The other day I was walking through the park and a fly flew directly into my throat, straight to the back. I immediately gagged and was furiously clearing my throat trying to expel it from my body. What a way to go for the fly! The creatures were out today, so were the animals. We saw the abusive woman again with the two dogs, seems like she’s calmed down, she passed three or four people on the other side of the road without one F bomb. When she F bombed us it was the beginning of the pandemic and at that point nobody knew if their days were numbered or not. Now as we look back on 40,000+ deaths in England and coming up to 130,000 in the US I guess we found out how serious it is and if we were prudent to be careful. With 500,000 dead in the world and outbreaks everywhere one wonders how Saturday’s opening here in England is going to go? Does it mean that the tourists will be hitting Cornwall and bringing the plague to a place where it hasn’t actually felt like we are all going to die (apart from the occasional woman freaking out). With the lockdown, the people in the shops and the street have been enforcing the distancing, sure, but we are off the beaten track here and it feels like it, when the summer tourists arrive though, Penzance and St Ives, Newquay and many spots in Cornwall are usually heaving. So fingers crossed that the sunshine doesn’t bring the infected into our midst, but I do understand that you gotta get out of Brum.
Today, Olivia cancelled the air tickets we have for the USA. We were supposed to fly to New York on August 13th and then on to Dallas. We got an email from our cool booking agent Joady in Minneapolis today and she suggested to plan for autumn 2021 for touring there. Well, we’ll certainly have some records out by then, but we’ll probably think of singles beforehand as we get into this year’s autumn and start campaigns for the different albums as we find release dates.
Down at the sea today the water was iron blue with patches of deep green. There were hardly any waves and the seagulls were washing their feathers in the calm waters. Sometimes a bird would fly just above the surface, at the limit of how low it could go as if its wings had sensors that told it the exact distance from the water. On the beach a man was walking his two dogs, encouraging them into the water, there were two young lads spinning stones into the sea and an older couple standing on the prom were surrounded with the aroma of marijuana. There were lots of small dead jellyfish on the stones and Olivia was trying to get a close-up of their fascinating construction as she did on the way down to the beach with cobwebs in the sunlight on the gardens’ gates. We left the beach by the skate park which has become busy again, but today every kid seemed to be 12, but everyone looks young when you’re 62.
Last night our toaster blew up like they used to in eighties videos, sparks and everything. So we thought we’d check out the supermarket by the sea and see if we could buy one. They had microwaves and kettles and all sorts but no toasters, so Olivia found one online, a lovely powder blue that we bought for midnight to 4AM snacking. On the way back we decided to try some tree hugging (photo tomorrow). It was lovely, the tree was so responsive and that contact with nature gave us some good vibes. We saw five cats on the way back to the studio, we stroked some of them and admired the others.
Earlier at the local shops I ran into local Sean and his bike. Sean is cool, mellow, and I talked with him for a bit about the universe. I noticed a girl looking lost as we were talking. I asked her if she needed any help? “Yes,” she said. She was looking for a pasty shop, well, she’d missed it by 5 minutes. I asked her where she was from. She was Norwegian and was most surprised when I started speaking to her in Swedish. She went on her way and I found my way to the studio. On the subject of languages, I did my French lesson today and found myself top of the Sapphire league. There are two of us that are up there with loads of points. I learned some new words, understood some grammar a little better, but there’s a long way to go – you have to start somewhere.
Dare was briefly in the studio today continuing with some drum editing before I get in there and start playing the bass and the guitars on Ahad’s album, probably next week. We were both looking forward to the football tonight because Liverpool the champions were playing Man City, last year’s champions and the other best team in the land. They hammered Liverpool 4-0! So that was something of a let down. (Dare’s team Everton won this week.) All my plans for continuing to get the archive straightened up were thrown into disarray with trips to the shops, distractions, pasties, seagulls, sunshine, football and somehow the free day turned into not getting much done at all.
Music today is the long overdue Sly And The Family Stone, starting with the third album. Life (1969) did not do as well as expected after the hit from the previous album Dance To The Music even though the reviews were good. I just didn’t have that mega single that was the title track, it reached No. 9 in 1968. They would have to wait for future hits, but they were coming. This funky Psychedelic Soul album has its own cool title track and one of my Sly favourites, M’lady.
Stand, the fourth album, released in 1969, managed what none of the previous albums did and that is reach the US Top 20. It’s packed with great tracks, probably best known is Everyday People that went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart. These middle four Sly albums are must-haves, groundbreaking influential in leading the pack into Psychedelic Soul – The Temptations, The Undisputed Truth and even The Supremes with Reflections (if you remember that song). Sing A Simple Song was recorded by The Temptations, Diana Ross and The Jackson 5. If you haven’t heard the 14-minute jam, Sex Machine, your life needs it. This is the thing with taste, I love this track but if you don’t, you have the 2.20 Everyday People before it. I personally love the groovy jams as much as the classic singles.
The dark, groundbreaking There’s A Riot Goin’ On (1971), titled in answer to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On (also 1971, released 6 months earlier), was a change of direction. This wasn’t uptempo dancey Psychedelic Soul, this was troubled pessimistic, narcotic, dark, black, drug music. It made The Velvet Underground sound lightweight. It was fraught with tension, drummer Greg Errico left the band (lots of drum machine on this record). Sly got involved with the Black Panthers, Mafia figures, bad drugs and watched the band eat itself alive from the inside. Somehow it had hits and the classic Family Affair reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts. The rhythm, the melody, the vocal, wow, what a track. It’s an absolute classic album, it cost a fortune to make and Sly was at the height of his drug use and unreliability, but the album…essential.
By the time Sly was in the studio for Fresh (1973) it wasn’t just Greg Errico that was gone (replaced with Andy Newmark). Bassist Larry Graham was also gone, replaced by Rusty Allen. Allen’s bass drives the track If You Want Me To Stay which was a hit reaching No. 12 on the Billboard Chart and even No. 40 in the UK. It’s another American No. 1 album, more accessible than its predecessor and frankly another great Sly album. Que Sera Sera, sung by Rose and Sly, what’s not to like?
Song Of The Day is Sly’s No. 1 single from 1971, Family Affair.