|Friday, October 6th, 2017|
8:52 pm - Death
Alas this Livejournal, which has lived through 14 years, is now effectively dead.|
You can follow a slightly different blogging project over at http://indarktrees.blogspot.com
Presently it divides into three sub-sections:
In Dark Trees: Daily word sketches describing the world around me, transcribed from a hand-written notebook.
The Book Of Haiku: The same as above, but more distilled.
Lunar Maria: Occasional outbreaks of more thoughtful longform 'articles'.
You can also follow me pictorially at https://www.instagram.com/rawkmonster/
|Friday, July 14th, 2017|
11:25 pm - Dreams Within Dreams Within This Dream We Call Human Life
Note for readers: The following entry is split over 9 separate 'locations'. Each 'location' is indicated by the number of stars that appears before it. 'Locations' come and go throughout, and split suddenly when mention is made of a new 'location'. All 9 have a beginning and an end within the overall entry, and all take place in the first 'location', which are thoughts and memories of recent events flickering in and out of my tired mind at the table of the Goblin Ha' in Gifford as I (unsuccessfully) try to distract myself from the conversation of the adjacent table.|
Somnolent table in the corner, adrift on unsleeping tides, ebbing into energy and flowing into fatigue, the weariness of collapse. Beside us at the next table sit a grouping of three, man and wife with a fair few years behind them, triangulated with an elderly mother. The couple are unbearably dull, they have an obsession with everyone's weight and discuss these things endlessly. Right now they are haranguing the mother to eat, to finish up what's on her plate.
"If you don't finish then you won't get any pudding", he says. It's a joke, but also not a joke, there's just enough of a twat's edge to the voice to let you know that this is somehow getting to him.
I'm getting almost comatose, between the conversation and this feebleness that has crept across me. I try to raise myself to speech.
"So if we're not going to Duns tomorrow morning..."
"But we are for bird seed"
"I thought you said you were getting an Asda order?"
"So if we're not going to Duns tomorrow morning then I might get up early and climb some hills..."
It's an obsession in the making. There are 12,163 classified hills in Scotland, mostly breaking down into munro, corbett, marilyn, the wonderful humps and tumps and then falling away into increasingly obscure categories of minor wonder (Buxton & Lewis, Deleted Donald Top, Administrative County Top, Subdonald Dewey...). Taking my ascent of Traprain Law
Traprain Law. 725 feet. Classification: Hump, and Tump. The ancient home of the Votadini, foremost among the Lowland Caledonian tribes, at least according to the Romans who made the first written records of inhabitants of Scotland. Ascending in the heat of the sunshine, still wearing a jacket. Some Americans on the way down compliment me on it in passing and ask where I got it.
"eBay... where I get all my clothes"
There is no sign of the wild ponies who make Traprain their home. From up here East Lothian stretches out under a magical light. It's not a setting sun but neither is it full, it feels filtered somehow, golden. Arthur's Seat
Arthur's Seat. 823 feet. Classification: Marilyn (and Hump. And Tump). Looking back down on Dunsapie
Dunsapie. 476 feet. Classification: Tump. From the car, through the grasslands despite hay fever, even pausing in them while I sort out the wiring of the headphones. Must play music while climbing, or a podcast at least. Even just walking. Need it. Must think while moving, must learn while moving. The summit is easy, as you would imagine. A couple sit at a picnic. There was a hill fort here, and cultivation terraces rise up the side of Arthur's Seat
Looking back down on Dunsapie in the sunshine, suddenly looking like nothing. The slope begins to steepen rapidly. I'm sweating, stupid idea to come straight from work while wearing a waistcoat, but I've come to the conclusion that in life I would most often prefer to look good than to be comfortable. There's a strain on my leg muscles, used to walking but not such steep gradients. The muscles moan, like they did up on Minch Moor
Minch Moor. 1860 feet. Classification: Marilyn, Hump, Tump and a Donald Dewey. It's the pack on my back that is killing me the most. The weary feet plod on and could do for hours more, but the shoulders are almost unable to move, any alteration to the angle of arms brings me sharp stabbing pain. The ascent is long and relentless, but the way seems designed to get me to continue. Besides landscape artworks at regular intervals, an information board appears as I reach my lowest point. It tells that the road over the Minch Moor was once a main road through the south of Scotland. I had read a little about the standard of roads in Scotland prior to Culloden, read dismayed southern accounts of its impassability, but until now it never really came home fully to me. Now I understand well what is meant by descriptions on an impenetrable land.
