The last in a series of articles that Townshend wrote for Melody Maker in the early ’70s. Written April 14, 1971…
THINGS ARE DIFFERENT ACROSS THE SEA
Any interviewer with any self respect will always begin his question and answer game with “How do audiences abroad compare with our own?” Well, how do you all compare with American audiences, and why do groups apparently prefer to work over in the States for long stretches?
There are so many differences between kids in the North and South, even within Britain, you would think perhaps that there are enough Rock lovers to go around. It makes it a lot easier to understand how refreshing it is to discover a new and hungry audience abroad, when you realise that despite the variety here at home, working more than once a week can land you up at everyone’s local hall once every few months.
That can’t work. A group can’t be expected to change its act more than once every six months. It takes about six weeks to do it properly, and usually audiences still want to hear all the oldies. I roared with laughter when I read that Ten Years After had gone off the road to revise their act, then gone hack on the road doing exactly the same set. It looks like it could happen to us.
The main reason that a group makes its first groping steps to America is usually a thirst for glamour. Money too. Unless you are top all the time you can’t make enough to live on, in a group over here. Lots of groups are done it for love, playing on half paid-for gear, and eating in transport cafes and out of baked bean cans.
America is the beckoning dream where, if you’re English, you get cheered for half an hour after your act because they love your accent. The Beatles did it, here and there. I imagine that a lot of groups sit and wonder, just as we did, why their hits in England didn’t automatically sell in the States. Americans are famous for their lavish spending on European goods, but they always insist on seeing what it is they are buying. They want to inspect the merchandise So over we go.
The first trip to the States of any major English act is always treated as a group’s big next step. They wave happily from the top steps of a VC 10 and set off to make their fortune. A couple of months later, after the most gruelling and exhausting work they have probably ever done in their lives, they return triumphantly home and start to tell lies. “It was great!” “We made thousands!” It went terribly, and they lost thousands.
A terrible indignity to have to suffer, particularly if your angry fans start making meat of your lies and tell you off for deserting them for money alone. Leaving debts abroad is a drag. When a group gets back and does do well, finally, it does maybe three or four tours paying off old debts and getting in the black. So why do they still insist on going?
It pays in the end, of course. The Faces are proving that yet again for the British contingent. But look at another aspect of the Rock scene which has its worldwide variations. Failure. In this country Thunderclap Newman had a number one hit with their first record, it took everyone unawares, but with the highest ideals in mind they went on to make an album which very few people bought over here. That is a kind of failure.
It’s not too hard to bear because in my opinion (I produced it, so my opinion isn’t worth much) it’s a bloody good album. An incredible first album. So now we sit around with our heads together determinedly attempting to hum up a number one song. It seems to be the only way — in England.
In the States it’s a totally different story. Not only did they not have a number one hit with their first record, “Something In The Air,” but neither did they with any of the others. Big deal, you say, but you have to talk to the kids in the streets to get the feeling that exists around them in the States. They aren’t a big group, they aren’t a small group. They aren’t a group group. They are a myth. They make records, that when reviewed in a batch, have a mysterious and dreamlike quality about them. They have an album which, on the strength of the myth, and a lot of Atlantic plugging is beginning to sell. It will probably sell many more after their second album emerges. That is usually the way.
If they took a walk together in the street over here, they would arrive home feeling like it was all over. If they took a walk in the street in New York; they would feel like it was all beginning. I know, the WHO did that very thing about three years ago.
How come the British scene produces so many good musicians and bands, when it’s too small to make really big stars out of more than a few of them? Apart from the musicians who play what they want to play without aspirations of fame and glory, there is of course the chance of chart success. There are always twenty records in the top twenty; twenty different songs by twenty different people. All year round. There is a chance for everyone, in a way. The record has to be a certain type of record, and the BBC has to be favourable, but it is the simple ambition of many a pop star to get in the charts. Us included. Being a smaller scene than the US pop industry, gives the individual an advantage in a way. He stands to gain less if be makes it, but he stands a good chance of making it, if he is good.
No matter how good he is though, and this is the tragedy, the British scene cannot sustain him forever. Even Cliff and Hank, seemingly British to the core, with no US success to speak of, have audiences of considerable size in Japan, Spain, Israel and Europe. The Trems are huge in South America, the Marmalade in Thailand. It has to be. There just ain’t enough good vibes and lolly to feed the sweet aspirations of all our talent. We have too much talent, and not enough audience.
About those chaps who play for the joy of playing alone, and don’t really care about the bread? Ironically they usually make it big and end up owning huge mansions and six Ferraris. Even the Rock world respects ethnic sincerity. It shows its respect by buying albums.
To get down to the really big differences, you have to start looking less at charts and tours and more at people. America is a country with hang-ups. The general national trait seems to be one of sticking to one’s guns. Doing it the way you think it should be done, and expecting the rest of the people to follow suit. This is a life style maintained by the young as well as the old.
As a writer America is where I am. It’s where I write about. it’s where the hunger is. If you like, my home in London is really a country residence away from the hassle and trouble of the city I am writing about, away from the people I am writing for. I can stand back from the riots and earthquakes and make observations. Then when I feel able, fly over and stand on a stage and speak my piece. I met Steve Marriott for the first time for ages In New York last week. He said that my last words to him, almost two years ago when he moved out to the country, were “Dropout!”
There are advantages for the Americans. of course. Britain is a country where Elvis can remain a myth. It’s a country that loves Tom Paxton more than his own neighbours did. It’s a country that knows more about the American blues heritage, and its history, than even some of the old bluesmen themselves. A country where you can play the good old Albert Hall and make your name even if no one has ever heard of you. Make your name here, mates: but don’t expect to make anything else.
Whether it be your favourite British band going over there or your favourite American band coming over here; American audiences are paying the fare. The bands keep coming though, and we keep going. There must be something about us they like. There’s definitely something likeable about them.
JAI BABA FOLKS
This February 2001 preface to the book “The Savage Rose Story” by David Fricke talks about his lifelong love of this Danish psych band, and how Lester Bangs turned him on to them. Their album In the Plain has many excellent examples of psych madness…
It was the late, great rock critic Lester Bangs who made me a lifelong fan of the Savage Rose. He did it with a review of In the Plain, that ran in the October 18, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone. On page 42, to be exact.
“This is a rather peculiar album,” Bangs said before rolling out a set of juicy metaphors in praise of the singular electricity of the band’s powerhouse singer Anisette: “Grace Slick at 78 RPM”; “Minnie Mouse on a belladonna jag.” He also wrote about organ notes “pouring like star drifts down from vast black skies” and made flattering comparisons to old Bela Lugosi movie scores and the 1960s doo-wop exotica of Rosie and the Originals. “This group isn’t coming on in a blaze of glory,” Bangs signed off. “They are working very hard at the incredibly difficult process of learning to sing their own song.”
I knew what he meant when I heard In the Plain. The Savage Rose were a band of rare beauty and courage – formed in Denmark, singing in English but rapidly inventing their own rock & roll tongue, a new soul born of psychedelia, Beatlemania, Harlem gospel and European art song. In Anisette, the Savage Rose possessed an extraordinary instrument of confession and jubilation, a mighty R&B angel packed into a slender stick of hellfire. There was rich drama, too, in the group’s exquisite keyboard interplay, the avant-garage tension of their riffs and rhythms and the dynamic songwriting of Thomas and Anders Koppel.
