“Roly poly, roly poly, holy poly poly” he sang…

There are few things more positive in life than a Steve Hillage album. The eternally blissed out and smiling hippy guitar slinger. Always the reluctant guitare hero he was as shown by the cover as capable as any other guitarist of giving good face.

As you probably know, especially if you have ever seen Donovan live,  Donovan singlehandedly is responsible for the 60’s, psychedelia and folk-rock music. However even he was not able to take a song and create from it a sound that oozes peace love and happiness from the speakers and even Donovan did not dare to enter the 15th century hurdy gurdy into the rock arena. Hillage takes a memorable Donovan ditty channels it through the octave doctors and makes it frolic with the pixies.

Yes he is an annoyingly positive peace loving hippy who makes Neil from the Young Ones look like Attila the Hunl but you really have to smile when he asks, “Who’s gonna be an electrick gypsy?” Suddenly wearing a kaftan and Egyptian jewelry looks like a reasonable life choice. You start searching out your llama wool hat and mittens to insulate against the chilly November winds and wait for the full moon before making any major decisions in life.

All of this before side 2 which launches you to strange chants a track recorded entirely during the full moon and ends with George Harrison’s It’s All Too Much.  All in all the album hits all of the required points for a successful Hillage album, and next came punk.

A pretty girl and a jug of this…

In Fairport Convention circles there are endless arguments about which album is more influential, which lineup best, which fiddler is king, the arguments are endless and meaningless and usually end up with the same answer.

Which was the first Fairport you saw, it’s kind of like who is your Doctor for Doctor Who fans.

My first Fairport show was the Nicol, Swarbrick, Pegg and Rowland lineup, it was a raucous show with shouting from the audience chases with large inflatable bananas and the selling of merchandise from the stage. The show was performed by a band that had allegedly split several years earlier, had no label, no new record but did have a rabid fanbase and their very own festival. They managed to play loud folk-rock and at times sound like six people on stage.

So this was my Fairport and these are their two albums, they were actually paid not to make the third as they were not making any money for Vertigo records. They are solid albums with great playing that have provided songs and tunes that the more stable current lineup still perform. They are exciting albums that any band would be happy to put out.

The problem with my Fairport was that they were overshadowed by the sheer wealth of material that had gone before. tipplerThey were making great folk-rock albums and performing exciting concerts but were no longer seen as cutting edge or at the time were overshadowed by punk. If they released these albums today they would be seen as overshadowing the last ten or twenty years output but then they were irrelevant.

It’s a shame I miss the days when you could be chased by the bass player with a banana, they took your phone number to make sure you did not miss Cropredy and the fiddle player spent 20 minutes hitting on your girlfriend while the guitarist  got the round in and the drummer smiled like he was still at Woodstock. All of that run on sentence means that as the world disintegrated this week into racism and bigotry I took solace in the past.

Still working on Tales From Topographic Oceans and side 3 almost makes sense now.

Whose magic is a gift…

I was going to go for a rant, family members displaying ignorance, the world going more curved shape than usual. Man’s inhumanity to man etc.

Then I took a breath and time to listen to what was happening around me. My behavior was having unforeseen consequences. So I took a moment to find solace in the poetry of Roy Harper and his mad visions. Most notably Lifemask.

I remember buying the album the same day as my friend bought U2’s Joshua Tree. I had to listen to U2 first as Samantha swooned. Not over me I am sure but young Bono on the album sleeve. Then came the moment of truth. Side One was safe enough recognizable songs, a bit obtuse at times but definitely songs. Side Two was the challenge as Roy launched into his alternate Lord’s Prayer that attempts to cover all the bits deranged old Roy feels got left out in the original. This was about the time Sam saw sense and left me to it. She probably made a sandwich and a cup of tea and took a nap as Roy ranted for 20 minutes or so.mask We then probably went for a walk to break the news to me kindly that no sane man listens to such stuff and survives intact never mind creates it.

Every time I listen a new lyric sticks in my poor mind.

This week it was “whose wildest lust is escalation” which is undoubtedly exactly what is going to happen in this strange twisted world.

So here I am still listening to this strange accumulation of broken phrases and exhortations to the planet and reflections on a painting of Geronimo’s face.

I only saw Roy perform this once in the mid 80’s he was sat on a chair on the middle of a dance floor in Southport. We missed the last train home that night and slept on the station platform waiting for the first train and the question ringing in my head:

is it too late

to create

a world with care

I still don’t have the answer to that question but the music rings as true as ever.

Violence is caused by governments…

At 21.00 hrs GMT you can tune in to the Planet Gong for telepot contact every day or evening depending  on where you are, that’s 13.00 hrs PST for those on the weird and wonderful left coast of these United States.

I know this because it says so on the back of many a Gong album and particularly ANARCHYon the back of this artifact from 1977 with the Here and Now Band. Replete with bubbling analog synths, clashing guitars, space whispers and the wild and wacky  sensibilities of one Daevid Allen. It also has the injunction on the cover not to pay more than 17f, 2.50 in pounds and $3,50, none of which makes any sense now but in the day I am sure made a whole lot of annoyance for sales people in import record stores around the world.

Here and Now were born out of the UK free festival scene and Daevid Allen, well he was created fully formed I am sure as the archetype beat poet, rock iconoclast and all round smiley mannequin or as the album says purveyor of bi-focal vocals. Together they made an album that was mostly live, is totally unique and always brings a twinkle to the eye.

Two classics in Floatin’ Anarchy and Opium for the People, surrounded by the usual excellent Allen and Smyth anarchy, Live Floatin’ Anarchy 1977 is like a fresh faced hippy/punk crossover blowing raspberries in the face of adversity. It’s also a lot of fun to listen to. Along with Here and Now’s Give and Take it is a real slice of a period in time that ended so badly with Thatcherism and the loss of so much that was good and fun in life.

You can go here for hours of browsing fun and great pictures:

http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/

And if that’s not enough this guy is on the label again:

chARLY

Sometimes it takes a while to get back into tune…

Some albums are so positive that the can be a little intimidating to the perennially cynical, but some albums are just so damn good. Motivation Radio is the musical equivalent of one of those smiling speakers who tell you all you have to do is believe in yourself to succeed. The difference is Steve Hillage really believes it and seems to live it. It is almost the Gong story without the pixies, although the Octave Doctors turn up and Radio encourages you to tune in to the higher energies of music.

Let’s face it who can resist a grinning hippy holding his guitar next to a massive motivatedspace telescope enthusing about the Light In The Sky and Saucer Surfing. He was the guitar of Gong as well and that made it extra essential.

My first ever copy of Motivation Radio was picked up second hand at Probe records, in fact the grumpy salesman gave it to me as I bought a copy of Moat on the Ledge by Fairport Convention. This is the only recorded time a salesperson at Probe Records ever did something for another human being. That copy had seen better days the cover was stuck together and the inner sleeve was missing. The record played fine though and that was all that mattered.

tontoI was truly delighted to discover later on when I saw a friends copy of the inner sleeve that T.O.N.T.O. was the synth on the album. Imagine a synthesizer that filled a room. Tonto was legendary in my circle of friends. Galvin had a copy of Tonto’s Expanding Head Band and we would all gather to be wowed by the album.

Also which Kaftan wearing hippy worth his salt didn’t have a crush on Miquette Giraudy.

So if you are in the mood for music that has insufferably positive lyrics, is catchy, has pixies, flying saucer’s mystical radios and more Tarot references than you can shake an incense stick at then Steve Hillage is your man. It’s a lot of fun as well and is guaranteed to make you smile as the cold rainy fall days start to bring a chill to the day. This album also made someone at Probe Records be generous which if you are from Liverpool or environs you will understand to be the next thing to a miracle.