We were coming out of the studio today on the way to Dare’s house and as we were going out through the front door a man passing by said to another passing lady, “rain’s coming in” in a broad Cornish accent that sounded like he was transported here from 1632. There’s something about the West Country and the South Western accent that sounds old, like it hasn’t changed through the centuries. On the doorstep, someone had left a drink carton, who does that? Who leaves a beach and leaves their rubbish behind? The evening that exposes a deserted beach and the detritus, the shameless denial of responsibility. When I see rubbish on the streets I have the urge to pick it up. If we are on the way down to the recycling and I see a discarded can or bottle, I do actually sometimes pick it up and dispose of it properly. But then who knows what grubby little fingers have been wrapped around it, yuck.
Today down at the recycling there was a big sign that said they were removing the recycling bins for good. No other options for the studio recycling except to collect it and take it to a domestic house that has recycling collected. It’s probably because they are renovating the promenade, sprucing it up and getting rid of the ugly bins that are always full. But if they are always full, that means they are needed but it also means they need to empty them more often and if they did that then it wouldn’t look so messy. No brainer really.
The sea was still today, the clouds hung low in the sky and out in the bay there were three boats, one of which was some kind of sea faring schooner with the sails down – it also looked like it was from 1632. As I looked down into the water it was crystal clear, the tide had taken anything scummy to another beach today. The seagulls have to eat their plastic somewhere else. I couldn’t decide if it was warm or cold, if I put my shirt on whilst I was walking I was too hot, if I took it off I was chilly.
The tourists in the town must be so depressed as the Cornish weather does what we know it always does but they are at least by the sea – the cold chilling sea. They’ve escaped from the pandemic that frightens the cities, finally allowed to travel, they chose Cornwall, it looked so lovely in the brochures (do people look at holiday brochures anymore?). Cornwall is beautiful and historical and interesting and friendly and a wonderful place to visit, but don’t bank on the sun.
There’s also a charity bin down there by the sea where people can put clothes and videos and books for the charity shops but they also get full and people leave things outside the bins, then it rains. It’s so sad to see all these ruined donations lying on the concrete. People think they are doing a good deed leaving this stuff but if the bin is full they just can’t bring themselves to take these items back home and return when the bin is empty. They feel like they’ve generously donated so now it’s not their problem, someone else will clear it up. So you lose the donation and experience the attitude of someone who thinks that giving ends when convenience is compromised.
We went into the supermarket masked up and despite the hoo-hah, you didn’t feel like anyone was complaining but then you couldn’t see their faces (neither could the government) so you couldn’t tell. Out in the street, it’s a different story, most people are not wearing masks and it seems like the visitors have great faith in the lack of the virus down here. The Cornish wonder if they are bringing it, we’ll see.
Out of the supermarket we walked past what is considered the town’s best and most popular fish and chip shop, Fraser’s. There are at least three others I can think of in this small town but whichever place (no pun intended) we choose it’s a problem for me because they fry the chips in the same oil that they fry the fish so to me the chips taste of fish. There’s either no demand, no awareness or no vision when it comes to vegans, probably a mixture of all three.
We walked past one of the pubs that has been closed and inside there were quite a few people, all maskless, but de Pfeffel has decided that in gyms, pubs, restaurants and hair salons you don’t need a mask. The idea is that people will return to the shops if they feel it is safe. But it seems that people have no fear of going to the pub, they don’t need to reassure people to go there. One might imagine though that if it’s about risk of infection, the pub might be a hotspot once the alcohol hits the bloodstream.
We came up to the studio via an alleyway where a friendly cat begged us to pet it. So we did, lovely friendly animal. Behind us was a family, visitors, as we left the cat they walked in through the gate where the cat was on the wall. They completely ignored it, all of them. I guess some people aren’t cat people or even creature people. Which reminds me that the broccoli has lots of creatures in it at the moment, but it’s hard to pet a caterpillar.
Music today was Ten Years After and Stonedhenge (1969), it was the first album I heard by them and I heard it a lot because it was in our house as a lost family member had a collection of sixties records. Although the band is seen as a Blues-Rock band, this album, like Cream, comes from that strange genre we call Psychedelic Blues. The opening track Going To Try fits that description perfectly. Followed by I Can’t Live Without Lydia, suddenly it’s jazzy piano but with another slightly mad influence. Then it sounds like Mose Allison on Woman Trouble and Skoobly Oobly-Doobob is skatting. Hear Me Calling, one of their most famous songs covered by Slade is next. It’s classic sixties and features Alvin Lee’s famous lead guitar. This is the thing about great guitar players, they sound like themselves even though they are playing Blues. These days what might have been turned into the most generic of genres, Jimmy Page, Rory Gallagher, Roy Buchanan or Paul Kossoff even if they play in a traditional Blues style, you still know it’s them.
A Sad Song opens Side 2, restrained, soft, moody – the album is called Stonedhenge after all. Ric Lee’s Three Blind Mice is played on the drums and is an example of how they turned simplicity into an idea. No Title is another calm, soft piece. The finesse, you have to listen to this album on headphones so you don’t miss the dynamics, so you’re not distracted by the world and so you can allow the dynamics to penetrate and so you can hear Alvin Lee’s touch, Chick Churchill’s organ and Leo Lyons’ thudding bass. Then there’s what happens in the speakers, how they played around with the stereo.
The album, their second studio release, hit the stores in February 1969, Woodstock was in August 1969 and their famous performance turned them into superstars, Alvin Lee’s guitar playing dazzling the onlookers. The penultimate track is Faro, odd little ditty this one, like a children’s song with Leo Lyons’ bass and a cello, ending with a steam train travelling across the speakers, it was mesmerising as a kid. Last track, Speed Kills, sounds like John Mayall meets the Stones and has that unmistakable Alvin Lee sound and ending with the train abruptly colliding with a piano (not really).
Ssssh also released in 1969 was released in the same month as Woodstock, it was their new album and nobody at the festival would have heard it yet. But after the festival when they went looking for records by the bands they saw, the bands whose reputations had grown, they wouldn’t be disappointed. Opening with Bad Scene, uptempo Psychedelic Blues with Alvin Lee’s slick fast guitar, the fastest guitarist in the West. Two Time Mama sounds like it could be Canned Heat, another Woodstock favourite and played in that old American Blues tradition with slide guitar. Stoned Woman (haha perfect) is next, not much of a song but it’s about the vibe, the sound of the band, the soul is in the commitment to the style, not the songwriting skills. The well-known cover version Good Morning Little Schoolgirl written by Sonny Boy Williamson, also recorded by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and countless others is about as un-PC as it gets. At 7.10 it’s really a showcase for Alvin Lee’s soloing.
Side 2 opens with If You Should Love Me, it could be an Eric Burdon song and if you haven’t heard the post Animals Eric Burdon Psychedelic Blues journey then you are in for a treat although this track wears out its welcome pretty quickly. It’s one of those chord progressions that the musicians love going round and round on or did in those days. Followed by the oddly titled I Don’t Know That You Don’t Know My Name, acoustic and piano and tom-toms, short, melodic and a welcome respite from the eternal outro of the previous track. The Stomp sounds like ZZ Top would sound if it was then – and they had an organist. It’s taken directly from Muddy Waters style American Blues. These English bluesy bands loved those guys and owe them a huge debt, jamming on a groove which interpreted by lads from London had its own sound despite its roots. It continues into the final track, I Woke Up This Morning. It’s like they are moving further and further away from the Psychedelic influence of the day and going straight to the original Black Blues source. It must have sounded great in 1969.
Cricklewood Green (1970) saw Ten Years After enter into the seventies as a massive band. In the same Rock world as Grand Funk, this was the sound of now. It makes you realise how far ahead Led Zep were of these bands (Led Zep III came out in 1970). As Grand Funk got catchier, Ten Years After couldn’t shake the Blues roots off even when they got catchier and Led Zep got more interesting and inventive. This was still along the lines of Blues-Rock but with better songs, Sugar The Road, Working On The Road and 50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain, the band were firing. That Gibson 335 sound reminds me a bit of Gary Clark Jr and his Epiphone Casino sound. Year 3,000 Blues is that Stones idea of singing an ironic country song, it worked then and would have been a new style to an English audience.
Me And My Baby, easy, jazzy Soul Blues opens Side 2. You can imagine this band’s record collection, all-black Blues artists. But next comes the band’s biggest hit Love Like A Man in the album 7.13 version. The single was the first record to have different speeds on each side. An edited studio version of the song on Side 1 at 45RPM and a live version on Side 2 at 33RPM. It went to No. 10 in the UK chart. Circles is another acoustic track that showed another side of the band. It wasn’t all influences from the US Blues, this was more of a hippie track. The album finishes with As The Sun Still Burns Away, they always seemed to find some odd sound effects on their records and this track is no exception.
The second of two albums released in that year, Watt (1970), had a mind-expanding Psychedelic cover and when you opened it up to look inside the gatefold it was another mind-warping picture of the mixing desk and the band in Psychedelic red with droplets of turquoise – you need this record for the cover alone. The guitars have started to sound like he’s discovered some kind of sustain pedal on I’m Coming Home and My Baby Left Me and Chick Churchill has a new synthesizer. Think About The Times is Alvin Lee trying to write a proper song and it’s alright. At this point, a year after Woodstock, the band had four albums out in two years, a lot for Alvin Lee as leader, lead singer, main songwriter and star virtuoso guitarist to keep up. Add the touring in and the workload for him was huge. It would have been a great band to be the bass player. I Say Yeah finishes Side 1 in a flurry of groovy jamming, great.
Side 2 opens with the instrumental Western sounding The Band With No Name and what sounds like 6 string bass through a tremolo pedal. Gonna Run has that Mose Allison sound again (one day I’ll write something about him). From what I can see this album wasn’t thought of as one of their best because of the songwriting but that’s only part of the story. It’s a Blues band, it’s going to be samey, it’s going to concentrate on jams, solos and three-chord progressions, you don’t order a burger and damn it for not being sushi. She Lies In The Morning is the last of the original compositions and it sounds more like a sixties song than a seventies song but it is only just 1970. The song has a nice long instrumental journey to the end, how come I always like the albums the press doesn’t. The album finishes with Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen live, of course it does.
The next album was…
UK – 6
US – 61
UK – 4
US – 20
UK – 4
US – 14
UK – 5
US – 21
Alvin Lee RIP, 1944 – 2013.
Song Of The Day is Ten Years After at Woodstock, August 1969: