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A stoned, loony track off Whatever Happened To Jugula. A great bit of fun.

Roy Harper & Jimmy Page – Advertisement ( Beggars Banquet ). – YouTube

Roy Harper – Hope – a song written with Dave Gilmour and played with Jimmy Page.

What an interesting set of ideas – that looking in the mirror we can both see the echoes of our ancestors and future generations.

What would those future generations make of us – weird archeology? Could they really know how we really felt?

Life is such a wondrous thing we want it to go on forever.

The planet is such a beautiful place we should cherish it.

Time is passing and our time will be done. The hope is that we pass something important down to those who follow. We are not just spirits disappearing.

It is interesting to hear Jimmy’s guitar on a Roy Harper/Dave Gilmour song. For Roy to be associated with two such wondrous guitarists is something.

An interesting song.

Hope – Roy Harper

When you look at me
From your own century
I may seem to be
Strange archeology
But when the winds blow
From this direction
You may sense me there
In your reflection
I think I feel you
But I will never know
As the swallows leave
And the children grow
I wanted to live forever
The same is you will too
I wanted to live forever
And everybody knew
When I caught you there
In tomorrows mirror
I thought felt you
Jump out of my skin
Throwing oil into
My blazing memories
Filling empty footsteps
I was standing in
I wanted to live forever
The same as you will too
I wanted to live forever
And everybody knew
As the falling rain
Of the northern jungle
Hanging droplets on the leaves
Bombards my brain
I hear you
Across the room
A sea of daffodils spring into bloom
You are the mist
The frost across my window pane
And again
She moves her body
And her whispers weave
And the world spins
And tells me that I’ll never want to leave
As I think of you
From this dark century
I will always be
With generosity
That we both may share
The hope in hearing
That we’re not just
Spirits disappearing

Led Zeppelin – Opher’s World pays tribute to genius.

 

Montreux 1971

Led Zeppelin came like a heavily armoured fluorescent giant phoenix out of the ashes of the Yardbirds last magnificent incarnation.

For some inexplicable reason the Yardbirds, like their devastating two lead guitar attack from Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, descended into disharmony and split up. I can only infer from what has been said that it was Jeff Beck losing interest and becoming keen to cut free and do his own thing.

Page was left holding the corpse. He tried running with it a while but rapidly gave up. Rather than trying to put together a new incarnation of the Yardbirds he decided to put together a completely new unit.

Page already had a number of numbers that he’d been trying out with the Yardbirds and he wanted to develop that heavier tack.

It was the birth of Led Zeppelin.

The band was founded on the heavy handed pounding and rhythms produced by John Bonham and the bass of John Paul Jones. They provided a granite-like foundation so that Jimmy had the room to demonstrate all his guitar pyrotechnics, flamboyant moves and general fireworks. All they lacked was a singer who could carry it off. Robert Plant was a complete unknown but he filled the gap admirably. He looked the part and his voice could soar to those shrill notes up there in the stratosphere. He had the range.

It all came together in a way it hadn’t done with Keith Relf and the boys for a long time. With Peter Grant to guide them and clear all obstacles out of the way they were ready for take-off.

The band looked every bit as good as they sounded. Page got on his strides with their embroidered dragon breathing flames, his long curly dark hair hanging and guitar slung low. He strode the stage majestically pausing to assume shapes, thrash out chords or produce those solo runs that burned. Plant stood centre stage, hands on hips, bare chest, skin tight trousers, long wavy gingery fair hair catching the lights, holding the mic-stand like a guitar posing with Page, throwing his head back, mouth open wide, eyes tight shut hitting those notes. This was the dream of stadium Rock that made them mega.

But Led Zeppelin was no ordinary Heavy Metal unit despite becoming rapidly saddled with that label. Their music was visceral and heavy but it was also complex and sophisticated. They were influenced by the likes of Roy Harper and Bob Dylan and developed epic songs with acoustic touches. They could veer from riffs laden with doom to delicate acoustic finger-picking chords. Some of their themes were from Blues, some from old English Folk, Arthur and Norse mythology. The panorama of their scope was different to that of any other band.

They proved to be not so much as Zeppelin as a space battle-cruiser adrift from Star Wars.

 

 

Nick Harper – Opher’s World pays tribute to a genius.

I love guitar playing. When it comes to guitar playing I have seen all the greats up close playing in small halls – from Jimi Hendrix to Bert Jansch, Jimmy Page to Peter Green, Davy Graham to Eric Clapton; but there is one who stands out for me. The sheer brilliance is beyond anything else I have seen. What Nick can do with a guitar is magical.

The strange thing is that the bending of the strings, the tuning and retuning of strings within songs, the creation of new upside down chords and even the surround sound delay is never a gimmick. It isn’t showing off. It actually works to create great music and the tricks are integral parts of the songs that always add to the composition. Nick expands upon the possibility and generates extensions of improbability.

I have only ever seen one person capable of such a thing and he was Jimi Hendrix. Nick’s limitation, as with Jimi, is merely the extent of his imagination. It goes without saying that Nick’s imagination is of the scope of galaxies. It is phenomenal.

I have been fortunate enough to observe these prodigious talents develop over decades and I never get tired of the crispness and range that those fingers tease or pound out of that instrument. He can make the guitar thunder or trill with delicate melodies. Nick produces music you can get lost in.

If it were only the guitar playing it would be wonderful but limited. But it is so much more. Nick marries this instrumental genius to a voice that is incredible in range and texture and a song-writing ability that is up there with the best. He now has a catalogue of brilliant songs that would challenge any great songwriter of our time barring only a few. The content is both poetic and meaningful. What more could you possibly ask for?IMG_6785

Nick’s live performances are impressive. He is a showman who deploys with and cutting humour along with sharp observation. He is a warm, sensitive but forceful man whose sensibilities are complex and always intelligent and forthright. You never get short-changed at a Nick gig. He puts everything into it.

The one mystery surrounding Nick’s career concerns the level of success he has so far achieved. It boggles me to think that he has not risen to the heights, received the recognition and walked away with the awards. He surely deserves it. His time will undoubtedly come. Skills like his do not go unnoticed forever.

537 Essential Rock Albums pt. 10

91. Paul Simon – Songbook

I discovered Paul Simon through this album before he teamed up with Art Garfunkel and went into the more commercial side. This was nice and simple and allowed the songs to shine through. In a way I suppose I thought this album was more pure and honest; it hadn’t had the gloss put on it. These versions were unadorned. They seemed more real and passionate to me.

Paul was obviously attempting to muscle in on the mid-sixties Folk scene which had risen to prominence because of Dylan and Greenwich Village. There were the anti-war sentiments in ‘On the side of a hill’ and the civil rights issues with ‘A church is burning’ and ‘he was my brother’ which became labelled by the media as ‘Protest’ songs. And it is probable that these type of songs were not Paul’s forte. He was naturally inclined to the more personal songs. But I loved the raw versions of ‘I am a rock’, ‘Sound of silence’ and ‘A most peculiar man’. The album was splattered with his delicate love songs.

Paul was living in London and trying to insinuate himself into the vibrant London Folk Scene when he recorded this album. Then the ‘Folk-Rock’ Simon & Garfunkel album took off unexpectedly and he beetled off back to America and a new life.

Paul did not want this album out. He probably thought it would be at odds with the more polished later albums. I prefer it.

92. Cream – Goodbye

Cream had come to the end of their life. Relationships between Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce had deteriorated to the point of violence and animosity. Not only that but Clapton thought that their creativity and innovation had got itself into a rut. Despite the fact that they were taking everywhere by storm and their shows were searing Rock at its very best they wanted out.

The heavy schedule of touring and recording had exacerbated the situation and Ginger blamed his hearing problems on Jack who he said was turning his amp up to max all the time and blasting Ginger with deafening sound.

Eric had also been beguiled by the Band and seemed to want to leave behind his loud Rock style for a more sedate type of music.

They were persuaded, fortunately, to do one last album and this was it. It was supposed to be another double album like ‘Wheels of Fire’ with one album of live and one studio, but there was not enough material for this so they opted for a single album with a live side and a studio side with one live track. I would have liked more but this is still good. The live version of Politician was particularly good. I’ve always loved that song.

Goodbye was not quite the epitaph it could have been. It was good but it could have been even better as that double album with five or six more studio tracks. All three of the studio tracks ‘Badge’, ‘Doing that Scrapyard thing’ and ‘What a Bringdown’ were excellent. Cream certainly had not lost it.

93. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness at the edge of town

This album was made before Bruce had made that breakthrough into becoming a megastar. His song-writing was near its peak and he’d had a big lay-off due to legal battles with his management. The previous album ‘Born to Run’ had broken him into the mainstream and the two year gap enabled him to get his song-writing and recording together for the next one. It also fired him up with anger and frustration that spilled out onto the tracks. You can hear it on ‘Badlands’, ‘Adam made a Cain’, ‘Factory’, ‘Prove it all night’, and ‘Promised land’.

I love this album because you can feel the intensity of the emotion coming straight through. The production was crystal clear and Bruce’s guitar seared with fury. The lyrics were among his best. He had distilled this out of a huge number of songs that he’d spilled out during his enforced rest. Some of those had gone out to other people and loads stayed in the can for a long time. What finally came out made all the waiting worthwhile. This was a landmark album and took Bruce forward a big step. That sound was now crisp and the songs finely honed.

If only a number of other bands, like Cream, had had that same forced period of rest to recover their creative zest they probably would have gone on to make further masterpieces.

94. Roy Harper – Flat Baroque & Berserk

Roy’s expertise had finally come to the attention of the powers that be. EMI had woken up to the fact that there was a burgeoning Underground scene in England and wanted to get in on the act. They wanted to sign up the best psychedelic and progressive bands and Roy was among the first to benefit. They created this new label – ‘Harvest’ and began to harvest the talent.

For the first time Roy was able to record his material in a sympathetic manner, with a produced and engineers who appreciated his songs and a studio, in Abbey Road previously used by the Beatles, which allowed him to give the material the production it deserved. It was a marriage made in heaven.

I was fortunate enough to get invited to the party and watch it all take shape. The control room was often packed with the elite of Rock Music with Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, Dave Gilmour and John Bonham popping in to see how things were going and add their contributions. They were heady days.

Roy usually had at least one epic to add to the mix and there were a couple of weighty pieces on this effort. The major song was ‘I hate the Whiteman’ which was a vitriolic blast at European culture and the great edifice of a society that it had created. This was a song in the same vein as that other masterpiece ‘McGoohan’s Blues’ and Roy did not want to see it go the same way. He wanted to ensure it was properly recorded and he wanted it to be live so that all the passion would come across. He recorded it at Les Cousins as the centre-piece of the album.

This album was a real gem with a range of superb songs. The studio and production really did justice to them and superb compositions like ‘Another day’, ‘How does it feel’, ‘East of the Sun’, ‘Tom Tiddler’s Ground’ and ‘Davey’ all came to life.

Strangely, despite its excellence, it failed to become enormous. For all that it is a triumph.

95. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde

This was the third of Bob’s brilliant string of mid-sixties electric albums. It was a bit different to the two previous in that the song-writing had changed again, the production was different, and Bob had hit upon this new sound that permeated the whole album. It was really created around Al Kooper’s organ and Robbie Robertson’s guitar. This was a double album of superb brilliance and there wasn’t a filler to be found anywhere. The scope was also enormous from the fun and exuberance of ‘Rainy day women #12 and 35’ (a term for a doobie) and the epic slow and melancholy ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’.

This was Dylan motoring at his very best with poetry leaping from his tongue in one long cavorting stream. Nearly all these songs have gone on to become classics and there were so many of them – ‘Stuck inside of mobile with the Memphis Blues again’, ‘Visions of Johanna’, ‘Pledging my time’, ‘One of us must know, (sooner or later)’, ‘Temporarily like Achilles’, ‘Most likely you go your way, I’ll go mine’, ‘Absolutely sweet Marie’, ‘4th time around’, ‘Obviously 5 believers’ and ‘Just like a woman’.

It had raised the bar again.

Sadly it was also the end of an era. Just as the whole sixties thing, that had been inspired by Bob, began to gain momentum and get underway its architect dropped out. It had all got too much and a motorbike accident allowed him the excuse to get out, clean himself up, get rid of his whole unwanted persona as ‘the spokesperson for a generation,’ dump all the expectations, get over his strung-out nerves, and put things in perspective. He decided he didn’t want the shit.

What came after had some great moments but never reached the heights of his two purple patches in the sixties.

96. Beatles – Let it be

The Beatles were also suffering from careeritis. They had got sick of being with each other. There were personality clashes, jealousies over the inclusion of songs, managerial problems and financial concerns. It was all going pear-shaped. They were baling out and putting their solo careers into gear.

There was some dispute over whether this or Abbey Road was the last album by the fab four. It was all to do with recording dates and the shelving of the album ‘Get Back’. It matters little.

The album was brilliant despite the problems between the various members and their spouses. If this is what discord produces then there should be a lot more of it. The album was certainly a great way to go out. The shame of it is that they never got back together again. They were so much better together as we could see from the various solo careers. Both George and John started brilliantly and faded badly and Paul was all middle of the road. It was tragic that by the time they began to put their personal issues behind them we were robbed of any further reunion by a deranged madman who murdered John.

The highlight of the album for me was John’s ‘Across the universe’ which is my favourite Beatle track. But it was packed with other delights such as ‘Get back’, ‘I Me Mine’, ‘One after 909’, ‘Dig it’, ‘Let it be’, ‘Dig a pony’ and ‘The two of us’.

It was immaculate. Thanks guys.

97. Captain Beefheart – Spotlight Kid

The Spotlight Kid is another tour de force of Beefheart and one of my firm favourites. Don went on and on producing the greatest and most innovative Rock sound ever and using a number of different musicians in the process.

This album was a lot more blues based with slightly less discordant structures to the songs that a lot of people find more accessible. It still had all the Beefheart hallmarks though. His voice, lyrics and the sound of the band were all top-notch.

From the opening guitar riffs of ‘I’m going to booglarize you baby’ you get the feeling that this is something special. The second guitar comes in and then the bass. Beefheart growls into he mic and sends a shudder through you. First hearing and I was fully booglarized. ‘White Jam’ started very differently with its absence of guitar and keyboard emphasis but the lyrics were still as good. We won’t go into what this white jam might be. We’re back to guitars on ‘Blabber ‘n’ Smoke’. We’ve all been there. ‘When it blows its stacks’ is back to that ominous riff and growling. I know I wouldn’t want to be around when that blows!

The album goes on and on in the same vein with track after track of outstanding sound. By the time I’d been down the line with ‘Click Clack’ and got myself ready for a sub-aqua existence with ‘Grow fins’, my friend Paul’s favourite, I was certainly ready to believe that there was certainly ‘No Santa Claus on the Midnight train’. We were on our own!

I soared off into the sky in my slightly dirge-like glider.

What a superb album and it wasn’t even one of his best!

98. Family – Family Entertainment

Family were one of those highly talented Progressive Rock groups who emerged on the British Undergound scene in the sixties. They were one of those bands who were better live than on record. Their live performances were scintillating.

Roger Chapman’s voice was extremely distinctive with its great warbling quality. The band were very Tight. Charlie Whitney played most instruments and Rick Grech’s bass was excellent. He was later snaffled by Blind Faith and drunk himself to death in his forties.

This is my favourite album of theirs because it has the epic ‘Weaver of life’, classic ‘Observations from a hill’ and great ‘Hung up down’.

They should have gone on to greater things.

99. Beatles – Please Please Me

If you are looking for the album that made the biggest impact then this is it. You probably have to go back to Elvis Presley and his ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ album in 1957 to get close.

The Beatles exploded upon the scene and sent napalm cascading over the planet. It was the rebirth of Rock Music. Just when the American Establishment began to relax thinking they’d removed the scourge of Rock ‘n’ Roll the Beatles came and kicked everything into space. They released a swell like a burst damn. There was no way it was going to be put back in that bottle.

This album changed the world and paved the way for everything that came after. What poured through the hole they’d blasted transformed society, sparked off the sixties era of social reform and ushered in a whole new wave of liberalisation. All that from a set of songs on a chunk of waste material made from oil.

My friend Tony played me ‘I saw her standing there’ and I was completely blown away. As soon as you heard it you recognised the significance. This was new, different and modern. Not only that but it was also British!

They blew the past away. None of the Underground, psychedelia or Rock Music would have happened without them. This album was transformative. We’d all be wearing short back and sides without it.

Apart from the sound, and the appearance of the performers, the other incredible thing about this debut album was that seven of the fourteen tracks were written by the Beatles. That was unheard of. In general singers sung other people’s songs. Elvis did write songs. Of course there were exceptions such as Buddy Holly but in general the song-writers of the Brill Building in Tin Pan Alley provided the material or it was stolen from black R&B. This was a departure that gave the Beatles a big boost and enhanced their chances of longevity. Not only that but it was instantly obvious that the quality of even their early material – ‘I saw her standing there’, ‘Please please me’ and ‘PS I love you,’ – were every bit as good as the R&B classics that made up the rest of the album. Even their choice of the R&B material was unusual. It was not the usual songs that other Liverpool bands were covering. The Beatles had selected things like ‘Chains’, ‘Anna (go with him)’, ‘Boys’, ‘A taste of honey’ and ‘Twist and Shout’.

It blew the cobwebs out of the social machine!

100. Jimi Hendrix – Are you Experienced?

Talking of brilliant earth-shattering debut albums then this was another. I can still remember hearing ‘Hey Joe’ for the first time on an old portable tinny, plastic radio and sitting bolt upright to concentrate. My ears had never heard a sound like it. Jimmy exploded on us ready-formed.

That first album blew my young innocent mind. In early 1967 I was seventeen and clearly not at all experienced. When ‘Hey Joe’ came out in 1966 my American pen-friend (we are talking archaic social media here) wrote to me telling me that she and her friends liked getting high on grass and listening to Jimi. I imagined them out in a meadow on top of a hill with a portable radio. It did not take too long for me to catch up though.

Everything Jimi produced was mind-blowing. He shifted the whole music scene into another gear and propelled us into Progressive, Heavy and Psychedelic all at the same time.

The first album may have been all short tracks overseen by Chas Chandler but they spoke in Martian. That was lucky because we were all yearning to speak Martian and lapped it up. From ‘Foxy Lady’ to ‘Are you experienced?’ it was non-stop aural explosive delight. Jimi wrenched new sounds out of the guitar, new chords, new feedback and weaved it round his songs to create something from outer space. We loved it.

There are no stand-out tracks because they were all stand-out – ‘Fire’, ‘Love or Confusion?’ ‘Can you see me?’ ‘Manic depression’ ‘Third stone from the sun’ – it went on and on with one crazy new thing after another. The sound was so new, dynamic and loud. This debut was the start of something outrageously special. There’ll never be another Jimi.