What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been…

‘and in the end, the love you take
is equal to the love you make’

The Beatles ‘The End’

This is going to be The Last Post from me for the foreseeable future and I really want to talk a bit about music again, despite the fact that, yes, I know I’d promised something a little different for my next blog last time, but of course I’m nothing if not unreliable. So, in an effort to soften the blow of my final blathering I asked my friend Skip if he had anything interesting to share. He’s been writing various bits and pieces over the months with a view to putting together a children’s book of cautionary verse, but we all know he never finishes anything so I’ve managed to persuade him to release one poem to an unsuspecting world. Here follows the sad tale of a little chap who stood out from the rest of the little chaps around him. Suitable for children? You decide…

The Sad T(r)ail of Mollusc Boy

Mollusc boy was different from
The other kids in town
He kept his house upon his back
And always wore a frown
He had no legs to speak of
Just an elongated tail
And everywhere this strange boy went
He left a silver trail

He wandered ‘round the neighbourhood
On paving stones and walls
and left his slimy signature
Wherever he would crawl
His friends (of which there were but few)
Would say (to no avail)
‘please do not crawl across our floor
and leave your sticky trail!’

and so he grew and went away
to where the grass was greener
and got a job (surprised? I was!)
as a high-rise window cleaner
as he could stick to brick or wall
with ease, and lean right over
to polish glass with pail and mop –
for now he was in clover!

But nothing in this world can last
and changes they must come…
poor Mollusc Boy, he lost his job
and boy, was that boy glum
he slithered off into the night
and when the dawn appeared
they found him in a garden quiet
drowned in a pint of beer…

©Skip Cormack 2008. All rights of the author reserved. Please don’t copy or use any part of this without asking me or I’ll get upset and cry.

He’s a strange one, that Skip… anyway, back to music. I’ve only relatively recently realised the power of music. That’s a strange acknowledgement to make, I know, but true. I spent the greater part of my adult life involved in selling, producing and playing music, but always had a kind of selfish approach to it, in that it was just for me or my immediate circle of friends to understand how deeply a particular piece could affect an individual or a group. I scoffed at the statement at the time, but that tree-hugging yoghurt knitter Jon Anderson from Yes probably summed it up pretty well when he said in the booklet accompanying ‘Fragile’

‘Music’s chosen colours move the soul –
War music, Peace music, Love music,
We move to it all.’

As I type this I am listening to Cheb Khaled, the Algerian Rai singer, on my I-pod. I’m not really meant to be, as it should actually be John McLaughlin’s Shakti, but the guy from the CD shop put the wrong CD in the sleeve and… I now have to say, that more than twenty years on, Olaf Cowan, you were right. Olaf was a regular customer who was into all kinds of music, particularly folk and world music (though at that time it wasn’t even called world music) and would often try to get me to listen to some of the artists he liked (Khaled being one) to no avail, as I knew what I liked, and it certainly wasn’t some singer from North Africa who didn’t even sing in English… but I was wrong, and my narrow mind has at last expanded to recognise the worth of more than just skinny white kids with guitars (although they probably will always be my major musical influence).
Some final thoughts and recommendations then, before I fade into the sunset…
sunset… hmmm… I can think of two great contemporary songs about sunset… ‘The Consul at Sunset’, by Jack Bruce (which works in so many ways… bit of a genius, Mr. Bruce) and ‘Sunset’ from Roxy Music’s weary masterpiece, Stranded. The most perfect ennui song ever, bar none, with one of the most evocative opening lines of all time ‘oh, look at the sun, it’s all aglow… slow burning orb, sinking low…’. How I wish I could write like that. Sorry, that was a bit stream of consciousness wasn’t it? That’s how my mind is working at the moment, flitting from thought to thought just like a butterfly, alighting for just a moment then spiraling off into the blue.
Calexico’s new album ‘Carried to Dust’ is going to become a favourite; I can feel it in my bones. It’s low-key, and dusty, and hazy, Cormac McCarthy-ish and a real grower methinks. I love a few tracks off Elbow’s ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, particularly the tracks ‘Mirrorball’ and ‘Grounds for Divorce’ where the album’s title originates. They really remind me of Gabriel-era Genesis, which is no bad thing round my ranch. Epic 45 have been a fixture in my ears for the last couple of months also – their album ‘May Your Heart Be The Map’ is just so evocative of a mythical English summer, all acoustic guitars and hazy samples and church bells and wispy vocals – mind pictures of dappled sunlight through green trees, combined with aural honey for the synapses. The US has responded by bestowing the Gabe Dixon Band, who summon up the ghosts of early Jackson Browne and ‘Madman/Tumbleweed’ era Elton, and wrap it in an album cover that is so 70’s, very American Gothic. I like them a great deal. As usual, there’s oodles (Is that a word? Must ask Skip..) of other stuff out there, but you’re all smart enough to figure that out.

Blogging is pretty much an egocentrical kind of thing, and I suppose I hadn’t thought too much about boredom levels, or levels of possible offence, or other things I should have been thinking of in any audience out there when I write these things. I probably basically just haven’t thought,full stop. I’m afraid I’m totally incapable of writing the diary type of thing that a blog should be, so I’ve decided to knock this on the head for the foreseeable future. For those who are wondering, day to day life is probably pretty much like yours at the moment. We just muddle along, getting things right and wrong and steering a middle path most of the time.

It’s been fun being Lost in Space – maybe one day I’ll fire up the supersonic rocket ship engines and get lost again. Until then, thank you so much for your support, you cyberspace friends out there.

‘ If you have a revolution, do it for fun.’

Goodbye, and may your God go with you.

James

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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