I felt out of sorts today, hazy, half a headache, not even a full one. I needed the sea and the only other cure, coke. I can’t believe what it does when you feel a bit ill, I always feel better. But I’m not fooled, I try very hard to avoid it. On tour, especially in Germany where you can drink Fritz Kola, I break the rule of avoiding it because although my remaining teeth get really angry, my body gets a cheap boost, making up for lack of sleep and well, Fritz Kola is the best. My worst addiction is sugar, but I’m able to stop, honestly, really I am. Not right now (ha ha), but the next trip I’ll be back in control. I find it hard to be disciplined unless I’m already swimming three times a week. A bad situation encourages you to be worse and you need to break bad habits. With the swimming pool closed I’m grateful for those walks down to the sea, but I can tell you, there’s no way I’m going into those icy waters. With learning, with addiction, with exercise, you need to see progress, but it takes a two-pronged attack to boost your willpower, internally from your self-discipline and externally from friendly encouragement.
I started in the studio today after a mega listening session to Space Summit track number 8, trying to decide on the level of Nicklas’ Mellotron, I decided on high, because it’s such an otherworldly sound, it needs to be heard. Nicklas and I were recently talking about Mike Pinder from The Moody Blues, who worked with Streetly Electronics in Birmingham where The Moody Blues and the original Mellotron manufacturers are from. He was friends with John Lennon and it was him that introduced the Mellotron to The Beatles. No Moody Blues, no Strawberry Fields. Pinder played on two tracks of Imagine but not the Mellotron, only tambourine, because Lennon’s Mellotron was apparently “spaghetti”. We moved on to recording the guitars and bass on the ninth track on the album and I went into the cold cave (the live room) and played some concentrated acoustic 12 string. It was then that I realized I had to get out, get some fresh air, see the sea.
It was pre coke and outside it was strange weather, somehow warm with a chill, cloudy but with the sun lurking close by. When Olivia and I got down to the promenade it was that blurry coastal mist that you never get inland. I probably should have just enjoyed the walk and the nature, but as Jerome Froese had just sent me music, I took this studio break opportunity to call him to discuss our project and the fact that our Berlin show in July has been cancelled – and that was the time when we were next going to get together. It’s not that I always get on the phone when we are walking down to the sea, today I did. At almost exactly the same place in the street as last time, the abusive woman with the two King Charles Spaniels dogs was coming towards us on the pavement. Unbelievable, because the last time I was on the phone on the way down to the sea was that very day. As she approached I looked behind me so I could step out onto the road to avoid her, but she had gone by by the time I looked back. She must have known it was us, same couple, guy on the phone. She must think it’s always that way, like I think she is always likely to be abusive – although she wasn’t today.
Back in the studio with the coke, I added electric guitars – my Rick 12, my Nash Telecaster and my Fender Jazzmaster, finishing up with the Rick bass and then we left it till tomorrow. Budding songwriters, guitarists and bass players should know that despite the idiom “A bad workman blames his tools” I would suggest that there’s probably a lot of what would have been great musicians out there, making records if they hadn’t been given a terrible instrument as a beginner. Sure some make it through, but learning an instrument can be tricky and I don’t really subscribe to the view that the trouble improves you. Not everyone is a soldier, for some people ideas delicately fall from their fingers or their lips and they don’t develop under hardship. Some artists need to be nurtured. Mollycoddled for their ideas. Innocence, naivety, fey poets might have something secretive, something intriguing to offer that the strong hadn’t considered.
Today’s music began with me breaking my own archive rule, that is: You must listen to something whilst you are looking for something to listen to! Otherwise with such a large collection you could be overwhelmed and find an hour has gone by before you decide. So today I thought what do I want to hear? Nothing came to mind. I’d been watching the engaging drama series ‘Fauda’ that deals with the Palestine/Israel conflict and consequently I was gravitating towards something with Arabic tones. In that section in the archive I found an African album that I’d inherited when I bought my mate Paul Thomas’ record collection and so I ended up playing Side 1 of an album of Modern Moroccan music (seventies), but I just wasn’t feeling it so I went for a silent wander in the aisles. I stumbled across Tortoise, the Thrill Jockey label’s Post Rock instrumentalists. I’d bought the first two albums from Music Nostalgia in Truro a while back. These original albums are quite hard to find at a reasonable price and I hadn’t played them for ages. Good choice, inventive, challenging, explorative, definitely Krautrock influenced and with an experimental side that keeps you guessing. I played the second album first, Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1996), and then the first self-titled album released in 1994 – which led me to my next choice, those of you who know this album and the next one that I played tonight will know why.
I hadn’t played The Who’s Sell Out for ages either. A classic sixties masterpiece released in 1967 and the first of Townshend’s concept albums. The first track, Armenia City In The Sky, was written by Speedy Keen who Pete Townshend produced as a member of Thunderclap Newman. I’m sure you will know the song Something In The Air which Speedy wrote, sang and played drums on. The song was Nr.1 for three weeks in 1969 despite being banned by the BBC as the IRA allegedly took it up as their song of revolution. The album also included the single I Can See For Miles with Keith Moon’s unbelievable drumming. The excellent B-side, Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand was one of four different versions of the song. The Who were amazing in their day, unique musicians, breaking out, not following the rules mixed with talent, ideas and a rebellious attitude. I remember seeing Tommy at the cinema when I still lived near Liverpool. (I think it was with my mate Spanter who I’m still in touch with.) I saw it again in recent years, it was riotous to say the least, Ann Margaret and the baked beans, oh my!
Next, what could be next except Who’s Next? The album cover was a piss take of 2001 – A Space Odyssey (geddit?). Although it was only Townshend that did the deed and the sky is photoshopped in (or whatever they did in those days). Classic tracks, Baba O’Riley, Behind Blue Eyes, I Won’t Get Fooled Again and those are just songs I picked out to remind people of songs they might know. It’s a great album and apart from the songwriting, just listening to Entwistle play bass is a thrill in itself. I don’t really need to mention Moony but you might not realize how much Townshend actually sings on this album, sharing lead vocals on three songs with Daltrey and keeping one to himself. Classic, go buy it NOW!
Today’s Song Of The Day is The Church’s Tantalized for its Townshend inspired thrashing guitars – it’s represented by the video. I was living in Stockholm at the time and the rest of the band were in Sydney. This was the important second Warner Brothers release in America. It was really the first because the Persia and Remote Luxury EPs had been put together for the first album named after the latter EP. So, after having spent Christmas and New Year in Stockholm, I flew to Sydney to make the video on January 1st – for one day, and then flew back to Stockholm on January 3rd. Those were the days.