|Friday, May 12th, 2017|
9:23 pm - Out Here In The Fields 5
(cross-posted from http://ohitf.blogspot.co.uk)|
It has been a little while friends, but fear not because Out Here In The Fields is back to give your ears the kind of treat they deserve!
01 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS Slip Inside This House (8:06)
from 'Easter Everywhere', 1967
You actually can't start an album any better than this. You genuinely can't, because this is probably the greatest song ever written. It also has a great piece of advice:
"Live where you heart can be given / and your life starts to unfold
In the form you envision / in this dream that's ages old"
02 STACK Poison Ivy (3:24)
from 'Above All', 1969
Stack formed in Los Angeles in the late 60s, recorded one album which sounded rather a bit like The Who, and then split. They open the album on this stunning high note which helps you forgive that they never reach that peak again.
03 TELEVISION Foxhole (4:47)
from 'Adventure', 1978
Jesus Christ, Television were a great band. I've only just started to fully appreciate how great recently. This isn't necessarily my favourite track (how can you beat 'Marquee Moon'?) but it does fit pretty decently with the flow of this compilation up to now, and you really can't lose with Television in any case.
04 JEFFERSON AIRPLANE Spare Chaynge (9:14)
from 'After Bathing At Baxter's', 1967
One of the defining albums of the psychedelic era. After providing RCA with massive hits with 'Somebody To Love' and 'White Rabbit', the label gave the Airplane free license to do basically anything they wanted and they took full advantage. You can kind of picture the record label man giving it his first listen through, waiting on that radio-friendly single that never comes.
05 T.REX Electric Slim & The Factory Hen (3:05)
from 'Tanx', 1973
Probably the last album of the real classic era of T.Rex, containing the start of little nods to black American soul and funk (of which this track is one) which emerged following the beginning of Bolan's relationship with Gloria Jones. One thing is for sure whatever the era though; nobody writes lyrics quite like Marc Bolan.
06 PINK FAIRIES War Girl (4:34)
from 'Never Never Land', 1971
Oh Pink Fairies, how could it be that I never properly learned of your existence until I was 35 years old? Never mind, we've found each other now. Quite simply I love this band, and more or less this entire album. Again, it's hard hard to pick a favourite track and this may not actually be it, but it does fit quite well into the flow of things, and a good bit of shimmering psychedelia never goes amiss.
07 THE DEVIANTS Rambling B(l)ack Transit Blues (5:38)
from 'The Deviants #3', 1969
Mick Farren claimed in his autobiography 'Give The Anarchist A Cigarette' that this album should never have been made and that the band were running so low on inspiration they couldn't even come up with a title. I guess he'd know better than me about the inspiration levels of people he worked with who were all living long before I was born, but listening to the album doesn't appear to bear him out. I'd definitely say it was actually my favourite Deviants album by some way.
08 TWINK Fluid (4:06)
from 'Think Pink', 1970
Twink was the drummer with The Pretty Things and then the Pink Fairies, as well as on Mick Farren's solo album, while still finding time to squeeze in this effort featuring various members of the Pretty Things, Deviants, Pink Fairies and Steve Took, formerly Bolan's partner in Tyrannosaurus Rex. You don't need me to say anything about this track, I think it speaks pretty clearly for itself...
09 PINK FLOYD Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (5:28)
from 'A Saucerful Of Secrets', 1968
I was never much into Pink Floyd until recently. Sure, I had 'The Wall' and 'Dark Side Of The Moon' like you're supposed to, and there was even a period a few years ago when I got a little bit into 'Wish You Were Here', but on the whole I was never much fussed about Floyd. It was the 'Live At Pompeii' film that changed my mind, something about those unreal sounds unfolding inside that ancient amphitheatre clicked in my mind. 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' was a transitional album that was simultaneously the last to feature Syd Barret and the first to feature David Gilmour. Much as I respect Syd's unique contributions to the era, I far prefer the textural space rock stuff that started here and ran through to 'Meddle'. That's my Pink Floyd; you may continue to listen to your own editions of Pink Floyd as you wish.
10 THE BEATLES Golden Slumbers (1:32)
11 THE BEATLES Carry That Weight (1:37)
from 'Abbey Road', 1969
In the 'Imagine' film there's a guy who has spent a short while living rough in John Lennon's garden. John gets him up to the door where the guy explains that he considered that 'Carry That Weight' was a song and a message written to him personally, and he was there to fulfill it. John patiently explains that to think that is pretty absurd if you think about it, the guy looks a little sheepish in realising he's got things pretty badly wrong, then they all go inside for a bit of toast. Listening to it now, I can't help but think of 'Carry That Weight' as a call to cast off your worldly excess weight of possessions, societal expectations and the life-long grind of mortgage and rat race and embrace something more individual and worthwhile.
12 CAT STEVENS Rubylove (2:38)
from 'Teaser And The Firecat', 1971
What is life without a little poetic romanticism? Isn't that what music helps to bring to us? I always thought so. When I first met her, my partner used 'Ruby Red' as one of her pseudonyms and I wove all sorts of romantic visions and ideals around that. Well friends, the truth is that I lost sight of myself for a few years along the way there, got bogged down in material things, in paying bills and the endless cycle you have to go through to get the money to pay those bills, and the unneeded material comforts that you buy yourself to ease the pain of being in that cycle, without realising that by continually feeding into that material path with small comforts I was only digging myself deeper in and moving further and further away from the things I really wanted and valued. Now has come a renaissance, a rediscovery of something lost or at least dormant inside, and I can start to live my life as me again. It might sound stupid, but just the title of the song is a start back toward who and what I am and would wish to be again.
13 SHAGRAT Beautiful Deceiver (2:46)
Shagrat was the band formed by Steve Took after Marc Bolan sacked him from Tyrannosaurus Rex after he spiked Bolan's drink on tour and caused him some serious emotional and psychological trauma during the bad trip that followed. This track, easily imaginable in the midst of a Tyrannosaurus Rex album (Bolan would recruit Mickey Finn to replace Took, plug in the electrics and re-christen the band T.Rex) was recorded around 1970 but didn't see the light of day on an album until 'Pink Jackets Required' surfaced on cd in 2001.
