In one mighty fell swoop this morning I doubled my storage space for the records. Michelle came along to the flat pack hell that is Ikea to purchase the shelf. She even offered encouragement as I put it together.
Then the axe fell, “You really need to stop buying records at this rate.” was the statement. There is hop here, at this rate is is a hard to quantify figure. Some days I get more than others and well I can rationalize my way out of this, especially as there are three Pentangle records on the way.
You would think after 25 years of marriage she would know better. I am now determined first to figure out what my rate of acquisition is, once this year long research is completed I will try and figure out what a suitable reduction in rate is. After negotiation and probably having to buy more shelving I will reduce my rate, whatever that means. I think she knows it’s hopeless really.
Anyway I now have more space to fill at a suitable rate, maybe I should tell her about the overflow in the other room?
So i have been on this journey with the Dead and it’s been awhile since I mentioned Dick’s Picks Vol’s 10,11 and 12. Respectively Winterland Dec 29th 1977, New Jersey Sept 27 1972 and June 26th 1974 Providence Rhode Island/June 28th Boston.
My journey with these three began sometime in May and June and has gone all the way through July. They have flown around 12,000 miles on my iPhone and travelled almost 1,500 road miles in the UK from London to Liverpool to Carlisle and then as far south as the Cheddar Gorge, from neolithic monuments to massive cathedrals.
Then back in Oregon they have rode up and down the road from home to work for two weeks, until today as I sat with the roof off at a light feeling very hot and the ancient Deadhead in the jeep next to me grinned and named the date of the show I was listening to before the light changed again gave me the thumbs up and shouted I was there.
All along the road the Dead have chugged along with me. Their familiar songs holding me grounded as I cried with my Mum and hugged my Dad at the end of the day. They were also strangely there as we pulled through the debris of a festival to the strange town of Glastonbury to climb the Tor and visit the abbey and commune with the strange pilgrims of the past and visit with the burned out new age wacksters left over from the weekend. But truly nothing can beat Glastonbury for a strange event.
As we left the site of the Uffington White Horse I did the calculation to see if we could make it to the Rollright Stones and it was just too far. I think the picture may have been better if I had a plane to take it from.This was more disappointing as it would have been good to write about that for Bruce. This was a truly sad decision to turn the car north but two more hours driving was more than Michelle could take at the time just to see another stone circle. By this time it was all getting a bit Spinal Tap.
All along the road those 8 or 9 hours of Dead music kept me entertained and Michelle and Ben rolling their eyes until we hit the Kinks. That however is another section of the story. So the shows, from 1972 until 1974 is prime live Dead and I have never heard a bad show, although they must exist. Consistent is the word for this period and it is happy music. The 77 show is a tougher prospect, it’s still a great live show but the Dead are back after a three year break and sound a little harsher, more jaded less Sunshine Daydream and more Jack Straw, it’s hard to place but tangible in the vibe.
So the odd thing is I spent time communing with the neolithic sites of my culture listening to that most American of bands. Touching ancient stones while Jerry and the boys led me along that long strange trip and no substances involved. My son got to walk in the steps of ancient man and he came to terms with an ancient band.
I am not much of a reviewer but if you have a long trip to take you could do worse than the Dead. These 10 or 12 hours are some you may not regret taking in the company of America’s jukebox.
I have an indelible memory of being at the back of the stalls at the Liverpool Empire in 1983 as Peter Gabriel was passed around the audience during I Have The Touch. I know I never touched the great man but for the first time in my memory I remember being completely enveloped by an experience that was so overwhelming so all encompassing and fulfilling I was convinced that I never had to go to another gig ever again. At 18 I had in my mind now experienced everything in that 6 or 7 minutes, this was further confirmed as he launched into Not One Of Us and we were only three songs in at this point.
The first four Peter Gabriel albums at this time for me and one group of friends was the future of music. Of course for another group of friends it was Twisted Sister and Under the Blade that was the promised land and for the crossover stoner group it was Choose Your Masques by Hawkwind that was the absolute pinnacle of music. Somehow I managed to move safely between all these groups.
Funnily enough in 1983 all three produced concerts that have stuck in my mind, whether it was Dee Snider snarling at us as we got his signature outside the Royal Court, Gabriel making contact with the audience or Nik Turner and the Hawks almost causing a riot at the Theater Royal In St. Helens as the stage almost collapsed when the audience got real close.
It is however those four Gabriel albums that stick with me as an unsurpassed body of work, yes I know he went on to bigger and better shows and duets and sold more albums but the immediacy of those early 80’s shows and the songs on those first four albums cannot be beat. From Solsbury Hill to Shock the Monkey he covered more ground than most musicians of his time, even managing andIt’s a Knockout reference in a chart song and the creepiest song ever in Intruder which also had one of the most intimidating drums patterns.
He also had probably the greatest touring band of all time behind him. Of course this allowed him to crown the whole thing with one of the greatest live albums with Plays Live a document to a great tour, and this after a year when he had to get bailed out by his old band.
This was the last time I got to see Gabriel, apart from one brief Mandela appearance, so maybe it was just I now never had to see another Gabriel show. Now to be honest I also have an indelible memory of Nik Turner painted green on roller skates being carried to the stage in a coffin and the poor concession lady selling ice cream to the freaks before the Hawkwind show.
Having been ousted from the good ship Hawkwind our hero Nik takes off for Egypt on holiday and somehow convinces the Egyptian government to allow him to blow his flute in the Great Pyramid. What ensues is some atmospheric tootling that obviously has allowed our jobless vagrant to commune with Osiris and tap into the ancient melodies of Egypt.
On arrival back in the homeland there is only one man who can make sense of this and that is Steve Hillage who along with Miquette Giraudy, Mike Howlett, Tim Blake and a host of left field musicians and animals (this was way before Mr Young’s addition of animals to his music) create a unique album. Nik Turner made the words up based on the Egyptian Book of the Dead seemingly in the moment.
In this way is the legendary album Xitintoday conceived and born, a strangely engaging blend of new age silliness that should be played in the dark all the way through to truly commune with the Gods. Much more fun than the Dead at the Pyramids and a whole lot more confusing to be honest.
Play it in the dark on a hot and humid night and you will see visions both glorious and terrible, your wife will despair and leave you alone for 40 minutes, the dog will gasp and the children will close their doors in disdain or fear. It is surprisingly fascinating but no Space Ritual and it may be that Nik at this point may have believed he really was the Master of the Universe.
Seeing a copy on eBay for $12 I couldn’t resist, the completist in me spoke loud in my ear and here I am clutching the pretty blue album, the only downside being the fabled booklet is missing and who knows what may have been in that. Copies are selling for silly money and I can see why, it gets under your skin there are no real guitar solos but it has a rhythmic and melodic content that is truly captivating. Actually it has the crazed tootling of a madman in the Great Pyramid accompanied by his stoned pals back in the UK trying to figure out what is going on, or sheer unparalleled genius and it has a pretty Charisma label.
Of course it is this type of impulse buying that has resulted a copy of Live Chronicles winging it’s crazy way towards me and my wife rolling her eyes.
There is a moment of pride involved in the tortured eldest child smiling as you walk through the door and saying “You wanna hear what I’ve been working on?” He then leaps into Casey’s Last Ride by Kris Kristofferson. His voice waivers a little as he reaches for the lyrics of a song he has just learned and smiles with pride as he finishes even managing to imitate the string quartet, and in your heart you know that stuff is going to work out for this one at least for now.
Sometimes it’s just good to sit down with the boy and let him strum and pick his way through the latest tune or song and that companionship of music. There is also the difference between us as I am a listener and he is a performer, a member of several bands ranging from Be-Bop to Thrash and Country via the bar band that plays Hip-Hop versions of the country hits of the day. His love is jazz and late at night you can hear him playing into the dawn soothing his soul and mine as he plays, his touch as soft as possible to not wake the household.
It’s been a weird few weeks. I go back to the USA in four days. I have spent three weeks looking after my mum and a little over a week showing my youngest the old country and especially the home town of Liverpool.
Today we met a friendly German at an old Salvation Army kids home. He was kind enough to take a picture.
When I get home and have time to figure out how I feel I will write more I am sure.