Loudhailer Electric Company – Cursus – Review in Hull Coin Magazine.

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I was first introduced to the Loudhailer Electric Company at a gathering in a quaint dark venue. It was the perfect location, for the band of five personalities can light up any room, any space, with a multitude of vibrant colours.And I do not simply refer to guitarist Jeff Parsons’ wardrobe choices…

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Words | Nix Chidlow – @ColourMeNix

Their album ‘Cursus’ is a compendium of psychedelic sounds which tap into the folk and rock genres, driven by hugely talented and passionate musicians.

The opening track is simply perfection. Out To Sea is a welcoming nod to tap your feet and join in with the band. A heavy guitar introduction, opening the album with a classic rock ballad sound and catchy lyrics. There is instantaneous foot-tapping and an overwhelming desire to clap along or click your fingers in time with the layers of drums, guitars and violin.

This is what had me hooked so quickly on the essence of Loudhailer Electric Company, and which draws me back – no hesitation – to their album launch, hosted in that same dark venue of Kardomah94. The 12th November will surely be a cold one, but inside this venue we will be warmed by their bright sounds and captivating personalities.

Such tracks as On The Run and Just Like Real Life ignite movement even in the coldest bones, drawing you in with fast-paced tunes.

One of my favourite tracks – Sing-Sing For Everything – flows in exactly this manner. Drums and guitar work together to create another opening thick with energy. Lou and Rich Duffy-Howard’s voices bounce from one to the other, performing a poetic word battle. Rich’s smooth tones are a river of blues, greys and deep velvets, while Lou’s interjections are fiery red and yellows, swirling together as they lead into the choruses you’ll find yourself singing along to. All of this cradled in the rhythm of the instruments. I can already picture the room swaying with the words as they bounce from one wall to the other, coming together as one to sing-sing along.

The fifth track, Aftermath, is darker, delving deeper into the rock sound. I don’t find myself tapping my feet or nodding my head to this track, instead drifting into the lyrics. I’m mesmerised by the guitars which are layered upon each other. It’s a beautifully poetic track which embodies the stunning sounds of a psychedelic band; I’m hypnotised with each instrument and transported from my kitchen, my living room, the bus I sit on to a place I struggle to grasp with any sense of solidity.

It is the final track of the album which I truly hope they perform at the launch. The longest track on the album, Night Heron stretches out longer than nine minutes. Lou invites us to go on a trip, vocalising the scene while the violin and guitars set in place a misty atmosphere. Again, I find myself transported: from a cold night in November to a lakeside where you catch sight of the Night Heron.

For your chance to take this trip with Loudhailer Electric Company, go online to HullBoxOffice.com or pop into Kardomah94 to pick up your tickets.

The Blues Muse – the fictional history of Rock Music – available as a paperback.

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This book tells the story of the man with no name who was playing blues at the station in Tutwiler Mississippi right at the beginning. He travels and pops up with Elvis in Tupelo, Elmore James in Chicago, The Beatles in Hamburg, the Stones in Richmond and Nirvana in Seattle. He was there though City Blues, Country & Western, Rock ‘n’ Roll, British Beat, Psychedelia, West Coast Acid Rock, Soul, R&B, Punk and New Wave. He lived it all.

If you want to read the history of Rock Music through the eyes of someone who was there – from 1905 to now – he lived it. He was there at and in every major event. He was the man with no name.

Paperback
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It is also available in Kindle version :

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The Blues Muse – the cover

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I took the photo on the left of Arthur Brown in a brilliant live performance in Hull a year or so ago. I liked it. I told Arthur after the show that his act might have more impact if he made the effort to dress up a bit and use a little make-up.

The image seemed to have a sadness and yearning. That was strange because Arthur’s act was all lively brilliance. His voice is better than ever, he prances around like a youngster and the band is superb.

I chose the photo because it fitted in with the ethos of the rest of my books. I used the blue of the title strip as an augmentation.

I thought the effect worked. What do you think?

Now available in Kindle version:

The Blues Muse – Kindle version now available.

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Against my better judgement I have allowed my impatience to get the better of me. Rather than holding back for a publishing deal I have decided to release the book so that I can have my own copy.

I did not ultimately think that it would detract from a future publishing deal and will be following that up in the near future.

Until then you can get your hands on one of my best books. It is available in kindle version and will soon be available in paperback.

It is the story of Rock Music told through the journey of a man with no name – the blues muse. It lives the whole experience.

Featured book – In Search of Captain Beefheart – the Preface

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Preface

 

Jack White launched into the searing riff that was the intro to ‘Death Letter Blues’. It shot me straight back to 1968 and the thrill of seeing and hearing Son House. Son’s national steel guitar was more ragged than Jack White’s crystal clear electric chords, and nowhere near as loud, but the chords rang true and the energy and passion were exactly the same.

Meg pounded the drums and the crowd surged forward.

It was Bridlington Spa in 2004. White Stripes were the hottest thing on the planet. The place was packed and the atmosphere electric. I was right near the front – the only place to be at any gig – the place where the intensity was magnified.

