So Olivia and I walked into the Co-op here in Penzance today. Just beyond the entrance on the floor there are arrows telling you which way to walk. As we made our way in a youngish fellow came walking towards us the wrong way carrying two packs of Budweiser. He said something unintelligible as he walked past us and out of the shop. Then, one of the shop staff came running past us. A minute later he returned with the two packs of beer. The fearless fellow had walked into the shop, picked up the beer (that’s two packs, not one) and just walked straight out again – brazen doesn’t really cover it. The staff member didn’t even bother calling the police or anything like that. It’s so common that young people shoplift that they are content to catch them and send them on their way, till the next time.
Another mildly odd event of the day was the arrival of the latest Soft Machine CD (£2.99, bargain). I played at a festival with Anekdoten in Italy just north of Milan on the same bill as Soft Machine. Their sax player was Theo Travis who actually jammed with us that night. Quiet person Roy Babbington was on bass and really talkative person John Etheridge was on guitar. So we hung a bit, chatted and even had lunch together the following day before we left. I have played the very first Soft Machine album recently and then I saw the latest CD on eBay with this lineup and for that price…but this isn’t about the music. The package arrived this morning, it was a peculiar envelope with a pocket, but it was also folded over to half its size, so there were openings. When I picked it up a letter fell out of the envelope. It was addressed to Jonathan in Austin, Texas. Somehow it had got caught in my envelope. So Olivia wrote a letter to Jonathan and we put both letters in another envelope and we will send it to him on Monday. How it didn’t fall out when it was being handled and delivered and how it got there remains a mystery.
This reminds me of actions I have taken before to retrieve something lost by someone. I was making Priest=Aura in Sydney. I was sharing an apartment with the legend that is Jay Dee Daugherty, the drummer on that album and Patti Smith’s drummer from Horses onwards. We were staying at the Hotel New Hampshire in Kings Cross and one night I was getting a taxi home and I found a purse on the back seat. There was no ID in there but there was $100. There were also some cards and other bits of paper and on one of them I found a phone number. So I called the number and explained that I was in a taxi and found this purse and wanted to return it to the owner and did you know whose it was? The girl that answered said yes, it was her friend and gave me her friend’s phone number. So I called her. I explained that I had found her purse, SILENCE! I then told her that I was staying at hotel apartments and if she wanted to come and pick it up she could. Another silence and then she said, “Are you trying to be funny?”. The moral of the story is that people are suspicious even if you are trying to help them. I’d found the purse, bothered to explore the possibilities of returning it, phoned her friend – no mobile phones then so it probably cost me a minimum fee of 2 or 3 bucks by just using the hotel phone. It makes you wonder why you bother, but I told her where the hotel was and she could come and pick it up from reception and then I hung up. The receptionist at the hotel (Chico) was a super cool Filipino dude. I gave it to him and told him the story and told him that if she asks do not divulge any information about where I am or who I am, I really did not want to engage with this person. So, she came, she picked up the purse, asked who I was, Chico said nothing and she left, with her purse, her cards and her $100.
We had another lovely talk with the great black-backed gull today and as you see in the post we even have pictures. There’s a man that lives in the flats opposite the archive who likes to feed the pigeons and this majestic animal, that’s why it’s there all the time waiting, it knows. He saw us with the camera and said here’s a piece of bread and threw a slice out of the window that I caught. We put it on the wall and the giant bird came flying down and during its feast we were able to get some pics. This man was an animal lover, he also feeds the pigeons. A woman walked by and asked what were we taking photographs of. I said the magnificent great black-backed gull. She looked at us like we were mad, taking pictures of a seagull? We only see other people’s presumed madness, not our own.
Ed came and picked up his drums from the studio today and headed back to Bristol. Thanks, Ed! It was cold and windy and rainy and grey and miserable, but with true spirit we ventured down to the sea and the beachside supermarket and took the recycling down on this beautiful Penzance summer’s day. The sea was choppy and the rain came as we arrived on the beach, so we didn’t stay long. No sessions today, no studio today, so I was trying to take it easy. I had some listening to do, Tony in Sydney’s latest and Terje in Norway’s demos, but there were a lot of songs, it will take some time to listen through them. Terje, a new sessioneer, is giving me an overview of his work over the years. One thing leads to another and as with Jed and Space Summit and Ahad here we are sometime later making albums. Whose will be next?
Music today started with an album that seems quite hard to find. Phil Miller’s Split Seconds (1988). Miller was in Robert Wyatt’s Matching Mole and was part of the Canterbury scene, later a member of Hatfield and the North and National Health. It’s mainly a jazzy-ish, progressive-ish, eighties-ish guitarists album with one vocal track sung by Richard Sinclair from Caravan, famed Canterbury sceners. Phil Miller died of cancer in 2017, he was 68 years old.
Harvey Mandel’s fifth album The Snake was released in 1972 on Janus records. Mandel had played with John Mayall, Canned Heat, and would later appear on the Stones’ Black and Blue (1975). He was a potential replacement for the departed Mick Taylor with Roy Buchanan and Ronnie Wood. His albums are mainly instrumental and show off his tone and style. He’s not fast, he’s warm, although he was one of the first guitarists to use the tapping technique on his later releases. This album features Sugarcane Harris with whom he formed the band Pure Food And Drug Act. Also featured are Canned Heat drummer and bassist Fito de la Parra and Larry Taylor. Paul Lagos ex (American) Kaleidoscope drummer and Victor Conte ex Tower Of Power bassist also appear. You can’t go wrong with a Harvey Mandel album and there’s a few. Note: David Lindley, who played on Starfish, was also in Kaleidoscope.
Roy Buchanan’s second album, called, you guessed it, Second Album, was released on Polydor in 1972. Buchanan, famous for making a Fender Telecaster wail also played on the Stones’ Black and Blue. I’m not a Blues player, I don’t know the licks, the scales, it’s not a style I wish to play, but as far as tone and expression I can appreciate it in the giants of the genre, Paul Kossoff, Rory Gallagher and Roy Buchanan to name just three. Buchanan’s tone is so special, his choice of notes, his volume knob control and his sometimes mad passionate explosions that his guitar gave us makes his fans miss him greatly. He died in a prison cell after being arrested in a domestic dispute, he was found hanging by his own shirt when checked the following morning. He was just 48 years old.
Rounding off the night with Rory Gallagher’s Blueprint, also released on Polydor in 1973. It was his fourth album (third studio album) after Live in Europe. It was the first album with new drummer Rod de’Ath and keyboard player Lou Martin after the departure of original drummer Wilgar Campbell. Rod de’Ath died in 2014 aged 64. Lou Martin died in 2012 aged 63. Campbell, who was also in Andwella’s Dream (I played one of their albums recently), died at age 43.
Song Of The Day is a short video documentary about Rory Gallagher from 1973 with Gerry McEvoy on bass and Rod de’Ath standing in for Wilgar Campbell on drums. In the video you can see what a sweet guy Rory was, shy, humble, but a great guitar player. He died at the age of 47 after a liver transplant, damaged by paracetamol and alcohol.
RIP Phil Miller, Rory Gallagher, Lou Martin, Wilgar Campbell and Rod de’Ath. RIP Roy Buchanan.