14 BUKKA WHITE District Attorney Blues (2:43)
"District Attorney sure is hard on a man". You can certainly see why you would think so from the inside of the notorious Parchman Farm prison where Booker T Washington White served a sentence for assault. Victor Records were hard on a man too, mis-spelling Booker as Bukka when they put out his recordings from 1930 onwards. This was a particular source of annoyance for Booker, who was proud at being named after African American civil rights activist Booker T Washington, though the news that 'Shake 'Em On Down' had become a big hit during 1937 may have softened the blow as well as making him a big prison celebrity. I believe this recording was made in 1940.
|Thursday, May 11th, 2017|
8:34 pm - The Simon Crimmons Music Club
13. The Pretty Things: Parachute, 1970
14. The Pretty Things: Freeway Madness, 1972
Yes, we're back! A slight delay owing to both my recent enthusiasm for Television's 'Adventure' and Jefferson Airplane's 'After Bathing At Baxter's' albums, and my general lack of real enthusiasm for The Pretty Things. Having missed out on their one generally acknowledged classic, 'SF Sorrow Is Born', we move into their early 70s rock period. None of it is bad, in fact the second of these albums in particular is pretty good, it's just that I can't get any excitement up about them. The good bits sound like bits of other bands who have done better things - something has not connected with me and The Pretty Things, so I'm moving on quickly. We're only halfway through the ground we have to cover in this club you know...
|Monday, May 1st, 2017|
6:09 pm - The Simon Crimmons Music Club
12. The Pretty Things: Emotions, 1967
We're off the text again, friends. Our by now good friend Twink was previously part of The Pretty Things, so we need to swing by them for a bit, to be complete, y'know? Our friend Twink had already departed the band by this stage however, and the remaining members have little enthusiasm for this album. The record company assigned a commercial producer to try to produce some pop success, and the band just went along with it to fulfill their contractual obligations. They would leave the label immediately following its completion, refusing to do any promotion. They've gone psychedelic of course, this being 1967 and all. I like the opening track 'Death Of A Socialite', but the rest isn't all that exciting and seems to get weaker as the album wears on. It's also quite telling that the band didn't play a single track from this album in their live set for the first 30 years after its release. I'm happy to consign this one into the 'not for me, thanks' pile.
|Wednesday, April 26th, 2017|
10:48 pm - The Simon Crimmons Music Club
11. Pink Floyd: A Saucerful Of Secrets, 1968
Alex looked up at the ceiling and the small aircraft hung reflected in the black lenses. "It's you that's the curious one, Simon; not us or anyone else. Little boy lost. Not sufficiently Scotch. Driving railway trains when your father has a lorry company. Scoffing at Tories and romping with the daughter from the big house"
"He doesn't realise he's working class either."
"Huh!" Alex blew out air. "He's our only connection with the psychology of the working man. We'd be lost without him." He laughed.
Simon held up 'A Saucerful Of Secrets'. "Brilliant!"
Alex looked happier. "Put 'Remember A Day' on and we'll all sing it together now. I've got cigarettes."
Varie called out, "Hurrah!".
They listened to the sad song again and again - Simon supervising the stylus - without understanding its nostalgia, the volume turned up so loud the three of them didn't hear the morning passenger train across the river heading on down the Pass.
I don't know a lot about Pink Floyd, but even so it's immediately obvious to me that this is a transitional album. Half filled out with the textural space rock I know from Pompeii, and the other half with Syd Barrett and Sgt Pepper era psychedelia. I didn't realise it was so early, 1968, but I wasn't surprised to hear that it was Syd's last involvement. On the Pompeii film I found it interesting to hear the band (sorry, I don't know the members names and faces yet) talk about people perceiving them as being a thing of the past, that London underground scene that had flourished and now was gone. Strange to think that a band who were yet to put out what is generally considered their major works were worried about their time already being up.
I'm putting myself very firmly into one particular camp here; I'm not fussed about the Syd stuff. 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun', 'A Saucerful Of Secrets', the textural, space-rock stuff that reached its conclusion in 'Echoes', that's my Pink Floyd. You may continue with your own Pink Floyd if you so wish.
|Sunday, April 23rd, 2017|
2:49 pm - The Simon Crimmons Music Club
7. The Deviants: The Deviants 3, 1969
As soon as I saw the cover for this album, I thought I was going to love it. But then came the doubts; Mick Farren describing it in his autobiography 'Give The Anarchist A Cigarette' (a book I ordered as soon as I discovered it existed and have immediately begun reading) as an album that should never have been made, that the band were so low on creativity that they couldn't even come up with a name for it, and that the rest of the band had a significantly different musical direction in mind that made continuing the band beyond this effort impossible. The rest of the band are pretty much the Pink Fairies now; Paul Rudolph, Duncan Sanderson and Russell Hunter are all on board, with only Twink missing from the band that recorded 'Never Never Land'. Farren says that the rest of the band wanted to go in a more Led Zeppelin heavy rock direction, which is borne out by what the Pink Fairies immediately became. If there was pressure from those three on the band's leader however then it doesn't show up here. Sparse vocals, understated Velvet Underground-ish guitar, atmospheric drumming that is credited appropriately as percussion, and the whole thing carried along by some exceptional bass. Whatever Mick Farren might think of it, I adore this album. More than their first, more than any album so far in this little journey with the exception of the first Pink Fairies album. I feel those two I'm going to be listening to for the rest of my life. And so that's that for The Deviants, and we must move on...
8. Twink: Think Pink, 1970
Hear the drummer get wicked; it's Twink's solo album. He has quite a supporting cast; despite having left The Pretty Things he manages to get various band members to assist him here, and there's Paul Rudolph of The Deviants/Pink Fairies along with Steve Took who paired with Marc Bolan in forming the first incarnation of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Bolan had grown pretty tired of Took's drugged out behaviour, not to mention his habit of spiking people's drink with hallucinogens; it was following Bolan's bad reaction to one such spiking that he sacked Took and re-upped as T.Rex, but more on him soon enough. Production was handled by Mick Farren to round out the British psychedelic underground royalty involved in this record.
