Live Stiffs, the package tour from hell, drugs, drunkenness and mayhem. Costello. Lowe, Dury, Larry Wallis and Wreckless Eric.
It’s the missing link between punk and the early 70’s underground, Larry Wallis and Nick Lowe are the connection to the strangeness that was early 70’s underground, Costello Dury and the others are the new pretenders pounding the same streets in there own anarchic way.
The album is rough, ragged, unpolished and wonderful. It’s amazing that the tour happened and that the label released the album. The performances are far from perfect lurching at times and the worse for chemicals at times, it is however a testament to a time when something different was happening, and giving a nod to the past at the same time. It is also a nod to a time when labels and records mattered, it was not so much profit margin type thing but an attempt to acknowledge a way of life.
Probably as many people claim to have seen the Live Stiffs tour as saw the Sex Pistols in Manchester. Suffice to say I was at neither show, I do however think that Live Stiffs is a lot of fun that may very well take a long slow slide into obscurity.
1976 I was 10 and fascinated by David Bowie, T-Rex and Jethro Tull. In the future was the oddness of The Clash and traveling in the back of my cousins Hillman Imp around the back lanes of Merseyside and environs to see various bands ultimately ending up at Earls Court for Pink Floyd and the Wall in 1979. By then I was 14 and ready to strike out on my own.
Neil Young however was on tour in the US. It would be another 5 or 6 years before I paid attention to him and he didn’t care it seems. In fact he still may not care, who knows apart from him and he may not remember. It’s probably just as well though as it seems I was fascinated by loud electric guitars, feather boa’s, makeup and codpieces, Neil is only known for one of these and I’m not saying which one. I was also in thrall to cousin Tony who seemed to believe any music that was American was anathema.
Neil was playing marathon sets with an acoustic and electric section, Joel Bernstein and Cameron Crowe were on tour with him compiling a copy of every song performed, they only managed to compile the acoustic songs before heading out in their own stoney way for something else. The Joe Bernstein tapes were pilfered and turned up as a bootleg for years. I am sure I had a copy at some point in my file sharing bootleg years. There is probably a hard drive mouldering somewhere in the shed with a copy on it, it probably also has a wealth of Floyd, CSNY and other masterpieces.
Songs For Judy came out last year on the Neil Young Archives meandering releases. Hopefully at some point the electric set will surface as he was on fire on this tour. What we do get though is an incredibly well curated double album of all the Neil Young acoustic songs you would want to hear performed in your own solo show if you had the choice. It’s also from a period of time before he started using the too sweet higher pitched voice he seems to favor for acoustic songs today.
There is however a sense of only getting half of the story. Anybody who is not aware of the tour, or unwilling to read the sleeve notes, could be forgiven for thinking this was an acoustic tour. Unless Neil decides to release another collection then that may in fact become the dominant opinion. Regardless of what I want he seems to have distracted himself with a couple of movies and some other stuff so we will see. There is also the rumored Ragged Glory re-release with extra songs and all sorts of stuff and he needs to release Weld and well the list goes on.
So this evening this was just the sort of calming album that was needed to noodle away what is left of the day.
In other things a lot has been going on, there have been the overwhelming human crises that maybe one day I can write about.
So we have managed to clear enough land this year that we can actually start the process of getting back to the country. A garden is planned and a project with the County to restore the creek banks to a more natural environment. Next year we will be planting more native plants along the creek, pulling out the fence that has collapsed into the water and generally having a whole lot of fun I hope.
We also managed to cross the creek in the back and get into the back 5 acres and head out to the old logging road backing up to approx 50,000 acres of forest. It’s dense back there and hard work but good to know we can get there now.
Michelle got kind of lost out there, only game trails and some dense dense ash and alder forest. The neighbor says he saw a cougar the other week, we make enough noise to scare anything away though.
Syd was also a bit lost in the ferns, he moves too quick to get a good picture when he is excited.
The beaver have been cutting our trees down almost as fast as we find them in the overwhelming berries.
For those who need it the necessary tractor shot. It was really early as we were moving trash out of the woods. The old toilet is gone, my idea of making it a planter was frowned upon very quickly.
How many can you say can rock the harp? Well Alan Stivell can rock it and roll it all day long.
I have been collecting these records every time they turn up in the local thrift store, somewhere in Oregon City there is a cache of 70’s folk-rock albums that are being released into the wild occasionally. They look so enticing sitting alongside the Chicago Marty Robbins, Andy Williams and the scratched and warped classic rock. I have now snatched up three Stivell albums along with a couple of Bert Jansch and other euro-centric ( I know this is a phrase out of favor right now) albums.