Trees shelter me along my right side, but I am faintly aware that a wind is whipping over from that direction. When the tree cover takes a break to allow another track to form a junction, the wind howls through and the rain comes at me horizontally. Up ahead I can't see the hills I'm supposed to be heading into, and the map says 6 miles of exposed track without shelter lie ahead. I pause, take off my pack. It's agony, to the point where I wonder how I can even complete the motion of throwing off the pack. I sit down on the verge, rolling my shoulders gently to get them to unlock. I've met people only occasionally on this journey, but the general conversation has always been the same.
"Where are you heading?" they ask.
"I'm heading for home, back to Longformacus."
"Oh, where's that?"
"Another four/three/two days further along this track."
Then their eyes go wide and they look at me like I'm some kind of mythical lunatic. It's not sensible to continue, and so I don't. And I think that might be when I first truly realised.
The muscles moan, like they did up on Minch Moor, and I feel that I want to stop. Let's not have this painful effort, let's just go away and do something else. And in that moment I looked inside myself, and I realised that I've always been a quitter.
It's only a few minutes later that I'm on the summit, sweating, my back actually soaked. And this is my new favourite shirt too, an acid hippy nightmare of multi-coloured Paisley pattern whose main body I have to keep under a waistcoat to prevent things getting out of hand. I'm at home with myself now, finding new expressions, going around dressed like it's 1968. I am myself and I'm glad to be it, if not without compromise then at least working significantly towards it.
I take the more difficult way down, and I'm scrambling over rocks almost on all fours like Gollum. I look back up at where I've come from and see another man starting down. When I look up again a few moments later he's already closed half the distance and suddenly I'm reminded again of up on Eildon Mid Hill
Eildon Mid Hill. 1385 feet. Classification: Marilyn, Hump, Tump. The ancient home of the Selgovae, looking down on the site of the Trimontium Roman Fort on the plain below. 1900 years ago in the dark nights of distant history, each could sit watching the fires of the other's settlements in the midst of an uneasy peace. I've taken it slow and steady to get up here, and now on the descent I start to feel my knee a little bit again, just as I did that day up on the Minch Moor. I had a slow and steady approach to the summit, but here's a guy in shorts and a t-shirt. He's just run up here and doesn't even seem particularly out of breath. He makes a quick phone call and then on my steady descent he zooms past again. The thought occurs to me that I could easily push myself a little more than I am presently.
When I look up again a few moments later he's already closed half the distance and suddenly I'm reminded again of up on Eildon Mid Hill when the runner sped past me. Sure enough, in a few moments he has reached me as I stare uncertainly at a choice of routes.
"Alright?", he asks in a friendly way.
I nod, return the universal Scottish greeting. "Alright."
"Have you been this way before?"
"I've come up this way, but not down. It's a lot slippier than I remember it, but then it's been quite a few years since I came this way last."
"Aye, it's gotten a lot worse. Every year it erodes more and more. That way is really slippy and steep, if you go this way it leads you to the stairs, which is an easier way."
"Do the stairs go down to the main...", I point vaguely in a way that makes my point perfectly understood.
"Yeah, it just joins up there."
"OK, I think I'll go that way. I'm not dressed for it today."
"You're looking very dapper though, I must say."
"Thanks. It's because I've just come straight from work..."
The conversation goes on politely another few moments, then I'm over another eroded patch and have gained the stairs. I move on to Salisbury Crags
Salisbury Crags. 571 feet. Classification: Tump. The Munros get all the press of course, then the Corbetts and the Marilyns have become quite trendy. The beautiful thing about the Tumps though is that they take you a wide variety of places that have something more than pure height going for them. Yes, Arthur's Seat gives you that Marilyn view out across the city, but the Crags are closer still, and from here you can peer out over the jagged volcanic edges and have the Castle almost in the palm of your hand. There are 10,814 Tumps in Scotland, and this one takes me to 0.06% completion. I'm probably not going to do them all, probably couldn't do them all for various reasons, that's not an aim. But there is something both appealing and addictive about ticking them off. It's a reason to get outside, a reason to take a track that you might not otherwise have bothered with and see something new. It's physical exercise, it's muscle building, it's being out in the world where I want to be. It's experience and it's the kind of life I want to live, it's not sitting around playing games or watching films, although
Doc Holliday, as portrayed by Kirk Douglas in 'Gunfight At The OK Corral' wears two waistcoats through the proceedings, one is a particularly fine red brocade effort. I was entranced by it immediately.
