Sunday, December 04, 2011

My Magical Transistor Radio



One day in May 63 i ran to school as usual to see Marie Ferris in the playground before school but there was no sign of her." where is Marie Ferris?" i asked, to no avail, she had gone away,back to America,not as much as a cheerio.She did leave me with one thing though,a love of all things American, the Beatles were just bursting on the scene,everybody else was mad on it,but i held back,i knew that rock n roll began in the States,not in Butlins.
We always went to Hunstanton,Skegness or Cromer in the summer.The summer of 64,i used to hang out in an amusement arcade to listen to the music on the juke box.There was a penny cascade which paid out 2p for Gregory Peck, 3p for Jane Russell,4p for Ava Gardner and 6p for Marilyn Monroe.When the attendant wasnt looking i would nudge the machine and the money would fall down, then i would put the money in the juke box. One day i was in there and a song came on the jukebox. ' Round Round,Get Around, I Get Around,' I stopped dead in my tracks,this was the sound i had been looking for, it was the sound of America,it held the promise of sunshine,sea,girls,cars and excitement,it was the Beach Boys. I had found the soundtrack of my life.
                                                     BBC Radio was rubbish in those days but the new Pirate station Radio Caroline began in 1964,i was determined to hear the new music. In Currys window in Bridge Street i saw a transistor radio for sale,it looked so elegent in its brown leather case,shoulder strap and a little case for its earpiece,it was £4/19/11p. i paid 2/6 deposit and it was mine.I paid it off at two bob a week from my paper round.
                                 We went for a walk down by the river every Sunday afternoon.I can see it clearly in my minds eye,the weeping willow trees and Ted Hammond hiring out his rowing boats and i would take along my radio and listen to 'Pick Of The Pops' with Alan Freeman.That was when the new chart was announced.


The real joy though was getting into bed and getting my earpiece in and listening to the sounds that floated in through the ether from the Pirate Radio stations.I don't think i have experienced such joy since in listening to music than i did listening to that magical transistor radio.We had no record player in the house so this was my only contact with the pop music,apart from Top Of The Pops on Thursdays which was a must.Roger Twiggy Day had a Beach Buddies spot on Caroline which i always listened to and i sent in a request for Surfin' USA but he didnt play it .I followed the Beach Boys career closely though California Girls, Help Me Rhonda, Little Girl I Once Knew, then we got to the year of 1966.The Beach Boys finally broke through in a big way in Britain with four hit singles in a row,Barbara Ann, Sloop John B,God Only Knows,and Good Vibrations.We finally got a record player and i bought Good Vibrations.Now we had a record player there was no stopping me,i was on the hunt for sounds.
At the top of Lincoln Road in Peterborough was a secondhand record shop called Cranes,i used to spend hours in there goldmining ,i would sift through the entire stock until i had whittled it down to my decision,then i would give Mr Crane my 2/6p for my one record.I managed to get all the Beach Boys old singles this way and if i couldn't get them it would be another American band,eg Lovin Spoonful, Four Seasons,,Sam the Sham,Young Rascals,anything as long as it was American,sometimes i would find a real rarity such as Little Honda by the Hondells then i really had hit paydirt.Tescos as well used to sell ex jukebox records, they were 3/11 they didnt have any middles because they had been in jukeboxes so you had to buy an adaptor to put in the record so you could play them. I bet the kids of today with hoods on their heads listening to rap on their i-pods don't get half as much fun out of music as we did in those faraway days of the 60's when music was young and exciting.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

October In The Railroad Earth by Jack Kerouac

THERE WAS A LITTLE ALLEY IN SAN FRANCISCO back of the Southern Pacific station at Third and Townsend in redbrick of drowsy lazy afternoons with everybody at work in offices in the air you feel the impending rush of their commuter frenzy as soon they'll be charging en masse from Market and Sansome buildings on foot and in buses and all well-dressed thru workingman Frisco of Walkup ?? truck drivers and even the poor grime-bemarked Third Street of lost bums even Negroes so hopeless and long left East and meanings of re- sponsibility and try that now all they do is stand there spit- ting in the broken glass sometimes fifty in one afternoon against one wall at Third and Howard and here's all these Millbrae and San Carlos neat-necktied producers and com- muters of America and Steel civilization rushing by with San Francisco Chronicles and green Call-Bulletins not even enough time to be disdainful, they've got to catch 130, 132, 134, 136 all the way up to 146 till the time of evening supper
in homes of the railroad earth when high in the sky the magic stars ride above the following hotshot freight trains-it's all in California, it's all a sea, I swim out of it in afternoons of sun hot meditation in my jeans with head on handker- chief on brakeman's lantern or (if not working) on book, I
look up at blue sky of perfect lostpurity and feel the warp of wood of old America beneath me and have insane conversa- tions with Negroes in several-story windows above and every- thing is pouring in, the switching moves of boxcars in that little alley which is so much like the alleys of Lowell and I hear far off in the sense of coming night that engine calling our mountains.


or the Gate of Marin to the north or San Jose south, the clarity of Cal to break your heart. It was the fantastic drowse and drum hum of lum mum afternoon nathin' to do, ole Frisco with end of land sadness-the people-the alley full of trucks and cars of businesses nearabouts and nobody knew or far from cared who I was all my life three thousand five hundred miles from birth-O opened up and at last belonged to me in Great America.Now it's night in Third Street the keen little neons and also yellow bulblights of impossible-to-believe flops with dark ruined shadows moving back of tom yellow shades like a degenerate China with no money-the cats in Annie's Alley, the flop comes on, moans, rolls, the street is loaded with darkness. Blue sky above with stars hanging high over old hotel roofs and blowers of hotels moaning out dusts of in- terior, the grime inside the word in mouths falling out tooth by tooth, the reading rooms tick tock bigclock with creak chair and slantboards and old faces looking up over rimless spectacles bought in some West Virginia or Florida or Liver- pool England pawnshop long before I was born and across rains they've come to the end of the land sadness end of the world gladness all you San Franciscos will have to fall eventually and burn again.
BUT IT WAS THAT BEAUTIFUL CUT OF CLOUDS I could always see above the little S.P. alley, puffs floating by from Oakland










 

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Murphy

It was at Glastonbury 1997 14 years ago that the name of Murphy first entered our lives.My Niece Katherine was camped with us with her friend Cherie.They shared a flat in London and were going to Ireland on holiday and asked if we would look after Cherie's cat called Murphy aged 3 for two weeks while they were away.We said yes and a few days later Murphy arrived.                                                                                                                                                                      Murphy   didn't like us at first and spent a lot of time skulking under chairs until i bought a pretend mouse which i tied to some string and started pulling across the floor.Murphy started stalking it and leaping on it and soon lost all inhibtions.Weeks went by and we never heard from Cherie and we realised we had been dumped with Murphy.We would go to bed and there would be a big lump under the covers where Murphy had decided that was a nice place to crash out.Murphy soon got aquainted with the surrounding gardens and was soon threatening the local wildlife.One day i was in the living room and Kim was in the kitchen and i heard her scream.

"Aaaargh!,Murphy has got a mouse".
                                                        I ran into the kitchen where Murphy was proudly showing off this tiny mouse which was clenched in its jaws.I grabbed Murphy who dropped the mouse which ran under the fridge.I lifted up the fridge and Murphy dived in there and emerged with the mouse.I managed to prise the mouse off Murphy again and carried it up to the churchyard and released it into the wild to meet its fate.
        An unusual talent which Murphy had was picking racing winners.In 2001 Kim suggested that Murphy pick a horse for her in the Grand National so I opened the Daily Mirror two page Grand National guide and pulled a string across it and Murphy dived on it and the leading paw landed on Red Marauder which romped home at 33/1.From then on when there was a big race Murphy’s Choice was a feature.
                                              When the end came it was sudden.We came in from the pub and Murphy was sitting on the steps leading to the garden enjoying the last rays of the evening sun.Kim gave Murphy a sachet of Sheba cat food and we were watching the telly when we heard unusual noises from the kitchen.Murphy was lying on the floor.I made a bed from a cardboard box with two cushions in and and brought Murphy into the living room but to no avail.I pronounced Murphy dead at 9.28 GMT.I closed the lid and removed Murphy to the shed for the night.Next afternoon I dug a hole 3 feet deep against the wall of the garden which Murphy had prowled for so many years.and buried Murphy and planted a bay tree on top surrounded by stones and placed a sign saying ‘All Creatures Great And Small,The Lord God Made Them All’.Then I showed Kim the grave and went inside.I played Be Thou My Vision by Van Morrison because Murphy heard a lot of Van in our house.
          I told my internet buddies and got lots of messages and Rhonda Batchelor who is a poet  from Canada sent me a poem she had written years ago.

Old Cat in Spring Sun

One more summer's all we can ask. One
short season of long days and dry, starry nights.
A sofa, broad and broken-in, fading.
The dish kept full and waiting.
Cool water in a tin bowl.

Outside the window small birds
are bold. Ignore them. Sleep
a peaceful sleep.
Last incarnation
before paradise. The door
is open into the garden.
All creatures
may come and go.

Rhonda Batchelor.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dutch Magazine Extracts

The following extracts are from a Dutch music paper called Oor from March 1977.It's a huge article about Van but i haven't a clue what it says.I wonder if any of our Dutch fans can give us some info about the photos etc.

 

 

 

 
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Parallelograms by Linda Perhacs



                                                                                  I usually hate the word parallel or parallelogram because it reminds me of my first TV appearance when the answer was parallel but i didn't get it (see story below 'Back On Top', for more details on that) for months afterwards i would wake up in a cold sweat saying "The answer is parallel".Anyway, that is by the by and nothing to do with this story.
When i was researching a previous story i came across the name of Linda Perhacs who had made one album in 1970 called Parallelograms which had disappeared without trace so i looked her up on wiki which said this-
Linda Perhacs is an American psychedelic folk singer, who released her only album "Parallelograms" in 1970 to scant notice or sales. The album was rediscovered by record enthusiasts and grew in popularity with the rise of the "New Weird America" movement and the Internet. It was reissued on CD and 2-LP in 2005, and again in 2008.
I found it had been released by Sunbeam Masters in a limited numbered edition of 1000 copies so i ordered it and my copy arrived, i am number 0184.It has a very attractive gatefold sleeve and liner notes written by Linda herself.
I must say it is a quite brilliant album and hard to define.I am listening to it now on a rainy Sunday morning.I really like the opening track 'Chinacum Rain'.It reminds me a little bit of the song 'Wind Chimes' on the Beach Boys Smiley Smile album.'I'm Seeing silences between leaves',sings Linda.What does it all mean?.The vocals shimmer like a pebble skimming across a lake in the sunlight, (Pretentious, moi?).I am not so enamoured of the second track Paper Mountain Man which is quite bluesy and featuring harmonica..The third track though Dolphin is quite wonderful.Her vocals are amazing,just accompanied by acoustic guitar.'Call Of The River' is next.The way the vocals are mixed so she harmonises with herself is very clever.'Sandy Toes' is more upbeat and quite brilliant.The title track 'Parallelograms' is next and it is a tour de force that i urge you to listen to.When i first heard it i thought Joni Mitchell meets Pink Floyd.Considering it is 40 years old it is very experimental and avant-garde.How people didn't pick up on this album when it came out is hard to understand because it was in the zeitgeist of the times but apparently it didn't get any airplay or publicity.'Hey,Who Really Cares' is the next track which is ok followed by 'Moons And Cattails'.
I said to Kim,"What do you think of this album Kim?".
"I don't like it,"she replied.
"Why not?",i enquired
"Its wierd".

Thats exactly why i like it,plus her amazingly pure voice.'Morning Colors' is the next track which is supurb,with some beautiful flute playing.I think the flute is an instrument that goes really well with psycedelic music,its so spacey.'Porcelain Baked-Over Cast-Iron Wedding is quite vitriolic about the shallow middle class values of the people where she lives.This is one of the more conventional songs on the album.The last track is called 'Delicious' which is exactly that.There are eight bonus tracks on the album including a BBC interview from 2005 but i can't be bothered to review them as well.Check it out for yourselves.I heartily recommend this album which i have enjoyed listening to this morning and it's even made the sun come out.Also you might enjoy the short filum that i found on You tube which will give you a flavour of how brilliant this album is.

Friday, January 14, 2011

David Ackles and American Gothic

I was so ashamed.

Just before Christmas my friends on the internet were discussing the top ten albums that they had bought in 2010.I realised that apart from the bootlegs that friends had kindly sent to me i had only actually bought one album in 2010,(That was Long Gone Lonesome Blues by Thomas Fraser in case you're wondering)."Whats happened to me?",i asked myself.I remember back in the mid 70's i used to buy two albums a week.When i worked at Hotpoint in Peterborough i'd buy the NME every Thursday which was pay day and i'd get off the bus in Bridge Street and go to Andy's Records and buy whatever albums got the most stars in the reviews.I bought some quite naff albums i can tell you such as Deaf School or Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoiyos but occasionally a classic that i still enjoy today such as Kate And Anna McGarrigle.I suppose i had more disposable income in those far flung halcyon days when life was simpler before mortgages and Council Tax etc and lived at home for about £15.00 a week.

Anyway, to cut to the chase i resolved that i would buy at least ten CD's this year so at the end of the year i could tell everyone what my favourite ten buys of the year were.But what to buy?.I didn't want to get Mumford & Sons or any other modern new stuff because thats just stepping on the bandwagon.I wanted a rare gem from the past that i had missed first time round.I am always interested in artists who lived in obscurity and are only discovered decades later or after they are dead or had a brief flirtation with fame and disappeared,people like Anne Briggs,Jonathan Kelly,Vashti Bunyan Karen Dalton etc.I vaguely remembered my friend Fred years ago mentioning an album called American Gothic by David Ackles.Later i had read that Elton John and Elvis Costello had hailed it as a masterpiece.I don't take much notice of what Elton John says but i certainly respect what Elvis Costello has to say.So on New Years Eve i looked it up on ebay and you could only get old vinyl copies in the UK but you could get new CD copies from Canada so because i was in a jolly mood i bought one and exactly two weeks later American Gothic hit my doormat.

I looked at the front cover and it was a man sitting in a boat and a woman sitting on the porch of a timber framed house.On the back cover she is wearing denim overalls and he is holding a garden fork which creates the feeling of a rural life in the olden days.(Later when i was looking for pictures to illustrate this review i found it was based on a famous picture called American Gothic by Grant Wood that i never had heard of either so this is quite educational!,see picture at top)I didn't know what to expect.I hoped it might be a bit like Astral Weeks or maybe a bit like a Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks collaboration.I also feared it might be a piece of pretentious overblown crap!.Reading the liner notes i was very surprised to find it was actually recorded in England and produced by Bernie Taupin."Aha",i thought,"Thats why Elton said it was a masterpiece,the devious bastard".I also noted that most of the musicians were from the London Symphony Orchestra and there were 3 backing singers of Doris Troy,Madeleine Bell and Lesley Duncan who were probably the best female session singers in England at that time.Anyway, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and i slid the CD into the machine.




I got a piece of paper and decided to write down whatever came into my head.As the eponymous opening track started i see i had written Brel,Scott Walker,Randy Newman.I immediately realised that i had bought something the likes of which i had never bought before.His voice had nothing to do with rock music or folk.It sounded like musical theatre, like Oklahoma or something like that,a genre of music that i had never liked and avoided.As the album progressed though i realised that his music transcended the boundaries between styles.There were elements of classical,music hall and folk.You will see what i mean when you listen to the music at the end.The opening track was about this couple called Molly and Horace Jenkins who couldn't stand the sight of each other but put up with it which a lot of people do.Poor old Horace reads in a half filled bed but is so ashamed of what he's reading that he gets drunk instead.The second track i found initially the most accessable 'Loves Enough' which is a really nice love song with the traditional song form that i am used to.I could tell that this bloke was not a great singer his forte was obviously as a songwriter and arranger and to make up for the blandness of his voice there are lots of changes in tempo and mood to keep the interest but the beauty is in the poignancy of the lyrics.Loves Enough could have been a huge hit if recorded by somebody with a really distinctive voice.Tom Waits springs to mind with 'One Night Stand',if he sang this song it would be brilliant.Another Friday Night is a great song.

But I hold on to my dreams, anyway,

I'll never let them die.

they keep me going through the bad times

while I dream of the good times coming by.

It is a beautiful sad song.On first listen, i didn't like Midnight Carousel much.I think at this point i said to Kim "What do you think of this album?","I don't like it",she replied."Why not?",I enquired,"It's morbid", she answered.Anyway, don't let that put you off, i value her opinion as much as Elton John's..'Waiting For The Moving Van' is a beautiful sad song as is 'Blues For Billie Whitehead'.




The tour de force on the whole album is 'Montana Song which is a 10 minute epic and worth the price of the whole album.I must say it has shades of Van Dyke Parks,also American Pie, in the sadness of loss,It is all about discovering an abandoned farm and reading the gravestones of a pioneer family etc.I thought it was only the Irish who cared about the love of the land like this but this is a great song and the arrangements are truly epic.This is classical music and if somebody put it on the stage i think the whole album would make a great musical.This classic needs to be discovered.


Apparently, this album flopped when it was released in 72 and David Ackles was dropped by Electra his record company, he made one more album and then disappeared, dying of cancer about 10 years go.It would be great if his work got the recognition it deserves I heartily recommend this album but if you don't like it don't blame me.I have a good idea that come December this will be one of my top ten albums of the year!.