Shake, rattle and rollcall

Maraccas. There, I’ve said it. To be frank I’m surprised I haven’t said it already.

Maraccas loom large over the Slender landscape, their exotic form lending an Andean robustness to the rolling foothills of my Cotswoldian love of guitars… What? I like maraccas. And here’s why. ACHTUNG:nostalgia. We’re about to go back in time again kiddies so tank up the shit eating DeLorean and set the controls for the heart of… ooooh 1983 should do it. I’m listening to John Peel hoping that he plays something by a group that no one has heard of which I can claim are my new favourite band. I’m probably hoping they’re alternative. I’m probably wishing I knew what alternative means. I’m certainly not expecting… Bo Diddley! I’m still recovering.

Listening to music gets to be a bit like joining the masons or developing gaydar. You begin by hoping you’ve guessed right without certainty. Sometimes you find diamonds right from the off and music you thought was great at the age of 16 lives with you for decades – Fire Engines, Talking Heads, Violent Femmes.

Other times you just come up with a bucketful of coal – The Vapors, The Photos, The Tourists. But after many years you no longer need the funny handshake or the rolled up trouser leg to identify the real thing. You just know. Even at such a tender age I recognised Bo Diddley as the Master of the Lodge. Metaphorically speaking of course. I suspect the majority of apprentices and journeymen view dudes in tartan suits weilding square guitars with more than a degree of suspicion. But of course to the rock’n’roll master mason a MacNab whistle is to be much praised…

some time after initially writing this it occured to me that since he was born (although this is by no means certain) Ellas MacDaniel, Bo may have had every right to be rocking the family tartan. Sadly, a brief bit of research revealed that there is no clan MacDaniel. Equally, the McHammer tartan also appears to be merely a figment of my fevered imagination, proving that not only can you not touch this, but you can’t wear it either. There are however enough MacDonald tartans to kit out a (very colourful) rugby team, leading me with crowbar-like subtlety to the time I came home from work to find former Bob Marley and Mystic Revelation of Rastafari drummer Larry MacDonald sitting (for reasons still shrouded in a fair degree of mystery) in my living room. Already well in his fifties by this point, Larry turned out to be a perfect, and cheap, houseguest, turning down my offer of beer (“I prefer the combustible to the potable”) and entertaining me for hours with rocksteady anecdotes. Foremost among these, for which I have long regretted an inabilty to do a Jamaican accent, was the time he found himself in Edinburgh whilst in the service of Gil Scott-Heron. Thinking it would be both appropriate and amusing to play the gig in full highland gear, he wafted into the nearest clan outfitters asking, as you would, “D’y’ave the MacDonald tartan sir?”. Drawing himself up to his full giraffe-like height, the proprietor peered down a not unimpreesive snozz and enquired, in what I assured Larry was a Morningside accent, “would that be clan MacDonald sir or MacDonald of the isles?”. Not one to tolerate fools or condescension lightly, Larry shot back “I don’t know. Which MacDonalds owned the banana plantations in Jamaica?”. As he admitted to me, “‘im not sell me the skirt”.

…Not in itself enough to guarantee entry to the Holy of Holies but chuck in lyrics like “I’ve got a brand new house by the roadside made from rattlesnake hide” and the great and the good will be welcoming you with open arms. Still need a referee to ensure no blackballing? Still require evidence of, not merely talent, but your complete disregard for the normal rules of popular music, your natural born shamanism and your tendency toward the psychotic? Layyyyydeeeeeezz and gennelmun… Mr Jerome Green. Now, I’m by no means bo-diddley-cgi0certain that the three or four of you that actually read this either realise that I attach links or bother to watch them if you do, but in the case of Jerome you really need to see this. I’m going to make it crystal clear – the words “Jerome Green” should be highlighted. You need to click on them. You need to do it now. What you are looking for is the menacing maracca weilding hombre in the background for it is he, Saint Jerome. In his excellent book “Head On” Julian Cope recalls discussing with Pete Wylie whether it is worth inviting future Dead Or Alive singer Pete Burns into their band. “Can he actually sing?” wonders Cope. “Course he can” bellows Wylie in return, “just look at him”. Here in a nutshell is the justification of both Messrs Diddley and Green. Does the author of “Mumblin’ Guitar” really need someone shaking maraccas? Really? Course he does, just look at him. LOOK AT HIM!!! Never has so much menace and resentment radiated from one man. He may look like he’s merely assisting the rhythm section but take a closer look at his expression and you can tell he’s thinking about slaughtering fluffy kittens. Menace and resentment would of course be simply so much posturing if Jerome didn’t… matter so much. On reflection, the sadly forgotten Blazing Squad easily matched him for resentment, performing as they did with all the good grace of 13 year olds who’d been ordered to tidy their room. But the writers of “here 4 one” and “flip reverse” weren’t playing maraccas. This is rather a shame for as Jerome proved, maraccas, far from being an exotic novelty, actually bought Bo Diddley’s guitar into sharp focus and lent an unexpected weight to the bass and drums. The maraccas added a pristine clarity that Dolby was to do 30 years later. The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that maraccas – for lack of a better word – are good. Maraccas are right. Maraccas work. Maraccas clarify, cut through and capture the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Maraccas in all their forms have marked the upward surge of mankind. And maraccas – you mark my words – saved not only Bo Diddley, but that other malfunctioning corporation called rock’n’roll.

So there you have it. Jerome Green, God rest his funky soul, will be standing stage front during all future Slender endeavours. But now that we’ve reached the end of the first part of our journey, namely – who am I going to rip off – it’s time to play a bit of rock’roll fantasy football. Exactly who would find a place in the band. Who are the Kids Slender? Well, backing up the intimate vocal stylings of your author will be Poison Ivy Rorschach and Johnny Cash on guitar, Zia McCabe, Clem Burke, Rahsaan Roland Kirk (playing four recorders simultaneously) and Leon Theremin, with Giorgio Moroder behind the desk. That should do it. ONE TWO THREE FOUR…