It fastens low, very low, right down at the stomach. For Kirk, this allowed him to better display the white ruffled shirt he wore with it, and although I'll have no piece of that necktie, thanks, I wanted the rest of that upper body outfit the moment I saw it.
'Gunfight At The OK Corral' established the story of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday back into American popular culture, but alas it was also a lot of bullshit. 'Tombstone' makes a far greater attempt at authenticity, particularly with regard to outfits. Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday also makes show in a red waistcoat, though it is considerably less fetching.
I don't suppose it much matters that Kilmer's Doc is less sartorially appealing than Douglas because Kilmer's appeal is all in the character. It seems an almost cartoonish portrayal at times, but the more you read of Doc's biography the more the 'Tombstone' Doc emerges as the more authentic portrait. Still stylised, yes, but saying roughly the right things in roughly the right accent and manner according to contemporary accounts.
It's experience and it's the kind of life I want to live, it's not sitting around playing games or watching films, although you can still learn and take things from those sources; you just have to be careful to pick the right ones and not get lost in the maze of consumerism.
I move on to Salisbury Crags, flitting around the jagged edges. Then it's down, back onto the road. I glance at the time. I finished work at 5, picked up the car and brought it around, quickly made the top of three hills and now it's approaching 7 I'm just in time to pick up Sharon. I could have been sitting in the car waiting, passing the time in stagnant moments of unlife, but instead here I am. I feel accomplished, I feel almost driven. I must use my time! Use my time to live the way I want to live.
"We need to keep you fed, stop you wasting away to nothing"
"I try my best", the old mother says weakly.
"Trying your best would be finishing this last bit", the woman scolds. They're really pissed off about this leftover piece of food. The waitress appears to clear up the plates.
"Are we all finished here?", she asks politely.
In that slight-edge-of-exasperation tone the man wanders along the line of sarcasm as he replies "Apparently it seems so".
There was a hill fort here, and cultivation terraces rise up the side of Arthur's Seat making it appear like a very distant outpost of Macchu Picchu. I'm listening to Alice In Chains, the only one of the grunge bands that I ever really liked, and I've grown to really love Alice In Chains. The interplay of melody between Layne and Jerry, Jerry's guitar playing... I liked Jerry Cantrell's solo stuff as well, but without Layne Staley it loses something. They have such an honest lyricism too, and the closer Layne came to the edge of the abyss the more heart-rending it became, that MTV Unplugged appearance being the ultimate horrifically beautifully compelling precipice, the height before it all went over the edge; Layne looking half-dead, barely able to lift his head and yet plaintively ringing out "ain't found a way to kill me yet..."
Arthur's Seat off in the distance, the Pentland Hills, Berwick Law; all had their own hill forts, their own people. People have been attracted to Scottish summits for as long as there have been people in Scotland, it's an entirely natural feeling. It's something instinctive, and I again recall the many times in the past where I've walked into a particular point of a landscape and just felt somehow right about being there, then later learning it was the site of a hill fort or settlement, and realising that once upon a time, century upon century ago, someone else stood here and felt exactly the same thing. It's something innate, instinctive, almost beyond understanding. Remnant animal instinct.
Taking my ascent of Traprain Law as the starting point and ignoring any summits I may have made before then, I have now climbed 3 Marilyns, 3 Humps and 7 Tumps. (side note: Besides being before Traprain Law, I missed the summit of Minch Moor. It was signposted, but as reaching the summit was not my goal, I didn't think it worth detouring and adding further time, distance and effort) It seems that daily I am back on the website looking for the next one, or the next group of two or three, ready to get out there, ready to tick more off, ready to spend more time alive.
"Lose some sleep and say you tried", as Ian Curtis once wrote. He died young too, of course, like Layne Staley. Like Doc Holliday. My only fear in feeling that I have found, or rediscovered myself, is that I feel life is a long journey to find yourself that only ends when your life ends. If the journey is over, then perhaps I am too. But then I guess I need only to keep moving, to keep finding, delving. There is more within a person that they realise at any given time.
"She's not inactive or morbidly obese..."
Still it is going on. A list of people has now been gone through, their BMI discussed, reasons for it attached.
"If she let herself go, she could become a real fat one, because she's bigger-boned than either of us..."
And soon after:
"... but then she eats a lot of ready meals and things like that."
