In the studio with Dare today, I was singing lead vocals on one of the tracks I wrote with Jerome Froese in Berlin last year/year before last. We were also working on an arrangement for another track from that session, playing some guitars and finding a shape. It was a beautiful day, but I didn’t get to see much of it as I was singing. Every morning when I go to bed the birds are singing, they don’t wake me, they lull me to sleep. Apparently there’s an app like Shazam, a bird app that tells you which bird is singing. Talking of noisy creatures in the trees, it’s the cicada cycle time (Brood lX) and North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia are about to be overrun with a deafening cacophony of these amazing insects that have been living underground for 17 years. Nature is amazing. Ricky Gervais said he didn’t like Lord Of The Rings because it was nonsense. “We don’t need angels and unicorns, we’ve got the octopus. Eight legs, nine brains, three hearts and a beak”.
My granddaughter is one and a half and gorgeous and I had a lovely conversation with her Mum on Friday in Swedish, so did Olivia. I think I mentioned that Olivia has started putting Post-Its everywhere with the names of things in German, Swedish, Portuguese and Indonesian, I need to add French, Spanish and Italian, simply because I do know a lot of words in those languages and it will help me have confidence in the fact that I can learn more. I was so good at French when I was at school, but only for the first three years when our teacher was Mrs Appleton, but then we changed for the fourth and fifth year and got a Mr Pierce. There was something arrogant and condescending about him and I learned very little with him. He came up to me once and told me that Mrs Appleton had told him that I was a really good student in French and that was a big surprise to him because I wasn’t showing it. I should have told him why I was failing, his attitude, not mine.
The teacher you have is so important. We had some good ones and some bad ones. I’ve talked about Miss Lewis my form teacher before, she was pretty hot but really strict, she also taught English and used to threaten us, “woe betide”, she used to say as she gave us homework we didn’t dare not do. I’m sorry if I’ve told this before but it just keeps on coming back to mind and not everyone has been reading this blog from the start. She’d sit on the desk at the front of the class with her legs crossed which pulled up her skirt and you could see the top of her stockings (tights) and sometimes she’d flash you, it was really too much for a 15-year-old, ha ha. When I left school she pulled into the garage where I got my first job, she saw me and said, “I knew you’d end up somewhere like this” – what a bitch. How many people would improve their lives if they just got some encouragement? The problem is that not everybody responds the same way. What’s wrong with being mollycoddled? It’s better than threats, or do some respond better to threats? Ha ha. This is the problem with curriculums and classes and timetables, but what do you do, you can’t teach everybody separately. A private tutor for each subject would be nice. Teaching 30 plus kids at the same time must mean that some get it right away and some don’t. Arty kids struggle with the Maths class whereas the logical ones understand immediately and then in another class it’s the arty ones who get it and the scientific ones that don’t. When I was doing well in French, English, History and Geography, I came bottom in Maths.
Music today has been chosen by Dare and the first of his four that I listened to was Deep Purple In Rock (1970). He told me that this was the first full price record he bought. It was £2.50 and he shared the cost with his brother Dave. His Dad went mad and said, “You spent all that money on a record?!”. Ah, those were the days. It was also one of my first full price records, it’s where we learned about Ritchie Blackmore. It’s interesting how people gravitate to different things in a band that they like – the words, the voice, the drums, the guitar, even the bass, ha ha, the keyboards? Maybe, but in the case of Jon Lord, he really did make being the keyboard player something cool. Roger Glover had the hat, Paice the glasses, Gillan the shriek and the hair. Ritchie was a big influence on a 13 or 14-year-old about to get his first guitar. Lyrically, we didn’t care, we didn’t really know about lyrics yet and they even printed the lyrics on the inside of the gatefold despite their general low quality (Child In Time was alright), but it was more about the sound. When the first track starts, Speed King, with that mayhem, it was heaven for youth, hell for parents, the seventies had arrived, that screaming voice, Rock music was in, the sixties were over. It was this guitarist and record that inspired me to get a Fender Stratocaster (which I still have and used today in the studio). By the way, Child In Time on this record is a rip off of It’s A Beautiful Day’s Bombay Calling, listen here if you don’t believe me.
When we were at school in the seventies near Liverpool, most kids were into the charts and T. Rex were huge. Some of us were more into the underground bands like Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zep, the bands that weren’t on the tele or the radio (they were still really popular though). These were the album bands and T. Rex was a singles band. I loved Jeepster and had the single, Get It On was a big hit (that drum intro) and although we (unlike some) liked both Glam and Rock we didn’t always buy the Glam acts albums. I had a choice between In Rock and Electric Warrior (1971) and chose In Rock. These days I see more in Electric Warrior especially in the lyrics, but despite the album cover with the guitar and the big amp, you can’t really put Marc Bolan next to Ritchie Blackmore as a guitarist. Get It On is such a basic R’n’R song, but the lyrics make it something else altogether: “Well you’re slim and you’re weak you got the teeth of the hydra upon you” and “You’re built like a car, you’ve got a hubcap diamond star halo”. Wow and well, it’s also a great song, but then four songs later, The Motivator is kind of a weak relative.
There is some great guitar on this album, it’s a different approach, more about the songwriting, Bolan uses it as a tool, he’s not trying to be a virtuoso, but there’s definitely some cool tones. How good you look with a guitar is as important as how well you play it, Hendrix had both down. Apart from Get It On and Jeepster there’s the wonderful Cosmic Dancer, Bolan’s lyrics and his voice are really without compare. I love Life’s A Gas and sometimes play it live. Tony Visconti producing, what’s not to like, I don’t think Blackmore looked very good with a feather boa.
Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions (1973) is one of the great Motown albums. There were lots and lots of Motown hits at the time. Temptations, Four Tops, Supremes, incredible songwriting and performance, unforgettable. Stevie Wonder was already on a roll when he released this classic album. He released two albums in 1972, Music Of My Mind and Talking Book, Fulfillingness’ First Finale came in 1974, Songs In The Key Of Life in 1976. Great songwriting, singing and often playing most of the instruments on a track. It’s hard to believe that Innervisions was Stevie Wonder’s 16th album. It’s topical, too, the song Living In The City has a section where an innocent black man is arrested by the cops and thrown in jail for ten years, this was 47 years ago.
Joni Mitchell’s classic Hejira was released in 1976. It was an unusual album in that there were no piano songs. The reason was that it was written on different road trips and one main trip she took alone by car from Maine to California. The legend that is Jaco Pastorius plays bass on four tracks, Larry Carlton plays guitar and Neil Young even appears on one track playing harmonica. One must mention the lesser known main musicians on this album, too. John Guerin was a prolific drummer who played on a lot of famous records including five Joni Mitchell albums in this time period either side of Hejira, for a while they were in a relationship, the title track is about leaving him. Max Bennett, lesser known to the public, also plays bass on the album. He joined Guerin on Zappa’s Hot Rats, played on Mitchell’s classic Court And Spark and also has an impressive resumé, too many to mention here, but the link tells you everything. We’ve mentioned percussionist Bobbye Hall and her impressive resumé before. She added an ‘e’ to the end of her name so people might know she was a woman.
Hejira is a smooth Jazzy classic and like so many of her albums, it’s beautiful, it’s intelligent and beautifully recorded, buy it and while you are there buy all her sixties and seventies albums, too. Or if you prefer contemporary artists buy all of Laura Marling’s albums, because this is her training ground.
Song Of The Day is A Girl In Every Graveyard from Noctorum’s Sparks Lane (2003). We wrote the music together, I wrote the words but Dare does a lovely job of singing it. Thanks Dare and thanks for the music picks tonight.
A Girl In Every Graveyard
There are no headlines in the news today
Just petty wars, far away
All these tragedies wash over me
Paper heroes they don’t interest me
If I could only get outside myself
See the garlands not the chains
Dying flowers on a broken grave
Who could know how much love you gave
A quiet shell, that’s lost the sea
How could consequence let this be
So many colours in a dying leaf
Instead of sadness there’s relief
I think you’ve bruised this heart
I just can’t get it started again
I think you’ve used this heart
And it looks like we’ve parted again
(Willson-Piper / Mason)
Noctorum – Sparks Lane (2003)