Post 200 (and 233 counting the ones I started on the road in January). I told myself today, you must start sorting the boxes of records out! It didn’t happen, I went out to pasty land, fuse land, Mojo land and found myself in record shop land. There’s a new store here in Penzance, Steve the owner has a shop in Newquay that I’ve been to but he decided to open a little place here too. It’s great if you live in Penzance, go and investigate – it’s in Arcade Passage. So chatting to Steve had me lose all track of time plus I had two sessions today with Ava in Minneapolis and Stefan in Hildesheim in Germany, two rapidly progressing sessioneers (so cool to see). So the day was already done before it started and I didn’t get to sort one record. I did manage to check emails and found five that I have to reply to last week! Oh my, the world is so different to how it used to be, not only time management but how could anybody be bored? There is so much available to stimulate mainly due to the internet. Of course, stimulation was only a book or a record or a walk away before but now there’s those things – and everything else in the world, all available for you 24/7 without taking a step outside your bedroom, you just have to wade through the crap, the trick – stay on the path.
In town today, I bought a couple of second-hand CDs in one of the charity shops, Guillemots, Marillion singles collection, Epica, all quite different things. I bought Shindig and Mojo magazine. Mojo had The Beatles on the cover. They were a band from the sixties that split up 50 years ago but despite there being so many great bands around unless you put The Beatles or legendary equivalent on the cover of that particular magazine, it won’t sell. It’s the age group but the magazine had a free CD with contemporary American singer-songwriters and the CD cover featured my current fave, Phoebe Bridgers. It’s sad to think that despite how great her albums are, if you put her on the cover, the magazine would sell substantially less.
Although I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the NME’s excoriating reviews of bands they didn’t like and excessive fawning towards the ones they did, one had to admire a magazine that put an unknown band on the cover. But in those days, the magazine had the power to influence and when America saw say, The Slits or The Fall on the cover, there was interest from the American underground who were looking at the UK’s underground. One presumes that the NME made Punk. So in fact what’s happening is that an older generation that grew up on the sixties and the seventies will buy a magazine with bands they remember from their youth but have little interest in something they would like that’s new. Who could possibly not love Laura Marling if their favourite artists were singer-songwriters of the sixties and seventies? But see how many copies Mojo sells if you put her on the cover. Younger people have learned to love The Who, Kraftwerk and, yes, The Beatles, it’s about time older people learned to love Phoebe Bridgers, Laura Marling, Aldous Harding, James Blake, FKA Twigs, Jonathan Wilson, Flying Lotus, Bright Eyes, and stop thinking that all young people do is listen to meaningless shiny Pop, music with bleeps and nasty sexist Hip Hop. The equivalent existed in your day but you probably liked it, I know I could dig Led Zep and T.Rex simultaneously. They might have been seen as quite different in those days but time has brought them much much closer. There is so much great contemporary music out there, you gotta dig like you did then.
Music today took a heavy turn but only in the context of 1969. It’s still pretty heavy but when you listen to heavy music of the modern era Led Zeppelin sounds closer to Frank Sinatra than they do to the nastiest Death Metal. Grand Funk Railroad were a power trio and they released their debut On Time in 1969 and like Uriah Heep were panned by the critics and despised by the hip, but for all the bludgeoning and the negativity and all the bludgeoning by the band on their instruments I heard power, melody, peacekeeping lyrics and a sound, just a great sound. Also characterful players, Don Brewer on the drums, Mel Schacher on bass and Mark Farner on lead vocals, guitars, occasional piano and harmonica. It’s Blues-based (of course) but it’s energy-filled, garage band Rock that translated into stadiums. Perhaps best described by my friend, wordsmith and critic David Fricke in this piece from Rolling Stone published in 2003.
Because David’s review was stretching beyond On Time, I’m sticking with them tonight. If you haven’t heard the second album released on December 29th 1969 and strangely titled Grand Funk (the red album), ooh are you in for a treat! This is why you need to own a stereo, a proper stereo system. Are you seriously listening to Rock music on computer speakers, or heaven forbid your phone or even earphones? Agggghhhh! You need proper speakers with spread and bottom end and a couch and a proper stereo amp that can give you volume. And guess what, all the music you like, all the genres, sound better, really. What are you waiting for? Every new technological device is nothing compared to a proper stereo. Otherwise, your music player is like owning a Bentley with no seats.
The third album, Closer To Home (1970), is where I discovered Grand Funk Railroad for the first time. Somewhere in Liverpool in the seventies or in Birkenhead in a second-hand record store, possibly Skeleton Records which is still there, or in Probe in Liverpool which is also still there, like Skeleton in a different location. That first track, Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother (what a title)! It was one of the first big Rock riffs I ever learnt to play. It was very exciting to get to America and pick up a copy with the original gatefold sleeve. You either love or hate this kind of music but really we don’t need to know about intense dislike do we, don’t we just move on to what we do like and ignore what we don’t, that’s what I couldn’t understand about the NME, the destruction of people on the way to what they liked.
The last album tonight is Survival (1971), same kind of thing as Closer To Home, there’s a rousing version of Gimme Shelter that I suppose Stones fans would think was sacrilege, but the bass on it is amazing! There’s also a cover of Dave Mason’s Feelin’ Alright. A double live album separated these two releases. When I got to America, I found an original copy with the three original photographs, haha, exciting stuff! So if you are feeling like some early seventies Rock that nobody liked except for me, David Fricke and the people, here it is.
Song Of The Daze
Grand Funk Railroad – Into The Sun, 1970 (make sure you get to 6.20):