I still shake with awe and relish when I listen to In the Plain – to the exuberant salvation song “Ride My Mountain” or the bittersweet gypsy dance “Evening’s Child.” I also think about what might have been. The Savage Rose seemed ripe for big things in America then. They shared the stage with Jethro Tull and James Brown at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival; the albums Your Daily Gift and Refugee were underground sensations here. In his 1971 Rolling Stone review of Refugee, Lester Bangs cited it, alongside Who’s Next, as a reason to keep believing in the magic and life force of rock & roll.
I feel the same way about the Savage Rose music that has followed: the bluesy 1972 diamond, Babylon; the explosive title song of 1973’s Wild Child; the band’s powerful Danish-language reading of Thomas Koppel’s ballet score, Dødens Triumf (Triumph of Death); the 1984 set of acoustic political-action songs, Vi Kæmper For at Sejre (We Struggle for Victory). And I find sweet irony in the fact that while the Savage Rose are now remembered in America mostly as an acid-rock curio, a colorful echo of Europe’s hippie renaissance, Thomas and Anisette currently live in Los Angeles, where they are writing and recording some of the finest music of their lives. The Savage Rose are not prisoners of history – because they never stopped making it.
Lester Bangs died in 1982. I never got to thank him for turning me on to the Savage Rose. But a few years after his death, I found a worn, apparently well-loved first edition of The Savage Rose, the band’s Danish 1968 debut, in a used-record store in Greenwich Village. On the back cover, written in blue ink, was the name of the original owner: “Bangs.” That album now sits on my record shelf, right next to my original 1969 copy of In the Plain. I think he would appreciate that.
A Sept. 1, 2003 Stylus review by Nick Southall…
“Miles the dresser, Miles the boxer, Miles the bon vivant, Miles the pioneer.” — Frank Glenn (from the original LP liner notes)
By ’69, of course, Miles had already wound his way down many paths, his meandering dance turning jazz on its head time and again. The albums Miles produced during the mid to late ‘60s hinted at the direction he would take as the decade folded, but not one of them fully prepared people for the changes in store during ’69. In a Silent Way marked the point at which Miles left conventional forms of jazz behind altogether, and moved into completely new ground. Previously he had reinvented old forms, made them his own by painting his lyrical, melancholy trumpet lines indelibly over whichever canvas he chose as his basis of expression. But come ’69 Miles started creating new canvases altogether, the world of jazz was simply not large or vivid enough to contain his perpetual and undying will to create, his need to seek new avenues of expression.
Moving away from the creative, modernist hard bop that Miles pioneered in the mid ‘60s, Miles in the Sky had looked at the future with trepidation, wanting to break free of itself and leap into the unknown, but seemed scared to do so. Filles de Kilimanjaro headed more successfully towards the territory of the fusion to come, but was still undeniably the work of a classic jazz quintet, however superlative that quintet may have been. In a Silent Way saw the famed quintet of the ‘60s dissipate, and the structures and rules of jazz as played by Miles dissolve along with them.
In a Silent Way presented a new kind of music, a music that rose from the ether, drifting and meandering like smoke caught in candlelight. Miles assembled a fluid octet for In a Silent Way that included three electric pianos (played by Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul) and the electric guitar of the young John McLaughlin alongside soprano sax, bass, drums, and Miles’ trumpet. Together the band were perhaps the most cohesive and telepathic outfit Miles had put together, a feat considering the gift Miles had for assembling young talent. But however superlative the band may have been for In a Silent Way it remains an album largely built on the studio skills of Teo Macero and Miles himself. Behind the scenes, Miles and Teo took the tapes of the In a Silent Way sessions and transformed some beautiful, folk-tinged, melody-driven sets into two exquisite, beguiling and otherworldly pieces of music. Using techniques that pre-dated the proliferation of tape loops, cut-ups, edits and sequencing in rock, pop, hip hop and dance music, Miles and Teo took apart the original recording and reassembled them outside of any traditional or accepted jazz structure or melodic framework. This idea of taking jazz away from its birth, genesis and flowering as a live art and into the studio would soon become standard practice, but in 1969 it was groundbreaking.
In terms of mood, In a Silent Way treads similar ground to Miles’ classic Kind of Blue, weaving its strange, formless ways around a hazy, after-hours ambience of subdued tones and delicious melancholy. The music itself though, is far away from the structured beauty of that album. It is free, unfettered and uncontainable, a liquid pool of keys and atmospheres from which originates a series of open-ended vamps and solos, and a rhythm that is sometimes barely present, at other times sinuously, subtly funk-inflected. There are no rules to this music, no boundaries. The players pick up on each other, establish riffs, whispers of melodies, and either leave them to dissolve or else gently breathe life into them. Shorter fills space, floating in and out of audibility, until it is his turn to articulate a moment. Miles sits back, in control, his presence notable by a waft of trumpet here and there, his image reclined against the studio door throughout, nodding his head as the music of his band matches the music in his mind. But really it is the three keyboardists and McLaughlin who make In a Silent Way the work of wonder that it is, the constant, slowly undulating core of sound over which McLaughlin weaves his way through a never-ending daze.
In A Silent Way is timeless. The fresh modes of constructing music that it presented revolutionised the jazz community, and the shifting, ethereal beauty of the actual music contained within has remained beautiful and wonderful, its echoes heard through the last 30 years, touching dance music, electronica, rock, pop, all music. People may cite the vast classicism of Sketches of Spain, the wonderful, beautiful sorrow of Kind of Blue, or the seismic impact of Bitches Brew, but In a Silent Way is perhaps the understated peak of Miles’ career. The strange, elusive beauty of this album captures the essence of Miles and his music, distils his ongoing quest to find new ways of expression, and opens up new worlds to all who listen.
From issue #85 (June 24, 1971) comes this Rolling Stone article on guitar wizard Jeff Beck, who had just formed a new version of The Jeff Beck Group at the time. He had just recovered from a car accident, and had also recorded an album in 1970 at the Motown studios that has yet to be released…
For some time, Jeff Beck had the reputation for being the epitome of English white-blues smartie-pants guitarists. A breed of questionable ethics, it seemed, with Beck the most suspect of the lot. He was cranky, egotistical, he fired musicians, stalked off stages, was moody. A shmoe, and after a while only the groupies cared that he was one of the progenitors in the list of Anglophallics in 1968 Anglophilac America.
There was no denying he had rock and roll sense. And he has had a few rotten turns. He’s news now because he’s finally, after a two-year lay-off, gotten a new band together. He recorded a week’s worth of rock at Island’s studios, when suddenly affairs were steeped in intrigue.
A growing animosity seems to be developing between Beck and his managers, RAK. Beck, unhappy with the new record contracts being drawn up, flew to America to negotiate privately with Columbia. RAK, unhappy that Beck was doing things behind their backs and having already paid for the studio time, confiscated the tapes. The last word is that Beck, now even more distraught at losing the tapes, and thinking it unpractical to loose his gang of hoodlums on RAK, is attempting to compromise by offering two per cent of the record money to Mickey Most (who, along with Peter Grant, is RAK), in return for the tapes.
“And that’s a fuck of a lot too,” growls Beck. “If the album’s somehow a million seller, that could mean $20,000.”
Conceivably, a guy could get the blues.
He was rehearsing daily at the Country Club, an old Jewish social hall-turned-rock club in fashionable Hampstead, London. The place has never really been renovated — it’s a psychedelic ballroom with overstuffed chairs, chandeliers, murals, committee-chosen wallpaper. Still, in its squalor and pallor, rock bands know that they get an honest shake from the clientele.
“We’re not going to throw away the heavy sound,” is the first thing Jeff gets off his chest, bouncing up and down. “There’s just some things you have to keep. I mean, drummers and bassmen have been working for years to get that sound down, you just can’t chuck it all out for acoustic guitars, can ya? Naah, I like it funky.”
