Fare thee well now let your life proceed by it’s own design…

It’s been awhile since I really wrote anything so here goes…

1984 I was 18 and my dad had decided that he couldn’t live with me anymore, for all sorts of valid reasons mostly to do with his health mental and physical. I am sure I was not an easy teenager and he saw an opportunity to teach me a lesson and make me grow up a little. So he packed me off to college to live in the dorm.

Dorm life was not easy for an only child with odd shall we say social skills, that however is for another day.

Eventually like my dad the college decided that I should not live in the dormitory anymore as it was better for everyones health, mental and physical. They did however graciously say I could stay a student but had to live somewhere else. This was predominantly because of the strange, diverse and unusual friends that would inhabit my room on occasion and the loud music recorded and live that would emanate from the open windows of my room.

All of this led to a year of couch surfing and the transient student life, which is not as romantic as it sounds when your only income beyond student grants was a dog walking gig and bar keep in the pub that I promptly drank my wages away at. In my deranged 18 year old mind I was walking out in the steps of Kerouac, Dylan, Harper, Young, Thompson, Ginsberg, Cassidy and any number of counterculture heroes that I could think of, the difference was they had talent beyond consumption of substances and being able to convince any number of lecturers in English, Drama and Theology I knew something of what I was mumbling.

When everyone was done with me and I was looking for a friend there was Dave.

Dave had spent an afternoon in the dorm, decided it wasn’t for him and promptly found a cheap flat opposite Sefton Park somewhere around Victoria Rd. It was not a really pleasant place but it was not in the dorm, I helped him with the rent, he let me keep my few belongings there, predominantly the records and books and crash on a mattress we kept leaning against the wall in the hallway. There was a gas fire and he shared the kitchen and toilet with the ground floor, pretty typical student fare, There was a stoop we would sit on and play records through the window, we would take turns with the neighbors and the street resounded with punk, reggae, psychedelia and the contemporary post punk, pop music of our time as well as soul, country and folk and a whole slew of stuff that I was not aware of the name for.

That was the place I was sat one sunny afternoon when Dave put The Grateful Dead Reckoning on the turntable and I was simultaneously disappointed and enchanted. Disappointed because I really wanted the Grateful Dead to be a truly hard rocking psychedelic noise fest, instead Reckoning is a gentle stroll through the Dead’s acoustic set in 1980. It has more in common with any number of gentle folky country albums from the 70’s than the apocalyptic roar I was hoping for. It was however truly astounding. It’s maybe not the Dead’s best album but every song is a classic and played with conviction, Jerry’s voice is fragile and strong and his picking is spot on. It really is the closest to a greatest hits album available at the time before the days of the endless playlist. It is as I said enchanting and to be honest a lot of fun. It is also in the summer sun a truly danceable album and any number of afternoons were spent dancing along to Reckoning with the neighborhood freaks and weirdos as we played football and Daves recent conviction that basketball was the game we should get behind.

These days I can appreciate the Dead for what they are America’s jukebox, dance band for the twirlers or whatever you feel like, but every now and then I just want them a little closer to a psychedelic noisfest, I will just have to get that need met elsewhere I suppose.Reckoning however takes me back to those sunny days near Sefton Park dancing to the Dead, Toots and the Maytels and Echo and The Bunnymen and drinking cold beer on the stoop and warm beer in the bar.

Let’s go…

So I set out to try and make sense of six sides of Can’s Live in Stuttgart 1975.

What a pointless effort that was.

Six sides of completely improvised unique music meandering, fragile, exotic, violent, discordant and melodic music. It’s a beautiful rambling mess and totally of itself.

I am not completely sure I can do the music justice, it’s funky and psychedelic, hypnotic and well it’s Can live.

I am fairly certain it is going to take some time to digest all of this.

Oh yeah the vinyl is orange, what’s not to love?

Day’s full of rain sky’s coming down again…

Traveling in the time of Covid.

It shall not be taken lightly or seen as a thing to engage in without the willingness to fill in forms and refill them in at the behest of many a person behind a desk. A bureaucratic extravaganza.

First of all I lost my flying shoes, the same shoes I have flown in for ten/fifteen years or so. The comfortable ones that are molded to my feet like lovely slippers. This resulted in the Crocs, not so comfortable but utilitarian. When I arrived home Michelle pointed to the flying shoes laying at the bottom of the crate full of Converse and Doc Martin’s oh how the predictable are fallen.

So many forms to fill in Passenger Locators. Covid test registrations and then the tests.

Calls twice a day from Test and Trace and then the visits from the officials. Ten days of quarantine tests on day two and eight and testing out at day five but you still have to take the test on day eight just in case.

Then you leave and come home.

