a smile keeps me warm…

It’s the endless long drawn out decline.

Phil May died the other day, he fell of his bike and never recovered from the hip surgery. It all sounds a bit mundane as the globe is gripped with a pandemic but sometimes it’s the mundane that affects me. Phil was of course the singer for the Pretty Things, the original and long standing bad boys of rock music, creators of loud raucous blues based rock rowdiness and perhaps popularizers of the rock opera or concept album. Causing the world all sorts of pain and happiness over the years depending on your tolerance for the concept.

Without SF Sorrow it may have taken longer for pretentious rock poseurs to decide to have aspirations beyond their R&B backgrounds. Maybe it was the fact this most working class of bands had managed to outwit the others with their conceptual album. It was inevitable though it seems the others would catch up as the drugs got better the ego’s would require a more grandiose backdrop for the music and possibly capes. Can there ever be enough capes in music?

The beauty of S.F. Sorrow is its lack of pretension. Its brilliance is its dependance on songs to push the written story along, that way if you are lazy like me you can just enjoy the album without ever worrying about the story. It’s full of good songs without an overture, underture to any other type of ‘ture for that matter. There are odd psychedelic sounds and quirkily charming and oddball lyrics.  If you ever read the story it makes little sense which may be its saving grace, it is also not necessary to the listening enjoyment of the album. At the end of the day its just a great rock record, Old Man Going is worth the price of admission alone.


The album was so confusing to the record company they put no money into the artwork, Phil May drew the picture on the front, they took there own band pictures and managed to make a halfway decent stab at it.

Maybe this is the secret to a good concept album, keep it amateurish.

So  R.I.P Phil May, leader of the roughest of rock bands, conceptual artist and storyteller, and I believe him Tommy was influenced by S.F.Sorrow.

It’s a blimp frank…

I had this really long and involved review of Dusseldorf by Steve Hillage, it involved all sorts of long words and hyperbole. Until this moment.

I was having dinner with my son Tom, not unusual it happens most nights. I was telling him about the story of the record and everything that goes along with it, guilt, mystery and regret along with elation.

He turns to me and asks:

“Does it have Light in the Sky on it?”

“Yes” I reply.

“Must be good then…”

Enough said.


So it has Light in the Sky on and many other songs and it’s good.

we looked into the ethers…

Aaaaaah the endless Zoom/Skype phone meetings.

I have been reading about the adverse affects of video conferencing, as I prepare to sit in on 6 hours of conferencing ahead, at one point I will simultaneously Zoom and Skype, I am not looking forward to this and knowing my mum she will WhatsApp video call about the same time.

Things that happen that are good or exciting are limited in these Covid times.

Several months ago I ponied up some much needed cash to order Dusseldorf by Steve Hillage, a recording of a concert in said city on 23/8/79. I waited and waited and worried and then a virus hit and still no package from the UK with my exciting album enclosed. Eventually I gave up and emailed the seller, who within minuted gave me a refund with no communication. Oh well I though all is well at least I got the money back. I then went about my business with my desire for the album filed away somewhere in the back of my mind.

Yesterday I took a drive to the post office to pick up the mail. I do this late at night to avoid the people. I live about 8 miles outside a small time and have my mail sent to a PO Box, there is then the exciting parcel locker to open, it’s like Christmas.  9pm is a strange time to get the mail though no matter what you say.

Sitting in the parcel locker was an anonymous package that when I tore it open was my Sleeve Hillage album. Oh joy now I have a free record and feel bad for the seller who has refunded me. I contacted him and he was most understanding, wanted no cash and was happy I got the record.

All I have to do is listen to it now, thats next as the 1979 period for Hillage was amazing, that is the period that the Live Herald album came from.


I am so happy about this. Live Herald was three sides live and one studio, this is three LP’s of Hillage goodness. More about it after I listen I am sure unless I just take a nap.

In other news Bambi came to say hi as I was on my way out to get the groceries and then the mail on the way home. So many good things in these Covid times.


life’s like this…

So I became somewhat confused at some point in the week and I just realized it is Friday.


