She introduced me to her favourite books…

Ever since I began buying records they have been tied up with books. I began buying books long before I began to buy records though. This afternoon I was feeling a little melancholy and turned to Moorcock. Not the slash up sword and sorcery of the past but the more introspective serious writing that more and more he has been engaging with.

The soundtrack was Steven Wilson’s Hand Cannot Erase which with it’s themes of alienation and loneliness seemed to go with Moorcock’s Lunching With The Antichrist.


Both the book and the album have left me feeling particularly introspective. I don’t have a lot apart from this from Mr Moorcock in 1993.

“It is heartening to note, as our economy collapses perhaps for the last time, a return to the language and sentiments of mutual self-interest. London was never the kindest of English cities but of late her cold self-referential greed has been a watchword around the world. Everything we value is threatened in the name of profit.”

Substitute the city and the country and you have a pretty good picture of the world as it is.

All of which leads me to conclude that you should only listen to Hawkwind when reading Moorcock.eye switching to another musician has caused a dis-regulating experience.

The Steven Wilson however is one of my favorite albums of the year and the concert was one of my most memorable as they crammed a quadraphonic sound system and a big rock show into a hall that normally hosts reflective folk musicians.

I have to confess I had to give up reading as the music became too compelling and I finished the book in silence once I was done with the record. This either attests to the music being attention grabbing or acknowledges my brain is not necessarily able to allow for the input of two types on information anymore.

15 is not enough…

15 Albums what a ridiculous number that is but keepsmealive picked the number.

Those ones you cannot live without. The Desert Island albums, the essentials etc. etc. etc. Or really the compromises you make when faced with an arbitrary number. At any time the list may change and I am already having regrets.

My rules,

1.Well they had to be records that meant something to me of course.

2. Compilations count because the two I chose are carefully thought out retrospectives ( not really, see rule 1)

3. I had to own them and be able to sing along in an out of tune but enthusiastic voice to every song (practiced this in the car all week)

4. Bootlegs count because I said so (see rule 1 again)

Neil Young  – Decade


Fake country, psychedelic jams it’s all covered here. Neil’s greatests moments in noise production in his first ten years. I know it’s cheating as it is a compilation but it is the second best compilation made, covering ten years of creativity and soul searching.

Fairport Convention – What We Did On Our Holidays


The absolute best English Folk-Rock album from the 60’s. Yes better songs appear later in the band’s career but nothing ever holds up as a whole again. Traditional songs and original compositions all make for a perfect album. Yes Liege and Lief was more groundbreaking but everything on What We Did fits so well and the show stealing fiddle is not there yet.  

Hawkwind – Hall of the Mountain Grill


Some claim this is Hawkwind lite but it is for me the best album, great songs enough blanga to melt the brain and electronic blips and bleeps as well as Simon House squawking away on electric violin. I almost went with Space Ritual but that can at times be too much Hawkwind.

Roy Harper – Stormcock


Four long songs covering everything from religion to the gaseous emissions of critics. An album of contrasts and all acoustic, in fact it has Jimmy Pages finest acoustic appearance on any album as he shreds his way through Same Old Rock. This is one of those albums that you have to play all the way through.

The Beatles – Blue Album


This may be cheating again with a compilation but this is how I first ever heard The Beatles, this album nestled in my parents radiogram as the only album from the Beatles. My mum sang along to every song and  I can play this album through in my head without it being on. I know there may be better or at least real Beatles albums but this is the one you need, or rather I need.

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks, the New York Sessions

new blood

Again it may be a cheat, as it’s a bootleg, but the versions are so much better sounding, more direct and less muffled, also there is something about hearing Dylan’s buttons rattling against the guitar body that makes it special. It is essential at some point in every list it is important to be a little pretentious.

David Bowie – Hunky Dory

hunky dory

There are many other choices but this for me is Bowie right before he entered the stratosphere, still paying homage to his heroes and still with a unique voice. He is still a little wide eyed on this album if not innocent. The future however is there with the searing Queen Bitch and The Bewlay Brothers to end the album.

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name


If you have this you don’t need another album from San Francisco. Containing most of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and CSNY this is an album that reeks of lazy afternoons and evenings smoking and jamming. It is a musical tour de force and no wonder it took him forever to record a second solo album this may have just run the well dry. Full of obscure guitar tunings and meandering vocal harmonies it is a wonder with Jack Casady’s bass holding it all together at times when it looks like it may disappear in a cloud of smoke.

The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin


At times sounding like Burt Bacharach joined Pink Floyd with Neil Young as a singer, well that sums it up. They have never sounded so consistent although they have been more fun at times.

Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight


A wholly excellent album at times uplifting other times harrowing and bleak. The whole album flows with a strange sense of completeness and spirituality.. Moving from one observation to the next with the constant searing guitar lines imposing themselves over crumhorns, mandolins and accordions and that is just the first track. Has there ever been a better beginning of a song than Calvary Cross? Also any album with a silver band on deserves to be heard

Pink Floyd – Animals


Anger, angst and solos. Floyd’s best moment in many ways sandwiched between the musical genius of Wish You Were Here and the mega selling Wall. It was the second Floyd album I ever heard after A Saucerful of Secrets and the one I can return to again and again along with Atomheart Mother which almost made the list.

Genesis – Duke


My go to genesis album, enough prog to keep a nerd happy and some really emotional ( sappy ) songs to keep you grounded. It also has in Heathaze one of the great Genesis songs nobody every really rates.

The Icicle Works – Blind


A confused album ranging from all out Led Zep homage rock to Prince pastiche via a little Byrds flavored country rock. Somehow it all hangs together and is the best of the original Icicle Works albums, although a really good compilation may do it in, they have not made one of those yet.

I Often Dream of Trains – Robyn Hitchcock


An album that is difficult to define, songs about buildings, trains, personality disorders, death and insects. Need I say more really. It is the quintessential obsessive compulsive English album. 

The Yes Album – Yes


Beatles references, harmonies, guitar solos switching speakers and a big big sound. Four of it’s songs are classics that still stay in the Yes live show and it has a delightfully creepy cover.

I never left you…

Name the  most infuriating Beatle ?

And the answer  is John, he is also the most fascinating, the most obviously scouse as well; a little edgy, cuddly and possessing of a huge talent that he seemed to be able to turn on and off at will sometimes just to annoy those around him he also may steal the silver not because he needs or wants it but because it would be a laugh.

My Dad will tell you tales of growing up with John, I am pretty sure he is not being truthful, especially as he is a lover of the tall tale. He also leans back smirks and then launches into a long convoluted story that rolls along adding in Liverpool landmarks at will. I think he does it simply to amuse/bemuse the American relatives who seem to sincerely believe that everyone from Liverpool of a certain age must have been close intimate friends with the Fab Four.

It is my contention that the only Lennon collection you really need to own is Shaved Fish. fishThrow in  a few other songs from the later albums if you need to and you have a perfect collection. Concise biting and a perfect distillation of the wit, romance and politics of Mr Lennon.

For the sake of full disclosure I own everything available by the man and the small beat combo he was a member of. I enjoy the majority of it even some of his experiments with the wife. However the album I return to most often is Shaved Fish for my Lennon fix as it hits all the necessary points. Yes there are things I miss when  listening, I want Working Class Hero or Watching The Wheels but the collection is complete without them too.

So yell shout and scream but I will remain true to my contention. Shaved Fish rules it is perfect.

” I was once sorta…”

There is really something about a great post-apocalyptic novel. It can get you lost in the maybes out there not to mention the what ifs. Unfortunately at times someone decides to make a movie and ruins it.ThePostman(1stEd)

The Postman is a great story, David Brin did a great job convincing you that a little man desperate to survive can use an ideal in order to con his way into food, sex and supplies. At the same time inadvertently reconnect the west coast with the idea they can become a nation again. It is a big book built on the small idea that if communities can gather around an idea and communicate then society can go on, that human connection can overcome barbarism and peace is a good idea.

Then Kevin Costner came along and ruined a good story with ridiculous hero worship and gung ho patriotism. Don’t get me wrong the book can be quite bleary eyed about the USA but in a well done the little man way, Costner turned this element into the over riding them in the movie.

The best aspect of the movie is Tom Petty as a slightly deranged rock star survivalist who has the best line in the movie. It is the reply to Costner’s “I know you, you were famous.”

So at the end of the day go read the book, unless you want to see how beautiful Oregon is.

Tonight the night is mine

Ominous lines from Fagen’s the Nightfly.

