but sooner or later it all gets real…

The weekend, well Saturday.

A strange day. No TV news today, this was a decision someone else made, I have become addicted to information. I did however read the Guardian online. No good news.

I went outside at 8:30a.m. and came in to eat lunch and to cook dinner. I sat in the yard, IMG_3095.JPGin the rain at times and tended the burn pile. I also moved some cedar bark chips we had delivered and shoveled. Syd played with a stick, every now and then he decided it needed to be thrown for him so I did.

At one point I wanted a new blade for the reciprocating saw, I walked to the car and turned around. These things need to go on a list nowadays, no frivolous trips.

Yesterday as I stood around in the pharmacy, constantly moving to avoid contact with others I picked up some essential items that we were missing, pencil sharpener, puzzles for my mother-in-law, new windshield wipers for my car. These things are mundane but heading out to get them comes with a risk that has never been present before.

New list started:

Wood blade for the reciprocating saw




The list goes on, it gets bigger and bigger, things that were just a car ride away a couple of weeks ago. The other day I drove by a thrift store, the parking lot almost empty and a part of me thought “I bet there are some great record scores there.” I pulled in and then pulled out of the lot, it’s not worth it too many people.

I sat in the rain and FaceTimed with my mum. She is holding up, doing small jobs, baking cakes for herself, talking on the phone to her friends and watching the afternoon movie, reading her books. I have managed to make sure she gets her food and stuff delivered, she sends me lists all the time and I add things to the order. It’s quite sweet really. 6000 miles has never seemed so far though.

IMG_3102.JPGI have been working my way through some of my essential records, a bit of fear that I will maybe not hear them again unless I do it now. This is fatalistic and just another excuse to play the damn albums.

I have also been indulging in comfort foods, hmmm Shredded Wheat, wow what a sensation, it’s been so long since I ate them, I bought large biscuits though none of this mini wheat shit. This stuff is the stuff of culinary legends, essential eating, lots of cold milk and some sugar, what else could you ever need in a breakfast experience? Apart form I just ate the at 9p.m.

So one of tonights gems is Neil Young’s On The Beach. It feels apt. I have no idea if the title has anything to do with Neville Shutes book but it feels a little apocalyptic at times. I have written about this before I believe. If our re interested it’s here:  BEFORE


After that I dug deep into my listening past, sometime in the early eighties in W.H. Smith in Huyton I bought Orange by Al. Stewart. Yes Al is the least convincing of the hipsters but for some reason I find his confessional slightly uncomfortable songs to be really engaging. His penchant for history is also fun. This is the last of his truly great confessional albums. I always wanted to have such romantic adventures with young women. My long  hair flowing in the wind as I wore my sheepskin coat in picturesque spaces with a body contemplative expression on my face getting ready to quote Rimbault.

IMG_3104I used to buy Al Stewart records along with other records in order to hide the shameful record behind something a little cooler. This time I think it was a copy of Marillion’s Real to Reel that hid my shame. Now some would say this is not cooler, but they are wrong. You would have to have cloth ears to think Real to Reel was not cool. So that wold make the shameful purchase of Orange in 1984, when I probably should have known better according to my friends.

Orange is full of songs about Spain, Amsterdam, deceit, love, treachery, washing the sheets and Jimi Hendrix, what more do you need to recommend it. It also has Rick Wakeman pounding the keys and Bruce Thomas from the Attractions, before there was an Attractions, doing bass duties. What more could the love sick teenager need. This was also the first time I ever heard anyone apart from the Byrds or Richie Havens cover Dylan, yes I led a somewhat sheltered life at times. Also Al could play guitar as there is the requisite guitar piece this one also involves a cello which makes it better.

Later on I discovered that those sheep skin coats smelled like Catweazle had peed himself in them, this is a direct quote from the beloved Annie who drank scrumpy and Owd Roger snakebites. She would therefore know this smell intimately. Also mens hair, no matter how long and flowey,  never blows attractively in the breeze unless you are Fabio or Robert Plant, this is actually the standard by which mens flowing hair is judged, are you bodice ripping Fabio or Rock God Planty? Anything in between or less than is not good enough.

So all of this talk of Real To Reel caused me to drag it off the shelf. Remember the Fame label? Damn side two may be all you need to know about Fish era Marillion.

Side two if you are a genesis fan you will notice was recorded at the De Montford Hall Leicester where Genesis Live was recorded. However Forgotten Sons and it’s anti-war theme summed up the Falklands war for many, Garden Party and Market Square heroes was always a party at Marillion shows. Good way to end the night I guess.



She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running Like a watercolor in the rain…

I just found this, I was going to submit this as my one hit wonder piece, oh well it’s written to here it goes:

From when I was 12 until the age of 18 I rode three buses for two hours to get to school. This was before the days of walkmen, C.D. players and definitely pre stereo earbuds with mp3 players. Instead we had portable transistor radios that had one little earbud that would give you a crackly connection to the music/football game you were listening to. Music was not an easily portable experience, in fact it was often for the teenager who lived several hours from school a lonely silent experience until the evening or weekend.

I had so few records  that I had managed somehow to commit most of the lyrics involved in them to memory.  The more lyrics the better was my general thought, the denser and more poetic the better. I would sit replaying entire albums in my mind on my way home as I stared out of the misted windows of the number 10 Bus on rainy days or watched my fellow passengers and created entire life stories for them. Often this would involve some sort of romantic involvement as I was whisked away from my existence in an all male school. How I regretted passing the entrance exam as I watched the comprehensive school kids talk to members of the opposite sex so easily and skillfully. Of course this is probably the majority of the idle thoughts of the adolescent male.

On the rare occasions you could get a station on the ancient battery operated transistor IMG_7875radio with it’s one strange dangling earbud it was seldom playing a song you would like to hear. Into this strange world one song strikes me as standing out.  Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat. A long song with a few powerful words.

Of course the lyrics would catch the imagination of the adolescent male. A film noire setting, a strange beautiful woman met in an exotic location who sweeps our protagonist off his feet and makes him leave his humdrum life behind for awhile. The lyrics are full of longing and sorrow as we realize this is a transient relationship destined to end.

For years I searched for that exotic smell of incense and patchouli. It’s a heady scent that takes you to strange places not all of them very clean.

I have always thought the lush late seventies production of the original track kind of spoilt it a little, a case of Alan Parson’s having too much control. Al after the success of this went on a quest for another hit. He started wearing disturbingly slick suits in various powdered colors instead of the hippy garb that had adorned other albums. His songs for awhile became a little less personal and confessional and to be honest less interesting. The song itself when you listen to the album stands out as somewhat separate from the rest of the songs which have a sympathetic folk-rock production. The song then comes as something of a shock after the fiddles and guitars of the other tracks.

So here’s a live version:

Luckily after the eighties Mr. Stewart found his sea legs again and went back to what he does best. Intensely personal songs, interspersed with historical epics sprinkled with gentle humor. Of course he still plays the hit and everyone loves it and he seems to have become resigned to the sax solo which he has described as sounding like a honking goose.

Here we have before and after pics, Al the hippy and Al the suave dapper man about town.


My mind was reeling…

Al Stewart is not usually someone you connect with cutting edge anything, he is however apparently the first popular artist to use the word f*ck on a record. Now every blue eyed thug is dropping an f-bomb at the thought of a syllable.

Poor old Al he of the gentle bedsitter songs and historical obsessions as well as the cinematic allusions has been passed by. Popular culture has moved on with little room for Al’s gentlemanly cursing.

Love Chronicles has quite possibly the worst possible album coverchronic and the best backing band including most of Fairport Convention and Jimmy Page. It also has the almost sidelong track outlining Al’s love adventures through his at that time brief life in 1969.

He may need a box set nowadays if he was to attempt to chronicle his ensuing conquests.

Al has been described as fay on certain internet forums. His songs especially in this album are quite charming chronicling a very middle class life of the 60’s. It is not by any ways a dangerous album. It is however quite a fun listen but not for the fainthearted who may shy away from hippy dippy idealism and orange fur jackets.