I feel like I’m in a Specials film clip. Not only is it a Ghost Town out there but it’s also eerie. Walking past closed pubs on a Saturday night is just weird. To make it worse, it’s cold, a strong biting wind that reddens your cheek and rattles your bones. We opened the big front door in the studio building today, opened all the doors in the archive and the studio and opened the windows and had the wind blow the dust out, freshening the cellar with oxygen. At one point I thought, ooh it’s getting chilly in here, but I didn’t mind. That is, I didn’t mind sitting inside knowing that I could close up at any time. Out there it was more a feeling of let me get back. But it wasn’t just the chill, at 3 o’clock the shops were empty or shut, the streets were empty, Simeon and the Citroen coffee truck had gone before I even got to him. I got my vege pasty from Doreen at Rowe’s bakery and noticed that after days and days of empty bread shelves, there were suddenly 20 unsold loaves. Is that how it’s going to be? Panic buy, buy nothing, run low, panic buy again?
Stupidly, later on I went around the corner to the supermarket to see if I could get some…bread, I found some rolls but that was it. The shelf was empty except for hot cross buns and tortillas. I’m presuming that everyone is freezing the pre-packaged bread. There was just me and another man in the shop at 9PM on a Saturday night. At the till I was talking to Ryan, one of the lads that works there, when a woman who had also ventured in came up to pay, I beckoned her to come and be served. “I didn’t want to get too close”, she said. Ryan said that it was nice to be quiet, not hearing the kerfuffle at the pub across the road, “There’s always an argument”.
We were in the studio with Space Summit again today. Jed found the right drum files and sent them over. I asked him to send them to all three of us, Dare, Olivia and me. WeTransfer just doesn’t seem to want to allow us to download the files here in the studio because of some security protocol. Both Olivia and I tried to no avail so Dare had to go back to his house to download them there. Sometimes the amazing convenient internet is such an inconvenience and it might take a tech to figure out why, not me. Still, can you imagine being able to do this in 1969? It didn’t matter though, did it? The saying is ”Necessity is the mother of invention”. You don’t need much apart from a soul and an imagination.
After sorting out the drums it was time to add extra guitars. Yay! Always an exciting phase in the process (if you’re a guitarist). I’d been playing this soft upstroke on the acoustic (I mentioned it before). I also said that I’d used the same technique on Hotel Womb from Starfish. It felt like this rhythm part needed a little more so I pulled out the same guitar I used all those years ago (my 1966 Rickenbacker 6 string, the one that was broken in half) and I plugged it into a 1962 Vox amp, perfect! I also added a little more Rick Bass and then did some lead guitar using Dare’s AMAZING Gibson ES 345. (Not that my Rick 6 isn’t amazing, too, even if it was broken in half.)
After that I left Dare with it to piece it all together and came into the archive to try and catch up on some emails. What was the musical soundtrack going to be? At 5AM this morning drifting off I’d put on a CD, Bob Dylan’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, you know the one with the classic album cover of Dylan and Suze Rotolo walking down the street together. It was appropriate for today. So in the archive I thought I’d put on the vinyl version and listen to it again. Dylan albums of the sixties and seventies don’t really get old, the lyrics alone are inspiring, then there’s his unique voice and that part of him that not many seem to mention, his incredible ear for a melody. Like The Beatles, none of the cover versions would exist if it wasn’t for the melody. What an album! You’d know Blowin’ In The Wind (granted way overplayed) but Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright doesn’t get old for me, there’s no point listing them all, but this is also the album with A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.
If you go on to Wikipedia there’s a whole interesting story about the album. I won’t spoil it all for you here but I will share two interesting things about it. Unusually for the sixties this album, Dylan’s second, was recorded over a year-long period. His first album (self-titled and released in 1962) was a rather trad Folk record (I played this last tonight), but his prolificacy and his songwriting skills were evolving at such a rate that the tracks that were going to be on the album were constantly changing. Dylan’s first album had only sold 5,000 copies, not a lot by the standards of those days and Dylan’s A&R man and producer John Hammond was always positive because he saw his genius. At that time Dylan was referred to in the company as ‘Hammond’s folly’. That was soon to change. The track choice was changing so much that when the album initially came out there were four tracks that were hastily changed for the second pressing. The first pressing was recalled to the factory and mostly destroyed but some of them got out. Early copies have no suggestion of the original four tracks. The sleeve and the labels have the newer titles. There is also a controversy about Dylan and the Ed Sullivan show and not being allowed to play one of the songs from the album, censored he walked out on the show and that was one of the tracks that was removed from the album (Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues). The original album is considered to be America’s most valuable, one selling for $35,000. But unless you know the record and play it, you’d never know there was something different about it. The irony is that the songs that were left off were more in the spirit of the first album and the ones added, his more recent compositions, the beginning of his importance as a writer and commentator in his own right, the rest is history. Shortly after the release in 1963, Peter, Paul & Mary covered Blowin’ In The Wind, it became a major hit, selling over a million copies.
The night took some unexpected musical turns and I was playing some records that were a long way from Dylan and not on vinyl, CD or Spotify or on YouTube. It happened because I was trying to find Group 1850’s rare and weird third album Polyandri (1975), made 6 years after their rare and weird second album Agemmo’s Trip To Mother Earth (1968). The only place I could find it was on YouTube. It’s kind of Progressive mad Space Rock. When it finished there were a whole lot of other weird lost albums listed, Farm 1971, Universe, a Welsh band also from 1971 and Pugh’s Place, a Dutch band from 1969. The first two were patchy but had some moments and the third was great all the way through but it led me to listening to one of my super odd 1969 reissues: Morgen, a band named after singer/guitarist Steve Morgen from Long Island, New York. They made this one Psych album and disappeared. The cover is Munch’s The Scream (or The Shriek as it says on the cover art). Essential record for any madman or woman out there.
I followed it with Spooky Two (1969), Spooky Tooth’s second. The classic line-up, Wright, Harrison, Ridley, Grosvenor, Kellie. Mike Kellie found himself in The Only Ones in 1978. I met him when I was a night porter in Manchester, lovely man, sadly he died not too long ago (2017). Greg Ridley went on to Humble Pie (died in 2003). Wright and Harrison had solo careers and Luther Grosvenor became Ariel Bender and joined Mott The Hoople and then Widowmaker. Spooky Two was Heavy Rock of the day, reviewed not so favourably then as “Overwrought”, just how I like it. I seem to have no problem playing Dylan’s first after Spooky Tooth. I hate to state the bleeding obvious, but some music might not be your cup of tea, but all music is talking to someone.
I had a nice phone call tonight from my old mad friend Andy Cousin, bassist and co-writer from All About Eve. We spoke for an hour about this, that and the virus. It made me think about how talking on the phone was something my parents were always hassling me about – “Get off that phone!”. Ha ha, I can still hear it now. I guess in those days the charging system was quite different to now. The worst was on tour when you were in a hotel, it was actually too expensive to call home. That was their criminal rates, but in the seventies calling your mate was considered something to be careful with. You got in big trouble when the bill came and you’d been using the phone when your parents were out.
Finishing off here with Dylan’s really different and trad first solo album, but I have to go to bed, it’s already 3.15AM and I have a sesh with Tony in Sydney at 10AM. Then our friend Libby is in the studio at 12.30PM and Olivia or I might have to play. More seshes, 3.30PM Doug, 5.30PM Brian, 7PM Mike. So stay busy like me, record your thoughts in a diary or do what I do, talk to the people of the world, somebody is listening, it doesn’t matter how many, same as music.