I was lucky enough to be able to do a CMR interview with Chip Taylor before this bewitching Glasgow Americana 10th Anniversary Festival gig. He was charming, funny, hugely interesting and engaging – and he was the same on stage with a brilliant set list that showed just why he enjoys legendary status.
Inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame in the summer, the 76-year-old New Yorker is a genuine star, who wooed his Classic Grand audience with gentle, homespun tales of family life, the music business and his travels through a colourful career. Each story, told quietly and unhurriedly, melted into songs that yielded moments you wanted to scoop up and take home with you to revisit over and over again.
With long-time guitar amigo, the excellent, John Platania, at his side, Chip meandered with obvious pride and pleasure through his back catalogue – Angel of the Morning, Anyway That You Want Me and, of course, the delicious and chuggingly raucous, Wild Thing, included. Classic tracks.
(I Want) The Real Thing from his 1973 gem, Last Chance, was a stirring early offering, before Chip shared tales of growing up in Yonkers, New York, reminiscing about station visits with his Dad and brothers. Charcoal Sky, from Yonkers NY released in 2010, was full of imagery and warmth that made you feel that you were there with him all those years ago.
Out of the haze of the past, his most recent works of art are also powerful songs, combining passion and no shortage of political messages.
Refugee Children from his majestic, The Little Prayers Triology, is a topical, heartbreaker of a song about young displaced people fishing off a bridge somewhere in Scandinavia – we sang along and Chip’s pleasure at our effort was evident. And we all hoped the kids got a catch.
His ode to his wife, St Joan is a stunning example of this man’s appreciation of the people around him: “Everybody needs a St Joan, your very own, your own St Joan,” he sang at talking pace, and again, when he asked his adoring audience to join in, no-one needed much prompting. It was both spontaneous and marvellous.
Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall, now released with Carrie Rodriguez, is fiercely to-the-point in the final weeks of the US presidential election race, but is delivered in a kind of what-the-hell-are-you-thinking-about manner and not a rant, which makes it even more powerful and meaningful. A put-down with simple words that speak volumes. Fuck All the Perfect People does that, too, and gave us another chance to be his lusty chorus.
He started out as a 30-dollar-a-song writer whose material via various artistes – Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, The Troggs, The Hollies to name just a few – is known to all who love great music. Being at this show was a nothing short of a privilege a time spent in musical history.
And, pleasingly, Chip enjoyed it as well as he wrote on his website: “What wonderful, wonderful people to play for (in Glasgow)… One of my favorite all-time shows”. And one of ours as well, Chip.
Review – MIKE RITCHIE
IMAGE – Paul Kerr