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.

somebody help me I am falling…

I seem to write a lot about Progressive Rock, maybe because it is I am really going back to when I started buying records right now. I spent a lot of my teen years listening to progressive rock while my contemporaries spent time with Joy Division and Magazine. Over time I have got some of my prog tendencies under control, although I am still fascinated by the music, recently in a record store I spent time thinking about the Police, The Clash, some Stiff Little Fingers and other albums I ignored as a youth, I ended up carrying out some Tull, Genesis, Fairport Convention and Beatles, totally predictable as always.

generator

Not many progressive rock bands can claim to have influenced punk but Johnny Rotten was good enough to cite Peter Hamill as an influence. He never managed to make Van Der Graaf Generator hip but it did give them some kudos in 1977. Of course the album he chose was Nadir’s Big Chance which was technically a solo album at the time but contained all the members of the band. Nowadays punks are appearing on all sorts of albums by those dinosaurs they were seeking to replace at the time or at least admitting that those were the albums they were listening to prior to ripping their shirts and piercing whatever piece of the anatomy they could find. Some are even delving into the concept album.

You can hear the show here:

http://www.vandergraafgenerator.co.uk/johnnyrotten.htm

This album must be one of the most aggressive progressive rock albums, it is consistently disturbing throughout which King Crimson at this point would only achieve in small doses and eternally fascinating. It does have Mr Fripp on one track and I have to think some of the brutal attack present on this album leaked over into Crimson.

I bought this album as a cheap pressing sometime in the early 80’s because it was on the Charisma label, home of Genesis, Lindisfarne and Monty Python among others.  I had no idea what to expect, I was expecting melodies and whimsy, some fantastical elements and beauty, what I got was songs of dark violence.

The first lyrics are:

So you live in the bottom of the sea
And you kill all that come near you
But you are very lonely
Because all the other fish fear you

The vocal was delivered in a dramatic, aggressive manner with a range I had never heard before. The major instruments were keyboards and saxes but at times it sounded like violins or the screeching of strange animals, the songs were about killer sharks,  homicidal and ultimately remorseful emperors, loneliness and disillusion and  I was dumbfounded, I played it three times straight through on the fourth time my dad complained so much I had to stop.

I spent days trying to understand the lyrics. I tried to get my head around the music, few if any guitars, violent imagery about loneliness, torture and death. It is an album that has stuck in my head since I first heard it. I have owned that cheap vinyl, the CD and mp3 it has apparently always been around since the first day I bought it.

So when I had a $12 dollar coupon for ebreggae and found the vinyl on sale I got excited as all I would pay was the postage and what can be better than that? The package arrived all nicely protected and sealed up pristine and then I looked at the label, 4 Men With Beards.

When I got back into buying vinyl I did a little research especially about reissues and this label has a patchy reputation. There is speculation about mastering from CD’s, poor sound quality. little quality assurance. Ultimately the album sounds fine to my ears, it has a warm rich sound I remember from that 8o’s vinyl and is clear so maybe I got away with it this time and at the end of the day it was $4 postage so not so bad.

Buying records has certainly got more difficult than it used to be, as usual the popularity of something is causing a certain amount of cashing in and taking advantage of the hipness of something. It is a significant investment to buy an album which it always really was as a teen as well regardless of how rose tinted we see the past. However it is more difficult to spot the good deals with so many fakes and bad pressings out there.

Guide Vocal

I am going to say, well write, this in public for the first time ever.

Duke is the best Genesis album without Peter Gabriel.

I am well aware this contravenes common opinion, we are all supposed to bow down to the glory and pomp of A dukeTrick of the Tail or the flawed genius of Wind and Wuthering, we are not supposed to raise the three piece band up as excellent. It is ok to admire the longevity of the band or their pop sensibilities but we are not supposed to prefer their output.

Don’t get me wrong I love Mad Man Moon and One For The Vine but Trick and Wind and Wuthering would have made a great album if combined without the silly songs about mice and Squonks.

Duke is a classic album, it is the first that really breaks away from Gabriel and it thankfully has no songs on it about animals.  It even has a  concept for the old progheads among us.The strange story of the funny Duke guy Albert. It is often referred to as the Duke suite and was meant to be, Behind the Lines, Duchess, Guide Vocal, Turn It On Again, Duke’s Travels, and Duke’s End. On one side of the album and the other songs on side 2.

Instead of doing this the band decided to integrate all those songs from side 2 into the album proper and thereby in my opinion created a masterpiece, Songs of loss alienation, confusion and love all mixed in with some serious prog leanings and no songs about mice.

FullSizeRenderDuke was the first Genesis album I bought, I remember listening to it while my Dad watched the news to realize that the band were playing the Liverpool Empire that night and I did not have a ticket. So I never saw Genesis but I certainly played this album to death.

The German pressing I am listening to tonight does not have the crazy Duke guy running around the label like my old vinyl but it does have my favorite label of all time the Famous Charisma Label. There is that cray mad hatter going round and round on the turntable all out of focus and fun. I miss watching the little Duke guy running around though.

The Collins songs on this album are truly things of beauty as well, they are some of the simplest things Genesis had played they are also not as calculated as some of the later songs after Abacab.

There you have it then the word is out, I am out of the closet, Duke rocks it is the best post Gabriel album by Genesis and I shall continue to relive my teenage fascination with this album through the wonder of second hand German vinyl. Remember now Turn It On Again.

I defy any band to produce as exciting an end to an album as Duke’s Travels and Duke’s End, they are transcendent and worth the price of admission alone.

Take me back way back home, not by myself, not alone.

ZZ Top released the greatest rock’n’roll album of all time in Fandango, at least at the age if 16 when I first heard the album that was my contention. Having just found a very very beaten up covered version of the album yesterday at Goodwill I can categorically say that as far as boogieing three piece bands from Texas, ZZ Top win hands down, no contest.fandangor The beards the hats the all out rock and roll. It’s a joy.

I found it with no inner sleeve and the cover is messed up royally by years of laying against other records in some stoners basement. The vinyl however is pristine and after a good cleaning plays fantastically. Don’t get the bubble gum version of the Top go for the full tilt boogie band that began with Tres Hombres, and peaked with Fandango before they learned how to cash in on the pop market. They always were a lot of fun but in the early days they seriously rocked.

Deguello was the last classic album before the synth laden 80’s. Apparently they have returned to form since then but I gave up and prefer to look back through those rose tinted Cheap Sunglasses at the trilogy of albums that preceded the decline. Of course if they get close to me why not go.

So there you have it one side live and rockin’ the other side studio and rockin’ ending with the awesome Tush. The common denominator being all out rock and roll honesty.

Kicking around on a piece of ground…

New albums bought:

Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd

Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd

Kind of Blue, Miles Davis, this was damaged and had to be returned.

Why new though? Mainly because it was cheaper and I am not going to obsess about that original Harvest Label Floyd that went in the big move. Every now and then I try to figure out what system I used to decide on the vinyl that made the intercontinental trip with us. Al Stewart but no Floyd, no Hawkwind, some Genesis, some Fairport Convention, but not all, what was that about, no Clash or Pogues, no Nick Drake and worse still  no Neil Young and then I loaned out all the Roy Harper years ago and never got it back. No Here and Now and they are impossible to get back so lost. All the good stuff gone it seems. Maybe I had a big party and gave everything away.

Then I gave a bunch of it to the adults in the basement, who are happily enjoying it at my expense as I try and find replacements. They are kind though and let me borrow that Richard Thompson or Sandy Denny every now and then.

I did discover Discogs, but some of that vinyl goes for silly money frankly and I am not ready to do that. Although I have been lured into parting with a fair amount of money so far.

So purchases this week:

Close To The Edge, Yes

Fisherman’s Blues. Waterboys

Quark Strangeness and Charm, Hawkind.

from the Goodwill store:

Afterbathing at Baxters, Surrealistic Pillow, Jefferson Airplane

Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River, The Wild The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle and Born In The USA, all perfect condition, Springsteen

Honky Chateau, Madman Across the Water, Elton John

Aja. Steely Dan

Harvest by Neil Young, which is unplayable but it looked so sad, going on my wall at work I guess.

I am going back for the unplayable Rutles album tomorrow, it will go on my wall in my office along with Harvest.

ManassasssMany of these could and do make the list but the album I have most been enjoying this week has been the Manassas album by Chris Hillman, Stephen Stills and a cast of thousands. This along with the Crosby album always amazes me at how simple it seemed to be to get a cast of thousands to convene for the making of music. These guys actually did the whole band thing and went on tour. Take 30 min or so and watch this performance.

Some contend this is Still’s greatest moment and they may be right.

I have never had this on vinyl before but managed to find this a couple of weeks ago in a thrift store. I almost gave it to Chris in the basement but at that point realized how much fun I was having buying vinyl for him and could do that for myself. This was of course after I gave him the Blonde on Blonde I found and Bowie’s Stage and others that I now have to go borrow.

The other album that has been fun to listen to again has been Fisherman’s Blues a great slice of 80’s nostalgia. again it is an album I overplayed for years on cassette. It is like all the best albums timeless. It is helped by not being hampered by that relentless 80’s studio production. waterboys600Too much has been written about this album over the years for me to add anything meaningful to the conversation. It was a constant in my college dorm for the years I was there, my neighbor had it on reel to reel of all things. He was listening to the Waterboy’s and I was still obsessed with Genesis, Hawkwind and folk music, I hadn’t managed to mistakenly buy that Steely Dan album yet or travel much beyond the Grateful Dead in my experimentation with other music. The 80’s was the decade when I became aware of pop music but had not taken the lunge into actually listening.

It was folk enough but by a suspiciously pop band. Pop was something others did not me or my metal head friends, It was for girls and well dressed boys in puffy shirts and skinny pants.

It was part of my musical maturing, it also had the plus that girls liked the band and that did not strike a sour chord with me.

I saw the band once in the 80’s. It was before the album came out. They were powerful and captivating although the fans in the group were disappointed at the time I guess it was a transition time in the bands world. The song I remember most is the Wayward Wind.

The internet rocks and here is the set list:

LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY May 2 1986

Medicine Bow
Be My Enemy
Medicine Jack
Fisherman’s Blues
The Thrill Is Gone / And The Healing Has Begun *
Meet Me At The Station *
Old England
The Pan Within
Drunken Head Ghost Of Rimbaud Blues
We Will Not Be Lovers
Spirit / The 4 Ages Of Man *
Savage Earth Heart
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band *
You Gotta Move *
This Is The Sea
________
The Wayward Wind *
A Girl Called Johnny
My Generation *
________
A Pagan Place
Imagine(extract) **
I’ll Meet You In Heaven Again
Can’t Help Falling In Love *
________
Death Is Not The End *

That really is a great set list. In a couple of months I am going to see the Waterboys again supporting their quite exceptional new album Modern Blues. I am very excited about this and it should be an excellent evening. They are one of the few bands my wife will come see with me so the girls still like the Waterboys it seems. I just hope they have a similar set list, Wickham is still with the band and they have two of the Stax swampers on the rhythm section so soul meets folk in the ongoing Mike Scott experiment.

Those records…

Take most of the Jefferson Airplane, add some of the Grateful Dead and CSNY, ensconce them on David Crosby’s property with all that involves and see what happens. The answer is If Only I Could Remember My Name by David Crosby. One of the most perfectly sublime listening experiences ever.

Yes it is self indulgent, rambling and a little odd in the lyrical content.crosby But it is on the Vatican’s list of the 10 most influential albums of all time so it must have some merit. It has been an album that I was only aware of by reputation for many years, I eventually found a copy when a friend was getting rid of their records and there it lay. It has some crackles and pops but sounds wonderful to my ears. It is not an album I grew up with but an album I always wanted to hear. In England as a teenager you could find so many CSN, Neil Young, Stills or Nash albums but this was one I could never track down.

It is like early Floyd managed to relax, you can hear so many ways this album impacted later music throughout the years and just wallow in the harmonies, guitars and the warm mellow comfort of Crosby’s voice.

Crosby has always been the most melodic member of CSNY and intriguing. For many years this was his only solo effort, at least until he cleaned himself up after jail and started releasing solo records. When we went to see Crosby Stills and Nash earlier this year he was the member who was definitely still closest to the peak of his powers as a performer, yes Nash was holding the whole thing together and Stills is still a guitar hero but Crosby was perfect, smiling and singing and playing like your favorite stoner uncle.

Anyway back to the record. It is not hard to find in some sort of format, it is well worth the time to sit and listen to. It is like a little slice of Southern Californian perfection and innocence right before the hippy dream crashed. It unleashed on us all the Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra and a David and the Dorks tour. What Are Their Names will always be relevant in the world and may be one of the most chilling protest songs ever written and Cowboy Movie is jam band perfection.

After a night of staggering around Liverpool I ended up at the then Liverpool Polytechnic in one of the halls of residence where I was fed some strange curried cabbage and more red wine. s and g hitsThe soundtrack to that experience was Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. It was an almost perfect counter point to the night that went before. It was calm and serene after an evening of drinking and smoking and shouting.

My friends and I were seldom quiet on a night out and our taste in music in those days was more likely to be Deep Purple or Van Halen than the quiet ruminations of the slightly awkward  looking troubadours on the cover. This was the essence of uncool for me at that time, thoughtful songs with harmonies and gentle guitar accompaniment.  It was however a gentle relief to the clamor in my  mind, the cacophony that went along with any night out in Liverpool in the eighties.

We had undoubtedly spent the night in the Cave on Mathew St. that was no longer Eric’s but a pale shadow of it’s past glory days. A dark damp cellar were desperation often reached new lows on the sticky carpet. Sweat was in every piece of fabric it seemed in that place but we went every week to try and meet girls and drink too much.

So that end of a Saturday night eating curried cabbage, drinking red wine and listening to Art Garfunkel’s sweet voice is forever fixed in my mind. As is the walk to the station that morning with The Boxer, 59th St. Bridge Song and Bridge Over Troubled Water still playing through my mind.

This moment is so clear in my mind the walk back to the train station in Wavertree, the ride and changes back to Whiston and my parents house. That week I got the cassette version from the library and lay on my floor headphones on and listening. I tried to listen to the other records but they never had the same draw or felt as satisfying, I kept getting the wrong next track and wondering why.

A short time later we were trying to find our way back to Liverpool from Widnes after a raucous night watching Dumpy’s Rust Nuts. widnesSitting on a bench one of my more aware friends threw the gem out, Paul Simon may have written Homeward Bound on this very bench which brought us all to silence and rightly so.

A couple of weeks ago someone asked if I had any vinyl, I thought about giving up my copy of Greatest Hits but went with the Bridge over Troubled water album instead. The reason in my mind is that there is no more perfect Simon and Garfunkel album than the Greatest Hits collection and you don’t give that away.

So as I played both these album my mind drifted and they were just as magical this time as the first time. The physical act of playing vinyl ensures you listen at least to a whole side and not skip around, this almost preserves the moment as a real event in your mind. It causes you to listen and pay attention, music becomes and act to take part in actively not just a background noise.

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:  https://anonfiles.com/file/fb2b53d006e85fdf82774ffedb437222