The Jazz Butcher, ‘Partytime’
Partytime starts so unassertively it’s as if it had been going on for a while and you’ve only just become aware of it, the bass quietly pumping, Max Eider’s guitar gently spilling melody over it. The party is going on in another room; you’re aware of it but not part of it. Then the instruments fall away: ‘This is partytime’ our singer tells us; ‘and you must admit it’s better than a war.’
The ‘Jazz Butcher’ name was invented unseriously for a gig at Merton College, Oxford in 1982. Pat Fish had been in various bands while an undergraduate at Oxford (from 1976 to 1980), and this one emerged from them. There wasn’t any intent to play jazz, or to engage in butchery, but if the jazz part of the name connected with the music in any respect, it was in the laid-back stylings of this song, the major-7th chord that runs through this one, and guitarist Max Eider’s fluidity across the fretboard. Eider (real name Peter Milson), a former undergraduate from University College, Oxford, wasn’t in the line-up for the first gig, but joined soon after, and gave the early records their distinctive sound.
Musically and lyrically, ‘Partytime’ sets down some key themes for early Jazz Butcher songs: drinking and observing; scepticism and wit; an amused weariness giving way to a more passionate outburst (‘it doesn’t matter anymore, it isn’t funny anymore’). It’s hard, in fact, to choose Max Eider’s best guitar-solo contribution to these early songs, so this choice is somewhat arbitrary. There’s some brilliant, nimble stuff on ‘Just Like Betty Page’ (from the Scandal in Bohemia LP) and ‘What’s the Matter Boy’ (from Sex and Travel), but what I like about this one, especially the long upwards run in the middle, is the way it subtly lifts the intensity of the song; and the way that, after that long upwards run, it almost pauses, surveys the view, pirouettes, and then gradually returns to the song.
There are at least two studio versions, one on the debut LP, Bath of Bacon, and another (to my ear the better one) on the Gift of Music compilation. There’s also a great return to it on the 2000 live LP Glorious and Idiotic, and a quick search of YouTube will find you videos of other live outings. It seems appropriate that it’s being played outdoors in a leafy cafe, even though it’s baffling that there are people in this world oblivious to its charms: