One is a lonely number
not, as you may be thinking, another half-baked philosophical statement from yours truly, but actually the title of the first track on the latest Edwyn Collins album Home Again. I purchased the aforesaid CD when I was back in the UK in the summer, and no, lets save it for later. I promise we will return to Edwyn shortly, but let us first catch up on the second part of our summer holiday adventures. After the minor hell of our return journey to the UK we had a week or so more of enjoying the English summer. Prior to the U.S.A trip we had enjoyed some quintessentially English moments, visiting summer fetes, watching cricket on the green, feeding ducks in the mill pond, that sort of thing. As a Scotsman, and coming from a family who have its fair share of intensely patriotic members I do find it strange how I am inexorably drawn to a particular notion, or sense, of Englishness. I blame this on an inordinate fondness for the Kinks, early Pink Floyd, Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt and many others who jumped into the spaces created by those very significant footprints. Records on the Harvest label seemed to imbue this character almost naturally. I recall many a chilly northern night spent lying with my head between the speakers (my primitive version of headphones) of my portable stereo listening to Grantchester Meadows off Ummagumma, or Fat Old Sun from Atom Heart Mother, or Whatevershebringswesing and immersing myself in the hazy warmth of the sounds emanating from the straining speaker cones
In the middle distance, the muffled murmuring of the traffic gave way to the sonorous clang of the church bells and the gentle rustling of the leaves in the honey-thick breeze. The world was revolving slowly and lazily in the sticky warmth of this sunny afternoon.
More tea, Vicar?
Oh, splendid, Miss Jones,a capital idea, I must say. My goodness, your muffins are extraordinary
‘Oh Vicar, you are such a card…’
Sorry. Drifting off again. Let me get back on track.
Yes, summer holiday memories. Many of them from this year involve the continually evolving wonder that is our son. Little O attempting to adapt his funky Khmer style of dance to the strains of a brass band performing Abba songs; his joy at visiting a country park
very wide open spaces where he could simply run and run and run with what must have seemed to him as no boundaries; feeding ducks and swans with O doing his one for you, one for me routine; a miniature train journey, O and Granddad together who was most excited by that
? I wonder
; blowing bubbles in the garden, sheer naked enjoyment, O running around and around in circles laughing gleefully; feeding times, characterised by the infinite patience of Nana, with accompaniment from Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy; a visit to Swindon Mela, with so many familiar colours, shapes, sounds, smells and tastes – and time for some more O-type dancing, this time to familiar rhythms
; having the time and space to see the wonderful bond between O and mummy growing every day
These are just some of the memories I have of this summer, there are many, many others that will come to me in the future, to make the good times better and to help me to smile during the hard times summers are wonderful, magical things that re-awaken the child within us all, and we should cherish each and every moment of them
My goodness, that was a bit Sunday Post-ish, wasnt it? What has happened to my tireless cynicism? I confess I really dont know, Im sure it was here a minute ago I must have temporarily mislaid it
The other night, performing the increasingly difficult wrestling match that is getting O into his jammies at bedtime I got to thinking about how much the vintage cowboy print thereon reminded me of the old Postcard Records label design. Ah, The Sound of Young Scotland memories swept into my synapses, of those mysterious cardboard boxes from Fast Distribution that would arrive in Thurso Music Shop on a Saturday afternoon or Monday morning and be eagerly ripped upon to reveal their contents would the eagerly awaited 1 only cat no PC-80-6 Orange Juice Simply Thrilled, Honey 7 single in its cowboy bedecked sleeve be in there? Yes!! In stock! Mine! Those were exciting times, and many of us (hello Messrs Gavin Duncan and Ian Begg where are you now?) felt such musical affinity with Orange Juice in particular, as their melodic gifts were really, really strong but tempered with some willfully unkempt, ragged yet glorious performances. I only knew (and if truth be told, still do) three chords, and hadnt really mastered any of that barré chord stuff, so it was a joy to have it reinforced that traditional skill wasnt necessarily a prerequisite of making exciting, clamorous, glamorous music. The Fire Engines were another band who shared that rowdy charabanc to pop success, music that sounded all over the place, spiky and fuzzy, but absolutely imbued with a total sense of fun. Candyskin comes on like a Scottish Salvation Army playgroup that has had just a wee drop too much acid in their Irn Bru wonderful stuff which even now brings a smile to my face as I type this.
Englishness, Scottishness Im not sure how I got here, but the moving fingers type, and having typed, move on or rather back, back to Edwyn Collins. Hes grown up now, has Edwyn. Life has dealt him some pretty bad cards in the last couple of years hes suffered two strokes, but has fought back and has been on tour, performing again this summer in a few festivals. I finally got round to listening to Home Again a few nights ago, and I am so happy to tell you that it is an absolutely magnificent album, his best since Gorgeous George. Hes still wry, still sonically adventurous, still making records that sound like records, but his recent brushes with the fragility of existence seem to permeate his music (although amazingly, given some of the lyrics, most of this was written before he suffered his successive strokes) and give it a strikingly unusual cast, that of the man-child facing the enormity of life and the natural and un-natural challenges it throws against us all. The title track is quite simply awesome, a meditation on the redemptive and healing power of music that is almost overwhelmingly emotional in its evocation of that feeling of being truly at home that music can bring. The Bearsden Blues, no less. As the late, great, Stuart Henry would have said, I cant recommend this album highly enough, my friends.
Oh well, Im off now to slip into my sandals and fringed buckskin jacket and nip round to Roddys house to see if he can show me how to play that augmented 7th chord you coming? No? OK, catch you later, man
Next episode the return to a post-election Phnom Penh and all that entailed.
This episode was brought to you borne on the angel wings of Edwyn Collins Home Again on Heavenly Records, remembrances of Postcard Records – the Sound of Young Scotland, Long Way Down on BBC DVD (Ben, its the same two guys, McGregor and Boorman, biking from John o Groats in Scotland to Capetown, South Africa. Let me know if you want me to get you a copy my friend), and is dedicated to all those who hung around on a Friday, Saturday or Monday in the Music Shop, Thurso, waiting for the boxes of new releases theres only one copy and its mine!!