Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Would you buy a used continent...?

It's Buffy Sainte-Marie's birthday in a few weeks time and, in the run up to the big day, I'm listening to all my Buffy songs. It's a good opportunity to remember old favourites and hear songs anew and afresh. Some songs make me smile and some make me cry. I generally hear something new every time I listen properly to Buffy's songs. A unique lyric or phrasing, something that whizzes me back in memory to another decade or something that just makes me think 'yeah'.

This evening I looked up this cover of the New Musical Express from 1976 with Buffy looking well righteous and the caption, 'Would you buy a used continent from this woman?'. 1976 was an eon ago and I can't quite remember, but I bought the NME back then so maybe it was this cover and the related interview that made me watch the BBC2 programme about Buffy that converted me to the true faith. Maybe.

I can't help but like the fact that the Sex Pistols graced the cover of the NME a matter of months after Buffy.

Buffy was probably promoting the 'Sweet America' album when this photo was taken. The record includes some of her early powwow rock songs like 'Starwalker' and 'I Been Down', creating a unique Native American sound on the one hand and, on the other, adding another sonic dimension to a rock sound. 'Sweet America' was my first non-compilation Buffy album and I still love it. It's one of my favourite Buffy albums and it was great when it was finally released on CD a few years ago as 'Buffy/Changing Woman/Sweet America - the Mid-1970s Recordings', three albums across two CDs.

Buffy has released new music in four of the last five decades, the '80s being the exception. But then again, she wrote 'Up Where We Belong' in the '80s and won an Oscar for it without even needing to record it. The only record missing from her collection is 'Many A Mile', Buffy's second album, and I don't understand why that is. It includes her mega-hit 'Until It's Time For You To Go' (which was recorded by everyone in the '60s) and 'Piney Wood Hills' that she still plays live at the start of her live set. It also includes 'Lazarus' that was sampled by Kanye West for a song by Cam'ron. Why isn't 'Many A Mile' available? Maybe there's a licensing problem? I bought it through eBay so have all the songs but it should be available on principle.

Buffy's latest album is 'Running For The Drum' and includes a great melange of songs in a variety of styles. She even includes her tribute to the late '50s skiffle bands (like Lonnie Donegan, as Buffy mentions) and Elvis with songs like 'Blue Sunday'. She still writes great love songs but she also writes great social commentary songs about environmental greed and 'the man'. She turns a complex social problem into a three minute pop song with ease and gets the message across with aplomb.

The last time I saw Buffy play live was during the London Olympics 2012 as part of Anthony Hegarty's Meltdown festival. She played with her band without any support act so we got two hours of Buffy, a longer set that meant she played some of the songs from her '70s albums. I was terribly excited when I heard the introduction to 'Generations', one of my favourite Buffy songs. That was delightful.

I was also privileged with meeting Buffy and her band after the show - I had to queue up, of course, since everyone wanted to meet her. Her band were excited to hear that I'd downloaded their Bruthers Of Different Muthers album (which is their band name when they're not with Buffy) and enjoyed it. You might too. Buffy was lovely and I thanked her for putting me on the guest list for the show (I'd already bought a  ticket in any case - I'm not missing an opportunity to see Buffy!).

I think we're about due for another visit to London, Buffy. Hint. Hint.

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