Nobody’s Fool And It’s Cool (UK Pop Psych October 1969)

The timeline provided by the interesting & entertaining Marmalade Skies website has been the basis for irregular posts on the British underground music scene of 50 years ago. Their listings for October 1969 included “Five Leaves Left”, the wonderfully poetic debut album by singer-songwriter Nick Drake. Terrific, it was 1971 when I became aware of this record & many pleasant evenings were enhanced by its company. Pick a track, any track, two maybe three paragraphs extolling its & its creator’s virtues…job’s a good ‘un. Unfortunately my “research” showed that the album, named after the run out slip from a pack of rolling papers, was released in July of 1969! Now I’ve been doing this Internet thing for 40-odd years & I haven’t lied to you yet so that’s out. The lesson here is “never trust a Hippie” but you good folk knew that already. Right, what music did have its actual Golden Anniversary in this month.

 

 

Image result for family no mule's fool"Family, a five-piece group from Leicester had released their second LP in March 1969. “Family Entertainment” consolidated the reputation they had made with their debut “Music in a Doll’s House”, produced by Dave Mason off of Traffic, as one of the most interesting, innovative new groups. Not as experimental as the likes of Pink Floyd or Soft Machine, the imaginative instrumentation they brought to their varied, agile psychedelia & the raspy vocals of Roger Chapman gave Family a distinct & recognisable sound. They were a formidable live act, making new fans with every appearance & “…Entertainment” found a place in the Top 10 of the UK album chart.  “No Mule’s Fool”, written, like most of their songs, by Chappo & guitarist Charlie Whitney, was surely the 45 that would put the band on TV’s Top of the Pops. Well, I thought so when I bought it.

 

Image result for family band 1970s"Family’s first hiccup of 1969 came when bassist/violinist Rick Grech left the group to become the least well known of new “supergroup” Blind Faith. John Weider off of Eric Burdon & the Animals could play both of those instruments & was quickly drafted in. His violin break on the pastoral, mellow “No Mule’s Fool” moves the song up a gear for the race to the end. While recording the next LP multi-instrumentalist Jim King was the second member to split. King added nuance to many of Family’s tunes, there’s a John Peel session where his saxophone replaces the violin on the single & it’s most effective. Poli Palmer stepped in, “A Song For Me” proved to be the group’s most successful LP & that elusive hit single “The Weaver’s Answer”, was there on “Family Entertainment” all the time. Family never enjoyed the international acclaim of many of their contemporaries, were perhaps never as distinct as they had been on those first two records. Looking back to changing times in British music they deserve a wider hearing.

 

 

Image result for slade wild winds are blowing"Earlier in 1969 Ambrose Slade (formerly the ‘N Betweens), Wolverhampton’s premier live band, had released their debut LP “Beginnings”. A varied selection from their onstage setlist the diverse covers included two from Steppenwolf, the Fabs’ “Martha My Dear”, Marvin Gaye & even Frank Zappa. The record & the single “Genesis” made little impression. By this time the group were managed by Chas Chandler, former bassist of the Animals with plenty of money from his time with Jimi Hendrix. Chas’ big idea was to abbreviate the name to Slade, get the quartet to to crop their hair & adopt the boots & braces of the current Skinhead youth. “But Chas, Skinhead music is Reggae not Rock” said, apparently, no-one.

 

Image result for slade magazine cover"“Wild Winds Are Blowing” was the first 45 for the group with the shorter name & hair. The image did generate a deal of press & Chandler persuaded his old Animal mate Alan Price to include them on his TV show. The song, written by Saker & Windley, two guys who wrote little else, is given a rowdy enough treatment, not as aggressive as you might expect from a bunch of “bovver boys” & was, like the next two singles, not a success. Encouraged to write their own material, leather-lunged singer Noddy Holder & bassist Jim Lea proved to be an effective team. The skinhead thing was ditched, Doc Martens replaced by a platform booted stomp, Ben Shermans by glitter & glam. An album, “Play It Loud”, had no hit single & it was an old Little Richard song that finally put Slade into the UK Top 20. In October 1971 “Coz I Luv You” hit #1, the first of a string of eccentrically spelled records that made them a permanent fixture in the Top 10, eminent in the British Glam Pop Explosion & Noddy Holder, deservedly, a national treasure.

 

 

It says here, on the Marmalade Skies register of this month’s releases that Terry Reid had a new album called “Superlungs”. I’m sure that the folk at “The Home of British Psychedelia” were adhering to a pretty strict drug regimen to keep their minds, you know, limber but there was no LP of that title until 2004. A 45 of  “Superlungs My Supergirl”, a Donovan song was released in 1969 along with a self-titled LP. OK, because I think Terry Reid is a lovely man who should have been a huge star, I’m going to go with that. October 1969? Possibly!

 

Image result for terry reid superlungs my supergirl"How about that band? 19 year old Terry, brimming with confidence, backed by Keith Webb on drums, keyboard player Pete Solley &, bringing the groove to the Blues-Rock, bassist Lee Miles, formerly of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. “Terry Reid” the album was the second he made with producer Mickie Most whose extraordinary success in the British Beat Boom confirmed an undoubted Pop acumen which was now meeting resistance from artists, the Animals, Yardbirds, Donovan, looking beyond the three minute single. Both albums showcase Reid’s extraordinary voice & range from Blues shouter to a more restrained, still soulful  intimacy. The grandstanding cover versions of familiar songs, “Season of the Witch”, “Stay With Me Baby”, are less successful than the fine moments provided by Terry’s developing talent as a songwriter.

 

Image result for terry reid 1969"

Terry with B.B. King

Of course turning down the Led Zeppelin gig still hangs around. Peter Grant, manager of the Yardbirds/Led Zep, was Most’s business partner but Terry had his own thing, committed to an extensive touring schedule in the US where his reputation was growing. His absence from the UK didn’t help with promotion of the LP. Surely if the magnificent “Silver White Light”, a joyous rocker, had found its way on to the playlist of Britain’s only music station things would have been different. It sure sounded like a hit to me but then, what do I know?

 

Reid wanted away from Most & it became a prolonged legal matter. With a new stellar band, Miles still hanging out, drummer Alan White off of the Plastic Ono Band & master guitarist David Lindley, his music had a looser, rootsier feel (think the Black Crowes only better) but they were unable to record. It would be 1973 before “The River”, his best collection, was finally available. That one’s for another time & I’m not leaving without including the delicate beauty that is “Mayfly”. If you need something to warm you as Autumn turns to Winter & the nights get longer then here it is. Good man Terry Reid.

 

Terry Who ? Terry Reid That’s Who.

What is this clip ? Wonderful music, from a ramshackle stage, drifting over the most beautiful festival site in the world. The singer chugs the rhythm of the song. The guitarist (David Lindley, one of the master players) plugs in his lead and strokes his lap guitar. The drummer (Alan White of the Plastic Ono Band) takes one last hit of a joint, passes it on & joins the song. At the same time Lee Miles, the bass player (a long time cohort of Reid) hits exactly the same spot as the drummer & away they go. Terry is no blues shouter. He rides the groove & raises the emotional pitch along with the music. His hat is ridiculous and great. He should sue Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes for stealing his style & his music but there would be little point, Robinson is a pale imitation.

This is the first “proper” Glastonbury Festival. The film is a fine memoir of the time. That year I went to a festival & saw the Byrds, James Taylor, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Sandy Denny & Dion all in one day. Plenty of bang for your buck in those days. I did not get to Glastonbury until 10 years after this. I returned throughout the 80s & had 6 (or 7, I’m a little vague) of the best 2,000 weekends of my life there. It really is a magical place where magical things happen. I will, one day, try to produce a coherent account of my Glastonbury days (daze ?) but getting things into any kind of order seems to be against the spirit of the thing really.

My small circle of friends throw music at the Internet like we were getting it for free or something ! We hear it, someone might like it, put it out there. This song is posted regularly as a yardstick of just how good music can be. Listen to this and think on. Do you want to settle for less than this ? Lee Miles is still with Terry(in another fine hat) & they push each other to be as good as they can be. They are , as I believe the expression is, “cooking”. Again it’s all about the groove, there is not really a structure, it just rolls along beautifully. Reid’s voice is the lead instrument on this song. You can’t hear the lyrics ? You have turned into your dad.

Absolute self indulgence here. A 12 minute version of the title track of his 1976 LP “Seed of Memory” recorded this year in London, 40 years after the other clips. Terry is looking well, Hey none of us are as pretty as we were ! His voice, always his instrument is, in good nick too. His rhythm guitar style is linked to his vocal. There are better players but his guitar is the foundation upon which the song is built. It may be nostalgia. I prefer to think of it as music for grown ups made by grown ups. In my world this would be the music we regard as cabaret, not some Elton John, Celine Dion tranquilized platitudinous bullshit.

