it cost how much?

I have had to curtail my concert buying instincts today. This is even before we have a full list of shows over the summer, what if Edgefield have something good other than Blondie, what if the Zoo hits it out of the park? Have I done too much too soon?

This year we have bought tickets for Robyn Hitchcock, Jason Isbell, Roger Waters and now three nights of Billy Bragg. This is a considerable cost and unless Peter Gabriel rejoins Genesis and goes on tour or Neil Young trots out the Horse I am now officially done( of course this has been said before). I got afraid looking at the cost of all this adding up. This is the result of last year only going to two shows total and that was coming in at the end of the year with Ian McNabb and Cold Shoulder in Liverpool, which was my show of the year, and Son Volt in Portland. Two concerts separated by weeks and 6000 miles, kind of weird.

This weekend is Robyn Hitchcock at the Old Church in Portland.

The Old Church (Portland), ex-Calvary Presbyterian

It definitely looks like a nice enough place for a show.

Thankfully my wife is very understanding about this, I feel like the other shoe will drop soon and I will realize I have agreed to something completely unpleasant for the next couple of months.

A big old cottonwood fell down across the creek, this has allowed me and Syd access to part of the property that required wading to get to in the past.


We also managed to dig a hole in the brush to head out into the back part of the property. Syd is particularly proud of his ability to leap whole trees, so much so he comes back to pose.


The pose.


All of this lead our way to the back of the property which I think has not really seen much action from humans for a long time.


It’s a little strange and magical back there and some funny fungi are in the woods.


Anyway back to what’s important which is the unreasonable excitement of seeing Robyn Hitchcock on Saturday night, I am taking all three of my boys who seem to think it’s good to humor dad in his odd musical journeys, of course it helps when he pays for the tickets.

I was young on this mountain but now I am old…

In a world of change it’s good to know there was one guy from Arkansa keeping the beat. There was one man telling the stories of the working man and woman, songs of tractors and mining and logging and the men and women scratching a living out of the earth.

Of course that guy at one point was a coked out rock star living the high life and heading for disaster as fast as he could. He survived the rock and roll lifestyle a back stabbing songwriting pal and cancer to scratch his own little bit of sanity in Woodstock New York. He was also smart enough not to go on the road with Dylan as he took his electric band out. His rambles were legendary and the artists that turned up to play and support him through his illness were some of the back bone of American roots music.

IMG_2988.JPGWith a new documentary coming out about The Band, and well, Robbie Robertson and the band I thought it was time to remind myself how great Leon Helm’s album Dirt Farmer was and is. Songs of honest work, degradation, poverty, love and tractors, what more could  a lover of music need. There are mandolins, fiddles, and damn that Levon Helm drumming, always on the one and rocking and reeling as you may need. Watching Levon Helm sing was an experience, he always seemed to be living and feeling every word and thought he was singing about.

Dirt Farmer is an homage to the American mid-west farmers without being sentimental, its full of honest songs about a way of life that was disappearing when the album came out and is now almost extinct as corporations take over food production and farmers become producers and families no longer work the land together, of course thats a fantasy either way you see it. It’s also probably the best solo album from a former member of The Band.

he’s got problems…

In preparation for the future work on our property I have been binge watching Homestead Rescue so that I can prepare for all eventualities and feel like I have the requisite skills. It seems that what is necessary is a chainsaw and an excess of confidence. I have at least one of these and will work on the other.

1537 mentioned Marillion as he disemboweled Genesis’ Wind and Wuthering. To be fair it is a bit of a mixed bag of an album.


My association with Marillion began under duress and complaint, Andy and Gooey claimed they were the best band ever!!!! Exclamation marks deliberate. I was more concerned they were Genesis lite, which at the time was a damning comment and unsupported by Genesis own musical output at the time which I considered secretly to be a bit insipid starting with Wind and Wuthering there had been a steady decline in the Prog dimensions of the band.