  1. I have not eaten anything I or someone in this household didn’t cook for over 6 weeks, maybe longer.
  2. It is really hard to find garbanzo beans, thats chick peas.
  3. The damn clay soil is defeating me in building a garden.
  4. Neighbors are pretty cool when they turn up with a tractor and rototiller to attack the clay soil.
  5. I keep thinking I don’t do much at work until my wife kept track of the meetings and phone calls and interruptions to the day, I actually have a job and it sucks doing it from home.
  6. My record buying has decreased.
  7. I have read 14 books, only 3 of them were work related.
  8. I have started staying up later, but not sleeping later.
  9. I don’t want to listen in on another state agencies Covid-19 pandemic meeting, but I will, it’s my job.
  10. I like being home, just not working from home.
  11. My bedroom makes a lousy office.

life’s like this right now:


you’ve got pretty eyes…

I saw Townes Van Zandt twice and I remember every moment.

I have seen Steve Earle I think four times and I have no memory of any of them. This is entirely my fault or it was that last drink for sure before we headed to the venue. I have more memories of his appearance on The Wire.

I was browsing Amazon as you do in these Covid times and I discovered Townes by Steve Earle and the Dukes for fifteen dollars. I realized about this time that I owned no Steve Earle records and also that Copperhead Road and Guy were also all fifteen dollars, So forty five of my dollars headed to Jeff Bezos and I contributed again to the enslavement of the working classes and the destruction of the local record store. But I was getting those records so I was being a good consumer and keeping the economy moving in this time. After all personal gratification is more important than ethics.

This has caused no limits to my cognitive dissonance about commercialism. I am the “festive consumer consumed by the feast.” As someone might say. So what to do when your options to buy things you need are so limited these days? I am however going to have to think about this carefully and what it means for myself. Of course this is a problem that began with the Sears catalog in the USA when you could even buy a mail order house.Picture 1 of 1

Of course you can do that on Amazon pretty much now:

To the records though!

Steve Earle’s quote about Townes Van Zandt is well known, something about cowboy boots, Bob Dylan and coffee tables.

The record is what you would hope for, not too reverent, the songs are there but they are Townes’ and he seldom wrote a bad one. It’s a good collection covering Townes career and played really well and Earles lived in voice is perfect for the songs. The thing you are left with at the end though is a real sadness that more people in the USA dont know about the national treasure that was Townes Van Zandt. Maybe though now you can get them so easily mail order there will be a resurgence and it may even be worth Jeff Bezos getting a little richer for Townes name to get out there.


I guess we will get to the other records another day I am going to lay this one again. Its worth it for Quicksilver Daydreams of Maria.

even a chicken has to what it has to do…

There are not enough accordions in rock music.

There are not even enough accordions in folk music.

There are for sure not enough accordions in folk-rock music.

There are also sad to say these days not enough electric guitars in folk-rock music.

IMG_3391.JPGThere are enough fiddles and bohdrans and even freaking pipes of the bag and uillean variety, I was even watching the kind of cringeworthy Dave(I will not say David)Gilmour family get together on facebook the other day and there is a harp along with a guitar, so there are clearly enough harps in all sorts of music.

In the heady days of the mid 70’s there were plenty of electric guitars in folk-rock music. There were also accordions and mandolins and many fiddles.

There was however only one remaining folk-rock duo willing to stretch those instrumentals out to psychedelic excess along with the more accessible songs about poor boys, whiskey nightmares and meaningful songs of shame. That was Richard and Linda Thompson, the most missed duo of the seventies if I might say. As far as I know nobody is calling for the return of Elton John and Kiki Dee. I may be wrong however.

Now those psychedelic guitar solos are probably explained by Mr Thompson as some IMG_3392.JPGsort of religious ecstatic experience an expression of deep spiritual yearning and fulfillment. I am however going to go with the mere fact that they explore subconscious parts of the mind that only six string played by a maestro can. Especially on Night Comes In. Yes Sufi-whirling may be what Thompson is singing about but there is a lot of mention of wine drinking too. Oh well if you really want to hear an out of the box version get Guitar Vocal and sprawl out with Thompson guitar and John Kirkpatricks accordion as they soar and swoop through the night.

