Song of the Day, June 4: Zimmerman Blues by the GPs

GPsSatZimToday’s song is a wonderful moment from a short-lived offshoot of Fairport Convention. For the band’s annual reunion concert in 1981, rhythm section Dave Pegg (bass) and Dave Mattacks (drums) hooked up with former band member Richard Thompson (guitar, vocals) and long-time friend Ralph McTell (guitar, vocals). Initially called the Grazed Pontiffs after a tongue-in-cheek suggestion by Mattacks following an attempted papal assassination, they settled on the GP’s. Intended to be a live pub band, they specialized in eclectic covers seasoned with a handful of original Thompson and McTell songs. Pegg recorded the band’s August 14, 1981 show and released it on his Woodworm label.

The highlight is an old McTell song, Zimmerman Blues. Inspired by the complexities and contradictions that make up the life of a public figure, he focused on Bob Dylan, using the folk legend’s birth name to spotlight the person rather than the performer. It’s a wonderful meditation, remarkably bittersweet given how early in McTell’s career it was originally written. (It features on his fifth album, 1972’s Not Till Tomorrow.) The track is a perfect fit for the group as well. Thompson was on the cusp of breaking up with wife Linda while between labels, Fairport were on indefinite hiatus, and McTell was looking for new ways to express his talents — joining the GP’s as the first band of his career.

McTell is in fine voice and the band provide stellar support, making this rare gem a highlight of four great music careers. Enjoy this wonderful track today.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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