This is a funky-looking crew. Alex Ligertwood with the bashed-in Glasgow face is the new vocalist; handsome Trinidadian Clive Charman on bass; dumpy, intellectual Max Middleton, wearing an SS leather trenchcoat, on electric piano; and Cozy Powell, an exact look-a-like to Beck, on drums.
Cozy was with Beck when he recorded the Motown tapes last year, a project that everyone was dying to hear, but Beck didn’t want released. Here was someone who actually gone in and learnt the secrets of the Kingdom. A skinny English cat, yet.
Producer Mickie Most, looking back on it all, thinks it was strange. “It was another world. Understandably, it was hard for Jeff to get the feel of the music right away. They never heard of Jeff, or me; they just thought we were a couple of English blokes out for a blast. Very strange.”
Actually, Motown did know who Most was. This fellow Most is responsible for something like 45 gold records over the last six years, with overall sales around 125 million. One of those legendary Man With A Golden Ear characters and, to be sure, the hits were with sure-fire marks like Donovan, Herman’s Hermits and the Animals, but there was a talent. So it was that Motown made overtures to Most to get him on their Rare Earth label, add a little color to the situation, maybe, and thence the label got mixed up with Beck and the nice fat sound. But more on Most later.
“This band is kind of a Motown experiment,” says Alex Ligertwood. They do a version of Stevie Wonder’s “Show Me to Where There’s Music” and Beck often relaxes into some riff like “Reach Out,” and of course, there’s a hefty brace of Motown cartridge tapes on the dashboard of his Mustang for when he goes cruising.
He’s a hotrodder, after all. “He’s been down there in Eggerton fucking around with his cars for the last two years,” grumbles manager Grant.
At his Kent estate, Beck is working on a custom ’32 Ford Coupe, with a 350 Chevy engine and a Powerglide. A Little Deuce Coupe. And everybody’s already heard about his Model T, the one with the 327 and the B&M Hydroshift, the one that he crashed most violently on the very same weekend he was to join Tim Dogert and Carmine Appice in that much waited for super charged supergroup from the ashes of Vanilla Fudge that never got moving because Beck was lying in a hospital bed with a concussion.
They’ve moved the rehearsals up to a dingy, dusty old dancehall in far north London, behind a pub called?honest — the Fishmongers Arms. This place is even more hysterical than the last. The last time the Fishmongers Arms saw this kind of action … was when Gene Vincent and his Houseshakers had a rave last year.
The band cooks. It’s “heavy,” sure, but it’s not glue-sniffing heavy, it’s mostly thudding Romilar action. Cozy Powell is one of a few drummers who can use twin bass drums and not get lost in them. Max Middleton was a classical pianist student for 18 years and this is his first venture into pop. And he doesn’t use all the old stock riffs. And Jeff tapes his feet as he plays, a rare sight for guitarists; it’s up-beat, crystal-clear chording, then it’s all a slide back into Motown Heavy.
Beck has been out of action for two years, and in that time he’s not heard too many new groups. After the crash, he lost a lot of interest in guitar. This band is conceivably not a progression, as such, and its, roots are in an established energy happening. Then again, London Town, all your bands have progressed so much, progressed on to such other meaningful, things, that raw funk stands … isolated, usually.
Beck used to play in the Tridents in 1965, a semi-pro rhythm and blues band, one of the many but for Beck’s echo chamber and his teenage guitar freak-outs during Bo Diddley’s “Nursery Rhymes” down at the Hundred Club. “A big old African riff, y’know, where you could play the wrong notes and times and it would still sound great. On the echo, I used to have a half-second, quarter-second and eighth-second delays built in, and I could let it build and build and build. I’d play another note and on-and-on-and-on.
“One night we’d just done a great set when this chap comes out of the audience, smoking a cigar, and asked me if I wanted to join this group. And I said, ‘Naah. Fuck off, man.’ And then I thought that if I had some more money, I could do more things. Then I found out that the group was the Yardbirds.
“I didn’t like them when I first met them. They didn’t say Hi or anything. They were pissed off the Eric had left, they had thought that the whole Yardbirds sound had gone. That was the impression I had got. They said, ‘Can you play blues?’ I said, ‘Wot, slow blues? Chi-ca-go blues?’ They said anything. So I honked around. They said to get rid of the echo … you don’t use an echo in Chi-ca-go blues … yeah, that’s just what they said!”
It was about that time that blues started coming down on Beck personally. As he admits, “I wasn’t ready to go from the semi-pro, straight to the glamor.” He missed gigs, he started fussing with the sound. He also recorded some very novel tracks with them, including “Heart Full of Soul,” “Shape of Things,” and “Better Man Than I” In short, he breathed a second life into the band. They were solid avant-garde for the adolescents.
His exit from the Yardbirds was less than graceful. “I had a nervous break down, y’know,” he philosophizes. “I don’t know if you know what a nervous breakdown really is, but I had one. It was in St. Tropez for his concert, and I had fainted and fell down about three flights of stone stairs, couldn’t even speak to the doctor, and after he gives me about 3000 prescriptions, he tells me I’ll be alright. I just have meningitis. And I thought. ‘Hoowah, my mother told me meningitis was a bad disease.’
“It was when I was convalescing that Jimmy Page joined the Yardbirds. He was the one that got me in the band in the first place as they approached him before me. He said no, but recommended me. Anyway, I really wanted Jim Page on lead guitar with me because I knew it would sound sensational. We had fun. I remember doing some really nice jobs with page. It lasted about four or five months, then I had this throat thing come on, inflamed tonsils, and what with inflamed brain, inflamed tonsils and an inflamed cock and everything else …”
Just before the final split, Beck vented his revenge in Antonioni’s Blow Up. “When Antonioni said that he wanted me to break my guitar I had a fit. I said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s Townshend’s thing.’ I didn’t mind playing a very wild number with lots of violence in it, lots of chords smashing away, but I didn’t actually want to destroy the guitar. What a cheat, the first part shows me playing a Les Paul and in the second part I’m smashing up a cheap old $35 Japanese model.”
So what did he think when he saw the flick? “I was thoroughly embarrassed I had fucking hard-on in the picture, man! This chick I was going out with at the time said, ‘Oh my god, don’t go see that film, it’s so embarrassing, I didn’t know what to do, I took my mother to see it and there you were … this horrible, sinister thing hanging down the side of the screen.’ It gets hot under them lights, after all, rupturing myself with those tight trousers.”
A rock and roll star in what Mickie Most wanted to be. “I was like the Elvis of South Africa,” he acknowledges. “I had 11 Number One records down there.”
Understandably, the kind of rock-flame neo-Buddy Holly act he was doing that transports you to the top down there, didn’t work in Beatle-struck London, and in 1964, after a series of bill-bottoming debacles, he began producing. His first assignment, lucky enough, was that half-hour session in which the Animals turned out “House of the Rising Sun.” The luck began, the hits began, the Product began.
As a “popcorn producer” (Beck’s term), Most was incomparable. Whether doing the Yardbirds or Lulu, he used his own restraint and rarely got lost in the excess: heavy or arty. It was later, however, upon release of two relatively bland Terry Reid albums (bland when considering the talent), that Most’s ability to keep up with the times was sometimes questioned.
Most built Donovan a heady musical image. He got rid of the old scruff Dylan image and gave him a new up-to-date Folk Rock image. “Donovan was a song-writer, and he’d sometimes write up to 30 songs a week, all of which he wanted recorded. I just picked the hits out, such as I picked out ‘Mellow Yellow’ and I selecte ‘Sunshine Superman.’ Don was surprised at these choices, but they were hits. When we began to grow apart was after his California trip. I wanted to keep building him, make him more powerful, more melodious. He wanted to go backward, into more personal music. You know, flutes and things.”
One of the last things they did together was the Donovan-Beck Super-session. “The Jeff Beck Group at that time were a bunch of gigglers. Donovan was, and is now, very serious about things. It was like a monk amongst a load of playboys.”
Most’s first production of Beck, apart from the Yardbirds, was “Hi Ho Silver Lining,” a single of unimpeachable pap, which broke across the airwaves, heading for certain chart success … all during the 1967 summer of love. Avant-Beck. He had formed his band with Rob Stewart, Ron Wood and Mickey Waller, but his next record out was a cover version of “Love Is Blue.” Which, to this day, gives Beck the blues.
“Mickie wasn’t the slightest bit interested in recording my sort of music and I couldn’t say to him, ‘Look, you don’t know what’s going on,’ because he had 20,000 gold disks on the wall saying ‘I do know what’s going on.’ So for a couple of years I wasted my career doing junk tunes.”
And then the story turns into the pages that everyone knows so well. They followed Cream to America, but were actually fronting a wave that meant something entirely different from Cream. It was a different image, and it could almost be seen as some obvious formula, some … taste be damned.“I wasn’t ready for Nicky Hopkins’ wistful piano behind me. It took away the raucousness, but that’s not what I wanted in my band. I just wanted to lay down all the guitar I could put down without being interrupted.”
Mickey Waller and Ron Wood were fired in mid-tour. Ron Wood was rehired. Nicky Hopkins began to get feisty about the band’s direction. He was allowed to quit.
“I saw other groups, like Sly … groups that really floored me, and they made me realize that this group was limited, that there was an end to it, and that’s the time to get out, finish it.”
It was at the Singer Bowl in New York, summer of 1969, that Beck was doing his encore of “Jailhouse Rock” when members of Led Zeppelin came jumping out from backstage, doing an Aztec two-step, having a drunken goodtime on Beck’s stage. A raid. The twin Marshall stacks were split and Page was given a guitar and this kid in the audience was bubbling out of control, “Wow! … it’s like … the two greatest guitarists in the whole world! Right here in the Singer Bowl!”
“It was funny,” says Beck, “because that’s when they took over.”
It’s all different now, of course. There’s specialist bands. Everyone has their own kind of rock release.
And you’d most likely think that Beck and Zeppelin were always good buddies unless you’d seen those old acrimonious interviews with Beck, stating how Zeppelin stole half his act. He won’t say it now. “When Jimmy’s demo was playing to me, and I heard “You Shook Me,” the number I did on the Truth album, and I heard the arrangement, it just sort of … I dunno, it wasn’t the same, but the choice, the approach, it was in the same bracket … the category …”
Strong vocals and a loud guitar? “Yeah, right. I just thought, well … I’m quite honored, really. I do wish them the best of luck.” No matter what the scene is now, Beck is trying to make a comeback. He’s never had the urge to see Rod Stewart and the Faces, probably out of an avoidance for anything discouraging. On the other hand, he did go and see Cactus, the band that Tim Bogert and Appice put together without him. “I liked it … it was couldn’t-give-a-shit music. But they didn’t have anything to say musically, they were doing old fashioned blues.”
By the end of June, Beck wants to do a couple of feeler exercises in Germany, then head for the States. “I had a bad complex, y’know, a while ago, and it quietens you right down … it gives you a nasty fright … I began to realize I’d turn into a vegetable if I didn’t watch it. A fractured skull can fuck up a lot of things. … This tour could be a disaster, but then it could be great … this time I have to make it work. There’s no room to fuck about, really.”
Written for Melody Maker, March 13, 1971…
LEARNING TO WALK — THE SECOND TIME ROUND
When Zappa first talked to Keith and I about his film 200 Motels, he said it was “All about how touring makes you crazy.” I said I felt the opposite. Touring keeps me sane, I said.
His lady friend laughed and at that point they figured, I suppose, that we’d already gone over the ridge last tour. I can’t help feeling, especially at times like this, with the group rehearsing, never appearing before an audience, how important it is to tour.
The WHO go insane when they aren’t touring. Maybe that would make a good film. “200 Rehearsals.”
As usual everything is a year late, the songs, the script, the energy. The point is that if you’re doing gigs, playing halls, facing people, it somehow keeps you in touch with their stand towards you. You can feel their reactions and moods as a mass, and make decisions about your music
and how to make it say what people want it to say. I was in the toilet after our return to Leeds University last year, and I overheard this conversation.
“Bloody great weren’t they?” “They were all right I suppose, not as good as Deep Purple.”
That was when I first got the urge to take another listen to a band I’d always admired as individual musicians, but not really taken much notice of lately. On another occasion. I talked to a load of kids at a gig at Hammersmith at the end of our last tour. They reminded us of songs we used to play years back that we’d forgotten about ourselves. One, “Baby Don’t You Do It,” a Marvin Gaye number, we play again today. It beats “Summertime Blues” in the Who nostalgia stakes. Brings tears to my eyes.
Could the Beatles have been saved by touring? I don’t know enough background to comment really but I can hazard a guess. I think they would still be together today if they had broken that ice that built up around them, ice that collects around the nose and toes very very quickly in recording studios. Clearly they deserved the long break they took after their heavy American tours, they also needed to allow the heat to die down a bit with regard to audience hysteria.
Maybe they weren’t able to foresee that kids wouldn’t scream at them forever. I’m not suggesting that was big-headed of them, but at the time it was difficult to hear what any lead singer ever sang at a big show. It wasn’t just screaming kids, it was also the fact that a microphone system to get the sound above the new powerful guitar amps was not available.
I do remember though, about the time of Sergeant Pepper I think, talk of a new Beatles’ performance. Road show-come Circus. I heard rumours of orchestras travelling with them, tapes being used to recreate the recorded atmospheres, we were on the list as a band to go along, that’s where I heard a few stories. Brian Epstein was alive then, and despite the fact that I only met him about six times, I know how much of a link man he was for the individual Beatles.
I think we have reached a point in our stage career where, despite the fact that our recordings haven’t reached Beatles’ standard, we are facing the same sort of decisions about performing that the Beatles faced when they were thinking of touring again after their long rest. Two guitars, a few voices and a drummer can do a lot more, but there is a point where you reach the end of your limitations. You produce only variations on a certain sound.
Loud Live At Leeds, or soft Live At Leeds. The Stones broke their jinx. Mick Jagger rang me up just before they went on the road again, and wanted to know all the worst gigs.
Brian Jones had announced that he was to leave the group, and Mick wanted a guitarist too. He invited us to take our weary bodies out on the tightrope when the Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus hit the rails.
In other words, he had the same motivations as did the Beatles a while earlier. He wanted to get back on the road. Back on the stage, playing to people. Making records takes a long time, you don’t get reactions for months after you have performed. Making films takes even longer. You don’t get reactions for years sometimes. I think the Stones found that unbearable.
At least Mick did. Instantaneous reaction. That’s what everyone needs. I weighed up all the wasted time in my life the other day. I had ordered a machine for my studio, and was given a delivery date six months on. Six months is half a year. A year might be as much as a fiftieth of my life. So do I wait for the machine. How can I? This is one of the most important things to hit the Who during out rehearsals.
If you are going to develop new sound systems, they have to be designed and built. Then they have to be tested and proven. Only then can you decide whether they are worth using or not. Imagine the problems facing the Beatles and their six-group, two-orchestra, tape machines and sound effects road show. Dreams mate, Dreams.
