Birdseeds of Fire

I have had a long-term love affair with the music of John McLaughlin. It started with someone giving me a C90 cassette of the first Mahavishnu Orchestra, which didn’t knock my socks off but did plant a seed. It had a few tracks from Birds of Fire on one side and soon segued into the entirety of the live album Between Nothingness And Eternity. In retrospect it was perhaps not the best introduction to the music, but it was certainly daring and an appreciated effort from my friend.
Within a year someone else played me Miles Davis Tutu. This had an greater impact on me. It is far more accessible music, poppy, with straight-ahead drumming and solid bass lines.  It hooked me into Miles Davis and I had to hear more. Next, I found You’re Under Arrest and that’s when I rediscovered John McLaughlin. He plays on only a couple of tracks of that album, the other guitar shoes being filled by John Schofield, but it was enough.
Jumping ahead, in a matter of a few years, I had obtained cassette or vinyl copies of almost everything John McLaughlin had ever produced as soloist, leader and sideman. My obsession was not unhealthy, but there was a overriding compulsion to understand the maturation of his playing, and to follow in his path on the self-ordained musical pilgrimage that he had decided to undertke at an early age. While my own guitar playing progressed in no near an impressive fashion as his had through his formative years, I found outlets for seasoning other activities with elements of this core interest. When it was time to investigate the technicalities of website design, it was obvious what I would choose as a theme for my arbitrary content. And so, The John McLaughlin Archives (JMA) were born.

The main reason was an exercise in HTML and javascript-ing. Before long the archives comprised some dozen websites all integrated and linked and drawing resources from each other. As an academic activity it was good to have something motivating to work with. As a public source, it proved very popular. Visitors didn’t seem to mind that the video and music were provided at prehistorically low quality, 32 kbps, etc. It was, after all, pre-YouTube and no one had ever heard of a blog, let alone a music blog.
The file hosts holding the archive media proved unreliable and I’m still casually searching for a server solution for where to house all the files. If you’re interested, it requires 750 MB – 1 GB in space (not a lot by modern standards) on a server where I can just dump the content in its folder hierarchy. There’s a single base server URL text string that I change in the HTML and everything automatically points to the new host.
Being mostly a hollow shell, although there are quite a lot of articles and photographs still in place, I don’t expect much of the archives. From time to time I get a query about John McLaughlin or his music, but that’s about all. Until this week.
This week I got an email from a film maker in New York needing consultation about John McLaughlin for a movie in production that highlights a handful of jazz / jazz-fusion guitarists. For the section on John McLaughlin, they lacked information about his early career, based in UK and Europe, especially any photographs and footage of him before he left for the USA to play with Tony Williams and unexpectedly, Miles Davis. More on John McLaughlin later. Meanwhile, I’m going to end this post with what I was able to tell them, and the groovy clip from Gonks Go Beat mentioned in the document :

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About JFDerry

Writer. Darwin, science & more. 4 books: Piospheres, Darwin in Scotland, Serial Killers. Current project is THE DISSENT OF MAN. Born near London, raised near Primrose Hill and in Lincolnshire, and studied at the Universities of Bangor, York and Edinburgh for degrees in Biochemistry, Bioelectronics and Biological Computation, and a PhD in African Ecology. Mainly working in British and African universities, but also in Spain, Brussels, Mongolia and Australia, to date, publication history is mostly in academic journals, on aspects of computational biology, pastoralism and on Charles Darwin and evolution. However, also written for several national newspapers, various governments, several major record labels and independent book publishers. Fiction has appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and poetry is at the Human Genre Project. Lives in Edinburgh, with partner and their two daughters.
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