Don’t you hate it when they screw you with customs charges at the post office? Our friend Julie sent us over some fridge magnets from the US, homemade by our other friend Reid. Value, £3. Customs and post office charges £21. Really? I refused to pay it. I have a phone number to ring but I don’t hold out much hope (I’m sorry sir, it’s obviously a mistake). I have little faith in the system or in the spirit of cooperation in these circumstances because there’s not really any recourse and I don’t believe they will see this as a customer service problem worth solving and they really don’t have to care. We are at their mercy. Is a blog a valid place to complain about annoyances such as this? In the seventies there was a TV show called That’s Life hosted by Esther Rantzen (and her teeth) where they humourously dealt with this kind of thing. So frustrating, almost as annoying as the belt.
Out there in vegetable land there’s a new kid in town in the highly competitive market of quality versus shrink-wrapped, moldy, maggot-ridden supermarket refrigerated old vegetables. At the top of Causeway Head, the paved area in Penzance where the greengrocer Thornes is, there’s Mark, the friend of farmers. He has a wide range of quality products that still have the loving dirt on their skins. What’s this thing about waxing apples? Why is the world convinced that if something looks clean and polished then it’s going to be higher quality than something which is in its natural state? Vegetables are rather like men in suits, do the frightened populace really trust the groomed man in the suit and the polished apple over the characterful original dresser with the long hair and the apple with the leaves and stork still attached? Surely not, not anymore. Next you’ll be telling me that people might judge character by skin pigmentation, ha ha, ridiculous, that would be laughable. Then there’s this weird story about respect and money.
I ran into local Uffie today, he’s recently lent me a USB stick with some images he put together: a whole lot of photographs relating to the famous shot of the men eating their lunch at the top of a skyscraper in New York just sitting nonchalantly on a girder. Plus a very interesting documentation of the swastika and how it was hijacked by the Nazis. I read today that President Shrimp has had images associated with the Nazis removed from the net as they appear in his adverts. What the hell is the matter with these people? I’m not concerned about the ignorant, there’s no hope for them, but I wonder, horrified, at the silence of the evolved.
In the bathroom today Olivia put her jewellery down and it fell through a hole near the radiator and behind the skirting board. She lost one earring and her necklace, luckily Dare was in the house with his trusty tool box, but instead of unscrewing the skirting board and retrieving the jewellery he sent a small glowing disc through the wall into the skeleton of the house. Inside the wall the disc was able to turn itself into a smooth blue liquid that seeped behind the plaster, invisible, dripping slowly down towards the spot where the jewellery lay. It then solidified and turned into pincers that grabbed the missing items and pushed them back up through the hole where they fell and were retrieved by Olivia’s grateful fingers. It rose again as a liquid and reemerged out of the wall transforming into a sphere, then back to a disc and slowly ascended to its place in the toolbox, disaster averted.
It occurred to me today that at some point the trusty British telephone box will disappear altogether from the British streets. I’m sure that we used to hang about in the local telephone box in the seventies, it was as close as we got to a den. This telephone box with its Cornwall-themed stickers was looking pretty grungy, I mean who uses a telephone box anymore? Feeding coins, talking for a limited amount of time, it is such a thing of the past. They weren’t always used for their function either, I’ll leave that to your imagination. I wonder if they can actually survive? Sometimes the unexpected saves things. Did DJs save vinyl? Has Amazon saved the postal service? You don’t need to remind me of the damage caused by certain institutions, but one must always wonder if progress is in actual fact a series of rearrangements and eventually the good will out – except at the customs office.
Music today is continuing with great records that no one remembers (apart from in this case my mate Ed Rogers). Today it’s Marvin, Welch & Farrar. Their first album was released on Regal Zonophone in 1971 and was an example of musicians associated with one thing trying something different and succeeding even if the public and the press didn’t notice. Marvin and Welch had of course been in The Shadows and this was a major departure as they became a melodic seventies three piece harmony group. Australian John Farrar had been with The Strangers and had opened up for them in Australia and was asked to join as a third voice. The songs were written by the members individually or collectively and they took it in turns to sing. Session drummer Clem Cattini played drums (Shakin’ All Over, Telstar) and Dave Richmond (Manfred Mann) played bass.
Marvin and Welch craved change, they just wanted to do something different after being in Britain’s top instrumental group and of course the audience wouldn’t have it. Hank Marvin was the lead guitarist and was famous for the tone emanating from his Fender Stratocaster, his playing style as well, his black-rimmed glasses and of course the dance steps. The Shadows were famous in their own right, but they were also Cliff Richard’s backing band and consequently very popular, because Cliff was a big star in the UK. The Shadows had been on the TV a lot with Cliff, they’d been in films with Cliff, galas, live shows, they were famous, too. Bruce Welch was the talented underrated member playing that tricky job in The Shadows of rhythm guitarist. He also co-wrote many songs for Cliff, Marvin, Welch & Farrar and Olivia Newton-John who he was engaged to. The most well-known (there’s a few) would probably be Summer Holiday which he wrote with drummer Brian Bennett.
Marvin, Welch & Farrar released Second Opinion (with Brian Bennett on drums) in the same year as the first album, again on Regal Zonophone (an EMI affiliate), and carried on with the style and the quality of songwriting and singing, but the fans were getting angsty. They finally gave in and started adding Shadows songs into the set. Marvin and Farrar made one more album on EMI proper mostly without Welch, released in 1973, but in the same year all three of them were back together as The Shadows for Rockin’ With Curly Leads (1973). It was their first album since the suicide of bassist John Rostill.
Rockin’ With Curly Leads contains an ill-advised instrumental version of Pinball Wizard as the opening track which must have kept Pete Townshend awake at night. It’s generally without the pizzazz of their sixties recordings. In the same year Mike Oldfield was releasing Tubular Bells and one wonders if they heard it and realized how out of step they were in the instrumental market. There are actually some moments on this record (Gutbucket), but it is mostly middle of the road and intended to appeal to that audience. I was so disappointed that I played it twice and found more in it the second time around.
As happens with most bands that have had a huge success, the audience doesn’t seem to notice that they’re no good anymore (neither do the band). In concert they pray for the old hits and put up with the new songs. I could never understand why mega success led to mediocrity, it should lead to freedom to experiment, if you could afford to do anything, then – you could do anything! It’s not that you shouldn’t play your old songs, it’s that the audience that wants your hits isn’t helping your art. In the case of Marvin, Welch & Farrar, the public won and pushed them back into a faded version of their glory days, another example of the tail wagging the dog and their great vocal albums slipping into obscurity. I was actually starting to like it a bit especially the last track with its dumb title, Jumpin’ Jack Input, but then two cover songs ruin everything with Side 2 of the album, opening with a half-baked version of Heroes and Villains – exactly.
Song Of The Day is the homemade instrumental Hamburg from the In Reflection album released in 1987. These were the days of trying anything and at least hoping for something atmospheric in the result.
In Reflection (1987)