And if I ever grow old and I’m lookin’ back On these wild and reckless times Where they the best days of our lives? These wild and reckless times…

I was sat here towards the end of the day and thinking. This is often my way, everyone is in their room or bed and here I am alone slouched on the couch, the dogs laying on the a/c vents keeping the house too warm as they cool down. As I said I was thinking/listening to some music. In this case it was the most recent Blitzen Trapper album, Wild and Reckless which continues the bands blend of folk, prog-rock, tricky time signatures, stadium rock choruses and catchy pop songs via some histrionic Queen like vocals.

IMG_0312So zoned out towards the end of my wakeful period I thought, “do I still have favorite bands?”

Do I?

I now own more physical music than I ever did as a teenager, according to discogs over 1,300 records, thats the large black and other various colors, this does not count the CD’s in the attic of which I have no way of knowing how many  other than there are five boxes. I also have access to a streaming service that we pay for as it seems the artist should get something out of me and my families addiction for musical sounds however little.

As the 90’s began and I prepared to leave the homeland for the USA I had 312 records total. I sold most of these as I thought I was moving on to CD’s never to look back and it seemed too much hassle to pack them for a 6000 mile journey.

Thinking a little harder I tried to decide what would make a favorite band. Is it owning the entire discography? Is it going to see them play live? Is it the collection fo aran knowledge rattling around the fevered balding head? Or is it when you find yourself humming a song you have heard many times just to calm yourself down when things get tough about 4pm and you should have left for home?

So here I am on the couch as the sweating a little as the dogs have covered all the vents realizing that as I move into my alleged middle years  I am still the fan boy music fan. Able to realistically say that is one of my favorite bands.

These days my choices are broader as I am past the strict demarkation lines of tribal loyalty. I do however realize that if by some strange chance there was a call to arms for the true Hawkwind fans in the Portland metro area I would pull on my faded levis and converse with my Sonic Attack t-shirt and head out to do battle with the forces of evil side by side with my brothers in arms. The same is true if I was called to the bar by my fellow Fairport Convention brethren to raise a glass of real ale in battle against the Coors and Bud Lite swilling country hordes.

There are now many favorites over many genres, bands I never thought I would buy a record by never mind listen to on the radio. Bands I would have mocked for their lack of originality or musicianship.

Strange thing this maturity, it seems to have simultaneously cured my blinkered allegiances and created some firm thoughts. At least I have not become conservative in my viewpoint or politics along with some of my besuited peers.

 

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unheard but not unwanted part 2…

Back to those records that I buy because I feel I should, after all who else would look after these potential treasures, then they sit in a long line of records that have not been played. Some of them are albums from my youth  and others are records that I think I should have for some reason, it’s a disease I tell you, after all it’s not like I need them. They may be genuinely unheard or realistically things I have not heard in a long time and sometimes wish I had not wasted that 40 minutes or so.

I know nothing about Robin Trower other than he was in Procul Harum I think, I could google this and find out I suppose but to be honest I am not that energetic tonight. I think he made a valiant effort like many guitar players to step into the void left by Hendrix, he is a fine player in that vaguely bluesy, psychedelic way.

What I do know is he has a nice idea of what an album cover should look like. As usual my pictures in no way will do justice to the album.

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Vaguely science fictional it thats a word.

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Just played both of these and I won’t be getting rid of them but I am not sure when I will play them again.

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I don’t know whats going on, I have owned this for years and not played it, yes I have heard it before, just never really had the desire to listen again although I did feel the need to own it.

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Finally Donovan with Cosmic Wheels, a return to form and an interesting album with no real hits but the entrancing Suzi Quattro guesting on vocal somewhere in there. I’ve had this in the to be played pile for a long time and passed it by quite quickly at times. I love the package though, it makes me want to get the coloring pencils out.

all the while he was alone…

I read in the booklet to Biograph that Dylan felt the best/truest version of Tangled Up In Blue was recorded on Real Live. After searching the album out and remembering my disappointment the first time I heard it in the late 80’s I have to say the man himself may not be wrong. Now is this the best performance I leave that to the Dylanologists out there. The delivery urgent, breathless and immediate, the guitar strummed frantically as if this is the only time it will come out this way, it’s a compelling version and it’s back in the third person the way the original New York version is.

IMG_0265Of course years of familiarity with the song may mean I am hearing years of versions and performances overloaded and juxtaposed in my mind.I stopped going to see Dylan when I reached ten times. I never knew this until I counted them up today, this seems like too perfect a coincidence to start going again, although I have a deep hankering to again. I want to see the old fart one more time maybe, or I am looking for some honesty in performance.

I tried to listen to the lyrics closely this time, I didn’t google them. It plays like a movie in my mind as he gasps his way breathlessly through the lyrics. At the end I have no idea what happened. Red hair, beer, parents, jobs, strip clubs and shoe laces, failure and hope and a wood burning stove for some reason. This is what I am left with. I seem to have listened in some state of late night dreamscape that has superimposed my own hopes on the song. Maybe this is the importance of Tangled Up In Blue it seems so personal and universal at the same time.

When my eldest was five he could sing along with two songs, Tangled Up In Blue and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. He would bellow the lyrics to these songs at the top of his lungs as we drove to school in the muggy late spring heat with all the windows open on the old pick-up I owned at the time. Eventually the lyrics to Maxwell’s Silver Hammer got him sent home from school, the teacher thought they may incite violence, little did we know that twenty years later violence would become the nom in our schools. Yesterday as he pulled out of the driveway in his own pick-up after kissing his newborn goodbye he was singing Tangled Up In Blue at the top of his lungs. Things have a way fo coming back around it seems.

Psychedelic so we could see…

Oh how I pretended to hate this record at the age of 19, oh how I vilified the whole thing, complained about the drum sound and joined the anti-Yes army. Screaming at the top of my self-righteous lungs that this was antithetical to the whole Yes ethic. As if I even knew what that meant.

I railed against the drum sound, the peppy uptempo numbers. The orchestrations and the short songs, and shit their are horns. Wikipedia insists the songs are longer than regular pop songs, for fucks sake this is Yes they can do a double album with one song and not break into a sweat. Twenty minutes is just warming up to these guys, what do you mean long, these are just intro’s.

In the strange dark hours of the evening, when alone and nobody could see I would play the record smile and bounce gently around. I really wanted to bounce off the walls in joy but then the Yes purists may figure I liked this poppy side to their symphonic heroes and confiscate my flairs and cheese cloth shirts. IMG_0248

I think it took me a few years to get over  there was no Steve Howe on this or the previous album. Of course to this date the internecine arguments are a little old hat and is it really worth it at this point, obviously old men in flowing robes think so. Determined to argue over who has the keys to the Yes secrets.

So if you want to bounce around to loud 80’s pop music then Big Generator does the trick, it’s surprisingly strong as an album and a nice break from the dense somewhat enigmatic lyrics, and let’s be honest it’s not Close To The Edge, however it took a lot of Yes fans over the edge in it’s day.

ain’t no flies on me…

I’ve been a bit contemplative recently so I thought I would shake that shit right off with some slightly rocking tunes. Little did I know what would happen and speaks to taking more care in the thrift store.

Not since 2112 has a band rocked the silk kimono look as Paul Rodgers does on the cover of Burnin’ Sky by those most assured of rockers Bad Co. Marching out of a grainy landscape like some badass band of desperadoes led by their fearless North Yorkshire IMG_0244bandito. The band look slightly discomfited by Mr Rodgers donning of the Kimono look. This is more lounge comfort than badass kickassery. All we need is some slippers. Mick, Boz and Simon are doing their best to look edgy and Paul just wants to pose and look comfy in his pajamas and headband.

So assured of their place in the rock pantheon the bands name is not on the album. The album rolls rather than rocks and strolls rather than struts. It’s a fine album for its day, it lacks the anthems you want to hear from Bad Co. it also lacks a certain amount of shall we say cocksure machismo. This while frowned upon in the current rock and roll landscape is essential to the Bad Co. sound.

I take it back it’s not a fine album it’s a disappointment, having all the promise of a rollicking time by the brand name with none of the fun. It’s like going to Blackpool and not eating fish and chips and candy floss drinking dandelion and burdock  and inevitably throwing up after the ride on the roller coaster.

I’ve been down the road and come back…

The allure of decadence is pervasive. Of course to truly wallow in a lifestyle of dissipation and excess requires a lack of responsibility. For most of us we have a brief time from teen years to the realization that somehow we have to make it through life on our own two feet. Short of an ability to write a hit song, great work of literature or the luck of being a renowned journalist we are left with getting a job, or marrying into wealth.

Then the long slow decline to spreading waist bands and slower reaction times. It takes work to keep up with the drinking and smoking and roistering. Then it just takes work to stay in shape enough to get up the next day with aching ankles and creaky knees.

