I was sitting here talking to Arno in France, we were doing an interview for a French magazine when a large rumbling thunderstorm came in like Lemmy at a yoga retreat and rattled the window frame and rained onto the inside of the window ledge. You rarely hear thunder down here in Penzance, it must be something to do with the sea on both sides of the land or some meteorological reason, so it was thrilling to hear it today. I remember as a kid watching thunderstorms come in with my dad from the front of our house, getting excited by the lightning and counting before the rumble. We had a birds-eye view and we could watch the storm crawl across the sky slowly eating up the pre-storm calm and freaking out the pets and the wild birds that fell silent and hid. There was fork lightning and sheet lightning, the whole sky would light up with the sheet lightning but it was the fork lightning that caused the most excitement as its vicious fingers zapped the land and occasionally an unlucky creature. There were different kinds of thunder too, there was a slow low rumbling but there was also a frightening thunderclap that scared you to death even if you were ready for it. The rain started as small drops and then it began to pour down until it became torrential and then disappeared as the storm moved on across the land. It was sad to see it go despite how scary it was, you always felt safe like you were watching a drama unfold that couldn’t touch you, like watching a wild animal in a zoo that can’t eat you because you’re on the other side of the glass.
We started with the mad archive tidying, sorting, cleaning, fixing today. It’s a massive job and little seems to have been achieved even though we’ve spent lots of time sorting all kinds of things out. It’s a dusty old world in vinyl land and everything needs to be wiped and everything you move exposes a spot that needs cleaning. You have to move everything out to put it back because you need the space to sort things out. So everything’s in the live room, in the studio control room and in the corridor. Dare came down with our mate Hud who is visiting from London and they dropped in to see us today and the place looked like an earthquake had hit – chaos before clarity, that’s how it is, it’s hard to clean and clear up without making more of a mess.
I still didn’t find that missing Atomic Rooster album and Olivia sorted all kinds of records into alphabetical order, but still no Atomic Rooster. I once bought a book at a second-hand store and when I opened it there was £20 between the pages, somebody had put it there in a safe place years ago and forgotten about it (which reminds me I owe Dare £20 for the echo pedal repair). I bought a record in Texas last time I was there and when I got back to the house and pulled the record out of the sleeve there was an old flattened bag of grass in there. It was a quite unknown record from the sixties (not valuable, just forgotten) and it seemed like the bag had been in there since then. Imagine if I hadn’t checked and taken it through customs and they’d stopped me, searched me and found it. As if they would have believed my story.
In the news, Steve Bannon got arrested, Flamper endorsed a woman running for a position on behalf of the party that is banned from FB, Twitter, everywhere for openly calling Islam a “cancer on society” and various other racist comments. Nice. The Democrat convention continues with a powerful speech from Obama and I guess RNC will do their best to suggest everything anybody said was worthless. Am I mad or do I live in a world where you can agree with people about some things they say even if you generally don’t agree with them? Still, hate trumps everything. Then there’s the Russian opposition leader, what’s going on in the world when you can’t oppose something without the risk that your cup of tea might be poisoned?
Last but not least I was talking to Arno in France and I had to stop so I could get my French lesson in before midnight. How stoopid is that?
Music today found Bill Fay’s comeback record Life Is People (2012) which was his first album of new material since Time Of The Last Persecution released in 1971, that’s 41 years. What happened? We’ve been through this before with Emitt Rhodes and Bill Withers who simply walked away from music and of course Mark Hollis – all of whom have died recently. Thankfully Bill Fay is still alive and has released two more albums since Life Is People – Who Is The Sender? (2015) and Countless Days (2020). He is a singer-songwriter and a pianist and I haven’t found much information as to why he disappeared except to say that in his own mind he was gone. Only a resurgence in interest, him achieving a cult status and other artists recording his songs have brought him back from the dead – now please don’t die again. Marc Almond, Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, Okkervil River, The War On Drugs, pianist Robert Howard, A.C. Newman and Current 93 have all recorded his songs.
So what’s he like, well, he’s mellow, lyrical and missing from your record collection. But you may want to go way back before Life Is People and listen to his self-titled debut from 1970. He reminds me of Northern Irish singer David McWilliams which explains the Marc Almond connection (he covered McWilliams’ The Days Of Pearly Spencer). It’s some kind of Progressive Pop Folk with orchestra, wait till you hear The Sun Is Bored!
It was actually three years before that he released the debut single Some Good Advice backed with Scream In The Ears, a nice slice of 1967 and the Psychedelic period, you need the CD of this album just for these two songs. So I have those first two albums on one CD with the bonus single tracks. Sadly, after (the less orchestrated) Time Of The Last Persecution (1971) failed to sell he was dropped from Deram and that was that. But there is one more album, Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow which was released in 2005 and contains unreleased late seventies recordings.
It seems that Bill Fay lost faith, lost confidence and when he was dropped by Deram in 1971 he just presumed it was all over and he moved on to another life. Well, he’s back with three new albums in the last eight years and whether you start with the later ones or the earlier ones you are definitely going to find something worthy and something thoughtful from a resurrected man.
Song Of The Day is Bill Fay live on Later 2012: