” I was once sorta…”

There is really something about a great post-apocalyptic novel. It can get you lost in the maybes out there not to mention the what ifs. Unfortunately at times someone decides to make a movie and ruins it.ThePostman(1stEd)

The Postman is a great story, David Brin did a great job convincing you that a little man desperate to survive can use an ideal in order to con his way into food, sex and supplies. At the same time inadvertently reconnect the west coast with the idea they can become a nation again. It is a big book built on the small idea that if communities can gather around an idea and communicate then society can go on, that human connection can overcome barbarism and peace is a good idea.

Then Kevin Costner came along and ruined a good story with ridiculous hero worship and gung ho patriotism. Don’t get me wrong the book can be quite bleary eyed about the USA but in a well done the little man way, Costner turned this element into the over riding them in the movie.

The best aspect of the movie is Tom Petty as a slightly deranged rock star survivalist who has the best line in the movie. It is the reply to Costner’s “I know you, you were famous.”

So at the end of the day go read the book, unless you want to see how beautiful Oregon is.

It’s all a figment of my mind.

Hawkwind have been a fixture in my life since some time in the late 70’s. I think I went to see them 2-3 times a year during most of the eighties, usually at the Liverpool Empire, often in St. Helen’s and Preston as well as brief forays to Warrington and Wigan. space

I have to admit I don’t always have a clear recollection of the gigs. Usually waking up with throbbing ears and an aching body. They used to be entire body experiences. I remember one time I think on the Choose Your Masques tour a stage invasion and some sort of collapse as Nik Turner honked his way painted silver on roller skates or some other foolishness. They were incredible joyous experiences regardless of the lack of ability of the band.

Once the Hawkwind sound of bleeping synths, churning guitars throbbing bass and implacable drums hit you there is no hope. They were the original anarcho hippie collective space bandits. I have to admit the lyrics are at best silly at worst embarrassing but it’s all part of the fun and games with fire eaters dancers and sword waving mimes, what more could you want. They can make spinal tap look reasonable and they do it all with a cheeky grin.

This is why a white vinyl version of X In Search of Space, the first wholly coherent, well as coherent as they get, album by Hawkwind makes me so happy. Still no Lemmy on bass on this one but Amon Duuls Dave Anderson does a great job and titles like You Shouldn’t Do That , We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago as well as Master of the Universe can only add to the excitement. It is a churning mess, at times terrifying and at other times oddly reassuring and wholly disquieting. The next album would blow the lid but this one is a taste of things to come.

Enough of that though, here we have this weeks haul from browsing the local thrift stores and garage sales. Some of the sleeves have seen better days but the vinyl is fine, well loved would be my description I have to admit to being a little over excited by the Police, Dylan and Elvis albums.

the haul

Yes the Eagles are there, it is one of the best selling records of all time so I felt I had to buy it and it was surprisingly fun to listen to this weekend. It does have the good grace to stop before they became too self important and bloated.

Don’t look at the carpet…

New turntable and it’s late. It was easy to set up except for the anti-skate weight which was kind of a pain to get right and recquired Michelle’s fishing knot skills.

late nightWe have been playing records all night, it must be the first time in 20 years at least since I played Low all the way through. There has also been I Often Dream of Trains and Moonmadness by Camel as well as Bridge Over Troubled Waters it got so late because the new Project turntable sounds so good.

I new I would have to upgrade from the Audio Technica eventually but what the heck, definitely worth it and I already sold the old turntable.

The cat likes the new turntable too.

Anyway just about time for bed as we have to start packing tomorrow as we move in a week after finally ditching this house for a smaller one that seems to have the same number of bedrooms but is smaller, go figure. I am expecting that the records will be the last thing packed.

And so the story goes they wore the clothes

Sometimes things happen for a reason. You go searching for something and find a different thing, or you go searching for one thing and find seven.

The great vinyl gods looked down and decreed that the search for a decent copy of Hunky Dory would not be in vain and fortuitously a great trove of Bowie would be discovered.

bowie In the shape of seven somewhat tatty covered but excellent condition vinyl Bowie albums. Not only seven albums but seven of the albums you would actually want including the elusive Hunky Dory that I watched go on eBay the day before for almost $70. This all cost the princely sum of $55.

