I sat and watched the dreadful mistake of Afghanistan come to its inevitable conclusion, did anyone ever think it was a good idea?
All I could think was since 9/11 how much life, military and civilian and other resources have we as a species wasted?
I read/watch the news seeing ours and others freedoms being eroded, our hopes being quashed and I wonder.
Being a pacifist it seems is now considered unpatriotic, having a social conscience is considered at best socialist, at worst communist. Doubting that all military personnel are heroes is a sin worthy of stoning and considering that some peoples may have a reason to have a suspicion of the west can’t be contemplated, The idea that racism may have permeated our laws and society is intolerable.
Sometimes it really feels that we have become the thing we are so adamant we are fighting against, nations governed by intolerance, where compliance is more important than thought. We rail against women being oppressed in other countries and allow it to happen in our own, the hypocrisy is palpable.
Songs in the Key of Z by Iriwin Chusid, yes that is his name.
Medical Grade Music by Steve Davis(yes the snooker player) and Kavus Torabi, ex Cardiac and current leader of Gong.
Both mining the outer reaches of the musical world.
I found the beginning of this post from sometime in July, it’s been awhile since I read both of these books. Reading them made me realize that while I love the outer reaches of the musical world I also truly enjoy the more popular sides, in this way I am more like Kavus than Steve, Irwin is just plain out there, if you can find the Songs in the Key of Z compilations thats a wild ride, I can enjoy XTC along with Henry Cow and I still struggle with Magma, even though I admire there tenacity and single minded allegiance to the quest. XTC and Martin Carthy make complete sense when placed next to each other and David Bowie was an alien.
I read songs in the Key of Z years ago. It brought me into the world of the Legendary Stardust Cowboy and some others and caused a spate of buying used CD’s that could only be played on headphones or in the car while alone. Allowing this music to escape into the environment would cause pain to the people I lived with. The worlds of Daniel Johnston and The Shaggs colliding with Joe Meek and Tiny Tim. About the same time I read Turn On Your Mind Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock, by Jim DeRogatis. This took me down a sidetrack to the Flaming Lips, Wilco, Mercury Rev and others as well as the classic 60’s and 70’s psychedelia.
All that being said two things have happened this week, one I had the lenses in my eyes replaced with implants that was completely disorientating and is still a little weird with sensitivity to light etc. Cataracts they suck. The other thing was as I watched the light show, very weird with no lenses, the doctor was playing the Sot Bulletin by the Flaming Lips which well was psychedelic man as they say. No drugs involved, I am too much of a control freak and afraid of loss of control for the drugs or as my wife says stupid.
It was a small room full of smoke of one sort or another. A bottle of Wild Turkey sitting in the ashes. The shelves were full of ephemera and oddness, a Kiss magazine leaning next to a copy of Winnie the Pooh four urns with the ashes of three dogs and a father clustered together.
Mike stands, a drum kit and guitars leaning against amps.
The walls were covered in mattresses as an attempt to soundproof things, the windows were also covered, there was no ventilation and a lone fan pushed the smoke around the room.
Listen to this:
“I was born the day they shot JFK The way you look at me sucks me down the sidewalk Somebody please tell this machine I’m not a machine…”
Shit thats the best song the stones never wrote, you’re welcome.
We started last year and then we had a wild fire that filled the air with smoke and along the way a flood and an icestorm that caused the trees to explode and then well it was all too much.
In the midst of all this was an election. Maybe that is what made it all too much.
I have struggled with pace. I take off too fast and then fade away, gasping along the trail like the old man I am. The answer apparently is the Grateful Dead, as Greg says when you lose the rhythm if you just keep going you’ll find another rhythm. This is the Dead philosophy it seems. I am slowly finding my/a rhythm again. Its not going to break any records but it does make me feel better and more alive and somewhat centered.
The Dead’s random shifting shuffling rhythms are the perfect pace for a 50 plus year old man to struggle his way around the trails at home, not ready to head out onto the road yet so trail running it is until the weather deteriorates to the point you have to stumble along on the asphalt because the mud is too thick. Luckily we live on enough space we have managed to carve out third of a mile circuit through the woods. It’s less embarrassing than when I will have to gasp my way past the kids waiting for the school bus.
30 plus years ago I listened to Europe ’72 sitting on the stoop and drinking Red Strip Lager. I was not a fan of the Dead really for all the reasons about the disappointment of the name until the moment China Cat Sunflower started. Then the dancing and swaying began, then there is the timeless merge into I Know You Rider, the perfect moment in the Dead canon. The perfect segue from one song to the other in jam band psychedelic cowboy perfection. In the day of drunken garden dancing it is perfect you can sway twirl and fall about in a happy state of delirium it may actually be the perfect Dead moment and makes up for all the disappointment of the name.
