It was proper hot today and May was apparently the sunniest month on record. The pain still rages in the US and Trump is doing his best to make it worse. The pandemic is still here although a lot of people who haven’t died are edging their bets. Big crowds on the beaches, big crowds on the streets and Dumb-y-Nick’s irresponsible behaviour has just seen people throwing caution to the wind. But the beach was lovely today, two older ladies in the water, but why is it that these ladies never get their hair wet? Is it something to do with their hairdo? It’s the same when I’m swimming at the leisure centre, the older ladies never seem to want to duck their heads below the water. For me it’s one of the greatest pleasures of swimming.
Today was a day of stopping off for chats. We saw Georgie, Dare’s house mate, sitting on a bench, we went past Vicky and Joe’s house (mastering folks) and then Oufie and Steve who live kinda next door to the studio. Steve is the in-house engineer at the Acorn Theatre opposite the studio, Oufie used to run it and many things in Penzance. There’s a lot to discuss these days, so much in fact that everything is falling on top of everything else and we are left with one great “Ball Of Confusion”, “That’s what the world is today. Hey, hey”.
Stories that are newer shouldn’t wipe out old stories. If you used that theory in everyday life you’d never get to finish anything. Syria is still a relevant and terrible story as is Afghanistan, Palestine and Israel, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, as is Burma, as is grooming gangs in the north. What happens to these stories? Are they not allowed to have an end, a solution? Outrage fades so quickly when fresh outrage arrives. No one seems to be able to cope with a world full of one injustice on top of another, especially as they are all now being recorded, but then it seems ultimately discarded to the trash heap of another lost tragedy. Can you imagine what the racist pigs got away with in the past? It’s just horrifying.
Looking for happy signs in the sunlight today, standing on the beach, gazing out at the beautiful sea and the fresh aroma of seaweed and salt. Holding hands with my lovely wife and dreaming of the day that the belt shop opens so I can finally discard the dressing gown chord that holds up my shorts. We have to find some levity in these trying days. It’s a time to love your friends as you get them back. A time to reflect on everything you took for granted, like I did with my belt. I feel so lucky being stuck in a recording studio, near the sea. It could have been so much worse. I heard that in the US there’s over 40,000,000 registered for unemployment. When I think of my cancelled US dates, how I should be in Canada right now and the British dates we were looking forward to in December, I can only be grateful that I have something else to do, recording, teaching, writing. Most people’s lives are so changed, they must be wondering what hit them, how do you replace what’s gone and how is it possible that all this has even happened? And the waiting, the not knowing.
I long to travel, to see different countries, cities I’ve never been to, cities I know and where friends live, but I wonder how much things will change in the future. Will everything just go back to normal or has everything actually changed already? One thing that seems to be inevitable is the amount of people working from home, showing that you don’t have to force people into the office to get good work. Saving the time the commute takes, saving the cost of the commute, saving the uncomfortableness of the commute, saving expensive office space. The only reason that this hasn’t happened before is because the companies don’t trust their workers, citing distractions, kids, pets, guitars. In actual fact, research has shown that people who work from home are more productive, work longer than they need to and take fewer sick days. Everything is trust, isn’t it?
Music today comes from Simone’s Guest List and starts with a concept album called The Butterfly Ball (1974), based on a children’s poem with a cast of thousands including Glenn Hughes, David Coverdale, Ronnie James Dio and Jimmy Helms as lead vocalists, and a core band of Eddie Hardin, Mo Foster, Ray Fenwick, Les Binks, Mike Moran and of course Roger Glover whose name features and who had recently left Deep Purple. It’s a long list of collaborators which originally was a Jon Lord project taken over by Roger Glover when Lord got busy with the band he had just left. The brilliant Love Is All and Sitting On A Dream are sung by Ronnie James Dio and are album high points. Love Is All was a number one single in The Netherlands and Belgium.
The album is based on a poem by William Roscoe (1753 – 1831) and adapted by South African born author William Plomer and illustrator Alan Aldridge with another illustrator, Harry Willock. The artwork was part of the whole concept and the idea was for it to be an animated film, but it was never made. Aldridge has become very well-known for his illustration of anthropomorphic creatures, but he collaborated with another brilliant talent called Harry Willock. Willock was responsible for the Small Faces’ Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake album cover (1968) and it seems hard to know exactly how much of Aldridge’s work was actually in collaboration with Willock. Famous works were album covers for The Who – A Quick One (1966), Elton John’s Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975), Gordon Giltrap’s The Peacock Party (1979), the sequel to The Butterfly Ball and The Lion’s Cavalcade book, which was part three. Then there’s The Illustrated Beatles lyrics and the logo for the Hard Rock cafe. Sadly Aldridge died in 2017 but for me his legacy is somewhat tarnished as he took a lot of credit for work that was actually done by Willock or at least shared. It doesn’t mean that Aldridge wasn’t an amazing illustrator and ideas man in his own right, but if he’d just shared more of the glory with Willock then we’d really be able to see his individual talent more clearly. You can read about Harry Willock and his collaboration with the more famous Alan Aldridge here and here.
Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells A Story (1971) was a number one album in the US and the UK. Simultaneously Maggie May hit the No.1 spot in both countries. It is in essence a catchy folky Blues album with a whole lot of memorable songs. Tim Hardin’s classic Reason To Believe, Bob Dylan’s Tomorrow Is A Long Time, Bluesman Arthur Crudup’s That’s All Right (into Amazing Grace, believe it or not) and The Temptation’s (I Know) I’m Losing You. Although this is a select collection of songs from other writers, the mega hit Maggie May was written by Stewart and Martin Quittenton who had been the guitarist in Steamhammer (who I really like by the way). Mandolin Wind was written by Stewart alone, showing off his writing skills. A great Rock ‘n’ Roll album that endures due to Stewart’s voice at its best and song choice plus Lane, Wood, Jones and McLagan are playing on it as Stewart was also a member of The Faces at the time. Journeyman bassist Andy Pyle, Pete Sears, Micky Waller on drums, Long John Baldry and Danny Thompson are all there, too. Hilarious musician credit moment, Ray Jackson was credited as “The mandolin was played by the mandolin player in Lindisfarne. The name slips my mind”. Why didn’t he just look it up on the net?
Simone chose The Unforgettable Fire (1984) by U2, which happens to be my favourite U2 album. It wears really well, the eighties sounds can be the worst especially from the viewpoint of 2020. What’s that phrase, “hindsight is 2020”. Have a listen to a Thompson Twins album from the eighties, phew. It’s just that U2 are a four piece Rock band – guitar, bass, drums and vocals, you’ve got to be really trying hard to make it sound bad.
The album is produced by Eno and Daniel Lanois and at this point it seemed an unlikely pairing, but I guess they were all looking for a different direction. Eno/Lanois managed to help them achieve that whilst keeping their sound, keeping their four piece Rock band thing and yet somehow it’s gone moody. The Edge is perfecting his rhythm style on this album, continuing to never play lead guitar (it’s a skill in itself). Bono sounds sweet and sincere, tough and passionate. I guess it’s around now that people started to dislike him voicing an opinion about the state of the world. It never bothered me, I always thought he meant it. My favourite track is the title track, the way it goes into that chorus, the melody, love it. The falsetto the second time around, the groove which is probably an eighties thing that you might hear The Bunnymen doing or Simple Minds. The cover art, overseen and photographed by Anton Corbijn, is atmosphere deluxe. All ‘round great piece of work, what happened?
Last but not least is the amazing All Things Must Pass (1970) by George Harrison. A triple album and arguably the best Beatles solo album. It is the album with My Sweet Lord and the controversy of the writing credit and the fact that the court ruled against him and said that he was “subconsciously plagiarizing” The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine written by Ronnie Mack, was unfortunate. But it wasn’t Ronnie Mack that was suing, it was the publishing company Bright Tunes, Mack had died in 1963. Harrison had to pay 1,6 million dollars to Bright Tunes. I think there’s a deeper story here, I heard once that he just bought the company that was suing him, is that true?
None of this matters, the album is great, packed full of wonderful songs. From the opener I’d Have You Anytime, written with Bob Dylan and with the lyrical guitar of Eric Clapton, My Sweet Lord is next, then Wah Wah, Isn’t It A Pity – that’s side one, so good. Then side two, What Is Life, the second single and another hit. Dylan’s If Not For You is next, I always remember Olivia Newton-John singing it in the seventies based on the George version:
Behind That Locked Door is George’s country song, followed by Let It Down, so many great melodies and sounds. Run Of The Mill ends side two and the amazing Beware Of Darkness starts side three. You can so hear his Liverpool accent on this one. The next track, Apple Scruffs, is about particular die-hard fans who earned a title and a song. I actually know one of them, ha ha, Sue, she lives down here in Cornwall, one of the originals. Hi Sue!
Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp was dedicated to the original owner of the house where Harrison lived, featured on the album cover and who Harrison apparently talked about like he was alive. On Awaiting On You All you can hear the sound of Phil Spector clearly in the production. Side four ends with the title track, the song was rejected by The Beatles. Side four opens with I Dig Love, a light moment when you compare it to the more spiritual and soul-searching songs on the record and in contrast to the next track, Art Of Dying. Isn’t It A Pity returns as version 2. It’s worth hearing again in another version, but who would do that these days? It’s another one rejected by The Beatles as is the closing track, Hear Me Lord.
The rest of the album, sides five and six, are what have been called “informal jams”. Everyone should do this, add jams to their record. After listening to the live sections of the Man album last night, I know it’s the right thing to do, if you have a band release the songs and the jams. These tracks, recorded during the recording of the album proper, include Eric Clapton, Carl Radle, Klaus Voormann, Dave Mason, Bobby Whitlock, Bobby Keyes, Jim Gordon, Gary Wright, Jim Price and Al Aronowitz.
All Things Must Pass has contributions from the aforementioned players as well as Ringo, the Badfinger boys, Alan White, Gary Brooker, Pete Drake and Mal Evans. It’s produced by Phil Spector and one of the engineers, Ken Scott, went on to produce Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane for Bowie, Crime Of The Century and Crisis? What Crisis? for Supertramp and oh, the list is soooo long.
Simone actually sent me a list with one album every year from 1970 – 1988. Thank you, Simone.
Song Of The Day is Hopes And Fears from Noctorum’s Offer The Light, we’ve had this before, but if George can do it twice then so can we, especially as it is so appropriate at least in its title.
Hopes And Fears
I stare out of my window at a grey Northern sky
On a Saturday
And the smoke in the distance that clings to the hills
From the factories
And people are gathering in droves in the street
‘Cause it’s market day
And I am in love with a girl who I met
Summer has gone
Lights are on
The nights have grown long
Then the town’s
As the rain hits the ground
Then the newspaper sellers are telling us all
What’s been happening
And women are hiding in shopkeeper’s doorways
And you and I meet in the café across from the hospital
And finding a cure for the lovelorn
Is proving impossible
Life tumbles on
Like this song
And the music plays on
And we kiss
Like a play
With our love on display
And the sirens still call
From the factory walls
As we pray to live in peace
With the future unknown
We slowly walk home
As our hopes and fears increase
With our fate in our hands
As we lay in the sand
Will our love and life survive
But I know this is bliss
You are all that I wish
With our hopes and fears alive
(Willson-Piper / Mason)
Noctorum – Offer The Light (2006)