Today’s Music to keep me SaNe in Isolation – Family

Family were another of those bands that I used to often see on the underground circuit. The thing that made them very different was Roger Chapman’s warbling vocals. They were superb live, but I don’t think they ever captured the brilliance of their stage act on vinyl.

I remember Roger smashing a bottle against the wall at the climax of a gig at the Mecca in Ilford. I believe that resulted in a ban from all Meccas around the country.

I saw them at a Christmas gig where they played a lot of old Rock ‘n’ Roll and really got the audience going!

They were superb.

So today I will have another listen to some of my favourites.


Today’s Music to keep me SANE in Isloation – Richard and Mimi Farina

Mimi Farina was Joan Baez’s sister. Richard was quite a character – a complete rebel. He’d gone off to Cuba to fight for the revolution. He first married Carolyn Hester then divorced her and married the seventeen year old Mimi.

Richard was a hard living man. He played Appalachian dulcimer and wrote songs. He also wrote a novel – Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me – which is quite good. Mimi and Richard played together in Greenwich Village, were signed to Vanguard and released three albums (one posthumously). They were good friends with the emerging Dylan and had the potential to be massive.

Unfortunately Richard was killed in a motorbike accident just days after the release of his book. So much potential. Mimi and Richard created such a unique sound. I loved them.

So today I will play Richard and Mimi and think about what might have been


Today’s Music to keep me SANE in Isolation – James Varda

I first saw James on a Roy Harper tour. He was the opening act. It was rare for Roy to have an opening act. It meant that he really rated him.

I rated him too. It was like punk folk. He was a singer songwriter with passion, poetry and attitude. Really good.

I had a chat with him on a couple of the gigs and he was a really nice humble guy with no side to him.

He produced a brilliant first album which came out on Roy’s label – The Awareness label. It sadly did not sell too well so James threw in the towel.

He later came back with a couple of brilliant albums – more subdued. Then he went down with cancer, produced a last album that bravely faced up to his predicament and was gone.

Such a sad loss.

Today I’ll play my James Varda and think of the intelligent, sensitive, compassionate man who sang those songs so full of passion.

Here’s to you James!! Makes me feel so sad thinking about you. You should be huge!


Today’s Music to keep me SANE in Isolation – The Searchers

It feels a bit strange to focus on the Searchers. They are a bit more Pop than I would usually go for, but I have a bit of a soft spot for them.

I was fourteen when they came out, riding the wave of Merseybeat. When I first heard them I thought they were a girl band because they sang in such a high register. Like most of the bands at that time they covered 50s black R&B. But I felt they did it well and created their own style that was very effective. That first album was great.

Most of the Merseybeat bands lasted a year before being ousted by the heavier, more bluesy Beat bands like the Stones and Yardbirds, but the Searchers went on.

Instead of going heavier they went more folksy and produced a couple of the earliest protest songs and early environmental and antiwar songs – What Have They Done To The Rain and Where Have All The Flowers Gone. That gave them another dimension.

Their jangly guitar, folky sound and harmonies provided a bit of a template for the Byrds.

So today I will dig out my old Searchers albums and give them a listen!!


Roy Harper – Legend

I have always loved this song. I spent ages playing it through to try to get all the lyrics. It wasn’t until I finally sat down with Roy that we managed to work them all out.

It is hard to believe that this is Roy’s first album recorded in rather primitive conditions. It sounds so good. It is also hard to believe that people saw Roy as a Folk singer. The evidence of this album is of a complete mixture of styles from Rock and psychedelia to acoustic.

The other element is Roy’s poetry and social comment. It is evident in this song in spades. Right from the onset Roy tore into a society that he saw as hypocritical and tasteless with people leading pointless, meaningless lives and talking through their arse (false teeth in the colon). Mount Street is a Mayfair business centre. The line came into being from a throw away remark. When Roy spent a period of time at her Majesty’s pleasure one of the other inmates was a very well-to-do chap who was in for fraud. He asked Roy if he knew the way to Mount Street.

These businessmen knew how to make money but did not know what life was about.

The hollow men echoes back to TS Elliott.

History – the idea of history being a series of crimes as the robber barons war, rape and pillage – A theme that would crop up later.

Salt sodas are speed.

Ending with the classic philosophical comment ‘everything is just everything because everything just is’. There is no god.

What a great song!!

Roy Harper – Legend

I heard the song birds singing in the trees above my bed
In the valley of the shadow of the sea of living dead
I see the same old smells aboard my ship of shapelessness
Meandering suspended in amorphous tastelessness

I hear the happy people striking down their matchless road
The false teeth in the colon partly sharing half the load
I know I cannot ask them so I leave their eyes to say
I know the way to Mount Street, but I just don’t know the way
I see the hollow buildings hanging in the winter sun
Throwing empty shadows that hide the hollow men
The world just isn’t real it’s built on endless timeless time
On land marks in the desert wastes of multicoloured crime

The maps stuck in the tube trains will tell you where’re you going
They’ll also tell you practically everything worth knowing
So if anybody asks me I’d say “take a few salt sodas”
If you don’t you stand the dirty chance of dying stone cold sober

And as I hear you breathing life’s last distant compliment
I know I can’t have said much of what I really meant
The sky desolates the sky and the snowflakes face to face
And everything is just everything because everything just is

The Byrds – I wasn’t Born to Follow

I always think of the Easy Rider film when I hear this. It really captures the feel of those times. A time of mysticism, back to nature and turning our backs on the war machine of capitalist greed that society have evolved into.

Ironically they immediately followed.

“Wasn’t Born To Follow”

Oh I’d rather go and journey where the diamond crest is flowing
And run across the valley beneath the sacred mountain
And wander through the forest, where the trees have leaves of prisms
And break the light in colors that no one knows the names of

And when it’s time I’ll go and wait beside a legendary fountain
Till I see your form reflected in its clear and jeweled waters
And if you think I’m ready, you may lead me to the chasm
Where the rivers of our vision flow into one another

I will want to dive beneath the white cascading waters
She may beg, she may plead, she may argue with her logic
And mention all the things I’ll lose
That really have no value in the end she will surely know
I wasn’t born to follow

A Roy Harper track to cheer me up – Forever

This is the best love song anyone has ever recorded – full stop!

It was recorded on Roy’s first album – an album that was recorded in a make-shift studio. The songs were all recorded live with a minimum of technology. A superb album.

The song was poetic, romantic and quite a contrast to Roy’s angst on his epic’s like McGoohan’s Blues.

It was written for Mocy – his first wife. A beautiful tribute.

I remember Roy singing it to Liz and me at the Kingston Hotel in 1970. That was a special gig. He doesn’t normally do things like that.

Roy rerecorded it for the 1974 album Valentine. He felt that the superior technology might enable him to produce a more polished version.

I still prefer the original.

Here’s a live version from early on.


Today’s Music to Cheer me up in Isolation – Eddie Cochran

I fell in love with Eddie (or at least his music) when I first heard him sing those great songs – Something Else, C’mon Everybody and Summertime Blues. I was about twelve at the time and I liked stuff that rocked. Eddie rocked for me.

Here’s a rare clip.

What a loss!! He’d only been going a short while. Just think what we might have had with twenty years of Eddie! He really could play that guitar and had a distinctive style.

But Eddie is Something Else.

I’ll be playing him loud all day!! Rock it Eddie!!

Bands, Music and Gigs

Favorite bands?  Roy Harper, Captain Beefheart, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs.

* First band you saw live?  The Birds (with Ronnie Wood) then Them with Van Morrison – both brilliant.

* Band you have seen the most?  Roy Harper (500+ times)

* Best festival?  Windsor Jazz & Blues with Cream or Woburn Abbey with Hendrix

*Bands you wished you’d seen? Howlin’ Wolf, Beatles

* Furthest you have travelled for a concert?  Grateful Dead in San Francisco – although I did see the Hot Potato Band in Australia!

* Ever met a band?  Loads – Roy Harper, Syd Barrett, Free, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, Magic Band, Country Joe & Fish, Nick Harper, Stiff Little Fingers, Buzzcocks, Incredible String Band…………. Back in the day you could just wander backstage and chat.

* Best gigs?  Hundreds – Roy Harper at St Pancreas Town Hall, Captain Beefheart at Middle Earth, Doors at Roundhouse, Jimi Hendrix at Woburn, Pink Floyd at UFO, Son House at Hammersmith Odeon.

* Best venue?  Eel Pie Island. Les Cousins in Greek St, Middle Earth or Toby Jug (saw Pete Green and Led Zep there)

* Worst venue?  Loved ’em all!

* Smallest gig?  I saw Arthur Brown in 1969 with just seven of us. He did his entire act full on. I saw the Nashville Teens with just nine of us. They also did their entire act full on. The best small gig was Nick Harper in a tiny room in Leeds – It was crammed and everyone sang. Also saw Jackson C Frank in a pub in Ilford back in 1969 – small audience superb gig.

* Last gig?  Loudhailer Electric Company in Hull.

* Next gig?  Jeff Beck in York or Nick Mason in York.