It was a huge crowd and they were crazy tonight. I could see the young kids piling into the mosh-pit and shoving – excited groups of kids deliberately surging like riot cops in a wedge driving into the crowd and sending them reeling so that they tumbled and spilled. For the first time I started getting concerned. The tightly packed kids in the mosh-pit were roaring and bouncing up and down and kept being propelled first one way and then another as the forces echoed and magnified through the mass of people. At the front the crush was intense and everyone was careering about madly. My feet were off the ground as we were sent hurtling around. I had visions of someone getting crushed, visions of someone falling and getting trampled. Worst of all – it could be me!

For the first time in forty odd years of gigs I bailed out. I ruefully headed for the balcony and a clear view of the performance. I didn’t want a clear view I wanted to be in the thick of the action. It got me wondering – was I getting to old for this lark? My old man had only been a couple of years older than me when he’d died. Perhaps Rock Music was for the young and I should be at home listening to opera or Brahms with an occasional dash of Wagner to add the spice. I had become an old git. Then I thought – FUCK IT!!! Jack White was fucking good! Fuck Brahms – This was Rock ‘n’ Roll. You’re never too old to Rock! And Rock was far from dead!

The search goes on!!

We haven’t got a clue what we’re looking for but we sure as hell know when we’ve found it.

Rock music has not been the backdrop to my entire adult life; it’s been much more than that. It has permeated my life, informed it and directed its course.

From when I was a small boy I found myself enthralled. I was grabbed by that excitement. I wanted more. I was hunting for the best Rock jag in the world! – The hit that would send the heart into thunder and melt the mind into ecstasy.

I was hunting for Beefheart, Harper, House, Zimmerman and Guthrie plus a host of others even though I hadn’t heard of them yet.

I found them and I’m still discovering them. I’m sixty four and looking for more!

Forget your faith, hope and charity – give me Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll and the greatest of these is Rock ‘n’ Roll!

I was a kid in the Thames Delta, with pet crow called Joey, 2000 pet mice (unnamed), a couple of snakes, a mammoth tusk, a track bike with a fixed wheel, a friend called Mutt who liked blowing up things, a friend called Billy who kept a big flask of pee in the hopes of making ammonia, and a lot of scabs on my knees.

My search for the heart of Rock began in 1959 and I had no idea what I was looking for when I started on this quest. Indeed I did not know I had embarked on a search for anything. I was just excited by a new world that opened up to me; the world of Rock Music. My friend Clive Hansell also had no idea what he was initiating when he introduced me to the sounds he was listening to. Clive was a few years older than me. He liked girls and he liked Popular Music. Yet he seemed to have limited tastes. I can only ever remembering him playing me music by two artists – namely Adam Faith and Buddy Holly. In some ways it was a motley introduction to the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

I was ten years old which would have made Clive about twelve or thirteen, I suppose he could even have been fourteen. That is quite a lot of years at that age. We used to got off to his bedroom, sit on the bed and he’d play me the singles – 45s – on his Dansette player. He’d stack four or five singles on the deck push the lever up to play and we’d lean forward and watch intently. The turntable would start rotating; the mechanism clunked as the arm raised, there were clicks and clunks as the arm drew back and the first single dropped, then the arm would come across and descend on to the outer rim of the disc. The speaker would hiss and crackle and then the music kicked in. We watched the process intently every time as if it depended on our full attention.

The Adam Faith singles were on Parlaphone and were red with silver writing. The Buddy Holly was on Coral with a black label and silver writing. We reverentially watched the discs spinning and listened with great concentration to every aspect of the songs. It was a start.

Yet Rock ‘n’ Roll was by no means the only quest I’d started on. I was an early developer. I’d hit puberty at ten and can imagine myself as the scruffy little, dirty-faced kid who climbed trees, waded through ditches, got covered in frogspawn and lichen and was suddenly sprouting pubic hair – very confusing.

Life was going to change for me. I was in a transition phase.

My friend Jeff has a photo of me from this age that seems to sum it up very nicely. I was briefly in the cubs before they chucked me out for being too unruly (they – ‘they’ being the establishment – also chucked me out of the scouts and army cadets!). I went to cubs with my mate Jeff. Jeff lived at the end of the road and I used to go and call for him. It was only about 400yds away. I set off in plenty of time, did my thing on the way and arrived at Jeff’s house. His mum obviously did a double take and went for the camera.

Oblivious to any underlying motive on Jeff mum’s part I innocently posed with Jeff. The resultant picture, which shows the two of us proudly standing to attention doing the two fingered cub salute (very appropriate I always think), showed Jeff immaculate with creases in his shorts, flashes showing on his long socks, cap, woggle and scarf all perfectly aligned, and me not quite so sartorially presented. To start with I am utterly begrimed with green lichen, having shinned up a number of trees; one sock is around my ankle and the other half way down my calf; my scarf and cap askew, and my jumper and shorts a crinkled, crumpled mess. It looked like a set-up but was probably par for the course.

Looking back I can see why Clive liked Buddy and Adam. Buddy Holly was a genius. In his short career of just three years he wrote tens of classics of Rock music with hardly a dud among them. He was highly prolific, innovative and talented. I think of him as the Jimi Hendrix of his day. He was far ahead of Elvis. His mind outstripped all the others. I think Buddy’s death, along with Jimi’s, John Lennon’s and Jim Morrison’s, was the greatest tragedy. Out of all the early Rockers he was the one with the musical ear, the melody and adaptability to have really progressed when the music scene opened up in the 1960s. The other Rockers all got caught in their own 1950s style or went Poppy. I would have loved to have seen Buddy interacting with the Beatles. My – what we missed out on!

