Well, the hottest news of today is Kamala Harris, despite ongoing wars, famine, nuclear threats, the street battles in Belarus, Lebanon, the plight of the Uyghurs, Yemen, Syria (notice how little you hear of Syria in the news these days), Hong Kong, imprisoned marijuana smokers, Burma, Tibet, Afghanistan, the whole of Africa, immigrants fleeing across the English channel, Venezuela, the Amazon, LGBT rights, Black Lives Matter, poverty, the lies of de Pfeffel, the lies of Blumpf, (sorry I’m out of touch about Australia), Israel and Palestine, Polish suppression of gay people, Erdogan, right-wing in Hungary, right-wing in Germany, right-wing in France, right-wing in Sweden, right-wing in the USA, right-wing in England, Farage, Patel, Raab, Gove, Rees-Mogg,Cumquat, Bannon, Billionaires, Moscow Mitch, Lindsey Graham, Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, William Barr, Joe Arpaio, Roger Stone, nurses’ wages, ok I’ll stop now. Great news today about Kamala Harris, she’s going to be busy.
A strange mood outside today but we sneaked out of the front door so the guards didn’t see us, seriously though, wearing a mask in a shop is not suppression of freedom. Wearing a mask in a shop whilst not wearing a mask in a pub is open to policy ridicule. I’ve encountered the rational and the irrational today. Thanks to Richard Cawley promoter for the Acorn Theatre for a sensible talk about the current state of the world and good luck with the awareness project as theatres and venues around the country light up asking to be allowed to open before they all die. How the maskless pubs with no distancing (from what I can see when I walk past Wetherspoons in Penzance) can be open but a place to sit and listen to music can’t, doesn’t make sense.
We walked down to the sea to lament the removal of the recycling bins, go to the supermarket and walk on the beach where we found beautiful green algae, a small dead crab, a bigger dead crab leg, limpet shells, periwinkle and oyster shells, strange stones, feathers. I’m not sure if I know my fucus serratus from my pelvetia canaliculata but there’s many different types of seaweed. The sea was so calm, the waves hardly dribbled onto the shore. The sun one minute would be lost behind the clouds seemingly for the rest of the day and then it would recover and looking upwards there were signs of blue and breakthrough, but then it started to rain, large drops and then smaller ones and then nothing. There’s a kind of silence, not that anybody has stopped making their usual noise but sound had become muted, deadened, as if we were suddenly living under a sky of rags and cotton wool.
The hoover was charged and Olivia approached it with a cagey expectation. It looks so modern, mind you everything does at first and then we look back and laugh. We are the laughing stock of the future and only occasionally can we have the vision to impress our unborn future ancestors who in turn will be mocked for their primitive ideas. I was on the phone to Andy from All About Eve, fixing the world but I heard Olivia in the hallway with the hum of machinery as she tested our latest purchase. It worked and looks more like a futuristic guitar than a hoover but then that’s only my oblivious lack of knowledge about what the Rickenbacker Hoover guitar of 2099 will actually look like and will it sound as good as this?
I missed the first half of the football between Wolves and Sevilla and again the underdog lost 1-0, this time in the 87th minute. They missed a penalty in the first half. There’s something about the established giant teams that takes them over the line and whatever that is it makes all the difference. There’s something similar that happens in music, those that get there and those that don’t, what’s the difference? It’s not just talent and skills, it’s not just image and the act. It seems that in music, luck and timing can make the difference and even though those elements exist in football too, they might only take you through one game, in music, one break might give you traction for years.
Music today had to continue in the direction of “the other Dave Stewart” because I like the journey so much. The continuation was inspired by the arrival of a vinyl reissue of Egg’s The Polite Force from Sweden, but before I get to the other Hatfield and the North albums I have (The Rotters Club and Afters) I felt like listening to his next project first. After he left Hatfield and the North he formed National Health with another keyboardist, Alan Gowen from Gilgamesh, that also included Hatfield and the North and Matching Mole guitarist Phil Miller. Initially, Bill Bruford played drums but Pip Pyle joined for the debut album. Thus, three Hatfield and the North members were back together in a band with a different name. Neil Murray joined on bass (Whitesnake anybody?) and Amanda Parsons sang the wordless vocals. They released their debut album of progressive instrumentals in the heart of the Punk Rock craze in 1977. It’s so good because they simply ignore the world around them continuing with their own special vision of what music is, exploratory, experimental, structured, erudite, eccentric, skilled, passionate, fashion-free nerdom.
The second album Of Queues And Cures (1978) replaces Neil Murray with Henry Cow legend John Greaves, Gowen is gone but there’s an array of guests. Musically it’s more of the same, instrumental jazzy, progressive, like an explorer meandering around a jungle and discovering exotic plants in the undergrowth. All the Progressive bands from the seventies do something that neo-prog just can’t do and I don’t know why. I think I blame technology and terrible lyricists, not like that’s an issue here, although one track has some vocals but the print on the CD is so small, I can’t read it.
Playtime, released in 2001, is live recordings from 1979. I just love how they continued on ignoring the musical climate but Stewart had gone complaining of the freer elements of the band instead favouring a more structured version. But then Alan Gowen returned and this new incarnation of the band with Greaves, Miller, Pyle and Gowen committed to European and then American shows. The first half of this album is recorded on April 27th at L’ouest De La Grosne, Bresse-Sur-Grosne, France and includes French guitarist Alain Eckert, the other half was recorded at The Main Point, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in the USA on December 1st 1979 as a four-piece. It’s different without Stewart in the band, a different approach to the keys, but it’s the same madness that had them deliver this kind of thing in that period of time.
The last album D.S. al Coda (1982) is in tribute to Alan Gowen with the original band exclusively performing Gowen’s material. Some tracks had been recorded with Gilgamesh, others played with National Health and others rehearsed but unheard by the public. Gowen died on May 17th 1981 of leukaemia. He was just 34 years old.
Song Of The Day – National Health, “The Collapso” on The Old Grey Whistle Test 1979 from their then current album Of Queues And Cures. Phil Miller (guitar), Dave Stewart (keyboards), John Greaves (bass) and Pip Pyle (drums). The real rebellion by the real Punks.