So in 1974 amidst the folk-rock whirlwind came along this album, all flares and patchouli smelling hippies jigging and jiving in Dublin to some insurgent Breton folksters and their lefty politics. At times Stivell and the boys are damn funky which for a band that has the harp as it’s major solo vehicle is saying something. It’s danceable as shown by my cutting a rug throughout the house to the Breton pipes and harps until the wild fiddles and the hand clapping starts and the flutes and guitars crash in. At which point it all gets a little too much for my knackered legs. Then all of a sudden we are on Prog-folk territory all Hammond organs and odd time signatures, just as you get comfy the pipes are back and we are at it again with the crazy dancing.
It’s infectious and not a bit prissy or precious. And the poster came with it, which is somewhat amazing for an album released in 1975.
As Mr Stivell says in the song Deliverance, straight to you from Google Translate:
” From peasants and fishermen to all peoples
From the planet Earth
And we will offer our eyes to the world.
Is it pretentious to believe we are equal?
Is it too much to ask to live?”
Released in Texas as a benefit for Roxy Erikson in May 1990. The second installment of Copes Lo-Fi efforts, recorded and mastered over three days from two used C90 cassettes it surely must be due for the remaster one day.
It has everything that you want late at night, meandering solos, rambling guitars and mumbled confused lyrics. At times it is reminiscent of one of those acid drenched camp outs we all heard about and never got invited to.
Safe Surfer is abridged without affecting the sense of the song, Jelly Pop Perky Jean is still maybe one of the best pop songs Cope has ever written an dKelly may be one of the best tunes I have heard tonight.
I am in no way going to attempt explaining what any of this is really about apart from that it makes me smile. Considering the current messed upedness that we are all inevitably faced with this is no mean or inconsiderable feat. It is reassuring that there are still genuine eccentrics left in the world to amuse, bemuse and confuse us.
Wackadoodle lyrics and pleasant strumming all over Eye by Mr. Hitchcock.
I find myself really enjoying Robyn Hitchcock while I am listening to him, I enjoy the clever/funny/absurd/whimsical lyrics but they are at times trying to hard to be psychedelic. It’s almost as if he really wants to prove just how out there he is and clever and well eccentric.
I do however really admire Robyn Hitchcock and Eye is an excellent album. Lets face it he has a great way of voicing the confusion that is involved with the English Middle Class, Queen Elvis nails the pent up sexual confusions and quirks of the middle classes that have been the fodder of so many gritty English movies and t.v. shows. Of course this is a subject Hitchcock has essentially made his own over the years.
Some say that Eye is his most focussed album, that has to be Moss Elixir for me but this is a pretty fine album on the journey.
So if you want an album covering tyrants, oboes, sexual confusion and other shit go for it. I certainly did and I am richer for it. Literally I found 10 dollars in the album sleeve so score as I only paid 5 for it. It’s the little things.
Also let us not forget that Hitchcock has great hair, a fine line in attractive and outrageous shirts as well as a studied and consistent rock star approach to his absurd fascination with trams. He has managed to perfect the Lennon sneer in his vocals and the didactic approach to enunciation.
As the world turns and things get more polarizing it is good to listen to the comfortingly strange lyrics and music of Robyn Hitchcock. Maybe if the great orange oner took some time to revel in the strange Hitchcockian world things would turn out better for all of us.
That most eccentric of bands, the Soft Boys, two albums and done apart from the inevitable reunion. A distinct obsession with crustaceans and Syd Barrett, however any band with a bit of whimsy gets labelled with the Barrett tag.
There is however a thread of weird obsessive stalkerliness pervading the whole album that makes the listener a little uncomfortable. 1980 was a paranoid year and the herky jerky psychedelia of the Soft Boys is a perfect reflection of the time. They are not the whimsical Barrett-a-likes touted by the lazy thinkers, they are more the Arthur Lee and Love freaks taking you to the darker side of the psychedelic experience. The lyrics are disquieting enough to keep you edgy and the themes are messed up enough to make you squirm and the delivery by Hitchcock is maniacal enough to make you a bit concerned and if like tonight you are playing it in the dark the claustrophobic sense will make you look over your shoulder to make sure you are not being watched.
The overriding themes that are sticking in my mind right now:
I was going to wax lyrical about something or other, explain the dialectic of living in America, the generosity, the warmness, the hate and ugliness, round it all off with some sort of philosophical laxative and smile.
In reality I was just hanging out at the end of the day and playing Son Volt and wondering how we all got here.
“Who’s winning the war?”
I saw a piece the other day saying the USA has been at war for 93% of it’s existence that has nothing to do with who is in the oval office. It’s a sobering thought and I cannot imagine what the statistic is for the UK or any other European colonial power. Yes I now that conflict impart of life but as a species aren’t we better than this.
Enough of that, some tractor porn, this was the view as I headed out to work yesterday. Should’ve stayed home and done some tractoring as Michelle says, yes tractor is now a verb.
Another thing I realized this evening, I like Son Volt better than Wilco, they just sound more honest, of course that is how I feel right now and it will be subject to change.
Tomorrow I am going to play something fluffy and warm, some rock and roll to end the night.