Saturday, September 27, 2014


Fourth in the feast of imagination that is Allison Crowe’s “16 Songs” Video Album is a cultural dish centuries in the making.
Since the Middle Ages there are reports of the Welsh having a fondness for toasted cheese. The first recipes for “Welsh Rarebit” (or “Rabbit”) appear in the 1700s – and, this, (as well as an English Rabbit, an Irish and a Scotch Rabbit), hopped to the New World with the colonists.
To Scottish immigrants in Woodstock, Upper Canada, in the year of the country’s Confederation, 1867, was born Zenas W. McCay. Then, again, the artist, who would grow up known by his middle name, Winsor, may have entered this world a few years later, and south of the border – in Spring Lake, Michigan. Whatever the ingredients of his origin he found his way to revolutionize comics+ with his pioneering techniques, and, especially his creation, “Little Nemo in Slumberland”.
McCay by the late 1800s was illustrating posters to comic strips (he later toured, as well, drawing live on the vaudeville stage for appreciative audiences). Winsor McCay’s legacy – his enormous influence and inspiration’s given nods by Max Fleischer, Walt Disney, Federico Fellini, Maurice Sendak, Art Spiegelman and other greats in visual and pop arts.
In 1904 he launched the newspaper strip “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend”. This successful series ran until 1911 – and related the strange dreams of folks who’d eaten Welsh Rarebit before going to sleep. Between 1911 and 1921 Winsor self-financed and animated ten films - three of which fly on this theme.
An excerpt of McCay’s “Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend: The Pet” (1921) is on the menu here with Allison Crowe’s version of “Creep”, recorded live-in-concert with her first trio – the cooking rhythm section of Dave Baird on bass and Kevin Clevette on drums. The music’s captured by audio archivists Condor and John MacMillan at the Chilliwack Arts Centre, BC, Canada in 2003.
That’s a decade or so after the song, lyrics penned by Thom Yorke and music composed by Radiohead, was released by that band as its cracking debut. In turn, it’s 20 years before Radiohead’s giant international hit with “Creep” that a tune by musicians Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood delivered The Hollies to the toppermost of the poppermost with “The Air That I Breathe”. Radiohead and Hammond/Hazelwood agreed to co-songwriting credits on “Creep” – serving up delicious melody and a rare bit of shared popular music history on the side.
#4 of 16 Songs
Allison Crowe - 16 Songs Video Album - 4 - Creep


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