazz camp. The Tubby Hayes Qunitet just sounded a bit busy to me, too much happening at the same time with not enough co-ordination. Like Wall of Sound gone badly wrong or what Bowie's Heroes could have been if Bowie hadn't been a genius. If they are representative of 'modern' jazz I'll give it a miss, even if they do have a spot on name for a jazz group. Though as pointed out if it becomes establishment sound then it's not going to have a long shelf life if/when the mood turns against Bevan.
 
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DensleyBlair

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Still perambulating in a relaxed, even indolent way through the archive.
Even the most leisurely of strolls through the Echoesverse is gratefully appreciated :D

Up to AJP Taylor’s essay on Mosley’s increasing prominence as MacDonald was elected.
Ah yes, AJP Taylor. A great Mosley apologist if ever one existed.

Another prime example of the upside down cake that is this alternate history.
Absolutely. Imagine complaining in all sincerity by the 1960s that Mosley's ideas are being dismissed too fast! :eek:

I wonder if Mosley’s programme was ever described as a ‘Bennite solution’? :D
One assumes that, were Benn to receive anything like that level of significance, Mosley would be on hand with a way of 'taking care' of it…

This sounds like a parallel vision for the real-life egoist, but with no doubt very different outcomes.
Quite. In our world, Mosley's flight from the Labour Party led – not inevitably, but thanks to a lot of hard work by people on the ground – to his eventual disgrace and discrediting. Here… well, I hope you enjoy finding out for yourself :)

Another interesting vignette DB. I did like Louis' horror at the thought of being a 'wrecker', another little way in which the Commonwealth's grimness seeps into everyday life. He clearly cannot comprehend the idea of having earned the promotion through being good at his job (doubtless the system discourages such individualism) so it must either be a bureaucratic mistake or some nefarious plot.
Thank you Pip. (And thank you for posting that Louis Balfour Fast Show gif the other week that sparked the whole thing.)

My own thoughts on the situation were that being promoted was not necessarily unusual (even I recognise that this would be absurd) but that being asked to move from Nunhead to Birmingham was out of the ordinary. My feeling is that the free movement of labour around the country is (or was, at the height of the unions' powers) probably offset by strong protections for 'local' workers. (I.e. lots of internal promotions.) This was pretty much a condition of union compliance after Mosley's battle to put state managers into factories in 1946/7, so the fact that by 1958-odd Louis can be moved 'up and out' is possibly a sign of some Mosley strong-arming of someone or other.

On individualism: I suppose it's not entirely irrelevant to note how the difference in 'trad' and 'new style' is essentially how much freedom the players have within the ensemble.

Ironically if Louis were to express the view that aside from less repression things were virtually identical he would end up discovering the repression was the same as before, just applied to different people, such as those who deny the incredible and glorious progress of the Bevan regime. The beatings will continue until morale improves and all that.
Quite so.

Musically you will doubtless be shocked to hear I think I fall into the 'trad' jazz camp. The Tubby Hayes Qunitet just sounded a bit busy to me, too much happening at the same time with not enough co-ordination. Like Wall of Sound gone badly wrong or what Bowie's Heroes could have been if Bowie hadn't been a genius. If they are representative of 'modern' jazz I'll give it a miss, even if they do have a spot on name for a jazz group. Though as pointed out if it becomes establishment sound then it's not going to have a long shelf life if/when the mood turns against Bevan.
I am somewhat shocked to hear that you feel you fall into either of the camps at all, but on reflection it would make sense for you to favour a style from the 1920s. I could split hairs over the idea that the Tubby Hayes Quintet are lacking in co-ordination of all things, but frankly what stuns me most is your belief that Bowie was a genius. I don't disagree by any means, I'm just (pleasantly) surprised to be hearing you holding up the saxophone work on Heroes of all albums as being preferable to the THQ. :)

Bowie of course was a massive jazz fan from an early age thanks to the influence of his older half-brother Terry, who was a frequent visitor to exactly the sort of clubs Louis is talking about here. He learnt to play the sax, by the way, under the tuition of Ronnie Ross, who was a leading British 'modern jazz' player (and another jazz link with The Beatles, playing sax on "Savoy Truffle"). Thanks to the Bowie connection, he also later provided the sax solo on Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side", which I suppose is probably his most famous work (although few would know that it was him).

Anyway – I am a fanatical Bowie fan, and his life and work will be explored in much more depth going into Volume 2.
 
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Even the most leisurely of strolls through the Echoesverse is gratefully appreciated
I now feel about 18% more guilty for my failure to carry out said stroll.

On individualism: I suppose it's not entirely irrelevant to note how the difference in 'trad' and 'new style' is essentially how much freedom the players have within the ensemble.
There is that. Though of course freedom must include the freedom to make terrible mistakes (like 'new style' jazz) or it isn't really freedom.

I am somewhat shocked to hear that you feel you fall into either of the camps at all, but on reflection it would make sense for you to favour a style from the 1920s.
It was the more 'on brand' option so in truth I had very little choice in the matter.

I could split hairs over the idea that the Tubby Hayes Quintet are lacking in co-ordination of all things, but frankly what stuns me most is your belief that Bowie was a genius. I don't disagree by any means, I'm just (pleasantly) surprised to be hearing you holding up the saxophone work on Heroes of all albums as being preferable to the THQ.
To be honest I probably lack the musical ability to make a meaningful judgement, maybe THQ do have a technically superior sax player, but I would certainly rather listen to Bowie than THQ. I wouldn't claim to be a massive fan, probably I am at the "Best of Bowie" level if I am honest, but what else can one do but admire someone who could re-invent themselves so many times across so many genres and keep producing excellent work while doing so?

Though obviously in the case of saxophone work neither Bowie nor THQ can hold a candle to Bob Holness' performance on Baker Street (Yes I know, but it is such a wonderful image I prefer to believe it is true).
 
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DensleyBlair

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I now feel about 18% more guilty for my failure to carry out said stroll.
Any guilt should be offset by the fact that I am yet to take the promenade thru the full fifteen years of Butterfly.

There is that. Though of course freedom must include the freedom to make terrible mistakes (like 'new style' jazz) or it isn't really freedom.
No objections from the anarchist in the room. :)

I wouldn't claim to be a massive fan, probably I am at the "Best of Bowie" level if I am honest, but what else can one do but admire someone who could re-invent themselves so many times across so many genres and keep producing excellent work while doing so?
Best of Bowie is a very solid collection tbh. It was my 'gateway' back when I was about 8 years old. Really to me Bowie's 'genius' isn't much to do with the music as you say. What he was really interested in was image, and the music was sort of a fantastic by-product. I think he was an excellent songwriter – maybe not in the top league – but more than anything he had a good eye for what was interesting (excepting the terrible EMI years, which maybe produced six good tracks max) and had excellent taste. Which is to say, he knew how to put a good band together, and he knew how to get them noticed. And you're quite right: to be able to keep that up over decades is an astonishing feat.

Also, forgive me but I couldn't resist:


Though obviously in the case of saxophone work neither Bowie nor THQ can hold a candle to Bob Holness' performance on Baker Street (Yes I know, but it is such a wonderful image I prefer to believe it is true).
God bless Stuart Maconie.

To be honest I probably lack the musical ability to make a meaningful judgement, maybe THQ do have a technically superior sax player, but I would certainly rather listen to Bowie than THQ.
That is fair enough – and to be honest I am with you on that one. (There is only so much hard bop anyone can take, after all.)

I did find earlier a markedly patrician review of the THQ, which you might be interested in reading. Gives some context to where exactly the technical proficiency was at this point in British jazz.

 
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Le Jones

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So my favourite of the updates occurring in "the dark times" of COVID and job change is actually the shopping one. I grew up the 80s North East lurching between the slowly dying pit / farming / fishing village single-street shopping areas, department store-centric city centres (John Lewis and Fenwicks in Newcastle, Joplings and Binns in the exotically further afield Sunderland) and the beginnings of the out of town retail parks (the MetroCentre, anybody?). You've captured the essence of that small town vibe, and the what ifs are fascinating. If Andrew Marr called the British postwar experience "the replacement of politics by shopping" then Lord alone knows how the experiences of this timeline will make the British evolve.
 
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DensleyBlair

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So my favourite of the updates occurring in "the dark times" of COVID and job change is actually the shopping one. I grew up the 80s North East lurching between the slowly dying pit / farming / fishing village single-street shopping areas, department store-centric city centres (John Lewis and Fenwicks in Newcastle, Joplings and Binns in the exotically further afield Sunderland) and the beginnings of the out of town retail parks (the MetroCentre, anybody?). You've captured the essence of that small town vibe, and the what ifs are fascinating. If Andrew Marr called the British postwar experience "the replacement of politics by shopping" then Lord alone knows how the experiences of this timeline will make the British evolve.
Great to see you well and back in the thread, Le J – and thank you! Of all of the 'dark times' updates, the shopping one definitely involved the most in-depth thinking and research, so I'm happy to hear that it chimes with your experience. Obviously I can't speak for the 80s, but my own 00s provincial upbringing was marked by many of the same sorts of trips by the sounds of it. (I will always remember a trip to Sainsbury's towards the end of my first year of uni, when a friend asked – very idly – what the supermarket was in my 'town'. When I had to explain to him that, not only was the supermarket half an hour away, but there wasn't actually any shop at all where I lived, he seemed genuinely shocked that people lived this way in 2018!)

On 'politics as shopping', again you raise an astute point. I suppose we have two major butterflies (although only one has happened so far). The first is perhaps the lack of a proper consumer boom, which here was an abortive last-gasp-of-the-Mosleyites attempt to pivot the economy away from manufacturing and heavy industry when the unions started getting troublesome after Windscale. (An interesting (?) 'what if within a what if' is perhaps how much Mosleyism might have started to look like eg Dengism had Oswald's Most Favoured been able to hold on to power, or indeed if Mosley had never been forced out in the first place.) The second butterfly will of course be deindustrialisation, which is looming on the horizon in some form. (Needless to say, any pivot towards financialisation and a service economy will look vastly different when it comes.)
 
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volksmarschall

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Well I finally started some reading dear Densley. Just wanted to let my presence be known. Always a joy to read some of your work.

Cheers!
 
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Well I finally started some reading dear Densley. Just wanted to let my presence be known. Always a joy to read some of your work.

Cheers!
Fantastic to have you on board, volksmarschall! Always appreciate your thoughts. Please do feel free to give your comments on old chapters as and when you read them; I'd love to know what you make of them! :D
 
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I did find earlier a markedly patrician review of the THQ, which you might be interested in reading. Gives some context to where exactly the technical proficiency was at this point in British jazz.

Thank you for that, it was indeed an interesting read. I do like a trenchantly written review, someone who has definite views on things and skill enough to put that into an interesting read. Much of the actual review is a mystery to me (what is a "piercing attack" in the context of playing a saxophone and why is it a good thing?) but it was written in such a way that I feel as though I know what the reviewer meant even if I can't actually explain it. Certainly I feel slightly better informed about Mr Hayes and his Quintet, knowledge that may prove itself to be of inestimable value in later life.
 
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Thank you for that, it was indeed an interesting read. I do like a trenchantly written review, someone who has definite views on things and skill enough to put that into an interesting read. Much of the actual review is a mystery to me (what is a "piercing attack" in the context of playing a saxophone and why is it a good thing?) but it was written in such a way that I feel as though I know what the reviewer meant even if I can't actually explain it. Certainly I feel slightly better informed about Mr Hayes and his Quintet, knowledge that may prove itself to be of inestimable value in later life.
Jazz criticism is not something I am overly familiar with at all, so I enjoyed just how schoolmasterly it actually was. I can’t really think of any music criticism these days that would go into so much depth (dismissively) about the quality of the playing. (I suppose it could also be something to do with the the extent to which jazz has been ‘academicised’.)

“Piercing attack” is indeed a fantastic phrase. I know that attack does have a technical usage in music, to do with how quickly ah instrument reaches full volume whenever a note is produced, so I would assume that is what is being referenced as “piercing” (which makes sense I would say). I’m most familiar with the term in the context of synthesisers, but I guess it can equally apply to saxophones.