I was  dragged along to every Marillion gig that happened within 50 miles of Liverpool, or bus and train distance. By count we managed to trek out and see Marillion something like 13 times between Manchester and Liverpool and at two festivals. Between 1982 and 88, this has only been beaten by Hawkwind or Fairport Convention in the addled gig memories of my brain, the internet helped with the keeping count I have to admit as Gooey’s iron clad memory was challenged when asked for a count. He claimed the recreational aspects of the gigs had caused a deterioration in his capacity to remember. I have also managed to see them twice with Hogarth in the band, taking the count even higher. So thats somewhere like 17 times total.

All this for a band I claimed I didn’t particularly like, even at the reduced concert ticket prices of the time this was a significant investment in time and money. Truth is and now I can admit it I really did enjoy Marillion a lot. Also as they had hit singles it was fairly common for girls to be present at these gigs along with the sweaty denim clad faithful. It was also possible to be a bit of an annoying tosser at gigs by claiming that they had not been the same since they dropped Grendel from the setlist and remember the days when Market Square Heroes meant something man? The perfect band for a teen, early 20’s chap, enough popularity for the fairer sex and just about esoteric enough to allow a truly pretentious sneer every now and then.

I am going to admit though that I have struggled with the changes the Hogarth years have brought, although Fuck Everything And Run is possibly the greatest album title of all time. It’s also perhaps the best album to my ears of the Hogarth years.

So Marillion for me are the Warehouse or the Royal Court too many drunken young men and bemused young women. All jumping and clapping and shouting in unison, actually a pretty good experience all in all. So when faced with this type of memory what does a 50 something music fan do? Well you start searching fo records desperately scouring records stores and ultimately resorting to online shopping to assuage a need fortunately for immediate gratification I already had this one sitting on a shelf.


I’m still alive…

Neo-Prog, that strange 80’s accumulation of sweaty earnest young middle class men working on being the next Yes or Genesis. The benchmark was Marillion I guess. They had made it big with their Genesis reminiscent music, slightly more forward guitars and piscine front man. Then there were the also rans, Twelfth Night, Pendragon, I.Q., Solstice and I am sure a host of others clamoring for attention in their music of choice, makeup, dramatic gestures and frantic keyboard and guitar solos over strange and obscure time signatures.

Of course prog had never gone away, The Stranglers had it going on as did Magazine, IMG_2986Japan at times and don’t tell me Peter Hamill vocal style didn’t inspire a host of punk wannabes over time. The monsters of prog were all trying to be hip and have hit records leaving a host of makeup encrusted upstarts to dress up like their heroes and prance the light fantastic at the Marquee and a thousand clubs and concert halls around the U.K.

Apparently this neo-prog genre was something I was drawn to considering the accumulation of records I apparently still have managed to keep a hold of.

IMG_2985.jpgSo to I.Q. and their first album Tales From the Lush Attic. Released the same year as Marillion’s Script for a Jesters Tear I bet it is a largely unremembered apart from a  group of now middle aged men who are a still enjoying the daft time signatures and wacky solos. It actually holds up better than the Marillion album, Peter Nicholls pulls off the Gabriel alike vocals and the keyboards and guitars are sufficiently frenetic to entertain. It’s a bit poppy a bit punk it’s not too serious either, no dystopian tales as far as I can tell but the songs do tend to the sixth form poetry end of melancholy. They all look like such nice boys, dodgy haircuts makeup and some sweet braces there, and remember the 80’s penchant for pushing the suit jacket sleeves up to get that Miami Vice look down. I bet there is a pair of espadrilles on someones feet here.

Everything you want for your prog fix is here, mellotrons, 12 string guitars and songs with at least 16 time signatures squeezed in. The guitars are a bit meatier than your average prog band unless they are called King Crimson. I.Q. manage to prog out without being too mathy in their approach if thats even a word. The artwork is also fun for a first release.


on the bridge levitating because we want to…

I have only ever bought one album because the band decided to name themselves after a Hawkwind album. That is Need for Not by Terry Bickers band Levitation. Now that story may be apocryphal but I so want it to be true. Mainly because Levitation is one of my favorite albums of all time and I just convinced myself to buy the three LP version with the Live show included.


Need for Not is the closest I have ever heard to the sonic onslaught of Hawkwind by another band without attempting to be Hawkwind, it’s also at times as if the Beatles joined Brock and the boys for an afternoon. It’s an all encompassing aural explosion that is as uncompromising as Terry Bickers apparently. It’s something to do with the confusing interplay of the guitar and the drums, finesse, frantic, frenetic and far out. There should be a man at the end of that.

