Screaming sounds are buzzing through my brain Am I mad or am I sane?

It’s been a strange couple of weeks. In the UK for the first time in awhile. This was meant to be a different type of trip, fun and adventure for me and Ben as he made some big decisions in his life that would ultimately impact the whole family. Over the last ten days I have not managed to have the “conversation” I thought I wanted to have.

This has been waylaid by my dad being in hospital the entire time. Days have been taken up looking after my mother, drinking coffee with her and then visiting in the hospital. This has not been the most exciting time for poor Ben, he has been very patient with it however. All in all it’s been somewhat bemusing. We have not managed to achieve any of the things I wanted to. Which makes me think those things maybe were not ever achievable.

Maybe the time for the heart to heart is gone with Ben and even with my own dad.

It’s odd coming from a city that is known around the world. You tell anyone you meet that you are form Liverpool they will know certain facts, mainly about the Beatles or one of the two football teams. It is however a whole lot more than that. An independent city that has finally succumbed it seems to gentrification and it’s own fame. The lines to Anfield were multinational this Sunday and you hear many languages as you wonder around town. The working class houses in the city center now multi thousand pound apartments. It is almost certainly a different city than the one I wondered around as a child/young man, there is however enough familiarity in the streets that I can still navigate with ease.

Slightly drunk on Sunday having met up with two friends that I had not seen in 20 or so years we reminisced about the apartment Andy, who was not present, had lived in. He lived on the top floor of a tenement on Bold Place opposite the bombed out church. The lower floors housed some prostitutes who would try and feed him up as he was so skinny. He is still skinny and living in the south of England now. He probably wouldn’t want me to tell you about the prostitutes though. The day ended in the Pilgrim surrounded by slightly self conscious students watching the football. The football was glorious, the students remained self conscious as the still slightly drunk older men shouted and chanted and cheered.

John made the observation that we all had felt so dangerous back then. How we must have pissed off a lot of people and also how people had looked after the stupid drunk 16 year olds in town. A kinder gentler more connected world. Now the self conscious students just looked bemused by the slightly drunk older men. They also somehow managed to be a little disapproving. Didn’t they know that in our prime we had screamed into the maelstrom that was Hawkwind, The Clash, Magazine, Gong and Here and Now, we had been through the excesses necessary and survived. We were entitled to our bleary gazes and ragged chorus of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

We staggered around from one teenage hang out to the next. Reminiscing and laughing as Ben looked bemused at these middle aged men remembering a time before smart phones and streaming jukeboxes. The Marlborough is no longer the Marlborough and Val is long gone, as is Big Clive from the Swan and the Wilsons is nothing but a memory, the Cracke is living on its brief flirtation with John Lennon as a student. At least John and Paul(the immortal Gooey) had held on to most of their hair even though they had moved to Manchester, of course who am I to complain with the 6000 mile move.

It had been Record Store Day the day before. I showed Ben where Probe used to be and the slightly diminished sad place where it is now. We never went in though. I suppose I should have really as that is what a collector should do isn’t it. I have never really experienced the thrill or need for RSD. I do however have a few of the releases I have picked up when they go on sale or online. We also walked past several other record stores that did not drag me in, mostly because they were closed.

Being in an urban environment as opposed to the rural environment we normally inhabit is a shock to the system. There is no roar of large diesel engines heading out in the morning or the sound of woodpeckers in the evening and the frogs who could forget the frogs, there is however the constant hum of the M62 across the field and the trains every 15 minutes or so and the harsh laughter in the streets and car doors slamming.

So for two weeks I have lain in my childhood bed listening to the music of my youth on headphones. The very same way I used to listen late at night so as not to disturb my parents. These days those albums are streamed on Spotify and not on crackly discs of vinyl. Each night has taken me through an album of the past in its entirety. No shuffle play and no skipping the annoying track allowed. The sounds of my youth in my ears as I come to terms with my parents aging and my youngest leaving home.

In this way I listened to Dark Side of the Moon, Here Come the Warm Jets, Hunky Dory, Wind and Withering, Close to the Edge, Stormcock, Meddle, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Space Ritual, Thick as a Brick, Audentity, Ricochet and Full House amongst others. Sometimes I woke up to Spotify deciding what I should listen to next based on some algorithm that would predict my taste. This was invariably not what I wanted to hear at all.

Then one night I looked up into the corner of the bedroom and there she was glaring down on me in her glory, the glow in the dark Virgin Mary that had counted my teenage years . Her ghostly green hue looking at me disapprovingly as I drifted off to In Search of Space. She has been a story I told my friends in the past and there she still is watching quietly as I tried to do my best.

In a fit of rebellion against the Virgin in the corner I bought Hawkwind ‘s record store day offering The 1999 party finally in vinyl were it belongs. I sat and looked at the record and then succumbed to streaming it. No Bob Calvert but Simon House on violin and keyboards and the joy of the glories of Lemmy and the boys blowing the minds of Chicagos youth. Tonight I sat down finally at home and played the record and it is as good as I hoped it would be. It’s anarchic and wild and free flowing, from a time when the pettiness of band life had not destroyed the fun of making a racket.

At the end of the day with all the travails that family bring, the worry of parents and their health, the difficult decisions children have to make and then the knowledge they have to make the decisions for themselves it is good to know there is always a Hawkwind record that will screw its your mind. My dad also reminded me that Ben is just like me, he is going to make his own mind up and at the end of the day a parents job is to love their children to support them to trust them and sometimes to pick up the pieces when they fall.

What does it matter to ya???

On we go with the mammoth task of listening to Wings Over America. Being from Liverpool you seem to be expected to have committed the entire Beatles colleague to memory by age 4, living in the USA you are expected to personally know at least one Beatle. I have a huge affection for my home town band, like my insane commitment to the team in red from home and a grudging respect for the blue team. albert dockThe site of a Liver bird brings tears to my eyes and I swell with pride when I arrive in the city of my formative years. I have a working knowledge of the Beatles catalog, I can hum or sing along to the majority of their songs, I have listened to Revolution #9 more than once and will get into arguments about which is the best album, it vacillates between Rubber Soul and Revolver if you are interested, and will take the Beatles side in the annual drunken who is better the Beach Boys or Beatles debate. My parents saw the band at the Cavern on more than one occasion and my dad will happily spin tall tales of his association with the members and to this day I could not tell you what is or is not true, which may be the essence of the tall tale.

How this affection for the small band from home manifests itself recently is when I come across a Wings, McCartney, Ringo, Lennon, Harrison or other derivative in a thrift store I knee jerk buy. I cannot imagine the wingsalbums being left there, it seems sacrilegious almost. They need to be safe. They might get lonely if left, this also seems a problem for my son because we have collectively three copies of Band on the Run, one of which is unplayable. This is why I am listening to Wings Over America right now. The cover is beat but the vinyl seems pristine, no cracks, pops, clicks or skips and very quiet. I was unable to just walk away and leave it on the shelf, I really tried, I walked away, I tried self talk about spending too much on vinyl, I reminded myself that $3 was too much for the album in that shape, I distracted myself with other albums, I did everything I could and still walked out with the album in the end. It is pointless I am resigned to this behavior now.

This is not a phenomenon only kept for the Beatles we have the same issue with Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Crosby and Nash. It is unreasonable and several unplayable versions are on the wall in my office because of this.

I have never been a big fan of the Beatles solo output. It is often pleasant but has something missing for me. The magic of those four arguing about the record maybe or laughing and having  fun or competing, who knows but they have never really reached the heights they did as a band. With the possible exception of All Things Must Pass and Band on the Run maybe.

Wings Over America is a fine live album. It has all the hits to that point, a few nice prior band selections, some interesting covers and overdubs to avoid the inevitable out of tune live singing that always happens. It is a marathon, six sides and maybe the original idea of a double album of edits may have been the better choice. It is fun to listen to and a good representation of the band at the time I am sure.  Like all of my other experiences with a member of the Fab Four without the others it can be fun in the moment but ultimately unsatisfying. I find myself singing along and enjoying the album but once it is over all I have is the knowledge that I had a great time but don’t really remember what was so great.

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.

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.

Record stores…Up and over we go.

So we have the turn table and some records, what next? It is obvious really, let’s go buy more records. Who even thought to really consider that question in any serious manner. Luckily I have a supremely patient wife who seems to understand the need to buy an album for the third time. Or maybe she was just too sick to really care today. Either way the die was cast.

So where to go? Luckily Portland potentially being the center of hipsterdom has may record stores selling vinyl by the pound, not to forget Goodwill after all. So off to brave the big city which is a lot easier since GPS became something nestling on my phone. I tried to con one of my kids into coming with me but one wanted to sleep after working an overnight and the other preferred schoolwork. So it was a solo journey, reminiscent of my teen vinyl buying years.

Off to Everyday Music on Sandy Blvd, I had never been in the vinyl section here before, usually buying cd’s, a much safer used purchase than fragile vinyl. The store was large and well laid out and easily navigated. I was however looking for a nostalgia fest maybe or something else than I got at least. Record stores used to be these fun loud flamboyant places with interested people working as well as odd balls,probe or maybe that was just Probe records on Button street. This is how I remember it looking. The repository of all that was cool about records in the day. I managed to buy Harper’s Lifemask, Fairport’s Moat on The Ledge and Give and Take by Here and Now all on the same day.

Before the internet the cork board by the door would tell you where and when the gig was for most bands nobody else wanted to see was. All of the staff were characters and would tell you how badly what you were buying sucked, or if you were lucky or hip enough that you happened to be the only person with any taste that had walked through the door this week. Even the main chain stores such as HMV or Virgin would have knowledgeable people who seemed to realize that they were being paid to listen to music and talk about it all day. Consequently the disappointment of hearing the depressed hipsters at Everyday music complain about how sad they are was not easily overcome. Yes they were pierced by enough hardware and had a dizzying array of tattoos, actually pretty normal for Portland, and tried so hard to be alternative but they did not really seem to realize just how cool their job really was.

Maybe the staff at the Beaverton store will be more fun.

However the important stuff, wow so may records all nicely arranged, new and used all together. Banks of 50c records that I was a little afraid of and most of the records in great quality and reasonably priced. As well as a new arrival section arranged by day of arrival. So I rummaged around for an hour, a few guys my age looking for all those things that they had given away or sold in the past and the young kids looking to discover something they missed as a teen, the joy of records. Out the window went all good intentions of sticking to the idea of albums that blew me away and I just started collecting vinyl to buy. Then I had to go back and put half of it all back, however for some reason I still ended up with three Jethro Tull albums, go figure.

The Purchases:

Stills and Stills 2 – Stephen Stills, not quite on the list but maybe they should be.

Deja Vu – CSNY, of course it is on the list.

Below the Salt – Steeleye Span

Nine, and an odd compilation called Chronicles by Fairport Convention, Nine should be on any self respecting Fairport fans list.

Bursting Out, one of the great live albums, Songs from the Wood, Stormwatch, the first Tull album I ever bought, – Jethro Tull

Hergest Ridge – Mike Oldfield, no idea why apart from it was in perfect condition and everyone needs some Oldfield and it is better than Tubular Bells.

So two from the list if I ever get to writing it. Well I have got to 16 so far.

But in the mail arrived In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel,aeroplanejpg the very first piece of brand new vinyl I have bought in over 20 years. So why this record and why is it on the list?

I first heard this album on the same day as I heard Belle and Sebastien’s Lazy Line Painter Jane and they have both stuck in my mind in a good way. So I guess that is the answer, if the record sticks with you for years then it is on the list, of course that leaves space for the Hollies Greatest Hits, which is not a bad thing.

Well it has a great cover. It is also a wonderfully naive, twisted album with some of the best use of trumpet and musical saw ever, despite the slightly desperate sixth form poetry it still manages to hold itself together barely. It reminds me of Julian Cope at his greatest but it is also very American with a vocalist in Jeff Mangum that sounds just about this side of sane. It is as idiosyncratic as it is wonderful, with an epic use of dissonance and melody almost simultaneously and a wonderful punk sensibility.