***

KH has written up a piece taking us to the end of 1964 from the American perspective in Cuba, which will no doubt be up at some point presently. This takes us to the end of the ‘hot’ part of the crisis – a mere 3.5 months after things began. (For those who might take an interest in such things, this means that the Crisis period took place in slower than real time – by a mighty five days.) Longer-term repercussions will be covered in subsequent updates as we move through 1965/66.

All of this is to say that after a (slightly longer than expected) slice of life interlude, the plot will now be moving forward once again. Things should now speed up as we get back into my bank of readymade content. Plenty to look forward to. :)
 
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The Transatlantic Missile Crisis: "Stepping Away From Danger", Dec 25 1964 – Jan 1 1965

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6Venre3.jpg


Chapters from The Birth of the American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad (1979), written by the American historian Walter LaFeber, one of the first revisionist historians of the Cold War. LaFeber explores the creation of the so-called "American empire" with an economic perspective and famously challenges the "conventional narrative of academic and political American liberalism."

The Birth of the American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad

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Chapter 17: A Dance with Midnight
Cuban Missile Crisis (1964)

...when an exhausted ExComm reconvened in the afternoon of December 24, shortly following Khrushchev’s speech, the mood in the room had reversed. Twelve hours before, when the Joint Chiefs had implied that there was a non-negligible chance of an imminent nuclear retaliation as U.S. marines neared Soviet missile installations, the usually cautious National Security Adviser, Dean Rusk, had floated the idea that it was “better to go down with a bang, rather than a whimper.” After Khruschev’s speech, Rusk whispered to Secretary of State Fulbright, no doubt with considerable relief, that “we’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.” Only the special adviser, Dean Acheson, and Airforce Chief of Staff, Curtis LeMay, expressed disappointment that the Soviet bases were to be spared bombardment. In fact, Acheson resigned immediately from ExComm, indignant that the President would hesitate before the moment of strategic decision. But Kennedy was betraying no hesitation—he was eager to be as accommodating as possible to the Kremlin lest the crisis metastasize beyond his control. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary Fulbright drafted the next proposal, inviting the Soviet convoys then en route to bypass the blockade and dismantle the installations without interference from American troops. Though it was not to be publicly conditional on Soviet consent, the President agreed to submit to a full withdrawal from Cuba, and cease America’s presence on the island once the weapons were returned to the Soviet Union.

pXlkuhK.jpg

The Executive Committee of the National Security Council was convened by President Kennedy to advise him on the missile crisis.

Though the plan was conceived by ExComm as a “grand compromise,” nothing with such panache could be attained when the pride of a superpower was concerned. Instead, Robert Kennedy, Senior Advisor to the President, toiled in his marathon conversations with the wily Soviet ambassador, Anatoly Dobrynin. A virtual ultimatum cabled to Moscow demanded that the Soviets consent to an evacuation of their weaponry, but Robert Kennedy also gave private assurances regarding the planned American withdrawal from Cuba and potentially compensatory withdrawals in Germany. The attorney general further told Dobrynin that if the Cuban missiles were not dismantled within forty-eight hours, the United States would reverse its “hands-off” strategy and take direct military action against the installation. Then, the President moved to make certain that there would be no war. He gave Fulbright a statement that the Thor missiles would be removed if the Cuban weapons were dismantled. The statement was not to be made public if Khrushchev rejected the ultimatum. “I am not,” Kennedy said privately, “going to go to war over the Germans.”

eXlYFxo.jpg

The President and Ambassador Dobrynin in early 1964.

Fulbright did not have to use the statement as Khrushchev was ready to deal—or more accurately, to shift the crisis further away from clear American interests. On December 26, Khrushchev learned of incidents that were erupting between Soviet troops and the disintegrating Cuban military. He confessed to Gromyko that he was just as worried about Castro loyalists seizing a weapon as he was about the Americans destroying them. This was an astonishing admission, only in part because the Soviets had suffered casualties on the ground and their prestige was suddenly compromised. In effect, the General Secretary was confessing that his response strike capabilities in Cuba were no longer guaranteed. With communications effectively severed between the Soviet commander in Cuba and Moscow, Khrushchev expressed extreme consternation that the commander, who maintained the authority to employ a missile strike against the invaders, would employ his prerogative unless the situation immediately de-escalated. Rambling demands by Castro for a nuclear strike against the United States only sharpened his concern. It was time to end the crisis in the Caribbean.

6lRUibm.jpg

American troops in Germany on high alert in December 1964.

On December 28, Khrushchev quietly accepted Kennedy’s now public offer of taking out the missiles in return for a withdrawal pledge. Neither side would maintain a military presence on the island (this was to become a matter of supreme controversy and distrust as the island tumbled into civil war), and the world stepped back from nuclear annihilation. Castro and his loyalists angrily castigated Khrushchev, prompting the Soviets to consider withdrawing their recognition of his admittedly vestigial government. But the matter was now settled, and the Soviet vessels arrived under OAS supervision to perform the dismantling of the installations. American troops, already few in number, prepped for withdrawal, but not before, it must be added, a great deal of American equipment was conveniently left behind for the national government in Havana. Instead of utter disaster, Kennedy had apparently escaped with a spectacular victory. Khrushchev was not so fortunate. Rather than pursue a roundtable follow-up negotiation or subsequent discussions, Khrushchev began peddling the notion that the compromise had merely been one stage in the general crisis, and that his actions demanded acclaim for delivering humanity from nuclear catastrophe. And while RFK had never dared to offer German weapons for Soviet submission, Khrushchev now pointed to their continued existence as “our own Cuba” in a bellicose New Year’s Day speech.

WbyZ08L.jpg

Kennedy, confident and at the height of his popularity, performed his own personal pivot. On the insistence of Secretary Fulbright—the original instigator of arming the German Reich—Kennedy came to believe that his ability to wiggle the Soviets out of Cuba had invalided the need to make a conciliatory action in Germany. In early January he informed former president Byrnes that “the bastard [Khrushchev] had his chance to snuff us out, and he whiffed it.” There were many, Byrnes included, that did not share Kennedy’s optimism. Those bred in service during the idealistic years of his administration, back when global governance was a matter for the “policemen,” feared severe damage to America’s international reputation. In particular, they fretted that the invasion had sent Moscow and Western Europe hurdling on a path towards rapprochement, dooming those American diplomats who had long preached an outreach to EuroSyn as a stepping stone towards rebuilding international stability.

2wP2mRc.png

There were further cracks to be repaired. America’s allies in East Asia and Central Europe, particularly Japan and Germany, were infuriated that they had been “informed” rather than “consulted” on U.S. policy during the crisis. The snub was compounded when Kennedy published a “grand design,” one that would integrate allied economic and political policies so that their partners could pay more of America’s defense costs. When the allies saw that Kennedy had no intention of allowing them to help shape U.S. nuclear decisions, they blotted out the “grand design.” But even worse occurred when Kennedy told Berlin officials that they would not receive the U.S. built-Skybolt missile for use in German jet bombers. The notion in Germany that the “United States doesn’t want a partner, they want a satellite” started to gain purchase across Berlin’s political spectrum. The very real possibility that Germany might pursue an independent nuclear arsenal, or even jettison their defense agreements with the United States terrified Washington’s strategic planners. The crisis had revealed that at the moment of truth, neither superpower consulted its allies nor wanted to go to war. Thus, the stand-off allowed the allies to have more freedom from the superpowers. Washington officials privately warned that U.S. policy had to stop this fragmentation, this splintering of cooperation, by stepping up American commitments. This level of reasoning led to greater involvement in Vietnam during 1965, and also to Kennedy’s determination to contain China’s influence in newly emerging nations. All in all, Kennedy was leaving the American alliance system in a much weaker state than he had found it.

--

Apologies all for the delay, I had a sequence of crap from COVID, family emergencies, and preserving the smooth working of the American financial system. Should be now back in the swing.
 
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It is also worthy of note that the great historian himself, Walter LaFeber, passed away on Monday. RIP.
 
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Le Jones

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Fascinating @99KingHigh - nice to see the world pulling back from the brink. While I don't disagree with the notion that Kennedy left the alliance system weaker in this TL, it felt oddly mean or incomplete given the other things that he achieved here. Or perhaps I'm just relieved that the nuclear clock didn't strike midnight!

As I catch up with this, I noted @DensleyBlair's Bowie comments, and then this morning saw the children watching 'Labyrinth'. I'm willing to guess that you weren't thinking of that 80s madness but it would be interesting to see how an already weird film looks in this TL...

tumblr_586ea9235a22e2f3981d52a4272fc34f_a5c3b032_500.gif
 
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DensleyBlair

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Fascinating @99KingHigh - nice to see the world pulling back from the brink. While I don't disagree with the notion that Kennedy left the alliance system weaker in this TL, it felt oddly mean or incomplete given the other things that he achieved here. Or perhaps I'm just relieved that the nuclear clock didn't strike midnight!
I don't disagree, what with Kennedy having achieved by all accounts a stunning victory (or perhaps it was Khrushchev's stunning acquiescence? (Is there scope for a laboured pun on 'that's the way the Khruschy khrumbles'? No?)) I suppose it is a tantalising hint of things to come, seeing as LeFeber is writing 15 years after the fact. After all, many catastrophes can seem understandable (if not reasonable) when taken step by step.

As I catch up with this, I noted @DensleyBlair's Bowie comments, and then this morning saw the children watching 'Labyrinth'. I'm willing to guess that you weren't thinking of that 80s madness but it would be interesting to see how an already weird film looks in this TL...
Believe it or not, Labyrinth was in fact the first bit of Bowie media I ever 'consumed'. My collection of Bowie albums and singles had its humble origins way back in 2008 when I bought the track 'Magic Dance'!

Bowie being (more) in films is something I am considering a lot, though. There are a couple of tantalising projects he was meant to be in that he never made for various reasons OTL. The biggest shame for my money was a film called Neutron by Derek Jarman, which never happened in any form with or without Bowie (although @BigBadBob will no doubt be pleased, given his reaction to Jubilee). This is the account Jarman later gave of how it might have happened:

There are six published manuscripts of Neutron, which zig-zag their anti-heroes Aeon and Topaz across the horizon of a bleak and twilit post-nuclear landscape. ‘Artist’ and ‘activist’ in their respective former lives, they are caught up in the apocalypse, where the PA systems of Oblivion crackle with the revelations of John the Divine. Their duel is fought among the rusting technology and darkened catacombs of the Fallen civilization, until they reach the pink marble bunker of Him. The reel of time is looped—angels descend with flame-throwers and crazed religious sects prowl through the undergrowth. The Book of Revelations is worked as science fiction.
Lee [Drysdale] and I pored over every nuance of this film. We cast it with David Bowie and Steven Berkoff, set it in the huge junked-out power station at Nine Elms and in the wasteland around the Berlin Wall. Christopher Hobbs produced xeroxes of the pink marble halls of the bunker with their Speer lighting—that echo to ‘the muzak of the spheres’ which played even in the cannibal abattoirs, where the vampire orderlies sipped dark blood from crystal goblets.

Fantastic stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. :D

An unbelievable choice of gif to bring to the thread. Bravo.
 
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99KingHigh

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Fascinating @99KingHigh - nice to see the world pulling back from the brink. While I don't disagree with the notion that Kennedy left the alliance system weaker in this TL, it felt oddly mean or incomplete given the other things that he achieved here. Or perhaps I'm just relieved that the nuclear clock didn't strike midnight!

As I catch up with this, I noted @DensleyBlair's Bowie comments, and then this morning saw the children watching 'Labyrinth'. I'm willing to guess that you weren't thinking of that 80s madness but it would be interesting to see how an already weird film looks in this TL...

View attachment 691823
I think DB hit it on the nail. Walter is writing about a dozen years in the future, and I’ve certainly hung dark clouds over something in Kennedy’s future...
 
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El Pip

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I suppose it is a tantalising hint of things to come, seeing as LeFeber is writing 15 years after the fact. After all, many catastrophes can seem understandable (if not reasonable) when taken step by step.
It is going to have to be spectacular to undo his victory in Cuba though.

Then again he is making a good start. Dual-key nukes are such an obvious solution to the German demands (they get Skybolt and nuclear warheads, they just can't arm them without a US and German 'key' both being used) yet somehow no-one has thought of it. The bar is being set very low and Kennedy is still managing to trip over it.
 
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