Saturday, November 08, 2014

Strange Boat Reviews

There are a few reviews starting to appear for the new edition of Strange Boat – Mike Scott & The Waterboys (Gonzo Multimedia paperback / Lumoni Press E-book).

Goodreads Website has a terrific review from musician and author Stephen Palmer that’s associated with the original SAF edition but is a commentary on the new edition. “In summary: a particularly well assembled biography of a fascinating musician. No fan of Mike Scott or the Waterboys, of ‘eighties music, or of the many strands of Celtic music will want to miss this entertaining book. Definitely recommended.”

Strange Boat Goodreads Review Link

The Rocker website doesn’t much care for Mike Scott or his music I’m afraid, but still thinks that Strange Boat is “still a good read… it filled an otherwise dull Monday afternoon quite comfortably.” You’ll need to scroll down to their 16th October entries to read this review.

The Rocker Review Link

At Get Ready To Rock website Jason Ritchie thinks Strange Boat “a comprehensive overview” and notes that Mike Scott comes across “a thoroughly nice person,” which I’m not quite sure chimes totally with his single-minded nature myself, but does conclude that “interviews with the man himself would have really provided a deeper insight into the lyrics and ways of creating music.” Which, of course, I can’t disagree with.

Get Ready To Rock Review Link

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Strange Boat New Edition - Extract

Has it really been six years since I last posted on this blog? Certainly my blogging activity has been primarily on Spacerock Reviews but still…

With a new edition of Strange Boat – Mike Scott & The Waterboys issued recently in print by Gonzo Multimedia and under my own Lumoni Press imprint as e-Book it seemed a good time to resurrect this blog. I’ve not even been along to see how it looked for quite some time, so I’m disappointed to see the photographs have disappeared, but relived to discover the text still live. Over the next week or so I’ll revise the links and generally update and re-establish the blog, though my review blog will continue alongside it, but to stat its refurbishment, here’s an extract from the new version of Strange Boat.

Strange_Boat_Cover_image

Mike Scott entered the world on 14th December 1958 in Edinburgh, destined to be an only child. His mother was a college lecturer and his father a shadowy, remote figure who has been characterised as having abandoned his family, playing little part in Mike Scott’s story until becoming immortalised in Scott’s cathartic song: ‘My Dark Side’.

“The dark man of my dreams is my father, who left home when I was very young and I’ve never seen him since,” he recalled. “You know, when I picture my mother I’ve got a picture in my mind. When I try to picture my father, there’s a bit of a blank space.” He believed he had inherited his mother’s mind; from his father all he could really acknowledge was an assumed physical resemblance: “My father never stuck around long enough for me to figure out what his characteristics were.” In a stark and painful song simply entitled ‘Father’ and recorded for his band Another Pretty Face in late 1979 he agonised over this long rift. Why and where his father had gone; how there could possibly have been something more pressing or important on his time than his family. He pondered what his father’s life was like, a decade on from disappearing, whether he talked about having left behind his son. It’s a song raw with disappointment and hurt.

The dislocation and trauma this separation caused took many years to reconcile. It was something that Mike Scott took personally, as though it was his own fault. Alastair McKay of the Scotsman, a regular interviewer of Scott, delineated it as “a void,” which in turn Scott described as being “so big that I didn’t have the measure of it.” Mike carried a typical guilt complex and internalised the blame for his father’s disappearance. He felt that “it was not necessarily my fault that my parents split up, but it was my fault that my father wasn’t around. I thought, ‘Maybe I’m unlovable’.” It was a “shadow question. Never conscious, but in the background of my mind.”

On the other hand, his relationship with his mother was always close and protective. “When there was just the two of us, we were great pals,” he further explained to McKay. “Obviously I was loveable in that context. I had lots of friends, so this question, ‘Am I unlovable?’ - it was in the background, but it was only one part of my psyche.”

