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

MERRY XMAS EVERYBODY!

I just wouldn’t let it lie, would I… having said all my Christmas-greetings-peace-on earth-goodwill-to all-ho-ho-ho-happy-Christmas-Tiny-Tim-gawd-bless-you-Mr-Scrooge-etc etc in the last blog I return once more to briefly interfere with the smooth passage of your lives in the run up to the portly bearded gent coming down your chimney. Yes, the late Peter Grant, former manager of Led Zeppelin, is coming to YOUR house to personally collect YOUR Zep bootleg CD collection and smash it to bits before your very eyes, and he will come down your chimney wearing a bright red suit to do so on Christmas Eve… you have been warned…!

‘I is the N-M-E!’

In the newsagents today my eyes alighted upon something claiming to be the bumper Xmas edition of the New Musical Express. Gazing at the garishly glossy cover I initially thought it was those cheeky folks at Smash Hits (does it still exist?) foisting a merry Christmas jape upon us, but no, the comic before me was indeed the once mighty NME, now seemingly a refuge for mass advertising with the occasional one or two lines about music breaking up the eye-straining blocks of fluorescent frenzy about this phone or those trainers… this grumpy old man of course began to reminisce about the good old days of the 1970’s, when the NME Christmas and New Year bumper edition was indeed a thing of wonder and joy to behold, guaranteed to smear your hands with copious quantities of newsprint and generate intense debate in the pub over a Christmas special of a pint and a cheese toastie for a pound…we cannot bring back those glory days, but in the spirit of the great NME Christmas pop quizzes of yore, here follows my pathetic attempt to enliven your miserable existences with my very own Christmas pop and entertainment quiz, part mystic, part cryptic, part unfathomable, part narcissistic. Because that’s the way my mind works, the answers to some of these may be informed or hinted at by the previous answer. Or maybe not. Some answers may even be the same as other answers! (Please do not complain to OFSTED about this.) You work it out for yourselves (That’s the trouble with young people nowadays, they expect everything on a plate.)You may also find that only those of a certain age, gender, nationality and mindset will be able to complete it, as I now grudgingly admit that I know little or nothing (and pretty much care little or nothing) of what has happened in popular music or entertainment over the last twenty years. Who cares anyway, just award yourself one point for every answer you believe is correct, and when you have reached three points drink a double of your favourite spirit and mixer, or two cans of beer. Or, if you are in that 70’s mindframe anyway, have a snakebite. Or a lager tops. Or a lager and blackcurrant. Mine’s a Moscow Mule. Continue until you are very happy indeed. I’ll give you the answers according to me (and my decision is final, absolute and unswerving…) in a future blog (no cheating please, Hiro…). Alright… are we ready? Then off we go…

Section One – Waxing lyrical

(Go on go on go on – have one point for each part of the following questions, and don’t skimp on the measures…!)

1)‘does anyone know the way, did we hear someone say ‘we just haven’t got a clue WHAT to do’…’. Band and song, please.
2) ‘ …who would think a boy and bear would be well accepted everywhere, it’s just amazing how fair people can be.’ . A cover song! A great cover song – original writer/artist, cover artist and name of song this time, please. Then you can have a drink! (clue to the writer – ‘to infinity and beyond!)
3) ‘ I saw two shooting stars last night – I wished on them, but they were only satellites…’ A cover song again – same as above, then another drink!
4) Really difficult unless you are British, this one. What connects the above answers? (cryptic clue: Track 1 side 1 of ‘the Third Roxy Music Album’ may point you in the right direction…)

Section Two – cryptic and just plain ornery…

5) What connects Mr. Pitiful, a certain mighty Eskimo, Michael Jackson’s rat of a friend and those who were born of frustration? Only certain persons reading this may get this one… they should have a Tequila slammer if they do…
6)Who was moody blue, but had the balls to go off and fight for his country before growing wings? Please say you don’t mind me asking his name…
7) What is the point of U2?*
*this may not be cryptic

Section Three – Who are you?

8) ‘ Happy Christmas my arse, I hope it’s your last!’ How often have we thought that when we’ve been stuck in that queue in HMV for ¾ of an hour… but who said that to whom and in which song?
9) Who produced the Clash album ‘Give ‘em enough rope’?
10) And what was the biggest hit achieved by the band that he managed for his day job?
11) By what names did the following achieve fame (actors also included in this one, so make those doubles triples…!) a) Mark Feld b) David Jones c) Archibald Leach d) Marion Morrison e) William Broad f) William Pratt g) Vincent Furnier
12) What kind of animal was ‘Happy Jack’? (By now you should be very happy also…)
13) Who was the space cowboy, gangster of love and Maurice? (clue: this question has nowt to do with the Bee Gees)
14) Who is the arguably more famous other half of incredible guitar picker Dave Rawlings?
15) Who had a dog called Strider, immortalized in song on the third album from the band that started life as the New Yardbirds? And what was the song? And why do the birds keep on singing? Why does the sea rush to shore? Don’t they know it’s the end of the world…??

Section Four – What’s the point of sections anyway? Trivia, its all trivia

16) On which Morrissey album does the amplified sound of a power drill stand in for the sound of a motorcycle revving?
17) …and on which Roxy Music track did they actually record a motorcycle speeding down Basing St. in London to add authenticity to the rebellious nature of the lyric?
18) How many deadly Finns were encountered by Brian Eno?
19) Who was Blank Frank?
20) Which group rode the equestrian statue to the edge of the popular music charts, then were shocked to find a doughnut in granny’s greenhouse? And what exactly was the doughnut anyway….? You might need your Mr. Hanky for this one…
21) ‘the path was deep and wide from footsteps leading to our cabin, above the door there burned a scarlet lamp…’ ooo-er missus – the son of whom was singing this, and what was he better known as to the world of 60’s soul?
22) Which animal links the legendary Goodies with the band who gave us ‘Cheap Sunglasses’?
23) My son Otis currently sports a hairstyle inspired by which of these seminal 80’s bands a) Modern Romance b) the Thompson Twins or c) A Flock of Seagulls? (I currently sport a hairstyle influenced by Alf Garnett)
24) They had a friend called Stan from far, far away (he was a banging man) and this time of year wouldn’t be the same without them – who were they?
25) In which Carry On film did The Great Kenneth Williams utter these immortal words ‘infamy, infamy! They’ve all got it infamy!’?
26) …and whose first album included a lengthy musical workout about a woman named Suzi Q?
27) What was the name of the South African born record producer who was the mastermind behind feisty little Suzi Quatro?
28) which band, favourites of the Old Grey Whistle Test and the darlings of many 1970’s music critics exhorted quarreling lovers to ‘turn up the Eagles, the neighbours are listening’ and advised us that ‘showbusiness kids, making movies of themselves, you know they don’t give a f*** about anybody else…’?
29) Which famously eccentric American studio wunderkind released an acclaimed solo double album in the 1970’s featuring a pop operetta taking up one side entitled ‘baby needs a new pair of snakeskin boots’? And what was his far from flattering nickname?
30) Which 1970’s Frank Zappa album tells the sad tale of Billy the Mountain, Ethel the Tree (growing off of his shoulder) and FBI agent Studebaker Hawke? (completely useless clue: it’s the only Frank Zappa album I own).
31) Which former NME writer and soon to be famous female rock star played rhythm guitar briefly with Johnny Moped in 1978?
32) …and which legendary NME writer (clue: no friend of Sid Vicious) gave up his day job briefly to front the short-lived Subterraneans?
33) On which 70’s Rolling Stones song does Mick Jagger sign off by whispering ‘good night – sleep tight…’?
34) Where in Scotland would you find the John Lennon Memorial Garden. And why?
35) Which of these apocryphal stories is actually true – a) TV quizmaster Bob Holness played the sax solo on Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’, b) Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath has metal fingers, or c) Rod Stewart played harmonica on ‘My Boy Lollipop’ by Millie

Section Five – ‘That’s Entertainment’

36) who was famously described thus at his first screen test – ‘balding, can’t act, can’t sing, can dance a little.’?
37) which 50’s and 60’s British star appeared in a dreadful movie based on his hit song about an albino baby bull. Have another drink if you can name the movie and the song, because that makes you as much a saddo as I am.
38) catchphrases…. what would we do without them, eh? Which legends provided the English language with the following gems…? a) ‘stop messing abaht!’ b) ‘shut that door!’ c) ‘hello playmates!’ d) ‘wakey-wakey!’
39) comedians making records… what would we do without them, eh? Which mirth-inducers tickled our fancies with these shellac curiosities from the 1960’s…?
a) ‘Gossip Calypso’ b) ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ c) ‘My Boomerang Won’t Come Back’ and d) ‘Right Said Fred’
40) Elvis had an old one and John Noakes had one that always appeared to be up when it shouldn’t have been – ooo-er missus, to what am I referring?

Section Six – ‘You know my name, look up the number.’

41) ‘I am not a number, I am a free man!’ Which actor said this, in which TV series? And what was his number?
42) How many Screaming Dizbusters did the Blue Oyster Cult warn us about?
43) Add the number of ?’s tears to the Yardbirds Little Indians and Traffic’s Headmen and what number do you get?
44) What was the number plate of Bryan Ferry’s girlfriend’s car at the time of the first Roxy Music album (this is not as obscure as you think, folks…!)?
45) Which LP record sported the catalogue number K50008, although this was impossible to find anywhere on the cover or inner sleeve (much to the annoyance of the woman in Clark’s Electrical in Thurso when I tried to buy this album in the 70’s. )

Section Seven – ‘and when I am in Camelot, I like to push the pram a lot’.

The source of the following lyrical gems, please!

46) ‘ I saw a lion he was standing alone, with a tadpole in a jar’
47) ‘dancing in the nude and feeling such a dude, it’s a rip-off!’
48) ‘ where do we go from here – is it down to the lake, I fear?’
49) ‘ he went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun – in case of accidents he always took his mum.’

And finally! Question 50! ‘what WERE you thinking?’

50) which bands took their names from the following sources…?
a) a giant metal pleasure device in the William Burroughs novel ‘Naked Lunch’?
b) the victim of a fatal shooting by student Gavrilo Princep?
c) the part conjoined names of two Mississippi bluesmen?
d) an acronym of their family stage name?
e) a character from the movie ‘Barbarella’?
f) a beer and a desire to get back to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll?
g) a palindrome of their first initials?
h) a superstitious fear amongst US building contractors?

If you did, thank you so much for taking part, however by now you should be very drunk and more than a little bored, so why don’t we just switch off our computers and go and do something less boring instead? After all, in the immortal words of Enid Blyton…

‘ IT’S CHRI-I-I-STMAS!’

Sorry, that should have read ‘the immortal words of Noddy…’

Nid Nod

Goodnight All, mind how you go… and remember ‘Save the cheerleader, save the world…’

(extra question which has just occurred to me– whatever happened to the BBC’s flagship Christmas day programme ‘ A Merry Morning’? That Noel Edmonds, oooh, he was ever such a nice lad…)