IMG_0243.JPGMy friend Greg turned to me today as he reminisced about a good friend of his who had died recently. “We were gods and never knew it!” He shook his head and looked away his mind in the past of polyrhythms and jam sessions late into the night. There is hopefully for most of us a point when our youth and vitality and joy come together for a time that allows us to transcend the mundane and become more than we ever thought we could be.

This is why Neil Young’s recent release of the Roxy tapes of Tonights the Night are so important. It adds nothing to the Neil Young canon, the album sounds almost exactly like the original album with added applause, some banter between tracks and maybe the voices strains a little at times. As young admits the band had been playing the same nine songs twice a day for almost a month.

So how can I say it’s important? What it does for me is confirm the idea that at this point in time a bunch of young men were so wrapped up in their own shit to the exclusion of everything else that they transcended their own arrogance to produce something great. It’s the essence of art the single minded attention to the creation of a piece of work that will live on, some may hate it, some may love it and others will shake their heads and wonder why it was done. For a month the band had performed these songs for themselves, maybe it only became real when they did it for others.

It’s the distilled essence of navel gazing dissolution on three sides of vinyl.

every man is frightened…

Come to my promised land…

Where is your promised land? Somewhere safe, with loved ones a small cul de sac, or a quiet acre? It’s hard to figure it out, to know for sure to be aware to be awake.

As John Wayne would say my dad had the “big C.” diagnosis, take the kidney and it’ll be alright you have two, oh no what’s that with with the liver? Let’s do a scan. Damn now we have an infection and you have to leave. 6000 miles with no-one to talk to and nothing to keep you company but music and thoughts and books. Let’s read a detective story a flawed Scotsman or Montana sheriff, you decide. Guilt, loneliness, relief, concern all mixed up in a big ball of anxiety.

The blues had a baby and the bastard couldn’t sing…

Oh good nobody is going to sit next to me, I can stretch out. In and out of sleep, watching bad movies, not drinking the coffee you have to pay for, why is there no knife for the scone? Listening to music on noise cancelling headphones, lip reading but not  making eye contact because the guilt of having more space than others may overpower you. Nodding off again and again, 10 hours and 50 minutes never felt so long before, how can they be so exact, where did the 50 minutes come from? Landing two hours after leaving, how did that happen?

Idiot son of Donkey Kong…

L.A. sucks, coming in to land  one continuous concrete wasteland, the rivers dry and funneled through artificial channels, not even river beds. They look cool on the screen as Arnold throws his motorcycle along but in reality they are an obscenity. It’s so hot, waiting to get off the plane two hours to make the connection back to the cool Oregon landscape. First there is Customs, damn so many people, how am I going to do this, answer the questions, fingerprints and pictures taken by the machine. Then there is the cry, residents and citizens this way, out to get the bags, I may make this half hour to go, through the check pick up the bag, pass it on, move to TSA, 20 minutes now. Sit in the lounge.

and hear my cries…

“You’re not in the computer.” Fateful words. Slumping the shoulders, sweating in the heat, desperate to get home, only 2 hours away or so. Grab the boarding pass, stagger down the strange purple lit corridor of the Virgin jet, recently bought by Alaska Airlines but they haven’t changed the paint or the decor, disorientation sets in like some  flashback you weren’t expecting. Sit down hold on almost there.

Crawl on your knees down collision drive…

Fall off the plane, you’re there, alone with your thoughts, the guilt, the pain, at least they are alive, alone and holding on to each other, abandoned and helpless. Greet the family or well one third of them, hugs smiles and relief you’re there to help with the newborn, Alzheimer’s and the rest of the shit life has thrown up all over the back seat of the car. 40 minutes to go, grab some food, well KFC. The colonel knew what he was doing, saturated fats, chicken and coleslaw.

I know what you did…

No headphones but the music plays on in your head, why play the same album for so many hours?

Say make believe it ain’t so wrong…

48 hours later, listening to the same album again, this time the record not the download. Flashbacks and stutters, what happened?

When do I have to go back, are they alright. FaceTime and texts, long distance care. Do they tell the truth about how they are. Would life have been easier before instant communication, when families lost touch forever once a member left, faded letters and crackly phone calls.

Now waiting for the answers the scan may provide. Or the further questions.

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You know we can’t do this without each other, fateful last words.

I can feel my head exploding now…