I had never heard this album until this week. I had never searched it out, it was maybe good enough to know it existed without hearing it. It was semi-legendary and what the hip cats into Steely Dan really listened to, nightflyit was hard to get for many years it seemed elusive at the best, impossible to find or out of reach for my poor pocket as a student and then I forgot about it. Then yesterday while driving past Goodwill I saw the cover in the window. Well I had to pull over.

It’s unmistakable, the jazz guru cigarette in hand whispering knowledge along the airwaves. On a radio station you had to be cool enough to know about as it was so independent.

Then there it was in the stacks of used vinyl, the cover was perfect, not immediately a good sign. The vinyl looked fine.

Home we go clean it up and give it a spin and suddenly I am one of the cool kids. It was all recorded digitally in the age of vinyl and sounds nice. Immediately you are transported back to late night radio, for me it was John Peel and rock music and not jazz but the theme is the same, secret knowledge being passed on to the initiate in the dead of night. Apparently many of the lyrics are auto-biographical and just goes to prove Donald Fagen is one cool cat

This is an album that would have hit the cool quotient of the staff at Probe Records. A polite nod to the knowing as others left with their OMD records or Bad Company.probe

So now I feel like one of the cool kids having heard the elusive to me Nightfly album. I have to also admit I bought a Bad Company album at the same time though sometimes you just need to rock and the Bad Company boys can do that and somehow I think Mr Fagen would appreciate that although maybe with a sardonic grin as he sipped his cocktail or black coffee, and not an all out devil fingers.

Lord of Light

When I began this blog it was to record my reading. Over time that has changed to be some sort of ongoing discussion of my obsessions, from music to books to whatever is on my mind at the time.

I do however still read, surprise to some. I still have my original project of trying to read some of the greatest science fiction written, as well as my current re-reading of the Eternal Champion Cycle by Michael Moorcock and my return to vinyl. So much going on in this messed up head of mine.lolnovel

Today I finished another of those classic sf books in Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. I have always enjoyed Zelazny, he has the Hawkwind connection for those interested, Lord of Light being an epic track from The Space Ritual album, with searing synth work and a driving blanga beat that cannot be beaten, Simon King and Lemmy at their best. That however is for another post I think.

A novel taking on every major religion in a satirical manner, looking at the dangers of religion and the joys of religion and absurdity of gods. It is also a fun filled adventure. What is not to love?  Zelazny is one of the best writers of sardonic science fiction and does not miss the mark with this novel.


The unmade movie script for this novel was the cover story used by the CIA as shown in the movie Argo which I am sure amused Zelazny.

Way more information here:

And then there is this which has nothing to do with the book whatsoever:

Now I’m Just A Cosmic Man

I have loved Hawkwind since the first time I heard them. I have been l at times completely infatuated with and then at other times totally dismissive of them. The first album I ever heard was Hall of the Mountain Grill and I was captivated almost immediately. Swirling mellotron’s, thunderous bass from Lemmy and the relentless guitar of Dave Brock all crowned with Nik Turner parping away on untutored sax and violin, rock violin. It is a cacophony that only one band can ever get way with, strange dystopian science fiction lyrics sung so seriously all surrounded by driving drums and an almost punk attitude.

Titles like Psychedelic Warlords, D-Rider and Paradox and You’d Better Believe It, do not prepare you for what you are about to hear never mind Goat Willow, the cover of a space ship crash landed in a swamp can only hint at the insanity inside. hawkwind-hall-of-the-mountain-grill-non-sticker-lpIt was a revelation to me, almost Floyd but too harsh, not metal, not pop it was something I later discovered is space rock, although that term can’t really do what you find inside justice. The best term I have ever heard to describe the music is BLANGA, for a full description of what the term means go here:

For me it is that moment when the chaos settles, the beat goes on and all is well with the world, Crazy Horse can get there but Hawkwind do it almost without thought on a good day.

Hawkwind while a bunch of anarcho hippies did not have that slightly fey west coast hippy vibe, they looked like they may destroy your town when they arrived and you would feel good about it after they leave. They were more influenced by the metronomic music of German rock music such as Amon Duul, Neu and Can. They were relentless in their drive and their search for the perfect trance like moment. Space Ritual is the epitome of this but Hall of the Mountain Grill is my album.

