If you want to get into it, you’ve got to get out of it…

In a fit of nostalgic insanity or fanboy lust, whichever makes the most sense I just managed to acquire Choose Your Masques by Hawkwind.IMG_6758

I believe this may be the result of the regression caused by too much Dungeons and Dragons or a physical real time in the moment acknowledgement that Hawkwind are actually in my DNA and I will always have some amount of affection for just about every album.

Of course the albums from the 80’s while not even close to the peaks of the early 70’s are the albums I bought on the day they came out. These are the concerts I went to three or four times a year until the early 90’s. This is the band that I saw at countless festivals and despite their silly name I still mumble as my favorite when asked by anyone who your favorite band is.  This causes some puzzled looks in the USA, of course my back up favorite does the same with Airport Convention.

The truth is that at this age I am well past having to feel ashamed of the music I listen to, this is the realm of the teenager or adulting and not the grizzled veteran of the rock’n’roll wars I have become. So these days Graham Parker, the Grateful Dead, Hawkwind and Sabbath rub shoulders with Fleet Foxes and Iron and Wine and others happily filling the gaps between the constant hubbub that life sometimes feels like it has become.

So Hawkwind really are a part of my DNA, that part that confuses doctors and passersby.

 

You just happened to be there that’s all…

It’s been a day and a half today. I went to the doctor and on the corner was a guy begging, panhandling, choose your term.

I was overcome with a realization that we are all so close to homelessness. So I dug my wallet out and gave him all the money I had. Through my head went all the usual cynicism, he’ll buy drugs or booze etc. I felt a fool an idiot a mug.

I sat in the my car on the way out of the doctors and on the corner was the same guy. He was sitting on a bucket and eating a sandwich, he smiled and gave me a thumbs up. All my usual bullshit lifted and I smiled.

As is usual I visited the thrift store on the way home. To spend some of that disposable cash we forget we have nowadays. I wandered over to the stack of records and the young man stocking said there’s a whole bunch of vinyl over there not on the shelf. I dug around for awhile and hit the motherlode of used vinyl for the month. I walked away with twenty records or so that are all new to me.

 

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.

 

Judge and jury in my head…

Sometimes there is a guiltiness to playing something so well known. This was the moment I had as these lines played on Peter Gabriel’s album So.

It’s the album that shot him to mega-stardom and some may say began the long decline. I am not so sure about this but I did have a few moments of doubt as people in the room actually knew some/many of the songs on the album and were able to singalong.

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Now my credibility is shot as purveyor of the odd, I knew I should have played the first album. On to Robert Fripp now.

Just another example of how the collector can be far too elitist. It did take me 30 years to buy this record after all.

Time was when we got along…

There is a good time feel to Canned Heat.

It’s not psychedelic but they are forever aligned with the hippie world especially the Woodstock concert and movie because of Goin’ Up The Country.

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I have no idea if it’s good blues or bad blues all I know is I smile when I play Canned Heat. Of course I don’t need anymore than the Greatest Hits album I have which has all the necessary Heat material on it for me. I seem to remember there could be too much of a good thing at times.

I realize I have nothing really exciting to say about this album other than for approx 40 minutes it transported me to a time when all I had to worry about was whether I got the essay in on time and had money for chips and beer that night. In short it took me back to a time when cares where minimal and fun was all and for that I am eternally grateful for the rejuvenating affects of music.

So whoever was Paterson who looked after this record so well thank you.

The other thing is that yesterday I visited four thrift stores and this is all I found and it very well may be enough.

 

Me I gotta keep on movin’…

November 15th 1985 at Krackers at the bottom of Mt. Pleasant in Liverpool is the one and only time I saw Green On Red, I only know this because I looked it up on the internet and there it is, my memory didn’t fail me but there is still no set list for that Green on Red show so I have no idea what was played. I do however remember that i went in with a red flannel and came home without it.

I remember Krackers being a dark dingy hole of a place under the parking lot and movie theater there on the corner of Mt. Pleasant. I had managed to see Here and Now, Roy Harper and a few others over the years there, ending sometime in the early 90’s with Big Audio Dynamite. It was the type of place that smelled of various varieties of smoke, spilled drinks and vomit. Of course everything is enhanced by memory.

It may even still be there in some alternative Liverpool. I am sure the building is there but is the shady cinema showing movies that are no longer on first run through the day and pornography at night, the strangely terrifying parking lot that for years was the cheapest place to park your car. The overwhelming smell of urine and stale beer as you walked past. The Beehive pub across the street was a clash of cultures and crossing the street was an adventure that could not be remedied by the awful kebabs on the corner. I was unable to find any pictorial evidence of this place. Next time I am home if I manage I am taking pictures.

The bottom of Mt.Pleasant was always the place to get off the bus as a teenager, fueled with the expectation of what was to come. The truth was often much more unsatisfying than the reality or the stories we told on a Monday. For some reason I got off the bus there so I could walk and build the tension before entering whatever establishment had been chosen as the start of the evenings festivities. At some point we always ended up in the Marlborough Arms with Val the landlady and some awful karaoke happening, those pyramids along the Nile were seldom seen so often it seems.

But to the point, Green on Red. Dave had convinced me to go see them on the basis of his declaration that they would be great. He insisted that they were like Neil Young and similar to the Byrds and that they would rock my world. I have no idea where he got that idea as he had never seen them either, he owned one album called Gas Food Lodging that I had never heard. The likelihood is he could not convince his girlfriend to go with him and it was loud rock music and guaranteed to get me out if it involved beer as well.

The only real memory I have of the show is the intensity of the whole thing with Dan Stuart and Chuck Prophet shaking that walls of that strange cellar, the sweat dripping from the ceiling and the overwhelming heat in the room. The concert was a physical experience from start to finish. It has been one I have carried with me over time. I never knowingly listened to any of the records after the show or before it although Dave was such a big fan I am sure they were played in that little shared bedsit. If I close my eyes though I can see Dan Stuart hunched over his guitar backlit by the stage lights.

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Then the other night I woke up thinking about the E.P. No Free Lunch. Not surprisingly this led to the inevitable search and clicking on the internet to feed the need. Several days later the parcel arrived with Gas Food Lodging and No Free Lunch expertly packed. Within minutes No Free Lunch was on and there was Dan Stuarts inescapable voice. It’s not as much like Neil Young as I remember. Chiming guitars and an Americana feel that we used to think of as indie rock in the 80’s. Before we new what we were listening to and after it became okay to enjoy the more esoteric end of folk. I was always a little uncomfortable with the genre of paisley underground, it always sounded like a an attempt to Floyd out country music to me and then they included the Bangles. Now it is not in any way ever a bad idea to include the Bangles, they just don’t seem too psychadelic.

The moral if there is one of this tale is that those late night memories I find myself  having as I attempt to think of something that is not political or maybe too personal to share has real affects on my bill fold. As I sit here attempting to finish this off there are two more Green On Red albums winging their merry way to me through the wonders of the US Postal Service.

 

Don’t let me down…

“I was born six-gun in my hand.” only if there is a sudden influx of guns to Middlesborough. This line has always jarred with me, now there’s some nice imagery in it all moody and long live the western hero, “Bad Company ’til the day I die “and all that type of thing.

So I just got back from watching the remake of The Magnificent Seven, which seems to have intentionally removed all depth the original may have had and replaced it with a shoot ’em up fest that barely holds your attention. I was in need of purging my brain of all that was there now, they even took classic lines from the original and made them pap.  So in order to help the purging I went for some class rock ‘n’ roll that has been sitting on the shelf for two weeks since I found it.14457411_10209077145639689_8166761008197857994_n

The album cover looks like it has been through several drunken parties when it was used as a coaster for a whiskey bottle, there are some concerning scuffs on the vinyl and it looks like it may be a noisy album. However it plays just fine with some light surface noise, cue John Peel quote here. It looks exactly as a Bad Company record should look, slightly the worse for wear, as if it has been played and heard.

Bad Company for my entire life have been a kind of guilty pleasure, not as hip as Free and then Rodgers went on to mess with Queen, who’s ideas was that travesty but they are grown men they can do that type of thing. However as a band they produce exactly what they should, melodic rock that can be both heavy and soulful, enough testosterone on show to keep the meatheads happy and lyrics that can either make you grimace or smile. The perfect band to purge the crap from your head that life can put there. Now if I was twenty years younger I may be on my fourth or fifth shot of whiskey by the time it came to flip the album, nowadays I just get the faint desire to do that and realize I have to be up for work tomorrow, in the old days I would be planning on calling in, how life has changed me.

Not much to say here apart from, don’t go to see the Magnificent Seven, I did so you don’t have to, watch the original instead and get your rocks off with a little Bad Company it’ll do you good in a relatively safe if slightly confusing way. Those English boys and their six-gun fascinations.

I need contact…

I have an indelible memory of being at the back of the stalls at the Liverpool Empire in 1983 as Peter Gabriel was passed around the audience during I Have The Touch. I know I never touched the great man but for the first time in my memory I remember being completely enveloped by an experience that was so overwhelming so all encompassing and  fulfilling I was convinced that I never had to go to another gig ever again. At 18 I had in my mind now experienced everything in that 6 or 7 minutes, this was further confirmed as he launched into Not One Of Us and we were only three songs in at this point.

The first four Peter Gabriel albums at this time for me and one group of friends was the IMG_5377future of music. Of course for another group of friends it was Twisted Sister and Under the Blade that was the promised land and for the crossover stoner group it was Choose Your Masques by Hawkwind that was the absolute pinnacle of music. Somehow I managed to move safely between all these groups.

Funnily enough in 1983 all three produced concerts that have stuck in my mind, whether it was Dee Snider snarling at us as we got his signature outside the Royal Court, Gabriel making contact with the audience or Nik Turner and the Hawks almost causing a riot at the Theater Royal In St. Helens as the stage almost collapsed when the audience got real close.

It is however those four Gabriel albums that stick with me as an unsurpassed body of work, IMG_5389yes I know he went on to bigger and better shows and duets and sold more albums but the immediacy of those early 80’s shows and the songs on those first four albums cannot be beat. From Solsbury Hill to Shock the Monkey he covered more ground than most musicians of his time, even managing andIt’s a Knockout reference in a chart song and the creepiest song ever in Intruder which also had one of the most intimidating drums patterns.

He also had probably the greatest touring band of all time behind him. Of course this allowed him to  crown the whole thing with one of the greatest live albums with Plays Live a document to a great tour, and this after a year when he had to get bailed out by his old band.

This was the last time I got to see Gabriel, apart from one brief Mandela appearance, so maybe it was just I now never had to see another Gabriel show. Now to be honest I also have an indelible memory of Nik Turner painted green on roller skates being carried to the stage in a coffin and the poor concession lady selling ice cream to the freaks before the Hawkwind show.

I have risen as the mighty bull of gold which has the head of a phoenix…

IMG_5387Oh that wacky Thunderider and his merry ways.

Having been ousted from the good ship Hawkwind our hero Nik takes off for Egypt on holiday and somehow convinces the Egyptian government to allow him to blow his flute in the Great Pyramid. What ensues is some atmospheric tootling that obviously has allowed our jobless vagrant to commune with Osiris and tap into the ancient melodies of Egypt.

On arrival back in the homeland there is only one man who can make sense of this and that is Steve Hillage IMG_5386who along with Miquette Giraudy, Mike Howlett, Tim Blake and a host of left field musicians and animals (this was way before Mr Young’s addition of animals to his music) create a unique album. Nik Turner made the words up based on the Egyptian Book of the Dead seemingly in the moment.

In this way is the legendary album Xitintoday conceived and born, a strangely engaging blend of new age silliness that should be played in the dark all the way through to truly commune with the Gods. Much more fun than the Dead at the Pyramids and a whole lot more confusing to be honest.

IMG_5388Play it in the dark on a hot and humid night and you will see visions both glorious and terrible, your wife will despair and leave you alone for 40 minutes, the dog will gasp and the children will close their doors in disdain or fear. It is surprisingly fascinating but no Space Ritual and it may be that Nik at this point may have believed he really was the Master of the Universe.

Seeing a copy on eBay for $12 I couldn’t resist, the completist in me spoke loud in my ear and here I am clutching the pretty blue album, the only downside being the fabled booklet is missing and who knows what may have been in that. Copies are selling for silly money and I can see why, it gets under your skin there are no real guitar solos but it has a rhythmic and melodic content that is truly captivating. Actually it has the crazed tootling of a madman in the Great Pyramid accompanied by his stoned pals back in the UK trying to figure out what is going on, or sheer unparalleled genius and it has a pretty Charisma label.

Of course it is this type of impulse buying that has resulted a copy of Live Chronicles winging it’s crazy way towards me and my wife rolling her eyes.

 

We all have to fly some day…

A landmark moment happened today as I wandered the thrift store aisles searching for that special brand of black gold that is vinyl. I found a copy of Freedom by Neil Young. This was the first Neil Young album I bought on CD when it was released, it is now the most recent Neil Young I have bought on vinyl.

This may be one of my favorite Neil albums. It still has the horns from This Notes For You IMG_4783and that weeping pedal steel from Ben Keith, some heartfelt lovelorn songs, social commentary and the apocalyptic guitar solo on Don’t Cry. I have loved this album since the day I sat next to the speakers in my flat in Brighton intently absorbing it all as I was afraid of playing it too loud in fear of waking the neighbors.

I also have an indelible image of a beautiful woman swaying along to Eldorado one evening as I tried to explain my somewhat obsessive devotion to Neil Young, and she still married me after all that and still sways along to Eldorado. She has also braved many a Neil Young show and been very patient as I recreated a collection of albums she remembers me tearfully handing to Dave as we packed for the USA.

So here I am full circle and 27 years later with a pristine vinyl copy of Freedom in the dim evening light, trying to remember why I got up at 4am and considering going to bed but realizing that I may have to play this again.