We walked out into a windy and rainy October day, the leaves were being blown so hard on the branches that you could only see their undersides. It was then that I realised something – wait a minute, there’s leaves? I looked at the calendar on my phone, it’s July.
It was one of those days where there was so much domestic stuff to do that by the time you added everything together the day was gone. Sometimes you have to battle to achieve something meaningful in a day – wrestling with the washing, fighting with the shopping, being kidnapped by the recycling, handcuffed to the cooker, slave to the washing up, hindered by the hoovering, swamped with the tidying up and that’s before you get to the emails, a quick look at the headlines and tea. Where’s the reading, the writing a song, studying the French, watching David Attenborough, having a joke with your friends, where does relaxing come in – blog only knows.
Olivia and I went up to Dare’s with our umbrellas but it was too windy to use them. Dare has written the letter to the council, let’s see what they say. When we left we walked through the rec at the top of town and down through the houses where we passed by the “Play Area”. Dystopian doesn’t really cover it. The area was so small and fenced off that there would hardly be room for a parent to push the kids on the swing. There was a black garbage bag hanging off the fence and I dread to think what was inside it. The swings themselves were held on the frame with thick rusty chains and the seats were black with dirt and covered in bird shit. You can’t really imagine a child seeing this as an exciting play area – “Mummy, mummy, can we go to the swings?” It would be more like “Mummy, I beg you please don’t take me to the swings”.
We were on our way to the leisure centre to see what the story was with getting back to regular exercise. It seems you get 50 minutes, pre-booked and no shower. For me as a swimmer that’s hopeless. So we still have to wait before the work on the body begins again in earnest. It was strange to even walk up there as it’s been so long. We came in the front way and left the back way passing by the football pitch that’s all overgrown like a scene from an apocalyptic movie, one end’s goalposts missing. You could just see the outline of the path that led to the shortcut through the trees and into the cul-de-sac on the other side. We passed by a couple leaning against a wall talking. The house next door had a huge Liverpool flag hanging out of the window and swinging in the wind. “Nice Liverpool flag mate,” I said, “Not mine,” he said and laughed. We carried on across the empty car park towards the street with the parcel office and picked up two packages, one a reissue of an extremely rare album, Cold Cuts by Nicholas Greenwood (1970) who played with Arthur Brown and Kahn, the other an original Island Records copy of the first If album (1970), scruffy cover but the album looks fine, hard to find.
After this, we headed down to take the recycling to the soon to be removed bins by the sea. The weather had cleared up and the sky was a luminescent blue with wisps of clouds. We ran into Roos from the Netherlands and her daughter and had a chat outside Morrab Gardens, a squirrel appeared and we found out that squirrel in Dutch is ‘eekhoorn’. As we said goodbye two people walked past with two of the cutest and fluffiest excitable little dogs you have ever seen, they were Havanese from Cuba (the dogs, not the people). Really lovely, licky, cuddly, sweet animals. We walked into the gardens and as we winded our way through the pathways we stopped, there was a very tame little bird hopping around in front of us pecking its way along the path. I think it may have been a Dunnock, one you might not usually recognise because it’s rather small and unnoticeable and sparrow-like but this one definitely had different habits which gave it away, apparently they date two males at the same time.
At the prom we ran into our friend and fellow Liverpool fan Eloha and also Mali, we chatted for a bit about Grateful Dead and recycling before we dropped off the plastic and tin and went down to the water. Olivia found a strange shrimp-like creature, I washed the recycling bag and took a picture of an orange fishing trawler with my zoom lens. The sky was such a lovely colour as it was getting later and we realised that the day was slowly disappearing. We walked along the sealine to the freshwater stream where I felt the water rush through my fingers before heading to the supermarket where we bought the usual supplies. On the way back we met friendly cats and walked past the house where you can see they have a four-poster bed and they have two cars where the reg is BAT, (inappropriately) talking of which I missed the cricket today.
But the day has gone and nothing happened of consequence, I didn’t write a song, read, go in the studio, have a session or solve any of the world’s problems but I did do French and we did watch Episode 3 of Humans but only because Olivia’s session with Noelle was postponed due to Canadian thunderstorms. Hopefully, tomorrow’s songwriting session with her won’t also be postponed by the angry gods.
Music today comes from the great Funk/Soul sensation Betty Davis (née Mabry) who was 74 yesterday. She seems to be off most people’s radar despite heavy friends and a slew of fantastic albums in the seventies. Possibly missed because she retired from the music business at the end of the seventies but like Annette Peacock, a lack of commercial success only creates a cult following despite the brilliance of the artist’s output. In 1968 she married Miles Davis, they were together for a year and she appears on the album cover for Filles De Kilimanjaro (1968). She is credited with introducing Davis to Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone and introducing Miles to a different generation of musicians, she was 19 years younger than him and woke him up to the ‘now’ of the sixties. She allegedly talked him into changing Witches Brew to Bitches Brew (1970) and her introductions to her friends led Miles on a different track that led to Jazz Fusion. (Since meeting him, Miles had always planned to record with Hendrix.)
Although she was initially a model she also wrote and had some singles, she wrote Uptown on The Chambers Brothers album The Time Has Come (1967) which reached No. 6 on the US charts. She eventually became the singer in her own band releasing three albums, the first with Greg Errico producing and playing drums (Sly And The Family Stone), Larry Graham playing bass (Sly And The Family Stone and Graham Central Station) and Neil Schon playing guitar (Santana and later Journey), Richard Kermode on keys (Janis Joplin’s Kozmic Blues Band/Malo/Santana), Merl Saunders (Jerry Garcia/Grateful Dead) and journeyman bassist Pete Sears.
She was allegedly wild, sexually provocative live, controversial, unbridled, passionate, strong and too much for the world. She was banned from TV, boycotted by religious organisations, smart and aware of the shortcomings of modelling. She dated Hugh Masekela, Eric Clapton and Robert Palmer, the latter helping her get a deal with Island Records that led to the major label release on her third album Nasty Gal.
Her first self-titled album (1973) is a Funk/Soul classic with the mind-boggling opening track If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up. This song sets the scene and I don’t really need to say much else about her, it speaks for itself. The album was released on Just Sunshine Records and I happily have an original copy but you can find nice reissues on Light In The Attic Records. The Pointer Sisters appear as does Disco star Sylvester and Merl Saunders on organ.
They Say I’m Different (1974) also on Just Sunshine (I have the original, yay) followed the debut in the same style, only Merl Saunders remained from the first album. It was produced by Betty and continues with classic Funk/Soul rhythms and grooves and her unmistakable melodic growling.
The third album Nasty Gal (1975, released on Island Records, I have it too) was a commercial failure. It is notable for having the song You And I co-written with Miles Davis and arranged by Gil Evans. Otherwise, it’s the same high powered Funk/Soul and it’s a mystery as to why it never took off except for the fact that she was ahead of her time, Carlos Santana said, “She was the first Madonna, but Madonna is more like Marie Osmond compared to Betty Davis. Betty was a real ferocious Black Panther woman”. There was a second Island album recorded in 1976 that was never released until Light In The Attic uncovered Is It Love Or Desire? (released in 2009).
In 2014 Light In The Attic uncovered unreleased material, The Columbia Years 1968-1969. It features Herbie Hancock, Billy Cox, John McLaughlin, Harvey Brooks, Mitch Mitchell, Wayne Shorter and Larry Young with arrangements by Miles Davis and yet somehow it took 50 years to be released or rather no one saw her potential, it’s demos and these famous friends weren’t just there for fun, but still, no one at the label had a vision – except her. Hear her singing Cream’s Politician – it is kinda rough generally, not quite realised and this band isn’t on every track but for a fan it’s essential. I also discovered that Politician isn’t on the album or the CD but is streamed on Spotify with different cover art – go figure.
In 2017 a documentary film was made about her, They Say I’m Different (I just ordered it and should have it by Thursday).
Song Of The Day is If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up from Betty Davis’ self-titled debut album released in 1973 on Just Sunshine Records.
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