They’re burning effigies out in the street Man the lifeboats, sound the retreat…

Dreams of America have been part of my consciousness my whole life.

I used to sit with my Grandad as he told me tales of ocean voyages and Times Square in New York. He had travelled the world it seemed to me, he had actually travelled the world but that’s what happens when you are a chef for the Cunard line. He was a larger than life man who had sailed the oceans and fought in the war. He was a role model, I know he was flawed as a younger man but in his age he had grown into a gentleman.

He told me about skyscrapers and fancy suits and sandwiches as big as your head. He also told me about sharks in Australia so I never really had the fantasy of visiting as it sounded too dangerous, We used to sit for hours watching cowboy movies and Cary Grant films, sometimes these were the same thing, it seemed every week there was a new movie to watch. One night we stayed up until midnight to watch High Noon. This was in the days before video machines. Then he would tell me about the cars and later the girls and jazz music. Right about this time my Nan would send me out to play and tell him to stop filling my head with nonsense. I think she was afraid I would take off.

My Nan had tales of Americans as well, they were not so complimentary. Stories of brash arrogant men in uniform who would harass young women. Tales of caution. She was however not averse to taking advantage of the odd yank, as she put it although she also guarded her two daughters with a ferocity that was probably legendary in the alleys of Liverpool.

My Dad also had tales of America. The American cousin who sent candy. This caused my Dads legendary dislike for wintergreen. He remembered the big cars coming off the ships though and the Levis you could get cheap in the pubs on the Dock Road. He also laughs at the thought of sitting in the bath so they fit perfectly.

Later on for me there was music and books and more movies and more music. I was almost cured by Jaws, damned sharks again. Then I read On The Road and all was forgiven, this was the America I dreamed of. Art and words and vast panoramas and infeasibly massive cities. Then I read Hunter S. Thompson and was convinced all Americans were in a drug fueled frenzy moving at 1000 miles an hour. All of America was Vegas, the Rat Pack, the chase in North By Northwest and Dylan’s Brownsville girl wrapped up in a mess of beat poetry and Rock’n’Roll.

I had however never met an American. I knew they were around and we hung out in themchale-s-irish-american American Bar on Lime Street, pretending to be cool and hoping a real American would walk in. For some reason we were convinced the name of the place would drag them in like a magnet. I think they have knocked it down now.  It was a rowdy bar at the best of times but I am not sure it deserved knocking down.

I would hear the accents on Matthew Street on Friday and Saturday but those sweaty overweight men bore no relationship to John Wayne, Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan. They could not be real Americans just some bellicose imposters to confuse me. Everyone in America was cool, I knew this because it was the land of Dylan, Kerouac and Todd Rundgren and the A-Team and the Wild Bunch. A land of mavericks and loners and super heroes.

IMG_6584All of these thoughts have been stirred up by listening to Ray Davies new album Americana. The realization of how pervasive America was in my life and how far away it was even in the 80’s. Also how glamorous it still is in my mind. A place to be aspired to, a dream a goal to attain. Even as I live in the USA today I feel more a stranger than ever before.

It’s a strange old world I suppose.

Do you live in a dream or do you live in reality?

Being a fan of the Kinks I could not resist buying the new Ray Davies album Americana. It’s helped along by the Jayhawks being the backing band.

My first take on the whole thing is it is a fine album. A reflection on Davies relationship with the USA, definitely a timely release as that most English of songwriters tackles his love of all things American. A love that has been evident in the past with songs such as Oklahoma USA from Muswell Hillbillies.

The whole album has caused my brain to start working overtime as I consider my own relationship to my adopted home, my reluctance to become a citizen and the current political landscape. Heady stuff at the end of the night. I am sure there is a lengthier post in this idea somewhere.

The record is however 4 sides of great songwriting that is related to Davies book of the same name in some way. Now I have to go read the book I suppose.

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Blip bleep swoooooosh…

I’ve had a strange relationship to the music of Tangerine Dream. It’s a music that really has affected me deeply over the years. There is more to them than the soundtracks but its so hard to know were to begin that I mostly stay with what I know.

IMG_6579I have a love for a certain type of Tangerine Dreams music. I cannot fully describe it but Atem and Alpha Centauri and especially Zeit capture it. Vaguely terrifying, threatening and all encompassing.

These three albums were the soundtrack of a summer in the late 80’s for me. I was living on a street near Sefton Park. Spending the days laying on the floor in the middle of the living room of the two room bedsit that the then love of my life rented, staying as still as possible and feeling the music. There was a coffee table a stereo and a some comfy pillows in the room as well as two lamps that had the shades covered with red gauzy type material.

We lolled around in the throes of young love and the strange bleeps, blips and drones of IMG_6578these three albums. For relief we would play Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht and stay as still as possible. Sometimes nodding off to wake to silence, other times hanging on waiting for the next change in mood subtle as it may be.

I remember the feeling that the air in the room was filled entirely by the music. The thought that you could not move because there was no room to move, every space was taken with those sounds. It was not and still is not a music you can easily share, people hearing it are dumfounded, disturbed and unsettled. It’s difficult all encompassing music.

For some reason a vegan diet and abstaining from alcohol was part of the experience. If it wasn’t my need for melody and a catchy song I may still be laying there drinking it all in man. The scent of patchouli and vegetarian samosas filling the air.

Zeit arrived today and I am a little afraid to play it so went with Phaedra instead, the sequencers and mellotron and sweeping sounds are more soothing and restful. I have a feeling that there may be an evening ahead with a red light and Zeit playing at volume. It may come in August as the total eclipse hits Oregon. I think it may be sooner though as the strange otherworldly sounds are already calling to me from the cover alone.

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I want more, more, more, more, I want some more sweet satisfaction to soothe my soul…

Long ago and far away before I became the enlightened man I am I was a little rougher around the edges. I was influenced no doubt by my peers who were of a crasser less refined variety than me and one young woman who wore an Italian combat jacket a Deep Purple t-shirt and leather mini skirt with combat boots. My guess is that young woman had more influence than my crass friends.

This influence resulted in me attending the Come an’ Get It Whitesnake show at the Royal Court in Liverpool. Little did I know this was the last time Whitesnake would tour as the sweaty blues rock band they used to be before finally morphing into something much more glamorous and acceptable to the US market and MTV.

I have no idea how good or bad the show was as I was distracted, nothing can compare to combat boots and mini skirts for distraction, throw in a combat jacket and long curly brunette hair and the teen male mind cannot pay attention to the Moody/Marsden guitar interplay, Jon Lords organ or the power house Ian Paice drumming, add the attitude of Suzi Quattro next to you and all hope is lost.

In fact to this day I cannot remember a single song played but when I hear the track Ready and Willing I have a very strong sensory memory. The smell of sweat, cheap beer and perfume mingled with the scent of marijuana. It’s a heady mix to be sure. Whitesnake play to most of the lowest common denominators in their lyrical content and once Coverdale traded in the working rock band for a collection of easier on the eye spandex clad musicians things got better for him monetarily and the image improved and the videos are legendary.

IMG_6536So this week I have been listening to the legendary in it’s own time Live In The Heart of the City which along with Ready and Willing is enough Whitesnake for one man. I still to this day have no idea why Mr Coverdale and the boys are so jaundiced in their appearance.

I can sit here and bask in the memories of that sweaty Royal Court show. I assume there was double entendre’s a plenty, suggestive thrusting from the stage and some stellar slide guitarring. It was for a long time the only way you could get to see so many ex-members of Deep Purple in one place, I really wish I had better memories of the music.

Luckily probably for me my combat booted siren later that month fell for the charms of a young man with a job and a Triumph motorcycle as I fell under the say of a patchouli scented Tangerine Dream fan. This brings me full circle to tonights listening pleasure of Tangerine Dreams Alpha Centauri which is definitely more terrifying than Whitesnake and may cause nightmares for the rest of the night.

 

 

You just happened to be there that’s all…

It’s been a day and a half today. I went to the doctor and on the corner was a guy begging, panhandling, choose your term.

I was overcome with a realization that we are all so close to homelessness. So I dug my wallet out and gave him all the money I had. Through my head went all the usual cynicism, he’ll buy drugs or booze etc. I felt a fool an idiot a mug.

I sat in the my car on the way out of the doctors and on the corner was the same guy. He was sitting on a bucket and eating a sandwich, he smiled and gave me a thumbs up. All my usual bullshit lifted and I smiled.

As is usual I visited the thrift store on the way home. To spend some of that disposable cash we forget we have nowadays. I wandered over to the stack of records and the young man stocking said there’s a whole bunch of vinyl over there not on the shelf. I dug around for awhile and hit the motherlode of used vinyl for the month. I walked away with twenty records or so that are all new to me.

 

Earth Calling…

Last night I had a dream. It was very vivid and may have been real.

After declaring that Deep Purple MK. II were capable of saving the world from it’s current dire straights Dave Brock called me. He informed me that the Space Ritual lineup of Hawkwind are the only band that trump the current decline into nationalist furor and stupidity.

Sometime in the near future he will be plugging his Orgone Accumulator in and summoning Stacia, Lemmy and the others to perform a tripped out anti-establishment classic to quell the rising tide of ignorance.

Until that time if we all play Space Ritual at least once a week a disaster will be stalled until the Sonic Assassins can kick some fascist butt.

I am not kidding I think this really did happen so play the damn album.

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It’s got everything…

In the midst of the Joy Division obsessed sixth form at my school there were several moments of insanity that stick in my mind.

The day that Made In Japan was placed on the common room turntable (yes it was one of IMG_6461those types of schools) with the immortal words of “just one track” mumbled was one of those days. The hairy young man placed side four on the table and sat back as all 20 minutes of Space Truckin’ unfolded.

“The fireball that we rode was moving
But now we’ve got a new machine
Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah the freaks said
Man those cats can really swing”

The very serious young men in their long black overcoats were in a state of shock and cried into their cups of tea. In no way would the words cat or swing ever pass their lips unless it was about an actual cat. Distorted feed backing pseudo classical soloing on the guitar was something they were unfamiliar with and the screaming of the vocalist caused them significant visible pain it seemed.

Nobody moved to take the album off as it seemed the whole room was frozen by the audacity of the long haired pimply teenager. After the song ended he stepped to the machine, slipped the record in it’s sleeve and left Made In Japan clutched under his arm.

The whole room was silent. Something monumental had happened the gloomy sway of Joy Division had been broken by the neanderthals in denim and leather, anything was now possible, at least for a brief time.

On the way home I stopped at the record store and bought Made In Japan and ever since it has been my shield against the encroaching darkness. I firmly believe if Deep Purple MK II reformed they would be able to turn back the tide of gloom and lies that are enveloping us at present. It really is time to let that freak flag fly I think.