It’s hard to know whether the booster shot or the lack of sleep keeps me in bed for eleven hours. An early morning is rare for me but it’s hard to suddenly go to bed earlier to get enough sleep if you usually go to bed at 4 AM – you can’t suddenly go to bed at midnight and fall asleep, you’d just lie there counting the mosquito corpses. Today, I have a bit of pain in my flu shot arm but my Pfizer arm feels alright. I woke up a little groggy but who wouldn’t after eleven hours of sleep? The day disappears quickly when you get up in the middle of the afternoon on a winter’s day, so I took myself to the bakery so I could see what was left of the blue sky. I brought down the shutters before I left because I knew that when I got back it would be dark. Outside the chestnut stands seem to have disappeared, appearing randomly – perhaps they have different spots where they set up. I took the recycling across the road as a garbage truck was emptying one of the big bins, except it seemed to be stuck in the back of the truck and one of the men was trying to get it free. I had a horrible vision of him falling in and being ground up like an old shoe.
It was a little chilly in the wind but that’s probably because it was getting dark. Olivia had already left earlier for her Portuguese lesson, she said it was 17 degrees and it probably was when she left but as the sun went down the temperature dropped – but it’s still Portugal and you can nip to the bakery in your shorts without any problem. When I lived in Stockholm, there’d be no nipping out to the shops without gloves, scarves, and a nuclear-powered thermal suit and although I’m used to snowy winters and winter chills coming from the north of England, living in Australia for a few years convinced me that there was another way. Finding the compromise between blistering heat and freezing cold is Portugal.
My collaboration with The Fall’s Brix Smith, Lost Angeles, is looming (December 17th) and we just got another good review, this time from Louder Than War (although he keeps on calling the album Los Angeles, kinda missing the point of the title). You can also read the reviews from Mojo and Record Collector above and pick up the album from Cadiz Music in England on vinyl and CD, or you can stream via the usual sites. But it’s not the same as owning the real thing. It’s wonderfully convenient and I suppose some people like the fact that they don’t need to have shelves full of records taking up space, but for me, what else is space for? Books, records, and films, I love the idea of living in a library with a computer for reference, a great big quality stereo to listen to the music, a comfy chair for reading and a nice big high-quality screen to watch both streamed and downloaded films, and DVDs. Bliss.
Music today has been progressive heaven with Gentle Giant’s Octopus (1972), their fourth album and the first album I heard by them sometime in the deepest darkest seventies. It’s complex, it’s folky, it’s melodic, it’s classical, it’s catchy, it’s innovative, it’s jazzy, it’s musical gymnastics but it’s all done so smoothly and naturally. Ray, Derek and Philip Shulman were multi-instrumentalists, Kerry Minnear was a graduate from the Royal College Of Music, Gary Green a semi-pro blues player. Their first drummer Martin Smith was replaced by John Weathers (via second drummer Malcolm Mortimore) for this album. Elton John unsuccessfully auditioned as lead singer.
The band made ten albums between 1970 and 1980 and as grunge wiped out youth interest in the middle to small-sized bands like the ex-band, new wave did the same thing for bands like this. The bigger progressive bands survived, Yes, King Crimson, as did The Cure and Depeche Mode into the nineties. But as for The Comsat Angels, The Sound and the like, it was hard. The ex-band survived but on another level nowhere near the level of Starfish. Echo and the Bunnymen survived Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam too but as those bands’ numbers grew the smaller bands became cult bands with dwindling numbers. Some survive, some don’t, some stay huge, some have that cult following. The Cure and Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam, and Yes, still have very healthy audience numbers, the rest broke up or play in smaller venues, 100-500 people and what’s wrong with that?
In the meantime I carry on listening to The Who, The War On Drugs, Gentle Giant, FKA Twigs, indie, rock, punk, jazz, contemporary, reggae, blues, each genre has amazing music, you just gotta find it and if there’s one thing that streaming services have done, it’s that they have given you the opportunity to listen to all kinds of music without huge financial commitment. That means when you do find something you like, you can buy it on vinyl, perfect. If you like streaming, perfect. None of it’s perfect for the musicians though, especially now with restricted gigging. Record sales down, streaming income very low, publishing royalties are only significant if you have a hit record. These days we have to be the ultimate musical multitaskers, like Rita Hayworth, dance, sing, act, in those days they could do everything. For me, my next big musical task is my home studio and that will open up even more doors to keep surviving as a musician in a tricky musical climate. Onward and upward.