It's an interesting one, this. I dismissed Twink's departure from the Pink Fairies as being not a contributing factor to my decreased enjoyment of later albums, but on hearing this I start to wonder. It's not that he's "just" a drummer, it begins to look here like he may be quite a creative force, pulling greater efforts from those around him. It's an album that occasionally drips with sex and mysticism. Acid rock freak-outs are interspersed with more textural pieces that could be the soundtrack for a black magic Hammer Horror effort. OK, it does on occasion over-indulge itself, and personally I have no patience for the hippy musical theatre of 'Three Little Piggies' (think of the "Does Your Hair Hang Low" band in 'Easy Rider'), but all the same this is a damn good recording.
9. Shagrat: Pink Jackets Required, 1969
Following his departure from Tyrannosaurus Rex, Steve Took was briefly part of a live Pink Fairies outfit but departed before they hit the recording studio. He decided to form his own band, calling it Shagrat. I had assumed Shagrat to be an Austin Powers worthy name, but it is actually the name of an orc in Lord Of The Rings, which unsurprisingly Steve Peregrin Took was a big fan of (his real name is Stephen Porter). Just getting a handle on the personnel here is tricky enough; Mick Farren had formed the band initially but then departed, and appears to have no role on these recordings. Joining Took was Larry Wallis, who would go to the Pink Fairies and Motorhead, and the nearly man Phil Lenoir who had been in a band in which the other members went on to form Free. This isn't really any album at all, but a grab-bag of what limited material exists for the Shagrat project. Four songs appear here twice, first in demo form then in more polished studio versions. Also thrown in are the three tracks from 'Think Pink' that Took had a hand in. This 'album' didn't see the light of day until 2001 and while hardly essential it is interesting.
10. Black Sabbath: Master Of Reality, 1971
Having been on a bit of a tour of related material, we return at last to the actual text of 'The Deadman's Pedal', lest we forget that this is why we're here.
At the far end, Varie reached up and opened the curtains to a window made from small ornate panes. Alex pulled the blindfold back down on his eyes, and with his arms out like a sleepwalker, he paced in circles in the middle of the huge room, moaning. There were white plaster ceilings at differing heights with dark wooden roof beams. Plastic Airfix model kit aircraft - some of them with shattered wings and hanging parts - were suspended from threads. Simon saw that the poster which came with Master Of Reality was pinned up on one wall. There was an uneven, spreading pile of Melody Makers underneath, against the skirting board.
"Where are my sunglasses, you fornicators? Modern man does two things: fornicates and reads the newspapers; well, I can't manage either round here."
This album is far from a discovery for me, but since it's specifically referenced we must listen. It's interesting to listen to this with an increased awareness of other music of the time; what emerges is that Black Sabbath are by far the heaviest band of the era. 'Master Of Reality' is a favourite album for many fans, and there's not a moment's let-up in the 5-star quality, even in the instrumental filler tracks. The secret to Black Sabbath has always been Bill Ward's percussive drumming, and it's often worth listening through their discography with your focus just on this element. Critics of the time despised this, and despised the band in general. Sabbath were characterised as big, dumb, lumbering chancers with no musical ability, which I suppose is a conclusion you might come to if you were in thrall to Pink Floyd and the like, but one that has not stood the test of time.
As an aside, 'After Forever' has to be the strangest Black Sabbath song of all time, as the heavy rockers with the satanic reputation spend 5 and a half minutes lambasting people for their lack of faith in Jesus.
|Thursday, April 20th, 2017|
The first thing I do on getting home is take all of my clothes off. Not in the driveway you understand, but in the bedroom. I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather look good than feel comfortable in daily life; being comfortable can feel quite nice, but the effect is cancelled out by seeing myself in reflection and being underwhelmed. The small discomfort that comes from tighter-than-necessary trousers, brocade waistcoats, big-buckled belts and what can seem several pounds of adornments is more than paid off by the huge boost that comes from seeing myself in reflection and thinking yes... this looks good. The best layer to remove is the socks, and then to stand on the cold floor, the feel of freedom. And then into a silk kimono and out barefoot on the wooden deck on a pleasantly warm evening, looking up at the outlines of trees before the greying sunless sky and the bats that flutter around that scene. The slight soily texture on my soles, the thin layer of dirt brought down in rain and stranded in the dissolving, the trickling through and the evaporation.|
"So do you do one to ones for Aby?", Roisin is asking.
"Yes, I do those"
"Oh I wish you could do mine. Do you just go for coffee and sit and chat and then fill in the form at the end?"
"No!" I exclaim, outraged, then add: "We don't always fill in the form".
A shop window proclaims 'Life is too short to safely remove USB'. Across the road to Pizza Hut takeaway;
"Do you have the same deals as the other places, like the buy one get one free?", Sharon is asking.
"Yes, but this is a better deal", he says, pointing to the poster.
ANY PIZZA, £7.99
We forget how blatantly and how often marketing lies straight at you; our bill is nearly £20.
"Is it not any pizza for £7.99?"
"Stuffed crust is £2.50 extra"
ANY PIZZA, £7.99
I always indicate on the top, at the split of the road between the one and a half car width 'main' C road to Duns and the single car width lesser C road to the village. There is never anyone coming the other way, never anyone behind, and no-one at the junction who might need to know we're about to turn. Sometimes late at night the flashing orange of my indicator at that joining is the only light in the vast and all-consuming darkness. In the daylight you can see the road stretching out far ahead, climbing up the steepness of a distant hill at an improbable angle. It seems that can't be our road, not at that height, not going right over the crest of the hill. It seems more gentle when you're on it, but the slope is no illusion.
|Wednesday, April 19th, 2017|
10:49 pm - The Simon Crimmons Music Club
6. The Deviants: Disposable, 1968
Sophomore slump? It's always the way, isn't it? You get really into a band's debut and you can't wait to hear the next installment, the evolution of their already mindblowing sound. Then it arrives and you think "oh... that's it then?". We appear to start out on the same post-punk-before-punk route, it's perhaps even a touch more abrasive than the last opener, but then we slide into a not-quite-sure-what-to-make-of-that filler track in which making an album is compared to birds on an electricity wire, and that you can't tell whether one is better than another. From this point on however I have no problem deciding which of The Deviants' first two albums I prefer, and it's not this. All the edge seems gone, the wild creativity stifled, it's all very forgettable, very... disposable? Stranger still is that the recording features both Duncan Sanderson and Russell Hunter of the Pink Fairies as Deviants. It should have been an album that couldn't fail to deliver, but fail it does. One more Deviants album to go, will they be redeemed?
