Today I’m pretty sure I witnessed shoplifting but it seems that all crimes whether they be petty or otherwise are preceded by weirdness. I walked into Thornes the greengrocers to buy broccoli (or the green brain as I call it). Because of the pandemic, it’s a hoo-hah of barriers and following prompts and arrows. As I wound my way past the outdoor display of various vegetables I came to the broccoli, picked two small ones and went into the shop. There was a young fellow with a weird vibe, buds in his ears heading the wrong way or rather lingering in the wrong direction opposite to the arrows as if he’d forgotten something and was heading back the way he came. Fair enough it happens and no-one is really expected to go around the arrows again, are they? I went past him and got in the queue. There were two ladies in front of me and he came up behind. I noticed he had a package of peaches or nectarines or something like that in his hand. Just before I was called to be served he walked past me and straight out of the shop. I noticed because of that weird vibe he had and I suppose it must have been the ‘he’s up to no good vibe’. I said to the lovely lady who I see every day when I buy vegetables there, “Did he pay or did he just walk out?”. She went from behind the counter to look in the street but he had gone. She asked one of the lads that work there to check the cameras…and then I left. It probably all sounds like a massive anticlimax but tomorrow I will know what the cameras said. My main reason to share this is because of the vibe. What is that? It was so evident even though when I felt whatever it was I was feeling, he hadn’t actually done anything. It must be something to do with our ancient animal instincts, we can sense things.
It was such a beautiful day today that Olivia decided to go to the launderette and I set about staying in and doing some intense French sessions. We thought we’ll just wait till the wind is howling, the sheets of rain are pouring down and the bitter cold is snapping at our flesh before we go out. This is the problem with the weather, it doesn’t fit in with your schedule. This is an English and a European problem. In Australia, if you miss a sunny day because you were at work you have the other 300 days to catch up. Sounds wonderful but in Australia, it’s the opposite problem, too much sun, too hot (for me anyway) and that other issue of sun damage.
One of my sessioneers, Steven, is a dermatologist and one day I asked him to confirm a fact for me. “Is it true that 1 in 3 people in Australia have some form of skin cancer?” – “No,” he said, “it’s 2 in 3”. It’s hard for us over here to imagine that in Australia people are advised to stay out of the sun. On television and on the sides of buses there’s adverts showing cancer growths to put you off sunbathing. In Europe, we see the opposite, ads from travel companies with tanned bodies lying on beaches enticing you to a sun-soaked holiday. Everywhere has its pros and cons, nowhere is perfect and we just get used to what we grew up with. I think that if Olivia and I do move to Portugal it will be a nice compromise between my English upbringing and my playing in an Australian band that had me spend a lot of time in that country. Nothing like a bit of sun, nothing like a bit of rain and from when I was living in Sweden, nothing like a lot of snow.
I got a note from the post office that I had a package to pick up. I presumed it was another album. I’m still waiting for the new Dylan album and that missing Neil Young album from the seventies has just been released. At the parcel office, the regular man plucked out a square box (?) from the shelves. That’s unusual, it’s not a record. When I got it back to the studio and opened it up I was surprised to find today’s picture – a Liverpool shirt with MWP on the back. Interestingly the No. 20 is Adam Lallana’s number and he is apparently leaving at the end of the season, so I could actually take it and get in the team.
So thank you to Henrik from Denmark who came to see Olivia and I play in Hamburg (long journey) and sent this to me as a gift.
Music today starts with the debut album by Caravan because sessioneer Brian in Florida asked me about them today. I love this album because it lives in that twilight world between the sixties and the seventies, between Psychedelic and Progressive but that was the Canterbury scene that also included Soft Machine. It had that jazzy element that seems to lurk somewhere in the genre as well as that lyrical sense of humour (you can also hear that in Matching Mole). The lineup was Pye Hastings, guitar and vocals, Richard Sinclair, bass and vocals, cousin Dave Sinclair, keyboards, and Richard Coughlan, drums. Hastings, the only original member, remains in the band to this day and is seen as the leader, despite massive contributions by the original members, musically, vocally and in the songwriting department.
The first album was signed to Verve and released in 1968 although nobody seemed to notice. It’s packed full of great songs and sounds, instrumentation and singing. There’s something up with the mix on the third track, Policeman, as if the wrong version made it to the master – the vocals seem to be in the wrong place, not just a taste thing, but incorrect. Still a lovely album, highly recommended.
After the one album on Verve, they signed to Decca and released If I Could Do It All Over Again I’d Do It All Over You (1970). Humour intact and Jimmy Hastings, Pye’s brother, on flute, it’s another great album that again straddled different genres but was so particular that it consolidated what was to become known as the Canterbury scene. The perennial 14-minute For Richard, a stand out. One interesting thing for me about Caravan was that Pye Hastings played an electric 12 string. A Fender solid body that sounds nothing like Roger McGuinn’s Rickenbackers. People have often said to me that I must be influenced by McGuinn but I only really started to notice electric 12 string players after I started to play one regularly. The style or the idea to play it both as a jangle and a fuzzed-up monster came from seeing a band in LA in the early eighties. They were called Community FK and the singer-guitarist, Patrick Mata, played an electric 12 string through a fuzz box (I think it was also a Fender), that left a big impression on me and probably influenced me more than the sixties jangle as a direction. That arpeggio style was natural for me to adopt but jumping on the distortion pedal wasn’t the normal approach for someone that was playing a 12 string.
Next came In The Land Of Grey And Pink released in 1971 with the quintessentially eccentric English opening track, Richard Sinclair’s Golf Girl, that has the immortal line:
Standing on a golf course
Dressed in P.V.C.
I chanced upon a golf girl
Selling cups of tea
I’ll let you research the rest of the lyric should it pique your interest but apparently it was about his girlfriend and future wife. The album had a large musical input from Dave Sinclair, Hastings had dominated the writing on the first two albums and other members had a backlog of material. This led to the Nine Feet Underground suite that fitted perfectly into that strange twilight world in which they lived, Progressive, Pop, what were they? They were the Canterbury scene.
At this point, Dave Sinclair left and joined Matching Mole frustrated with the lack of success. He was replaced by Steve Miller for the next album Waterloo Lily (1972). Miller who is Phil Miller guitarist from Matching Mole’s brother didn’t quite fit into Caravan sonically and consequently only lasted for one album before Dave Sinclair’s return. It was more Wurlitzer than Hammond and the sound was jazzier. Despite this, the album still has that Caravan sound with the two singers but Sinclair’s writing is missing. Like the previous album, they had moved from Decca to Deram the more progressive wing of the label as the Progressive album scene was becoming popular. I was looking on Wikipedia for something about Caravan and came across Pye Hastings’ Wikipedia page, there are three sentences, it says so much by saying so little.
Song Of The Day is Winter Wine from Caravan’s third album In The Land Of Grey And Pink released in 1971. The performance is live from Germany’s Beat Club in the same year.