All alone the captain stands

In 1979 I was browsing the records in the library, trying to decide what to listen to. There was no T-Rex in and the Bowie had been heard. Prior to this trip to the library most of my musical education was through my cousin but he was not available.

There was an odd looking album called After the Goldrush, the sleeve was almost a negative of some hippy strolling past some railings passing an old lady who had almost become part of him.goldrush, or was bursting out of his back. On the back was some patched jeans and inside a lounging stoner. Everything about the album said take me home.

My Dad was making those gestures that only parents can intimating that we should leave and knowing the ritual of checking an album out of the library I grabbed the album and prepared for the scrutiny.

Before you could take the album home you had to with the librarian examine every inch of the vinyl and record every scuff and scratch on a piece of card that was held at the library. The ritual would be repeated on the return and the librarian would compare the card you had drawn with him and the returning record. Any new scratches would be recorded and you would be fined or if it was minor damage chastised. You had to have a parent with you to check out records and they had to agree to replace the album if you ruined it.

This is the way my relationship with Neil Young’s music began. In a library with a fussy librarian examining a piece of black vinyl under a lamp and an admonishment not to damage the album.

Once I got home and heard the first notes of Tell Me Why I was hooked. There was incredible sadness in the album and anger. It spoke to the teenager listening probably as it had spoken to every teen and young adult who listened to it prior to that. Heart ships, broken hearts, desolation, anger at injustice, fear for the world, lust, hope, hopelessness and romanticism. Neil Young covers it all and in one album. Pastoral folk wimsyness and searing guitar workouts and harmonies. I am still convinced it is a perfect album with not a single bad track on it. It is a whole everything about the album makes sense and still sounds fresh.

I found a used copy the other day, it is not perfect, maybe very good plus in the discogs rating system. Some surface noise but funnily enough this is almost how I remember the album.

After that library album I bought my very own copy. That was in the days when you could walk into Woolworths and buy records. I played that album to death. There was one memorable night I played Oh Lonesome Me over and over after my then girlfriend explained how she really was looking for a more fulfilling relationship. There was another night I was convinced that Don’t Let It Bring You Down held the secrets to the universe, but there may have been several reasons for that, however I am still looking to find someone who is turning. I have likewise sat and marveled at the beauty of Birds.

It is an album that when you begin it you are committed to the whole experience not just one or two songs.

That fateful day in 1979 led me to borrow Decade next, then I discovered Live Rust and all was lost.  However I always come back to After the Goldrush which is I am convinced one of the few perfect albums in the history of recorded music.

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

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:


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.

Choose Your Masques

More tickets bought, this time for the Flaming Lips.

The great gig list so far:

  • The Flaming Lips
  • Fairport’s Cropredy Convention including the likes of Fairport Convention, The Levellers. 10cc and of course many others.
  • Neil Young in Liverpool with Ian McNabb and Band of Horses
  • Ed and the Boats
  • The Waterboys
  • Hawkwind

It’s shaping up to be an eclectic and interesting few months music wise, everything from psychedelia to pop music with folk and reggae in there too, no mean feat and an exciting prospect before us. The Flaming Lips will be 13 year old Ben’s first big gig he will remember, he is very excited, it is outside on the lawn at the McNemanins in Troutdale so should be fun and entertaining.

In exactly one week today we will begin our trip to the UK for Chris’ graduation, a time to see family, visit the homeland and have fun. Although this has been two years in the planning it still feels a little like we have no idea what we are going to do. There will be much travelling and sightseeing, a festival and visits with family and friends.

Anyway check out the Lips:

Born To Go

Hawkwind in the USA and on the west coast. This is a statement that I absolutely never thought to be writing, saying or even thinking. Yes there have been tours on the east coast, appearances at festivals and other events, but never anything in reach for me. Of course in reach means the twelve hour drive from Portland to San Francisco but how could I do otherwise.

Hawkwind were one of the first bands I ever saw, then they became one of the bands I saw most frequently throughout the eighties and nineties in Liverpool until we moved to the USA. This effectively ended my ongoing fascination with the strange trip that Hawkwind is. They are a band it is hard to classify, more members than most American Football teams and many changes in sound. They have flirted with metal, techno, ambient and punk in their time. They have overwhelmed with sound and visuals and at times been a bit silly. I am convinced Hawkwind are one of the bands in mind when Spinal Tap was made. They have astounded and confused sometimes in the same song, they have however always managed to be interesting, even when they reached too far.

This tour they are playing the album Warrior on the Edge of Time in its entirety. This has consistently been one of my favorite albums ever since I first heard it. Not only in the days of vinyl did it have the cool fold out album sleeve that became a shield but it has some of the most dense music you will ever hear, two drummers, electric violin, Lemmy’s bass, Turners sax and flutes and Brock’s guitar holding it all together. Now many of those elements will be missing, in fact the only original  member is Dave Brock but the current band is more than capable of pulling this off. The band have also promised, dancers and the whole light show, yes it will be silly of course but isn’t that the point, rock music is just a little silly.

So I am taking two of my children to a Hawkwind show, along with Gong and Here and Now Hawkwind are legendary in my house. Let’s face it San Francisco is the perfect place to see Hawkwind, although I am maybe thirty of forty years too late. October 18gth is destined to be a special day, and the tickets have arrived so its real.

Of course Warrior and the Edge of Time is the first Hawkwind album to be so closely linked to Michael Moorcock. It is a musical representation of the Eternal Champion story, Hawkwind would revisit this with the Chronicle of the Black Sword but this was the first and original attempt.

Which One’s Pink

I’ve seen The Wall three times now, once at Earls Court in 1980, the Tacoma Dome in Dec 2010 and again last night. Each time has been an emotional experience. The first one was watching a band we did not know was in the the final throes of it’s own demise, yes I know Floyd went on through the 80’s and is not officially over but lets be honest they were a pale shadow of the original, the second time was my friends birthday and then last night was a concert.

The amusing thing is that of all the Pink Floyd albums The Wall is my least favourite, even after The Final Cut. It never makes the same sense as a record as the live show, it does not have the emotional intensity or connection with the audience. It’s just poor fucked up Roger whining. The live show at least in this incarnation is poor fucked up Roger raging against the machine of which he is a part. It takes you from the tears of Bring the Boy’s Back Home to the creepiness of 20,000 chanting Roger after Run Like Hell. This is the point of the show in my opinion, we are all being manipulated by governments, the media and rock stars. The crowd cheers at the mention of pinhole burns and cocaine without remembering the fear, paranoia and sadness that inspired the lyrics, and then they all run for the exit without looking back. There is a forum on Roger’s site with one of the topics being how are you going to dress up for the show, who has the most authentic hippy tye-dyes. I know Roger sees the irony in all this but do the audience and poor old fucked up me went anyway.

Today was the first time I experienced someone not knowing who Pink Floyd were, for most of my childhood, teenage years and adulthood if that is what I can call it they have been a presence. I guess that presence is now waning which may be alright, they are no longer relevant to the youth  of today. They really have become the dinosaur punk tried to make them. The difference is all those punk artists had listened to Floyd or secretly continued to do so, now there is a good chance that an artist has not heard Animals or Atomheart Mother, they may know The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon but more as brands than relevant artistic statements. Music has moved on from Floyd but you can still hear Floyd in the music of others. The Flaming Lips sounds-capes owe a lot to Floyd as does the violence of Jack Whites guitar.

Something totally different is the sound of Floyd from the early 70’s prior to the monster they became. So from my favorite Floyd bootleg which is the Electric Factory in Philadelphia here is Fat Old Sun which has more passion in the solo than the two hours of the wall. Sorry it is audio only but search out the bootleg. It is Floyd at the beginning, Interstellar Overdrive, Green Is The Color and a massive Astronomy Domine.

Don’t get me wrong though I loved Roger’s Wall. I’m not going again though. I miss those four guys who knew how to jam instead of staging a spectacle, who dressed the same as their audience and sang about children’s laughter and holding hands. Floyd along with Caravan, Procul Harum, Fairport Convention, Gong and Soft Machine defined the very Englishness of the 70’s, gentle pastoral landscapes overseen by the dark satanic mills. Blake would have recognized fellow travelers in Floyd, well at least until Roger took the lyrical reins.

Fat Old Sun

When the fat old sun in the sky is falling
Summer evenin’ birds are calling
Summer’s thunder time of year
The sound of music in my ears
Distant bells, new mown grass
Smells so sweet
By the river holding hands
Roll me up and lay me down
And if you sit don’t make a sound
Pick your feet up off the ground
And if you hear as the warm night falls
The silver sound from a time so strange
Sing to me, sing to me
When that fat old sun in the sky is falling
Summer evenin’ birds are calling
Children’s laughter in my ears
The last sunlight disappears
And if you sit don’t make a sound
Pick your feet up off the ground
And if you hear as the warm night falls
The silver sound from a time so strange
Sing to me, sing to me
When that fat old sun in the sky is falling
No it’s not hippy shit it’s that English pining for the summer we all remember but are not sure will ever happen again or think that someone is going to take away from us if we admit to being at peace.

Out Here We Are

Life goes on as do birthdays and reading and listening to music, April is a pretty special month with three birthdays, our eldest boy an our youngest boy and my Mum. It’s a month of singing and laughing and wondering were the time went. All in all a good month indeed and Ben went to outdoor school too.

Having three boys can be a bit of a chore sometimes, so much energy in the building. I love all three of my boys so much and it’s fairly obvious to anyone watching them that they also love each other, of course sometimes it doesn’t always look like they like each other but they are always there for each other and will always be that way I’m sure.

Here they are not long after the birth of the youngest and most spoiled of all Benjamin.





I’ve become quite unreasonably excited about going to see Ray Davies in July. Ever since I listened to Preservation Act II by the Kinks when I was a child I have loved the Kinks and this album is in all reality probably their worst album. Nobody would really argue with that estimation either it seems to be universally disliked. Of course the choices in my parents collection was limited to John Denver, Shirley Bassie and maybe a Beach Boys album, there was surprisingly no Beatles although I remember my mum singing their songs frequently. So that Kinks album became something different, it was garish, it was dramatic and at times ridiculous and I loved it. This album may also be the source of my love of prog rock, who knows.

I have listened to the music of the Kinks almost every week since I started listening to music, they cover all the bases from punk to rock and theater, they are funny, nostalgic, melodramatic and creators of truly beautiful melodies. Every record collection I have ever had included at least a Kinks greatest hits album. I never went to see them though, in a sense I felt that they could probably never live up to my hopes or desires for the show, also at times they were so uncool compared to what you are supposed to go see as a teenager, and by the time I had got over myself we had moved to the USA and chances became limited then Dave got sick and that seemed like the end of the chances. The chances of seeing the Kinks is limited but the other week I was checking out the Aladdin theater website and there was Ray Davies smiling. So we are all going, Tom, Ben, Chris, Michelle and Me to see one of the greatest English songwriters ever.

You have to understand the first two bands my kids ever heard was the Beatles followed closely by the Kinks. It is an essential part of their education musically and to explain what it means to be English living in America. One of the first guitar licks I heard Tom play was the solo from Waterloo Sunset, there was never a doubt we would go really, happily enough Michelle is being understanding. Plans are being hatched to start lining up at 5p.m. because the Aladdin is general admission and when you are gong to see a musical genius you need to be close.

So here is Ray in 2010  at Glastonbury: