You can imitate everyone you know…

So in a fit of Anti-Pepper, not the best album The Beatles made and not the start in any shape or form of the concept album, and it misses all the good songs off for second division filler, sentiment. I bought the Beatles albums missing from the collection in pretty new remastered versions. Rubber Soul, Revolver, The White Album and Let It Be. I deliberately avoided Sgt. Pepper in self righteous indignation at all the posters telling me I should get it. I strolled out of the store having claimed my 30% off the purchase and felt pretty good about myself in not succumbing to the pressure to buy the 50th anniversary one.

So on to this:

The unpopular last released album.

The contentious recording process, the awkward movie. The arguments about production. Did Phil Spector really ruin the album?

The geek in me wants to make all sorts of clever points. Scratch my beard and frown meaningfully and decide that one of the Get Back acetates is really the best version, or McCartney’s Let It Be Naked is the true classic.

The irony of an album that was supposed to be a return to some sort of semblance of live performance has become to be regarded as one of the most overproduced albums appeals to me.

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I have to admit though this is the Let It Be I grew up with, it is in fact one of my favorite Beatles albums, even the saccharine strings and choir on the Long and Winding Road are  essential to the listening experience, anything else is not right. Yes it is a patchwork album in feel, it never quite flows right and yet it flows exactly as it is supposed to do at the end of the day.

Also any album that has Get Back, Across the Universe and Let It Be on is a pretty good album as far as I can tell. Two of Us, Dig a Pony and I Me Mine are not too shabby either.

I found myself thinking as I listened to this newly bought version, as it’s cheaper than any original I could find, what a strange game listening to records has become. Is it the right pressing, is it mastered correctly is it remastered, what is the source tape, analog or digital and who cut the album. I have to admit it’s great fun and appeals to the inner geek. I do however long sometimes for the days when I was just happy to find a copy that I could afford new or used. Of course in the bad old days we only had one way of listening to records and our choices were limited and the word audiophile was reserved for those strange bearded men in the stereo store buying equipment we didn’t know what to do with.

To be honest after years of abuse at live shows I don’t think my ears can really tell some of the differences others claim to hear in all these exotic pressings. I like to listen to records because they are funner and I can read the lyrics and the sleeves are easier to enjoy. It’s also gratifying to see the jealous look my children give the shelves as they plot how they will split the legacy when I am gone.

Full disclosure. I got guilty when I got home and ordered the damned Sgt. Pepper album. I then felt better knowing the collection was complete in some way, I did not however get the super deluxe fab new version remixed, remastered and rewound. I got the mono version but now I think I may need the other…

 

Turning star projections, voices from the deep…

There’s something about the first time. Whichever first time it might be. The anticipation, the breathless rush to conclusion, the ultimate depression as it ends and then the relentless search for the next time.

Gigs are like that, especially if your 16 year old self has taken the time to commit to memory as much of the discography of a favorite band as you won. You desperately, buy the ticket, arrange the gig companionship and set off into the night full of expectation.

You take your seat and feverishly, drunkenly attempt to hold in the excitement. The band emerges through a cloud of smoke and then only play three songs you know from the twelve played and two of the twelve are weird electronic bleepy things that do not end in the expected chaos of guitars and drumming. It is however deafeningly loud and overwhelming and shit it’s Hawkwind right there on stage blowing your mind. Yes there is no Lemmy and isn’t that Gongs keyboard player up there but the Captain is there and all is well and that’s Simon King on drums so we are good, and wasn’t the guitar player on the first album?

Being hard up for cash I had only heard three Hawkwind albums at this stage, and the callow Joy Division fans at school would sneer at the mention of Hawkwind. Those being the first album, Hall of the Mountain Grill and Space Ritual so all the Calvert songs and the then unreleased songs from Levitation were strange creatures. However my tiny teen mind was duly blown and I hung on every word of the grizzled creatures around me who mumbled of the anarchy of gigs gone by. There was however no Time We Left This World Today, but the strange metal punk Brainstorm more than made up for any thoughts that this was not Hawkwind.

All of this strolled through my mind as I played my newly purchased copy of Live ’79 that  memorializes this anarchic tour before Ginger ruined the gig with a drum solo. It also has one of the most awfully garish album covers of all time.

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After this show Hawkwind became a fixture of the calendar for me, if they played on a train or bus line I was there, screaming with the other idiots into the all encompassing noisfest that was a Hawkwind gig.

A holiday a holiday…

It’s that time of the year, the summer is upon us and thoughts of the idiot fanboy turns to one question alone. Do we go to Cropredy or not?

Now this used to be a fairly easy question, every year, buy a ticket through mail order, jump the train to Banbury, walk to Cropredy, camp and drink and listen. Then complications happened, marriage, children, moving 6000 miles away. Of course the yearly desire happened, the questioning until it settled into only the 5 year anniversaries and for some obscure reason involving early indoctrination, much children graduation from high school. It all seemed to make sense to the fan.

So as if by some magical alignment of the stars something happened this year. My precocious youngest child graduated a year early giving us the perfect excuse to go to the 50th anniversary Cropredy of Fairport Convention. That is the anniversary of the band not the festival. We duly purchased tickets, called a good friend in the UK who as if by magic is celebrating his 50th birthday this year as well and start plotting.

Now tickets are purchased, flights booked, car reserved in Manchester and the beloved parents informed of our impending arrival. Then it came crashing in on me, this will be very likely the last Cropredy for me. The festival over the years has changed subtly and not so subtly meaning that it is no longer the amateur affair it used to be. There seem to be more people than in the past or is it really the same people but they are larger?

Fairport Convention are a band that can be infuriating, they seem to have settled into a very comfortable groove that is safe and sound and impeccable in it’s performance. The last chance for something different for the fan is Cropredy when old and new members meld and reform into old and new configurations and hopefully Simon plugs in. If this happens we will all gush, if it doesn’t we will all sway along to the old favorites with a tear in the eye. Either way it will be fulfilling of some need that is deep seated in the fan, a connection with a band that is real and tangible.

In preparation this evening I have been listening to Moat on the Ledge, from Broughton Castle in 1981, the year before the Festival became fixed at Cropredy. It was also a time when Matty Groves was in the middle of the set and the band did not officially exist. The Full House lineup of Nicol, Thompson, Pegg, Swarbrick and Mattacks with the addition of Bruce Rowland on drums and Judy Dyble singing with the band for the first time since 67. A rough and ready live recording, no overdubs and at times without a net, it’s a band that didn’t exist performing like a band that has been playing together every day.

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The set list is one that could have been culled from those early albums, a Dylan cover, a Joni Mitchell cover a Thompson original or two a classic rock song and a medley along with a Swarbrick classic in Rosie. It’s an edgy album with some tracks at times sounding like they may fall apart as the band play faster and faster. It’s a reminder of what made Fairport so great and a foreshadowing hopefully of Fridays set with Pegg, Nicol and Mattacks backing up Richard Thompson in a throwback to the glory days.

Fairport Convention are a band that created a genre and then never managed to keep it together long enough to capitalize, other bands made British Folk-Rock their own while Fairport merrily sabotaged their way to being the greatest folk-rock band to never have a truly great album that captured them. Yes Liege and Lief is influential and created a genre, Full House is powerful and evocative and Tipplers Tales is a good time had by all, later albums hinted at greatness without achieving it, but there was always the live shows and particularly the Cropredy shows. Like the Dead they are  band defined not by their albums but by their gigs, relentlessly touring. Unlike the Dead they had so many lineup changes that it is dizzyingly difficult to maintain a sound, the Fairport you connect with is usually the one you first heard live.

So this year as I sit in that field in Oxfordshire, swaying with the other old farts and youngsters I will think about Trevor and Swarb and Martin and Jerry as he recovers and I will very likely say goodbye to a formative experience of my youth and young adulthood. I may cry and I may laugh but I am pretty convinced that I will not regret not going back to that field as the band I love inevitably thins itself out with the travails of time. I am going to remember the glory years and the howling solo’s and mud puddles and weirdness of the 80’s festivals that moved to the 90’s and then every five years or so. I will complain about the flags and chairs, while I look for a spot for my chair and I may hug the stranger next to me.

across these acres glistening, like dew on a carpet lawn…

It’s a little overwhelming but it looks like we will be successful in buying 10 acres. Damn that’s a lot of land, two creeks and big wooded hill.  It’s like being given the opportunity to buy a park.

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I am having a hard time taking all of this in right now. Not to mention that there goes the buying of records for awhile/week maybe.

All we have to do now is clear some land, dig a well, build a house or trailer and raise some goats and tomatoes. Maybe I need to buy some guns as well

This has all the potential of the Good Life gone wrong, the townie moves to the country and gets overwhelmed and sinks into the sunset sweaty of brow and hard up. Of course I don’t necessarily want a farm just some privacy and space and it will work out cheaper than buying a house already built so why not. I also scoped the fiber optic cable on the property line so hopefully I will be able to youtube that video on how to do stuff that has become the way of the world.

To celebrate this insanity I am playing the awe inspiring Heavy Horses by Jethro Tull. One of the trilogy of folk-rock that Mr Anderson brought to us as the 70’s and their promise faded to the 80’s and it’s different type of excess and the complete destruction of Metallica as metal virtuosos.

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This has got me thinking of the neo-hippie bucolic existence I am hoping for in the Cascade foothills. I am feeling the need for a kaftan and incense and peppermints in the air. Maybe I’ll get back to the country like Traffic or just go stir crazy at the sight of the stars without light pollution and the silence.

Maybe I will grow things in the hidden back pasture that should stay in the hidden back pasture. Maybe there will be strange found objects in the copse and a real honest to goodness follow appearing on a hillock. For sure there will be a tractor a Clydesdale just seems like a little too much of a skill based mechanism to manage as I get back to the country.