The man twice patronisingly and awkwardly refers to the old mother as "the young lady" to the waitress, which suggests to me that she is the mother of the woman and not the man. Their position at the table side by side, both opposite the man from outside the family then makes perfect sense also. He has one last piece of appalling brilliance to deliver tonight however.
The waitress appears with the card machine, picks the card off the silver tray.
"And who is it who is paying tonight?", she asks.
"That'll be the young lady", he says, gesturing to the old mother-in-law.
|Thursday, July 6th, 2017|
3:32 pm - Psychedelic Revival in the Windswept Isles, Part IV
|Tuesday, June 27th, 2017|
5:37 pm - The Simon Crimmons Music Club
'Can I look at your albums? I've still got those ones you lent me.'|
'Be my guest.'
'See you've got a guitar,' Simon stated; he just touched the top of the guitar and one string made a long dull drone.
'Just an acoustic. I want an electric. We should form a band.'
Simon got down on his knees flicking through the first of the two deep columns of records which were leaning against the tall skirting board. There was Hendrix, The Doors, Cream and The Nice - but there was odd stuff that made his lip purse, Stackridge, Spooky Tooth, Ringo by Ringo Starr, Wizzard, the Strawbs; tons and tons of Dylan too.
First a confession. I perhaps didn't read this passage closely enough. Perhaps the fact that the list ended with Dylan threw me a little as well, but I didn't fully appreciate 'odd stuff that made his lip purse' on first read-through. And that's partly why this latest installment has been so long in coming, because I went and acquired loads of bloody stuff from the list and found little subsequent enthusiasm for actually listening to it. At times I would ask myself 'Why has he name-dropped these bands into the story?'. Only later did I think to revisit the actual text and take the time to read what was actually said.
15. Spooky Tooth: It's All About, 1968
So, here we go with the grand Spooky Tooth experiment. And it's.... alright, I suppose. Sort of a bit Steppenwolf, little bits of The Who or Small Faces here and there. But mostly it's just stuff I've heard before, and better.
16. Spooky Tooth & Pierre Henry: Ceremony, 1969
This is an interesting one. Spooky Tooth play your average 1969 psychedelic blues rock while Pierre Henry makes various experimental electronic noises over the top, one oftentimes seeming completely unrelated to the other, like two records which just happen to be playing at the same time as heard by someone who was equidistant. The Pierre Henry part is sometimes interesting, but the Spooky Tooth part I found to be too unremarkable to carry the mix.
17. Stackridge: The Man In The Bowler Hat, 1974
It's a kind of a psychedelic pop with occasional shades of prog. It's sort of a bit eccentric, but in a way I find a bit annoying and... och, it's just not me is all.
18. Spooky Tooth: Spooky Two, 1969
Spooky Tooth are threatening to come onto a bit of a game here. It's still a bit Steppenwolf, a bit Small Faces, and now also rather a lot of Free, but with a good pinch of gospel Americana thrown in. It's decent enough, but I just don't have any real enthusiasm for it.
19. Spooky Tooth: Witness, 1973
Or this really, to be honest. I listened to it once but I had already quit on Spooky Tooth.
20. Brandywine: Aged, 1970
Here we have a bit of good honest 1970 not-quite-sure-what-to-be rock. Prog flute flourishes, acoustic folk touches, Rolling Stones tributes. It's actually pretty decent in a B-movie sort of way; here's a cheap version of the type of thing you like. Not bad, but I won't be keeping it.
21. Spooky Tooth: The Mirror, 1974
Yeah... to be honest I didn't even bother listening to this.
22. Spooky Tooth: The Last Puff, 1970
23. Spooky Tooth: You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw, 1973
24. Stackridge: Stackridge, 1971
Or indeed this.
25. Stackridge: Friendliness, 1972
Or this. So that was well worth the effort in acquiring them...
2:42 pm - Psychedelic Revival in the Windswept Isles, Part III
"He would come with me, of course, if I asked him. In fact he offered to once, just before the party. But he does not really want to, yet. I want to see the wild country again before I die, and the Mountains; but he is still in love with the Shire, with woods and fields and little rivers."
There is an undeniable magic in waking up to the sight of mountains rather than hills, and the problem with visiting the Highlands is that I worry that I might not be able to go back, that the woods and fields and little rivers of my lowland home in the hills are just not enough any more.
