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.

Feels like a brand new day…

Damn it got really late.

Been out looking for the perfect abode to abide in. Drove 158 miles and looked at so much land and then buildings.

IMG_6459I have decided I want a river running along my property line, so I can sit there and sing along to Down By The River as I sip a beer with a whiskey chaser into my dotage.

Until that time I am sitting on the couch after a really long day listening to Van the Man. I have nothing to say about this album apart from it is damn near perfect and if you haven’t heard it don’t wait any longer.

 

This is the look the cat got when listening to the glory that is Glad Tidings.

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“So believe no lies, dry your eyes and realize
That surprise”

My love she laughs like the flowers…

It’s a strange thing the first Dylan album. You either love or hate him but you are forever changed having heard him. It’s an as they say life changing moment. What however if your first time is an album that falls into the derided Dylan album category. It seems like everyone should hear Blonde on Blonde or Blood on the Tracks first, be bathed in the beauty of the words, the rhythms, the high speed imagery and the stories.

1989-fiat-uno-3I had a habit in the past of thinking the best way to get into a band was to get the live album, better still if it was a double as that’s twice the volume of songs isn’t it. So when faced with a several hour drive with my new love up the A1 from London to Newcastle in a hired Fiat Uno there was a need for some tunes for the journey. This being a spur of the moment thing there was no time to make the obligatory road trip tape. In fact I had a brief moment of panic, deciding at the last moment to leave the choice to the neighbor, asking him for 4 or 5 tapes he could choose, “and oh yeah do you have any Dylan?”

So we set out with an assortment of tapes, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Mott the Hoople, John Prine, The Band and some others all greatest hits collections from his drives. Nestled amongst all this was the Dylan tape, the only one he had on tape and joy it was a double live album. I was obviously aware of Dylan, had heard many songs but never sat down with an album and here we were setting out for a long sit down for several days on the way to Newcastle.

So the first Dylan I heard all the way through was Live at Budokan. A universally it seems IMG_6428panned album. Show band Dylan, massive backing band 3000 backing singers, reggae flutes and incredibly jaunty versions of songs, or cod heavy metal at times. Most consider it a travesty. However in the full flush of young love it was the perfect soundtrack to that road trip. Now when I hear the strange flute on Tambourine man I smile and settle in for a long happy listen that takes me back to golden hair spilling out of the car window as we attempted to pick up speed to pass another car in a white Uno going uphill.

Yes there are without a doubt better Dylan albums but none of them remind me of that glorious summer. Here they all are, the hits in almost unrecognizable versions. I have to admit to Live at Budokan being my favorite Dylan album. The day I did this in the Dylan club meeting in the smoky bar in Liverpool they threw me out and refused me entry, luckily I had gotten the GP’s bootleg I went for before admitting this shameful fact.

So it may be a coke fueled frenzied album. It may tear apart classics, reinventing them into strange distorted versions of the original, but damn it sure is a fun album that shows in my opinion that when asked to do a greatest hits tour Dylan does what he does and gives you what you didn’t know you wanted. All you need to hear is the slinky, strange sexy version of One More Cup of Coffee with it’s staccato latin rhythms and congas, oh the congas, to know there is something else happening her. The thing is you have no real way of knowing what it is that is happening. Like A Rolling Stone is relentless, the backing singers hitting every last phrase with Dylan and wailing those lines out like a Greek chorus. It’s a march through the hits, Oh Sister, All Along the Watchtower, all recognizable and yet twisted and torn.

That last sentence would make those men in the Dylan club back in Liverpool very happy. The real thing is if you are not to wedded to your Dylan mythology it’s an interesting listen. Of course now it has become part of that mythology, hated by most loved by some. For me it takes me back to that wonderful week as I grew to know my future wife, getting to know what the rhythms of our life would be. Of course if you ask her about Live at Budokan she probably doesn’t even know Dylan made a live album in Japan. She has however a great affection for The Band’s Last Waltz album which was in the player that week too. Just goes to show she has infinitely more taste than me.

 

 

Please don’t get us wrong man, this is just a song man…

FullSizeRender 4Often a bands first record is the great one, they have saved up all those songs they have been writing since puberty. Getting it all down on record for the first time. There is often an intensity involved in the belief that nobody else is going to give them a chance and they need to get it all out.

Fairport Convention managed to get a deal based on their guitar players skills. Then they released an album that if like me you came to after some of the other near classics in their canon is at first a bit of a disappointment. No fiddles, lots of covers, some okay original compositions and a silly tune about breaking down in a car. Yes there is a girl singer, she has a sweet voice, a little polite but very English, she’s not Sandy Denny though most will say.

Having owned this album for as long as I have. I now realize what a classic it is. Some of IMG_6408the first English recordings of Joni Mitchell and a weird Dylan track in Jack of Diamonds. Judy Dyble’s vocals are the true star though, sweet and clear and if you can find the single with Ribbon Bow on with a sigh to make grown men sit up and pay attention. If you want to really hear how great her voice is go find the Trader Horne album Morning Way, it’s on nifty red vinyl very pretty, and who can resist red vinyl?, It’s of it’s hippy dippy time but less pretentious and tedious  than a Donovan album.

This Fairport Convention however is the band that jammed with Hendrix and Barrett at the UFO club, while their hippy girl lead singer knitted on stage, and was beloved of John Peel. Yes they went on to make flawed and better albums but there is something about a bunch of music fans getting together and being allowed to record their songs. It very likely would not happen now no matter how great the guitarist was jamming on East West.

1989…

It’s funny how years stick in your mind in relation to music, life and everything else. 1989 for some reason is that year for me as I discovered listening to that Texas album.

1988 and 1989 saw me living in the south, this is the one and only time in my life I have done this, funnily enough I felt more lost and confused in the south of England than I ever have since moving 6000 miles to the Pacific Northwest. There may be all sorts of reasons for this mostly to do with mine and other peoples biases. Or maybe I just feel safer in the north west of any country I inhabit.

For two years I was away from my hometown. I had to travel by train to get there and back when I had time off or needed a bit of sanity in my life, or insanity at times. Of course this ended for awhile when I met the woman who would become my wife and then the four/five hour journey became less important or frequent. Until she went north and I had to commute in a way all over again.

All this travel required me to buy a walkman cassette player, and then start buying cassettes. This was an alien experience and I have to admit it was not a medium I enjoyed. I went pretty quickly from records to CD’s with little stopping in between apart from the recorded mix tapes and cassettes my friends gave me. This was difficult for me as I was forced into buying albums in a format that was not particularly enjoyable for me to listen to. It also involved folding the inserts the right way to fit into the container, making sure the cassette was rewound so I didn’t have to start in the middle or rewind before listening and the countless batteries.

The outcome of all this was I decided to only buy those albums that were newly released and were essential to me at the time. Of course being particularly snobbish I also tried to keep this to a minimum as it would eat into the record buying and I was already paying a fortune in train fare. fullsizerender-3As soon as I stopped that silly every other weekend commute I stopped buying cassettes which meant for about a year every other Friday on the to Liverpool and on the way back to the south I only listened to these albums. I think I may know every line and note of these records . This also means that if I listen to them I am immediately transported back to 1989. Aural time travel at it’s oddest.

Anyway in the particularly blurry picture to the left are the sounds of 1989 train journeys as I put my head down and navigated the tube and London without making eye contact with another human being as this may have initiated a conversation that I was not ready to have. It seems ridiculous that I survived countless journeys with only these five records to keep me company. These are also the only five records I have owned in three formats.

 

The blames gonna fall on me…

It was 1989, a confusing time to be sure for all concerned. At 23 years old I was aware that I was fast approaching the fatal 24. Neil Young had in Old Man convinced me that this was an age of importance and momentous things would happen if I made it to this landmark. There was to be sure a whole lot more waiting to happen and 24 was quite momentous for all together other reasons than Mr. Young probably had in mind.

1990 however was fast approaching and the pop landscape from the perspective of a guitar loving 20 something was a mystery, yes there was Guns ‘N’ Roses but sorry they were a little too poised and considered in their image. Looking at the charts from 89, it was a particularly difficult time, Jive Bunny was in there with Bananarama and some others that nowadays I could listen to from a slightly ironic perspective.

I am sure there were whole lot of guitar slinging bands of many varieties I have managed to forget. At the time musically I was somewhere trying to integrate a love of REM, Hawkwind and Julian Cope as well as the Talking Heads, King Crimson and Neil Young amongst others. From my current enlightened state of willingness to listen to most anything once if not twice as my friend Greg reminded me today, it all makes sense. For a img_630723 year old convinced that the universe may end when he reached 24 and a need to appear somewhat cool at all times this was a challenge. These biases in the next year were going to be challenged on a daily basis but all that was in the future.

All these thoughts came flooding back to me the other day as I rooted around at the local Salvation Army Store. I was overcome by a sense of longing for 1989 with the discovery of Southside by Texas. Yes they have there roots in Altered Images and Hipsway. They do however have a fine slide player and more importantly for me the memory of Sharleen Spiteri playing guitar in an oversize denim jacket and singing with that well cut floppy mop of black hair. This is an everlasting image of the end of the 80’s for me and was the first time and maybe last time I ever bought a record because the singer reminded me of an old girlfriend. This on reflection may really be the best reason to buy a pop record.

It’s a good pop record, it has three or four memorable songs. The value however is the flood of memories it brings back of riding trains back and forth form Liverpool to Bolney West Sussex.

If you look at the list of albums released in 1989 it was a great year for music with Dylan and Neil Young in their at time grizzled middle aged way. None of them however had the fair Ms. Spiteri who reminded me of a certain young woman from Hull.