1989…

It’s funny how years stick in your mind in relation to music, life and everything else. 1989 for some reason is that year for me as I discovered listening to that Texas album.

1988 and 1989 saw me living in the south, this is the one and only time in my life I have done this, funnily enough I felt more lost and confused in the south of England than I ever have since moving 6000 miles to the Pacific Northwest. There may be all sorts of reasons for this mostly to do with mine and other peoples biases. Or maybe I just feel safer in the north west of any country I inhabit.

For two years I was away from my hometown. I had to travel by train to get there and back when I had time off or needed a bit of sanity in my life, or insanity at times. Of course this ended for awhile when I met the woman who would become my wife and then the four/five hour journey became less important or frequent. Until she went north and I had to commute in a way all over again.

All this travel required me to buy a walkman cassette player, and then start buying cassettes. This was an alien experience and I have to admit it was not a medium I enjoyed. I went pretty quickly from records to CD’s with little stopping in between apart from the recorded mix tapes and cassettes my friends gave me. This was difficult for me as I was forced into buying albums in a format that was not particularly enjoyable for me to listen to. It also involved folding the inserts the right way to fit into the container, making sure the cassette was rewound so I didn’t have to start in the middle or rewind before listening and the countless batteries.

The outcome of all this was I decided to only buy those albums that were newly released and were essential to me at the time. Of course being particularly snobbish I also tried to keep this to a minimum as it would eat into the record buying and I was already paying a fortune in train fare. fullsizerender-3As soon as I stopped that silly every other weekend commute I stopped buying cassettes which meant for about a year every other Friday on the to Liverpool and on the way back to the south I only listened to these albums. I think I may know every line and note of these records . This also means that if I listen to them I am immediately transported back to 1989. Aural time travel at it’s oddest.

Anyway in the particularly blurry picture to the left are the sounds of 1989 train journeys as I put my head down and navigated the tube and London without making eye contact with another human being as this may have initiated a conversation that I was not ready to have. It seems ridiculous that I survived countless journeys with only these five records to keep me company. These are also the only five records I have owned in three formats.

 

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The blames gonna fall on me…

It was 1989, a confusing time to be sure for all concerned. At 23 years old I was aware that I was fast approaching the fatal 24. Neil Young had in Old Man convinced me that this was an age of importance and momentous things would happen if I made it to this landmark. There was to be sure a whole lot more waiting to happen and 24 was quite momentous for all together other reasons than Mr. Young probably had in mind.

1990 however was fast approaching and the pop landscape from the perspective of a guitar loving 20 something was a mystery, yes there was Guns ‘N’ Roses but sorry they were a little too poised and considered in their image. Looking at the charts from 89, it was a particularly difficult time, Jive Bunny was in there with Bananarama and some others that nowadays I could listen to from a slightly ironic perspective.

I am sure there were whole lot of guitar slinging bands of many varieties I have managed to forget. At the time musically I was somewhere trying to integrate a love of REM, Hawkwind and Julian Cope as well as the Talking Heads, King Crimson and Neil Young amongst others. From my current enlightened state of willingness to listen to most anything once if not twice as my friend Greg reminded me today, it all makes sense. For a img_630723 year old convinced that the universe may end when he reached 24 and a need to appear somewhat cool at all times this was a challenge. These biases in the next year were going to be challenged on a daily basis but all that was in the future.

All these thoughts came flooding back to me the other day as I rooted around at the local Salvation Army Store. I was overcome by a sense of longing for 1989 with the discovery of Southside by Texas. Yes they have there roots in Altered Images and Hipsway. They do however have a fine slide player and more importantly for me the memory of Sharleen Spiteri playing guitar in an oversize denim jacket and singing with that well cut floppy mop of black hair. This is an everlasting image of the end of the 80’s for me and was the first time and maybe last time I ever bought a record because the singer reminded me of an old girlfriend. This on reflection may really be the best reason to buy a pop record.

It’s a good pop record, it has three or four memorable songs. The value however is the flood of memories it brings back of riding trains back and forth form Liverpool to Bolney West Sussex.

If you look at the list of albums released in 1989 it was a great year for music with Dylan and Neil Young in their at time grizzled middle aged way. None of them however had the fair Ms. Spiteri who reminded me of a certain young woman from Hull.

 

We’re not freaks, we’re not hip…

There is something really comforting about a bands first record when it references almost every cliche from the sixties. Nasally vocals, swirly Augie Meyers organs, plinky pianos and 12 string guitars and self conscious lyrics as well as disjointed backing singing and the shifting tempos as the band gets excited halfway through the song.

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There is also something to be said for the almost innocent amateurism that shines through with every track. The seeming disbelief that someone is taking the time to record this and the vaguely seedy feel to the songs. Late nights, cheap booze and bad taco’s is the fodder of this album and it’s a good one.

The Green On Red saga continues, they may be one of my favorite memories of the 80’s.

