Today I woke up thinking about yesterday’s post and the fragility of humans. I was thinking about babies and how helpless they are in comparison with animals. The other week I was talking about the seagull chicks, now they are flying around. Then there’s foals, they are able to stand one hour after they are born. If a baby did that you’d freak out! It’s the ultimate evolutionary proof of the nanny state argument. Despite this, I’m all for a universal income and free health care. Then there’s mental fragility which begs the question do animals get depressed? I’m sure there’s the possibility of madness for all creatures as that chemical mix can go very wrong but are there suicidal ants or vicious pigeons, insane butterflies and mellow tigers? One probably can’t blame upbringing on a lazy trout and one wonders if monkeys have favourite offspring? Down on the prom those now quite large, squeaking and flying seagull chicks surely hassle the patience out of the parents as they expect to be fed. An ornithologist would know this but there must be a time when they learn to fend for themselves but does a bird remember its parents after that transition? Food for thought.
Dare and I were in the studio today on the Ahad project, working on a new track. Bass and drums done, figuring out the guitars. I started with acoustic today and I was worried that the two cuts on both my thumbs might hinder my playing but soon discovered that there was only a mild irritation and discomfort and I don’t know about other guitarists but the pad of my thumb isn’t really in play. But still, exercising a skill with your fingers when there’s damage isn’t the most ideal situation. It proved not to be a problem and I wonder more about the onset of other debilitating problems as one gets older. Peter Frampton was about to embark on his last tour before the pandemic because he has a progressive muscle disorder. Can you imagine being able to play an instrument your whole life and then your body won’t let you do it anymore, terrible.
So today my guitarist hands are still up to it and after the acoustic, I was onto the Strat, the wah-wah and then the Rickenbacker 12 string. Playing accurate arpeggios with no fluffs on a guitar with 12 strings and a very thin neck is a skill in itself. When you look at my hands and then the guitar neck it seems like it isn’t going to work and a lot of guitarists don’t play a guitar like this for this very reason. Well, I have a friend called Percy Vere and he taught me that you can do it. I also think there’s a style involved that the guitar suggests that you either like it or you don’t, in my case I started playing the 12 string guitar in different ways, not only sweet arpeggios but also fast fuzzy solos and heavy chords with quick frantic rhythms. You just have to find your own thing, someone has to play the tuba.
I suppose that people have a flair for certain things. I like to think I have a flair for languages and with some study and discipline, I could be fluent in a few. Starting with the study and discipline angle might have been more helpful at 16 rather than 60 but we do what we must. I’m amazed at Olivia’s Dad and how he can just fix things, I can’t do that. How can you be good at being a doctor or a dentist? How do dentists practice? Who are their victims? Some people seem to be good drivers and others terrible drivers. It’s frightening to think that this might also apply to commercial pilots. Then there’s cooks, athletes, architects, what skills exactly do politicians have?
As it’s been hot in the studio I cleaned the fan and it made a big difference to the airflow but I cleaned the metal cover in the sink and all the collected dust washed down the sink and blocked it so Olivia had to unscrew the pipe under the sink and de-gunk it. Horrible jobs, we are so lucky here in music land but then we also suffer pain! Haha, really we do. The reason I mention this is because Olivia went to the laundromat today where she’s got to know the owner and he told her that he was one of the people who has to remove the bodies in accident sites. It’s unbelievable what some people do in life. When we’re lucky, do we know?
Music today is first by the band people thought were The Beatles incognito but weren’t! Klaatu were initially two Canadians, John Woloschuk (lead vocal, keys, bass, acoustic guitar, percussion) and Dee Long (electric guitar, keys) and joined by Terry Draper on the drums. They are a strange mixture of The Beatles meets Queen at a children’s party with machines that occasionally go ping. Most famous for the song Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft which is better known as covered by The Carpenters. A rumour was started that it was actually a secret Beatles reunion based on various hazy clues that included the fact that the album had no credits, they were on Capitol Records, they had a Beatlesque sound and Ringo had appeared as Klaatu from sci-fi film The Day The Earth Stood Still on the cover of his Goodnight Vienna album. All this made the album sell much better than it would have done. There are certainly some great moments but also some dodgy ones. The album is some kind of Progressive Pop, a symphonic catchiness pervades. They went on to make 5 albums between 1976 and 1981 but the main one is their first, 3:47 EST, named after the time Klaatu arrives from outer space in Washington DC. Worth a listen.
Gryphon released their first album on Transatlantic Records in 1973 with its striking cover and odd blend of Medieval, Renaissance, Progressive, and Folk – a unique combination. Two members, Richard Harvey and Brian Gulland, graduated from the Royal College of Music in London playing all kinds of strange instruments such as the crumhorn, the trombone, the bassoon, the recorder, the mandolin and keyboards. They were joined by guitarist Graeme Taylor and drummer Dave Oberlé who became the lead singer. They were once described as Henry VIII in a R’n’R band. Sounds terrible but I’m a big fan and have all their records of which they made five between 1973 and 1977 and one in 2016. When they split up in 1977 Harvey and their third seventies bass player Jonathan Davie formed Punk Rock group The Banned which was a long way from the original Gryphon being hired to write the music from Shakespeare’s The Tempest for a production at The National Theatre – those intellectuals are so unpredictable.
The prolific Steven Wilson has managed success beyond his wildest dreams and even beyond the wildest dreams of people that like the kind of music that he makes. But apart from that mega story, he is also a respected engineer and remix guru of classic albums from the Prog era (and XTC). So when we heard about Three Piece Suite, remixes of the first three Gentle Giant albums, we here in Prog land were overjoyed. Problem is that most of the master tapes are lost so what we got was nine tracks from the first three albums, Gentle Giant, Acquiring The Taste, and Three Friends. These first three albums starred the three Shulman brothers Derek, Ray and Phil on a million instruments and vocals, Kerry Minnear on keys and cello and Gary Green on guitar with Martin Smith on drums for the first two replaced by Malcolm Mortimore on Three Friends. If you are trying to find your way into the world of Gentle Giant I generally advise people to start with Octopus because that’s where I started, going forwards and backwards accordingly. But this might be a good place to start if you’d like to investigate a spruced-up version of tracks from those first three gems. For me, calling myself a mega fan doesn’t really cover it, I can’t believe I never saw them live back in the day. How did I miss them? They were there in Liverpool, I was there, I must have been broke or in trouble.
Last but not least today the madmen that formed Hatfield And The North made this fantastic complex, tricky and beautiful debut album in 1974. Dave Stewart on keys, Richard Sinclair on bass and vocals, Phil Miller on guitar and Pip Pyle on drums with guests, one of which is that great man, Robert Wyatt. The Canterbury Scene claims responsibility for music like this and you can thank Soft Machine, Matching Mole, Caravan, Gong, Steve Hillage and I shall never tire of it. I’ll never forget the day when I saw the sign at the beginning of the Motorway M1 in North London that inspired the name.
Songs Of The Daze
Gryphon play the 3rd Movement of Midnight Mushrumps at The Union Chapel on Friday 29th May 2015:
Gentle Giant – The BBC Sight & Sound concert, Golders Green Hippodrome, London, January 5th 1978. A Progressive Rock band fighting Punk and holding their own:
1. Two Weeks In Spain 0:22
2. Free Hand 3:33
3. On Reflection 11:10
4. I’m Turning Around 16:57
5. Just The Same 21:06
6. Playing the Game 26:03
7. Memories Of Old Days 30:50
8. Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It 38:14
9. JP Weathers presents 40:53
10. Funny Ways 42:40
11. For Nobody 51:23
12. Mountain Time 56:00
Hatfield And The North – Live At Rainbow Theatre, 1975 (Rock Masters, Japanese TV).
MC: Seisoku Ito (Masa-Ito)
Richard Sinclair (b, vo)
David Stewart (kbd)
Pip Pyle (br)
Phil Miller (g)
2. The Yes No Interlude
3. Fitter Stoke Has a Bath
4. Didn’t Matter Anyway
Carpenters – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft taken from their 1978 television special Space Encounters: