Friday, 17 June 2011
GENO WASHINGTON in the ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL FOYER
Ah, the arrogance of youth. I last saw Oooh-oowoah-Geeenoo in 1984 at the Hammersmith Clarendon. It was my third ever gig and I was snooty fifteen year old ace face in my dog tooth trousers and bowling shoes. Top that up with a lashings of scornful teenage attitude (my school report called me a cynic) and I was ruthlessly dismissive. He was merely an ancient bald geezer (two heinous crimes in one) stomping around in cowboy boots doing covers of standards like “Knock On Wood”. Had it been Eddie Floyd himself I’d have considered him a boring old fart, so Geno didn’t stand a chance. He worked the crowd, had them joining in his hand clapping routine, was an enthusiastic and energetic performer, but so what. Even with a pitiful collection of Kent, Ronco and K-Tel compilations I boldly proclaimed it wasn’t real soul music. It was soul club cabaret. So there.
Times change. As the years tick by I’ve come to view musicians, and ageing - and especially ageing musicians - in a different light. I see acts way past their prime: some still cut it, some are passable, and a few are ropey, but I usually I get something out of it – even if only the delusional feeling I’ve paid my respects and they’ve appreciated it in return. According to his error strewn Wikipedia entry Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band’s Hand Clappin’, Foot Stompin’, Funky-Butt… Live! was in the UK charts for 38 weeks during 1966 and was the third best-selling album that year. The earlier elite mod pioneers laid the R&B foundations that allowed Geno to reap the rewards when the movement evolved into a mass market. Credit for that. That Dexys Midnight Runners saw fit to pay tribute shows the esteem he was held in, and I’d rarely argue with Kevin Rowland’s judgement: apart from maybe his garb on the sleeve of My Beauty.
Which brings us to this gig. I’m now older than Geno was in ‘84 and my stance is far more tolerant than my fifteen year old self who argued with his mother that anyone who didn’t know Sam Cooke was the greatest singer ever was an idiot, but – for once – as far as Geno was concerned, I was right all along.