I don’t mind that Terry Reid never received the recognition he deserved. His music has always been around me. There have been years pass when I have not listened then reminded myself just how good those LPs of the early 70s were. Seriously, I don’t care if you dismiss this as not for you. Just give those clips another view because this is music to raise your spirit and to feed your heart.

Music From The Future (From Mid-September 2012)

There is so much great music in the world and not enough time to listen to it all. I am not stuck in some late-60s/early 70s bubble. It was the music of my formative years. A time when I had nothing else to do but have a good time…all the time. I mean..come on…”Electric Ladyland”, “Astral Weeks”, “What’s Goin’ On”, “The Gilded Palace Of Sin”, “Raw Power”…these are timeless works of art. I hear something good now & because I have listened I know that someone has done this sort of thing before & they have probably done it better. I love “1960s What” by Gregory Porter but I have heard Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scot-Heron & Willie Hutch and I know that these guys made album after album as good as that.

Any road up…I need to hear something new. I need to confirm that the music is not over yet. Here are some tunes that are not released yet on album and sound good to me.

Band of Horses have their 4th album out this month. Over here in the UK you don’t get to make four albums unless you sell a shitload of the first three. A band needs the room to mature and grow into the sound they want to make. Look at poor old Alex Turner. He wrote some wonderful teenage songs about hanging around Sheffield bus stops, going to clubs for the first time and the Arctic Monkeys just took over. Now he is 26, a wealthy young man who wants to write about grown-up stuff and maybe sound like Scott Walker. His audience don’t want to hear that, they want “Mardy Bum” and re-writes of “Dancefloor”. I hope he gets a chance to be heard because I think the guy is a talent. (check for the soundtrack of “Submarine”, it’s good).

So, the Band of Horses…I have friends who like them more than I do. I am a little too far down the line with the Drive By Truckers who, I think, can be more angry and more subtle. However they always have an attack about them and the template seems to be that of Crazy Horse. As we all know the secret of Crazy Horse is never to let the rhythm section play anything but rhythm. Neil Young insisted on “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” (another one !) that Talbot & Molina played strictly no frills. There are Y-tube clips of the band doing exactly the same in 2012. If the Band of Horses remind me of the Horse then that is no bad thing. This first single sounds good enough. I don’t want to damn them with faint praise and will be listening to the rest of the record with interest. I will have no choice because there are people out there who make sure I listen.

Now we are talking. DJ Shadow has a fine pair of ears. Should I say out loud that sometimes I prefer his selections to his records. There I’ve said it. “Entroducing” was a landmark album. When a guy is sampling Murray Roman, Georgio Moroder and Nirvana on the same track you know that respect is due. He made plenty of good music in the early 21st century and then took 5 years away. This track is a new one from a best of collection released this month.

If you read this and are already a fan of Terry Reid then send me a “friend request” on the F-book. You are obviously a person of taste. I don’t buy into all that “shamefully overlooked” blah, blah about some artists when it has never been the case round our yard. He is a household name in our household anyway. Terry, famously, turned down Led Zep & put them on to Robert Plant. He liked the L.A. lifestyle a little too much to bust his ass selling his brilliant 70s LPs so perhaps the great British voice of his generation did not sell as many records as his contemporaries. Give me a day or so & I’ll get on the case. He is a treasure.

Terry always had a coolness about his work. He was not a blues shouter but needed to hit the groove first. When he did …well. People who saw him play this year say he still has the pipes and is a great gig. It is so great that DJ Shadow has chosen to collaborate with Terry to complement the fine groove of his new track. The feelgood hit of the late summer I think.

OK, out next week is the 2nd LP from the xx and it’s going to be a big one for the band. The debut was the flavour of more than one month, winning awards and praise from all over. I liked it but there was a touch of the Sixth Form about them. Like they were the best band in the school but lacked the emotional range in the music and lyrics that I wanted from my music. Jamie did not screw up his remix of Gil Scot-Heron’s last work “I’m New Here”, kudos to him for that. His DJ mixes are interesting too.

I have heard a couple of tracks from the new record “Coexist” & I am liking them. I chose “Chained” because I like the vocal interplay between Jamie & Romy. The mood of the song is established and that’s enough. It’s an admirable trait when bands are writing songs with the singalong of a festival audience in mind. I am more convinced by the emotional pitch now they are all 3 years older too. If the xx are the big new UK band then it will be a good thing. The stadium fillers of today just make an empty noise. The boys on their gap year are hobbyist musicians. this bunch sound serious about it.

Well…I found 3 tracks I want to share from this month’s releases. Sometimes I think that I am lucky to hear 3 songs a year I like. I may try this again sometime.