I was wrong! My gut feeling was based on his demeanour but what was his crime except to be young, awkward and unconventional. He didn’t fit in so I suspected him, how wrong I was and how embarrassing to jump to a conclusion without all the facts. Apparently, he had bought something somewhere else and brought it into the shop and told someone in the shop…but not everyone. That person should have passed the message on because the staff didn’t know, but he was innocent. The way he lingered, the way he came to the queue and then sailed out of the shop past the cash registers seemed odd but he was just young. I’m sorry. So much for gut feelings and now hopefully I have learnt something, that is, don’t jump to conclusions. People are different and it can be hard to read some people’s actions. Some people have a guilty face. It reminds me of the times travelling with the ex-band when the customs would pull me over because I obviously had drugs. Hoop earrings, flamboyant shirt, spray-on jeans, fabulous hair, stack heeled boots, sunglasses. Meanwhile, the little old lady has a suitcase full of cocaine.
Dare and I were in the studio today finishing off the bass on Ahad’s album. I finished by trying the six-string bass on a track and that seemed to work. It was time to get onto the guitars and Dare picked a track at random. This one happened to have a tricky little arpeggio at the beginning on acoustic guitar. Not difficult as such but more the fact that someone else’s arpeggio (Ahad’s), the way they do it, the notes they choose are not yours, you have to learn the nuance. So we spent some time on that, working out what was the best rhythm to play to, the monitoring, the levels creating a scenario that finds the best feel and performance, the best flow. Remember Ed (the drummer) has gone, I’m playing to recordings of him, he’s real but he’s not there.
We went up to Dare’s for dinner and Dave cooked us the baked potato again with baked beans, oh such fun being English, followed by sponge and custard, cuisine extraordinaire but you know it’s all about the conversation. Martin flatmate was there (he who stars in the song In A Field Full Of Sheep) and Dare’s brother (he cooked), Dave is a walker and he met Rose in Devon and invited her over. Rose talked of her walking feats and the most breathtaking was when she walked from York to Rome. I said, “Rome is amazing, isn’t it?” she said, “I don’t know, I only stayed one night”.
Bob Dylan’s new album arrived today, Rough And Rowdy Ways but then there’s been a few new albums arriving and if I could find a moment to get into the archive to clean records, file records away and then check out the new ones then I surely would. It seems that time is flying by and before long we will be leaving for Portugal. First, we must finish Ahad’s record then try and record songs from Olivia and my live set, finish the record with Jerome Froese and plan on the release for the new MOAT album and the new Space Summit album. We are hoping to release a track from the new MOAT record very soon, not a single, just a song. What does a single even mean anymore? We’re not trying to get in a chart, we’re not trying to get on the radio, we’re just trying to make and release music that we like and find an audience that likes it too. Hopefully, that turns into enough people for us to go out and play shows. We would like to initially tour as a duo and then if there is a demand with an electric band. See how the records go when they come out, that’s what determines the future. We also have the vinyl release of Nightjar coming in September. I can’t wait to get all this new music to you, collaborations, reissues and there’s Salim Nourallah’s album in Texas. Whether it be working as producer or advisor (like with Tony’s project in Sydney), teacher or collaborator, bass player, singer, songwriter or guitarist, the pleasure is in the doing. We have to live but we are lucky enough to work on all these things, long may it last.
French today hit its 45-day streak but I’m not managing to win the league this week, way too busy for that. I did manage to knock over a CD shelf in the archive today. It was a tumbling tower falling towards the box sets and the French vinyl. A screw had loosened and ripped out of the back of the shelf, IKEA is not built to last but they do make ideal CD shelves. Most of the CDs seemed to stay put but Olivia sorted it all out, fixed the screw and refiled the CDs that flew out as I was sweating in a hot studio. My flat wound bass strings arrived today, another job stringing the Hofner bass. Olivia is painting, practising, plotting. Tomorrow it’s seshes all day.
Music today took an English Blues turn. There was something about how we interpreted it over here that gave it a different slant to the Americans. Savoy Brown formed in 1965 and were contemporaries of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and other Blues bands of the era, like Chicken Shack, John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, Groundhogs and all growing out of the late sixties British Blues boom. They weren’t just Blues influenced like say Free, they were more traditional in their songs, lyrics, chord progressions, the sounds of the instruments, the chords they used. Blues Matter (1969) was the band’s third album and is the sound of an era and a style that was riding high in the late sixties. These bands went straight to the source but instead of reinventing everything, it was more of a tribute to their heroes. But of course, these bands were not black dudes from the southern American states, they were white music lovers from Peckham and other London suburbs. Enthusiastic young record buyers who had discovered music from across the pond that was drenched in heart and soul, pain, real feelings and feel in the instruments, peeling the notes off the guitars and grooving on the bass with a drummer that could swing. This was their version and they were purists. They weren’t cashing in, they were just using the tools, learning from the masters and using the template proven to be the best way to express this meaningful music. If you don’t know these bands, Savoy Brown’s Blues Matter is as good a place as any to start with its mix of live and studio tracks. Mainman Kim Simmonds plays those sweet Blues tones and you have to transport yourselves to this world to appreciate them. Of course the Stones, Zeppelin, The Beatles were all influenced by this music too but didn’t stick to the plan in the songwriting department creating new music from their influences but somebody had to stick to the original and cover it with a British angle.
When Groundhogs made Blues Obituary (1969) their second album with a coffin on the cover one imagines they were trying to bury the Blues. Well, they struggled to break through the graveyard sod outside England but were popular here into the seventies and made a slew of exciting albums that broke into the Top 30. Very bluesy but with that English Blues boom take on everything with singer/guitarist Tony McPhee’s brilliant improvisations. With Ken Pustlenik on drums and Pete Cruikshank on bass, you hear a classic sixties Blues power trio, a model followed by Robin Trower, instigated by Jimi Hendrix and mastered by Rory Gallagher.
Fleetwood Mac’s debut (1968) is a groundbreaking Blues spectacular. A reinterpretation of Elmore James, Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf with Peter Green’s magic guitar playing and Jeremy Spencer’s slide and both their songs. Essential. These records are actually too good to describe, you just have to listen to them.
Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack is the first place Christine McVie appeared (or Christine Perfect as she was called then). There’s been a revolving wheel of members and at one stage every one but Webb left Chicken Shack to join Savoy Brown. Their first album 40 Blue Fingers, Freshly Packed And Ready To Serve (1968) made it to No. 12 in the year of release. It’s so interesting listening to these British Blues albums with their different approach to guitar, feel and singing. You can thank the Blue Horizon label’s Mike Vernon, John Mayall and Alexis Corner for nurturing all this British Blues talent that also spawned Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Have a night with the British Blues.
Song Of The Day is Oh Well by Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer. Live in 1969 on Monster Mash and introduced by Alan Price and his Geordie accent.