Today I walked past the fairground up on the Princess May recreation ground opposite Dare’s house. After years and years of coming to Penzance, having the archive here and working on lots of different albums here, it was only today that I saw the sign that told me that the rec had a name, it’s the first time I’ve noticed it, maybe I don’t look up enough? I always thought of myself as being observant and the sign had obviously been there for a very long time so I immediately thought, “What else haven’t I noticed?”. And then I thought perhaps the problem with humans is that so many of us are just oblivious. And then I thought but there’s so many people who believe things that might not be true and that’s just not helpful. And then I thought perhaps it’s better to be oblivious and not observant because the truth seems so amorphous and one’s certain truth isn’t another’s, you know like gods and the moon landing or morality itself.
We are victims of our upbringings, our influences, what has been injected into us or banged into us, it’s hard to shake it off. I had a theory the other day, what if parents or the government weren’t allowed to show their children anything at all, if education was learned from natural instinct to do the right thing. There’d still be school and education, the teaching of what would be considered known or presumed facts (yeah, I know I, haven’t really thought this through). Would this mean people would not want to know things if they weren’t forced to be educated? In some parts of the world education is not a given, it all comes from the parents. Do humans really have to be told what is wrong, to know it’s wrong? Without guidance would we be marauding bands of killers? Is it just Mummy saying don’t do that dear, it’s wrong, that stops us from turning into murderers? Or would we all just know without any influence that it was right to love, have empathy, and help and support each other? Can society work without a hierarchy? Must there be rich and poor, those that employ workers and those that work for employers or is it just a tradition? Who would build the roads without labourers, who would cure disease without doctors? Are we doomed to a system that mostly doesn’t work for most people whilst working pretty well for a small minority – that’s all of us in the western world (although a lot of us don’t seem to know it). It might work for happy country folk too, people who live on beautiful islands and live off the land. But what about the ones in between, the people in Nigeria and Bangladesh and Somalia, how can this world ever work for them?
The fairground today was dead. I walked past it at 2.30PM, one and a half hours before it was due to open. There were a couple of workers fixing things, one man had a tangle of wires sprouting out of the bottom of the cab of a big transport truck. Another looked busy although I couldn’t see that he was actually doing anything (that’s a skill in itself). I could see the back of the ghost train, a skull stencilled onto the metal sheet at the back of the ride. I could also see what was supposed to be a scary figure, black-draped with a plastic mask, the costume probably held on with a broom handle and although I couldn’t see them I imagined that the bobbing horses on the carousel with their glazed dead stare might be more discomforting.
In the town, the streets are still full of tourists and it’s warmed up a bit so they have a chance to rescue their holiday from the storms. I picked up my pasty earlier than usual from the bakers, they are always shocked to see me early. The other day in the greengrocers one of the men that work there, said to me, “You’re late today”. I said, “You notice when I’m here?”. He said, “Like clockwork”. I said, ‘You like The Boomtown Rats?’ (just kidding). I’d been getting there at 3PM every day because the bakers closed at 3PM and I went to the greengrocers next. I didn’t realise I actually had a routine, but I suppose the blog, the French, the music, it’s all a routine. I need to change my routine – don’t we all. We need to do something different, that’s why the tourists are here escaping the routine. It’s why Ronaldo left Real Madrid, even famous millionaires, people that can do anything they want, need to break the routine. Maybe they should try breaking the routine of being rich and slum it for a while, they might like it.
Today I was in the studio all day working on two projects, Ahad and Jerome. Ironically Dare started trying to find the sound of a fairground, a calliope, a barrel organ, something joyous, circus-like. After that, I sang lead vocals on my project with Jerome Froese, perhaps that in itself (singing) is not very Tangerine Dream-like but it’s what we both bring that makes it interesting. I wrote a third verse and it came out well. After that, we started working on guitars on another Ahad song and that took us through till dinner time and here we are.
Music today comes from a record that arrived the day before yesterday by German singer and actress Sibylle Baier. Colour Green was recorded at home on a reel to reel tape recorder with just voice and guitar, between 1970 and 1973 (although the last track has more instrumentation). She appeared in director Wim Wenders’ film Alice In The Cities in 1974 but ended up not following a career in the arts, moved to America, got married and concentrated on bringing up her family. It’s a lovely album of softly sung self-written folky songs, with understated guitars. You’d never believe that English wasn’t her first language but then again I have Olivia. The songs were compiled onto a CD by her son Robbie and that disc found its way to Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis who in turn passed it on to Orange Twin Records, who released it on vinyl in 2006. In 2008 she appeared in another Wim Wenders film, Palermo’s Shooting, and wrote two more songs, one of which was released in the same year and used in the film.
How can you follow an album like this, easy, let’s listen to Nick Drake’s Mum. This is also recorded at home by her husband and Nick Drake’s father Rodney. It has Molly Drake writing the songs, singing and playing piano. Molly Drake, like her son Nick, was born in Rangoon, Burma, in 1915 and the songs reflect a person’s musical taste from that era, “heavy-hearted” as Wikipedia calls it, I call it ‘yearning’.
In 2017 the North East’s finest, The Unthanks’ sisters Becky and Rachel, recorded an album of Molly Drake’s songs and poems with the poems read by her daughter and Nick Drake’s sister Gabrielle. The album includes Adrian McNally on piano, Chris Price on bass and guitar and Niopha Keegan on violin and viola with all three also contributing vocals. McNally also manages the band and is the ex-husband of Rachel, they have two sons. Gabrielle Drake was born in Lahore, British India, in 1944 and is now 76 years old, just a year younger than her mother when she died. Gabrielle was in lots of your favourite TV shows in the sixties and seventies including The Avengers, The Champions, and with purple hair and silver suit as Lieutenant Gay Ellis in the 1970 Science Fiction series UFO. She also had a long stage career and was in many films, including There’s A Girl In My Soup with Peter Sellers.
Having been as big a Nick Drake nut as anybody, a nerd-like visit to the family home and Nick Drake’s grave in Tanworth-in-Arden in 2019 made for reflection at the loss of this great talent at the tender age of 26.
Song Of The Daze
The Unthanks – Do You Ever Remember (Molly Drake), 2017
Featuring archive Super 8 film of Molly Drake with her children, Gabrielle and Nick Drake, some of which has never been seen before (except at live performances by The Unthanks). It is thought that it was recorded by a professional film enthusiast friend, probably not by Molly’s husband Rodney (who did record her songs), and it centres around Nick Drake’s christening at 3 years old.
Do You Ever Remember is taken from The Unthanks album Diversions Vol. 4 – The Songs And Poems Of Molly Drake, which can be ordered from www.the-unthanks.com
Super 8 film digitally transferred by Gavin Bush, edited by Paul Fitzgerald, Cally and Adrian McNally.