There have been some lovely trips through Morrab Gardens in recent days where there have been squirrels galore, exotic plants and trees and all kinds of VW campervans. Apparently they grow in warm damp places and you can see miniature versions of them driving around the flowerbeds. Some of them have grown into full-fledged vehicles and I have taken pictures of them whenever I can. Some are old and healthy and some have seen better days but they endure. People love them, sadly more than pigeons which are also worthy creatures from the gardens.
The squirrels too are incredible creatures that run up and down tree trunks at great speed and fly through the air jumping from tree to tree but they get a bad rap because they are not indigenous, they were introduced into England around 1870. Some people treat foreigners badly too because they are not originally from here, weird. Red squirrels do still exist in the British Isles but in far lesser numbers. One reason for this is that the grey squirrels carry a virus (Parapoxvirus) that kills red squirrels but not them, after some of the reports I’ve been reading about the pandemic this might be similar to the situation with the older and younger humans. Hopefully, this won’t make the older humans an endangered species like the red squirrel. Also unlike the situation with red and grey squirrels, an influx of different cultures make a country better, richer. What would the lager louts do without late-night Indian restaurants?
There’s a balance of things and in Australia, the rabbit arrived in 1788 and over time bred so prolifically that they became an official pest that decimates crops and threatens other species, kind of like fascists. One hopefully doesn’t go for the cliché of the survival of the fittest in a civilised society. We protect our sick and try to help them get the best out of life. But yesterday I saw a magpie on a wall eating a rather large green squirming caterpillar and thought about the violent world of the animal kingdom and realised it also includes us.
Germany has become a friend, I have a German wife. They gave us the VW Kombi in 1950, officially called ‘Type 2’ as the VW Beetle was ‘Type 1’. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and whenever I see one I get a euphoric feeling. They stand for something to do with freedom, a hippie lifestyle, a cheap convenience on the road, an opportunity. They come in different colours like people and like all vehicles and people some are good and some are bad. It’s hard to stand behind the idea that green VW Kombis are bad and red ones are good but some humans try to do that with people when we all know that it’s not what’s outside the Kombi that makes it a good or bad vehicle it’s what’s inside, mostly under the hood, under the bonnet, where the brains are, where the heart beats. You can’t judge the worth of it by just looking at it although there’s definitely some really good looking bad eggs out there. I don’t eat eggs unless they are carab, I rarely see a carab-coloured VW Kombi.
On another subject, what was it with the bands in the seventies that were against bootlegs? Fans have bought everything the band released anyway. So there’s quality control and the idea that someone else shouldn’t be making money out of your talent but you get something else on a bootleg apart from bad quality, something crucial that the band might not generally let go. I have a Roxy Music bootleg called Champagne And Novacaine that I love. I have some Gentle Giant, Dylan, Aerosmith, Led Zep, Todd Rundgren, CAN, Stones, Floyd, but then I also have every album that all those bands made – many times over. These days with the internet and mobile phones there’s so much crappy live footage that it seems as if the interesting bootleg has gone. Of course you can download lots of things on all kinds of sites but in the olden days there was also the artwork and like everything when there’s too much of it, it’s not interesting anymore – I hope you don’t think that about the blog!
Music today says farewell to ex UFO bassist Pete Way who has died. He’s the third member of UFO to die in 18 months. In the seventies, before Metal became what it is today, it was just Rock music and I like it. Whether it was Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath or what they called NWOBH (New Wave of British Heavy Metal like Def Leppard or UFO), it still just sounded like Rock music to me, like Thin Lizzy did or AC/DC did with Bon Scott. Then something happened and it became Metal. I’m not sure how or when it happened. I saw Judas Priest on what must have been their debut British tour at the St George Hall in Liverpool supporting Budgie (believe it or not). It was weird because the singer had short hair! At this point, they were just a Rock band but at some point, they became a Metal band. I never followed Iron Maiden in the seventies Rock days but it seems that along with Judas Priest they became two of the most successful bands of the Heavy Metal genre. Def Leppard became catchy but UFO remained a Rock band and there’s one or two albums by them that I really liked probably because Metal as such wasn’t their thing.
The first album I liked was Lights Out (1977), it featured Michael Schenker on guitar and really that’s what it was all about for me, his playing. Great tone, great solos. The songs were catchy, and it didn’t have that sound of a juggernaut crashing into planets. On this album there was a cover of Love’s Alone Again Or, it was just a Rock band but when you consider their choice of cover versions they had a varied taste in music. The lyrics weren’t exactly Shakespeare and the chords weren’t exactly Thelonious Monk but they had real songs. The band on this album was Schenker, Phil Mogg on vocals, Andy Parker on drums, Paul Raymond on keys and guitar and Pete Way on bass. Paul Raymond died of a heart attack on April 13th 2019 (guitarist Paul Chapman who replaced Schenker in the band, died on 9th June 2020). Pete Way died on August 14th after complications from a serious accident he had at home. I don’t know what the accident was but after all the dangers of being in a band, he died due to an accident at home. RIP Pete, condolences to friends and family.
Their next album, Obsession (1978), was more of the same, same band members and more great guitar from Michael Schenker and more of what I guess they call Pop Metal but it’s not really Metal, maybe they call it Hard Rock but by today’s standards it’s not hard at all. The guitars solo aren’t silly fast, they’re tastefully fast when they need to be but not fast all the time. There’s a clue as to why Schenker’s guitar sounds like it does apart from the Gibson Flying V he is playing (with no effects), here’s the article.
Strangers In The Night (1979), a double live album, was Schenker’s last album with the band (there was a very short reunion much later). All your favourite Rock guitarists cite this album as one of their favourites. It sounds well-recorded but you never know with these seventies live albums, how much of it is overdubs? Apparently Schenker refused to do any overdubs. But the inside stories we could tell about some of those ‘live’ albums from the seventies like Thin Lizzy’s Live And Dangerous for example…I always admired Jimmy Page because he never considered for a moment that there should be another guitarist to help him with the difficulties of playing live when the studio versions had multiple guitar overdubs, he just made it work.
Last album tonight is the earlier UFO album Phenomenon (1974) that I don’t know as well as the other two studio albums but it’s 19-year-old Michael Schenker’s first album with the band, produced by Leo Lyons from Ten Years After. By the way, there’s 22 studio albums, 14 live recordings, 16 compilation albums and one album of cover songs but the reason I picked Phenomenon isn’t just because Michael Schenker is playing on it, he also plays on Force It (1975) and No Heavy Petting (1976). It’s because of the cover art, designed by Hipgnosis as many of the great album covers of the seventies were. One last thing, UFO formed in 1969 and started as a Space Rock band with guitarist Mick Bolton, if all this is too Rock for you, go visit them in their earlier incarnation in another galaxy.
Songs Of The Daze
Simpler times – Don Kirshner’s Rock concert 1974:
Live At The Roundhouse 1976 and 1977: