Today I spoke with a jackdaw. Olivia and I were taking the daily 100 tons of recycling down to the bins by the sea, walking by the construction fence that stretches the length of the promenade and there, inquisitive and not at all scared was this smart and charismatic creature. He/she was definitely listening although I’m not so sure it appreciated me asking if it spoke parrot? When you can get a bird’s attention without tempting them with food and can see a reaction, a curiosity, it makes you wonder how an animal might see us. One wonders why aren’t they scared, they should be, I’m sick to death of people letting their kids terrorise pigeons instead of admiring them when they’re likely smarter than their dog.
I tried out the mask I had in a shop today and glad I did because it was too thick and hard to breathe, so I bought two mask packages that had two masks each inside. So, question – are you supposed to wear them and then throw them away? Has anybody seen any instructions about the life of a mask? It doesn’t seem like it would take too long for a mask to get grungy if you are wearing it all the time but if you are just popping it on for the shops perhaps one mask will suffice for a while. I guess there’s a thousand different kinds of masks, too. I discovered today that if you are wearing glasses or sunglasses and a mask, when you breathe your glasses steam up, not such a problem in a shop I suppose although I’ve been in stores where you need sunglasses. But if you wear glasses I guess it’s a problem. The government guidelines never deal with the real day to day issues, do they?
But on to serious matters, today I went to pick up my pasty and they had forgotten to save it for me so they gave me a free spicy pasty to try (they are so nice, the people not the pasty). It was good but it had something in it that my body doesn’t like, something to do with bell peppers/capsicum, no doubt. Then I was thinking about allergies and those people who have died because of a peanut! Can you imagine? Dare is allergic to apricots. I am allergic to penicillin.
When I was a young child at school the idiot teachers had us cutting blocks of balsa wood with Stanley knives. And yes, of course, the inevitable happened, I sliced the side of my thumb off. I was taken to hospital where the first thing they did was pump me full with penicillin. The story goes, although it’s mostly lost in the mists of time that I fell into a coma. I was allergic. I don’t know how long I was out or the details but for years afterwards, I wore a medical bracelet. It became too heavy and awkward when I began to play the guitar, so there’s no indication that I shouldn’t be given penicillin should I be in an accident and my nearest and dearest isn’t there to inform the doctors. I could wear something around my neck but I don’t really like things around my neck, a tattoo on my forehead perhaps? The trauma of the actual accident is still quite vivid in my memory and next time you see me, ask me to show you the scar, I had stitches, I can still remember them and I can still remember the pain of having them removed. I get a shiver thinking about it. I think that I am quite susceptible to pain and if the baddies wanted to know where the base was (or even where the bass was) it wouldn’t take much torture to get the info out of me. They wouldn’t need to slice me with knives either, they could just recite Dream Theater lyrics, put the guitar solos on loops or just play Wonderwall, I would spill immediately.
For those of you that are waiting, I’m working on the Handwritten Lyrics, I wrote Dancing With Death today and Olivia is conceptualising the actual illustrations. She’s so good, I could write stories about Martian gnome families travelling throughout the galaxy picnicking and she could illustrate them. Hm, I wonder if there’s an audience for that?
Andy Jossi sent us the new The Churchhill Garden album today which I’m sure will sound as sumptuous as it looks but I also received the new Ray LaMontagne album Monovision and Mercury Rev’s Delta Sweete tribute. The latter I know but with the LaMontagne album I’m hoping for the side I Iike, he has a side I really like and a side I don’t really care for. I’m looking forward to catching up with all these new releases including old new releases and records friends have sent me. Send me time.
Music today comes in the shape of If. And if you don’t know who they are then I wouldn’t be surprised because they fall through all the cracks of hip, Jazz, Progressive, Rock. They are odd and accessible at the same time. It’s as if there’s a reason not to follow them from every genre’s point of view. They could be seen as easy listening, mainstream even, but then they are also Jazz Rock. They have a singer that could have been in Blood Sweat And Tears or Boz Scaggs so they don’t appeal to moodier tastes and they’re not jazzy enough to be loved by the Jazz fraternity. You could imagine them on tour with Steely Dan. In the period between 1970 and 1975, they released 8 albums and toured a lot in Europe and America, so someone liked them somewhere.
Apart from their singer, J.W. Hodkinson, they were led by two sax and flute players, the late Dick Morrissey on tenor and soprano sax and flute and Dave Quincy on tenor and alto sax and flute. Morrissey was best known as a session man (he died in 2000) who played on everyone’s record from Stiff Little Fingers to Demis Roussos and Roy Harper to Gary Numan via Paul McCartney and there was his post If band, Morrissey-Mullen. Quincy played on the two odd Manfred Mann Chapter Three albums I was talking about some weeks ago and after If formed Zzebra (with a double Zz). More jazzers, John Mealing on keyboards, Terry Smith on guitar and Jim Richardson on bass with drummer Dennis Elliot completing the lineup. Somehow he went from this band to join Foreigner, playing on all their hit albums. He also played on the first two Ian Hunter solo albums and in the sixties was a member of The Ferris Wheel with Linda Lewis, bassist George Ford and guitarist Jim Cregan whose names are on records you either have or have sung along to if you were born at that special time.
So the albums went like this with this lineup: If 1 (1970), If 2 (1970), If 3 (1971). By the time of If 4/Waterfall (1972) it was live tracks and a transition, the lineup was changing and by Double Diamond (1973) only Dick Morrissey was left and from there to Tea Break Over, Back On Your Heads (1974) and Not Just Another Bunch Of Pretty Faces (1974) there were different members and the band was over.
The point with these albums is (and there’s no point singling one out over the others) that they are that lovely mixture of many things. For me, I like records that have songs but within those songs, there’s lots of instrumental passages, the songs are real and so is the music. I don’t have the very first If album (1970) but do have all the other seventies releases (the US version of If 4/Waterfall has some different tracks). What I love about music is how it seems to inspire or have absolutely no effect at all. It’s how I feel about Oasis and Dream Theater, bands that people love, two extremes of music styles that I generally like but not in the case of these two bands, I guess they don’t love my records either. If you’re interested, with Oasis it’s the music, the lyrics and the guitars and with Dream Theater it’s the music, the lyrics and the guitars.
So with If I would absolutely not recommend this band to you but it is a band I like that released eight albums in the seventies – for somebody. It’s like a band with no home and that might be its appeal to me but I can see how they would easily be disliked by all kinds of music lovers, and it’s not exactly that it’s specialised, it’s more that it’s brilliantly faceless. There’s no real point recommending Yes to a Clash fan unless they have a wide and special appreciation of different genres, different approaches and can listen to AC/DC and Ella Fitzgerald in the same sesh, so consequently, unless you like Angus Fitzgerald and Joe Wakeman stay clear, I just listen to all types of records, that’s all.
Song Of The Day is Forgotten Roads by If from Beat Club, Bremen, Germany 1971: