16 tracks of the wildest New Orleans soul and R'n'B, featuring Dr John, Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino, Bobby Charles, Professor Longhair and more
I was rummaging on YouTube looking for something else when I came across some footage of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder at an Iraq Veterans Against The War concert. Eddie in the clip ends up playing a song the audience may think he's actually written, perhaps for the event he's appearing at, but actually hasn't. My guess is, though, that even if he'd introduced it as a version of a 1964 protest song by Phil Ochs called Here's To The State Of Mississippi, updated to more recent circumstances and now retitled Here's To the State Of George W Bush, the crowd in front of him would have looked merely baffled, the name of the song's composer more likely than not wholly unfamiliar to them.
This has been Ochs' fate, to be erased, as it were, although there was a time during the glory days of the Greenwich Village folk scene when his only rival as a songwriter was Bob Dylan. Maybe things would have been different if Sean Penn had starred in the movie that for years he talked about making about Phil's life and career or his records had all remained in catalogue at roughly the same time. But the film was never made and you'll have to pay some hefty prices for some of Ochs' key albums, including Pleasures Of The Harbor, which, shockingly, is currently out of print.
A new documentary, named after another of Ochs' most famous songs, There But For Fortune, a 1965 hit for Joan Baez, has just opened to rave reviews in New York, and Wilco's Jeff tweedy has been covering another Ochs classic, a song called Chords Of Fame, at recent solo shows. So perhaps Phil is about to be rediscovered, and not before time. We tell his full, extraordinary story in this month's issue of Uncut.
Just as amazing in its way is this month's cover story by David Cavanagh on the rise and fall of Led Zeppelin's Swan Song empire, which will leave even connoisseurs of rock excess mute with incredulity at what went on at the label as things started to unravel. Elsewhere, Peter Watts goes underground to deliver the history of the Cavern, the legendary Liverpool basement where The Beatles appeared for the first time 50 years ago this month.
And finally, we pay tribute and say adios to the great rock visionary Captain Beefheart. He wasn't so much the last of his kind as one of a kind, eternally so.