We have breakfast in a cafe at Spean Bridge. It's a roadside cafe, and I sit and watch the endless procession of traffic thunder through I start to feel sad for the village. It's a waypoint, another name on the map on the journey between Fort William and Inverness, or Fort William and Skye, or whatever other combination of places makes up the journey. Always passing through, maybe an occasional stop and then back onto the road, ever onward. Unnoticed, unloved, a service point for outsiders; what does it feel like to live in such a place? And I? I am but another stopping at this waypoint on the way to somewhere else, after which I'll be another small portion of the rumble.
The road goes ever on...
There are surprisingly few roads in the Highlands. It's not at all uncommon to travel on for mile upon mile with no other roads offering an alternative. Much of it is simple geography, the roads must travel along the glens between the mountains, and when you're in the glen it's not like anyone is going to build a road up the mountainside and over the peak. The other surprising thing is the emptiness. You do not often pass through villages or settlements compared to the south and centre of the country, and it's difficult to know if the area you are passing through was always empty, if it was part of the Clearances, or did it just its population to emigration? There is so much I don't know, so much that is just a vague notion without understanding. I once felt that I would certainly go on to know every part of this country, every story, every piece of history, but I haven't done it. Some blanks I'm beginning to fill in, and I feel more alive for it, like I'm rediscovering something lost inside. I feel like this in many ways, about many things. Recently I have been undergoing a psychedelic revival, my love of psychedelia and 1968 returning to me, along with forgotten dreams of hippie traveller ideology. My waistcoat is still black, but now its edges are fringed with small stripes of yellow, red and white, and the shirt I'm wearing underneath it today is a long-sleeved rainbow tie-dye cotton 'bohemian' shirt. To others around me this seems like something new, but I don't think of it as a new development, it's more like a rediscovery of something lost. Suddenly I am back to being that teenager who sat on an East Lothian hillside with a copy of 'The Lion In The North' dreaming of future days of the freedom of travel, exploration and learning, of crying 13th Floor Elevators lyrics to the wind from a hilltop. Where that person has been hiding for all this time, who can really say? I was lost, off down different paths, but now I am back. It really seems that simple to me.
Glen Shiel is another of those most favourite places we are passing through on this journey. The road through the valley leads through spiked jagged mountain peaks, positively brooding under a rolling blanket of mist. The petrol station here was a beloved top, but today it is looking run down, its shelves bare of all but a few ragged items. It still sells a few books, but not many, and they seem of much less interest. Memories flow down this road. Not too far beyond is the point where I pulled in to take a photograph as Dan and I progressed down the return leg of an epic single-day journey from Edinburgh to Skye and back, with three house viewings in the middle. There was a ditch, a water channel I suppose, very small but just big enough to leave the front tyres floating free in the air. With a front-wheel drive car at the time, this meant the vehicle was stuck. In no time at all someone had pulled over, but we couldn't push or pull it free. More people stopped until finally ten people were crowded around the car. When an 11th arrived he cried "Fucks sake! There's 11 of us here... just lift the car in the air!". And that's what we did, with hands all around we lifted the Ford Fiesta up into the air and set it down free of the ditch.
Skye begins slowly. You work your way up Loch Duich, past the famous Eilean Donan Castle and along the edge of Loch Alsh, stunning mixes of sea and mountain. Then you go over the Skye Bridge, rising up to the air and descending back down on its serpentine curve. It's a land full of romance; An t-Eilean Sgitheanach in Gaelic, Eilean a'Cheo sometimes (Island of Mist), but on arrival the first thing you come to is a roundabout with a selection of advertising boards. The road goes on through some flat and not very inspiring scenery, the distant silvery outline of some peaks across the water apart, before reaching Broadford. An t-Ath Leathann it is called in Gaelic, but this is only a literal translation of its English name, the broad ford. Broadford is a modern settlement of the 19th century onwards, a utilitarian staging post of petrol and supermarket that seems awaiting a soul. A little onward, then; past the Raasay ferry and then all the glory of Skye suddenly opens before you on the approach to Sligachan. The Red Cuilin, na Beantann Dearga, rises up and carries the road with it. The hotel sits alone in the landscape with three roads breaking out from it and a campsite sprawled out before it. The Black Cuillin, the true Cuillin, An Cuiltheann, loom behind, red rocks scattered in Allt Dearg Mor and its tributary streams. Sligachan is one of those places I could stay forever, Tir Nan Iolaire, Land of the Eagles. But the road goes over on...
