I confess I’d never heard of Black Oak
before Friday night. Or at the very least, any glimmer of recognition at the name was from thinking they were contestants in ‘Wacky Races’… But, after watching ‘ Arkansas , The Southern Rock Saga’ on BBC4 that evening, followed by ‘Southern Rock at the BBC’, the name will stick in my mind for quite a while. Or at least the imagery will. Sweet Home Alabama
I think most rockumentaries are interesting, no matter what the genre or how it fits with one’s taste. I like the occasional bit of Southern Rock but have never really paid that much attention to the songs or stories of groups like the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc., so I found ‘The Southern Rock Saga’ revealing and interesting. Good programmes like these get behind the music and into the personalities, the tragedies and the context of the time, and that’s what makes them so fascinating. I came away with a much higher opinion of all those guys, who had rebelled against the conservative rural farming backdrop of their roots and the limited career options it offered, whilst still managing to represent the true essence of what it is to be a Southerner. (Well, that’s how it came across to this British viewer.)
Anyway that was good, so we carried on watching the following programme which showcased a number of bands’ BBC appearances from the 1970s: for example, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Delaney & Bonnie. And Black Oak
Well, please do yourself a favour and watch this clip. I don’t expect all of you to like them – the song is fairly formless and the vocals are really rough. Bear in mind it’s from the mid seventies, so it was before the new wave of spandex-clad heavy metal bands started strutting their stuff. But I defy you not to find the flamboyant performance of androgynous vocalist Jim Dandy utterly compelling, no matter what your musical taste, gender or sexual orientation. Fast forward to 2 minutes 20 seconds for your first taster of the man’s unique appeal (and I’m not talking about the bulge in his trousers). Then again, from 3 minutes 5 seconds in until the end. Even if you just watch with the volume off, I think I can guarantee he will make you smile.