In many ways Adam Faith was Britain’s answer to Buddy. The arrangements of the songs were cheesy covers of Buddy and Adam did his best Buddy warble. Britain hadn’t quite got it right with Rock music, the production and direction from management (Larry Parnes the old-fashioned British Impresario has a lot to answer for as he guided his Rockers into a more ballad driven, family safe, Pop sound that he figured would make him more money) was all a bit twee. Even so, back then, Adam Faith sounded good to me. In Britain in the 1950s we were starved of good Rock ‘n’ Roll. The good old Auntie Beeb, with its plumy DJs did its best to protect us from the dreadful degenerate racket created by the American Rockers.

I wonder where Clive is now; is he still alive? I wonder what happened to him through those heady days of the 1960s. I don’t suppose he even thinks about me much or imagines what he unleashed.

I am a collector. It is a strange addiction that started back then. Clive would sell me his Adam Faith and Buddy Holly singles when he’d got bored with them. I bought them cheap and I still have them all.

The age of ten was a bit of a milestone year for me. I not only discovered Rock ‘n’ Roll but also fell madly in love. Glenys was a dark Welsh temptress of eleven who utterly bewitched me (females are always portrayed as temptresses – but I was certainly tempted!). She too had reached puberty early and the two of us indulged in ‘real lovers kisses’ like they do in the films. For nine months it was heaven. We even talked about having kids and wrote each other love letters.

Glenys was a bit wild and, obviously, led me astray. We planned to get out for a night on the town. We could imagine the delights of Walton-on-Thames at night. For us it was the big city – all full of lights, crowds and excitement. We saved our money and arranged to go to bed fully dressed, slip out when our parents had gone to bed, meet by our tree (a big elderberry tree that we had a camp in) and head off to the bright lights – big city. Even at ten I had a craving for the Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle. We were wild, man! Unfortunately I must have drifted off to sleep and awoke the next morning fully dressed with light streaming through the window. Glenys assured me, huffily, that she’d waited for hours. Then, next night, I got there and she never showed up. Then on the third attempt my dad caught me wandering around and I had to make a lame excuse about needing a drink of water. Glenys and I never actually made it to those illicit bright lights. But that was probably a good thing. It remained a mythical place of bustle and excitement where in reality it was probably all shut up with just a couple of fish and chip shops and a load of drunks.

I was hopelessly in love. I’m not sure about Glenys – she did seem to be cultivating a stream of admirers. But the love affair was doomed. Her family moved and took her with them. I was bereft.

This was made worse by the doldrums that Rock had lapsed into in 1960. Life was crap.

I lapsed back into the solace of my huge collection of pets and wild animals. I taught my crow Joey to talk and fly. I sold my mice, guinea pigs and hamsters to the pet shop and ran a mini stud farm while I tried to allow my broken heart to mend. It was a kind of hibernation.

I emerged to find, at the age of thirteen, that there were loads of other girls all brilliantly enticing and willing to engage. There was also suddenly an explosion of Rock music. I resumed both my quests and the zoo took a distant third place.

I am writing this in my ‘den’. I spend a lot of my life here. I have my shelves of vinyl albums, my drawers of CDs, my cupboards of singles, my piles of magazines, my hundreds of Rock biographies all around me. I’m immersed in it. Yesterday I spent the day organising my CDs. It takes a bit of doing as I’ve over ten thousand. I use the Andy’s Record shop system; I catalogue them using the first letter of the first name – so Buddy Holly goes under B. I have tried grouping them under genres or eras but that’s fraught with problems. At some time I will endeavour to rearrange my albums. I don’t need to that but I do like holding them, looking at the covers and reading the blurb. It brings back memories and I can imagine the music and the feelings that went with it, the concerts, the friends and the times we lived through. There’s something very tactile about an old vinyl album. It’s a piece of art. When you hold it there’s warmth to it. You connect with the people who held it before you, the feel of the music, the musicians and the era it was made in. The cover tells you a story from the artwork, the photos and liner notes, to the label it was released on. Certain labels mean something special like Folkways, Electra, Stax, Dead Possum or Track. You knew what they stood for.

Collecting is an obsession. It is probably a type of madness, a symptom of autism that is mainly confined to males – but what the hell!

Back in the ‘old days’ there were hundreds of us collectors. We’d meet up clutching our recent purchases, pass them round, discuss them madly, play them, argue over them and roll our joints on the covers. We’d vie with each other to get hold of rarities, obscure bands or artists, bootlegs or rare pressings. We’d develop our loyalties and our allegiances for certain artists (the more unknown the better) and develop our collections. The first thing you did when you met someone new was to get a look at their collection. It told you everything you wanted to know.

Back then records were hard to get hold of. They meant something. You had to hunt them down. Every Saturday you’d be making the rounds of the second hand shop, rifling through the bins of vinyl albums hunting for the bargains and rarities, with the expectant baited excitement of discovering that gem. You’d meet up with your friends, show your purchases off with pride, and discuss your new discoveries and what gigs were coming up. It was a good way to socialise. Nowadays we are few and far between and viewed suspiciously as eccentric dinosaurs, children who have not grown up, or sad decaying hippies. Whatever. We still do it though.

