1974, the teenage me is 18 years old, earning a living, driving an old car, out every night of every weekend and most nights through the week too, a large circle of friends and the assured confidence of youth that you’d find a group to drink and laugh with in whichever pub you walked into, life was good, beer was cheap, so was the car, so was petrol, days were long the sun always shone, life was for laughing at and getting drunk and no female to drag you back by the shirt tail and tell you to behave yourself or act your age, where did it all go wrong ?
Chris Higgins it was who told me of Jim Croce, I’d heard of Jim Croce when he had a UK chart tune, “I’ll have to say I love you in a song” but after that nothing, so Chris Higgins recommended that I go out and purchase the one album of his available in the UK at that time, “Photographs and Memories”, a greatest hits album, so off to Kennedy’s I popped in my old battered up Vanden Plas motor, parked it in a side street for nowt, ah the days when you could park your car in a city centre street without having to pay someone for the privilege or worry about having it clamped by Highwaymen who want your very spleen in payment to release it, and Kennedy’ s had one copy of that very album and I bought it and life was improved by the very act of doing so.
And then the shock of finding that by the time I had bought the album Jim Croce was already dead, so thats why the “I’ll have to say…etc” tune had been in the UK charts the previous year, and thats why there had been no follow up, yet here was an album full of suitable follow up tunes, here was an album that was rare in any record collection, an album with no filler tracks each one being equally listenable, I transferred it to cassette tape immediately and played it to death in the Vanden Plas.
Jim Croce died from that condition that affected so many American musicians in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the-light-aircraft-crash-after-a-gig syndrome a condition that never seems to happen in the UK for the one simple reason that you can drive a car home from almost anywhere after a gig in this country, in the USA the gigs were booked mainly on the college circuit and with huge distances to cover from one night to the next a small charter aircraft was the only solution, so it was that on the night of September 20th 1973 the twin propeller Beechcraft airplane had barely left Louisiana soil before it hit a pecan tree, the only tree for hundreds of yards around, and all five passengers on board died, including Maury Muehleisen his playing partner who is seen in all the live videos.
How did the album influence my later teenage years ? Well I wanted to play guitar like Jim and quite unfairly my brother and one of the cousins (the now famous one) could already play something almost recognisable on their guitars, so I confiscated my brothers twelve string steel guitar that he’d bought off a carpenter at work and I set about learning how to play like Jim Croce on it.
There is no happy ending to this tale, I couldn’t, still can’t, play a guitar whilesoever I still have a hole in my arse, me playing the guitar sounds very much like you’d expect a chimpanzee playing the guitar to sound, that is it consists of a series of unrelated sounds that cringe the ear in a very discordant way, I prefer to point out that I am playing chords that the human ear has yet to appreciate, I am indeed playing chords that have not yet been named and sometime in the far distant future some new wave of music styledom will come to appreciate these noises for what they are, a shit attempt at music, but until then the rest of the planet is safe from me ever attempting to entertain them with “music that a chimp would play” and I stick to my drawing and painting, at least my brother and famous cousin can’t do that.
Further resource at : http://jimcroce.com/