and now a granite mix that deals with my own work. this is my unveiling on this website of my new album which is called true v eye and will imminently be available on itunes and as a hard copy at my amazon store – see the buy stuff page for links. there are only 2 of the tracks from the new album featured on the mix along with a selection from other albums and some obscure places.
the music speaks for itself but it would be churlish not to write a bit about these tracks so here goes. desert ghost dance has nursery rhyme style dialogue and therefore acts as a pair with track 6. a famous german 20th century artist is referenced in the last verse. perplex is a pair with it too because it is also a dialogue of sorts. then there’s suspense which also hovers between heaven and earth, as do, for that matter the children of the sea. domes however merely fly beneath the starlit sky. i’ve already mentioned in my jar – a famous 20th century british writer is referenced in the 3rd verse.
my video for happy song is a shoddy affair but has a certain innocent sweetness in its demeanour which i hope makes up for that.
the track that i’ve called chasing the sun dates to a period when I was using a sampler to create the basics of my music. everything was a home recording and nothing was ever that well-finished but i’ve got a lot of interesting things that may never show the light of day. this one’s made it through though – for a while at least. It contains a sample from a track by sun ra called disco 2100. in the train was recorded in about 1982. at the recording session for the new album i re-recorded this track and my plan is to release both versions on some vinyl later this year. this is a re-mastered version of the 1982 track.
the words for v’nosnu are almost all from primo levi’s magnificent novel if not now when (english translation i’m afraid – an italian version would be good or maybe even a yiddish one). i’d just like to point out though that there is some art to it all the same – though mostly inspiration. in my book inspiration trumps artfulness. a cherry tree aka the cherry tree was somehow inspired and inter-connected with the music of the last track of the mix. I was still at school when I wrote the words which aren’t used in the music but which are
I planted a cherry tree
I watered it every day
in the summer I sat in its shade
one day a cherry appeared on my tree
one day a cherry appeared on my tree
it is for this that we live
it is for this that we live
One of the most difficult things about being in a band is finding a name for it. Since about 1980 I’ve been a benign despot in terms of presenting my own music and so I haven’t had to argue about it with anyone. And any bands I’ve been in where it wasn’t my music I was generally happy enough to go along with the consensus. In 1983 I started a new band and struck on the name Sinking Sun King. I felt happy about the degree of wordplay and sub-text involved although it did seem to suggest lofty aspirations. If we had produced an album it was to be called Delusions of Grandeur to play upon that. The album never happened although quite a lot of material was recorded. None of them have been released although a couple of the best were considered for Whose Last Trickle.
I have put one of the tracks up on YouTube. It’s already up on the Music page on this website, but I created a rudimentary film to accompany it. It’s Wound which is supposed to be pronounced to rhyme with round or sound or even drowned. There’s an as, hem, syrup version of the song which is on WLT.
Having considered a couple of the band names that my benign despot approach to nomenclature has produced you may be thinking that I could have benefited from a bit of 3rd party argumentation. A couple of days ago, after several pints of ale, I decided to come up with a few new band names. Please feel free to help yourself to any of them if you’re looking for a band name. I don’t suppose I’ll use any of them. Probably some of them are already being used – I haven’t checked.
a good scrop
drone scar bite
so bad far
In a recent post I wrote and presented a couple of versions of a song called Coathanger and through that was born a new category which is called Coathanger Trail in which I work my way through the songs that are referenced in that song. And first off we have Beagles Wag. A song that I never expected to play again after it was largely dropped from the Dry Rib set probably in 1979, but which I did perform earlier in the summer by popular request. The song has taken on a new life of its own. At the moment I’m reading the last volume of Christopher Isherwood’s diaries and there’s a lot about their (Chris and Don that is) trying to write a Frankenstein screenplay. I will say no more.
Well up above there is an archive handwritten version of the lyrics. This cannot be the original write-out of the words as it is too neat and stylised but it was not done too long after – I would say that the 3rd digit of the year has to be a 7.
This is the 2nd in the series of repeated songs. The 1st entry on this subject is here. This song is called Men of War. The 1st version which is on Whose Last Trickle was recorded close to the writing of the song in about 1980. I don’t remember where, why and how I wrote it. I embraced surrealism from an early age. The subversion of reality and breaking through into the world of dream seemed more exciting than anything else in the world of art, film and literature back in the 60s when I was a teenager. I wrote surrealist poems at first then maybe some songs but not all the songs. It was something I could do, but I wanted to try other things as well. Often those other songs might have an element of surrealism lurking there all the same. But it was in 1979 that I deliberately decided to write a song that was purely surrealistic and it was called Squeaky Macaws. I’ve got a couple of demo recordings of this track that didn’t make it on to Whose Last Trickle. I’ll load them up sometime. Men of War moved onto another level. For a start it was half in French, which is probably the most of I’ve ever made of the degree I have in the language. But also there’s a nautical theme.
Here’s the first version. It was recorded in Endell Street, Covent Garden, London. It features me on guitar and vocals, Lindsay Lancaster on bass guitar, Ray Kent on drums. It’s the recording of a live performance and consequently is a bit rough. It wasn’t meant to be for general consumption but that’s what’s happened.
1980 men of war
I wanted to re-record this song, because I like it and although the earlier recording has a certain naive charm (if you like that sort of thing) and the right spirit, it wasn’t a brilliant recording of the song technically. This 2nd version was recorded at J&J Studio , Easton, Bristol in late 2007. I play guitar and sing, Paul Wigens on drums, Jeff Spencer on bass. I overdubbed a lead guitar part and also doubled up on the vocals, but apart from that, the guitar, drums and bass are all played live, though Jeff probably touched up his bass part as he’d never played any of the tracks before.
