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


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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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!.

Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows.

Storm Emma has been and gone and the Beast from The East has gone back to Siberia. On the news it was all about a Russian spy and his da...