I Know a Little - Lynyrd Skynyrd
I first became aware of Lynyrd Skynyrd when I saw them on the Old Grey Whistle Test around about 1975. In those days the OGWT was the place to see all the newish bands that were good and no-one had ever heard of, especially if they hadn't been listening to the John Peel late night radio show. The only modern tv equivalent as a launch pad for breaking new bands is BBC's "Later with Jools Holland". Compare Holland, flashy, vain, smarmy, always keen to showcase his own keyboard talents alongside his gusts, with Whispering Bob Harris, the host of OGWT, seedy, deferring, self effacing, grey. The show itself was seedy, as seedy as the average teenagers' faded blue jeans at the weekend, as seedy as the nicotine stains on their fingertips, as seedy as the late nights' out that met with their parents' exasperated disapproval. And if their parents didn't understand the music that was on the OGWT, that was part of the appeal. Lynyrd Skynyrd themselves looked pretty drab, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant in a cowboy hat, the others longhaired and shifty, like the losing side in a last heroic battle between two fading fantasy cultures. In fact the production values of the OGWT seemed to ensure that this was the case with all their guests, even glam merchants like the early David Bowie.
But the music was more often than not as sharp as a knife, original, focussed, genuine, exciting, edgy and life enhancing. We got such a buzz from it. Which is more than you can say about many of the clean cut, marketeers' dream products that are showcased on the "Later" circarama.
Stuff like this wonderful track, a simple rock 'n' roll number, with Skynyrd playing with sheer professional class coupled with joie de vivre and sounding like the sort of band you might chance upon in a crowded bar or a dance hall in the small hours if you got lucky. When deejaying, every time I play this, by the end of the song the floor is crowded, mostly by people who've never heard it before. From the first, hustling whisper of the cymbals, through the spritely guitar licks and the drawling Van Zant vocal to the fabulous Billy Powell piano solo, you'd have to be nailed to the wall in five places not to dance yourself to exhaustion. And many a person has. As the man says:
"Baby I want your best."