In Search of Captain Beefheart – A Rock Music memoir – Chapter 1 continued – The Beatles!

This follows on from my first hearing of the Beatles first album:

We played the whole album through and through a number of times and I loved it. From there on I bought every Beatle single, album and EP on the day of release and I, like all my friends, were glued to the charts. It had set me on fire again.

I was thirteen years old, living in Surrey on a housing estate in post-war Britain. It was all in the shadows of rationing and war. There were bomb sites and prefabs. The world had seemed very drab and black and white. But on that day in Tony Humm’s bedroom the 1960s began. Hard on the heels of the Beatles Merseybeat hit the charts as Brian Epstein exploited the Beatles overnight appeal to launch a host of Liverpudlian acts and every label in the land fell over themselves to sign up a ‘Mersey’ band. There was an explosion of new acts and all the established Pop acts were blown away. Immediately they were part of the old world. We all went Pop Music mad. It’s all we talked about at school.

Unbeknown to me I had been searching for the Beatles. They were definitely part of my quest but I did not put them in the title because that would have been too trite. Besides, in many ways the Beatles were the stepping stone to what came later. Rock and Pop music were still styles aimed at a young teenage market. When you grew up you were supposed to leave that behind and grow to like more mature types of music like Classical and Opera. At the start the Beatles were a Pop band with many Rock elements. As they developed their music became more complex and their lyrics, under the influence of Dylan’s poetic masterpieces, became deeper and prosaic. They led the way for Rock Music to be considered something much more than trivial Pop music and be considered as an adult art form. They enabled Rock musicians to be regarded as genuine musicians.

But I jump ahead. Right then the Beatles were essentially a Pop band unlike any that had gone before. They actually wrote their own songs as well as nicking stuff from American R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll. I heard someone talking on the radio the other day saying that the Beatles were probably embarrassed by the banality of their earlier Pop songs. He was talking shit. Right from the start their stuff was brilliant. There was a patina on every song. It shone with Beatle magic that transformed it into something more. Those songs have quality that lasts to this day, even the Pop songs. They were in a class of their own and I can’t think of a bad one.

That afternoon at Tony’s is fixed in my mind so that here, over fifty years later, I can still remember the excitement and wonder of it. We played the album to death and thrilled to every track.

Suddenly the world had changed. The charts were full of Mersey bands. I rushed out and bought everything by the Beatles and avidly watched their progress in the charts along with all the other lesser bands. All the kids were turned on like never before. There was a palpable excitement.

There was a record stall at Kingston cattle market that sold new albums for £1.25. By saving up my pocket money I could buy one album every two weeks. Gradually I got my collection together. Alongside my Beatles albums I soon had just about every new Mersey band. There was Gerry, Billy J, Freddie, Brian, Dave, Searchers, Hollies and the rest. I had all the singles and EPs. I even sent away for the two ‘This is Merseybeat’ albums and Billy Pepper and the Pepper Pots. My Rock records had been displaced further down my wall and there were considerably more brackets. One entire wall was full and I’d started on the second wall.

Somehow I never got to see the Beatles play. I don’t know why. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I could. None of my friends did. The Beatles did not seem to play anywhere nearby. There were no venues on the Thames Delta. We were a Rockin’ backwater. It’s one of my many regrets.

But at least the Beatles were in my life and I listened to them, watched them on telly and grew with them. I felt I understood them.

I can’t explain the excitement there was waiting for each new release. You pre-ordered it and were dying to hear it. You watched it explode on the charts and excitedly discussed it to death at school. Was it as good as the last? How was it different? As soon as you got your hands on it you rushed home and played it endlessly. I used to put it on the old Dansette with the arm raised so it played non-stop. I’d do the A-side a dozen times and then flip in over and do the same with the B-side. Unlike all the rest the Beatles never disappointed. There’s nothing like it now. Nothing has ever matched that.

There was a disaster on the day of the release of the Beatles second album. My Dansette broke. I rushed out to the local record shop where I had placed my order and picked up the album. I rushed home and I could not play the thing. It was the most frustrating time of my life. I sat in my bedroom holding ‘With the Beatles’. I studied the cover and noted the length of their hair. Hair had become incredibly important. I studied the track list. I could hold it, look at it and take it out of its cover but I could not play it. It was driving me mad.

In the end I had the idea to nip down the road to me mate Jeff. He had a Dansette.

Jeff was only too keen to play it and the two of us spent the day listening and it was brilliant. Then I had to go home and the agony started again. Jeff suggested that as I didn’t have a means of playing it perhaps I could leave it with him until I’d got my record player fixed. The idea was appalling but I could not think of a single reason why not. Reluctantly I agreed. For the next two weeks my new Beatles album resided with Jeff and I can still remember the gloom and despondency this produced in me

Oph & Mike’s Lost Radio Scripts! – The Mid Sixties!

These were a few notes for a series of radio shows that Mike and me put together!! We called ourselves SHYTE!!

Radio Shows

The Oph and Mike Karma Sutra of Sound

We look at Rock music from different positions

Programme 9 – Mid 60s British consolidation & songwriting development

We’re Opher and Mike and together we’re SHYTE!!!!

Around the mid-60s Britain still ruled the planet. The States had made a few forays with Bob Dylan, the Byrds and a bit of Surf music from the Beach Boys, but it was the long-haired English bands that set the pace, called the tunes and defined the fashion.

They’d moved on from covering Blues, R&B and R&R to writing their own songs. This was the transition phase between British Beat and the start of the 60s Underground.

The Yardbirds had started as an R&B Blues cover band. Though they put their own style on it, speeded it up and built up to freak out crescendos – a brilliant exciting live band. They’d backed Sonny Boy Williamson on tour, recorded Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters songs and then moved on.

The mid sixties saw the exit of Eric Clapton and the entrance of a brilliant innovative guitarist, fresh from the Tridents, Jeff Beck.

Beck brought a new edge to the band. His playing was loud, raw and exciting and it was different and distinctive

Yardbirds – Over under sideways down

The who had started out doing Slim Harpo covers – got love if you want it. Their management made them into a Mod band. Mods and Rockers were all the thing in the mid-60s. With fights on Brighton beach and rallies on old LD Scooters in Parkas.

Mods wore their hair layered, smart Italian suits and Parkas with fur trim. They rode around on scooters with loads of headlights, dangly bits, aerials and Mod girls draped on the back all trying to look like Twiggy.

Rockers wore greasy leather jackets, motorcycle boots and jeans and rode big Triumphs or BSAs.

At one end of my town was a Mod café – they played Ska and Beat and dropped purple hearts – amphetamines.

At the other end was a rockers café. They listened to loud Rock n Roll.

The Who developed their Mod Art with roundels and union jack jackets and a wild act representing the rebellion of the time. They had the best live act of all with their mad drumming from Keith Moon, Their guitar gymnastics from Pete Townsend, microphone mayhem from Roger Daltrey, held together by John Entwhistles revolutionary bass playing. They finished it off by wrecking their instruments in a final act of mayhem and feedback.

Glorious.

Who – My generation

The Smallfaces were the other big Mod band fronted by Steve Marriott. They too started out with R&B covers but by the mid-60s were doing weirder stuff. I never quite got into the strange cockney type stuff. Sounded a bit to Chas and Dave for my liking but stuff like Itchycoo park was in another league.

Smallfaces – Itchycoo park

The Pretty Things were always too far out. Phil May always had the longest hair. They moved into songwriting in a big way and arguably wrote the first Rock Opera with SF Sorrow.

By the mid-sixties they were treading a very alternative path.

Prettythings – LSD

The Beatles were never a band to be left behind. They remained at the forefront of things right up to their break up in 1970.

