Today the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the streets are quiet, it’s like the fifties out there and this mellow, easy going invitation to peacefulness is welcome. I’m feeling better today after yesterday’s mini migraine. It’s the eye distortion that gives it away and the head feeling is always the same, but this time I felt sick all day, too. Today I awoke and sprang out of bed like an athlete. You’ve seen those high jumpers when they are running towards the bar, their stride is wide and elegant before they throw the whole weight of their body into the air like a gazelle flying backwards over the bar into the soft mattress with aerodynamic grace – that was me today, the indoor Fosbury Flop world record holder.
Out there the cats were either basking in the sun or cooling in the shade dependent on their length of lounging. As we walk the streets we see them in the windows of the houses, paws outstretched, smiling through their whiskers. There’s small dogs too, generally showing more interest in the passersby, looking for interaction, reacting, whereas the cats care little behind the glass, aloof. It was 18 degrees today and just strolling around made for a balanced pleasantness between responsibilities and relaxation.
We went to visit Joe and Vicky who were out. Joe is the mastering engineer who mastered Noctorum’s The Afterlife, Atlantaeum Flood’s One Day and MOAT’s Poison Stream and we will be sending him Space Summit this week so it’s ready for release whenever that may be. I found Vicky on the phone and it’s all been put into action so we have to make sure that the sequencing is right in the next couple of days, you can damage an album of good songs with the wrong sequencing.
Just before we came to Joe and Vicky’s house we chanced on Laura Luing who you see in today’s picture. She is a local lass who plays the autoharp and she gave us an example of her skills as we passed by the church garden in the sunlight. It’s a lovely instrument whose origins lie in the zither family. Last time I saw PJ Harvey live she played one most of the night. Dare and I sometimes use the Swedish Cittra for writing, that’s where the chords for Piccadilly Circus In The Rain came from. There is a short video here of a man playing exactly the one I have in the studio.
I spoke to sessioneer Paul today in New Orleans where it’s starting to get hot and was 27 degrees and humid, I was grateful not to be where he is today. But one wonders what this coming summer has in stall for us? I read today that the shops are reopening here on June 15th, but then what? The pictures from Memorial Day weekend in America showed that people were more interested in their freedom than they were in the risk of infection. It’s like they are saying, I’ve seen the alternatives, I’ll take my chances and if the vulnerable die so be it. That and the blatant flouting of the rules here in England with de Pfeffel’s arrogant nasty adviser, has people aghast. When and if the smoke clears we will see who is left standing politically, financially and physically.
Outside the supermarket today was a well to do woman telling a homeless man that god is looking down on us. To hear the ludicrous notion that this supernatural creature smiles on her in her soft comfy bed whilst he begs outside the Co-op every day. These days with cards instead of cash, if the government can’t do anything about the homeless then they should issue all homeless people a contactless people card reader so they can at least receive alms. What a world we live in – haves and have-nots and how hard it seems to recover people who are down on their luck. Perhaps the main problem is that you can work hard and still be down on your luck, there’s not a lot of incentive to get back into the work force. The estimate of homeless people in London is 180,000, approximately 1 in 50. How can the government not address this before it addresses high speed trains?
Music today has been Groundhog Day. Groundhogs were one of the most authentic and original British Blues bands, but despite their energy, high quality songs and playing they never seemed to reach the heights they deserved. Led by Tony McPhee on guitar and vocals, with Pete Cruickshank on bass and Ken Pustelnik on drums, they were a power trio extraordinaire. They made two albums in 1970, Thank Christ For The Bomb and Split and if you haven’t heard Cherry Red, Track 1, Side 2 of Split, you still have time before the next bombardment of radio fodder. (Although admittedly I can dig some radio fodder now and again, ha ha.)
In 1975 Keef Hartley made a one off album as Dog Soldier. Miller Anderson who had played guitar, sung and written songs with Hartley on his earlier solo albums was there. Anderson’s resumé is so long and interesting that I’m linking to an interview with him here.
The band also featured Paul Bliss who has led a life in the background, but had success as a composer for Olivia Newton-John, Sheena Eastern and Uriah Heep (strange mixture) and if anyone remembers the Star Fleet theme covered by Brian May, well Paul Bliss wrote it. As a keyboard player he played with the Moody Blues and The Hollies. He made two albums as The Bliss Band, the second album Neon Smiles (1979) featured That’s The Way That It Is, a song covered by Uriah Heep and somehow a hit in the UK (from Abominog released in 1982, the first album without Ken Hensley, where they tried to modernize their sound – that explains it I guess). Neon Smiles is catchy, middle of the road and musos who were obviously living in a bubble with the record labels of the time, confused by Punk Rock. It was everything Punk was against.
Hartley had played with John Mayall and made albums afterwards as band leader with Anderson singing and playing guitar. Hartley and Anderson played at Woodstock and seem to be the only band that played there that hadn’t been released on audio or video till 2019, apparently it’s now available, but I’m not sure where. Hartley was Ringo Starr’s replacement in Rory Storm and The Hurricanes when Ringo left to join The Beatles. Hartley and guitarist Derek Griffiths (also in Dog Soldier) both played in Ronnie Wood’s brother’s band The Artwoods.
Dog Soldier is a very different era to The Bliss Band despite being only four years apart. With Dog Soldier just as you like something, you don’t like something else. One might ask why bother with records like these? (Especially The Bliss Band which is true melodic schmaltz). Well, good question, but sometimes if you can be objective you find a real gem that everyone else wrote off. But this is why the new generation has to take the baton, you can blame The Bliss Band for creating Punk, but also remember that some people like this music, who are we to judge?
Last but not least my Mum went to see Keef Hartley Big Band in Liverpool thinking it was a Swing band, she got a terrible shock. I wonder what she thought sitting in the audience waiting for the band to come on? I wonder what the audience thought of my Mum and her friend? Ha ha.
Song Of The Day is High Down Below from Nightjar, because there’s something accessible about it but nobody noticed.
High Down Below
All this aching pain
Is it all in vein
You said the coldness came
And your perfect shield
And the words you wield
From your empty field
Where nothing grows
All of these visions that go through your head
For all of their beauty they’ll wind you up dead
That’s why you’ll find me high
You’ll find me high
You’ll find me high down below
You’ll find me high
Take the veil away
On your knees and pray
You’re in disarray
The future’s closed
So if you’re feeling numb
And if you do your sums
You’ll see the past has come
And you’re exposed
I tried to write a melody that you’d recognize
Just to draw attention to and open up your eyes