At Portree, the island capital, we stop for a while. Portree is more correctly Port Righ, the port of the King, supposedly from the visit of James V in 1540. That just one small visit would lead to the renaming of the island's main settlement illustrates the marginal part the Isles have had to play in the narrative of Scottish mainland history, but this now is disputed. An older name may be Port Ruighe, 'Slope Harbour'; Gaelic names are always wonderfully accurate in their descriptions.
There is a hippy wholehealthfood shop here, and Sharon indulges her latest obsession; vegan shower gel. I pick up a magazine called 'Reforesting Scotland', a psychedelic swirl of a river estuary at sunset on the cover. Its contents are relentless on the promotion of the reforestation of Scotland, but not without plenty of supporting evidence. Its target audience must be rural hippies who go to hippie food shops to buy their hippie foods. As I place the magazine in my basket I wonder if this is now me.
I'm sure that if a heaven existed, it would involve macaroni with Irn Bru and an empire biscuit aboard a Calmac ferry bound for the Isles. My only sadness is that the journey is to last just under two hours; I could happily do five, exploring here and there onboard, watching the view from every corner of every deck. Even when no land shows itself I could enter a kind of hypnosis just staring at the waves forming and breaking, the wake of the ferry merging with the larger flow. There are occasional birds bobbing on the waves for mile after mile, so far from land. Yes, I suppose my primary regret is that time is moving so fast, when all I want to do is slow it right down so that I can properly experience and savour every piece of it.
I have found that for the Nosferatu tinting to work most effectively, I must take considerably lighter photographs than I am accustomed to because they darken a great deal during the tinting. When I take my photograph it thus does not look all that much like the final version, there's no real way of knowing until the tint is applied on screen later how it will look. Some images that are (or would be were they not now far too light) perfectly good photographs just don't work, while others that I might have thrown away in black and white receive new life from the tinting. And sometimes, just very occasionally like the image directly above, I freeze at the controls, seeing an image looking back at me that looks as if it belongs on the original film reel of Nosferatu.
We are on North Uist at last, Uist a Tuath, the marginal lands between the mountain and the sea. The cottage we're staying in is an old stone building with a thatched roof, but there are problems. The roof has been recently redone, and as a result we are instructed not to use the stove. Opening the door, we are met immediately by a very strong smell of damp. Looking around, I find that the stove also powers the central heating, so we'll be without that as well. There is an electric storage heater in the hall, but it doesn't work. What we have then are two plug-in halogen heaters. I shuffle around looking at the books, glancing through the windows. It reminds me a little of the caravan in childhood, you arrive to things being cold and damp, but then you get your heating on, get all your stuff arranged, and soon it feels just like home.
The view through the window begs exploration, and I head out. You are never far from a ruined house on either of the Uists, a sign of the temporary nature of island settlements for a variety of complex reasons, whether clearance or commerce. Just such a ruin lies directly in the line of the view from the window, and I come to this first. The grass hangs loosely on its rocky base like a worn carpet in the area around the house, from there it gives out to something akin to moorland. In North Uist there is as much water as there is land, giving a ragged appearance when viewed from above. Everywhere there are lochs and you can't really be sure whether or not they are leading you to the sea. I'm walking vaguely towards mountains with no idea if they might be attainable, or if they are even a part of this island.
After struggling across boggy ground I come across a path and follow it. It skirts the loch shore heading toward a moored boat, and as I round the corner an entire ruined village slides into view. Having visited the Isles before I am no longer surprised by this. Many people were cleared from croft land and pushed to unproductive land on the coasts where they tried to scrape enough fish from the sea to carry on living, but subsequently found emigration a far better option. I don't know if this is the story of this little village, nor can I find out because it isn't even marked by a name on the Ordnance Survey map, just a few black blotches to indicate the base of a few buildings. Whatever its purpose, it is gone now, utterly gone.
I make my way back on the path; it leads more or less past the door of the cottage. Inside it still smells of damp, and the halogen heaters are not providing much comfort. My socks are wet from the boggy ground and just getting them dry is very difficult. I'm able to have a hot bath at least, and I slip off to sleep well enough wrapped up in warm blankets. But I have one room and Sharon has the other, each on a sofa, each with a halogen heater, and it's not quite the vision I had in mind when we were heading out here.
|Sunday, June 11th, 2017|
4:50 pm - Psychedelic Revival in the Windswept Isles, Part II
|Sunday, June 4th, 2017|
7:51 pm - Psychedelic Revival in the Windswept Isles, Part I
|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