I remember the strange days of my teen life crouched around a pye record player listening to a borrowed scratched copy of the album. Trying to understand what was going on and almost succeeding. I read the entire Hawkmoon trilogy by Michael Moorcock to this album.hawkmoon And then I got to that point in my Eternal Champion reading and I knew I had to get the album again before I started so off I went searching it out and buying it for the 5th or 6th time in my life. It is one of those audiophile 180gm vinyl versions, They have spread it over two albums and it has lost some magic because of this, they should have kept the original package. Audiophile and Hawkwind are two words that do not make sense.

The album sounds great from that 1st wash of synth and the riff to the ending insanity of Paradox but it was never a double album, it was 40 minutes of perfection and now we have extra tracks and alternate versions stretching it out.

Oh well it is still my Hawkwind, raucous and comforting, dangerous and safe all at the same time, as my friend Greg would say, it’s the dialectic man don’t you get it?

Or in the words if Dave Brock:

You think you know the answers but we don’t tell no lies
We can take you anyway thro’ seven different highs
World turned upside down now, there’s nothing else
to do, but live in concrete jungles, but they block up the views

These Fifty Years

So I have entered my fiftieth year, and along with that realisation came all the insecurities and celebrations that go along with it, So begins the mid-life crisis with two maybe three projects that are not necessarily incompatible.

The first is to practice mindfulness on a regular basis and live more in the moment and experience the simple joy of living. Something that my family will benefit from as much as me but is more of a struggle than you may imagine.

The second is to read Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion sequence in order.

The third is to take the time to gather my absolute favorite albums on vinyl and enjoy them.

January and February have been something of preparation for this adventuree.

The Moorcock has been bought and stacked on the bookshelf. It all looks really impressive, a necessary mix of hard and paper back but it is all there, the only exception being Earl Aubec which is in a different addition but I was not able to get myself to pay so much as 80 dollars for a book, although I came close. I began the reading with the Eternal Champion Omnibus, remembering almost every line as I went, playing Hawkwind and Uriah Heep as  I read, memories of those teen years when I discovered Moorcock and Hawkwind almost the same month.Then I began Von Bek, a much more serious book, darker, richer and more mysterious. Almost immediately Tom discovered these books and began to read them as well, something that instantly made me feel closer to him. As you can see there are gaps on that shelf.


Along the way I started buying vinyl with no turntable in place. Goodwill can be a terrible place. Well there are two turntables  in my home but they belong to Tom and Chris and I wanted this to be my experience with my equipment. I immersed myself in reviews of turntables. Which one was best, direct drive over belt driven, vintage over new. I read again and again how this is an expensive hobby and not for the feint hearted. I looked on craigslist, made plans thought about it agonized and realized I am not necessarily an audiophile and had never really been one. Yes I had always had good stereos but not the most expensive. In a house with five stereos it seemed overkill to head down the expensive road, I also looked at some of the vinyl I had brought from the UK and realized it was all in very good shape particularly considering how it had been played over the years. So those mid-price turntables of the past did not destroy that precious vinyl so it may be a safe gamble.

So the decision was made, get the best quality entry level belt driven deck I could find, I had no intention of using the deck to scratch so belt driven was the preference, also they have less interference. Then which one, no usb turntable, I have some of these albums on CD and mp3 already so why would I rip them, also the desire was to experience the past on some level to revel in the warmth of vinyl. I also wanted an internal pre-amp, so much easier. Again more reviews and then the finances hit in so I got the Audio Technica ATLP60, the reviews were generally good, apart from the audiophiles who are convinced that this deck will tear your vinyl to shreds and leave you with bleeding ears. Yes I know it has limitations and that as I get obsessed with vinyl I may have to upgrade, Ben is counting on this so he can have the turntable.


vinylWell I am sure if I spent two times or four times as much as the $60 I did that I would be happier, spending makes us all happy at the end of the day doesn’t it? It sounds great, that rich warmth of vinyl, occasional pops and clicks included, despite the Bose speakers is an all enveloping experience. But that spending may have labeled me a hipster wannabe.

So then all I have to decide is what are those albums that mean the most to me so I can play them on this fine machine, This is made difficult by having given the majority of my albums to Tom and Chris over the years. I may have to buy them over time which could be fun. Also you have to be careful of what pressing you get, going analog means just that and avoiding those digital transfers to vinyl. Heavens there is so much to think about. They will however be records that have meaning to me not necessarily the greatest records ever made. I do have a liking for the Kinks Preservation Act albums and Floyd’s The Final Cut so you never know what you may see.

