Comus – a band I had completely forgotten until I read something that reminded me.

I knew about Comus back in the early 1970s. They tended to get lumped in with people like the Third Ear Band, because of their general weirdness, and also with the Incredible String Band.

Anyway, I knew about them and my cousin liked them a lot, but he was weird. He liked the Holy Modal Rounders as well.

I was reminded of them yesterday because I was looking up Opeth on Wikipedia and that led me on to look at the article about Storm Corrosion, the Steven Wilson/Mikael Åkerfeldt collaboration from a couple of years ago. That article mention Comus as an inspiration for the Storm Corrosion album. I made a mental note to check on YouTube to see if their first album was there and, lo and behold, here it is.

I think that some people here might like it, certainly I think it will strike a chord with Beth and maybe Chris too.

 

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.