Posted by: Steve Coplan | August 11, 2006

The persistence of memory

A few weeks ago I retrieved this CD from my brother in law that I bought for him last summer since he didn’t show the appropriate level of enthusiasm for it. Death In Vegas is described in their Wikipedia entry as a psychedelic rock and electronica band, which can be translated as drums, electric guitar and a talented (but dark) DJ in the form of Richard Fearless. The two best albums in my opinion are Scorpio Rising and Contino Sessions, easily a contender for the best album of 1999.

But that is largely an aside. Listening again to the complilation, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Nashville Blues sparked some recollections. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are a bluegrass band from Long Beach, California – a bunch of West Coast hippies playing Appalachian hillbilly music. The second banjo riff on this song triggered a very specific memory. When i was about 5 or 6, I was a big Western fan. One of my favorite comic books was Lucky Luke (the character in the YouTube video) who was the fastest gun in the West but never fired in anger or killed anyone. Plus, as I pointed out to a friend who noted the generally inappropriate nature of the content for young children, he also rolled his own cigarettes.

My fascination with Westerns quickly turned into an obsession with banjos. Unfortunately, my mother was not one to indulge obsessions particularly if it involved an expensive musical instrument (or any other item of notable expense for that matter). I remember standing at the window of the music instrument shop in the Killarney Mall (another echo of Southwest Ireland in South Africa) telling my mother how important it was for me to learn a musical instrument, and why a banjo would be a perfect place to start — it only has four strings after all, not six like a regular guitar. To quash my interest, she pointed out that I was very musically talented. This is, lamentably, entirely accurate but I would have preferred it was too expensive.

Another good Nitty Gritty Dirt Band track is this one with Kris Kristofferson.

15_Gold Watch And Chain
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