Some of our new equipment has taken a full 18 months to reach stage maturity. Our new P.A. mixer has been growing steadily in size and reliability for a whole year. Special tape decks have been flown over from the States and mixing facilities designed to incorporate them into the system. I have been churning out demos and scripts like a coffee machine in the tea break.
Fiddling with three makes of Synthesiser and twenty brands of tranquilisers. Luckily the Stones have already built a superb mobile sound studio in a furniture van. We hope to record all the sound in our new film using it if it’s available. It was designed by Glynn Johns, Glynn will be working with us on the film when it begins this year.
Glynn engineered our first three records, in a sense he invented our sound, or at least that sound that emerged from Shel Talmy sessions. He was one of the few people to contain the recording of the Small Faces too. That partnership culminated in one of the best rock albums with a theme ever. If not period. Ogdens of course. We are looking forward to hearing the playbacks.
If nothing else, the past year’s preoccupation with electronics has bestowed on me an inate love of wire. The sight of a Moog Synthesiser smothered in patch cables brings me to a state approaching orgasm. A 13 amp plug starts my heart beating faster, and the inside of a television set is enough to reduce me to tears. My latest addiction is chewing solder. What a high man. Really burns me up. Keeps my mind in flux. Never get stoned on a dry joint, chew solder. Yuk.
We’ve done it though, Nearly. I think we’ve come closer to breaking up and nervous breakdowns than ever before in our careers, but we’re getting results. The point seems to be hammered home to us all the time. That no-one can afford to wait long periods of time to get their creative work finished. Film makers and classical composers amaze me. Their stamina and patience, is appalling, their courage incredible.
We can’t even wait for ourselves to catch up. I am in a peculiarly schizo position. One part of me says it takes time to write, I need time, touring burns time. The other part of me says I can’t write unless I’m alive, I’m not alive unless I’m touring. That isn’t to infer that we’d starve if we didn’t work. Our roadies would. Ha, Ha. But we wouldn’t, Tommy sees to that. It just illustrates that the only people what are able to come up with anything really new, are new people. With clear heads and no addictions to smoke filled ballrooms, or maybe they are free of the burden of continuous introverted recording sessions.
Year in year out, following one record with another. Trying to improve all the time, and needing endless studio time to do so. It’s no good making incredible records though, if you can’t enjoy people’s enjoyment of them. Sales mean nothing in that respect. They mean more money to make more recordings, but they don’t give a musician the feedback he so desperately needs.
Drunken crowds of jeering kids. They give you the feedback you need. Good on ‘em. You can’t go wrong. You can’t fool yourself, you can’t pretend they like it for its deep, hidden spiritual implications when they’re jumping up and down to the heat of the music and shouting so loud they can’t hear the words anyway.
Touring does make you crazy, but recording makes you lazy.
P.S. Thank you, Andy Roberts for your tumultuous response to my campaign to bring back freedom to the musicians’ elbow. Got mime if you want it! Looks like the Musicians’ Union can go back to sleep, yours was the only letter of support I got. See you at the next Branch meeting, we can play darts, eh? — P.T.
Today would have been Johnny Cash’s 78th birthday. In honor of this timeless legend, I post this undated 1971 article by Philip Norman from the Sunday Times…
The heavy carved front door into House of Cash, Johnny Cash’s state mansion, in Madison, Tennessee, swung inward to reveal blinding sunshine and the awe-struck face of a tourist. His eyes grew wider still as he surveyed the sumptuous foyer, its heavy brocades, its gilded Tennessean Louis XIV furniture, its massively-framed photographs of Johnny Cash, his wife June Carter, his new baby son and his celebrated folk-singing mother-in-law. Not until this point did the tourist descry Cash himself, on an unexpected visit, lounging in a high-backed armchair.
“Well – good gosh. I’m all excited!” the tourist said with a gasp.
Cash seldom laughs. His life beats in an unease of his large muscles, in shifting feet, a collar turned up against the draught; nerves more conspicuous since he keeps no flatterers and sycophants to shield him. But laughing, suddenly he relaxes. The serious battlements of his face dissolve. His teeth glow brightly and small. Like now – he chuckled, grasped the corners of the chair above him and repeated:
“‘Good gosh, I’m all excited’. That’s a great line.”
Thus encouraged, the tourist returned with 60 others, followed by 60 more. They were the contents of two excursion buses from Nashville here only to worship, as they had thought, the gravel of the drive. Sandals muffled in the carpet, with their strange, merciless reticence they all swooped at Cash. He rose from the chair, his face anxious, shoulders in a fidget, and walked straight towards them.
“Hi folks, glad to see you,” he said, “You all havin’ fun?”
“Hell-o,” a woman gasped, “How are you?”
“I’m fine, thanks,” Cash said, “Hi folks – ”
They passed him endlessly and shook hands: old men and matrons, young men, boys with sandpaper heads. Speechless with love, and the fear of being charged a supplement for it, nevertheless few of them could look up into his face. “And I’ll put my arm around some of ‘em to say ‘Glad to see you’ …they’ll be tremblin’ all over,” Cash says, “Like they had St Vitus’ Dance there.”
For he is all that they desire for themselves; all strong, outdoor things. Country music is the palliative of imprisoned city whites and Cash is king of Country, embodying the most of its supposed virtues. In the monolithic simplicity of his singing, freedom seems conjoined with absolute dignity – they see him moving over trackless land into the sky, but always in tailored black, well-shod. Few such heroes remain to them now that the Wild West has been turned by their enemies into pornography.
His estate is 15 miles from Nashville, and far from the spirit of it. There is a house on Old Hickory Lake; an office across the highway like nothing so much as an English rectory made of some washable substance. Since it is part of their dream of him that Cash should often be absent – air travel being, after all, only a modified form of riding the boxcars – the biggest shock his worshippers normally receive is in the decoration. Cash and June Carter his wife are fond of oyster shades and carved German dressers, not the plated horrors and wild beast horns to be seen in other Country stars” homes. On the mind of the Nashville tourist, the effect of this sudden taste has yet to be measured.
June’s office is displayed across a red cord like the drawing-room of a queen. She is in fact Country and Western royalty; a daughter of the Carter Family. With the tubercular Jimmie Rodgers, the Carters all but founded the music 40 years ago, when Cash’s father was still trying to scratch a life from the hard lands of Arkansas.
She met Cash in the 1950s, just as Country music was turning into Rock and Roll. He had been signed to the famous Sun record label and was on tour with the other Sun acquisition Elvis Presley. “Elvis had been raving about what a great singer Johnny Cash was,” June says. She and Cash were both married previously. “My little daughter used to love ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and I’d rock her to sleep, dancing to it with her in my arms. But the first time I saw him I thought: ‘Why, maybe some of the other guitarists would go out on the stage and help him.’ There was just John all alone, and Luther Perkins’s guitar going ‘boom chuggachugga boom’.”
She joins him at the microphone now; against his towering black, an innocence of Southern lace. It is marriage to her which, Cash says and intimates with every movement in their duet, has been the proper adjusting of his soul. “I was evil,” he says solemnly, “I really was.” Certainly he was wayward; sometimes compromising his early career. June is quick to point out, however, that he was never a monster; that she did not, by a womanly miracle, reclaim him; he simply, at a certain point, pulled himself together. But the white races love nothing better in their heroes than penitence. Even as he sings Gospel, they love to think of him, as well, when he was bad.
Yet his life has really been no more lurid than any self-made American millionaire’s. As a boy he picked cotton until too tired to speak, let alone sing ‘Cottonfields’. He spent, as in the song, horrible nights in Detroit city where he worked as a punch-press operator in an automobile plant. He has been in jail, but not for the long sentence to which his prison shows have been attributed; it was more like one night. The scar on his face was made by a cyst. Some years ago one of his many imitators offered money to be hit with a signet ring in hopes of reproducing the disfigurement.
And also he was once a door-to-door salesman; a difficult notion for those of us who think of him moving only with the four winds. “I used to worry about people puttin’ themselves into debt. I’d say, ‘You don’t want any of this, do you?’ They’d say, ‘Hold on there, what are you selling?'” As for his Service career, it left no mark on him more serious than the ability, to this day, to read Morse code at the rate of 60 words per minute.
His face will also relax while imparting or receiving knowledge. He has discovered that he lives on land once occupied by an Indian tribe called the Stone Box, who happened to hit on the secret of internal plumbing. He seems – almost biologically – incapable of guile; but it is the way of the world for the plainest liberal statement to be received with contempt by all liberals. Together with the odium conferred on anyone with a successful television show, Cash has been attacked for most of his interests – his concern for prisoners, for Indians, and now his singing of religious music, despite the fact that no one ever thought to question the sincerity of Jazz Gospellers.
His passion is gardening. To indulge it when at home he has to get up at six if he wants to escape the eyes of tourist boats scouting the lake. “I raise beans, peas, okra, cabbage, squash. I got an orchard with Jonathan and Bartlett pears, Winesip apples, and I’ll have Chinese chestnuts and paper-shell pecans.” Part of the garden is the site of Roy Orbison’s house which burned down and killed his two little boys. Cash promised him, when he took over the property, that something good would at least come out of the ground. One can somehow see him promising that to Orbison, who always looked desperate and pale even when happy.
“We own a mansion,” Cash admits, “but that’s home; we’re dug into it. I got some woods over there, maybe 80 acres of woods. In the middle there’s just a two-room shack. I’ll go over there and sit around – read a lot. I read novels but I also read the Bible. And study it, you know? And the more I learn, the more excited I get. Some of those stories are as wild as any H.G. Wells could drum up. And that Jesus! He really cuts me up! I worship him, but he tickles me to death.”
Even in his troubled years, the time of records such as ‘Big River’, when Cash was by his own admission alternately flying and falling on pep pills, he went through the works of Joyce and Dylan Thomas. “We got books all through the house but most of ‘em I got rat-holed in my study. I been reading the writings of Josephus, the histories of the Jewish peoples. Other night I was reading the works of Ecclesiasticus. I got my books all ready to take to England – Winston S. Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples volumes one through four. I’m really looking forward to going to England so’s I can get back to Foyle’s.”
When those busloads crept speechlessly into his presence from Nashville, an English tour had just been announced and sold out in 24 hours. So it is everywhere. The following day the Cash company flew to Toronto to appear at the Canadian National Exhibition; their route lying roughly parallel with the hurricane then brushing with angry skirts at the edges of the Americas. As the long official Cadillacs moved towards the visor of the grandstand, the skies were already dark as a madman’s painting, pricked by the turning lights of the Ferris wheels.
June Carter is beautiful in a wide-lipped way with hair like a girl’s and a voice full of honey and nuts. It is part of the South’s domestic art that she can make almost homely their constant passage through the rich hotels and draughty Blue Rooms of the world. Her mother, Maybelle, of the original Carter Family, appears with her, and the two daughters who make up the present Family, and Carl Perkins, doyen of Rock and Roll guitarists, who smells pleasantly of antiseptic lozenges. The retinue has also been increased in the person of a baby son John Carter; an exceeding gratification to his father’s respect for learning of any sort.
“He sure knows some difficult words. ‘Chandelier’–”
“And ‘platypus’,” said June.
” – and ‘Daddy come here right now‘.”
Cash’s friends are younger than himself. There is Bob Dylan with whom he appeared on Nashville Skyline; a figure often overlooked when the Conservatism of Cash’s following is being reckoned. And there is also Kris Kristofferson, who flew in to see him in Toronto. A former Rhodes Scholar, with daemonic eyes and a suit like suede pipes, Kristofferson has written the first songs worthy to be called White Soul music, like ‘Me and Bobby McGhee’, with rhymes as good as glasses softly touched. Charley Pride came in, too. He is an even more revolutionary figure: a black Country and Western singer.
Both of them owe a lot to Cash. Kristofferson used to receive unnumbered mentions on his television show, many of them without the younger man’s knowledge. That debt is now being repaid in the Kristofferson songs Cash sings. As for Charley Pride, Cash virtually talked him into the unusual position he now occupies. “I ran into him one night,” Cash says, “when I was roamin’ around Chicago. I told him, if that was what he really wanted – if he really felt it…that’s all there is to Country music. If people know it comes from the heart, no matter how prejudiced they are, they’ll invite you home to a chicken dinner.”
He himself does not sing without effort, as his limbering moosebellows demonstrate in the wings beforehand. The very production of his voice is heroic. Arising from walls and bands of muscle, it passes nowhere near the cells of artifice; it cannot change – that is why they love it – and cannot lie. He performs in an empty stage, with only the guitar-bass beating as metronome, because the voice is deeper than any darkness which encircles it. But, as with all feats of strength, it is a precious part of every performance that the voice might suddenly fail.
By the time he ran out into the spaces of the Toronto stadium, the air was already tropical with menace, struck by flash cameras high and low. His guitar was over his back, as if he had sprinted, to reach them, over rocks. In a moment the rain started. His voice, all around him, said: “I’ll stay out here with you if you’ll stay out here with me.” The stadium did not move, and the rain passed through the spotlights like coloured silk and coloured rope; the wind lashed the curtains of the stage overhead to bursting and twisting white flags. His head was flattened by rain, his sleeves weighted by it. His voice continued the same, all around him.
Afterwards he and June raced madly for their car along a tarpaulin path like Flanders mud. As the black door sealed them dry, still there were people with little cameras, breakable in the rain, pleading, “One more Johnny, one more Johnny – please Johnny…”
His head coddled by a towel, suddenly Cash grinned, stretched his arms and said, “I almost lost ‘em back there. For the minute I couldn’t remember any song I’d recorded. Then I grabbed ‘em again. I wouldn’t let Kristofferson see me flop.”
June had wanted to join him out on the promontory of the stage but was restrained because of the electrical danger.
“I been laid out,” Cash remarked. “Flat on my back in Baltimore.”
“I was knocked out too, Baby,” June told him. “When the Carter Family played concession stands at State fairs. I been knocked flatter’n a fittercake. And heat. We played 110 degrees in Kentucky. That heat bakes your brain.”
“Oh, Mother!” her daughter Rosie protested.
Cash looked impish.
“Ain’t you ever had baked brains to eat, Rosie?”
They sat at dinner now, in dry black against the scarlet banquette, holding hands. They looked like a pair of benevolent, resting Borgias.
“Oh but I love that rain,” Cash said solemnly. “You know: back in that shack. It came on to rain. I stripped down to my shorts and just lay on the rock and let it come down on me like bricks.”
“Better’n flying through the woods,” June remarked.
He gave a shrug and a giggle.
“I used to get high and think I was an Indian flyin’ through the woods. Till I woke up beside the lake with no shoes on and my foot in a stumphole there.
“I had a book when I was a boy: it was called Long Bull’s Mistake. It was about an Indian brave, Long Bull, who stampeded the buffalo herd, and the whole tribe starved that winter and they hung Long Bull up by the thumbs. I read that book through so many times; I’d think ‘only 12 more pages till he stampedes the Buffalo’.
“The other braves in the tribe, they told him, ‘If you see the buffalo herd, don’t do anything, just come right back here and tell us.’ But he made all the mistakes he could have, crawling out there single-handed, wounding one buffalo, scaring the others off.”
He chuckled as he occasionally does.
“Guess I might once have dreamed I was Long Bull.”
In 1970 and ’71, Pete Townshend wrote periodically for Melody Maker. This is #7 in the series, from Feb. 13, 1971. He could have had a career as a rock critic…
CHANGE — BY TAKING PEOPLE UP
Change. Is it really possible to change anything with music, or to even ease society into a position where what they listen to can change what they feel? Rock is capable of doing amazing things.
I speak only for myself, and as a listener not a musician when I say that. I have felt my whole state of mind go through incredible metamorphoses listening to the music of the Stones, Sergeant Pepper, Big Pink, King Crimson and hundreds of other recording entities that have fully used the power available to them as Rock musicians.
I’m not talking of power in the ordinary sense, I’m talking of the power of impact. The fact that a man doesn’t ever have to meet the President of the United States to know how much power he has illustrates the difference. When you listen to really good Rock you do meet the men with the power, good Rock comes right out and states its claim to fame. If you are bothering to think about who made the sounds, you are usually already stung.
I don’t imagine writing about it will change anything. Many sincere people try though. But I don’t read 0Z for example. nor IT, they send me Friends hut I only look at the dirty pictures. Apart from the fact that they’re all good papers they are trying to change things by worrying people. By taking people DOWN to realising how low they are. The papers give the impression that the men behind them are worried about life in this society, paranoiac about politics, usually very stoned God bless ‘em and don’t like suburbans like me.
In the States the Panthers distributed leaflets at some of our gigs telling people bow much they didn’t like us making money out of our music, how much they were aroused by my argument with Abbie Hoffman at Woodstock.
It didn’t change me though. The irony is that we are behind them as a whole, but can’t help reacting as individuals to other individuals. The ethics are so broad.
In the States Hoffman and his friends went through hell, and I admire men like Richard Neville who edits OZ, for standing up against what is really an unnecessary purge the hierarchy are aiming at him. But I wouldn’t go through it. The only time I am spurred to action is when I feel that I can change the world through Rock, via the Who, via music. We want to change people by taking them UP.
On the McGuinness Flint album there is a song, dedicated to Big Boy Arthur Crudup, Elvis’ hero. It’s called “Let It Ride.” Seems to me that’s what it’s all about. When Big Boy sings you are his slave. No doubt about it, but you don’t care, you dig it, and when he lets you go you feel sad, not happy.
I think Elvis probably learnt how to make the Rock world his slaves by listening to Big Boy Arthur Crudup. That’s Rock power, an easy power, and probably the only power in this world that is rarely misused.
Spiro Agnew would disagree, so would anyone else who didn’t understand how anything less that Beethoven could be regarded with relish.
Let it ride, hit it right or wrong and don’t worry about anything. But don’t lose interest either.
I think the frustration young people usually feel with ageing politicians is down to the fact that they too, in their years of learning only how to compromise, let a lot ride. It outwardly reeks of disinterest but I don’t think it is, necessarily.
Caroline Coon was talking in the MM about what she does. I think I could tell her one thing she could afford to stop doing — stop allowing the paranoia of those she helps, and those that SHOULD be helping, leaking into her own life. Don’t worry, be happy love. You can really do it, if you know that like Release you are contributing to a changing aspect of society.
It’s the politics that hurt I think. Funnily enough Rock has the same techniques as politics in a way. It can face up to trouble without giving a hint that it really is affected, and exhibits carefree attitudes on the surface, or maybe even deep down inside, at the same time it is CHANGING things. Usually for the better, unlike most political change.
It really doesn’t seem to be worth doing anything to me unless it can either do something for Rock or do something for its audience. The Who’s coming performances and film work at the Young Vic will do both. Nothing, can’t happen. Basically what we do could change our audience, our music, our status and even the way we walk. If it all doesn’t change anything else it will change me. That can’t be bad.
The Young Vic is a newly-built theatre in the same street as the Old Vic. It was built especially to cater for young audiences, and the mood it puts across is one of adventure.
Frank Dunlop, the adrenalin behind the place knows the limitations of regular theatre. We are beginning to feel the limitations of regular Rock. Frank was originally interested in doing a production of Tommy. It was when we were discussing this possibility that we both realised that it couldn’t do what we wanted it to do. We wanted it to attract both Rock audiences, and the regular Young Vic theatre audience, but also break new ground, bring in totally new faces, young faces perhaps. Most important it had to freshen up the idea of audience.
Tommy might have been capable of doing that but we (The Who) didn’t really have enough energy to carry Tommy any further. We wanted something new, while we’re about it it might as well meet our needs and aims more fully.
The aim is change. A change of life style for the band, a change of focus for our audience and a change in the balance of power that Rock wields. The music we play has to be tomorrow’s, the things we say have to be today, and the reason for bothering is yesterday. The idea is to make the first real superstar. The first real star who can really stand and say that he deserves the name. The star would be us all.
The Young Vic becomes the “Life House,” the Who become musicians and the audience become part of a fantasy. We have invented the fantasy in our minds, the ideal, and now we want to make it happen for real. We want to hear the music we have dreamed about, see the harmony we have experienced temporarily in Rock, become permanent, and feel the things we are doing CHANGE the face of Rock and then maybe even people.
There is a story connected with each person that will walk into the Life House, but for now we have made one up for them, until we know the real one. We have music that will stimulate them to stay with us through lengthy marathon concerts, and perhaps even boring filming. We have sounds ready that will push us a lot further than we have ever gone before, but what the results will he is still unknown.
Our hero is Bobby, the mystic-cum-roadie that puts all the fantasies in our heads into action, and gets results. He speaks for me now…
“Music and vibration are at the basis of all. They pervade everything, even human consciousness is reflected by music. Atoms are, at their simplest, vibrations between positive and negative. Even the most subtle vibrations detectable can affect us as ESP, or “vibes.”
“Man must let go his control over music as art, or media fodder and allow it freedom. Allow it to become the mirror of a mass rather than the tool of an individual. Natural balance is the key. I will make music that will start off this process, my compositions will not be my thoughts, however, they will be the thoughts of others, the thoughts of the young, and the thoughts of the masses. Each man will become a piece of music, he will hear it for himself, see every aspect of his life reflected in terms of those around him, in terms of the Infinite Scheme. When he becomes aware of the natural harmony that exists between himself as a man and himself as part of creation he will find it simple to adjust and LIVE in harmony.”
Serious chap this Bobby. He is a Superstar no less. He goes on to say…
“We can live in harmony only when Nature is allowed to incorporate us into her symphony. Listen hard, for your note is here. It might be a chord, or a dischord. Maybe a hiss or a pulse. High or low; sharp or soft, fast or slow. One thing is certain. If it is truly your own note, your own song, it will fit into the scheme. Mine will fit yours, and yours will fit his, his will fit others. You are what you are, and where you are, because that is what IS.”
“To realise the harmony, that RIGHTNESS about your own note; even your own life, however you feel it could be improved by change, it has to be revealed. It can only be revealed by your own efforts.”
The efforts of the super roadie and their astonishing outcome can be watched, and augmented by your own efforts at the Young Vic. I’ll tell you when.
When the Saints come marching in the Who will he doing a gig at the Young Vic and miss out on the big day. But then so will the men down the sewers. Someone has to clean up.
A link to listen to Prince’s new guitar-heavy funk rock song “Cause and Effect,” which debuted on Minneapolis radio station 89.3. The song could be stronger…but the guitar is excellent, of course. Not sure if this is from a future album or not. Hopefully…
More from one of the most literate of rock stars. Written for Melody Maker, Jan. 16, 1971…
DO YOU SUFFER FROM MEDIA FRUSTRATION?
You can’t help wondering, can you? When the government of this country destroyed commercial radio several years back we at least were able to say that they were acting normally…belligerently ignoring the fact that a whole industry which made the country millions of pounds owed much of its success to pirate radio and its so called ‘minority’ audience.
That was very much in keeping with their normal democratic way of going about things.But the latest ideas we are getting from Mr. Chataway are even more obvious. Four years after the act they suddenly realise that there IS money to be made. They want some. They realise there IS an audience for commercial radio. They want their votes. It’s in the light of this kind of thinking that pop music and its offshoots are seen by sporty chaps like Mr. Chataway.
The pirate radio system was not really perfect, the format methods used by all of them were easy to rig and one could buy time for any record on the air.
The people who talk of the days when the disc jockey played exactly what he wanted should talk to John Peel. Peel is someone who passed through commercial radio into a position in Radio One that gives him more freedom than any other disc jockey with the BBC.
Not even the waxworks (Tony Blackburn) gets as much choice in what he plays. In pirate radio, which was run like American top forty radio, it was, of course, mainly the DJs who decided the format and the advertisers who paid the costs.
In a way though it had the same drawbacks as Radio One, in that it had to reflect the majority preferences, the mums at home would still be listening to a good helping of Tom Jones, Ken Dodd and Gerry Monroe, even if pirate radio was around today. The advertisers would not buy time unless they thought the maximum number of people were listening. Their products’ sales would tell them the stations with the biggest audience.
In the same way the BBC has to please the majority because it is a service which the public have to pay for, through licences, thus the programmes become heavily structured in chunks of nearly several months. The same records are played over and over again, because the majority of people are slow to catch on.
Many people only buy records once they are in the charts and probably never react to them when they are first played on radio. Nevertheless, the BBC in Radio One is holding a terrifying monopoly. If one isn’t polite to such and such a DJ or producer he can ruin your career.
It’s lucky that most of the DJs and producers on Radio One are not as aggressive as most of the groups! I’m always having goes at Tony Blackburn, for example. It’s a bit hard but then he is the epitome of the Radio One Disc Jockey. He is popular, friendly, clean cut and knows damn well on which side his bread is buttered. There are some very beautiful housewives in this country man! Ask any milkman.
What Tony Blackburn does reflect is the way that an individual who gets such a lot of air space on the BBC like him, can influence the musical taste of thousands of people. That’s obviously unavoidable, and all the DJ can do is to try to be as up front as possible and take the pelting of the “minorities.”
But surely the healthiest way to put Radio One and even Tony Blackburn into perspective is the way BBC television was put into perspective in the fifties by ITV…Competition.
The BBC is doing all right really, it has four channels of radio space (in actual fact it has hundreds when you include the world services), and manages to please nearly everybody. But Radio One IS NOT a Rock station. It’s an easy listening station.
These categories are defined in American broadcasting very clearly. If one is a housewife, one listens to stations that play music that is a little like, say, Terry Wogan’s show or Tony Brandon. If you’re younger than twenty-nine, however, you listen to good old Rock and Roll. Yards and yards of Beatles, Stones, Creedence, Steppenwolf, Zeppelin, Steve Stills and the rest. All the good soul and Tamla singles are played by these stations too. Not ALL Tamla singles, period, which seems to he the case of Radio One.
The two different listening I worlds all buy their records in the same shops and are represented in the same chart which is fair, the chart is really a money-spent graph, nothing else. For some reason it works out that two basic station types is enough, but then the days of big business with singles is numbered even in the States.
If you look back at old American albums, for example Tamla albums, you’ll he amazed to find how bad many of them are. They just used to concentrate on singles. Today Tamla albums are good track for track. The Temptations for example produce amazing albums as well as superb singles.
We will never he so money oriented in this country to have stereo FM radio playing Rock albums even before there is a demand. Unlike Americans we don’t understand the business theory of CREATING demands by allowing people to hear or see what it is they’re going to buy.
An act in this country could never sell enough albums to make it worth a record company’s while to buy advertising air space either. I think Dick James Music will have to admit this soon. They bought space on TELEVISION to advertise Elton John’s new album. It was only a few seconds a night but must have cost quite a packet. Even if Elton John is God he’ll never sell enough records in this country to buy his Rolls Royce. He’ll have to use dollars mate. So as we resign ourselves to the fact that we’ll never hear stereo Rock on the radio in this country we have to ask when we’re going to hear MONO Rock on the radio.
The most endearing thing about Pirate radio was the fact that you could mark all the stations on the dial of you radio (at one time there were about six you could hear clearly in London), and turn off bloody Ken Dodd and listen to a good down-home WHO record, if you fancied. When the Who record finished and the new station played Ken Dodd you could switch him off yet again and possibly even find the Who again somewhere.
Of course there are people who did the opposite — switched us off and searched the air waves desperately for Ken Dodd, getting pastry crumbs all over the radio. All the stations were just as bad as Radio One is today, but you did have a choice, and you did get competition.
A year ago I would have jumped for joy at the news that the government was going to hand Radio One over to commercial interests. I would have revelled in the idea of producers and programmers having to THINK again about what they played rather than letting their own worn out BBC cloth ears decide for them. Today I’m nervous.
We’d lose Mike Raven and his Blind Blake records. We’d lose Pete Drummond and John Peel, Scene and Heard and What’s New. There are so many good things which are unfortunately outweighed by all the bad things, all the Light Programme type things which should really be on Radio Two.
I don’t think a commercial Radio station would operate in the same way somehow. I think they would work for MAXIMUM audience at all times of the day and night, and this means it will end up sounding like Radio One at its worst, perhaps with a few records you wouldn’t normally hear being bought onto the stations’ weekly format. The Rind of things you see on television are NOT reflections of Radio format or what it would like turn out. Discussions, live shows, interviews, specials, etc, are not heard on American radio for example.
Granted, FM Rock radio has done a lot to change this, but slowly and surely the advertisers get their clutches on the whole thing. They don’t want breathing space for their listeners, they want a killing floor. Television appears to have a lot of variety because it’s on for a fairly short time. Radio is on all day and the biggest audience period is during the morning and afternoon, when people aren’t really listening, when radio serves as background music.
A station in direct competition with Radio One and its present format would he fantastically exciting though. It would be limited to the same amount of needle time I expect, although the BBC has more trouble with Unions and Copyright bodies than other sections of the music world. Perhaps it would also attract some of the better DJs who can’t work with BBC, like Kenny Everett, even DJs from FM stations in America.
There are so many brilliant guys over there who would gladly get out of the rat rate to be in Britain. At least radio has little chance of becoming a political vehicle in this country. All stations in America are running anti-drug “commercial” spots in prime time, this is compulsory by Federal Law. What would be the most exciting aspect of all would be the possibilities of doing radio shows in studios designed to record ROCK, not Max Jaffa.
Perhaps they, the BBC, would let out the eight track recorder they have been threatening us all with and make some decent live tapes themselves. Stanley Dorfman is proving Rock can be properly recorded in live entertainment. Admittedly it is hard work when you have visual aspects to consider as well as acoustical separation problems, hut he’s doing all right.
The BBC can do it if they try. If they aren’t rushed, and if they’re pushed. Let’s have another radio station that has to fight the BBC for its audience, one that realises the good and the bad at Radio One and avoids making the same mistakes. The audience figures will decide just what is minority listening and what isn’t. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, it could be so incredible.