In all honesty it will be vegetables and goats and dogs in the happy valley, and outdoor speakers for the tunes in the woods. I

 

I’m living in a dream land…

I read Bruce at Vinyl Connections D&D post the other day, it’s here:

WORLDS IN A MAGICIAN’S HAT

Next thing I knew I was hip deep in gore attempting to rescue the blacksmiths daughter from the goblins as they sacrificed her to the horribleness below. Well it wasn’t exactly the next thing but Sunday afternoon as we drove the backroads searching for the new homestead we got the call, “come home we need two more for the dungeon.” So there I was an intelligence challenged barbarian hacking his way through the mess a 22 year old can create in his mind after a steady diet of Moorcock, Tolkien and Gaiman with a healthy dose of Star Trek thrown in for good measure.

The amusing thing was my wife had been living out her own elvish fantasies as we trudged through the woods, a promising 10 acres off the beaten track. She found the sunny dell by the creek and the wooded copse held all sorts of plans for the future.

Getting lost on the way back in the dreaded berry bushes as we failed to remember our route up the hill left me bloody and beaten.

All of which will undoubtedly result in the dreaded offers and counter offers that all property deals end up as, not to mention where the septic system will go and how deep does the well have to be questions. Which means that the battles ahead have nothing to compare to the skull crushing and slicing and dicing that we went through on our return home after the attempt to find the property markers, fording two creeks and climbing the hill to the copse.

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They’re burning effigies out in the street Man the lifeboats, sound the retreat…

Dreams of America have been part of my consciousness my whole life.

I used to sit with my Grandad as he told me tales of ocean voyages and Times Square in New York. He had travelled the world it seemed to me, he had actually travelled the world but that’s what happens when you are a chef for the Cunard line. He was a larger than life man who had sailed the oceans and fought in the war. He was a role model, I know he was flawed as a younger man but in his age he had grown into a gentleman.

He told me about skyscrapers and fancy suits and sandwiches as big as your head. He also told me about sharks in Australia so I never really had the fantasy of visiting as it sounded too dangerous, We used to sit for hours watching cowboy movies and Cary Grant films, sometimes these were the same thing, it seemed every week there was a new movie to watch. One night we stayed up until midnight to watch High Noon. This was in the days before video machines. Then he would tell me about the cars and later the girls and jazz music. Right about this time my Nan would send me out to play and tell him to stop filling my head with nonsense. I think she was afraid I would take off.

My Nan had tales of Americans as well, they were not so complimentary. Stories of brash arrogant men in uniform who would harass young women. Tales of caution. She was however not averse to taking advantage of the odd yank, as she put it although she also guarded her two daughters with a ferocity that was probably legendary in the alleys of Liverpool.

My Dad also had tales of America. The American cousin who sent candy. This caused my Dads legendary dislike for wintergreen. He remembered the big cars coming off the ships though and the Levis you could get cheap in the pubs on the Dock Road. He also laughs at the thought of sitting in the bath so they fit perfectly.

Later on for me there was music and books and more movies and more music. I was almost cured by Jaws, damned sharks again. Then I read On The Road and all was forgiven, this was the America I dreamed of. Art and words and vast panoramas and infeasibly massive cities. Then I read Hunter S. Thompson and was convinced all Americans were in a drug fueled frenzy moving at 1000 miles an hour. All of America was Vegas, the Rat Pack, the chase in North By Northwest and Dylan’s Brownsville girl wrapped up in a mess of beat poetry and Rock’n’Roll.

I had however never met an American. I knew they were around and we hung out in themchale-s-irish-american American Bar on Lime Street, pretending to be cool and hoping a real American would walk in. For some reason we were convinced the name of the place would drag them in like a magnet. I think they have knocked it down now.  It was a rowdy bar at the best of times but I am not sure it deserved knocking down.

I would hear the accents on Matthew Street on Friday and Saturday but those sweaty overweight men bore no relationship to John Wayne, Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan. They could not be real Americans just some bellicose imposters to confuse me. Everyone in America was cool, I knew this because it was the land of Dylan, Kerouac and Todd Rundgren and the A-Team and the Wild Bunch. A land of mavericks and loners and super heroes.

IMG_6584All of these thoughts have been stirred up by listening to Ray Davies new album Americana. The realization of how pervasive America was in my life and how far away it was even in the 80’s. Also how glamorous it still is in my mind. A place to be aspired to, a dream a goal to attain. Even as I live in the USA today I feel more a stranger than ever before.

It’s a strange old world I suppose.

Do you live in a dream or do you live in reality?

Being a fan of the Kinks I could not resist buying the new Ray Davies album Americana. It’s helped along by the Jayhawks being the backing band.

My first take on the whole thing is it is a fine album. A reflection on Davies relationship with the USA, definitely a timely release as that most English of songwriters tackles his love of all things American. A love that has been evident in the past with songs such as Oklahoma USA from Muswell Hillbillies.

The whole album has caused my brain to start working overtime as I consider my own relationship to my adopted home, my reluctance to become a citizen and the current political landscape. Heady stuff at the end of the night. I am sure there is a lengthier post in this idea somewhere.

The record is however 4 sides of great songwriting that is related to Davies book of the same name in some way. Now I have to go read the book I suppose.

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