It's harsh to judge old rockers by today's standards. When they started, there were no schools of rock. They schooled us all. So if there were moments during Corky Laing's set at The Bullingdon where the edges frayed, it made no difference. This was a reminder of where it all started.
Polished and perfected it wasn't. But as a consequence it rocked in a way that recent guitar-driven acts can only wonder at.
This is not to say that we were not privileged to witness musicianship of the highest standard. Corky Laing reminded us that he deserves his place among the true greats of rock drumming, while Chris Shutters on guitar (with an unexpected virtuosic turn on flute) and Mark Mikel on bass demonstrated that it’s dangerous to generalise about upstart youngsters who don’t get it. These guys rocked hard.
They were in
But real rock fans know the full story, and got a rewarding dose of the Mountain legend at The Bullingdon. Mississippi Queen, Never In My Life, Travelling In The Dark and Theme From An Imaginary Western were all there, as well as Nantucket Sleighride, of course. The Doctor, from Laing’s power trio with Leslie West and Jack Bruce, gave the show a joyous, free-form finale of ensemble rocking.
In between, Corky Laing treated us to tales from 50 years of life on the road. His warm humour and sheer love of the music infected everything. That’s the other thing schools of rock can’t teach you: this stuff is fun. Watching Laing, Shutters and Mikel laughing and smiling their way through the evening, while properly honouring the ambitious majesty of Mountain’s heavy prog, was a reminder that this music has its roots in sheer youthful exuberance.
And then there was the poetry. Laing is a lyricist and his work is informed, perhaps inevitably, by the Beat Generation. We were treated to a rendition of Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone, recited over a drum solo, that reinvented the song as a moving personal account of a sensitive life examined repeatedly by an insensitive world. It was a profound piece of art.
Support came from Bucks-based rockers Storm Warning. As your reviewer is the singer, it is perhaps sufficient to say that we had a great time and the audience were very kind.
So when your grandchildren come to you and ask you what classic rock was all about, all you have to do is direct them to Corky Laing on YouTube, or, better still, play them Mountain’s Avalanche or Flowers Of Evil albums. That’s all they need to know.