Some of them look their age, some splits on seams and ring marks and a little worn on the edges but the vinyl is in great shape, quiet and clear.

So here I sit reliving that day in 1977 when cousin Tony placed that album on the turntable and made me listen to Hunky Dory all the way through without speaking.He then insisted I describe the experience in one word, as usual I didn’t really have anything to say.

Since that day I have managed to make Bowie one of the few artists I can say I have taken the time to listen to everything, yes even Tin Machine, when it came out. Sometimes frustrating, infuriating but always relevant Bowie has been with me, at times a secret but always there in the background swaggering and swaying as I struggled to make sense of the world and relationships and politics and life, he has not always been helpful either.

It has also added to that perennial favorite drunken argument who is more relevant Bowie or Morrison.

The correct answer being Bowie, although someone once threw me for a curve with Barrett.

Now I am off to start the listening as everything is now clean.

Prices like that make a grown man holler…

I love the Goodwill store near my house, For some reason every week they have this incredible stack of vinyl, yes you have to wade through more Christmas albums than you want to see but you also get gems. The albums are all by the window so with the eye of the obsessed I can tell if there has been an increase in volume as I drive by and then you end up with this,goodwill this weeks haul from Goodwill, That glared out one is the Icicle Works first album which is as I  would say of it’s time, all pomp and sincerity.

Ever since my teen years I have haunted the used record store more than the new albums. Now it is in search of the opportunity to replace something missing instead of the new. The search is fun although at times I will admit to feeling a little sad as I check vinyl and consider the state of the sleeve. I also am aware of the look on my wife’s face as I walk in with my stack and proceed to clean albums and replace inner sleeves and decide where they will go.

Yes it is exciting to get a clean copy of Surrealistic Pillow to replace the beaten up one I currently have, and it is fun to find a good copy of the Beatles at Hollywood Bowl or the Nightfly but a Queen album or Supertramp can’t be turned down. I almost drew the line at Bad Company but you never know it could be better than I remember.

Vinyl tends to become an obsession it seems. Next I will be frequenting rummage sales and estate sales,

Tonight the night is mine

Ominous lines from Fagen’s the Nightfly.

I had never heard this album until this week. I had never searched it out, it was maybe good enough to know it existed without hearing it. It was semi-legendary and what the hip cats into Steely Dan really listened to, nightflyit was hard to get for many years it seemed elusive at the best, impossible to find or out of reach for my poor pocket as a student and then I forgot about it. Then yesterday while driving past Goodwill I saw the cover in the window. Well I had to pull over.

It’s unmistakable, the jazz guru cigarette in hand whispering knowledge along the airwaves. On a radio station you had to be cool enough to know about as it was so independent.

Then there it was in the stacks of used vinyl, the cover was perfect, not immediately a good sign. The vinyl looked fine.

Home we go clean it up and give it a spin and suddenly I am one of the cool kids. It was all recorded digitally in the age of vinyl and sounds nice. Immediately you are transported back to late night radio, for me it was John Peel and rock music and not jazz but the theme is the same, secret knowledge being passed on to the initiate in the dead of night. Apparently many of the lyrics are auto-biographical and just goes to prove Donald Fagen is one cool cat

This is an album that would have hit the cool quotient of the staff at Probe Records. A polite nod to the knowing as others left with their OMD records or Bad Company.probe

So now I feel like one of the cool kids having heard the elusive to me Nightfly album. I have to also admit I bought a Bad Company album at the same time though sometimes you just need to rock and the Bad Company boys can do that and somehow I think Mr Fagen would appreciate that although maybe with a sardonic grin as he sipped his cocktail or black coffee, and not an all out devil fingers.

Here’s to the lone and wayward son

Here is one from my favorite local Portland(Oregon that is) bands, Blitzen Trapper. Destroyer of the Void was a surprise when it came voidout, following on the folky leanings of Furr, the opening track starts out as if Queen played folk-rock with the Beatles and then runs the gamut of classic rock, folk with space rock synth moments swooping through the mix.

I have always found Blitzen Trapper to be a little more honest and in your face and less reverential than their near contemporaries The Decembrist’s. They manage to reference folk-rock without paying homage, or placing a finger in the ear. They are definitely more rock than folk delving into seventies guitar god moments that can cause you to imagine the seams splitting in the striped pants as the foot goes on the monitor. At times they can be a little throw everything at the song but it always comes out sounding so fun. Quirky time signatures and lyrics that at times remind me of Dylan or the Kinks, a heady mix of influences that can confuse at times as much as delight.

Anyway Destroyer of the Void arrived in a pretty gatefold sleeve and looks and sounds wonderful. My son already stole it and disappeared into his room with the volume set to 11, all because I had to stop playing it for Spanish homework.

The obligatory Record Store Day connection is that Blitzen Trapper will be releasing their live version of Harvest for this years day. I probably won’t go but maybe Chris will pick me one up.

Anyway here are 10 from the Trapper.

What does it matter to ya???

On we go with the mammoth task of listening to Wings Over America. Being from Liverpool you seem to be expected to have committed the entire Beatles colleague to memory by age 4, living in the USA you are expected to personally know at least one Beatle. I have a huge affection for my home town band, like my insane commitment to the team in red from home and a grudging respect for the blue team. albert dockThe site of a Liver bird brings tears to my eyes and I swell with pride when I arrive in the city of my formative years. I have a working knowledge of the Beatles catalog, I can hum or sing along to the majority of their songs, I have listened to Revolution #9 more than once and will get into arguments about which is the best album, it vacillates between Rubber Soul and Revolver if you are interested, and will take the Beatles side in the annual drunken who is better the Beach Boys or Beatles debate. My parents saw the band at the Cavern on more than one occasion and my dad will happily spin tall tales of his association with the members and to this day I could not tell you what is or is not true, which may be the essence of the tall tale.

How this affection for the small band from home manifests itself recently is when I come across a Wings, McCartney, Ringo, Lennon, Harrison or other derivative in a thrift store I knee jerk buy. I cannot imagine the wingsalbums being left there, it seems sacrilegious almost. They need to be safe. They might get lonely if left, this also seems a problem for my son because we have collectively three copies of Band on the Run, one of which is unplayable. This is why I am listening to Wings Over America right now. The cover is beat but the vinyl seems pristine, no cracks, pops, clicks or skips and very quiet. I was unable to just walk away and leave it on the shelf, I really tried, I walked away, I tried self talk about spending too much on vinyl, I reminded myself that $3 was too much for the album in that shape, I distracted myself with other albums, I did everything I could and still walked out with the album in the end. It is pointless I am resigned to this behavior now.

This is not a phenomenon only kept for the Beatles we have the same issue with Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Crosby and Nash. It is unreasonable and several unplayable versions are on the wall in my office because of this.

I have never been a big fan of the Beatles solo output. It is often pleasant but has something missing for me. The magic of those four arguing about the record maybe or laughing and having  fun or competing, who knows but they have never really reached the heights they did as a band. With the possible exception of All Things Must Pass and Band on the Run maybe.

Wings Over America is a fine live album. It has all the hits to that point, a few nice prior band selections, some interesting covers and overdubs to avoid the inevitable out of tune live singing that always happens. It is a marathon, six sides and maybe the original idea of a double album of edits may have been the better choice. It is fun to listen to and a good representation of the band at the time I am sure.  Like all of my other experiences with a member of the Fab Four without the others it can be fun in the moment but ultimately unsatisfying. I find myself singing along and enjoying the album but once it is over all I have is the knowledge that I had a great time but don’t really remember what was so great.

trying to lead a middle aged life…

We moved to the USA in 1994. This was a difficult move for all the usual reasons, missing family and friends, starting again in a new land. The biggest thing on my mind as we got off the plane though was that I would be missing Roy Harper playing Cropredy in a month or two.

This post however has nothing to do with Roy Harper though, even though I arrived in this country with a bunch of CD’s some books and every Roy Harper record on vinyl and three copies of Stormcock,stormcock an original pressing on the Harvest label, the reissue on Awareness and a CD that had just been released. All of these are now gone, the two l.p.’s stolen and I gave the CD to my wife’s cousin. I now do not have a copy apart from mp3 of my undeniably favorite album in a real solid physical format.

Again this post is not really about Roy Harper.

For about 8 or 10 years I immersed myself in the American dream, eating too much, working and not taking enough vacations and at times neglecting my family.

At this point in the story someone asked me had I ever heard Robyn Hitchcock, I admitted I had heard of but not anything by him. A CD of I Often Dream if Trains was thrust into my hand and then my discovery of that most English artist Robyn Hitchcock began.

I found myself in a world of crustaceans, hens, strange allusions to an England that should have existed, where Syd didn’t go crazy, The Move are accepted as the genius’s they are and Bowie is accepted as the true king of pop. It is ironic to me that this most English of performers was introduced to me as I found myself immersed in the American life. In one sense my sanity was saved by this most eccentric of performers. Hitchcock’s fascination with American life from the so English slightly amused angle taught me how to live here and stay sane. It really is a movie with a great soundtrack, all happening on the biggest of screens.

So here it is my first in a new series that I may keep doing depending in the vagaries of Spotify and my interest.  The digital equivalent of the mix tape. My ten essential tracks of Hitchcock, including the Egyptians and solo, no what some would call the deep tracks just the ones I go back to again and again.

Yes I know I missed a lot but hey it is 10 songs not a box-set.

somebody help me I am falling…

I seem to write a lot about Progressive Rock, maybe because it is I am really going back to when I started buying records right now. I spent a lot of my teen years listening to progressive rock while my contemporaries spent time with Joy Division and Magazine. Over time I have got some of my prog tendencies under control, although I am still fascinated by the music, recently in a record store I spent time thinking about the Police, The Clash, some Stiff Little Fingers and other albums I ignored as a youth, I ended up carrying out some Tull, Genesis, Fairport Convention and Beatles, totally predictable as always.


Not many progressive rock bands can claim to have influenced punk but Johnny Rotten was good enough to cite Peter Hamill as an influence. He never managed to make Van Der Graaf Generator hip but it did give them some kudos in 1977. Of course the album he chose was Nadir’s Big Chance which was technically a solo album at the time but contained all the members of the band. Nowadays punks are appearing on all sorts of albums by those dinosaurs they were seeking to replace at the time or at least admitting that those were the albums they were listening to prior to ripping their shirts and piercing whatever piece of the anatomy they could find. Some are even delving into the concept album.

You can hear the show here:


This album must be one of the most aggressive progressive rock albums, it is consistently disturbing throughout which King Crimson at this point would only achieve in small doses and eternally fascinating. It does have Mr Fripp on one track and I have to think some of the brutal attack present on this album leaked over into Crimson.

I bought this album as a cheap pressing sometime in the early 80’s because it was on the Charisma label, home of Genesis, Lindisfarne and Monty Python among others.  I had no idea what to expect, I was expecting melodies and whimsy, some fantastical elements and beauty, what I got was songs of dark violence.

The first lyrics are:

So you live in the bottom of the sea
And you kill all that come near you
But you are very lonely
Because all the other fish fear you

The vocal was delivered in a dramatic, aggressive manner with a range I had never heard before. The major instruments were keyboards and saxes but at times it sounded like violins or the screeching of strange animals, the songs were about killer sharks,  homicidal and ultimately remorseful emperors, loneliness and disillusion and  I was dumbfounded, I played it three times straight through on the fourth time my dad complained so much I had to stop.

I spent days trying to understand the lyrics. I tried to get my head around the music, few if any guitars, violent imagery about loneliness, torture and death. It is an album that has stuck in my head since I first heard it. I have owned that cheap vinyl, the CD and mp3 it has apparently always been around since the first day I bought it.

So when I had a $12 dollar coupon for ebreggae and found the vinyl on sale I got excited as all I would pay was the postage and what can be better than that? The package arrived all nicely protected and sealed up pristine and then I looked at the label, 4 Men With Beards.

When I got back into buying vinyl I did a little research especially about reissues and this label has a patchy reputation. There is speculation about mastering from CD’s, poor sound quality. little quality assurance. Ultimately the album sounds fine to my ears, it has a warm rich sound I remember from that 8o’s vinyl and is clear so maybe I got away with it this time and at the end of the day it was $4 postage so not so bad.

Buying records has certainly got more difficult than it used to be, as usual the popularity of something is causing a certain amount of cashing in and taking advantage of the hipness of something. It is a significant investment to buy an album which it always really was as a teen as well regardless of how rose tinted we see the past. However it is more difficult to spot the good deals with so many fakes and bad pressings out there.