Ride the post atomic radioactive trash…

Back to the lists, well the ever evolving list.

I have an affection for Hawkwind that sometimes flows over to obsession.

I got Quark Strangeness and Charm in the early 80’s. It was a Christmas gift from my parents, I am not sure they knew what they were buying. Over the years I wore our three records I think through various mishaps and disasters.

Hawkwind-Quark-Strangness-and-Charm I sold my last copy to buy baby formula when our youngest was young enough for formula. Well to be honest I sold my entire Hawkwind collection for baby stuff, we were poor and the records seemed surplus to requirements at the time.

When we moved to the USA Hawkwind were too obscure it seemed and there was no Amazon and discogs to meet a need.

Over time I replaced many of the Hawkwind albums on CD mainly when I went back to the UK but those Charisma albums seemed to never be released except on dodgy Russian labels. I lived with the memory alone and played Space Ritual and other masterpieces of blanga constantly much to the annoyance of my wife.

The album became the Holy Grail of my cd searches, never turning up but always rumored to be available. Eventually I bought Epocheclipse which had many of the songs but none of the flow.The Cherry Red releases came but I never bought them, there was something about the memory of the vinyl, the sleeve and the inner sleeve with the typos and crossing out.

So finally I succumbed spending $20 on  used vinyl copy on the Sire label. It is not the Charisma label with the mad hatter and Cheshire cat but the music is all there in the right order.

The science fiction lyrics of Robert Calvert, the social commentary, the homage to Krautrock in the Forge of Vulcan, the riff’s the violin solos and other fun stuff to marvel at as the synths wash over you. When I first got the album it seemed like one of the greatest things I had ever heard and it still makes the list of my 50 favorites I guess.

I want to talk glowingly about the audio and the sound but it is Hawkwind. It sounds like it was recorded in a hurry between tours. It has some mistakes on there and the urgency of a band getting something important out. It is the best of the Charisma albums although I have to admit to a love of PXR5 as well.


Set the controls…

So the week is over and there always seems to be 20 minutes in the day that is unaccounted for that requires me to visit the Goodwill store to see what vinyl is lying around. This week saw a particularly intriguing haul.this week

It seems like someone was cleaning out their teenage memories. The rack was a plethora of eighties heavy metal from Accept to Saxon and Molly Hatchet. It was really difficult to not take them all as i browsed but the available cash was a limitation as well as the sight of a 49 year old man strolling out of the store with a Saxon album under his arm.

I did however succumb to the Rainbow albums. I have always had a soft spot for Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore, they were constants on the tour circuit during my formative years. I also snapped up the Rush album, it was considerably cheaper than the Ticket I bought for the show the other week.

I have always enjoyed Jean Michele Jarre and they sound superb,

Then I saw it Joe Jackson’s Body and Soul. When I was a young adult and should have known better this was the album that sophisticated young ladies used to calm down those of us who had spent too long in the bar bellowing Pogues lyrics. It was the epitome of cool and not something that would find it’s way onto my turntable. I always felt I should own it, it looked so cool on other peoples shelves. It almost preached to you that the person who’s room you were in new what good music was, they had actually listened to Coltrane and Miles and were on a casual acquaintance with the works of Nina Simone. I snatched it up and now I am afraid to play it in case my memory of the meaning of that album will spoil the music.

The two real gems are Floyd’s Ummagumma and the Kate and Anna Mcgarrigle album. Ummagumma because for years it was the only live Floyd album and I like Grantchester Meadows and The Narrow Way, the rest I have refused to ever listen to again but it’s a Floyd album and had to be saved. The vinyl by the way on this is absolutely silent although the sleeve looks like it was used as a doorstop.

Kate and Anna Mcgarrigle are just wonderful and it is a perfect album helped by Joe Boyd;s production which I am convinced consists of drinking coffee and letting musicians do the work.

So there you have it my week of wading through the thrift store grime. From metal to folk via psychedelia the blues and pop music. I have become more aware of the state of the vinyl and less concerned about the state of the cover it seems.

Let me learn to despise…

Some things are so special you have to take your time to find. Old records are like encapsulated memories, little time capsules of your life. Some are so special they can immediately take you back to a time a place.

I have a list as do most people who collect anything, right at the top of that list is the desire for a really good copy of What We Did On Our Holiday’s by Fairport Convention. Everything about the album is perfect, the artwork, the song selection but most importantly the lineup of that most changeable of bands Fairport Convention.holidays

Nicol, Thompson, Hutchings, Denny and Lamble the folk-rock super-group. It is a perfect band, folkie enough but with definite West Coast psychedelic leanings. It is how the Airplane should sound, the perfect Dylan and Mitchell covers band and yet so English. The covers are perfect, the original songs are sublime, an album that demands to be listened to again and again.

In various incarnations Fairport Convention would go on to make more important albums. Some are at the top of some peoples list of greatest folk rock albums of all time, most explosive live band. They are that most confusing band with more members than a football team. However in 1969 they made this album that is precisely balanced between rock and folk, but has not launched a movement. It is innocent enough to have the title of every English school child’s return to school essay, but world weary enough to cover I’ll Keep It With Mine.

I have been looking for an original but they are all too pricey unless you get the odd A&M album entitled Fairport Convention. without the charming artwork.220px-FairportConventionUSReleaseThe Simply Vinyl and 4 Men With Beards pressings had mixed reviews. Then I found a reference to a Tapestry pressing from Germany. Only 500 made apparently. I found one ordered it and it arrived with a nice big scratch across the second band on side 2 which is Nottamun Town which has something suspiciously like a sitar solo but is probably Richard Thompson on guitar. I despaired but emailed the seller with little hope, they promptly dispatched another that is perfect and my belief in humanity was restored. It is a wonderful pressing, everything is clear and the sound awesome, Martin Lamble’s drumming shines throughout the album.

So here it is my second perfect album along with After the Gold Rush. It immediately transports me back to a field in Oxfordshire, every house it has ever been played in and every cuddle on the couch to explain how important this album is to me. The beginning of a love affair with a band that are simultaneously annoying in their caprices and amazing in their ability to perform live so many styles and varieties of music.

It is a beautiful simple album without the future violin pyrotechnics, drinking songs and raucous laughter of future lineups and the tragedy to follow.  It is a moment in time before the seventies when possibilities outnumbered the chance of being held back. A time when the other band from Muswell Hill managed with the right producer to make a classic.

All that is left is to find the perfect copy of Unhalfbricking, Liege and Lief and Full House, of course it is unlikely to end there as the completest in me will take over.

Take a look below to see how wonderful a Fairport performance at Cropredy can be given the right circumstances and the English summer sun.


I can’t do that round here…

Another day another stop at the Goodwill to kill time and away I come with this weeks haul so far. The odd thing about shopping for records this way is that you pretty much take what you find. Sometimes it’s a risk on something you have never heard and other times it is like finding an old friend. This last day was odder than usual, I don’t normally listen to reggae but I could not resist the Toots and the Maytals Best Of, if only for their slightly twisted version of John Denver’s country roads and who doesn’t like a song called Monkey Man. It was also brand new and still in the shrink wrap so why not.

Burgers by Hot Tuna has always been a favorite and it would be a sin to leave a George Harrison album on the shelf.ahaul

The real find though was Nils Lofgren Cry Tough, I have never listened to Nils solo albums. Cry Tough however has proven to be a really great Rock ‘n’ Roll album with a stunning version of For Your Love mixing rock and some reggae moments. I had never really paid attention to how good a guitarist he really is.

Then there is the shame of the Electric Light Orchestra, but it looked so tempting and I have never heard anything by Savoy Brown so why not.

I did resist the Eagles and was bummed to find the Creedence albums scratched beyond hope in a strange Big Lebowski irony overload. This is the downside of the thrift store rummage, you have to really consider if something will be playable once you get it home.

So new things to listen to. A moment of pop indulgence and it is only Wednesday.

The biggest problem is that we have just moved and the rooms are so empty that they echo considerably so listening is a challenge especially if you attempt any reasonable rock out volume.

Empty out your pockets…

Some albums are of a time and some describe a time. Everyone knows the story of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, if you don’t you can find it here:


2001 was a tough year personally for many reasons, in November I went to see Wilco at the Roseland Theater when they played most of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on tour. I had whiskey and beer spilled on me, drank too much and witnessed something incredible.yankee-hotel-foxtrot1 I had never heard so many strange blips, interference, static in a coherent manner since Julian Cope at the Royal Court in Liverpool. I had also never seen a front man so insanely possessed by  the songs he was singing.

I remember being blown away, the aging hippy Dan I went with had not been to a gig since seeing the Band and Dylan in ’74. He was blown away as well. He never went to another gig but never seemed particularly phased by that. He died last year watching the sunset from an Indian hillside listening to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, at least that was what was in the CD player when they found him in his lawn chair. I like to think it was playing.

Since I got my new record deck I have been wanting to hear this album on vinyl, for nostalgia, to wallow in a moment or maybe just because it is an album on the list that everyone should hear.

Of course it is a serious album covering all sorts of heavy subjects even heavy metal drummers. Apart from that it is an album of melodies and noise with all sorts of cool musical references, whether it is Krautrock drumming or the slightly breathless Lennonesque vocals and ambient Eno noises.

Jeff Tweedy may have written better songs since, performed better shows but I don’t think he has released such a complete statement since.

The end of my recollection is summer 2002 after buying the CD, barreling north on I205 in an overheating rusting ’85  F150 pickup and realizing I was living in America. The geeky English guy trying to find out how Liverpool was doing in the Premiere League before the all pervasiveness of the internet, trying to find a way to buy Fairport Convention albums without going bust listening, to a song about bad ’80’s heavy metal drummers and realizing it may not get much better than this.

Anyway how does the vinyl sound? Just perfect is the answer as I keep my wife awake with the strange bleeps, whistles and static.


Not a single word was said

It’s the inevitable Pink Floyd post. So cover your eyes.

The first album I ever heard by Pink Floyd was A Saucerful of Secrets, the second was Animals. Both have held special places in my memory and life.

The first album I ever bought by Pink Floyd was Obscured by Clouds and my favorite is Atomheart Mother closely followed by Animals. I prefer The Final Cut to The Wall.

My greatest love for Floyd’s music is the period right after Syd’s departure and prior to The Dark Side of the Moon.  I really like the Richard Wright songs and his voice when mixed with Gilmour’s, sometimes Roger is just too sincere.

I could live without Dark Side and Wish You Were Here but spring would never be the same without Meddle, and summer reminds me of The Wall.

I enjoyed the 80’s and 90’s Floyd and went to see Roger perform The Wall twice but missed Gilmour’s tour, the only time I saw Floyd was The Wall at Earls Court.

Since 1978 there has not been a week I have not heard at least one Floyd song, either on the radio or the stereo.

My favorite bootleg is the Electric Factory Sept 1970.pink-floyd-1970-resize

Anyway in the early 70’s Floyd were stretching beyond the bounds of their minds and sanity. They were loud and confusing musically with a quadraphonic pa. They were adventurous, frying eggs on stage and sawing wood, banging on things and shaking stuff. They were also writing great melodic songs and long pieces that were never rambling and pointless. They were a jam band that had a rabid fan base. They constantly challenged there audience and the recording process. They tried to make an album with no conventional instruments, they made an album were each had to write their own song with no help from the others.

If they had a deal now they would have been consigned to obscurity after the second album. They are one of the best arguments for giving bands time to mature.

Yes what they produced after Dark Side of the Moon is probably more significant but there is an innocence and joy about those early albums, a belief that anything is possible if you have the nerve to do it. They are often overlooked even by the band, the soundtrack albums More and Obscured By Clouds pushed aside for the joyful excesses that Dark Side and Wish You Were Here are.

So here are my 10 choices for songs you should pay attention to before the super star status hit the band. Naive wonder filled songs that have inklings of the future.

All alone the captain stands

In 1979 I was browsing the records in the library, trying to decide what to listen to. There was no T-Rex in and the Bowie had been heard. Prior to this trip to the library most of my musical education was through my cousin but he was not available.

There was an odd looking album called After the Goldrush, the sleeve was almost a negative of some hippy strolling past some railings passing an old lady who had almost become part of him.goldrush, or was bursting out of his back. On the back was some patched jeans and inside a lounging stoner. Everything about the album said take me home.

My Dad was making those gestures that only parents can intimating that we should leave and knowing the ritual of checking an album out of the library I grabbed the album and prepared for the scrutiny.

Before you could take the album home you had to with the librarian examine every inch of the vinyl and record every scuff and scratch on a piece of card that was held at the library. The ritual would be repeated on the return and the librarian would compare the card you had drawn with him and the returning record. Any new scratches would be recorded and you would be fined or if it was minor damage chastised. You had to have a parent with you to check out records and they had to agree to replace the album if you ruined it.

This is the way my relationship with Neil Young’s music began. In a library with a fussy librarian examining a piece of black vinyl under a lamp and an admonishment not to damage the album.

Once I got home and heard the first notes of Tell Me Why I was hooked. There was incredible sadness in the album and anger. It spoke to the teenager listening probably as it had spoken to every teen and young adult who listened to it prior to that. Heart ships, broken hearts, desolation, anger at injustice, fear for the world, lust, hope, hopelessness and romanticism. Neil Young covers it all and in one album. Pastoral folk wimsyness and searing guitar workouts and harmonies. I am still convinced it is a perfect album with not a single bad track on it. It is a whole everything about the album makes sense and still sounds fresh.

I found a used copy the other day, it is not perfect, maybe very good plus in the discogs rating system. Some surface noise but funnily enough this is almost how I remember the album.

After that library album I bought my very own copy. That was in the days when you could walk into Woolworths and buy records. I played that album to death. There was one memorable night I played Oh Lonesome Me over and over after my then girlfriend explained how she really was looking for a more fulfilling relationship. There was another night I was convinced that Don’t Let It Bring You Down held the secrets to the universe, but there may have been several reasons for that, however I am still looking to find someone who is turning. I have likewise sat and marveled at the beauty of Birds.

It is an album that when you begin it you are committed to the whole experience not just one or two songs.

That fateful day in 1979 led me to borrow Decade next, then I discovered Live Rust and all was lost.  However I always come back to After the Goldrush which is I am convinced one of the few perfect albums in the history of recorded music.