Poorboy Shuffle

(Willie and the Poorboys post, part 2)

I promised in an earlier blog that I would finish the story of my first band – since then I’ve got back in touch with the drummer from that band, who has a treasure trove (well, in my eyes at least – you may well think, in the wonderfully descriptive words that I recall my dear dad frequently using about my musical enthusiasms, that ‘bag o’ shite’ is more appropriate) of photos of us live on stage and rehearsing which I’ve been posting on Facebook. These have certainly triggered the memory banks, and aside from incredulity at hair (like, long), trousers (flaaaaared) and just how ‘early 70’s’ it all looks (and I suppose should, as yes, it actually was the early 70’s…) it’s astonishing me just how warm and pleasing those memories are.

We’ve also exchanged e-mails about the songs we used to perform which has prompted me to revisit some of my own favourites from the era. Last night was a Badfinger night (criminally under-rated, blah blah blah etc), tonight I am indulging in a little bit of Cream. Yes, I know they broke up in 1968, which of course is the 60’s, but in the days before the internet news took a very long time to reach the far north of Scotland. For example, I didn’t realise Buddy Holly had died until 1975, during a visit to Inverness. Hearing the news in a pub conversation there, that is, not that he had died whilst in Inverness (…or did he? They have an airport and an ice rink, which are two vital parts of the tragic story… and they often have blizzards there…). Back then, carrier pigeon was the usual method that we received urgent news by, with the added bonus that you could not only shoot the messenger if the news was bad, but also enjoy them in a pie afterward. Try doing that with an e-mail. Actually don’t, please. You may well electrocute yourself, or indeed take your eye out.

Did your mum ever seek to curtail your fun with that one?

‘Don’t run with those garden shears, you might fall and take your eye out…’
‘Careful with that can opener, you’ll take your eye out if you’re no’ canny…’*
‘Michty, watch that stick of rhubarb, it’ll have your eye out if you’re no’ careful…’
‘Put that hand held rocket launcher down please young man, or you’ll have all our eyes out…’
Other potential eye removers were –
Corners of tables. Pencils, pens, knitting needles and fenceposts. Spoons. Doorknobs. Comics (rolled up). Toothbrushes. Barrett’s Sherbet Dips (two hazards here – the lollipop-type dip, with a thin and lethal stick that could not only blind, but penetrate the brain, and the thick liquorice tube in a sherbet fizz which could cause untold ophthalmic damage). Lemonade bottles. Jigsaw puzzle pieces. Actually I’m not sure about the last one. Maybe not your eye, but definitely a tooth. I know, I can prove it. I practiced dental surgery on my younger sister with just such an implement when I was around 10 and she about 8, and removed (without pain relief) a perfectly healthy back tooth. Boy did she bleed.

Sorry, I have gone completely off the subject. What was it again?

Ah yes, the 70’s.

I think I’ll come back when I have my sensible head on, if that’s ok with you….

*Scottish humour

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…