- 21 Jul 17
Why Daniel Jeanrenaud – beloved of legends like Amy Winehouse, Noel Gallagher and Jack White – is one of rock’s great unsung heroes. Plus reflections on the recent abortion controversy in the UK and Jeremy Corbyn’s already iconic Glasto speech
Daniel Jeanrenaud is from Marseilles via San Francisco. I first saw him in the back room of a kebab shop on Chalk Farm Road.
As kebab shops go, the Marathon wasn’t a kebab shop, especially after midnight when it metamorphosed into a rock-and-roll joint with classical ambience of weeping walls, impending sex and alluring intimations of danger. Daniel would play from midnight to 4am, six nights a week. Jack White once dropped in to jam. Noel Gallagher a handful of times. And now and then the likes of Robert Plant, Paul Weller, Amy Winehouse…
The Marathon is no more. Closed by order of the council following flimsy complaints over health, safety and the licensing laws. But Daniel is alive and well as can be expected and is right now gigging in Ireland: Friday, 21st, Hot Spot Music Club, Greystones; Saturday, 22nd, Crane Lane Theatre, Cork; Sunday, 23rd, The Spinnaker, Dunmore East.
Daniel himself has gotten up with greats. In the wild days of his West Coast rove, he opened for Chuck Berry. Chuck broke a string. Daniel passed his Gibson over. That’s how he got guitar-naming rights to “Nadine”. Toured with Link Wray and BB King, too. Hung out with Jerry Lee.
Check him out on YouTube with his occasional London band The Camden Cats, supporting David Gray at the Roundhouse.
How come, then, he was plying his trade in a late-night London kebabbery and turning tube journeys into parties, and is now playing modest-sized venues on his first Irish visit?
One reason has to do with his kindred-spirit relationship with Sly Stone and their mutual friend, Freebase Cocaine.
Plus, most of his set are covers. Or more accurately, original re-creations. You only have to look at him. Gene Vincent quiff, Johnny Cash growl, twinkly face that’s been lived in by thoroughly disreputable elements.
He doesn’t think there’s anything odd about his career trajectory. It’s all rock and roll and he likes it.
That’s the thing. He isn’t paying tribute to or impersonating the founding fathers. He embodies their essence and ethic, heart and soul, revivifies the golden age. He’s a rock and roll legend that few outside the business know anything about.
Back to my favourite Sherlock yarn and the strange thing about the dog barking in the night.
But the dog didn’t bark, protested Watson.
That, explained Sherlock, was the strange thing.
Even stranger, perhaps, has been the hullaballoo which followed the move last month by the British government and the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies to provide free abortions on the NHS for Northern Irish women. It’s not enough, of course. Why should women from the North have to travel across the water for abortions in the first place, when their sisters in other parts of the UK can access the procedure locally?
And, contrary to well-cultivated myth, the regime across the water falls well short of trusting women. Why should women have to have the endorsement of two doctors before exercising their right to bodily integrity?
Still – free abortions in tax-funded public hospitals, not in private clinics, for women from Belfast, Derry, Newry, Enniskillen? By any measure, a significant advance for abortion rights in the North. That is to say, a significant reversal for those who style themselves “pro-life.” That’s the strange thing about the howls and hullaballoo. Not a sign. Sometimes silence is the sweetest sound of all.
“Such starvation cannot be as in England now we see,” wrote Shelley in The Masque of Anarchy. Apt for our own times.
The final verse of the poem has become a radical mantra, intoned by Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury.
“Rise like lions from your slumber/In unvanquishable number/Shake to earth your chains, like dew/Which in sleep has fallen on you/Ye are many/They are few.”
The title of Labour’s election manifesto in June, “For the many, not the few”, was taken directly from the poem. The same verse is emblazoned on the cover of the Jam’s Sound Affects.
It’s also the inscription on Paul Foot’s headstone. It was Paul’s 1981 book Red Shelley that resurrected Shelley’s radicalism. I once heard Paul recite it, all 91 verses of it, at a miners’ rally, greeted by an ovation.
The poem is about the 1819 massacre in Manchester of campaigners for the right to vote. It opens: “I met Murder on the way… even blood-hounds followed him/All were fat; and well they might/Be in admirable plight/For one by one, and two by two/He tossed them human hearts to chew.”
Maxine Peake has declaimed it more than once in Manchester, 100 yards from the site of the atrocity, on the anniversary.
Google “Maxine Peake Masque of Anarchy.” I dare you not to feel a shiver of realisation of self. And not just because it’s Maxine Peake.