Maybe it will be easier in future?

mind your steps little friend of mine…

If I am going to be totally shallow, as if there is an “if” there. I have always had a massive crush on Anne Briggs since I was a mere teen and being all pretentious with records under my arm walking through school as if I was in on some secret others only guessed at. The whole image of the hard drinking, hard living young woman in her slouched sweater sitting on the floor smoking and keeping pace with those aging folkies as they were put to shame by her pure voice is captivating.

Anne Briggs is something of an enigma, she burned bright and then essentially disappeared, dissatisfied with her own recorded singing. She still lives in obscurity refusing to record and she is represented by approximately 30 songs she recorded in her short career. There is always the what ifs out there, but the records are maybe enough.

She managed to influence almost every folk-rock, folk band and singer, her recordings have continued to influence musicians to this day. The Decemberists released an entire album named after her first e.p., Richard Thompson based the song Beeswing on what he knew of her character, which was mainly through Sandy Denny’s friendship and his ex-wife Linda, her version of Blackwaterside was influential to Bert Jansch who had the melody stolen by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page for Black Mountainside, go figure.

So this has 12 songs, almost half of her catalogue, I suppose now I should just buy them all as that is all there will ever be.

This is not The Beatles man…

Browsing the records at the library I think I chose the most innocuous and boring album cover I could find, that homely brown color with the guys on the front that look like they were extras from The Good The Bad and the Ugly, maybe the band playing in the corner of the saloon.

Riding home on the bus I had no idea my musical palette was bout to be changed

“Bring your children down to the river side…’

I remember sitting in my bedroom in the early 80’s and trying to understand what I was listening to, I had been on a strict diet of Beatles, Quo, Hawkwind, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult and Uriah Heep, and any number of 80’s metal bands.

“I ask about your turtle…”

What the fuck is this about, sounds like a cowboy movie with some wacked out psychedelic lyrics, what’s going on my minds is confused. Honky Tonk piano, fiddles what is happening.

“It’s dog eat dog and cat eat mouse…”

This is not The Beatles man.

“In the winter of 65, we were hungry just barely alive..”

Now it’s freaking Gone with the Wind. Only this is dirty and “frankly my dear I don’t give a damn” may be the most polite thing said in this version of the uncivil war.

“Nah nah nah nah etc…”

“sat upon my grandpa’s knee…”

These are values that the sixties did away with, respecting our elders and listening, damn what’s going on here? Thats some old time tradition going on, where did this come from?

“when you wake you will remember everything…”

“I got a date with the captains daughter…” now we are talking man.

Now there’s funk shit going on, with some strange funky keyboards.

“when I get off this mountain…”

Oh the joys of co-dependancy , gambling drinking, and rowdiness, thats more like it man.

“if I spring a leak she mends me…”

This is something I can get behind. And now we yodel, yes, let’s go crazy.

Time to settle down it seems.

“thats just enough to get inside…”

Wow that vocal will tear you up, what the hell is going on. Where are the guitar solo’s?

“wishing for the rains…”

Flip that shot over.

Now we rock.

“I lock the door grab my shirt…”

Let’s go out and get crazy and dirty apparently, there’s the guitar and horns and a real strut, Jagger wishes he could sound this bad man.

“now there’s only one place that was meant for me…”

Time to relax, retire and remember the good old days.

“there’ll be thunder in the hill”

Now we have storms and threatening weather, guitars and pianos and a bit of a stomp along.

“three times loser you’ll never learn…”

Some preacher man singing going on, then we stagger around again with the bump and grind going on.

“we won’t be complaining..”

Kind of like coming down, that’ll mess with your mind after all the roustabout stuff.

“I work for the union, cos she’s so good to me…”

I think this covers just about every sound the early 70’s had to offer in sensitive songwriting.

“The smell of the leaves from the magnolia trees in the meadow King Harvest has surely come…”

I am there man.

“just don’t judge me by my shoes..”

So many times I have been that shallow.

Life changing in a way…

my, my, my, I’m so happy…

Every so often you have to play Zeppelin if you are of a certain age.

It’s just a matter of which iteration of Zeppelin you want to go with. This evening there was a journey to Zeppelin and it all makes sense.

A little more Godspeed You! Black Emperor with Luciferian Heights, I think this is in preparation for the new album that should be traveling my way now.

The consternation this album caused in the brain caused me to reach for Topic Records excellent collection of an Introduction to Shirley Collins. Shirley Collins is not that far from Godspeed You! Black Emperor if you are in a certain frame of mind.

The drones and discord of these two albums naturally to my mind led to Led Zeppelin 3 with its mixture of folk, blues and some drones of it’s own. It’s also the only Zeppelin album my wife is able to sit through all of the way which is an added bonus.

It also kicks off with the Viking wails of the anguished on the way to Valhalla.

There is the also the joy of playing with the little wheel in the front cover to see which little picture will poke through the hole this time.

It alI seems a little less focussed and more honest than later releases, a bit messier and less calculated and there is also something that sounds like a banjo in there somewhere.

At the end of the day it’s the little things.

we love you, our countries fucked…

I drove down the road being passed by big raised up trucks flying American flags, they are mostly diesels that belch great angry clouds of smoke as they downshift.

It’s not a parade, it’s a statement. It’s letting us all know they are there. The flag waving good ole boys. Or is that my own bias coming out there.

I was tailgated by a Kia, it was blue and the woman driving was probably half my age, she eventually passed me flipped me off and the bumper sticker proudly proclaimed her desire for a love of the god and the flag.

On the corner there is a Trump sign, its been there for years, it looks a bit run down leaning into the weather, red letters on a grubby off-white background. It must be six feet square.

I watched a man on TV tonight calling for us to unify, to come together, to get back on track, at no time did he talk of what divided us, the lies, the racism the abuses of power.

I realized that unity is almost impossible if you are not aware of how we got here, the small lies that got bigger, the fear and scapegoating that ended with the biggest of all lies.

I watched the numbers of sick getting higher and higher, almost a thousand a day in Oregon and I thought maybe we really have fucked ourselves as a race.

So I played Godspeed You ! Black Emperor and fell into the drones and the violence and cathartic dissonance and beauty of the music. It’s almost magical how every now and then the melody cuts through the noise.

Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, it’s almost cataclysmic in its scope, crushing.

I planted some flowers in an old washing machine we found in the woods, the previous owner used it to pump water to irrigate his marijuana grow.

I also planted some peas and beans and tomatoes, along with corn and sunflowers.

Some things make life better.

am I at home…

I wanted to hear guitars!

It’s been hip for a long time to heap adulations on Steven Wilson. He has been the darling of the prog world, he has remixed almost every 70’s album anyone would let him near and now he is invading the pop world, as well as being in more bands than one man has a right to be in.

Steven Wilson’s Hand Cannot Erase tour was the greatest tour my youngest child ever saw, well that and Alice Cooper but there ya go.

My wife truly dislikes Porcupine Tree’s music, you can’t hold that against her though she also hates Hawkwind, Pink Floyd and Motorhead and barely tolerates Tangerine Dream, she does however love Fairport Convention and Neil Young, although not the long loud songs, so there is still hope.

I think I had Up the Downstairs on some sort of cassette that Gooey taped for me for the flight to the USA in 1994, or maybe it was the On the Sunday of Life album. Either way that badly recorded cassette with no track titles on it was my soundtrack for that flight from the UK as we headed out to our new life in the USA.

It rattled around in the pick up for years, it seemed to always be that tape that was in the cassette player whoever you got in the truck, that and Green by REM and a Roy Harper self released tape that goes for silly money if I still had it. Eventually they all got stolen with the cassette player from the truck, the joys of living in the rougher end of town I suppose.

If I am honest and I do try to be, okay every now and then there is an embellishment for dramatic affect I am from Liverpool after all, I really prefer Steven Wilson’s Porcupine Tree when he was a spotty kids recording his tunes in his bedroom, and sending them off to Nick Salomon, well thats how I like to think of it, some homemade recording and a lot of acid.

Up the Downstairs is a gentle psychedelic ramble though the foggy dreams of young Mr Wilsons mind, yes reminiscent or Floyd, Genesis and Tangerine Dream with several truly dodgy lyrics along the way, it’s the musical passages that are really the highlight though. Obviously Steven was and is a fan of 70’s psychedelic/prog and rock music and was not afraid of the long song.

More shitty photies as they say.

It ticks all the boxes, long songs/tunes, disliked by at least one family member, not too demanding late at night.

Bonus is that there are lots of guitars.

There you go damned by faint praise as my dad would say.

I know my way is hard and steep…

There’s always been a connection between psychadelic music and folk music, maybe it’s the thought of all that frolicking through the woods in May being pursued by faerie queens to procreate under the shimmering sun until the rising of the moon.

Or maybe there is really no connection other than all those psychedelic types were too out of it to write their own songs so they raided the Childe ballads and Roud collections.

I like to think it is the connection to otherworldliness and and an attempt to explain the unexplainable. Of course what to do I really know?

Maybe it’s the idea that folk music is the music of the people and their wish to have fun.

Not sure where I am going with this other than The Trimdon Grange Explosion are pretty darn good, they are loud irreverent and manage to capture folk without being too attached to the form. Plenty of depth and they are not afraid to be loud which is often the big mistake for-rock-psychedelic bands make. Folk music is not a twee form it is robust or it would never have lasted and most of the tunes are for dancing at the end of the day.

The band came to fruition out of the Eighteenth Day of May, released as single, then disappeared for several years before releasing an album. Go figure: