Today looked like it had been painted, preened, polished and delivered by the gods. It was perfect. The sky was blue, the temperature was 59 degrees and the wind was blowing hard enough to softly bend the trees. It was warm enough to walk to the leisure centre without a jacket and as usual in these circumstances, there were no birds. People walking in the streets were overly dressed, confused by the wind and unconvinced by the colour of the sky. It was a wind that blew through you, got hold of your hair, banged against your cheeks, watered your eyes. It was a fresh blast, a last gasp of warmth from a secret place, a holdout. It thwarted the encroaching arctic chill. It reminded us that the winter was imminent but not forever.
In the glade, I noticed that a lot of the leaves on the ground weren’t brown, they weren’t twisted and crumpled, there were fresh green leaves lying on the ground as well. They had left the tree before dying as if they had been snapped off the branches by an invisible hand. They covered the pathway, a green and brown carpet like grandma’s house and lay loose upon the hand made steps. At the bottom on the other side, as I exited the glade, the path was turning to mud as the leaves hadn’t yet landed there at the edge of the trees. I strayed into the long grass to avoid mud on my boots but was soon back following the winding path into the building.
On return from one of the smoothest and quickest of swims of the last 8 weeks and 22 miles later I returned to pass through the glade where I saw three young boys surrounded by smoke. The other day I walked past a group of young’uns in the park, they must have been 12-14 years old sharing a joint. What is it about people and smoke? I’m not quite sure if it’s the high of the pot or the taste of the cigarette or even the flavour of the vape but more the cloud of smoke like a dramatic trick from which to materialise.
The day changes quickly so I went to pasty land and the greengrocer’s early so as to only remember the day in this excellent form before hitting the studio. I was there a short while before Dare arrived and we got to work on Arctic Lake. We began with setting up my pedalboard, breaking out my Fender Stratocaster, switching on one of the Vox AC30s and hitting the Archer pedal. Just adding some extra bits of lead guitar and punctuating chords before the mix. Mixing is another world and Dare has to set up the desk in a different way and get to work on sorting the drums, the compression, the reverbs and the balance between guitars and the organ, the lead vocals and the harmony vocals, the bass and the organ. At this point I’m dropping in and out of the studio to hear the progress, listening on different speakers and here now in my hand I have a mix of the song to listen to on the archive stereo to reassess for tomorrow’s possible tweaks before the Ahad session with the piano player at 1 o’clock.
Fruitful and interesting sessions tonight were with Matt in Brooklyn, Chris in New Jersey and Jeff in Kent, Ohio. Dinner boasted coconut rice from the Thai mixed with home-cooked fresh vegetables and tofu whilst watching the end of Season One of Californians In Space. I love that coconut rice but nobody does it like they do here or maybe it’s just sweeter here than anywhere else. It’s like eating your dessert and your main course at the same time, saves on plates, saves on washing up. A small cultural note here: Wash Up (British) – to clean plates, pans and cutlery after use. Wash Up (American) – to clean one’s hands and face.
Jumping back to the swimming pool for a moment when I hit the wall after my 64th length. A small cultural note: Hit The Wall (of an athlete) – to have a sudden loss of energy in a race. I presume that means the same in British and American. But I wasn’t talking about the phrase, I meant when I literally hit the wall at the end of my last lap, when my fingers stretched out and felt that welcome solid block of tiles and concrete at the end of the pool, when I knew I had completed my mile. It was then that I took off my swimming hat and goggles and catching my breath, stood up in the shallow end of the pool, breathing heavily. There was a lady standing there too, I had spoken to her when we both first got into the pool before the swim. She looked across at me and said, “You have a lot of stamina”. I said, “You should read my blog”.
Music today has to be Bob Dylan because we need to record one of his songs, long story, I’ll tell you all about it at the end rather than the beginning. I started off listening to random tracks on Spotify but I soon wanted to hear a complete album and picked Bringing It All Back Home (March 1965), it’s packed full of classic lyrics and famous songs like Mr Tambourine Man, Subterranean Homesick Blues, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue and well, all the other amazing songs.
But he wasn’t finished yet, he released Highway 61 Revisited in August of the same year. The opening track was Like A Rolling Stone. It seemed like he had an endless supply of brilliant songs. It’s hard to imagine that these two albums, his fifth and his sixth, were released on either side of his 25th birthday.
It seems a disservice to single out songs from an album so packed full of gems. This was the first sixties Dylan album that I loved as an adult. I was too young for it the first time around (I was seven in 1965). But in later years I never tire of it. It was his first mostly electric album featuring Mike Bloomfield on electric guitar, Bobby Gregg on drums, Harvey Brooks on bass and Al Kooper on piano and organ with others. Only the epic 11-minute Desolation Row was purely acoustic, rhythm, lead and bass with Charlie McCoy and Russ Savakus. An absolute classic, essential, buy it now.