So there you have it, the first visit to a record store to buy vinyl in over twenty years and the first brand new album bought in twenty years or so. It is still exciting to hold a brand new record by the way, and they really seem to be making them so much better, it is a reassuringly solid feeling piece of plastic.

Back To The Stones

Well a very busy five days or so. Started with the crazy tour of Liverpool, Beatles, slavery and socialism. A city that has given so much to the world. It’s a very different city than the one I left twenty years ago as it was in the throes of depression caused by dear old Maggie and her crippling economic policies. The disparity between north and south is still obvious as I type this on my phone in Oxfordshire.

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My kids are having a great time getting back to their roots. As always on this trip there is the voyage to llandudno and the ascent of the great Orme on the tram, there are only three of this type still functioning, the others are in San Francisco and Lisbon way more exotic than llandudno. My parents are also enjoying their grandchildren.

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Then on to the road trip first stop Nottingham

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Not as exciting as you might think although the Merry Men showed up

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Then back across country as we realized Nottingham and the East Midlands was a mistake. Glastonbury was its usual corporate hippydom and strange spirituality, one of my retirement plans is to move to Glastonbury and form a spiritual movement. The Tor is beautiful though

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Stonehenge was as usual impressive

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However the real star of the show is woodhenge, not only is it on the GPS which Stonehenge is not you can wonder amongst the concrete pillars.

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Avebury and Silbury hill are astounding the magnitude if what man created here is still awe inspiring, there is also less mysticism and more archeology which is helpful,

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Silbury hill is just so large it is mind boggling, yes I know it’s a big pile of dirt but such a big pile .

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And then there is Avebury, a massive Neolithic site, the entire town is surrounded by stones

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And then on to the Uffington white horse, famed even before it was used in the XTC album cover in the days of vinyl, a nice hike along the bridle way to see the horse, it’s hard to imagine how this thing has been here so long, it is so delicate and fragile when you get up close and required what must amount to constant attention to maintain, it’s also really hard to get a picture.

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It is a beautiful stylized rendition o a horse and has been there for centuries, they were adding chalk as we were there amazing that it is just placed there not pounded in or fixed in any way, just broken up to the right size.
About this time we figured that Brighton was not happening, things are so close together but so time consuming to get too.
Off to the Roll Right Stones, this was an adventure to find and only by the good grace of a wrong turn did we find them.

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There they are with
Mystical beam of light descending from on high, also with strange pagan figure found at the sight.

Upside Down

It’s been long two days. Fighting the jet lag which is almost over and being out and about.
So off to York for the day, Vikings and steam trains and York Minster which is none of the most beautiful churches.

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It really is a beautiful city and the railway museum is fascinating. Speed records used to be set by trains with names like the Flying Scotsman or Mallard now they are set by electric train 9100 etc. the romance of steam is gone and our lives are poorer because of it.
Also when I look at these massive machines held together by rivets with their imperfections and human marks all over them I can’t help but think that we lost a lot of our humanity when we started concentrating on perfection. New machines have no blemishes and clean lines, they also have no character. I remember thinking that when I looked at the Apollo module at OMSI with its rivets and switches. How much courage did it take to climb into those machines and hurtle through space or along the rails?

Long May You Run

Ticket’s for the Liverpool Echo Arena, even plane tickets bought, insanity abounds, in the space of 10 days in August  it will be Alice Cooper, Fairport Convention and Neil Young.

Of course there will be no pump organs just the Mighty Horse, this means I have seen Neil Young and Crazy Horse every decade for the last three decades, now I feel old. This will be so much more special as I will have two of my three sons with me.

There is something special about being able to share this type of event with my boys. It  is bizarre to me that I now have two adult children, that is something my parents have to learn to deal with not me. Although parenting adults is just as difficult as parenting children. It is a treacherous boundary to have to negotiate, friend, mentor, father weirder than I thought. Well I guess I will have to approach this with the same seat of the pants make it up as you go along approach as everything else.