Kantner and the Airplane in flight pre-Beatles rooftop.
So the year of the Dead has begun for me.
Over the years I have listened to a lot of Grateful Dead but none of it has ever really connected with me, some of the problem may be DeadHeads who approach the band with a certain amount of religious zeal. Either way the thought for doing this was as the New Year dawned I was rummaging around Spotify and found that there is a lot of Dead to stream.
This seemed too good an opportunity to miss. As living in Oregon the Country Fair has almost the same type of evangelical following I thought what better place to begin than with the Sunshine Daydream show from Veneta Oregon. This had two benefits, one it was a 1972 show that most palatable period with the Dead and it would allow me to mock the country fair to my friend Chris who is a true believer and organic farmer.These things may not be mutually exclusive. As usual with everything Dead the cover is magical. Seems to really capture the idea of a bunch of hippies hanging out in the woods tie dyeing clothes and twirling around.
There is also a video which was a lot of fun.
I have no idea how to talk about this recording. Like all ’72 shows it is pretty much perfect. Apparently the last acid test it captures the Dead in full flight with the Merry Pranksters going all out. A perfect set list and a long long long Dark Star that I have to admit I skipped over as I find this twiddly aspect of the Dead a little, well actually a lot tedious. I don’t mind jams but well this is a tad too long. And who thought it was a good idea to let Donna Jean try and Janis out during Playing In The Band, maybe it was the blistering heat of the day but I think not as she does this on other versions.
It was fun there was twirling not twerking and it is a very happy sound to drive around to. Who knows where I go next but this was an expectedly good start, maybe I will delve into the earlier years next.
It’s a new year full of resolution, or resolutions.
This time last year I was faced with entering my 50th year and now I am in the last month of that year. Soon I will actually be 50 and whatever that means. In fact this time next week will be the moment.
I wrote a list, checked it twice and ignored some of it and some I did not. But the year passed and I found myself rambling here sometimes several times a week. I actually started to get people reading my meandering thoughts and at times sharing the same bizarre pre-occupations with 70’s rock, noises of an electronic variety and vinyl. I even managed to communicate at times.
I went to a lot of gigs and bought a lot of records. Some because of what I read that others were listening to. I also managed to not be so embarrassed about some of the things I still get a kick out of putting on the record player.
I also managed to buy two turntables this year after realizing the cheap one would not do, now I am on the search for a good amp and some suitable speakers if my wife will let me.
We got rid of the house we were struggling to pay for and moved to a slower more rural area. Where else would you see a brahma bull walking down main street on the 4th? Or wander down the road and see a store called the Man Shop. I still have not had the nerve to enter, in my mind though it is fully stocked with mustache curling paraphernalia, guns and knives, the type of store in which you could outfit yourself for an expedition or a Sunday stroll.
I swam in a moving river for the first time in many years. It is a beautiful river by the way but a long way down a dirt road and four wheel drive may be required.
I picked my eldest up from jail, now I know how my Dad often felt all those years ago. He survived and is living with us again for awhile, which makes me happy, in fact it makes me very happy all I have to do is figure out how to tell him. Which is a lot harder than you may think at times.
We had a strange disjointed but enjoyable Christmas.
We only only went camping once this last year but it was an excellent camp and the dog got in the canoe without complaint. Yes I know those are Kayaks but there was no real good picture of the canoe and the dog.
So this evening I sat down to listen to something I have loved for most of my life. On the Beach by Neil Young. I first heard it at the age of ?? slumped in my friend Dave’s apartment. He basically held me hostage and fed me Miller Lite until I got it, Miller Lite was on sale that week in the off-license. This was how Dave decided what to drink. It had nothing to do with taste it was the best for the least cost at the time, it was also usually American as he was a fan of all things from the USA at the time. If you had asked our friends at the time it would be him they would lay money on living in the USA.
On the beach can be a strange trip. It falls in the middle of the infamous Ditch Trilogy. It is the most accessible in a lot of ways, it is funny at times, folky at others and harrowing all the way through. It is the album version of The Road. The vision of America it produces is as true today as it was then, serial killers, suspicion, corporations raping the earth and coke fueled edginess. The names have changed but the paranoia stays the same.
Somewhere in that stew is a hope, it may be only in a sky waiting to rain or the turn of the turnstiles but it is there. It may be in the reflection of the past but the bravery of the album is in it’s honesty. Not as big a mess as Time Fades Away or Tonight’s the Night but still as essential.
For a long time it was really difficult to find a copy. Dave had one we found in a cutout record store. There was only one there and on the day we bought it the owner despaired as he was unaware it was sitting in the back of a stack of Andy Williams albums. He swore he would not have sold it if he had been on the register. He looked longingly at the jacket as we walked away. He did however do the honorable thing and allow it to go.
It was also not released for a long time on CD for some reason known only to Neil Young. I still have never really read a good reason. When it was finally released it was one of the first albums in a long time that I bought on release day.
We may have played that record to death and stared at the strange beach cover for hours and enjoyed the garish inside yellow lounge chair design of the jacket. We spent hours arguing about what the lyrics meant, this changed almost daily. The thing that always stayed the same though was at the end of the day when everything else had been played or done On The Beach would always ground you. Leave you feeling that there was a reason to all the silliness that had gone before.
It is one of those albums which for some reason leaves you with the sense that you have connected with the performer. You have gone on a journey and even though it was tough you made it, the demons are slain and you can sit back and feel the mellow glow of a shared experience. Of course at the end of the day what really makes the record is that there is absolutely no filler on there, every song is a classic.
Anyway you should probably ignore all that went before because all you need to know is:
Get out of town, think I’ll get out of town
Get out of town, think I’ll get out of town
I head for the sticks with my bus and friends,
I follow the road, though I don’t know where it ends
Get out of town, get out of town, think I’ll get out of town
Inane meandering slightly ridiculous with too much reverb pronouncements between songs.
A synth squeal to connect songs so piercing it is destined to cause hearing impairment if played too loud through headphones.
Saxophones and violins played at varying levels of competence but with enthusiasm.
Meandering instrumentals destined to cause a trancelike state in the listener.
That infernal guitar strumming that leads to many a crazed whirly dance.
One too many drummers.
If all these things are present you can only have one thing in your possession and that is a copy of Hawkwind’s recording of Warrior on the Edge of Time. You could also be wondering how this particular record ended up in a small thrift store in a sleepy backwater in Oregon. Of course if you are like me you would just pounce on it exclaim in joy and rejoice at the discovery all the while doing a dance somewhat reminiscent of puppets being jerked around by it’s strings.
Yes if you were picky you could be saddened that it is not the folding out Eternal Champion shield cover. You may be saddened at the lack of inner sleeve. However once you got to the point when the glorious trance like instrumental break at the end of Magnu reached it’s peak you may just smile and thank the Space Rock gods for your discovery and remember we are all veterans of a thousand psychic wars.
Sometime around the middle of December in the middle of the night when I should know better I was mooching around eBay and found a deal too good to miss. A copy of Street Legal by Dylan. This is one of the albums I spend a lot of time hoping to find in good condition as I scan record racks. It’s only $5 or so I thought plus the shipping.So I put my max price in and wonder off not thinking about it again. I find I spend less money of I figure out what I will pay and then don’t look again. Sure enough I win the thing, funny how we consider buying something winning isn’t it.
The seller is a good guy, he gets the thing in the mail the next day and all is well. I get the tracking and then begins one of my favorite sports, watching the tracking. Well it’s Christmas and everything is taking longer than I want. Watching it winging it’s way from North Carolina to Oregon. All is well until I notice it’s in Hawaii. Then it sit’s there and sits for a long time.
Well I contact the seller and we agree to see what happens.
Now Street Legal is one of those divisive Dylan albums. I know the production sucks and it is over the top. Maybe an attempt to out Springsteen the boss. None of that matters to me I love the album. New Pony and Signor Tales of Yankee Power are two of my favorite Dylan songs.
So I watch the thing sit in Hawaii, probably having drinks by the pool or surfing for all I know. It never moves, the seller and I are patient, like I said I really want that album. It has now become fascinating waiting for it to move. I check two or more times a day in expectation. It sits there immoveable.
Suddenly it is in California and getting closer. This becomes very exciting. I can almost hear the album. I resist the urge to play the CD. This will be the first time in years I have heard the vinyl and by god that is what is going to happen I think.
At work I get the text to say it has arrived.
Damn what happened? That’s New Morning, an average Dylan effort but it is in no way the excellence of Street Legal I was hoping for.
So now I have to wait for Street Legal to arrive again, who knows where it will go this time as it is a little rainy here in Oregon and it may need some sunshine before it arrives.
There have been a few tributes to Glenn Frey over the last few days so I thought I should play some Eagles. The only thing was I couldn’t find my one Eagles record and having sided with the Dude over many years felt a bit of a sham anyway. Of course that one record is the first Eagles Greatest Hits with it’s cool cover. There is no doubt The Eagles had an image and new it.
I did take the time to consider what all this death means to my musical world especially as I creep up on 50 over the next few days. I realized that as I was being born Glenn Frey, Bowie, Lemmy and Dale Griffin were all in their late teens and trying to hit it big with the girls or boys. For some reason this notion made me smile.
I also began to think what would it be like if some of my other heroes popped off. Not a good thought all this realization of mortality as I stagger towards a milestone birthday. I haven’t really been able to truly come to terms with Bowie, he was my first concert at the age of 10, not that I have much more recollection than noise and bodies and the real sense of coming home.
Anyway I never found any Eagles to play but did find this album which is Ian Mathews 1973 album Valley Hi.
It has the definitive version of Seven Bridges Road which our friends the Eagles borrowed the arrangement for. It is also wonderfully produced by Michael Nesmith so that can be no bad thing. There is also something truly awe inspiring as Matthews Scunthorpe accent seeps out over the country rock arrangements on the album.
Ian’s somewhat sullen look on the album cover is also fitting. I am going to find that Eagles record and play it though as while maybe not the best or in my mind most important practitioners of country-rock they are undoubtedly the most well known. Tuesday afternoon this week was spent beginning as many conversations with an Eagles title as Rayson and I could, which was maybe the best we could do at the time to come to terms with a loss.
Every now and then something cool happens
like a friend turns up with something special.
And I never in my life thought of the Beatles as a vocal group. So there you go.
Thanks Joe for the thoughtful gift.
Everyone now and then it’s ok to have a moment.
It felt like side 2. of Under A Blood Red Sky was everywhere I went for a period of time in the 80’s. It was one of the few non-metal albums I remember being played at the Cave on Matthew St. in ’83. The this is not a rebel song introduction to Sunday Bloody Sunday was met with a surge of energy and the dance floor became one rhythmic sweaty mess of bodies, usually fueled by the cooking lager that was so cheap at the bar. It was a time when being seventeen and in a “club” was so cool, even if it was a slightly seedy club past it’s prime.
It was a moment before U2 became bigger than anyone needed them to be, when they were still a band who looked a little awkward in their skins and looked like they had discovered the secret. It was a time when they were still a bunch of guys just rocking out, later would come the pomp and circumstance and the ego-trip.
So as I rooted around and found a copy in a neglected corner of the Salvation Army Store I had a moment. I could almost smell the mix of smoke, sweat, spilled beer and perfume on that dance floor. I could almost see the pale girls faces light up and the sway of the combat jackets as the dance began. I could once again see those metal warrior boys mellow for a moment and look content to sway along.
Then I looked at the vinyl and saw the scratch. The sinking feeling and the realization that this album was one of those I had to have. Here I was holding part of my youth, so even if it sucks it was going home with me. Anyway, it’s fine cleaned up great and plays well all I need now is a mirror ball and a room of sweaty drunks to achieve the required ambience.
There are some bands that are shall we say a little embarrassing to admit you love. They often times have histrionic vocals, overblown arrangements and some serious flared trousers.
Usually the albums are packaged in a Roger Dean cover, which regardless of your taste in album art is still a lot cooler than most people are willing to admit.
These bands often have a checkered history and may have gone on a tad too long as a band, or maybe they are just happy chugging along powering out overwrought rock extravaganza’s that have no concern for fashion. Their albums usually have a strong fantastical element holding them together, they may even have the odd concept going on.
Uriah Heep are a little embarrassing at times but they have a way with a tune, often alternating between prog excess and hard rocking brevity. They are almost the poor relative of Purple who spent too long in the company of Yes and were not ashamed to admit they really liked to sing about Magicians and Wizards. I am also happy to vote for Mick Box as the most underrated guitar slinger out there.
So tonight it was Uriah Heep night with The Magician’s Birthday and Demons and Wizards failing to wake my wife up as she snoozed on the couch. It’s not Roger’s best cover work but it is very fine to stare at as Mick and Ken and the boys chug along pretending to be more serious than they really are. At some point I found myself transported back to my 13 yr old self as I earnestly studied the lyrics for some meaning that only I could decipher.
Funnily enough as I searched for Demons and Wizards this evening I found it nestling behind the Elvis Costello albums.
It is a new year and I have not really paid attention to what is coming up. This is not unusual for me as I am more of an impulse purchaser than a planful consumer of music.
The exception is the new release of Steven Wilson’s new album coming this month. Titled Four and a Half it is seen by him as not being a real album but a collection of bits that never made it onto other albums solo and Porcupine Tree.
It is the first and may be the only album I pre-order this year and I am unreasonably anticipating it as Wilson is one of my favorites right now.
The first part of a track by track interview is here:
And the artwork looks intriguing.