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The Bickershaw Programme: Country Joe McDonald.
"Some people say country music is fine , psychedelic music gonna blow your mind , blues has got soul and so does jazz , but nothing's got the something child that rock and roll has."
That was Joe singing Rocking Around The World, from CJ Fish, which as it turned out , was the last album he cut with the group. Looking backwards and forwards from that point you could say that his music has qualified under all those labels. Why bother. He's a musician .A person. A father. A storytelling troubadour.
Ralph Gleason recalling the Berkeley Vietnam Day March of the mid 60s wrote "midway down the line , in a flatbed truck, was the Berkeley Instant Action Jug Band led by Joe McDonald...."Before that Joe had a band in high school called the Nomads and then for four years he had the US navy . Well , no mad is an eyelid and Joe's eyes were opening wider all the time . Back to the Fish. ...... "We took a lot of psychedelics and played really psychedelic music and it wasn't until years later that we found out that we took more psychedelics than most people did and played more psychedelic music than almost anybody did- we out psychedelised ourselves, which was insane. "Years later you'll find you can still put on "Electric Music For Your Mind and Body " and be totally blown by it. Good paintings get better with age and that album is coloured by the silver toned guitar of Barry Melton and the brushstrokes of a master mind complementing his word images by sounds and silences. Country Joe was not only saying something he was making you feel it. Just listening tripped you out.
|A few years later Joe was invited to sing at the Washington March and was told that he could only sing one song instead of the three he was intending to perform . " If you do it everyone is going to want to do it "they said" To which Joe replied" great, if everyone does it then this rally won't be such a big drag. ' Its not that Joe's being flippant you understand . Its just that one showing is worth ten sayings and Joe's methods of communication are more advanced than intellectualizing about whether we should discuss this war around a square table or a round one . He's provided words , music and a variation of theatre which linked new references with the age old struggle for freedom and the little men .
|In his own way so did Woody Guthrie who had championed the wetbacks, the Californian cheap labour , the dust bowl refugees. Joe was talking to a generation that was raised on comic books , Tv screens , dope and street confrontation . A super hero man of earth and of the people , with a pack full of cameo cartoon character , situations and eye winking observations. . He could delve deep on the emotional level to find that moment which awakens the soul. A real two way communication where everyone could get involved. That was one of the ideas behind the Fish Cheer . We all became performers.
The evolution of Joe as a solo performer has merely been a continuation on record of the whole man. Country music has been in his blood ever since he turned on the local radio station in El Monte California . " Thinking of Woody " could be called a tribute to a kindred spirit who agrees that " my pastures of plenty must always be free"And those poems by Robert Service that he recently set to music on "War , War,War "had first hit him back in 61.
His forays into the film world are, likewise , a logical extension of the theatrical side of himself and the group. Joe and the gang as the stone freak outlaws , are the best part of Zachariah. Someone should get them back and do a whole movie , instead of the 20 minutes or so they were allowed. To end as in the beginning , a word from our sponsor , Country, gimme a C Joe, gimme a J, with no tobacco "listen carefully with your heart , cos tonight I'm singing just for you "
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Updated May 2023
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