I have no way of trying to explain what is going on here  it’s not that easy. It’s complicated, there is melody and power and mind expandingly expansive sound collages, the bass keeps you centered and the drums drive you on while the guitar just messes with your brain.

I am also totally bummed that I have a promo copy without the cool psychedelic album sleeve, I feel a shopping spree coming on.

So at the end of the day is it important to know if Terry Bickers named his band after a Hawkwind album, not really, but it’s good to think he did.

my waking dream won’t go away…

1994, the year I left the old- country for the new world and the year Cope released Autogeddon.

I read Heathcote Williams poem before listening to Autogeddon the first time, this was actually years before listening as it was part of my anarchist past, and letting you know that would ruin the flow of the story which I have already done. I was 23 at the time and full of fire and anger and outrage. I was 28 when I bough Autogeddon and still full of outrage, although it was moving into cynicism by them and less anger, the anger is back though. It was easier to be outraged than dealing with leaving  all that I actually knew 6000 miles behind me and heading to the West Coast.

Go on read it: Autogeddon  it really is a powerful poem.

I had moved to the USA and bought Autogeddon on CD at Music Millennium on Burnside in Portland, probably the second best record store in the entire world, after Probe Records in Liverpool. Well at least when it was on Button St. I am not so sure about the sad memory of a store by the Bluecoat. Take a look, it is still a great store and it may have actually been instrumental in the creation of record store day, I have no idea, I don’t go there too often anymore as it’s a long way and I don’t have enough money: Music MIllenium. It used to be walking distance form our third apartment. This was dangerous.

I remember listening to Autogeddon in the car, there’s irony for you. We didn’t have a CD player in the house at the time and I had hooked a discman, remember them, up to the cassette player in the car via a weird cassette with a headphone jack attached to it. I am sure that fidelity of sound was not something to write home about, but it worked.

Bits and pieces of Ain’t no gettin’ round gettin’ round used to rattle around my head on the drive to work and back late at night. All disjointed, making no sense.

“Yes today I just feel so confused…

I need a car to get me around…

Ain’t no gettin’ round gettin’ round…”

I would drive on the the interstate, wide roads limited to 55mph the only person out there it felt at midnight.

We were waiting for our stuff to be shipped out from the UK, they were probably in some container out in the Atlantic and waiting to arrive. The CD’s and records were all in boxes somewhere out there, until they arrived I was stuck with Copey and Autogeddon and whatever I could borrow form my father-in-law which ran largely to blues and some singer songwriter albums.

I loved this album, I lived it, driving back and forth to work, eating crappy drive through food and drinking coffee. We had a Chevy Celebrity and it smelled of cigarettes and old people and spilled milk, some of these smells we were responsible for and others came with the car.

At some point the car got stolen and we got the car back without the CD’s. I hope whoever got it really got messed up trying to understand what Autogeddon had to do with the BB King, Buddy  Guy and Lyle Lovett albums. I never owned Autogeddon after that, I occasionally looked for the vinyl but it was too expensive.

So when they released the 25th Anniversary Mega Super Box Edition of this manic collection of wigged out anti-vehicular mayhem last year I had to buy it, 7inch singles, EP’s and the album, what more could you want in a re-release? Who was worried about the price at this point it was necessary and wonderful and a blast from a past that was equal parts terrifying, sad and wonderful.

It is a massively confusing weirdly entertaining, funky psychedelic freak out of an heathen blow out.

It sure is a pretty package as well, look at that cloth covered box, it may have got a bit dusty.


Then there is the iconic album cover from the Vilage of Druid in Corwen which a certain blogger will rejoice in  Wales’ place in this anarchic album.



There is also the E.P. of Paranormal in the West Country recorded originally in the West Kennet Long Barrow, which everyone should go sit on and be still for awhile.


And then there is the affect of listening to all this which Syd definitely manages to capture here:



and it all starts again…

There are those who say that Deluxe by Harmonia sounds dated, others say it boring and some have long pretentious reviews going on and on about the influences that the band had.