It's one of those types of nights that I love and which occur often in Scotland. It's not warm, but it's also not cold. It's daylight, but it's also a little dark, enough for you to have to put the sidelights on when driving. It's a little overcast, but not in that blanket grey; there are different layers and textures of clouds and patches of clear sky competing for prominence and the sun shoots through them at odd angles, creating patchworks of light and dark across the landscape. The air is heavy and expectant and could be split at any moment by the outbreak of the threatened storm, but often this atmosphere will last for hours and nothing will come of it.|
You can see the hills miles before you reach them. Even my parents, if looking from their upstairs windows, can look out over them. And they do, looking out to the hills where their distant son resides and perhaps feeling that as long as they can gaze upon those hills I am still in some measure under their protection. Sometimes I get calls from them saying that some storm has passed over them and is on its way toward the village now, and every time they see the hills capped with white they're on the phone to check how the snow is and that everything is ok. I'm not sure how they might take it if we did indeed relocate to the Highlands.
At home we found Betsy, our last remaining hen, close to death on the hen house floor. Some sudden parasite, a bug, or just her appointed time; we know not. We picked her up, but she died while I was holding her just outside the door.
The pet cemetery fills, and there has always been a little lurking feeling in me that this place has some curse lying over it. We have given it everything, time, effort, emotion, money, oh so much money, but this house just takes and takes and has given little in return. I sit and type among broken walls, the plastic sheeting behind the plasterboard pushed out by the rising heat and then released when it finds a hole to push through; the overall effect is that the wall appears to be breathing in and out like a Cronenberg creation. It sits and waits and watches.
|Tuesday, April 18th, 2017|
11:10 pm - A Dream, A Drem, A Dream
In the first stirrings of morning I was having a dream; dreams normally fade within moments and are gone forever but this one stuck with me throughout the day. In the dream I found out that Sharon had killed people, then chopped them up and placed them neatly into bags. It was ok, she assured me, they had been bad people and she was providing a kind of service to society. Furthermore, she now realised that what she had done wasn't right and she would stop, but first I would have to help her dispose of this last body. Well, I thought, you can't undo the past and what's done is done; she realises it wasn't right and is going to stop. Still there was the troubling thought of being caught, and in my dream logic if I was caught or suspected then I would have to kill myself. My posthumous reputation would grow and I'd be reviled for generations to come, my name something between a threat and an insult, and all for something I hadn't done. From there the dream morphed into something similar but different; now it transpired that both my parents had been killing people for years, and they wanted me to help. Again, there was just one more that needed to be done and then they would stop. My dad wanted us to go and I feebly protested "at least wait until it's dark!". As I crossed the threshold into waking consciousness there was that brief crossover where you can't tell dream from reality, then I breathed deeply as I realised it was going to be ok; all this was just a dream. And probably indicates that Sharon fell asleep watching forensic crime documentaries on her iPad again.|
We crossed the Meadows back from Peter's Yard, Aby and I, returning from one of those monthly 1 to 1 managerial meetings that have become basically an excuse for an hour's coffee and a chat. What is there really to discuss when you sit next to someone the whole time anyway? The grass rolled out before us, pink and white blossom on the trees and the first pre-pubescent buds of what will later become leaves.
"I used to write a journal online", I began, knowing the 'used to' is not the truth in the strictest sense. "And then years ago I collected it together and had it printed in a book. At the weekend when I was going through my boxes of books I found it, and I ended up sitting reading it for a while. It was really interesting."
"Was some of it really embarassing? I always have to cringe when I read back things I wrote years ago"
"Yes", I had answered, almost before she'd finished the question. "There's a lot of ooohhh why don't I have a girlfriend type stuff. But there's so much little detail in there, things that I'd completely forgotten that you just couldn't remember. And it was strange to realise what a shithole South Bridge actually was. Lots of mentions of drunks, fights, sirens, smashing glass, lots of smashing glass. But lots of really nice details that I just don't remember. Like this one bit, in it I was walking down South Bridge at 3am and someone had asked me where they could get something to eat. I said basically nowhere at this time and walked on, and as I did so I heard the sound of him falling over behind me."
"Then I turned round, just in time to see a second guy giving him a hard kick in the kidneys"
At this she gasped in horror.
"But then a third guy came up, pulled the second guy off the first guy, and then they all three walked away with their arms around each other."
We both laughed now.
"It was like reading about someone else's life, except it was me who had written it".
I'm stopped at the roadside somewhere in rural East Lothian, an Alan Warner book open by the steering wheel, some atmospheric black metal playing. There's a farm track off to the right, and a white horse pops his head over the gate occasionally. I'm waiting for Sharon to finish work and get the train out to a spot near where I am, but I'm patient and calm. I realise this is because this scene is not so far from the life I want. In my motorhome life I'd be doing the same thing in the evening, the same music, the same book, the same roadside stop. The only difference is that I wouldn't be driving home, and I'd be doing the reading on a comfortable sofa in the back, probably in my pyjamas.
