Summertime Soul

I dunno why, but Summer always seems to mean soul to me. I think it is the heat, the sun, it has a languid lazy feel that makes me want to listen to some mellow grooves.

Anyway, here are a dozen tunes that seem to say SUMMER to me, mostly stuff from the 1970s, which was the heyday of blissed out summer soul and lazy funk grooves.

Notes from the underground

Nothing to do with Dostoevsky here, just me musing on the split between chart music and all the underground stuff that was such a big part of the musical landscape in the late 1960s and early-to-mid 70s.

Hoshino Sakura’s Slade post was the inspiration for this ramble through the past and it will be a ramble, because I am not really going to advance a grand theory here.

The 60s really was the golden age of chart music, probably only really equalled by the first part of the 1980s, times when the charts actually reflected what the young, the fashionable and the alternative communities were listening to and buying. I can remember when the charts mattered, because you would hear bands like The Who, The Stones, The Kinks etc, people who were making the thing up as they went along, following in the wake of The Beatles. You also heard a lot of black music courtesy of Tamla Motown. This was when the charts mattered, back when the Sixties were Swinging, or, to paraphrase George Harrison, back When We Were Fab.

I think it all changed after 1967, that was when the music changed, when it all got weird, when things got longer, be they hair, hemlines or pieces of music. You really couldn’t imagine something like Interstellar Overdrive getting much airplay and once people like King Crimson got going, you knew that there were things that wouldn’t be on Top of the Pops ever.

Of course, there were people like John Peel, Annie Nightingale and Bob Harris flying the flag for underground music on late night BBC Radio 1 and, for some of us, those shows were massively important. Where else, I ask, would we have heard Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Gnidrolog, Gentle Giant, Kevin Coyne, Gong or Kevin Ayers, to name just a few.

There was a huge amount of music coming out, music that was too varied, too long, too experimental or just too weird for the charts and for daytime radio. You just had to be in the know.

Being in the know generally meant having older friends, maybe elder siblings, who listened to The Grateful Dead or The Groundhogs or The Pink Fairies. It was a kind of rite of passage, an initiation, to be admitted to the world of the underground. It was also a kind of admission that you were consciously being different. You had nailed your colours to the groovy, psychedelic mast of the Good Ship Freaky. You were almost duty bound to dismiss the charts as uncool or a sell out.

There were exceptions, a few brave souls who would venture out from the patchouli-scented, dimly-lit fug of the clubs and the souks of Portobello Rd to release a single occasionally, maybe people like Atomic Rooster;

Now, I really like that one, but it is definitely at the poppier end of the Rooster’s output. There are plenty of other bands who wouldn’t have got on daytime Radio One, maybe like The Edgar Broughton Band?

Very Captain Beefheart in places there, I’m sure you’ll agree, and a long way away from Ballroom Blitz or Telegram Sam.

Anyway, not only did you listen to different music, you looked different, you tried, as best as you could, to look alternate. Of course, your Mum and Dad didn’t like it, mine even threatened to burn my Afghan coat because it smelt of goats. It was a sign of who you were, the music, the clothes and certain other things that all basically said Not Mainstream, Not Trendy.

I think that occasionally we all listened to stuff that we didn’t really like, nor understood, but it was part of being apart. If Peel played it, we listened, if TotP played it, mostly we sneered.

He’s got all the best tunes, you know.

It has often been said that the Devil has all the best tunes. There is also supposed to be something diabolic about certain types of music and there is the interval known as diabolus in musica (the Devil in Music) a.k.a the tritone, an interval known for dissonance.

Diabolic and Satanic imagery has long been associated with heavy metal and Goth has always been as much about decaying ruins, vampires and death as it has about music.

Jimmy Page was, at one time, deeply interested in Aleister Crowley, the so-called Wickedest Man Alive and founder of the occult religion of Thelema (motto – Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law) and the late Graham Bond was so obsesed with Crowley that he formed a band called Holy Magick and believed himself to be Crowley’s son.

Earlier still, it was said that Robert Johnson bacame a blues guitar phenomenon because of a pact with the Devil, signed at midnight, down at the crossroads. This idea later spawned a film about the same subject, culminating in a guitar battle between the Devil’s guitar hero, played by Steve Vai and the hero of the film, Eugene (guitar work by Ry Cooder).

So, music has a long tradition of dealing in the Black Arts and this playlist covers all the bases from posession and exorcism, through witchcraft, occult ceremonies and the Undead athrough to Hell and Damnation.

As you can see, we have 11 tracks. The task here is to decide which one will be saved from the Pit and which one will be cast into the Outer Dark forever.

The track listing is:

Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia
Siousxie and the Banshees – Spellbound
David Byrne and Brian Eno – The Jezebel Spirit
Dr John – Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya
Black Widow – Come To The Sabbat
Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead
Cassandra Wilson – Hellhound On My Trail
John Martyn – I’d Rather Be The Devil
King Crimson – The Devil’s Triangle
The Clash – Straight To Hell
AC/DC – Highway To Hell

So, it is a case of Farewell, Voyager

It was reported this week that NASA’s venerable Voyager I probe has finally left the Solar System and is heading off out into the cold lonely reaches of interstellar space.

Launched in 1977, Voyager has gone further and faster than any other man-made object and will continue to send data back to Earth until its plutonium energy supply runs out in a few decades time.

So, I decided to put together a playlist that is in the spirit of space, the vast unknown, although not all the tracks are actually directly about space travel.

To keep it fun, the playlist is anonymous and therefore, ‘Spill points are available for those of you who can identify what is what.

Another Tuesday, Another Challenge.

Aha, another ‘Spill Challenge. No real theme here this time and Frippiness has been kept to an absolute minimum. I expect that many of these songs won’t be unfamiliar to most people and I hope that there is something here for everyone. Listening back, though, if there is a theme, it is that I think these tracks all seem to work well in our Summer heat.

So, same as always, What rocks your world and what rains on your parade?

01 – Intro/Sweet Jane – Lou Reed From Lou’s 1974 Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal album, featuring the twin guitar talents of
Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, who also played in Alice Cooper’s band.
02 – Black Water – The Doobie Brothers
The hot weather seems to suit the early Doobie Brother’s sound. This one has a languid, zoned-out feel.
03 – Baby’s On Fire – Brian Eno
The Bard of Braininess from his first album, Here Come The Warm Jets. with a suitably incandescent guitar solo by Robert Fripp (his only appearance on the list).
04 – He’ll Have To Go – Ry Cooder
A hit for Jim Reeves, Ry Cooder’s take is a laid-back affair with a Tex-Mex swing, courtesy of the accordion of Flaco Jimenez.
05 – Jacket Hangs – The Blue Aeroplanes
One of the best-known songs from Bristol’s Blue Aeroplanes. This is a band that needs to be seen live because Gerard Langley is a fantastic frontman. They had a non-singing dancer long before Bez came along, fact fans.
06 – Spencer The Rover – John Martyn
A traditional folk ballad given the inimitable Martyn treatment. One of my favourite songs on the album Sunday’s Child.
07 – There’s No Way Out Of Here – David Gilmour
From his first, 1977 solo album, originally recorded by a band called Unicorn (no, me neither) and released as a single, which flopped, probably because of the year. David gives his guitar a typical workout. This album is interesting, because it shows how Floyd would sound once Roger Waters left leaving David in charge.
08 – When Poets Dreamed Of Angels – David Sylvian
A typically atmospheric song from David Sylvian’s Secrets of the Beehive album. I am a huge fan of his solo work and I really think he deserves more airplay.
09 – Song With No Words – David Crosby
A dreamy drifting workout, basically a jam, from his 1971 solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, this features Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Mike Shrieve and Graham Nash. Hippy Royalty, really. Substances may have been involved in the recording of this track.
10 – Dolphins – Tim Buckley
Fred Neil’s song given the Buckley treatment at the Albert Hall in 1968. Danny Thompson on bass, natch plus guitarist Lee Underwood and David Friedman on vibes. His voice was never better, I think.
11 – Naked Eye – The Who
A regular feature of The Who’s live act but not ever an album track until a version appeared on the Odds ‘n’ Sods compilation. This is classic ‘Ooo.

The ‘Spill Challenge – Touched By Bob


So, this week’s ‘Spill Challenge is all about the Wizard of Wimborne, Robert Fripp.

Apart from being the sole constant in the ever-changing kaleidoscope that is King Crimson, Fripp has contributed his guitar work to albums by many varied artists as a session player, recorded collaborative albums with others and produced a fair number of albums too.

The constant factor here is that everything either features Fripp as a musician or producer or has ex-Crimson members performing on the tracks on offer.

The rules are the same as always, select the one that appeals least and consign it to the dustbin of history.

So, to the music.

1) David Bowie – Up The Hill Backwards. Fripp had previously worked with Bowie on “Heroes” and this track is from “Scary Monsters”, probably Bowies last truly great album. Fripp plays on several tracks, and this one has some typically angular and spiky work.
2) Peter Gabriel – Fear Is The Mother Of Violence. Gabriel’s second solo album after leaving Genesis was produced by Fripp and also features him playing guitar on some tracks. A deceptive ballad, with a rather unsettling feel.
3) Van Der Graaf Generator – The Emperor In His War Room. VDGG were never an easy listen for many people and notably didn’t really go in for guitar solos, although Peter Hammill did play a bit of acoustic guitar. Anyway, here Fripp contributes some trademark sustain-driven electric guitar work.
4) 21st Century Schizoid Band – I Talk To The Wind. The band is made up from former Crimson members and occasionally tours playing classic Crimson tunes. This is from Crimson’s groundbreaking first album, “In The Court Of The Crimson King”.
5) David Sylvian – Wave. One of Fripp’s more interesting and enduring partnerships in the 1980s and 90s was with ex-Japan frontman David Sylvian. Fripp wanted him to join a reformed Crimson in around 1991, but it never happened. This track is from Sylvian’s earlier solo album, “Gone To Earth” and features Fripp’s distinctive sustained guitar and elements of Frippertronics.
6) McDonald and Giles – Flight Of The Ibis. After quitting King Crimson, Ian McDonald and Michael Giles released an eponymous album in 1971. This ethereal track is similar to “Cadence and Cascade” from Crimson’s second album, “In The Wake Of Poseidon”.
7) Daryl Hall – Something in 4/4 Time. Daryl Hall’s first solo album, “Sacred Songs”, was produced by Fripp, who also played on it. At the time, in 1977, Hall was enjoying a lot of success with John Oates as Hall and Oates and, fearing that this allegedly uncommercial solo record might impact on his success, Hall’s record label refused to release the album and it was shelved and only released three years later.
8) Judy Dyble – Dreamtime. Judy Dyble was the original female singer in Fairport Convention. She was also, for a time involved with the precursor to King Crimson, Giles, Giles and Fripp. She gave up the music business in the 1970s and only began perfonming and recording again in 1994. This track is taken from her 2009 album, Talking with Strangers, and features Crimsonites Ian McDonald and Pat Mastelotto.
9) Peter Hammill – Child. This track is from Hammill’s 1971 debut solo album, “Fool’s Mate”. The album is made up from material that Hammill felt wasn’t really suitable for VDGG but features all the band’s members as well as Fripp and several others.
10) Robert Fripp – North Star. From Fripp’s 1979 solo album “Exposure”. This features the vocal talents of Daryl Hall, again something that Hall’s record label wasn’t too pleased about. There are different versions of the album, with some songs rerecorded with other singers replacing Hall, notably Peter Hammill and Peter Gabriel, but both are available as a double CD.
11) King Crimson – Exiles. Finally, to round off, we have the Mighty Crim itself, recorded live in 1974 in Providence, Rhode Island and issued on the live 4-CD box set “The Great Deceiver”. This was arguably Crimson’s greatest line-up, with David Cross, John Wetton and Bill Bruford joining Fripp for some truly incandescent virtuoso playing.