The dated comments confuse me as it was recorded in 1975, which is now 45 years ago, so dated is well, a silly statement, it sounds of its time. The rest are on their own.

So the other nights Harmonia Live 1974 was terrifying activating the amygdala in all its reptilian glory, this on the other hand is soothing and will get your temporal lobe rocking to auditory stimulae. Go figure, it’s the same band only months apart, maybe this is the essence of what makes Harmonia great, they are never the same band and yet are aways the same band.

Side 1. is two long rhythmic tracks definitely in the motorik tradition with some lyrics occasionally.

Side 2. is some shorter tracks, some lively and others not so, hooks aplenty and ambient at times.

It’s easy to see the influence Harmonia had on Eno, Bowie, Hawkind and pretty much any band that plugged in a synthesizer in the eighties or nineties. I am also convinced that Michael Rother and Dave Brock went to the same school of guitar playing as he is the only other person who can be that precise in his playing, Brock is maybe more violent.

The band  look so cosmopolitan hanging at the beach. This was in the days when grown men would lounge fully clothed at the beach taking in the sights apparently. Rother really mellowed out those Cluster noise merchants, so much so that they borrowed the instruments he left in their studio to record Zuckerzeit but thats another record all together.




I’ve been trying to dig Cluster’s first album for some time, really listening and trying to get along with it, shake hands, smile, maybe even give it a hug.

The verdict. It’s just too weird, it’s what happens when the drugs take over, or you don’t take enough.

However when Michael Rother of Neu decided to hang with the Cluster boys they created something totally different, well it was an entirely different band called Harmonia that none other than David Bowie and Brian Eno declared were important. So what makes it different, I think it’s the melodies, or the guitars that drone along and drill through your prefrontal cortex causing anxiety and fear as well as a deep feeling off well being. At times your fight or flight instinct will be triggered although if you play it loud enough you will be pinned to the armchair/couch/beanbag unable to move until the end of Side 1. at which point you will flip the record and delve into Side 2. and maybe repeat again and again.

It may also be the genuine attraction I feel towards any band that looks like a bunch of crazed scientists set up an experiment on stage with the intent of terrifying the audience. This is not ambient music, it is too in your face for that.

An added bonus is it will annoy anyone who lives with you.


In the UK and USA at the time the dinosaurs of rock and roll were rolling themselves out of bed and  on the road with their blues braggadocio in full flight. In Germany they were concentrating on freaking each other out as much as possible with strange bleeps and blips and that motorik beat.

I am not ready to give up on the Cluster album yet.

I still dream of orgonon…

I’ve been on  a bit of a Kate Bush kick recently. This has nothing to do with the massive crush I had on her throughout the 80’s and 90’s, absolutely nothing, in fact all rumors to the contrary are a lie designed to sully my good name.

But lets be honest what’s not to admire about Kate Bush, she’s incredibly talented, does whatever she wants and answers seemingly to no-one but herself. The fact that she has never made a truly awful album helps as well.

Some of this has been to do with finding a whole bunch of the boxed sets of her repackaged re-released vinyl as well as the live collection Before the Dawn for less than $30 a piece. Of course this all added up to a lot in the end and it’s a massive amount of music to come to terms with. I actually only bought three of them, I have the other albums and it seemed a bit extreme to own them all so many times, so I got III and IV and Before the Dawn.


To be honest I am not sure I have come to terms with it all.

Before the Dawn itself is a massive piece to listen to and take in. It’s surprising there are no overdubs. I am going to believe her in this as she has never lied to me before. As to be expected it sounds amazing, Kate’s voice is exceptional, the band are well what you would expect of a Kate Bush band, and well it’s easy to get lost in the whole thing. There is all you need from a Kate Bush album, world music sounds, hits and prog rock excesses disguised as pop music, or is that pop music disguised as prog excess?


There’s also those damn weird and freaking scary Fish People, like some avenging Doctor Who Seadevil clones lurking beneath the waves ready to drag you down with them to their evil lair under the sea.


This all being said I am really happy Kate got saved from the Fish People and the ocean waves.


With all that has gone on in the fucked up world of the USA this week it is good to know Kate got saved.