This is my opening track for the Dead running playlist. Sometimes as I hit some sort of stride I start thinking on those misty hazy days sitting on the stoop and dancing. Greg would insist I have no real dancing ability, I however think that my wild gyrations are a perfect accompaniment to America’s jukebox in the Dead. Michelle however still refuses to dance with me during my more expressive moments. Of course if I worried about all that I would never dance, or run for that matter. Other times I just go with the flow of the music and terrain, avoiding snags and ruts and the other dangers in some weird moment, the mist on the meadow and in the treetops and occasionally the rabbits fleeing my gasping steps.
Tomorrow however I go in for cataract surgery and they will make me stop running for an undisclosed time, undisclosed because I have not asked but I know it’s gonna happen, apparently. Apparently I will not have to wear my glasses for distance so for the first time in 45 years people will see this ugly mug without the glasses, terrifying. People keep pointing all this out as a plus but I am not so sure it is. I have been hiding behind my glasses for a long time, the little Lennon circles that go dark in the sun and make it so I can milk eye contact but others can’t, not sure what that says about me.
There was a time when I could spend most of my summer barefoot or just about barefoot. It was when there were no responsibilities, jobs, family or meaningful consequences.
Sitting in the browning grass and listening to music, reading a book or entering a beer induced doze in the park in the afternoon, weather permitting. It seemed that all the summers were balmy and restful. Church bells in the distance and birds chirping in the trees and the low whine and rumble of the double deckers trundling along the street. Kids shouting and parents chasing them. It was an idyllic past that really only exists in fading memory.
I remember sitting in the garden of a pub looking at the surrounding dirty feet, calluses and scrapes and scratches, along with bright red chipped nail polishes and more earthy colors and tye dye shirts and pants some toe nails cracked with dirt under them. The laughter and the joy of summer. Then the meander to the field were music happened, the happy ruddy glow of dancing in the dying light as the sun set behind an oak tree.
I remember kneeling next to the garden plot in the allotment as my grandad made tea in the little shed as I weeded. Pulling the dandelions out of the cabbage patch and nurturing the carrots and lettuce and tomatoes and he hummed You Belong To Me as the water was boiled on the methylated spirit stove that he had pumped into a furious furnace under the old sauce pan. The tea was brewed in a cracked brown tea pot and the mugs were chipped there was one china tea cup with a saucer stirring full cream milk into the tea and two lumps of sugar My feet bare would dig into the earth and he would tell me to put my shoes on. Michelle would sit on the only deck chair yellow dress and massive sun hat on her head, she got the china cup, we got the cracked mugs. Her feet were clean and bare, she would sit with the sunflowers and daisies as we weeded and drank tea and talked, my Grandad in grey flannel trousers, shoes and socks and a pressed white shirt and always a sport coat. Stopping for a pint of mild on the way home in the Eagle and Child opposite the market.
I remember tending the camp fire on the beach. Bare footed and clean with salt drying in my hair. Potatoes roasting in the ashes and sausages on sticks. We never seemed to catch a fish. My dad would juggle with the potatoes to cool them laughing, a warm bottle to Tizer and butter for the potatoes. the sausages rolled in a piece of white bread with ketchup. The wet suits drying hanging on the car then we would roll up in sleeping bags in the awful orange brown and green striped tent that looked like it should be populated by clowns and often it was. The next day the old patched inflatable would take us to the next murky dive, regulators, face masks, fins and the most exciting knife to strap to your leg. We would sit with our bare feet to the fire and plan the dive in the tropics instead of Wales but ill health got in the way and we grew apart for awhile.
Today I stood in the garden barefoot and picked green beans with my grandson, we would’ve picked peas as well but he has managed to eat them all as they grew. His feet were bare as well and filthy with dust and dirt and scratches, later we picked blackberries as he sat on my lap on the tractor, we like to drive into the berries to get the big fat juicy and sweet ones, I know you shouldn’t drive the tractor barefoot but well it was so far to go get the boots and it was hot and humid and just too much. In the evening I sat and thought about all this and was sad and happy and content. Pretty soon we will pick tomatoes barefoot and eventually peppers and corn, we will surely watch the sunflowers bloom and maybe we will sit in the garden and drink tea from cracked mugs and Michelle will wear the oversize sun hat and we can think of that long gone old gentleman, I have however grown out of drinking mild.
It’s been awhile since I really wrote anything so here goes…
1984 I was 18 and my dad had decided that he couldn’t live with me anymore, for all sorts of valid reasons mostly to do with his health mental and physical. I am sure I was not an easy teenager and he saw an opportunity to teach me a lesson and make me grow up a little. So he packed me off to college to live in the dorm.
Dorm life was not easy for an only child with odd shall we say social skills, that however is for another day.