Well the mindfulness part may be the most difficult right now. Although listening to an album is a mindfulness exercise, it is much more focused an experience than mp3’s or CD’s in the car. The fact of the muscle memory of placing the disc on the turntable, sitting and listening and then flipping every 15-20 minutes, very relaxing almost like visiting another time period.

Played so far:

Al Stewart, Love Chronicles, Zero She Flies and Orange

Neil Young, After the Goldrush

CSNY, 4Way Street

Yes, They Yes Album

Most of the Time

The thing about being a child of the late 70s and 80s is that the perception is there was no good music. The sixties had the revolution of music, the 70’s had the excesses of rock and then the purge of punk. The eighties according to most writers had post punk and little else of note. How sad to be defined as after something else, of course we brought this upon ourselves with New Romantics, awful synths and gated drums. The decade fashion forgot etc. the slurs go on and on. Forever defined musically as the moment between punk and grunge that had no redeeming features. Well as one who lived through the rejected decade I have to say there was some good in there, yes you had to search between Wham and Duran Duran but it was there honest.

I remember a summer spent on the LLeyn Peninsula in North Wales, all I had for company was a copy of Pink Floyd’s the Wall, Rumours  and Live by Fleetwood Mac and every science fiction novel they had for sale in small gift shops at the beach. It was a heavenly summer, the one that stands in my mind as perfect.Llyn peninsula Two weeks in a small cottage in Wales, with no worries, I think it was the year before O. Levels so it was relatively stress free, the next year I was waiting for O. Level results, it rained continuously and the house felt like the walls were closing in. That was the year we went home early, never to go back to that house.

Back to 1981, Ghost Town by the Specials on the radio everywhere we went, that and I Don’t Like Monday’s by the Boom Town Rats which was the song most often played on the pub juke box my parents dragged me to some evenings. All the girls seemed to be wearing yellow that year and have Stevie Nick’s hair. Sat on the beach I read Philip K. Dick, Clarke, Heinlein and as much Moorcock as I could find, I swam in the cold Irish Sea, snorkeled around the crusted rocks and sank the stupid canoe, climbed on cliff faces, fished with my Dad and learned how to cook crab. It was that idyllic summer that in a Stephen King novel would have turned to terror but in reality was just a wonderful lazy summer that you forever try to reach again. I don’t think my parents ever realized what they gave me although I have tried to tell them.

Which all has nothing to do with the music of the eighties in the end apart from to say those albums are etched in my mind as the soundtrack to my youth. In 1982 I went to Cropredy and then other festivals throughout the decade. I was introduced to Richard Thompson’s music and discovered a more roots based music than my contemporaries were listening too. I also became a pretentious ass, preferring the Barrett Floyd to the Gilmour/Waters version which meant I had to listen to the Dark Side of the Moon and Animals in the closet.

The music I remember from that era now is Julian Cope, the Teardrop Explodes, the Icicle Works and Waterboys and also Robyn Hitchcock. I still return to that music even now. I also have a fondness for Here and Now who seemed to be on every festival stage passing the hat around.  My wife was very much in the Benatar, Idol, Journey and Foreigner camp. I remember listening and on strange occasions dancing to it in smoky Liverpool clubs but have to admit I don’t return to it. The biggest musical constants in my life though had to Fairport Convention and Hawkwind. I always seemed to be going to a Hawkwind gig or planning for the next and saving for Cropredy, or going to the seemingly endless tours a band that had split up constantly was on.

It could be a little odd at times to watch your peers succumbing to the synth pop agenda, of course now I can enjoy Depeche Mode and Ultravox along with Japan and the others but at the time it was anathema. So I ended up spending time looking for those lost gems of the 70’s and 60’s and actually becoming more pretentious than my lip stick wearing contemporaries, it also meant I missed out on the Jam, Elvis Costello and other joys through having my head so far up my own behind. I did allow myself as mentioned earlier to enjoy some contemporary music but it had to be performed by relative failures, if it was on top of the pops it sucked if it was on the Tube it was cool etc.

Anyway here is the mix of what I was allowing people to know what I was listening to during that weird strange period. As I made this I realized that with the exception of Hitchcock and the Icicle Works I discovered most of the other music of the eighties once the period was over. I guess I was more pretentious than I realized, although that may be the reason for a blog at the end of the day.

The mix: