Late 1970s music in the United States was a maelstrom. It would be an errand of madness to try summing up the innovation and development of styles and genres of that period: soul, heavy metal, reggae, disco, folk, new wave, R&B, country, funk, pop, rock, power pop, punk rock, pop rock, and the list goes on. It was a noisy time; the Wild Rumpus was in full swing.
But often an artist needs to germinate in relative silence, so it’s good that Katy Clarke came of age in Boulder and cut her teeth on the Denver music scene. In a space where she could control the direction of her creative expression and development, she entered young adulthood protected from the music industry’s crashing waves of faddishness, practicing and honing her style in a safe enclosure. For Katy, that style was the blues.
When this story opens in 1976 and Katy has reached the relatively mature age of 26, she is ready to spread her wings and enter the Holy City of Los Angeles, immune, we hope, to what Joni Mitchell called the “star maker machinery” and the sometimes stultifying influences of the musical hive mind. She appears ready to make wise choices and avoid relationships and entanglements that will distract her from the music.
If you have read With A Dream, Katy will by now have reminded you of someone else. It was Gordon Hammond who showed me, firsthand, the long-term effect of holding an even keel on the waves of one’s music career and fostering relationships that benefit one’s craft (there’s a reason it was Eric Clapton hanging around Chadwicke Park, and not Benny Andersson). And because of what Gordon taught me, I have high hopes for Katy. I want her to maintain a similarly stable keel in all aspects of her life: drug use, management of finances, discipline and structure in the creation and expression of her art. I want her to avoid flamboyant stage antics and sartorial garishness (even as she attracts the attention of Elton John and Rod Stewart, among others). It is my fervent wish that she avoid the trendy whims of her contemporaries: wind and strings sections, Moog synthesizers, sampling, etc. You’ll forgive me if I get wrapped up in the characters, but I’m helpless, particularly in a story that blends music fiction and history.
Katy is lucky. Unlike the rest of us here in 2011, she is not developing her craft during a period of banal stagnation and retro-obsessed music genres like post hardcore, post britpop, post punk revival, and so on. Girded with her confidence, intelligence, and humor, she is about to leap into the chaotic carnival of the 1976 music scene. It’s a good time for Katy Clarke. I wish her well.
© 2019 Bob Slentz-Kesler