So nearly every review of this record I’ve seen starts with a brief story of Bobby Jameson, a singer-songwriter in the mid-60s who was heavily promoted and developed a bit of a cult following before getting eaten alive by the music industry and his own appetites. It’s not exactly a pleasant story but it’s not a surprising one either, and there’s no obvious villain: sure, the music industry didn’t make things easy for more protest-minded artists like Jameson, even in the 60s, but drug and alcohol abuse on his part didn’t help matters, and he spent chunks of the 70s institutionalized or homeless. He resurfaced in the public eye after his 1965 record Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest was reissued without his knowledge, and from 2007 onwards he put together a combination of blog posts and videos on YouTube detailing his experiences, up until his death in 2015.
Now here’s the thing: I actually found his channel and watched a few of his videos, where he had his music, a few vlogs, and some footage from protest events. And a few things struck me: one, you can tell he found the internet as a potent outlet to let off steam at an industry that screwed him, a renegade voice for the void like so many others on this platform, but at the same time he also reminded me a lot of older ex-musicians I’ve met, particularly out of the indie or punk scene: pretty smart, appreciative of his tiny audience, but also bitterly cynical and not quite as self-aware as he might seem. And a lot of it is pretty tough to watch, especially as it has the homespun quality of a channel that was never going to break a thousand subscribers. And thus it’s absolutely no surprise that Ariel Pink found him and wrote an album dedicated to him. Hell, on some level given Pink’s own peripheral placement in the music industry as a weird, often misunderstood outcast cribbing from the garbage of pop culture and with a bad habit of antagonizing people – look up his minor feud with Grimes if you want to get a sense of it – he probably viewed Jameson as a kindred spirit, or his career arc as somewhat prophetic. And while I’ve never been a huge Ariel Pink fan, he does have a lifetime pass for ‘Round And Round’ that means I’m always going to listen to what he puts out, even if I like and appreciate it more than I love it. So what did we unearth with Dedicated To Bobby Jameson?