One afternoon in the mid 80’s I was asleep on my bed with the door open and Feel Like A Stranger blaring out into the hallway. Snoring away and oblivious to all around I woke to a small elfin redheaded creature sat in the chair who declared herself Delia from Poughkeepsie New York. She had been walking around the dorm feeling like a stranger when she heard the Dead. This to her was the sign of a kindred spirit and a natural friend. It was also the first time she had heard the Grateful Dead playing in the UK.
Dead Set was the album playing and I had borrowed it from Dave as he tried to convince me of the brilliance of the Grateful Dead and I tried to convince him Julian Cope was the new Sky Saxon as I loaned him Fried. Dave had also loaned me the companion album Reckoning. Set was the electric album and Reckoning was the all acoustic set. Both albums were fun and had a lot to offer although Reckoning was the better as it did not have that 80’s synth sound pervading it and avoided the disco-Dead tendencies.
Both had stellar album covers and continued to enhance the image of the band in my eyes, but why did they have to sound so safe.
Now in all the best stories this would be the beginning of a whirlwind romance that would be wild and outrageous and involve a roadtrip of discovery and joy. It may also involve a brush with the law and or a chase across the Yorkshire moors in the dead of night.
In truth it led to a close friendship as she found herself way more attracted to my friend across the hall, although we would sit together in the dark slightly befuddled and listen to the Dead into the early hours until he came home from work. She had seen the Dead live and I was in awe of their image but slightly confused by their music. There seemed very little danger apart from the jamband anarchy that went along with them stretching out songs to their limits.
I introduced her to Roy Harper, Fairport Convention, Hawkwind and Bert Jansch and John Martyn, she convinced me Neil and the Shocking Pinks was a work of genius and Dr. John had mystical qualities and that Capt. Beefheart deserved my attention. Eventually she went back to New York and I went east and then south leaving Liverpool for a number of years. I gave Dave back his Dead albums and tapes and wallowed in Bowie, Bolan, R.E.M. and a post punk fog, although I was still convinced that the Shocking Pinks album had the secret to the universe if only you listened to it during the dark of the moon wearing blue suede shoes and an alligator skin belt.
I have to admit I streamed these albums as there is no way I can afford to buy all those Dead albums ever.
The sole purveyor of funk fiddle, Papa John Creach. This man plays like satan being chased from a whore house by Ted Cruz and his evangelical gangsters. He is an esteemed member of the Airplane/Starship and Hot Tuna and in no uncertain terms an unashamed dirty old man.
The cover pictures Papa in his pimp outfit sitting on a lawn chair in the junkyard.
This album should come with a parental warning, it will cause licentious thoughts amongst the most devout and puritanical. Papa has a filthy mind which and not only does he know it he celebrates it. The album is titled Filthy and it heads for the innuendo gutter and stays there with a groove that is indescribably funky, Stax meet the Airplane via the Temptations in their best psychedelic mode, it will never be a classic but it is unforgettable. Yes that really is Keb Mo’ on guitar as well.
I was as I am sure you are all aware too embarrassed to type the song titles so here is the back cover.
I remember one sunny spring day sitting in my French mock O. Level at school, understanding that I had no idea what I was writing and yet doggedly continuing. Madame Rimmer had not managed to beat French into me after four years of failure to remember French vocabulary and in this moment I was actually going to do bad enough that I would not have to take the final test.
My mind was on the number 10 bus that would take me to town to buy the newly released copy of Church of Hawkwind, which was going to be much better than trying to understand what was happening on the test.
A half hour after the fateful bell ring and three record stores later I could not find a copy of my desired Hawkwind album. It seemed that the rabid mob of fans had descended on the stores earlier than me and had their copy leaving me with none, no special booklet and new Hawkwind music. Determined to not go home empty handed I grabbed a copy of PXR5 which had one of the worst covers ever and went home.
There is something so attractive about the Calvert Albums with Hawkwind. They are humorous and have a pop sensibility that is almost dance friendly, well in the sense that you can throw yourself around with abandon. They also often had titles that influenced my reading. So from PXR5 I had to read High Rise by J.G.Ballard and Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows and delve further into Asimov’s Robot series.
PXR5, is one of those built to suit Hawkwind albums, part live, part studio, part Dave Brock solo album and yet it still holds together as a whole album. Cohesive in that shambolic way that only a Hawkwind album can be. Filled with classics and obscurities it never the less manages to captivate. The almost Bowie sound of High Rise, the chaos of Uncle Sam’s On Mars, the punk of Death Trap and the out and out throwback sound of Robot.
On reflection I dodged Church of Hawkwind which may have reached new lows for a Hawkwind album at the time. You can argue it was more of a Brock solo electronic experiment but you would have to be stretching pretty far to do that.
There is something about early Elton John that is truly captivating. I can say that now even though it took me until my forties to actually buy an Elton John album. I have no idea if it was prejudice at the thought of owning an album by a pop artist or the costumes and glasses. It may also be that Elton had become a parody of himself by the time I started to pay attention.
In my formative musical years he was in my truly monumentally arrogant opinion a lightweight compared to Bowie or Bolan and would be blown over by the parping saxes from Hawkwind. It could also be that I was a pretentious ass of a teenager who as I said before always new he new better.
There is however no doubt that Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy is a truly mesmerizing experience from start to finish. Many a musical reference and a truly biographical album that manages not to be pretentious. A classic especially Someone Saved My Life Tonight.
Also in these days of downloads you just don’t get a package like this with lyric book, scrapbook, gatefold sleeve and fan club membership form. I desperately want to fill the thing in and send it in, would anyone reply, is there a wizened Elton employee manning the address to reply to the tardy fan?
“Half of my life, I spent doin’ time for some other fucker’s crime”
It’s this line that may have convinced me the Dead were tough, this and Mama Tried. The truth is far from that as they were in reality as far as I can tell fairly privileged navel gazing hippies. Which is to say like most of American youth at the time. Yes I am jaded today, I may have tried to watch the debate and am wondering what happened to that sixties generation.
Spoilt rotten, all the same they could make some great records when the weather was good and the acid kicked in and life was mellow. 1971 saw them release the album they wanted to call Skull Fuck but is more popularly known as Skull and Roses. In the great tradition of bands more intent on playing than recording much of the album is live with some overdubs I am sure, the Dead never got the harmonies that close live is my guess.
It is the first time I actually bought the America’s jukebox tag they get, songs by Merle Haggard, Buddy Holly, Kristofferson and Luther Dixon all on one album, along with the joys of Wharf Rat and Playing In The Band. It sometimes gets a bad reputation from some people but if you want a Dead album that hits all the high points of the early 70’s Dead you could do worse, and if you hate it the gatefold album looks cool hanging on the wall in your office, man cave or even the outhouse. My copy has no cover, it is probably hanging on some suits wall as we speak, he probably had no more need for the music but thought the cover was cool.
There was a time I would argue that this album, American Beauty, Workingman’s Dead and Europe 72 were all the Grateful Dead albums you need.
Ok I admit it the Grateful Dead fill me at times with equal measures of joy and confusion/disdain at the same time. They are simultaneoulsy awe inspiring and annoying it’s the dialectic in action man.
An offshoot band that may be more fun than they should be. A whole album dedicated to the joys of weeeeeeed. Cocaine fueled and LA cowboy chic with a sense of irony. Making the case for country-rock in one album.
It’s been a long week and it’s only Tuesday. I may get to the Dead eventually this week until then this was panacea for the soul.
After all that Hawkwind it has really been time to calm down a little. So I took a breath and reached for Room To Roam by the Waterboys just to get my head straight.
It’s the younger brother of Fishermans Blues and sometimes to my mind may actually be slightly better and more relaxed. Traffic may have got it together in the country in the 60’s and early 70’s, The Waterboys managed to cause it all to fall apart in the Irish countryside in the 80’s.
It’s a shambolic affair and at times doesn’t quite work out completely but I have always enjoyed Mike Scott’s idea of navel gazing.
So there I was in a local music emporium and looking all sexy on the shelf was a new box of LP’s of the immortal Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy by Gong. Having trawled the internet and record stores looking for some sort of reasonable costing LP’s I couldn’t resist after all $45 didn’t seem so bad for three records and all that fun.
The more bizarre thing is it was 1p.m. Pacific Time which translates to 9p.m. GMT which is significant.
I was also really happy with the Charly records reissue of Camembert Electrique. It sounded really nice and this said remastered from the original tapes etc.
So there I am pondering, I check the price on Amazon and this is a lot less so I reach into my pocket and purchase.
I get home feeling good about things, finally got my hands on something I wanted. Then I do a little research and discover this release is causing all sorts of conundrums in the Gong world. The remaining members of the band are not supporting the release, there is talk of a Universal release but Virgin have not had the rights for Flying Teapot for years so that seems unlikely.
Now my brain starts working overtime and I feel like a schmuck but damn it sounds so good and looks so good and all sorts of other thoughts pop into my head. My Catholic guilt is hitting hard as I listen and in the end all I can do is report to all of you that I have sinned and I feel bad but it feels so good.
The only complaint is that they could have fully reproduced the original album artwork but the booklets and pamphlets and packaging in general is great.
I am now convinced that there will be some sort of Karmic payback in the future. My wife has just shook her head and wondered if it is even music I have been making her put up with.