Eventually like my dad the college decided that I should not live in the dormitory anymore as it was better for everyones health, mental and physical. They did however graciously say I could stay a student but had to live somewhere else. This was predominantly because of the strange, diverse and unusual friends that would inhabit my room on occasion and the loud music recorded and live that would emanate from the open windows of my room.
All of this led to a year of couch surfing and the transient student life, which is not as romantic as it sounds when your only income beyond student grants was a dog walking gig and bar keep in the pub that I promptly drank my wages away at. In my deranged 18 year old mind I was walking out in the steps of Kerouac, Dylan, Harper, Young, Thompson, Ginsberg, Cassidy and any number of counterculture heroes that I could think of, the difference was they had talent beyond consumption of substances and being able to convince any number of lecturers in English, Drama and Theology I knew something of what I was mumbling.
When everyone was done with me and I was looking for a friend there was Dave.
Dave had spent an afternoon in the dorm, decided it wasn’t for him and promptly found a cheap flat opposite Sefton Park somewhere around Victoria Rd. It was not a really pleasant place but it was not in the dorm, I helped him with the rent, he let me keep my few belongings there, predominantly the records and books and crash on a mattress we kept leaning against the wall in the hallway. There was a gas fire and he shared the kitchen and toilet with the ground floor, pretty typical student fare, There was a stoop we would sit on and play records through the window, we would take turns with the neighbors and the street resounded with punk, reggae, psychedelia and the contemporary post punk, pop music of our time as well as soul, country and folk and a whole slew of stuff that I was not aware of the name for.
That was the place I was sat one sunny afternoon when Dave put The Grateful Dead Reckoning on the turntable and I was simultaneously disappointed and enchanted. Disappointed because I really wanted the Grateful Dead to be a truly hard rocking psychedelic noise fest, instead Reckoning is a gentle stroll through the Dead’s acoustic set in 1980. It has more in common with any number of gentle folky country albums from the 70’s than the apocalyptic roar I was hoping for. It was however truly astounding. It’s maybe not the Dead’s best album but every song is a classic and played with conviction, Jerry’s voice is fragile and strong and his picking is spot on. It really is the closest to a greatest hits album available at the time before the days of the endless playlist. It is as I said enchanting and to be honest a lot of fun. It is also in the summer sun a truly danceable album and any number of afternoons were spent dancing along to Reckoning with the neighborhood freaks and weirdos as we played football and Daves recent conviction that basketball was the game we should get behind.
These days I can appreciate the Dead for what they are America’s jukebox, dance band for the twirlers or whatever you feel like, but every now and then I just want them a little closer to a psychedelic noisfest, I will just have to get that need met elsewhere I suppose.Reckoning however takes me back to those sunny days near Sefton Park dancing to the Dead, Toots and the Maytels and Echo and The Bunnymen and drinking cold beer on the stoop and warm beer in the bar.
It shall not be taken lightly or seen as a thing to engage in without the willingness to fill in forms and refill them in at the behest of many a person behind a desk. A bureaucratic extravaganza.
First of all I lost my flying shoes, the same shoes I have flown in for ten/fifteen years or so. The comfortable ones that are molded to my feet like lovely slippers. This resulted in the Crocs, not so comfortable but utilitarian. When I arrived home Michelle pointed to the flying shoes laying at the bottom of the crate full of Converse and Doc Martin’s oh how the predictable are fallen.
So many forms to fill in Passenger Locators. Covid test registrations and then the tests.
Calls twice a day from Test and Trace and then the visits from the officials. Ten days of quarantine tests on day two and eight and testing out at day five but you still have to take the test on day eight just in case.
If I am going to be totally shallow, as if there is an “if” there. I have always had a massive crush on Anne Briggs since I was a mere teen and being all pretentious with records under my arm walking through school as if I was in on some secret others only guessed at. The whole image of the hard drinking, hard living young woman in her slouched sweater sitting on the floor smoking and keeping pace with those aging folkies as they were put to shame by her pure voice is captivating.
Anne Briggs is something of an enigma, she burned bright and then essentially disappeared, dissatisfied with her own recorded singing. She still lives in obscurity refusing to record and she is represented by approximately 30 songs she recorded in her short career. There is always the what ifs out there, but the records are maybe enough.
She managed to influence almost every folk-rock, folk band and singer, her recordings have continued to influence musicians to this day. The Decemberists released an entire album named after her first e.p., Richard Thompson based the song Beeswing on what he knew of her character, which was mainly through Sandy Denny’s friendship and his ex-wife Linda, her version of Blackwaterside was influential to Bert Jansch who had the melody stolen by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page for Black Mountainside, go figure.
So this has 12 songs, almost half of her catalogue, I suppose now I should just buy them all as that is all there will ever be.