In the age of decluttering, coupled with the wonders of digital (I also have a few terabytes of digital recording – mainly live concerts and bootlegs), where you can download a band’s or label’s entire recorded output onto your I pod in an hour or browse through all the cheap releases on Amazon or EBay and find exactly what you want in minutes – it takes most of the thrill out of it. I have now obtained albums and recordings, in pristine quality, that, in the early days, I would have died for but there is no longer the same thrill in the hunt or the excitement of uncovering a longed-for rarity in the second-hand rack. It’s the same with football – now you can have exactly what you want, when you want it, it does not mean as much.

In 1959 I started my collection of singles. Having become addicted I moved on to albums. My first purchase was the quite incredible ‘Cliff’. I know, Cliff Richard is naff, a sugary sweet, Christian Pop singer. That has its elements of truth now – Cliff is undoubtedly a wet twerp. But in 1959 Cliff was a genuine British Rock Singer and produced more great Rock ‘n’ Roll tracks than anybody else. There was more to Cliff than ‘Move it’. He, more than anybody else (apart from ‘The Sound of Fury’ and a little later Johnny Kidd plus a few assorted tracks by other mainly Larry Parnes kids) captured the sound, excitement and rebellion of Rock ‘n’ Roll. His first album, recorded in 1959 live in the studio before a small audience of screaming girls, was a storming, rockin’ affair. Back then Cliff was neither wet nor Pop. He, like Elvis, suffered from bad management, and was directed down the saccharin Pop road to success. What a travesty. He became wet, Pop and MOR. I still love that first album though.

Strangely, given that most collectors are blokes, it is seemingly the girls who buy the most singles. They set the trend. And girls tend to like songs to be sweet and sickly. They veer away from the loud and raucous. They like the pretty boys. It paid Cliff, Billy and Johnny Burnette to become sweet faced pin-ups rather than wild rockers.

Soon I had a heap of albums including the wonderful Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. I made little brackets so that I could put them up on the wall in my tiny bedroom. When someone shut the door too violently they flew off the wall into a heap on the floor to my great dismay and chagrin. I was a junky. I had to get my regular fixes of Rock ‘n’ Roll. I sat in my room playing them over and over. When I got a new record I’d rush back and play it to death while reading all the liner notes until I’d absorbed every note and word and wrung everything I could out of it.

As a kid I loved the loud visceral excitement and rebellion of the music. As I grew older I wanted something more. I wanted something that was more musically complex and intellectually stimulating. I still loved the excitement and energy of early Rock ‘n’ Roll and R&B but I craved something more.

I was looking for Roy Harper, Captain Beefheart, Son House, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan but I didn’t know it. It was a search that took me through many absorbing and exciting revelations. There was, of course, the Beatles, Stones, Downliner’s Sect, Pink Floyd, Free, Hendrix, Syd and Cream. There were the Doors, Country Joe, Janis, Jefferson Airplane and Love, Zappa, Jackson C Frank, Leon Rosselson. There were Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo. There were the Who, Kinks and Prettythings. There was Bert Jansch, Donovan and John Renbourn, Otis Redding, Aretha and Booker T. There were the Sex Pistols, Clash, Stranglers, Stiff Little Fingers, Elvis Costello, and Ian Dury. There was Bob Marley, Michael Smith and Lee Scratch. And now there’s Nick Harper, Eels, White Stripes, Tinariwen and the North Mississippi Allstars. There were a thousand others. I saw most of them live. I met a number of them. I even got to the recording sessions.

It’s been quite a journey.

I am a collector. I have the records to prove it. I also have the collection of memories.

The life we live, the choices we make, the ideals we chose to live by, all make us the people we become.

I have always been an idealist. I wanted to solve all the world’s problems and have a great time doing it.

I also became a teacher.

My music has been the soundtrack to my thoughts, dreams and ideals. It has driven me, provoked my thinking, awoken my sensibilities, fuelled my anger, and filled me with love and pleasure.

I apologise to me wife and kids. It’s not easy living with an obsessive junky, an insane romantic on a mission. Someone will have to clear out my den. My head will take care of itself. Those thoughts, memories and dreams will be gone but hopefully they’ll leave behind a few ripples that will make the odd person think.

Right now I’m off in search of my heroes. There’s still much to discover.

If you would like to read more it is available on Amazon.

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Featured book – In Search of Captain Beefheart – An extract

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The day the world Rocked

It was sometime early in 1963 and I was sitting in Tony Humm’s bedroom as he sat me down and told me to listen to this. I had never seen Tony so animated and excited about music; he usually only got this worked up over snakes. We were not ones for playing a lot of music. Tony was my animal collecting friend and track bike making friend not a music buff.

I am a collector as I have previously explained. It isn’t just music and musical memories I collect. I collect anything that appeals to me. I had what was loosely called a museum at home. It has fossils and minerals that I collect with Billy. It has shells which I collect with my mother. It has butterflies, moths and insects that I collected with Jeff and Clive. It has birds’ eggs that I bought in a jumble sale. It has miscellaneous objects, such as a mammoth’s tooth, a hippo’s tooth, a pair of antlers and the top of an American Indian totem pole.

I also collected animals. Some of these were wild animals that I collected with Tony others were tame. At one time I had two thousand mice with the full range of colours, forty hamsters, forty guinea pigs, a rabbit, a crow, a couple of gerbils and some stick insects. I made money out of breeding them and selling them to the pet shop. I also had a bit pit I had dug in the garden. I had sunk an old porcelain sink into it as a pond and placed rocks and plants around. This was my wild animal sanctuary.

Tony and I would head off into the surrounding countryside on the track bikes we had made from old bikes we had salvaged out of the ditches. We had painted these old rusty frames up with garish gloss paint we had liberated from our parents’ garages so that they were decorated in stripes and stars. They were the first psychedelic bikes and were obviously a precursor of Ken Kesey’s Magic Bus – Furthur. (Perhaps me and Tony invented psychedelia?). We clutched an aluminium milk pail with lid into which we were to put our finds. We waded in ponds for frogs, toads, and newts. We waded up streams for sticklebacks. We lifted up old corrugated tin in search of slowworms, lizards, grass snakes and voles. We took our spoils back and released them into my pit, or kept them in aquaria. The sticklebacks always faded and died no matter what we did.

But that day in late March it was pouring with rain and we hadn’t gone out collecting. Tony took me up to his room and did something that changed my life. Unbeknownst to me, for I had allowed my interest in the charts to wane, Tony was tuned in.

‘Listen to this,’ Tony instructed. He placed a black vinyl disc on his Dansette and put it on 33 RPM and carefully manually lowered the needle on to the rim.

I sat there with no great expectation.

What came out of those crappy speakers set in the front of that Dansette changed my life for ever. I also believe that it changed the whole world in a way that nothing before or after has managed.

For some reason Tony had played the second side. I imagine he did that deliberately because that was the track with most impact.

Thus it was that the first Beatles track I ever heard was ‘I saw her standing there’ and it blew me away. I was gob-smacked. It was like nothing I had ever heard. It was raw and exciting. It wasn’t like 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll. It was somehow more modern.

Somehow ‘Love me do’ had passed me by. I had allowed the trite Pop of Bobby Vee, Fabian and Bobby Rydell to drift over my head. I’d been content with the old Rockers. But this was so vital and alive. It felt like it was my music – music produced for my generation. Old Rock ‘n’ Roll was brilliant but it was from someone else’s time. This was mine!

Tony never struck me as particularly hip and yet he had latched on to ‘Love me do’ and had actually purchased the ‘Please Please Me’ album on the day it was released. I was listening to it just a few days after that and my life would never be the same.

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.

I grew up with the Beatles and they were a bit part of my musical voyage. As Rock Music progressed and developed into the revolution of the 1960s they were always there at the forefront on the leading edge.

I never got to meet any of the Beatles or even see them play though I got very close. When Roy Harper was recording at Abbey Road studios I was invited along to the sessions. I spent a lot of time there in the early 1970s and all the Beatles dropped in for various projects. I happened across loads of other musicians there but I never bumped into any of the Beatles though. On one occasion I took this American girl along to a Harper recording session. She had been staying with us and turned out to be a bit of a pain in the arse – a typical strident American whose boyfriend was a college jock. – That about summed it up! Liz had got really pissed off with her and suggested I took her out to get her out of Liz’s hair. I took her to Abbey Road where, true to form, she proceeded to piss Roy and everyone else off. She eventually went for a wander and found Paul McCartney and Wings recording in the next studio. She actually barged in while the red light was on and they were in the process of laying down a track and got severely bollocked by Paul McCartney. So the irony is that I went along all those times and never saw them once and she went once and got to meet Paul. So it was.

 

So why the Beatles? Why not Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Eddie, Buddy or Elvis? That’s what Mark Ruston, an old student of mine, asked me having read an early version of this book.

Well I loved all those early rockers and the music they made and I still do. I was excited by them but they weren’t mine. Somehow they were from the era before. I was too young when Rock ‘n’ Roll started up in 1956 to really get in to it. I caught up with it five years later. But in 1963 (the year sexual intercourse began – as Mark pointed out) the Beatles were mine. I felt like they were playing just for me. Crazy huh? Their image, the attitudes, the sound was all new. We were creating a new vision for the world, a sixties idealism. It was vital, alive and full of optimism. They blew away the drab post-war drabness of Britain with the Ena Sharples (an old Coronation Street harridan) old ladies in dowdy coats and hairnets. Right from that first track in Tony’s bedroom I felt the energy, excitement and possibility. We were a new generation, with new ideas, a new way of looking at the world. Our horizons were way broader than our parents. We weren’t tied to the strictures of conformity to old ways of dressing, living and thinking. We were making up our own rules. I sensed all that ravelled up in that first track.

Then as the 60s progressed we all grew together. It wasn’t a fan thing. It was a synergy. As our minds expanded with art, poetry, literature and music so did theirs. We mirrored one another. We fed off each other. The sixties scene was an explosion of possibility. There were no leaders. We all evolved along the same lines.

The Beatles were my gateway drug into the hard stuff of the 60s. They were mine – all mine!

As an aside – back in the 1980s I started doing tapes to play in the car. Interestingly I found I could fit all the songs I wanted to listen to of Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis and even the legendary Little Richard on one side of a C90 while the Beatles ran into 5 complete C90s – that about sums it up for me.

(Recently I tried to get Roy Harper to put together a box set and managed to narrow down the essentials to nine CDs!)

By the end of 1963 Merseybeat was dead in the water. Only the Beatles and Searchers really survived. A whole new bunch of bands had appeared with a bluesier, harder sound, a scruffier long haired image and had usurped the besuited Mersey Bands with their chirpy ‘Boy next door’ image. Longer hair was ‘in’ coupled with a surly attitude and ‘Bad Boy’ image.

I did catch Gerry and the Pacemakers in Hull a few years back at a matinee at Hull New Theatre. I went along out of interest and wasn’t expecting much. The original band had reformed and they were performing a show that was their story. Gerry narrated it, told his anecdotes and jokes, and played the music. They ended with the original line-up doing a short set. It was surprisingly good and the when the band kicked in they were really loud and powerful and nothing like the twee Pop stuff they’d charted with. As it was a matinee there were coach-loads of pensioners (mainly old ladies) who had come along to see the nice little Pop group. I’m not sure they appreciated all the stories from Hamburg’s red light district and when the band kicked in at the end they were putting their hands over their ears and complaining. I was impressed. They were good!

Ironically the rise of the new Beat music coincided with the storming of America by the Beatles and every Tom Dick and Harry from England who could pick up an instrument.

We watched in pride, disbelief and ecstatic delight as the Beatles had seven singles in the US Top Ten and Beatle mania was rampant in the States.

Britain was no longer a musical backwater on a par with Finland. We were the centre of the universe and Elvis no longer ruled. There were big differences though. In the States all the new Beat bands somehow got mixed up with the old-hat Mersey acts. There was no progression or distinction. All the Merseybeat bands got a second lease of life.

One of the weirdest downsides of the British invasion was that Herman’s Hermits became one of the biggest acts.

It was Cliff all over again!

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Featured book – In search of Captain Beefheart – the blurb

 

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The sixties raged. I was young, crazy, full of hormones and wanting to snatch life by the balls. There was a life out there for the grabbing and it had to be wrestled into submission. There was a society full of boring amoral crap and a life to be had in the face of the boring, comforting vision of slow death on offer. Rock music vented all that passion. This book is a memoir of a life spent immersed in Rock Music. I was born in 1949 and so lived through the whole gamut of Rock. Rock music formed the background to momentous world events – the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, Iraq war, Watergate, the miners’ strike and Thatcher years, CND, the Green Movement, Mao and the Cultural Revolution, Women’s Liberation and the Cold War. I see this as the Rock Era. I was immersed in Rock music. It was fused into my personality. It informed me, transformed me and inspired me. My heroes were musicians. I am who I am because of them. Without Rock Music I would not have the same sensibilities, optimism or ideals. They woke me up! This tells that story

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Opher Goodwin – Featured book – In Search of Captain Beefheart

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I thought I would start promoting some of my books.

This book is probably my best seller. It is not about Captain Beefheart. It tells the story of my life with Rock Music and search for the most exciting, brilliant and spectacular bands. It is a memoir of a time when music really counted and led the way. It changed politics and society in ways that are almost unimaginable now. It unified youth right across the globe and rocked the establishment.

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Opher – the Author – selected book – 537 Essential Rock Albums pt. 1 – another extract.

537 Essential Rock Albums cover

Here’s another extract to whet your appetite even more:

  1. Elvis Costello – Spike

 

The early punky Costello was great and it is normal for an artist to mellow and mature as they get older, wiser and more adept. I am pleased to say that while Elvis certainly did develop his music, broaden it and bring in different styles, the power and ferocity of his lyrics and delivery were only intensified. This album was exceptionally spiky in places.

This was released in 1989 and was his twelfth studio album. It also contains one of my favourite tracks.

At this time Elvis moved labels and was also co-writing with Paul McCartney. Who knows? Perhaps the Beatles could have reformed with Elvis taking the John Lennon role? He certainly had the venom and bite to do justice to it. He could have pulled off the acerbic part quite well.

The two tracks he wrote with Paul are very good. ‘Veronica’ was very commercial but ‘Pads paws and claws’ was more experimental but still very accessible and catchy. It was a collaboration that showed promise.

‘Baby plays around’ was a beautiful song, sung very delightfully with a great deal of melancholy concerning a break-up of a relationship in which one’s partner is openly unfaithful. ‘…This Town’ was the opening track and was much more like the Elvis of his first few albums. This was the Punk Elvis lamenting the fact that in order to get on you had to be a complete bastard. ‘God’s comic’ is a great song and send-up of religion, a priest who had not been too religious has an audience with God who is listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber and wondering if he should have given the world to the monkeys. ‘Deep Dark Truthful Mirror’ is a song about confronting your own failings.

This was an album with a number of different styles, moods, instrumentation and types of songs. If that was all it would be an excellent album but that wasn’t all. There were two songs that had an exceptional impact on me. The first was the snarling diatribe against hanging ‘Let him dangle’. It told the story of a couple of young thieves who were cornered by the police. Young Bentley was already under arrest and Craig had a gun pointing at the police officer. ‘Let him have it,’ Bentley told Craig. Craig shot the officer dead. Craig was underage got life and Bentley was hung. Elvis turned it into a passionate expose of the viciousness of State murder and the hatred and primitive revenge involved. It was a thought-provoking tale delivered with real anger.

But the stand out track for me was ‘Tramp the dirt down’. It still sends chills running through me when I play it. The melodic beauty of the song only serves to accentuate the hatred in the lyrics as Elvis contemplates the cold, calculated duplicity of Margaret Thatcher. I still have a vivid memory of her standing on the steps at number ten delivering her election speech at the start of her term of office saying how she would bring harmony to the country while already plotting to break the unions and create havoc. Elvis pours out his vitriol as he goes through the trail of Tory deceit over the treatment of public services, the health service and the glorification of the Falklands war. It’s probably not too late to get there and tramp that dirt down so she never gets out, perhaps a good sharp stake should be deployed first though!

 

  1. The Fall – Slates

 

The Fall were one of John Peel’s favourite bands. It is easy to see why. They have consistently gone about doing their own thing throughout the whole of their long career without the slightest nod to fashion, commerciality or anybody’s views.

Mark E Smith is the Fall. Despite all the personnel changes he is the guvnor! He directs the music, bosses the band around and dictates what goes on. He once said that even if it was him with his moth-in-law on bongos it would be the Fall.

They go about producing their raw output of post-punk without regard to taste, political correctness or the media and often with seeming contempt for their own audience.

I have been to live performances with strange film intros that went on and on, Mark seemingly so intoxicated he could not function, and virtual fights on stage. I’ve also been to concerts where they have motored along completely in tune with the audience with everyone bouncing about and singing along with Mark.

This is the usual type of Fall album. The driving riffs with Mark reciting and shouting his lyrics over it. The result is great. I can’t say he has a great voice but the effect is more interesting than all the plastic bands put together. From ‘Hip Priest’ to ‘Slates, slags etc.’ it drives along. There is that repetitive coda and variation that makes it interesting. You can feel the Captain Beefheart influence.

 

  1. Randy Newman – Lonely at the Top

 

This has all Randy’s great songs all gathered together. It gives you a great view of Randy’s genius. There is so much of Randy’s quirky humour and idiosyncratic observation. He is able to hone a lyric to its bare bones, deliver it with perfect phrasing to a simple but perfectly effective backing. This album has many of my favourites.

‘Political Science’ is a sardonic view of the rest of the world in which Randy suggests that America should just nuke everybody, except Australia – don’t want to hurt no kangaroo – boom goes London! Boom Paris!

‘God’s song (That’s why I love mankind)’ is a send up of religion in which God is a character who is a capricious individual who doesn’t care a jot about people yet is amazed by the antics of humans in the face of his vindictiveness.

There’s the full spectrum here with ‘Short people’, ‘Rednecks’, ‘Jolly Coppers on parade’, ‘I love L.A.’ ‘Germany before the war’, ‘Birmingham’ etc etc. The album ends with his own send up of himself with ‘Lonely at the top’.

What a song-writer! What humour!

 

  1. Sam Cooke – Portrait of a Legend

 

Sam was the guy with the smooth silken voice who was capable of big soulful ballads, Pop songs and more rocking numbers. That voice came straight out of Gospel. He started singing at an early age and became the lead vocalist with the leading Gospel group ‘The Soul Stirrers’.

He left Gospel to move into secular R&B focussing on producing singles and immediately hit with ‘You send me’. This crossed over into the Pop charts and was followed by a string of other hits ‘Only sixteen’, ‘Cupid’, ‘Chain gang’, ‘Little Red Rooster’, ‘What a wonderful world’, ‘Bring it on home to me’, ‘Twistin’ the night away’ and ‘Shake’.

There was a great deal of variation in his work. A comparison between the Pop of ‘Cupid’ and the Blues of ‘Little Red Rooster’ (recorded before the Stones did their version). He also tackled issues like the Civil Rights fight for justice which was an incendiary thing to do at the time; his song ‘A change is going to come’ was a brave thing to do.

Sam’s soulful voice was one of the precursors of Soul music. Unfortunately Sam was not there to participate. He was shot dead at a motel in very dubious circumstances. Seemingly he was drunk and took a girl back to his room. She stole his clothes and ran off claiming he was going to rape her and the distraught Sam was shot dead by the white motel owner. We shall never know by there seemed to be a racial element involved in this.

 

  1. Jeff Beck – Truth

 

Jeff Beck was one of the world’s great innovative guitarists. He came from my neck of the woods in the Deep South of the Thames Delta and played in one of my local groups – The Tridents – before going on to replace Clapton in the Yardbirds. His arrival sparked the most experimental and dynamic style of the band as they moved from R&B and Pop into psychedelia. Beck’s guitar-work was highly original and innovative and drove the band into a new level. They became widely accepted on the emerging Underground scene as a serious band.

Then it all started falling apart just when it should have been at its best. The Yardbirds had taken on Jimmy Page and had the most incredible double lead guitar attack ever. However it was not to be. Jeff started becoming inconsistent and the band fell apart. Jimmy took the remnants off with him to form Led Zeppelin. Keith went off to Renaissance and Jeff went off to go solo and then form the Jeff Beck Group. That band consisted of John Stewart on vocals, Ronnie Wood on bass and Micky Waller on drums. It was an incredible line-up.

I saw them play a couple of times and Jeff was always stunning on guitar though I never hugely liked John’s vocals.

This album ‘Truth’ is one of the great albums of British Progressive Rock. It features a number of great progressive bluesy and psychedelic numbers alongside some delicate workings of traditional songs like ‘Greensleeve’ and psyched out ‘Ole’ Man River’ which I always thought were a little incongruous though they seemed to work and gave the album another dimension.

