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Graham Bond: Wading in Murky Waters

Duncan Heining By

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In this context, it is worth listening to two of Bond's lyrics. On "Long-Legged Baby," he sings "It was early one morning/I was on my way to school (repeat)/When I saw a little girl/Broke her mother's rule/Long black hair big brown turned on eyes (repeat)/The way she shakes it she's just my size." On "Sixteen," the lyrics include the verse—"Hey little girl/Tell you what I wanna do/I wanna be your school teacher/Teach the art of love to you/Only sixteen years old/But you act like thirty-two/Oh, hold me tightly baby/'Cos I'm crazy/'Bout the little things you do." There's another version of the latter on Solid Bond, which adds another line, "Don't tell your mother whatever you do/She'll get me shot at dawn."

Harry Shapiro tells the story of how Bond befriended a young woman, gained access to her fourteen year-old sister and ran away with her. Bond was 27 at the time. The family did not report the matter because the girl's age "would have got everybody into trouble." Diane Stewart's daughter was not Bond's first victim. These songs were written around that time. The life and the art are not so easily separated, as Shapiro makes very clear. There seems to have been a large void in Bond's psychic world, probably stemming from his adoption and childhood experiences. He tried to fill that void with music, with fame and success, with drugs, with the occult and sex. None of this worked and several people got badly hurt as a result. There is something of Greek tragedy about his life and when it ended under the wheels of a subway train at Finsbury Park station on May 8, 1974, it had a strong sense of the inevitable about it.

There's no doubt about Graham Bond's talent or contribution to music. Wade in the Water: Classics, Origins and Oddities is a fine and deserved legacy. But the life is reflected in what he did with that talent—the false starts, the wasted energy, the broken promises, the failures that are as much a part of Bond's history and work. The music fascinates and frustrates. The life, however, repels. It is reasonable that we ask of ourselves that we hold each of those images in mind with someone like Graham Bond or Kenton or Harriott. To do less diminishes their humanity—and ours. Important art may come from places and individuals which may justifiably be beyond the pale. In accepting that, we acknowledge something very significant in ourselves as a species—our capacity for good and for beauty and our capacity for harm and all that is ugly. So doing, we achieve something such flawed individuals as Bond could never do—we integrate them and confront our worst selves in hopes of realizing our best.

Selected Discography

The Graham Bond Organization, Wade in the Water: Classics, Origins and Oddities (Repertoire, 2012)

The Graham Bond Organization, I Met the Blues at Klook's Kleek (Music Avenue, 2007)

Bond and Brown, Two Heads are Better than One (Chapter One, 1972)

Graham Bond, We Put Our Magick On You (Vertigo, 1971)

The Graham Bond Organization, Solid Bond (Warner Bros, 1970)

Graham Bond, Holy Magick (Vertigo, 1970)

Grahame Bond, Love is the Law (Pulsar, 1969)

Grahame Bond, Mighty Grahame Bond (Pulsar, 1969)

The Graham Bond Organization, There's a Bond Between Us (Columbia, 1965)

The Graham Bond Organization, The Sound of '65 (Columbia, 1965)

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