tons of sobs

Free were a truly great band, were they not? In the field of contemporary rock music (sound of large plug of partially-chewed tobacco being expectorated into highly resonant spitoon) we have become so used to digital sound and production with its exaggerated top end frequencies and the tendency of producers to strive for the totally polished and unreal sound that we have forgotten that the best music is often made from several people in a room playing off one another, circling each other like predatory cats planning the kill… and when it comes together… yes!
Free were the masters of space – not space the final frontier, but space the… well, space the space between us all. Absolute epitome of the oft quoted dictum, it’s not what ya play, it’s what ya don’t play, they knew when to lean back and simply let the atoms and molecules hum along. When in the yUK I bought the soundtrack to ‘Life on Mars’, which contains a more than fair smattering of classic 70’s tracks. Of course they are remastered, which means that every cymbal ping slices the eardrum like a Mach 3 Turbo Extra Plus Superglide or-whatever-the-hell-it-is slashes through the morning stubble (legs or face, whatever fits the bill, ladies or gents), but the sheer quality of the source material transcends the modern Frankenstein studio mangling. Sitting in amongst the many gems (Lindisfarne – ‘Meet Me On The Corner’ – more genuine warmth than your grannie’s hotplate when she was making griddle (or, as we used to say in Caithness, girdle) scones) is ‘Little Bit of Love’ by Free. Critics say that Free were past their best by then, but Pshaw! What do critics know? Get a hold of it (preferably on vinyl) and listen… listen to the sound of mastery of space – every note counts, every note in its right place… and Andy Fraser… he’s up there with the Jack Bruce’s, Paul McCartney’s and Raymond Henderson’s of this world – what a bass player! Most of the track HE DOES NOT EVEN PLAY! I’m even inclined to forgive Paul Rogers for hanging out with Queen and Paul Kossof for dying young. Simon Kirke’s drumming has that lazy 60’s just behind the beat feel down pat (and this was the 70’s, natch!), someone (probably Rabbit) remembers to occasionally hit a piano in the same key and the whole earmelting liquid gold that oozes from the speakers just wants to make me rush out into the street wearing an ‘I’m with Stupid’ T-shirt and a pair of frayed 28-inch bottom loon pants. Yeah!

(but what would the monks say…)

I’m going through a re-evaluation of who and where I am musically (don’t worry world, this is only taking place inside my own head) – I was astonished the other night when Otis (7 months and crawling/standing now – look out civilisation, your end is nigh!) and I were watching the Cream reunion DVD – what an exciting life we expats lead! – he sat absolutely transfixed by 7 minutes or so of Ginger Baker’s drum solo… something I confess I find slightly hard to do even now… but sometimes, as the Byrds say, it’s really worth Goin’ Back…
regular readers can probably expect to find more of this ‘pointless nostalgia’ in the weeks and months to come, but for now, well, you’ll have to excuse me for a few minutes (or one side of an LP) for I feel a psychedelic twelve-bar improvisation coming on…

Things to set the scene:

Cheesecloth Shirt
denim loons
army/navy greatcoat
patchouli oil
pewter pendant
t-shirt with scoop neck and bell sleeves, with mushroom print
afghan jacket

all the above could be purchased at Lorna Humphries wee hippy shop, next to George Downie’s, High street, Thurso… but only in the 70’s…

soundtrack… Bodie and Leo and Paranoya (those who know will know…)

more next time, maybe…

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It was a good day…

Our good friend Ben wandered across to our house gate to get his usual early morning taxi to work the other day. I was at the gate, son in hand (or more precisely, in arm), fending off the jibes from the passing schoolkids. (Maybe they’re not jibes – maybe they say nice things like ‘oh, what a caring father – look how he tends his son in an unselfish manner’ – somehow, I don’t think so… ‘ Look at the fat old barang kidnapping that poor baby ‘ is probably more accurate) Ben is as cool as hell, a lanky, laconic Tucson dude who knows Joey Burns from Calexico personally (now how cool is that!), with a laid back manner but a righteously fiery interior that does not suffer fools gladly, so of course I surreptitiously eye the bag of paperback books he is carrying, as they will be, without any doubt and at the very least, interesting. I guess that he is going to give these away, so I need to scan them discreetly and think of a good reason to score any good reads from this undoubtedly tasteful grab-bag. At this point, the taxi approaches and Ben pulls a well-thumbed volume from the bag – ‘ have you read this –?‘ it’s by Jeff Chang, called ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop – a History of the Hip-Hop Generation’. My mouth goes, ‘no, I haven’t’ whilst my brain is going  ‘now why the hell would I want to read that?’ which is probably much the same reaction Ben had to his birthday present from us, Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, Volume One. So, I make the right noises, take it thankfully, go inside and get ready for work. That evening I make myself begin to read it…

You’ve probably guessed what’s coming next, and believe me it’s hard to admit this. Hip Hop has largely passed me by, mainly through my choice – maybe it’s an age thing, probably in the main a culture thing, but I am amazed to report that I am COMPLETELY consumed by Chang’s book at the moment. I am about a tenth of the way in to its 546 pages, and I am so thoroughly gripped by its spell that I really don’t want to put it down. I’ve also been re-reading passages again and again, going with the flow of his words and the wisdom of his analysis, but most importantly he has ignited within me that spark of really wanting to hear the music, really listen to all the component parts in the same way that I can submerge myself in the layers of sound when listening to the Velvets or the Byrds or the Beatles or a thousand other skinny white kids with guitars…

 

At the age of 51, I am so excited that another period of discovery is upon me…

 

Thanks Ben…

 

Right Now Listening To – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry  – Reggae Greats

                                           Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line

                                           Charlotte Gainsbourg – 5.55

                                           Wilco – everything (they sound like honey tastes…)

 

 

Reading – Jeff Chang – ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop – A History of the Hip-Hop Generation’ (Picador)

 

still crazy after all these years