The album starts with a version of the Yardbirds ‘Shapes of things’ in a very different psychedelic arrangement. Then there was a version of Tim Roses’ ‘Morning Dew’ and ‘Beck’s Bolero’ along with some blues favourites ‘Rock my plimsoul’ (which was a psyched out version of Rock me baby), ‘I ain’t superstitious’ and ‘You shook me’. They were all given the Beck treatment.

It was widely recognised as one of the major albums of the Progressive scene.

 

  1. Dale Hawkins – Oh Suzie Q

 

In 1957 Dale Hawkins recorded ‘Suzie Q’. It was not quite like anything else. It took the Rockabilly of Elvis and married to the swamp-blues of Louisiana. The result was a bluesy guitar solo, muddy beat with cowbells and a swampy style of Rock.

He followed it up with good Rockabilly tracks like ‘Juanita’ and ‘Tornado’ which both had some of the elements but did not catch that magic of the ‘Suzie Q’ brand of Swamp Rock.

‘Oh Suzie Q’ gathers those tracks together with a rocked up version of Little Walters ‘My Baby’ and some other strong songs ‘Four letter word (Rock)’ and ‘Wild, Wild World’.

If only Dale could have developed that initial Swamp Rock into something more he would have been as big as Elvis. Unfortunately his other material was good but not quite as good.

 

  1. Big Mama Thornton – The Original Hound Dog

 

Big Mama Thornton was a big lady with a really big voice. She was outrageous for her time often dressing as a man in her stage act. Like a number of R&B artists she came into secular music from a background of Gospel.

A lot of her early fifties output was good hard hitting R&B like ‘I smell a rat’ (covered by White Stripes) ‘They call me Big Mama’ and ‘You don’t move me no more. But there were two tracks that she is best remembered for. The first of these was ‘Hound Dog’. Big Mama was the first to record this Lieber & Stoller classic as early as 1952. She belted the song out to a great guitar backing and great R&B beat complete with yelps and whoops. It prompted a response song (quite common during those days) from Rufus Thomas on Sun Records and then was later rocked up by Elvis. The second was a slower bluesier song called ‘Ball and chain’. Big Mama Thornton did a really soulful version of this but it gained much more prominence when Janis Joplin turned it into an anguished gutsy song that often stole the show with the intensity she put into it.

Big Mama remains a seminal force. The original Hound Dog collection together most of her early tracks.

 

  1. Nuggets – Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968

 

When the British invasion took place in 1964 the Americans were shocked. They had no response. It was as if they had been invaded by aliens and did not understand the new language. However, it did not take them long to start to respond. All over the continent kids started growing their hair and forming bands. The country exploded with a plethora of new bands. Many of them were clones of British bands but many more were original and different. As the 1960s progressed these bands developed with it so that when the style turned to psychedelia they did their own versions.

There were hundreds of these bands. Every town and city had flourishing little flocks of them all playing to their mates in the local clubs and doing their best to pull the girls. Most of them died away without leaving any trace. Some recorded the odd single which might have sold locally and a few managed to secure major label contracts.

Because this music was rehearsed in their parents garages and was performed by young kids it began to be called Garage Punk.

It would probably have languished unheard collecting dust on shelves in those same garages and occasionally being dusted off for a sentimental nostalgic evening between old friends if it wasn’t for two men. Jack Holzman (founder of Elektra records) and Lenny Kaye (later the lead guitarist for the Patti Smith Group) had the bright idea of tracking down a number of these lesser known tracks and putting them out on a double album. At the time they thought it would be an interesting project and had no idea that in the process they would create a number of distinct genres, spark a wave of interest, and have far reaching effects further down the line. They called it Nuggets because they were collecting all those fairly obscure nuggets of music from that rich vein of the 1960s.

In actual fact it was rather a strange eclectic collection of fairly disparate recordings, some of which were quite big hits, some of which were obscure, and involving a wide range of styles. They were not really all Garage Bands or Garage Punk as Lenny described them. What they did do was spark an enormous amount of interest that started that snowball rolling down the mountainside picking up the debris from the sixties as it gained momentum until it exploded on the scene with the force of a nuclear avalanche.

The album Nuggets spawned other albums and album sets – Boulders, Pebbles, Chocolate Soup for Diabetics, High in the Mid 60s, Fading Yellow, and on and on and on. I was running a History f Rock Music course back in the 1980s as an Adult Education Course and one of my students was so smitten with Nuggets that he specialised in Garage Punk and started collecting Vinyl albums. He was a young man with disposable cash and by the end of the two year course he had amassed two thousand five hundred albums of Garage Punk Bands, compilations and related material!

On the Pop side there were the Castaways, Knickerbockers and Barbarians. On the Psychedelic side there were the Electric Prunes, Seeds, Count Five, Chocolate Watch Band and Cryan’ Shames. On the Garage Punk side you had the Leaves, Premiers and Standells. On the psyched out Bluesy side you had the Amboy Dukes, Shadows of knight and Blues Magoos. On the really weird psychedelic Punk you had the Magic Mushrooms and Mouse & the Traps. Etc.

It was an inspired choice.

Whether you agree with the choices or not you’ll love the journey.

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