Judge and jury in my head…

Sometimes there is a guiltiness to playing something so well known. This was the moment I had as these lines played on Peter Gabriel’s album So.

It’s the album that shot him to mega-stardom and some may say began the long decline. I am not so sure about this but I did have a few moments of doubt as people in the room actually knew some/many of the songs on the album and were able to singalong.

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Now my credibility is shot as purveyor of the odd, I knew I should have played the first album. On to Robert Fripp now.

Just another example of how the collector can be far too elitist. It did take me 30 years to buy this record after all.

Time was when we got along…

There is a good time feel to Canned Heat.

It’s not psychedelic but they are forever aligned with the hippie world especially the Woodstock concert and movie because of Goin’ Up The Country.

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I have no idea if it’s good blues or bad blues all I know is I smile when I play Canned Heat. Of course I don’t need anymore than the Greatest Hits album I have which has all the necessary Heat material on it for me. I seem to remember there could be too much of a good thing at times.

I realize I have nothing really exciting to say about this album other than for approx 40 minutes it transported me to a time when all I had to worry about was whether I got the essay in on time and had money for chips and beer that night. In short it took me back to a time when cares where minimal and fun was all and for that I am eternally grateful for the rejuvenating affects of music.

So whoever was Paterson who looked after this record so well thank you.

The other thing is that yesterday I visited four thrift stores and this is all I found and it very well may be enough.

 

Me I gotta keep on movin’…

November 15th 1985 at Krackers at the bottom of Mt. Pleasant in Liverpool is the one and only time I saw Green On Red, I only know this because I looked it up on the internet and there it is, my memory didn’t fail me but there is still no set list for that Green on Red show so I have no idea what was played. I do however remember that i went in with a red flannel and came home without it.

I remember Krackers being a dark dingy hole of a place under the parking lot and movie theater there on the corner of Mt. Pleasant. I had managed to see Here and Now, Roy Harper and a few others over the years there, ending sometime in the early 90’s with Big Audio Dynamite. It was the type of place that smelled of various varieties of smoke, spilled drinks and vomit. Of course everything is enhanced by memory.

It may even still be there in some alternative Liverpool. I am sure the building is there but is the shady cinema showing movies that are no longer on first run through the day and pornography at night, the strangely terrifying parking lot that for years was the cheapest place to park your car. The overwhelming smell of urine and stale beer as you walked past. The Beehive pub across the street was a clash of cultures and crossing the street was an adventure that could not be remedied by the awful kebabs on the corner. I was unable to find any pictorial evidence of this place. Next time I am home if I manage I am taking pictures.

The bottom of Mt.Pleasant was always the place to get off the bus as a teenager, fueled with the expectation of what was to come. The truth was often much more unsatisfying than the reality or the stories we told on a Monday. For some reason I got off the bus there so I could walk and build the tension before entering whatever establishment had been chosen as the start of the evenings festivities. At some point we always ended up in the Marlborough Arms with Val the landlady and some awful karaoke happening, those pyramids along the Nile were seldom seen so often it seems.

But to the point, Green on Red. Dave had convinced me to go see them on the basis of his declaration that they would be great. He insisted that they were like Neil Young and similar to the Byrds and that they would rock my world. I have no idea where he got that idea as he had never seen them either, he owned one album called Gas Food Lodging that I had never heard. The likelihood is he could not convince his girlfriend to go with him and it was loud rock music and guaranteed to get me out if it involved beer as well.

The only real memory I have of the show is the intensity of the whole thing with Dan Stuart and Chuck Prophet shaking that walls of that strange cellar, the sweat dripping from the ceiling and the overwhelming heat in the room. The concert was a physical experience from start to finish. It has been one I have carried with me over time. I never knowingly listened to any of the records after the show or before it although Dave was such a big fan I am sure they were played in that little shared bedsit. If I close my eyes though I can see Dan Stuart hunched over his guitar backlit by the stage lights.

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Then the other night I woke up thinking about the E.P. No Free Lunch. Not surprisingly this led to the inevitable search and clicking on the internet to feed the need. Several days later the parcel arrived with Gas Food Lodging and No Free Lunch expertly packed. Within minutes No Free Lunch was on and there was Dan Stuarts inescapable voice. It’s not as much like Neil Young as I remember. Chiming guitars and an Americana feel that we used to think of as indie rock in the 80’s. Before we new what we were listening to and after it became okay to enjoy the more esoteric end of folk. I was always a little uncomfortable with the genre of paisley underground, it always sounded like a an attempt to Floyd out country music to me and then they included the Bangles. Now it is not in any way ever a bad idea to include the Bangles, they just don’t seem too psychadelic.

The moral if there is one of this tale is that those late night memories I find myself  having as I attempt to think of something that is not political or maybe too personal to share has real affects on my bill fold. As I sit here attempting to finish this off there are two more Green On Red albums winging their merry way to me through the wonders of the US Postal Service.