In the mid Eighties, the miner’s strike in England along with the community-destroying policies of the Thatcher government drew me into being more politically aware. I joined the Labour party, helping out with canvassing at elections. I joined Amnesty International and arranged for some Sixth Formers to participate in some letter writing campaigns. I became better informed about environmental issues and joined Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. I asked every child at Chancellor’s School to bring in their parents’ unwanted newspapers and arranged for them to be recycled. This mean that my classroom was constantly interrupted with small children carrying huge bundles of The Telegraph and The Times (it was in that sort of area). The cupboard in my classroom was overflowing with old newspapers until every Friday, a few Sixth form students and I carried them all to the school minibus which I drove to a local recycling centre. When we got there, the Sixth Formers all got off the bus and I drove onto a weighbridge. We unpacked the newspapers, drove onto the weighbridge again and received a small amount of money based on how many newspapers we had left. I used the money to buy myself some Friday night beer. I donated the money to Greenpeace. Certainly one of those last two sentences is true. Every week, the students would suggest that while they were unloading the newspapers, I should go to the toilet and deposit the vestiges of last night’s curry in order to increase the payment we received. I never did but it might have been an interesting experiment. One Friday, we loaded the minibus high with newspapers, set off for the recycling centre, only to find that it had been permanently closed. I wasn’t sure what to do but one of the students in the minibus lived nearby and he suggested we all go back to his house and use his phone to find an alternative place that recycled. His parents were out but we all trooped in and I made several phone calls to no avail until finally I spoke to someone who told me he knew who was taking papers to recycle. He said that someone at Chancellor’s School was taking recycling. That wasn’t very helpful as that someone was me. We ended up taking all the newspapers back to my classroom cupboard and the recycling programme was concluded.
In October 2019, Frazey Ford released a single called “The Kids Are Having None Of It” and the song is included on her 2020 release “U Kin B The Sun”. She was inspired to write it by the reaction of a schoolgirl called Emma Gonzales who survived a 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida in which 17 people died; she subsequently founded an organisation called “Never Again”. Frazey Ford, in her own words, “enjoyed fantasising about how society could be” with the vision and enthusiasm of young people. She was thrilled to find out that by the time the song came out, Greta Thunberg and the eco protests were beginning to have an impact on global thinking and attitudes. Frazey Ford made a video which shows her dancing with her neighbours in Vancouver while their children paint signs in the background carrying slogans such as “End Mental Health Stigma”, “Smash Patriarchy” and “Call Me They”. She has a son, Saul, and she decided to use his friends (and their parents) in the video along with her therapist and her landlord. It’s a very inspiring watch: some of the lyrics are painted onto cards, for example “I guessed you missed the call and to the party you are rather late” and “the likes of you should never hold the wheel”. The non-cynical part of me hopes that for leaders of my generation who have fucked things up, our time is up and it’s time for the younger generation to build the sort of future they want. The kids are having none of this rubbish. Step aside old timers. (Hang on, isn’t this what we thought back in the Sixties? Look what happened.)
Frazey Ford was in The Be Good Tanyas who played a beguiling mixture of delicate harmonies with elegant guitar/banjo/mandolin. They made three albums between 2001 and 2006 and for gentle harmony-rich folk music, it can’t really be bettered. However, Frazey Ford was always trying to push the group towards playing more soul music and the band split in 2007. It has subsequently reformed but without Frazey Ford who has now released three solo albums in the last ten years.
Frazey Ford has not had a straightforward life. “My mom was having kids as a teenager. There were four of us. My parents were on the run from the FBI because they were draft-dodgers, so my sister and I were born in Canada. They did all kinds of terrible parenting but they kept me alive! I’m the youngest in the family. We were a complete disaster. There’s serious addiction and darkness. Much as I love them all, I had older siblings and family members who have shown me what not to do.” A lot of her feelings about her upbringing are displayed in the sensational opening song, “Azad” with lyrics such as “Oh, young thing. You cannot be tamed in this life. Find your feet. Go wide for the red western sky. It’s all yours, go get what you want. It’s your life” The power of her voice combined with the soul/country/funk feel of the song instantly attracted me to the album. I don’t often notice bass playing but on this album, it’s irresistible.
“U Kin B The Sun” has been voted as the 15th best album of 2020 in MOJO and the 18th best album of the year in UNCUT. It’s very good. It’s very soulful. It’s very sad. It’s very positive. I like it. The cover of the album seems very appropriate. Is the woman in the water drowning, about to kill herself or is she appreciating the beauty of her surroundings?
The title track is immense, starting very threateningly with just a piano and Frazey Ford repeating the title before the drums crash in and, as with all the songs, the bass dominates. Backing vocals enhance the feeling of doom or optimism that promise an uncertain future. The slurred vocals make deciphering the lyrics impossible. Alex Petridis’ wrote about this song in his Guardian review: “Its mood is heady and infectious, the perfect end to an album that doesn’t grab your attention with pyrotechnic displays, opting instead for a slow-burning, unassuming kind of power: a low-key delight, but a delight all the same.”
Alex Petridis also wrote that “for all the darkness of the subject matter, there is a warmth to the album.” I would quote him some more but the recycling bin needs to go out.