A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Word of the Day: Egregore

An egregore is a psychic or astral entity, the spirit of a group or organization. An egregore acquires its definition and draws its power from the members of the group, but the egregore may be stronger than all the members individually, and may persist after all the members have left the group or died. A club, a political party, a nation may all have egregores.

I was reminded of this word yesterday when I attended the Yardbirds concert. This group has been around since 1963 in various incarnations. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck all came and left; the band disbanded and reformed; many other strong musicians--Top Topham, Keith Relf, etc., etc., etc.--came and left. The current lineup is Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar and Mike McCarty on drums (original band members), Billy-Boy Miskinnon on vocals and harp, John Idan on bass, and Ben King on guitar. But even with this radically revised lineup, the sound was still 100% Yardbirds.

The group covered several classics: "For Your Love," "Dazed and Confused," "Over, Under, Sideways, Down," "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago," and so on. Also a lot of new stuff, which had the same mix of bluesy base with psychedelia, straightforward openings with multiple changes, building up the tempo to change gears and then change again, jazz-like improvisation and unbelievable virtuoso guitar solos. Ben King, who's so young even his parents might not have been fans of the original group, is like a young Clapton or Beck, and Dreja and McCarty are the same as they ever were, only more experienced. Idan's from Michigan, but couldn't look or sound more mid-sixties British, and Billy-Boy's spot on as well.

The group played with the energy they've always been famous for. Dreja and McCarty are old, but they don't look mummified like some of their peers I could name. The Yardbirds weren't stuck-up and distant; they weren't over-the-hill and pathetic. They were friendly, professional, in their element, and connecting with the audience. Obviously having a ball and taking everybody in the Square right along for the ride. Hilton Valentine, former guitarist for The Animals, who lives fairly close by, popped in at about the third song and joined right in. Free concerts four blocks from your house don't get much cooler than this.

I'm old enough to remember the Yardbirds when they first became popular. This concert took me right back to 1967...the Club Écossais in Paris...clubs in London with no name and no sign. Mary Quant eye makeup...two pairs of false eyelashes...Sassoon haircut...black stockings...high boots...minidress...dangly earrings. The vibe was perfect. The egregore was that powerful.

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