Drem. An Drium, it says underneath. A Gaelic othername for a place that would never have seen the language. Beyond Drem the line splits, one arm out to the coast to North Berwick, the other is the main East Coast line to London. Drem to London; it's not a journey you can actually make, those trains rattle through at a rate that ripples your eyelids. But it's enough of a wonder that this little village has a train station at all, let alone one that connects it to Edinburgh and London. Two double-decker bicycle racks lie empty but for a single bike. A northbound train stops, pulls away. The bridge over the lines is briefly populated by two lonely figures backlit by the electric lighting that gives the whole station a sad, unmanned delicate glow. They climb into cars and are gone, not residents of here. The board announcing the next train to the platform goes off, then comes back on with nonsensical characters. I laugh briefly but delightedly, and think I must get out and take a photo with my phone. But I don't, I just think about how I should, and then it's gone to be replaced with actual information again. A lesson there, I think. A few minutes later it happens again. My general rule of life tells me that anything can happen once, but once something has happened twice, it will probably happen a third. I get out and walk onto the platform, stand by the sign. One man is waiting in a car in a corner of the near-empty car park. The signs goes off, and when it comes back on I'm ready for it.
+DRM01:P1124:3_Line_NTI-5mm-DS(Plat1), it begins.
Frm= V11.1 (19-04-13) Add= 3 (03h)
Scr= 3 Line NTI:V4.1.0-SCRAIL IP= DISABLED
The latter is the time, of course. It's up long enough to snap a photo, which I can now put on Instagram and make myself look clever and urbane.
Details, details. Where and why did I stop recording them in that way? I feel like I'm back in possession of myself (more of which when I get around to finally posting Part 2 of 'Living Upside Down') after many years. Perhaps I could pick it up again? A few words here, a paragraph there, forgotten details to be brought back years later, as strange to you as to me.
|Monday, April 17th, 2017|
9:10 pm - The Simon Crimmons Music Club
Ah friends! We're all back for a second edition|
4. Pink Fairies: Kings Of Oblivion, 1973
It's the Pink Fairies again, Jim, but not as we know it. Stand by for this Spinal Tap-worthy personnel listing:
"Paul Rudolph had quit the group on the release of What a Bunch of Sweeties, thus briefly deactivating the band. Duncan Sanderson and Russell Hunter formed a new band with Steve Peregrin Took and guitarist Mick Wayne, before splitting from Took and reactivating the Pink Fairies with Wayne as singer/guitarist. This new three piece recorded one single, "Well, Well, Well"/"Hold On", but Sanderson and Hunter were unhappy with the musical direction Wayne was taking the band. Convincing Larry Wallis (formerly of Took's 1970 band Shagrat) to join the group as a second guitarist, they then sacked Wayne passing songwriting and singing duties onto the inexperienced Wallis."
It all starts out strongly with a song I know very well -'City Kids'. I know this from Motorhead's abortive debut album 'On Parole', on which it was possibly the best track, and had no idea it was a cover. The link doesn't come as a surprise as the Pink Fairies were close associates of the early Hawkwind, and in fact the new man Wallis took himself off to join the first incarnation of Motorhead a little down the line. It's a bit of a false dawn though, because I don't think too much of this album. It's not that it's awful, or even bad, it's all just a bit... underwhelming. Wallis has his name all over the writing credits, so perhaps that's the problem. The only other tracks that appeal to me after 'City Kids' are the closing two; 'Chambermaid' and 'Street Urchin'. I'll put those three onto my Pink Fairies playlist, and forget about the rest. It's hard to know because I wasn't alive, but it seems to me from my vantage point that music entered into a bit of wasteland between '73 and '76. Glam had lost its vital spark, prog had overblown itself and threatened to descend into self-parody, hard rock was at its most obnoxious and least creative. When punk blew everything away in '76, it was at least partly in anger at the weakness that had immediately preceded it.
This was pretty much the end of the Pink Fairies unless you count later reunion attempts, which I don't, so we move on from here to various names that have been floating around in the background. We'll start with a Twink tour.
5. The Deviants: Ptooff!, 1967
Twink and Steve Took played together on Mick Farren's solo album 'Mona - The Carnivorous Carnival', but unfortunately I haven't been able to get hold of that. Instead we take a step back to the band Mick Farren came from; The Deviants. They come with a reputation as the UK's premier underground left-field art-rock outfit of the late 60s, but this cover doesn't fill me with excitement, it has the look of yet more mid-60s UK R&B copyists. But it's not. No brother, and no sister, it is not.
What is it? It starts out with some deadpan announcing of the album, followed by apathetic cheers, Monty Python before Monty Python existed. 'I'm Coming Home' is post-punk even before proto-punk had appeared, 'Child Of The Sky' is acid folk with the sound of something from Forest's second album, then 'Charlie' is the louche rock and roll of the Velvet Underground. 'Nothing Man' is a kind of collage, music concrete. It's all very anti-commercial as evidenced in next track 'Garbage', with its entreaties to buy some garbage - it's good for you, while the music cycles through slabs of Bo Diddley and 60s hard rock. The occasionally vicious critique of the swinging London era continues on closer 'Deviation Street' which starts out as psychedelicised surreal theatre, briefly runs through a bit of Harry Belafonte (with a Deviant twist), and draws to a close leaving with me with two chief questions.
1. How can it be that I have reached this point of my life without discovering The Deviants?
2. How have I survived without them?
(these questions also applied to the Pink Fairies)
Neither answer is important; we have each other now.
12:00 pm - The Simon Crimmons Music Club
I have greatly enjoyed reading Alan Warner's book 'The Deadman's Pedal', a return to the quietly hallucinogenic Argyll otherworld of 'Morvern Callar' and 'These Demented Lands', an artfully written cocktail of teenage sex, railways, 1970s Trade Union politics and class divisions. As well as loving the book in itself, it has also taken on a second life outside of the pages by sending me on a journey of musical discovery. Warner has always blended musical reference into his work, and although these references are not so overt as the previously mentioned works, they can be quite powerful. Come with me now for a while as I try to draw you a map of my travels through an improbable number of albums (30 to be precise) to be thrown up by a work in which music plays only a marginal part. Here is our first installment.|
1. The Pink Fairies: Never Never Land, 1971
I said that music plays only a marginal part in the events of the book. How marginal? Here is the entirety of this band's involvement.
