Archive for the ‘Hastings’ Tag

Dean Friedman, Hastings, 9 May 2017

I was alerted to Dean Friedman’s appearance by the White Rock Theatre only five days before, but it was a no-brainer. Of all of my teenage/early 20s influences (ELO, Devo, Blondie, Kate Bush, The Smiths), Dean Friedman is the one that provided the yearning for adulthood. The notion of love between the sheets tormented me. And that woman, Lydia, accommodating that toothbrush, dissolved away my frontal lobe. Then there was that room where a cuckoo clock tells you that you are reflected in all of the things you own. I had a cuckoo clock (but no rocking chair).

I had seen him once before at the Hull Truck Theatre, at least 35 years ago. I am generally reluctant to revisit the past. I made an important exception here. And took the opportunity to introduce my beloved to this world.

The stage hosted a grand piano, a Yamaha keyboard and a guitar. And him. Each song has its own story – and not always the obvious one. The Shopping Bag Ladies were part of Friedman’s daily commute to New York. Company, was influenced by Paul McCartney’s Blackbird (to find out how, you have to go to the show or attend one of his song-writing workshops). He did not say too much about the S&M song, but it was great to hear it. Ariel captures that youthful exuberance of discovery, being “high” and the softness of the mouth. Only Dean Friedman wrote lyrics like that, at least in my world at that time.

There is a new album available today. It is called 12 Tunes and we were introduced to a number of the songs from it. Whilst youth is long gone, the use of song to capture life’s ongoing magic and frustrations is still in Friedman’s gift. “We must have done something right” he sings in reference to his child rearing. On being too busy he asks “how does everyone do it?”. The loss of an old friend – his guitar – “This guitar can’t hold a tune no more”. Clever, witty, metaphorical, reflective.

And so to the dark side. Early in the set there was a song about a former girlfriend that he was happy to see go. It was not complementary in tone or language. It reminded me of John Cooper Clarke’s brilliant Twat. I was not expecting that. Then he lulled us into a false sense of security about neighbourly relations. To paraphrase, if we cannot get on with our neighbours, how are we supposed to get on with people from other countries? Before unleashing a wonderfully vicious song about bad neighbours and escalating tensions. Revenge, even.

Talking of which, I remember Tim Minchin discussing one of his revenge songs written about a journalist who gave him a particularly bad review, the effect of which can be significant. Power without responsibility. Friedman regaled the audience about a phone call that he got from a friend in the UK telling  him there was a song on an album by a bizarrely-named band, Half Man, Half Biscuit, entitled The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman. The essence of this song is that the narrator has to deal with learning of his origins and coping with the ridicule and shame. That same album contained a song with a lyric “why is Rod Hull alive – and getting paid as well?” Older British Readers will know what that means. Friedman, suffice to say, was in good company.

It was not absolutely clear in the first instance whether Friedman was flattered or hurt by the Bastard Son. But his song riposte had light touches and humour. Or at least the way I heard it. I think that was the point of Nigel Blackwell’s/Half Man’s original song?

I end my review with a reflection on a song that captures what Dean Friedman does best. Gone, understandably, is Ariel’s manic, rapid heart beating sprint and replaced by a matured reflection on the really important things. Prompted by the question from a stranger at a party – something which Friedman seems to eschew – “what do you do”? The answer, “I’m Dean Friedman” should be enough. But he put the answer into a mischievous song. Brilliantly. His job is to make his beloved happy (secure, loved, warm, dry,  etc.). It’s a bit contrived, we all know that. And it should be true.

Talking of being contrived, here is a picture (right) of me with Dean Friedman.

The tour continues culminating in appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

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