They know who they are…

Some artists have a hold over us. Either it’s a period of time or an ability to connect with us on a level that is so real, close, uncanny even that it is as if they see into our deeper darker recesses. It is something that goes beyond an admiration for the music or poetry, it’s something that talks for us not to us. This type of artist has not just written a song we love but has a whole catalogue of material that connects with us and can make us pause.

This is what I was thinking as I pre-ordered three vinyl reissues by Roy Harper, Flat Baroque and Berserk, Stormcock and Lifemask, I saw them advertised a couple of days ago and managed to hold out for some time, actually about three days. Eventually crumbling and hitting the order button to finally shut the voices in my head up. These three albums are part of my history, my growth as a human being and at times almost an obsession.

They are not the only Harper albums that have a hold on me. They are however three albums that are astonishing in their ability to make me pause and listen. But more of that for when they arrive I guess.

I have been looking for a copy of Stormcock I could afford for a long time. The reissue of all three is slightly less than good copies of Stormcock are selling for so what’s to lose really. Now I am trying to figure out how long I have to wait until they are in my hands.

They are here if like me you can’t resist: Harper albums.

Harper is not particularly easy to like. A deeply flawed individual, arrogant, abrasive, haunting and brutally honest he can be a difficult listen. My experience of him in person has always been positive, the few times I met him he was incredibly kind to a somewhat gushing and flustered fan, luckily for me. So how does that go with his writing and his reputation for unpredictability, I have no idea.

As I sit here and listen to his last album Man and Myth, I realized something. Harper is one of the few mainly acoustic musicians that needs to be played loud and very loud at that. Which when you consider this is an album that is looking at life from the perspective that time is running out is pretty amazing. The music is big, all encompassing overwhelming almost. It is at times delicate, brutal and IMG_5505terrifying. Simultaneously incredibly intimate and fearlessly public. Harper like his music at the best is a force of nature. He is often seen as a folky but has as much in common with Zeppelin and Bowie in the drama and grandeur of his music. He is also one of the few musicians of any genre that has truly managed o integrate the orchestra into his work.

It seems at some point he has influenced many musicians who went on to greater success because they were willing to compromise. He however, forever uncompromising remains the ultimate obscurity and underground sensation. Lauded by many of his contemporaries and current musicians he continues to forge his own path and stand alone as a truly unique force in music.

Over the years I have sat and pored over the lyrics, searching for truth about the man and the human condition. Sometimes shaking my head at the lunacy of the whole stupidity of the music and lyrics or smiling at the cynicism and then in the very next track marveling at his ability to capture the fragility of life in a way that hits you in the gut and then he writes something that may shock and cause you to pause, closely followed by moments of beauty in a fragile song recounting the end of a relationship.

So what have I taken form Harper? Well I stopped wearing a watch, I always tell my love that I love her and I always try to speak my mind, sometimes when I should shut up. Also if it’s good turn it all the way up and don’t worry about the neighbors they need some culture.

 

The to be be played pile…

It’s become a problem, it keeps getting bigger longer and may be a little out  of control. The relative cheapness of used vinyl if you are willing to search and it being garage sale season and the joy of low bidding on eBay has resulted in this problem. Also more driving for work the last couple of weeks has taken me past new thrift stores that call out to me as I pass by.

I think this is a 1st world problem and may explain why as a teenager I was a tribal music listener. Most teenagers financially being in the 3rd world although privilege wise firmly routed in the 1st. I find myself buying records that as a younger person I would have sneered at, hence the Sky album I picked up yesterday and two Firm records and the Big Country as well as The Knack. These are all albums I would only have listened to if forced to a number of years ago, or if they were accompanied by the fairer sex.

Maybe this maturing of my listening is caused by a mellowing with age or the apparent increase in disposable income has allowed me to wallow in my addiction and ignore the tacit agreement I had with my beloved that I would slow down the buying of vinyl. More than likely however I am more secure in my willingness to listen to the more pop section of the world. Mainly as it is no longer really pop but has achieved some more respectable that may include the word classic in it’s title.

Unlike most addicts I have not hidden my problem as it is hard to sneak in with new albums when your wife is sat right there. So in the last week here is the haul in all it’s glory and shame for all to see, there are a few missing as they are no longer in the to be played stack having moved to the  listened to and filed away. I do have to wonder if there are some I will never listen to again however.

Somewhere only in my mind and not really in reality are in the to be sold or given away file. They include the duplicates and the inferior copies sonically as I have to admit I have not allowed me to go down the rabbit warren of which issue I have as that way lies madness. It was however very nice to pick up those Pentangle albums.

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I am not you I am me…

What does a grown man do when his family goes to Central Oregon leaving him home alone? Obviously he gets out his most ridiculously fun album and plays it as loud as his ears can stand. Then he realizes this album is 31 years old and well enough said.

Live Chronicles may not be the greatest Hawkwind album, it is however a fine album that captures at least the sound of what happened at the Liverpool Empire in 1985. The smoke the dancers the narration and the in my mind immortal Tony Crerar who was secure enough to paint himself white and wave a large black sword around for almost three hours. I loved it so much I think I saw it in Manchester and Preston as well.

The Chronicle of the Black Sword was something of a return to form for Hawkwind in the 80’s, although to be honest the early part of the decade had some great songs on dodgy sounding albums. It has a return to the Eternal Champion concept and Moorcock even helped out.

Live Chronicles is superior to the studio effort, it has some wonderfully loopy narration IMG_5421that ties the whole thing together man, just like the rug in the Big Lebowski. It is populated with mostly newer songs but Magnu and Master of the Universe turn up dutifully, Brainstorm is referenced in there and Assault and Battery is on the CD but never made the album for some reason because we really needed Moonglum instead. Side 3 and 4 are when things really kick of with the wondrous Choose Your Masques and things descend into Hawkwind mayhem until Moonglum when you get to use the toilet. The whole album has Huw Lloyd Langton noodling like an ADD heavy metal Jerry Garcia, sometimes a bit too much but in general well.

22560214I am sure the evening began for all three nights at the Swan Inn on Wood Street drinking Old Peculiar and Owd Roger to fuel ourselves for the travails ahead, whether that was a walk to the Empire or a train to Manchester with the requisite cans of Special Brew before the ceremony of a Hawkwind show. The evening probably ended right back where it began at the Swan unless it was too late and then the Freewheeler awaited.

This was the look the cat has on it’s face for the duration of the album, I think this constitutes a recomendation.

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You’ve got me tied, tied…

IMG_5413Loud guitars, big hair and a look as tough as well as tough as several young men wearing denim and leather can look.

Don’t think too much just splay your legs lean back and play  good time rock’n’roll. It’s been a recipe successful for The Stones, The Faces and countless other bands full of young men with enough testosterone to think they are dangerous and irresistible.

At the end of the day who doesn’t like straight up backs to the amps, foot on the monitors rock music. Which adolescent doesn’t want to strum a loud guitar with her/his pals and play senseless music objectifying the world and simultaneously IMG_5414.JPGconvincing themselves they are actually going to get laid every day of the week.

Hence the Georgia Satellites moment of fame and glory with a great first album from 1986. They made two others  but I have never heard them and don’t think I need to.

 

25 years of social research…

In one mighty fell swoop this morning I doubled my storage space for the records. Michelle came along to the flat pack hell that is Ikea to purchase the shelf. She even offered encouragement as I put it together.

IMG_5397Then the axe fell, “You really need to stop buying records at this rate.” was the statement. There is hop here, at this rate is is a hard to quantify figure. Some days I get more than others and well I can rationalize my way out of this, especially as there are three Pentangle records on the way.

You would think after 25 years of marriage she would know better. I am now determined first to figure out what my rate of acquisition is, once this year long research is completed I will try and figure out what a suitable reduction in rate is. After negotiation and probably having to buy more shelving I will reduce my rate, whatever that means. I think she knows it’s hopeless really.

Anyway I now have more space to fill at a suitable rate, maybe I should tell her about the overflow in the other room?

 

Year of the Dead, part damn it’s hot with the roof off…

So i have been on this journey with the Dead and it’s been awhile since I mentioned Dick’s Picks Vol’s 10,11 and 12. Respectively Winterland Dec 29th 1977, New Jersey Sept 27 1972 and June 26th 1974 Providence Rhode Island/June 28th Boston.

IMG_4935My journey with these three began sometime in May and June and has gone all the way through July. They have flown around 12,000 miles on my iPhone and travelled almost 1,500 road miles in the UK from London to  Liverpool to Carlisle and then as far south as the Cheddar Gorge, from neolithic monuments to massive cathedrals.

Then back in Oregon they have rode up and down the road from home to work for two weeks, until today as I sat with the roof off at a light feeling very hot and the ancient Deadhead in the jeep next to me grinned and named the date of the show I was listening to before the light changed again gave me the thumbs up and shouted I was there.

All along the road the Dead have chugged along with me. Their familiar songs holding me IMG_5106grounded as I cried with my Mum and hugged my Dad at the end of the day. They were also strangely there as we pulled through the debris of a festival to the strange town of Glastonbury to climb the Tor and visit the abbey and commune with the strange pilgrims of the past and visit with the burned out new age wacksters left over from the weekend. But truly nothing can beat Glastonbury for a strange event.

IMG_5154As we left the site of the Uffington White Horse I did the calculation to see if we could make it to the Rollright Stones and it was just too far. I think the picture may have been better if I had a plane to take it from.This was more disappointing as it would have been good to write about that for Bruce. This was a truly sad decision to turn the car north but two more hours driving was more than Michelle could take at the time just to see another stone circle. By this time it was all getting a bit Spinal Tap.

All along the road those 8 or 9 hours of Dead music kept me entertained and Michelle and IMG_5160Ben rolling their eyes until we hit the Kinks. That however is another section of the story. So the shows, from 1972 until 1974 is prime live Dead and I have never heard a bad show, although they must exist. Consistent is the word for this period and it is happy music. The 77 show is a tougher prospect, it’s still a great live show but the Dead are back after a three year break and sound a little harsher, more jaded less Sunshine Daydream and more Jack Straw, it’s hard to place but tangible in the vibe.

So the odd thing is I spent time communing with the neolithic sites of my culture listening to that most American of bands. Touching ancient stones while Jerry and the boys led me along that long strange trip and no substances involved. My son got to walk in the steps of ancient man and he came to terms with an ancient band.

I am not much of a reviewer but if you have a long trip to take you could do worse than the Dead. These 10 or 12 hours are some you may not regret taking in the company of America’s jukebox.

I need contact…

I have an indelible memory of being at the back of the stalls at the Liverpool Empire in 1983 as Peter Gabriel was passed around the audience during I Have The Touch. I know I never touched the great man but for the first time in my memory I remember being completely enveloped by an experience that was so overwhelming so all encompassing and  fulfilling I was convinced that I never had to go to another gig ever again. At 18 I had in my mind now experienced everything in that 6 or 7 minutes, this was further confirmed as he launched into Not One Of Us and we were only three songs in at this point.

The first four Peter Gabriel albums at this time for me and one group of friends was the IMG_5377future of music. Of course for another group of friends it was Twisted Sister and Under the Blade that was the promised land and for the crossover stoner group it was Choose Your Masques by Hawkwind that was the absolute pinnacle of music. Somehow I managed to move safely between all these groups.

Funnily enough in 1983 all three produced concerts that have stuck in my mind, whether it was Dee Snider snarling at us as we got his signature outside the Royal Court, Gabriel making contact with the audience or Nik Turner and the Hawks almost causing a riot at the Theater Royal In St. Helens as the stage almost collapsed when the audience got real close.

It is however those four Gabriel albums that stick with me as an unsurpassed body of work, IMG_5389yes I know he went on to bigger and better shows and duets and sold more albums but the immediacy of those early 80’s shows and the songs on those first four albums cannot be beat. From Solsbury Hill to Shock the Monkey he covered more ground than most musicians of his time, even managing andIt’s a Knockout reference in a chart song and the creepiest song ever in Intruder which also had one of the most intimidating drums patterns.

He also had probably the greatest touring band of all time behind him. Of course this allowed him to  crown the whole thing with one of the greatest live albums with Plays Live a document to a great tour, and this after a year when he had to get bailed out by his old band.

This was the last time I got to see Gabriel, apart from one brief Mandela appearance, so maybe it was just I now never had to see another Gabriel show. Now to be honest I also have an indelible memory of Nik Turner painted green on roller skates being carried to the stage in a coffin and the poor concession lady selling ice cream to the freaks before the Hawkwind show.