Norman Rodgers, of the Scottish band TV21, knew Mike and his mother during the late 70s and recalls a relationship built on parent to child encouragement, observed through many visits to their home which became an almost ‘open house’ for budding musicians. “He had a lot of support; his mother was supportive of him in a way that none of our parents were of us. They tolerated us playing music but none of them would put up with what she put up with. Mike and his mother had a quite different relationship from the way the rest of us had with our mothers, there was just the two of them and she was very supportive of what he wanted to do; stuff that the rest of us wouldn’t have got away with. Mike used to get up in the morning and he’d say that he’d play the piano and sing ‘Mother’, the John Lennon song, to work on his vocals, and he’d do that primal scream thing. My mother would have gone mental if I’d tried to do that every morning, but she just let him get on with it. The house felt like Mike’s house, it didn’t feel like her house. His bedroom would be decorated from floor to ceiling with newspaper cuttings and posters and with records and tapes everywhere so that the only thing that was identifiably hers was her own bedroom, everywhere else was just a clutter of Mike’s stuff and it was just a whole different vibe from anybody else we knew – in a good way of course. She was really tolerant; we could rehearse in the front room with a drum kit and a full PA while she’d be back in the kitchen reading books with this entire racket going on.”

There was a reel-to-reel tape that Mrs Scott had preserved, harking back to a young Mike Scott, aged eight or nine, who’d telephoned in to a live radio show to deliver perhaps his first public vocal performance. “He sang ‘Eloise’ [written by Paul Ryan and originally recorded by his brother Barry, later providing a hit for The Damned], unaccompanied, and she’d obviously heard something then that made her keep this tape.” And again, overall the sense is of someone dedicated to allowing her son to follow his interests and passions and just let them flow and see where they’d lead him.

But to Nikki Sudden, writing for ZigZag, he confessed how he “grew up feeling inferior. Teachers made me feel ashamed of not conforming to things, grown-ups made me ashamed of not wanting to do the expected things. And I grew up scared of religion, police, school... scared of my mother, because she expected things of me that weren’t the things I wanted to give her. The way for me to now overcome that is to prove that what I decided to do in place of all those things that were expected of me was worth doing.”

Mike Scott came from ancestors steeped in Scottish heritage. His Grandmother hailed from the Isle of Mull, a Gaelic speaker, though for her young grandson this was a simply an ambient surrounding to his own identity, as he explained: “When I was growing up, my grandmother would be listening to Gaelic on the radio. I never got any Gaelic myself because they don’t teach it in Scottish schools. But I understood it as part of my background, almost a lost part of my background.” BBC Scotland, through its Gaelic identity Radio Highland – Radio na Gaidhealtachd - had picked up the baton of Gaelic language broadcasts since 1935, though it didn’t have a dedicated service until 1979 (and continues to do so, under the banner of BBC Radio nan GĂ idheal). Another time Scott noted how he’d “thought traditional Scottish music was uncool. It wasn’t until I went to live in Ireland that I got hip to Celtic music.”

The family moved to Ayr, probably as part of his mother’s career as it seems she taught at the Local College of Higher Education. Mike was twelve. He’d already absorbed some of the things that would ferment inside and brew up his world outlook and which would set him on the road to being the Mike Scott of spiritual strength and of musical diversity. He grew up surrounded by books, establishing in him a lifelong passion for the printed page and the wonders it could hold. “I had seventeen bookcases in one room which instilled in me early the value of literature and the beauty of books. I love books. Whenever I go on tour I buy so many, my case is just full of books.” He’d immersed himself in literature that resonated with religious undertones, particularly the Narnian Chronicles of C. S. Lewis, which he’d discovered at the age of seven or eight. He fell in love with the way in which Lewis could move from the mundane to the magical in tales where a simple wardrobe, or more religiously symbolic, a stable door, could provide the entry point into something more fantastical or wonderful. And he loved the romanticism of the Pauline Baynes illustrations for the books, finding them “mythological”. He would return regularly to the stories for inspiration and say how they gave him “an early sense of the divine, which has never left me.”