2007 men of war
A little bit more about surrealism. Firstly a quotation from Walter Benjamin,
…it is as magical experiments with words, not as artistic dabbling, that we must understand the passionate phonetic and graphical transformational games that have run through the whole literature of the avant-garde for the past fifteen years, whether it is called Futurism, Dadaism, or Surrealism.
Actually that’s probably it for now. Except here’s 2 youtube links for anyone interested. Firstly one of the seminal works of the movement, produced in 1929, 10 years after the setting up of the surrealist group and apparently as a means to join the group on the behalf of its creators, Buñuel and Dali. Funnily enough that’s the same year Benjamin’s essay on Surrealism from which the quotation above comes was first published.
and finally an episode of an old children’s tv show called Buccaneers from the 60s starring Robert Shaw which gave me some early sailing craft images back in the day
I know I just put my song a clef at the end of the last post so this is a bit of repetition but I’ve also had a fern film hanging around waiting to be done and there is a line in the song which goes
fern fronds gently sway
and so I decided to use it as a soundtrack for the film. I have a few of these hastily thrown together moving still lifes which are best watched in full screen mode with the sound set to max preferably in a darkened room hanging like a bat from the ceiling.
On watching it I noticed towards the end a small fly trying to grab everyone’s attention and it made me think of another piece I did a few years ago where a bee steals the show so here’s that one as well. In this one the music is bespoke and uses a couple of samples from my song The Lost Keys which is on the Dry Rib cd Whose Last Trickle.
The recent death of Captain Beefheart gives me the chance to air some words I’ve put on the web before. Also I hope to write something in 2011 which will mention the great man again in my further forays into the world of Nonsense. Actually a lot of the first bit is about me, but I’ve kept it in because I think my comments about his music are worth reiterating and it hangs together as a whole thing better, if you see what I mean.
Now that Whose Last Trickle is out in the world people are beginning to write things about it, other than myself, and the spectre of the good Captain Beefheart looms large as something to pin a sign and say, basically, if you like… then you might like…
To me Beefheart is just part of the story, but definitely a strong part and I’d like to register that fact. Here’s a few recent statements.
I’m listening closely and can hear the roots of your current guitar style in germinal form here — a little jazzy, a little troutmaskreplica, a little Bernard Sumner maybe?
this was my response
Thanks for listening so closely, Hex. My guitar style was pretty much formed before I’d ever heard Joy Division, by about ’78, but Trout Mask Replica I think is a very important album, not just for me, but for everybody trying to do experimental rock in those days. In fact I would like to suggest that the cornerstone 3 albums for most of the experimental British bands of late 70s early 80s were Trout Mask Replica, White Light/White Heat and The Madcap Laughs.
Just to expand on that a bit I’d like to say that most rock/pop music was based on traditional western music systems based on 3 chords, so if you’re playing in G then you also use C and D. Or (following this example) you can use some other incidental chords that contain the notes of the scale of G such as A minor or B minor. Or you can bring in what I think of as the Russian school of pop song that used diminished or augmented chords to link different main chords together. Or you could change key completely for certain effects.
As far as I’m concerned in rock music Captain Beefheart was the most able and original musician to break all those rules and just play chords, irrespective of scales and musical traditions. In this he certainly was aware of both modern/free jazz adventures and also of what you might call contemporary classical music. But the great thing he did was to tie all that down to the basic rawness of the blues and at the same time do things with words that were pretty revolutionary too.
Finally this seems a good place to hang another blog I did a couple of years ago and for some complicated reason took down. It was part of a series I was writing about gigs I’d been to in the past, and certainly doesn’t cover all my experience of seeing Beefheart live – just the first one I went to. Here it is :-
When I was about 7 years old I first came across Mad magazine. There was something very disturbing about it. I was used to stories with goodies and baddies where the former would always eventually triumph. The comic strips in Mad took those very same goodies and recreated them as flawed, unpredictable characters.
Some 8 years later I had similar feelings when I first came across Captain Beefheart and his music. I didn’t get it and wasn’t even intrigued. (These days you can point your browser, find anything there is to know about a band or a musician, find their influences, look those up too and in most cases listen to some of it. As a teenager in the 60s you had to work hard for a bit of knowledge. I’m not convinced that we’re necessarily better off now. Only time will tell.)
Meanwhile in 1974 in Oxford I buy tickets to see Captain Beefheart at the New Theatre. I have a friend coming to stay for a couple of days and we particularly want to see the support band, Henry Cow. It was the only time I ever saw the latter but their attractive, quirky, cerebral music was a perfect opener for Beefheart. In truth the detail that most sticks in my mind is the standard lamps that they used on stage – that was a great idea.
This period in Captain Beefheart’s musical career is generally one that is preferred to be forgotten by many of his fans. I’d never seen him before so didn’t know what to expect. Presumably the largely partisan audience did know that the music had changed a bit, but they all seemed to love it anyway. Obviously at that point in his career he was trying to achieve more commercial success and the experimental elements were missing. But it was still great music. I think Blue Jeans & Moonbeams has some great music on it. I especially love the song, Observatory Crest – it’s just a great premise for a song – a really simple story of going to a concert then driving up to a high point and looking down on the lights of the city. Friends I spoke to later who had been long-term Beefheart fans really hated these changes and I suppose the fact that only a year or so later he had gone back to the older material suggests that the man himself had some misgivings.
I think he should have the last word on the subject himself, remembered off by heart (ashtray?) from an interview he did later – “Friends don’t mind just how you grow”.
Some final notes added today to this :-
Actually I now realise that the “Friends don’t mind…” quotation is a line from the song Electricity
I just noticed the other day that Hex has got a new band SS Boombox
Finally here’s a youtube clip of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band performing Electricity