"You must hear the Pink Fairies album".
It's written in a note left in a book by Alexander Bultitude, which was his initial preferred method of contact with Simon Crimmons. I've called this posting The Simon Crimmons Music Club as it's Simon we follow in the book and any mentions of music are usually filtered through the prism of his tastes, but it would perhaps be more accurate to call it The Alexander Bultitude Music Club. It's Alexander who actually owns most of the albums thanks to his higher standing. The sentence occurs right in the middle of the note, a throwaway reference, and which album "the Pink Fairies album" is referencing is not clear as two had been released by 1973 when the note was left. Presumably it would be the most current to the time, but had it been this debut (described by Allmusic as "among the era's most crucial debuts, a hard-rocking, free-flowing, and, above all, anarchic monster that opens with the definitive statement of yippie intent, "Do It," and doesn't look back.") then truer words have not often been spoken. You do have to hear this album. Best known for their harder rockers, the calmer moments do provide some of the weaker moments, the title track and 'Heavenly Man', but also give us the shimmering psychedelia of 'Wargirl'. Minute-long filler sections 'Thor' and 'Dream Is Just Beginning' can be forgotten, leaving us the core of 'Do It', 'Say You Love Me', the aforementioned 'Wargirl', the aptly named 'Track One Side Two', 'Teenage Rebel' and the thumping 'Uncle Harry's Last Freakout'. And what a core! I listened to little else after discovering this, and throughout my meanderings on this musical journey I keep returning to it as an anchor point. But what's a yippie? More on that later.
2. Pink Floyd: Meddle, 1971
"It's quite impossible to buy a Pink Floyd album in Switzerland. That's what I call neutrality."
The girl looked up, chuckled again. She was gawky in those long, boyish movements and appeared to have no shape of breasts beneath the lace dress - but her eyes were wonderment: so dark Simon thought there might be something physically defective about them. It was difficult to tell if the girl was looking at you or into some zone slightly behind your shoulders.
It was clear there were going to be no formal introductions here. Simon casually said to Alexander, 'Meddle?'
"Worth it, wasn't it? Everyone's mad about Dark Side just now, but I'm not so sure about its boogie-woogie tendencies and you need a quad hi-fi."
Turning to Alexander she whispered, as if she were at a long dinner table, "what boil did you lance to get this stuff?"
"It's the hotel brandy, dear"
I've never really been one for Pink Floyd. Sure I've owned 'The Wall' and 'Dark Side Of The Moon' like you're supposed to, and I even got a little into 'Wish You Were Here' at one time. But here it is, the album has been specifically referenced, which means I have to go and listen to the damn thing now. I'm only a few moments into 'One Of These Days' when I realise I've heard this track before, at the end of a podcast. I thought it was brilliant and was frustrated that the song or artist were not stated in the podcast, and as its an instrumental giving me no further reference point would forever remain mysterious and lost. And now here it is. It gives way into 'A Pillow Of Winds', strangely acid folk putting me in mind of first incarnation Comus - Pink Floyd don't sound like this! 'Fearless' is better still, leaving me tolerant of its breaking down into You'll Never Walk Alone. A pitfall - 'San Tropez' sounds out of place, like a High Llamas release pushed back in time, and 'Seamus' is a functional bit of white blues with a dog howling over it. But then... THEN... 'Echoes'. I remember it from the 'Live At Pompeii' film; despite not being big on the band I did enjoy the artistry of the film, the audacity of the crowdless setting and yes, even the longform sound experimentation of the track selection. Perhaps especially that? Is that me, then? Do I like Pink Floyd now? I suppose it must be true.
3. The Pink Fairies: What A Bunch Of Sweeties, 1972
As we arrive at the album that Alexander probably meant in his note, we notice a distinct change of sound. It's not that it's heavier per se, although there are some Tommy Iommi moments of riffer madness. As the opening of 'Walk Don't Run' lets out and I wait for the new direction to emerge, I admit I did not expect the glorious onslaught of vicious proto-punk; and you can pretty much drop the proto - for a few moments there, it's the same chords as MDC would later recycle on 'John Wayne Was A Nazi', unless I'm mistaken. If it's not that it's heavier, could it be that it's less light? Which is not exactly the same thing, by the way. We've lost the 'Heavenly Man' bits, but that's not really it either. It's a bit more... dirty, a bit more... raw? A bit more... immature, dare I say? Certainly the recurring Pigs Of Uranus joke of the opener and the slightly cringey track of that name suggest it. There was one change of personnel for this record from the last; the departure of Twink on drums. The crediting of the whole band as joint writers of most tracks doesn't help break down who was really doing what, and to confuse matters further the three tracks credited to Alder (Twink's actual name) from the first album were 'Heavenly Man', 'Thor' and 'The Dream Is Just Beginning'; three of my list of four tracks that I routinely skip. So why should I like this less? Does it matter? Not really. I still really like this. 'Right On, Fight On' has that mid-paced fists-in-the-air rocker vibe, 'Marilyn' has us reaching for the p word again, and 'I Went Up, I Went Down' sounds like nothing so much as early era Flaming Lips. The cover of 'I Saw Her Standing There' is a grower too, and lyrically fits with Simon's feelings for Varie Bultitude, who he was meeting for the first time during the mention of 'Meddle'; "So how could I dance with another when I saw her standing there".
|Sunday, March 26th, 2017|
2:19 am - Life Upside Down (Carry That Weight)
|Sunday, March 12th, 2017|
2:58 pm - Of Childhood, and the Holy Fool
|Saturday, March 4th, 2017|
10:23 pm - Of things found in books
Today... I'd just like to pause there, actually, just to note and celebrate the fact that I am writing today about something that happened today. It's a small triumph in my 2017 aim to be living in the present moment. And now back to the show...|
Today I was going through my books to determine which would stay and which are headed for the charity shop. Many came from the charity shop in the first place, or other second-hand sources. There are many joys in old books, and one of them is the things that you sometimes find in them. Most often these will be things that people were using as bookmarks during their reading of the book (I myself often use random objects as bookmarks, as we will see shortly), but sometimes they will be things related to the text. Allow me to catalogue these for you.
( Of Things Found In BooksCollapse )
|Wednesday, February 1st, 2017|
9:45 pm - Of Albin Grau
F.w. Murnau was the great director of the all-time classic 'Nosferatu' in 1921, everybody knows that. But what is surprising is how little direct influence he exerted on the entire project. The idea (as much as 'rip off Dracula' can be called an idea) came from Albin Grau, officially credited producer and production designer. Grau it was who drew up the first drawings of Orlock which are immediately recognisable.|
Grau was an artist and architect, but also a life-long student of the occult. He belonged to or was reputed to have belonged to numerous such societies. In 1925 he attended an international conference in Germany whose attendees included Aleister Crowley and Leah Hirsig. By 1925 Crowley had so torn the world of occult societies that his very presence caused chaos. The Pansophical Lodge, of which Grau attended as a member was split violently apart by those who accepted and wished to follow Crowley's Thelema and accompanying Book Of The Law, and those who rejected it. The following year the Pansophical Lodge would cease to exist entirely. Those following Crowley formed the Fraternitas Saturni instead. Grau's position seems rather non-committal; while he did join Fraternitas Saturni, he rejected the chance to Chair the organisation and resigned all of his Lodge titles, while continuing to contribute to the society's magazine. Titles were a big thing in such societies, indeed they could be said to be almost the entirety of it. You form your secret society, you create special levels of attainment, each level having its own encoded communication only understood by those deemed worthy to have ascended. If we assume that magic(k), demons and invocations are entirely nonsensical (and it seems safe to do so), then getting to the top of the boys club is about all that is left. Scientology also largely works on this principle, incidentally. All the rest is just romanticism and fantasy; the kind of thing I endorse and defend here regularly. Crowley's chief practical application to my eyes would be in his 'sex magick'. There is no more powerful sensation available to a human being than an orgasm, but it can be intensified still further through the engagement of the mind. Why do people 'talk dirty'? Because it intensifies everything, increases the anticipation, takes you beyond the boundaries of mere physical coupling. If in the moment, helped perhaps by drugs and alcohol, you want to imagine demons swirling around your head, that your sexual act has gone beyond the realms of mere humanity, that you are in some way transgressing the very fabric of decency, then so much the better. How much greater is that moment of intensity going to be when it is attained? And if in the build-up to this you want to run around in velvet cloaks drawing magic symbols, then why the hell not? That it's secret, that it's in some way forbidden is only going to increase the allure. And it was very much forbidden; Fraternitas Saturni was outlaw by the Nazi regime in 1936 and Grau had to flee to Switzerland under threat of prosecution. But this is all later... back to 1921.
Grau designed the entire look and feel of 'Nosferatu'. He also bankrolled it. He founded the company Prana Film specifically to produce and distribute occult films. 'Nosferatu' was the first of these, and also the last. Following the film's release it was subject to legal action by the estate of Bram Stoker. To escape this action, Grau had to declare the company bankrupt. All prints of 'Nosferatu' were then ordered destroyed, but a few survived and in time were circulated to help the film attain its cult status. Even the best modern restorations are from poor quality stock, often copies of copies, and so even the very best restoration now available will never compete on clarity with other films of the silent era nw being restored. But then 'Nosferatu' was never about clarity.
Henrik Galeen was hired to write the screenplay, already storyboarded in great detail by Grau. Galeen had previously written and co-directed 'The Golem', another classic of German cinema which itself contained occult themes. What was left to Murnau was to deliver the already realised project, chiefly through directing cameraman Fritz Arno Wagner, and precisely controlling his actors, all the way down to the use of a metronome to keep them to time.
F.W. Murnau's 'Nosferatu' could thus be more correctly amended to Albin Grau's 'Nosferatu'. 'Meta-fictional' accounts of all the production staff and actors of 'Nosferatu' can be found in 2000's 'Shadow Of The Vampire', where Grau is played by Udo Kier.
|Tuesday, January 31st, 2017|
7:09 pm - Bo Hansson
Writing here has become something that I tend to save up, thinking week after week that I really must get around to writing up all that has happened until it becomes a large and arduous task that is daunting to begin. It would serve me better to post shorter bits more regularly, which I shall try to do henceforth.|
Inside the cd booklet for Bo Hansson's 'Sagan Om Ringen' there is an incredible picture of him sitting outside somewhere in rural Sweden playing the organ, around 1969/70. A meadow spreads out before him, leading to a hill covered in tall pines. He seems to be glancing off into this vista as he plays. The whole is captured in a romantic sepia, and it speaks to me for many reasons.
The first is the unconventionality of life, the 'bohemian' attitude. Why not play your organ in a summer meadow? I rather like this. Just as one should not, as a man of respectable society, paint his toenails and wander barefoot through country streams. But I do. I do it because I want to. Why place limits on yourself, especially if those limits come from others?
The second thing that speaks to me is the scenery itself. This is in Sweden, but there is a scene which looks almost exactly like this near Abbey St Bathans, on the way to Edin's Hall Broch where I have walked many times. The shape of the hill, the way the trees grow upon it, thin and upright, it's the same.
The third thing is romanticism. This is a very complex topic and I can touch on it only very lightly here. Oxford defines it as a) 'conducive to or characterised by the expression of love and b) Of, characterised by, or suggestive of an idealised view of reality. And that, right there, is the one and only way I have ever wanted to live my life.
A few final things to note in the photograph. He sits a packet of cigarettes on top of the organ, and below it a glass of wine. He has with him a rather formal looking chair, but he is not sitting on it. He is actually sitting on a plank of wood which is stretched out across the arms of the chair.
6:41 pm - Langton's Long-Lost Dead and Other Tales
|Monday, January 2nd, 2017|
8:00 pm - The Musical Mindscape
It's time for the third year of this thoroughly pointless exercise... listing the top 100 tracks by play count in itunes. Has much changed? Does any of this say anything about anything? Let's see.|
(last year's position in brackets)
100 (67) Accept - Thunder And Lightning
99 (66) Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Poison Apple
98 (-) T.Rex - Summer Deep
97 (-) The Stooges - Penetration
96 (95) Stiff Little Fingers - Wasted Life
95 (64) The Skids - Into The Valley
94 (94) Silver Sun - Gossip
93 (91) Sex Pistols - Bodies
92 (61) Ramones - I Don't Wanna Go Down In The Basement
91 (60) Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop
90 (59) Purson - Spiderwood Farm
89 (58) Primal Scream - Long Life
88 (-) Placebo - Days Before You Came
87 (89) My Dying Bride - Cry Of Mankind
86 (57) Julian Cope - Torch
85 (-) Jonny Hardie - The Buzzard
84 (-) Jackal - How The Time Has Flown
83 (86) Howlin' Wolf - Smokestack Lightnin'
82 (56) Hinds - Castigadas En El Granero
81 (85) Guns N' Roses - It's So Easy
80 (84) Groundhogs - Cherry Red
79 (54) Fidlar - Paycheck
78 (53) Ex Hex - Waste Your Time
77 (52) Ex Hex - Beast
76 (77) Dr Feelgood - Back In The Night
75 (51) Darkthrone - Witch Ghetto
74 (-) The Damned - Neat Neat Neat
73 (50) The Clash - Wrong 'Em Boyo
72 (75) Chuck Berry - Maybelline
71 (49) Can - Mushroom
70 (-) The Boo Radleys - Everything Is Sorrow (Grantby Remix)
69 (-) The Boo Radleys - Fortunate Sons
68 (-) Bo Hansson - Lothlorien
67 (-) Blur - Far Out
66 (47) Aphex Twin - Flim
65 (45) Accept - China Lady
64 (-) The White Stripes - Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine
63 (97) T.Rex - Jeepster
62 (63) Sex Pistols - EMI
61 (62) Sex Pistols - Holidays In The Sun
60 (43) Public Image Ltd - Deeper Water
59 (42) Motorhead - I'll Be Your Sister
58 (-) Manic Street Preachers - Rock And Roll Music
57 (-) Julian Cope - Doomed
56 (-) The Jesus And Mary Chain - You Trip Me Up
55 (-) Iron Maiden - Prowler
54 (87) Iggy Pop - Sixteen
53 (41) Fidlar - LDA
52 (40) Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)
51 (71) The Boo Radleys - C'Mon Kids
50 (46) Alternative TV - Why Don't You Do Me Right
49 (44) Sex Pistols - Pretty Vacant
48 (35) Myrkur - Nattens Barn
47 (-) The Jesus And Mary Chain - In A Hole
46 (-) Guns N' Roses - Right Next Door To Hell
45 (55) Generation X - Ready Steady Go
44 (32) Fidlar - Cheap Beer
43 (29) Buzzcocks - Love Battery
42 (72) The Boo Radleys - Annie And Marnie
41 (48) The Beatles - I Want You (She's So Heavy)
40 (38) Ash - Lose Control
39 (28) World Party - Is It Like Today?
38 (-) The March Violets - Walk Into The Sun
37 (34) Ken Boothe - Artibella
36 (-) The Jesus And Mary Chain - My Little Underground
35 (31) Ex Hex - Radio On
34 (37) T.Rex - Childe
33 (27) The Modern Lovers - Pablo Picasso
32 (26) Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Chinese Rocks
31 (22) Hollywood Brats - Sick On You
30 (21) Fidlar - Max Can't Surf
29 (30) The Clash - I'm So Bored With The USA
28 (20) The Castaways - Liar Liar
27 (19) Brian Eno - Golden Hours
26 (36) Sex Pistols - No Feelings
25 (23) Nu-Matic - Hard Times
24 (-) The Jesus And Mary Chain - Taste The Floor
23 (16) Guns N' Roses - Down On The Farm
22 (25) Guns N' Roses - You're Crazy
21 (12) Purson - Leaning On A Bear
20 (10) Fidlar - Gimme Something
19 (9) Buzzcocks - Everybody's Happy Nowadays
18 (18) The Velvet Underground - I Heard Her Call My Name
17 (14) The Stooges - Search And Destroy
16 (65) The Sonics - Have Love Will Travel
15 (7) Sex Pistols - Submission
14 (8) Buzzcocks - Love You More
13 (11) Motorhead - Limb From Limb
12 (33) The Flamin' Groovies - Shake Some Action
11 (24) Ex Hex - Waterfall
10 (5) Buzzcocks - I Don't Mind
9 (15) The Boo Radleys - Get On The Bus
8 (13) Stiff Little Fingers - Suspect Device
7 (6) Motorhead - Ace Of Spades
6 (3) Accept - I'm A Rebel
5 (17) Sex Pistols - God Save The Queen
4 (4) T.Rex - Diamond Meadows
3 (-) The Jesus And Mary Chain - Taste Of Cindy
2 (2) Sham 69 - Borstal Breakout
1 (1) Eddie & The Hot Rods - Do Anything You Wanna Do
It's getting harder to break into the list, with only 21 tracks appearing that weren't on the list last year, compared to 38 making an appearance last year. The top 30 or so feels particularly stuck - the play numbers there are high enough to make it a formidable barrier for any new song to catch up.
Number of plays of top track
Number of plays needed to reach top 100
2014: 4879 (12.9 days)
2015: 9677 (27.5 days)
2016: 18,989 (55.2 days)
Number of songs played at least once
2014: 2236 (6 days)
2015: 3937 (10 days)
2016: 4803 (13 days)
Number of songs never played
2014: 2643 (6.8 days)
2015: 5740 (16 days)
2016: 14,186 (42.2 days)
All of which suggests that I need to calm down on the music acquisition front and get around to actually listening to it. Reaching the storage limit of my ipod should level that out in the year ahead...
|Thursday, December 29th, 2016|
5:36 pm - In Edin's Hall
|Wednesday, December 28th, 2016|
4:53 pm - Sullen Scottishness In The Silver City