He found this elsewhere too, looking and thinking deeply, recognising injustice in situations and deriving a form of moral guidance from this. “As a child I always identified with the Indians in the cowboy films. Because they were right!” he told Mat Smith in Melody Maker. “In the films they were always portrayed as cold-blooded murders and thieves but there was something more. Something I can’t quite put into words.” He expressed no particular love of formal education. For a while he attended the independent George Heriot’s School, adjacent to Edinburgh Castle. Imposing in its own right – the school was founded in 1628 and is drenched in history – there is no indication that Scott found it a happy experience. “School? They don’t teach you what life is,” he exclaimed in an early interview with Chris Heath. “They don’t teach you that you can be what you want to be. It requires a massive shift in emphasis in society. We have a society based on having and owning. We need a society based around being and giving.”

It was around that time that Mike made a trip down the thoroughfare of Edinburgh’s Princes Street and into the record department of the Boots store to buy his first 45rpm single: ‘Last Night In Soho’ released in 1968 by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. It was a pivotal experience, a starting pointing in his musical education. Journalist Hayley Bartlett related how “Everyone has to start somewhere and for Scott it was being given a guitar for his tenth birthday. Scott went on to admit that his first strumming was to the tune of Mungo Jerry’s ‘In The Summertime’.”

From there on his record buying became eclectic. “The Sixties were really a wonderful time for music. It was like a crack opened in the sky and this big light came through and everyone thought we’d got there. But we hadn’t. We had to go through the Seventies… until Johnny Rotten started spitting.” His earliest real enthusiasm was for The Beatles. “It was watching The Beatles doing ‘All You Need Is Love’ on TV that first showed me that rock music could be a transformative force,” he told Jon Wilde in Uncut. He particularly identified with George Harrison, perhaps in the process absorbing that wistful, melancholic spirituality that Harrison had acquired. He described George’s first solo album, All Things Must Pass, as being his “favourite record [ever] since I bought it in 1971. I love the big, full Phil Spector sound and that kitchen sink production. I love the songs; ‘All Things Must Pass’, ‘Awaiting On You’ and ‘Let It Down’. I love that it’s touched by Beatle Magic, the shadow of The Beatles still hanging over it.”

On 17th November 1972 he travelled to Glasgow for his first taste of a major live band, attending an Emerson, Lake and Palmer show at Green’s Playhouse, “sitting way up the back, miles from the stage,” as he recalled in a Q magazine questionnaire, with “Keith Emerson hopping around on his Hammond.” But what really remained imprinted upon him and so demonstrates his writer’s eye for characters and personalities was the train journey to the gig and back. “All these strange looking people with long hair and denim jackets talking about song titles... That impressed me more than the concert. I didn’t understand the music and I wasn’t even a fan.”

His musical endeavours led him to the inevitable round of school bands and finally, at fifteen, to a partnership with John Caldwell, another enthusiastic guitarist who would become Scott’s first significant musical comrade-in-arms. They formed a group – Karma – which, writing for Record Collector, long-time Scott aficionado Peter Anderson noted as being “a garage band inspired by Scott’s chief influences, The Beatles, David Bowie and Bob Dylan.”

“This was my first true band – we played in my living room every Saturday,” he recalled to Hayley Bartlett, also remembering another band he started which “went under two different names, White Heat and White Light. We were really into Lou Reed at the time.” But these bands and the initial association with John Caldwell were little more than signposts to the future rather than the beginnings of an out-and-out assault on the music business. Instead Scott took himself off to Edinburgh University and a degree course in Philosophy and English Literature that he never completed. He’d started at University in 1977, one of the most significant years in musical history. Instead of hearing the learned voices and their collective wisdom in the lecture halls, Scott heard the spite and bile of The Clash and of Patti Smith in the exploding storm of Punk.

“With Patti Smith, it was her sense of the transcendent that drew me in,” he told Jon Wilde. “It was like there were angels over her shoulder, and she showed that rock music should be both transcendent and extremely sexual.” To Chris Heath, in Jamming magazine, he expanded further, in the same breath elucidating a state of mind and a perception of the worth of rock music that could be seen as evolving into part of his own manifesto. “She knew that communication between people on as high a level as possible is one of the highest pursuits that an artist can follow. And she had a fantastic soul that was inspired by wonderful things. She recounted her dreams in songs. She lived on stage; she didn’t go and give a show, she went on and lived. And because of that she was real.”

His own involvement with Punk was, in a sense, reportage from the trenches. He was writing his own fanzines: Kingdom Come (taken, perhaps, from the Arthur Brown vehicle) and most notably Jungleland, its title deriving from the gritty, operatic closing track from Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run masterpiece. In fact, Scott was finding a fascination for Springsteen that endured even though he recognised and conceded the bombastic and overwrought side of “The Boss”. In the way Springsteen evolved his multi-layered sound, Scott discovered something that resonated with his own huge musical ambitions. ‘Jungleland’, for example, was described by Springsteen biographer Christopher Sandford as “switchblade hop… it had the lot, violin, cocktail piano, the guitar solo that virtually gave Boston’s Tom Scholz his braggadocio sound, and Springsteen’s roaring vocal.” Not that Scott was uncritical when he felt that one of his heroes wasn’t producing the material that Scott felt he should be, suggesting to Nick Kelly in the early 80s that Springsteen should steer away from the blue-collar imagery and characters that he was writing and singing about. “If he started exploring the mythology of America, and tying the wisdom that can be gained from that into an exploration of what has to be done to save the Earth ecologically, he’d do it brilliantly.” Lofty ideals; Scott would have a go at that one himself.

Scott’s Jungleland fanzine became the focal point for his creative output in the late 1970s, giving him the opportunity to get up close with some of punk’s movers and shakers: he interviewed The Damned, The Clash and Patti Smith amongst others. “It was just a fanzine about all sorts of things, just like every other,” he recalled. “It was the stuff I liked best at the time that I wrote about, which was Television, Patti Smith and Dylan. I met [Television’s] Tom Verlaine and Patti just by hustling. The first person I met was Richard Hell when he was touring with The Clash as Richard Hell and the Voidoids.” He finally made a face-to-face encounter with his idol Patti Smith in 1978 and found her “always really good to all the kids who used to follow her around. I was just one of them.” What he saw in her was the way in which her stage persona was simply an extension of who she was and how she felt at that moment. “So much life in one person she just had to be admired,” he enthused to Nick Kelly. “She went out on stage every night and if she was in a bad mood, it was a bad gig, and if she was in a good mood it was a good gig. I think that’s quite justifiable.”

Mike’s admiration for Patti Smith was one of the mutual interests that brought him together with TV21’s Norman Rodger. “I first met Mike round about Easter time of 1978, at that time I was playing in a band in Prestwick, on the west coast of Scotland, near to Ayr where Mike was. This was a band called The Aaargh! John Caldwell, who went on to play in Another Pretty Face was in that band, along with Ally Palmer who I got TV21 together with. Mike had come along to see a couple of gigs that we’d done and we met him. John took us along to meet him in this bar in Prestwick because they’d been at school together. Mike and I hit it off pretty quickly because we had a lot in common, in terms of what we were listening to, particularly Patti Smith and Bob Dylan. Patti Smith had released Easter only a couple of days earlier and we were comparing notes on that. I remember once he was really pissed off because I’d seen the broadcast on The Old Grey Whistle Test when she’d performed ‘Horses’ and one or two songs off the album, and he’d hadn’t seen it.”

Mike’s meeting with Patti Smith was in the summer of 1978 when she appeared in Edinburgh. “I think she did a poetry reading first. Mike had written to her lots of times but had never actually met her. So he went to the poetry session with a book and records to get signed, which she did, but during the poetry reading she couldn’t remember some words and said, ‘Mike, have you got my book there so I can read it?’ He was so chuffed because she remembered his name and because she used his copy of the book to read this poem out on stage – and the appearance was bootlegged! I don’t know quite what happened between Mike and Patti Smith, right up until her Wave album he was still really into her but then later I mentioned Patti Smith to him and it was, ‘Don’t mention Patti Smith, I don’t want to hear about her ever again’. So I don’t know what happened between that point and three or four years further down the road.”

The final issue of Jungleland was published in 1980, by which time Scott was established as a musician in his own right. “I backtracked and did one extra,” he explained to Marc Issue in Beat. “It was a kind of personal manifesto of where I was at the time, and God I must have been a pain in the arse! It was so negative! I could hardly believe it could be so depressing to read, but then I recall I was pretty miserable in 1980.”

While he was making his first tentative literary mark, and was drifting away from his University education (Anderson, in Record Collector, makes note of his assertion that “I was always more interested in what Joe Strummer was saying than William Shakespeare”) he was getting involved with a few bands. Over the summer of 1978 he rehearsed with what started out as a covers band, The Bootlegs, whose members included Norman Rodger, Alan McConnell and future Another Pretty Face Scott-collaborator Ian Grieg (also known as ‘Crigg’).

“We had this intention of playing cover versions of Dylan, Patti Smith or whoever,” explains Norman Rodger. “We’d rehearsed all these songs with the intention of doing one gig and that being the end of it. After that gig the other guys wanted to keep going. I wasn’t so keen; I’d kind of lost heart with it. But we went into a studio and did a session, plugged in and played live, ran through eighteen to twenty songs over about four hours, largely cover versions but also a couple of my songs and a couple of Mike’s.”

Mike talked about this session as being undertaken under the name DNV. “DNV was a group that I had in 1978 that only ever did two shows,” he recalled. “We did one recording session, twenty-one songs in one night, and from those twenty-one we released a single, ‘Death In Venice’.”

“Some of the recordings came out as the DNV single,” says Norman Rodger. “‘Death In Venice’ and ‘Mafia’ were both from The Bootlegs recordings and then Mike subsequently remixed them and added that ‘Goodbye 1970s’ track which we hadn’t done at that point. But we’d just run through all these tracks live and it was pretty atrocious, mainly! My performance was abominable because I wasn’t into it and I was, I’m ashamed to say, quite deliberately messing it up to try and hurry it up a bit; my singing was appalling. A lot of that stuff appeared on Waterboys bootlegs; I was mortified when it came out. The idea was that it would be a bit of fun but I think at the time I was pretty broke and when the other guys wanted to chip-in, I couldn’t really afford it but felt obliged to fork out. I mean, the band was great fun and we had a fantastic summer, one of the best summers of my entire youth, really. We’d play almost every night - at Mike’s place most of those nights - but it didn’t feel right taking it seriously at the end. It was never meant to be that, it was meant to be fun. We only did two gigs, the first was all covers and the second we started dropping in our own material and I think at that point there might have been a bit of rivalry with Mike, who was always the more talented musician. There’s no doubt about that; I think everyone knew that at the time. But I think it was a bit of a fight between me getting my songs in and Mike getting his and so it changed a bit towards the end. That took the edge off it for me; it was still good fun though and I enjoyed pretty much all of it, looking back.”

There were other short associations with groups now long forgotten. Norman Rodger talks with embarrassment of a band named The Evil Turks. “That one gets buried quite a bit. It’s one that Mike doesn’t want to promote particularly, I think. We had this notion one day, it might have been just before The Bootlegs, where we were hanging out around Prestwick Airport, because there wasn’t a lot to do in that part of the world, but we were hanging around the airport, just messing around, and we had an idea that we’d form a band that day and go back, write some songs and perform them that night. The whole thing was meant to be a spoof, this spoof reggae band called The Evil Turks, which was a really unfortunate name. We went back to my house and wrote a bunch of songs – which were really the same song with different lyrics - and then went to Mike’s place, phoned all our mates up and had about thirty people round, got some beer and a few spliffs. Mike sang, I played bass and, with an echo machine, sang echoes to Mike’s vocals. I think Ally Palmer played drums and maybe Alan McConnell played second guitar. It was just a laugh but it’s gone down in the most obscure Waterboys folklore; there are tapes kicking about of that which are highly embarrassing.”

The real sense that you get of Mike Scott’s initial forays into making music with others is of someone recognisably at a higher level than those he was mixing and playing with. As fondly remembered as TV21 might be, they are remembered that way by a small clutch of aficionados, never reaching the level of Scott’s contemporary band, Another Pretty Face, let alone the heights achieved in the future with The Waterboys. “He was obviously ambitious and obviously talented,” says Rodger. “There was quite a vibrant little scene going on in Ayr but most of the bands were quite happy to play small gigs or even just rehearse. Of all the guys in that scene, Mike had the talent. A lot of us were quite ambitious but his songs had a more mature quality to them. Most of us who’d been playing with him, we’d all been listening to the same stuff, the Stones, The Who, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and then into the punk thing, but until punk came along none of the rest of us were talented enough to aspire to music as a career. When punk arrived we felt we could play as good as The Damned, or whoever, so we started forming bands but by that point Mike had gone beyond where we were and was writing songs like ‘Death In Venice’ which was a much better song than any of the rest of us could write at that point. That was his career, he knew back then he was going to be a musician. The rest of us were quite happy to think about being musicians but we were studying or working at other jobs hoping to be musicians. Mike knew he wanted to be a musician. That was the difference.”



Buy Strange Boat in paperback direct from the publisher
Buy Strange Boat in eBook at Smashwords

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008


Where did I get to in 2008, now that I look back to my final blog posting of 2007? Well, I'd have to say that in personal terms I had an enjoyable and successful year freed from the rigid structures of the 9 to 5. I did a marketing course a few weeks back where I was asked about a typical working day. Ha! The previous day I'd spent the morning working on some credit management stuff, driven to Devon in the afternoon to do a presentation to a prospective client on e-billing opportunities and been on the phone for an hour in the evening interviewing Steve Lake from anarcho-punk band Zounds. And that wasn't an untypical mix of jobs, so I can say that certainly 2008 was varied and interesting, if a little bit 'false' in the sense that I had one particular contract that provided the financial foundations for all the other stuff that I was free to do. And it was a year, as I anticipated, where I built financially for 2009. Not quite as well as I should perhaps have done but enough that I can start the year still not feeling the pressure of impending overdrafts.

The festivals book, Festivalized, has occupied a lot of writing time and still there are many potential contributors still to be interviews, and previous chats waiting to be transcribed, and it's clear that any and all spare time in January will be devoted to finishing this project to final manuscript stage, but I think both Bridget and I are very excited about the material that's been gathered and the extensive list of contributors assembled. The biography of Armand and Michaela Denis that I talked about at the end of last year, however, still remains just that... talk; it's very much the next item on the agenda and I'll be spending time in the first quarter of 2009 trying to get this one off the ground. There's two or three other possibilities as well, so I'll be pulling together a collection of proposals and once again revisiting the idea of acquiring an agent.

I continued to write for Record Collector and Rock N Reel, contributed to the Independent and other places, and felt I made some modest in roads into getting my name about. The sleeve notes for Freq and Cherry Red's two Hawkwind compilations were particularly pleasing jobs. The last quarter of the year was particularly intensive with a couple of projects that should see the light of day in 2009 all being well. And, as Bridget noted the other day, one of the great things about 2009 has been the wealth of great contacts with fascinating and eloquent people that we've had through the festivals book.

2009, I want to achieve another book sale, gain more freelance work with a wider range of magazines and newspapers, and expand my writing 'subjects' so that I'm not so dependent on writing about music. On the other hand, I've plenty of CDs waiting review for the Spacerock blog and there'll be a major overhaul of that over the coming week.

On the credit management front, this should prove a busy year if I market my self properly and I need to set-out from day one as I mean to continue, pitching for work, networking and generally getting myself noticed and contracted. One thing is for sure, in this awful business environment there is work out there for me and what I must do is chase it for all I'm worth.

I caught up with the guys from Space Ritual at Glastonbury Assembly Rooms a few weeks ago and enjoyed again chatting with Nik Turner and Jerry Richards. And at Falmouth Princess Pavilions in early December, enjoyed meeting up for the first time since the publication of the Waterboys book with Anto Thistlethwaite who now plays with the Saw Doctors. One of life's gentlemen. A couple of days later, and I was a Truro Hall for Cornwall, relishing the opportunity to interview Jeremy from the Levellers for the festival book and, knowing him to be a big Waterboys fan, pressing a copy of Strange Boat on him! Fascinating chat about his days on the travelling scene and a great gig as well.











Nik Turner, Ian Abrahams



Jerry Richards, Nik Turner, Bridget Wishart,
Ian Abrahams

Is this obvious?

Here’s my pet hate at the moment. Obviously. Is there a word that is so misused in current parlance that it’s practically taking on a new meaning that is diametrically opposed to its proper one? Example, the news bulletin a few nights back, credit crunch focused, as you’d expect. Poor chap on the brink of losing his job, much sympathy to him, we’ve all got a very challenging and tough 2009 to ‘look forward to’. “It’s a big worry for me,” he says, of his impending redundancy, “because obviously I have three children.” Who is this obvious to? Him and his wife perhaps, his mother as well, I assume. Hardly anyone else! Cold callers, “obviously our product is better / cheaper / more efficient [delete as appropriate].” It’s not obvious! It’s just not! Really gets me wound up. Obviously.

It’s a bit like that sign you so often see that starts, ‘Polite Notice’. Thank you. Write your notice politely and we’ll know it’s a ‘Polite Notice’!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hawkwind Compilations

Just received my copies of the new Atomhenge Hawkwind compilations, one three-CD set covering the years 1976-84, Spirit of the Age, and another set taking the story through to 1997, The Dream Goes On. Really lovely packaging on these boxed sets, lots of colour photographs in the extensive booklets on each, and detailed sleeve notes by you-know-who. Or, me, in other words!

I've also contributed my first 'Digging for Gold' collectable piece for Record Collector , a spoken-word release from the 1960s by Armand and Michaela Denis which is in the latest issue, on sale now (that would be the Christmas 2008 edition); I'm also holding forth there on the excellent BBC Sessions Magazine CD from EMI.

And I'm to be found in the latest edition of Credit Collections & Risk holding forth on a two pager on electronic debt reporting via SQL. Which is something of a change of pace, right?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

At the 100 Club!

No, stop it, the 100 Club is not the group that I now belong to having seen another birthday come around. I'm officially half way to 90 though. Or, as my old Gran would have described it, nearly 50. Or 45 to be exact. See how I did that? I made myself sound younger by reducing in stages the possible age that I've now reached. Clever eh?

Bits of news first then. The reissue of Robert Calvert's solo album Freq has now been released, containing my sleeve notes / essay. "Make 'em fun", said the label, of an album that's about the Miners' Strike of 1984. "Hmm", said I, went and looked up what Tony Benn was writing in his diary about the strike during the month Bob was recording the album and then wrote a serious essay instead. Actually, we all think the notes have come out ok! I've also just turned in the booklet notes for Cherry Red's two Hawkwind Compilations that the trade have asked for to kick start the Hawkwind back catalogue reissue - there's two three-CD sets coming, great selection of tracks and a package designed for the casual buyer to give them a flavour of things to come.



Amazon US now have pre-orders for next July's stateside release of Festivalized (there you go, you heard the title here first!), which is a survey of the free festival scene (music, politics and the alternative culture) by some old music hack by the name of Ian Abrahams and Bridget Wishart, former Hippy Slag, Demented Stoat and ex-Hawkwind singer of this parish. Don't know when the UK pre-orders start but you can bet that I'll be here straight away with an affiliated link. Don't miss a trick, me. US release can be ordered here.

Back to the 100 Club then! I was there a couple of fridays back to see Nik Turner's Space Ritual outfit play - a hugely enjoyable performance (as always). Get this, I was asked to sign two copies of the Hawkwind biography that some very fine fellows had brought along to get various band members to sign. How embarrassed was I? So embarrassed in fact that I dashed to Facebook asap to announce I'd been signing in the 100 Club. That's now embarrassed I was!

I was down at the Royal Albert Hall the following night to see (for Rock N Reel magazine) another group that have a strong claim to the title of 'The People's Band' - The Levellers. Second time I've seen them this year (ok, strictly accurate then, second time I've ever seen them!) and I get more impressed by them the more I see and hear them. And it's only taken me twenty years to really catch on!

Sunday morning was spent travelling down to Herne Bay from London Victoria. Ah, I'd worked it all out, had the journey plan nailed down, hour and half by train, all well and good. Time to get down there early, find a pub to watch the Grand Prix in and everything. Saturday morning, do the double check and find there's engineering works and the prospect of an hour extra in a hot and stuffy bus that, it turned out, looked as though it had been trashed at the Beanfield in 1985 and deteroriated ever since. But, at the end I get picked up from Faversham by my old Contico friend Denis, get whisked down to Herne Bay at *** miles per hour (I forgot to mention what an awful passenger I am), taken to his fantastic house, find his lovely wife has laid out food and has put the F1 race on the TV. How great is that!

This was for the Robert Calvert memorial gig featuring 'Nik Turner & Friends' who are former Hawks Steve Swindells, Harvey Bainbridge, Alan Davey, Martin Griffin, Ron Tree, Jerry Richards and Adrian Shaw. Great day down in the Kent sunshine talking to various Hawk Yahoo List friends and acquitances from previous Hawkwind gigs including Steve from Leeds, someone who I only know (sorry!) as Rob Dreamworker's mate Tommy, Chris Purdon, Trev Hughes, Dave Roberts and others! The show itself, just fantastic really. Totally unrehearsed apparently and somewhat curtailed due to an unexpected 10pm music curfew but played with reverence to Bob's memory and in celebration of his all too short life. It's hard to pick out specifics because it was all just fab but to highlight a few things, a real lump-in-the-throat watching Adrian Shaw playing on 'Damnation Alley', Nik's unexpected flute playing on 'Psi Power', Alan's usual huge stage presence, Steve's excellent keyboards, the usual cool poise of dancer Miss Angel... just for starters. I get a quick word after the show with Ron and tell him, truthfully, that his delivery of the lyrics to 'High Rise' was "Just fucking immense, man", get two hugs from Miss Angel (ok, ok, but then I got three from Alan) and, equally truthfully, tell Jerry that I thought him 'Man of the Match' for his guitar-playing and holding things together so well. But really, fantastic job everybody and Bob's memory was really done proud.



Oh! And I get my picture taken with Steve Swindells - the man who wrote 'Shot Down In The Night'! How cool is that! :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Standing at the Front, Looking Awkward

A few catch-up items to report!

I've written the sleeve notes for a reissue of the late, great, Hawkwind front-man Robert Calvert's solo album Freq, which is released on the Atomhenge label (through Cherry Red) on 29th September. There's a memorial gig for Robert, commerating twenty years since his untimely demise, down in Herne Bay on Sunday 28th September and I'll be heading down to that via Space Ritual's appearance at the 100 Club this Friday, and the Levellers show at the Albert Hall the following night.

Last week I spent a most enjoyable and interesting hour on the telephone with Tori Amos, talking principally about Image Comics' Comic Book Tattoo, a massive collection of sequential art (that's comics, ok?) inspired by her back catalogue. The finished interview should be turning up in Rock 'N' Reel towards the end of the year but in the meantime the book is highly recommended (look for my review of it in Record Collector soon.

There'll be an update on the festivals book on its myspace page really soon (definitely before I head off to London) but safe to say Bridget and I have been hectic on this project and its shaping up really well. More soon on that, honest!

And here's me (and my old mucker Joe Beer) at Rosie & The Goldbug's album launch at Truro HMV a couple of weeks back. Joe is, of course, upfront and doing the 'Lover' dance, and I'm to be spotted (about 1.30 in) loitering trying to look sensible and not doing said manouevre:



Jokes aside, I bought a copy of the new album (get this, "I bought a copy of the new album", me, rock journo extraordinaire (with tongue firmly in cheek, honest) and absolutely love its idiosyncratic Blondie-meets-indiepop sensibilities. Get it, it's wonderful.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Marillion You Tube Competition

My old mate Ian Atkins has an entry in the Marillion You Tube Competition, producing a video for their forthcoming single 'Whatever is Wrong with You'. Ian's really terrific and thought-provoking entry is here, and I'd really appreciate readers giving it a click! Thanks!