Every single release seemed to take them to a new level and a new direction. By the mid 60s they were ploughing some weird and wonderful stuff on albums such as Rubber Soul and Revolver.  Tomorrow never knows came out of an LSD experience with Peter Fonda and the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Beatles – Tomorrow never knows

The Stones didn’t stand still either. Their best years were ahead of them but the mid-60s was fertile ground for them, churning out some classic songs such as ‘have you seen your mother, baby standing in the shadows’, 19th Nervous breakdown, Ruby Tuesday, Let’s spend the night together, Last time. They held their position as the bad boys.

Rolling Stones – 19th Nervous breakdown        

The Downliners Sect sadly never hit the heights the promise of their brilliant debut album indicated. They released a couple more albums, trying to jump on the Country trend and then Rock trend without great success.

He was a square was quite fun. I used to play it a lot.

Downliners Sect – He was a square

It was in the mid 60s that Ray Davies really came into his own as a songwriter. He specialized in quiet English songs of precise social observation as you get on Well Respected Man or Dedicated Follower of Fashion. The 60sc were littered with his brilliant songs – Waterloo Sunset, Days, Lola, See my friend etc, etc.

Kinks – Well Respected man

The Animals were most prolific and successful with a string of hits but never seemed to develop too much and remained a bit commercial. None the less they produced some great tracks before splitting up and Eric Burden going off to form the more progressive New Animals.

Animals – Don’t bring me down

There were a few new British bands that started up. The Zombies were one. Not really a Beat group. They went on to produce a brilliant final album in the late 60s -Odessey and Oracle – before splitting.

Zombies – She’s not there

Amen Corner, featuring Andy Fairweather-Lowe, were another new addition. Andy went on to feature in many other projects in the future.

Amen Corner – If Paradise was half as nice

The Searchers managed to hang on for a while. They were a big influence on the guitar sound of the Byrds. They did some topical stuff with Jackie De Shannon numbers.

Searchers – What have they done to the rain

The end of this interim period is very confused but it gave way to the British Underground proper with its Blues Bands, Psychedelia, Folkrock, and Progressive Rock.

By the end of 1966 the underground was beginning to build ready for the great summer of love in 1967.

A band that heralded this transition was Jimi Hendrix. They exploded on the scene and propelled everything forward.

Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe

Suddenly we had Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Cream, Jethro Tull, Taste,  Incredible String Band, Traffic, Family, Arthur Brown, Edgar Broughton, Fairport Convention, Strawbs, Social Deviants, Chicken Shack, John Mayall and a whole new Ball Game. But that’s another story.

10 Best Beatles Tracks!

It’s always good to play about with lists! My tastes might change a bit from day to day but are fairly constant. I never get tired of these.

11. Tomorrow Never Knows

10. Strawberry Fields Forever

9. Revolution

8. Here Comes the Sun

7. Yer Blues

6. I saw her standing there

5. Because

4. Within you and without you

3. Here, There and Everywhere

2. Come Together

  1. Across the Universe

Poetry – Who’s the Best Rock Band?

Who’s the Best Rock Band?

Who’s the best rock band

 That ever strode the land?

Some say it’s the Beatles that hold that crown,

Others say it was the Stones who brought them down.

But if you don’t mention Hendrix or the Floyd

There’s a bunch of people who’d get annoyed.

Then of course, there’s the Doors

Who’d win great applause?

Or Dylan or the Byrds who’d have a cause?

Or maybe it’s Zappa

Who was looking so dapper?

But don’t forget Cream

When they were at full steam.

Then the Sex Pistols and Clash both had a bash,

Along with Crosby, Stills and Nash.

The Who deserve a mention

Or Oasis full of pretention

And Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Have run that course.

Black Sabbath and Deep Purple have that Heavy Metal

And Led Zep and AC/DC kept them on their mettle

Then there’s Pete Green’s Fleetwood Mac

And the Airplane, Dead and Metallica, had a crack.

Then there’s a Kink

To make you think.

Some worshipped Nirvana and some even Queen

The days of Rock were loud and mean.

Roy Harper is my cup of tea

But not too many agree with me.

With a lot of the new bands I wouldn’t know where to start,

But for my money the best Rock Band is

Captain Beefheart!

Opher 30.5.2019

I know exactly what the best Rock Band is – it’s the one you like best!