So there are sufficient accordions on Pour Down Like Silver, there are also adequate fiddles, trumpets and cello’s. There is a crack rhythm section but no rhythm guitarist. It is starker than the earlier albums and definitely less polished than the following if that means anything.

It also ends with one of the great songs in the folk-rock world with Dimming of the Day.

he’s full of piss and vinegar…

Some people fantasize about being at Woodstock, or Altamont, watching Ozzy in his hey day with Randy Rhoades, peeking in as the Stones recorded or seeing the Dead at the Avalon or Joy Division in the early days, attending Stonehenge in the 80’s or any number of iconic moments in rock history.

If I could attend any moment in rock and roll history, which is at the end of the day a pointless fantasy, I would want to ride in the back of the VW Bus with Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt as they talked songs and drank whiskey, or sit and listen to Guy tell stories of the wild days as he made a guitar. I would want to watch Rodney Crowell and Steve Earle try to impress him with a song they had written, knowing they were performing for a true craftsman.

The first time I heard Guy Clark it was sat on the floor of Daves house in London before we went to see him with Townes Van Zandt, somewhere in the city int he 90’s. The power went out a few minutes into the set, we sat around by candlelight as two masters played. It was a magical evening and the smell of tobacco and whiskey always takes me back to that night. At least thats how I remember the night, reality may be different.

Vanilla wafers and tornados and capes and childhood and cigarettes and Dublin and knives and trains and childhood, love and lust and tomatoes and melons and Texas and friendship and cooking and guitars  and most importantly stuff that works, are all subjects Guy covered in his songs. He is single handedly responsible for me and Michelle buying property to grow tomatoes on.

“Loves a gift thats surely handmade” has summed up my attitude to relationships since I heard the line.

For years I drove a beat up old Ford F150 with a rusty roof and a slider by your feet that would blast hot air on your legs in the summer and cold air in the winter because it was stuck open. I played Guy Clark as I drove and felt like a cowboy, of course I was a pale scouser living the American fantasy, not the dream that was a different car.

I once sat in a hot and sweaty room drinking Old Crow Whiskey listening to my friend cry about his love leaving him. It was his fault and he knew it and at some point we rolled out into the street and howled at the moon when Out In the Parking Lot played on the radio.

“Looks like everybody’s lookin’ for a friend out in the parking lot…”

IMG_2753.JPGThis evening I went for a walk with Michelle and my grandson and the dog Syd up to the copse of cedars at the top of the hill. We watched the deer drink in the creek and then Cody ran pell mell down the hill skinning his knees at every twentieth step or so he climbed up, dusted himself off and took off again, nobody has told him to adjust his expectations and he knows to trust his cape.

In these strange days it is good to connect to the earthiness and class of Guy Clark. He worked at writing songs, it was a craft for him and he would always admit he had not written his last song or best one whenever he was interviewed. I shook Guys hand after his show in Portland awhile ago, he had a cold and was not feeling well but he still played a blinder of a show and had time to talk to the kid in the front and play Black Diamond Strings for him even though it wasn’t planned, he stayed until the last person had left and was courteous and gruffly gentle. I had nothing to say to him except thank you, maybe it was enough, it certainly felt that way and thats how I remember it.

“Only two things that money can’t buy, thats true love and homegrown tomatoes…”




just a roll, just a roll…

I am doing this isolation thing wrong.


I have not binged the tiger show, I have not learned a new language, I didn’t get around to the mandolin lessons and we have not begun to scream at each other.

We did start working on getting the veggie garden ready, we have super clay soil so IMG_3334
much of this has involved trying to rototill the damn hard ground, I have also been stealing the good dirt from other areas of the property. So why am I not building the garden there? Because it is a long way from the water thats why. This is why the previous owner had a wacky irrigation system that drew water from the creek, it is compromised though and a lot of work to repair, it was for his marijuana grow we found the remnants of in the woods. I am however as I was reminded when I  complained about our lack of industry to Michelle still working pretty much full time from home.

This is the creek:


I have started watching less TV, the great baboon in charge makes me too angry so I stopped except for very small doses in the morning.

IMG_3341 2.JPGI have for some reason been working my way alphabetically through the record collection, this started out as one album from each letter, I got stuck in H for awhile though and J is proving to be as difficult, made it to Japan. Then I got distracted and landed on the Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall. The lesser of the two Greasy Truckers albums but still anarchic enough and weird enough to elevate any social distancing, mainly by keeping those wanting to be social away.

So you get one enticingly head scratching musical array from Henry Cow, Camel the Global Truckers and Gong all wrapped up in a jolly gatefold sleeve. It complements the other more enticing Greasy Truckers with Man, Hawkwind and the Schwartzes, there is a whole thing to be written about the legendary nature of these albums in IMG_3350 2my sixth form common room, yes I went to the type of school that had a common room. I did not however come here for that or even to complain about the Covid situation, the truth is we are doing well, the sourdough starter is finally producing it’s first loaf this weekend. It went through some shocking smells, cheese, feet and locker room jock strap aromas until the last two days its been delightfully yeasty and frothy. We will see how the bread turns out, it is cooling as I write on the kitchen counter.

So now to the real reason for this long preamble. The other day I got in my email the notice that Cropredy was cancelled this year. This is not entirely shocking but the first time since 1979 that there will be no gathering centered around Fairport Convention, and even though I was probably not going to go I am still saddened, especially as the Full House lineup minus Swarb obviously, were going to play the Full House album live. This is firmly entrenched as my favorite Fairport Convention album. I am also a fan of the other two albums the band made in 1980, namely Swarbrick’s albums Smiddyburn and Flittin’.

There is something incredible about the lineup of Swarbrick, Thompson, Nicol, PeggIMG_3354 2.JPG and Mattacks. Following Liege and Lief that defined a genre, Sandy Denny and Ashley Hutchings left and the band were in a quandary, due to lack of ideas they recruited a new bass player in Dave Pegg and decided to reinvent themselves as a boy band, of course nobody wanted to sing due to fragile egos and lack of confidence. They still made a great album in Full House, with it’s manic instrumentals, plaintive songs and rock god workouts in Sloth and Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman, then they removed the best song from the album and went on tour, recording a live album and then Thompson left the band but not the house and retreated to navel gazing and songwriting.

Full House is not as refined as Liege and Lief, it still ploughs the same furrow of folk-rock, it does however lean into the rock and elevates the fiddle to a status not many bands have managed before or since, even Fairport Convention. This was a band having fun and on the road, legendary bar tabs, jam sessions with Zeppelin and ready to conquer the world, it just never happened.

Fast forward ten years and in 1980 Swarbrick released two albums Smiddyburn and Flittin’ that feature the Full House lineup on many of the tracks. I guess he released them as two albums as there was not much chance of a double album selling real well for him at the time, he had already done the rock opera with Fairport so maybe this could have been his attempt at the overindulgent double album. Fairport Convention for all intents and purposes didn’t exist as a band and Swarb was struggling with his hearing after all the heavy days on the road. Smiddyburn and Flittin’ are exactly what you would hope from the fiddlemeister, furious fiddle tunes along side contemplative melodic passages, all underpinned by the greatest folk-rock rhythm section and probably the greatest English rhythm  guitarist and a passable lead player in Richard Thompson.

IMG_3353 2.JPG

This summer Chris Leslie will not get to stand in for Swarbrick with the Full House lineup. The Oxfordshire countryside will not resound to Sloth and Sir Patrick Spens and nobody will hear if they managed to slip Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman back into it’s rightful place on the album.

All we can hope is that there has been enough hand washing going on and we all make it to next year, hell maybe if I can afford the flight I can go again, seems the righteous way to celebrate the re-emergenc.