Explanatory aside

Anyone who’s found this page lately has probably been directed there from either YouTube or Amazon.

So – reference my recent inane babblings on those websites.  You can probably tell that – in addition to all the everyday turmoil and instability in my life (re: being out of work and, still, in effect, homeless) – I’m going through my mid-life crisis period of “nostalgia for things that never happened, in order to shut out memories of what did happen”.

Advertisements

Tubular Bells – which version is better?

My contribution to the eternal internal debate

I haven’t got the software and hardware at my disposal that would enable me to edit together my Ideal Version of Tubular Bells.  But if I did…

Start with the obvious point: I wouldn’t use anything from the twenty-first century re-recording (which was a waste of Oldfield’s time, our time, and Basil Fawlty’s time!)

So what amendments would I make?

This is going to get a bit complicated, because the 1973 original version – which I would use as a foundation – isn’t on YouTube at the time of writing…

I just have to assume that anyone who reads this will be familiar with both the 1973 original and the version on the Exposed live album – and won’t be too frustrated when I not only make comparisons to, but cite start/finish times from, the Orchestral version embedded above.

OK, here goes –

The first movement (by which I mean the Exorcist Motif and all the related material, leading up to 6:12-in-this-version): I would shorten it by making approx one minute’s worth of cuts prior to…the motif which happens at 3:08 in this version.  Proceed through the First Rock-Out, and then…

For the next “developmental part”, I would insert 8.12-9.48 from the Orchestral version, before cutting back to the Original on the downbeat of the Major-Key Refrain, before returning to the Orchestral version for 10.12-12.09.

On the downbeat of the Shuffle-Beat Section (it starts at 12:09 in the Orchestral version) I would edit to the Exposed version, editing back to the Original on the downbeat of the low-volume Major Key Motif which happens at 14:30 here (it may be a Moribund Chorus but let’s not bury it).

Obviously nothing can replace the Original version when it comes to the Second Rock-Out. And after some more internal debate I decided to stick to the Original for the entire Master Of Ceremonies section.  (The obvious question re: the Orchestral version – what happened to the tubular bells themselves?  I know Oldfield allegedly had to take a sledgehammer to the instrument, but…if anything it sounds more like a set of wind chimes here! Bedford’s little joke?)

The only place in which I really favour the Orchestral version is the first segment of Side Two (which is 26.22-31.58) – we’ll be cutting back to the Original version for the next section (the fast waltz, with the foreshadowing of Who The Fuck Is Flora?) and the bagpipe-guitars section.  Or, as I prefer to call it, the Dusty Springfield In Scotland section*

And so to every schoolboy’s favorite section of the suite.  It’s known by many names, but I’m sticking to the one which describes it best: Who The Fuck Is Flora**?

I would slightly extend this by taking the first run through the main melody from the Exposed version (the equivalent of 39.11-40.06 in the Orchestral version) – then on the downbeat of the next bar, cut back to the original for the entrance of the “vocal”, and stay with it until we’re just about to have the second iteration of the blues-tinged middle-eight.

And then, for the section equivalent to 41.42 – 42.57, I would cut back to Exposed (we must get in that heavy-metal guitar solo break!)…

before cutting back to the original for the last round of “vocals” and the end of this section.

On the downbeat of the penultimate movement – the slow crescendo-ing section (which, here, starts at 44.52) – I would cut back to Exposed and stay there for the entire movement.  Most Oldfield fans seem to prefer this in its Exposed, and rocked-up, form, and I don’t blame them – as charming as the Orchestral version is, particularly when, finally, after about forty-six minutes, we hear the composer add his seal of approval with the electric guitar, it doesn’t belong in an Ideal Edit.

The finale: the Sailor’s Hornpipe…well, what did you expect?  Of course I’m going to use this version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcJUQ1TF4wA ***

(* it’s time to play the game called One Song To The Tune Of Another – Graeme, or should I say Dougall, you’re going to sing the words of You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me to the tune of 35.27-36.20)

(** which, incidentally, is not to be confused with that song which some people refer to as Who The Fuck Is Ewie?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo7TBGn4R8U)

(*** am I ever going to find the time to propose a similar “editor’s-schematic” for Incantations: Studio versus Live?  Well, as Viv would say: sodomy non sapiens)

 

Poetry corner – “Fugazi” by Marillion

I’m no longer welcome at songmeanings.net (they can ban you for having the wrong political position, it seems) – so I might as well indulge my “lyric commentary” urges here.  Actually in the case of this song, I could just as easily flag it as “seemingly obvious things #2″…

Enjoy these posts while you can – the way the world is, I’ll probably get a cease and desist order.  From people who pretend to “own” the lyrics and, contradictorily, to be benefiting Mr D W Dick in doing so.

Vodka intimate: an affair with isolation in a Blackheath cell.  Extinguishing the fire from a private hell, provoking the heartache, to renew the license of a bleeding-heart poet…

So, Fish seems to have glossed over the actual trigger for the writing of this lyric.  If we take this literally – and he’s the sort of writer we can afford to take literally – the idea for the song must have come to him in a police-cell drunk-tank.  We’re in “Who Are You” territory here, and not only because of the mise en scene.

Feeling sick and sorry for himself –  wrapped in the christening-shawl of a hangover – but, upon remembering a prior upsetting experience on the London Underground, and finding himself baptised in tears from the Real, seizing the opportunity to channel his upset into a lyric.  Despite being acutely aware of the “Great Deception” the hypocrisy of writing protest-songs, about people whose experiences one can never truly understand, in order to earn a wage.  He uses the pejorative phrases “bleeding heart” – a knowing Roger Waters / Wall reference? – and “the glitter conscience” aka `champagne socialists’ (his image furthered  later by reference to inhabitors of “conscience bubbles” within the music-making world).  A pause.  A change of tempo.

Voice 1 – Drowning in the liquid seize on the Piccadilly line, rats race, scuttling through the dank electric labyrinth.  Sheathed within the Walkman, wear the halo of distortion (aural contraceptive, aborting pregnant conversation)

Voice 2 – Caress Ophelia’s hand with breathstroke ambition, an albatross in the marrytime tradition…She turned the harpoon and it pierced my heart, she hung herself around my neck

Puns proliferate, alliteration accumulates.  Two “trains” (ahem) of thought.  Voice two: indicating that during that memorable subterranean train journey, Fish was not alone, but with his then-partner, reminding us of the unhappy relationship he was shortly to exit from.  Voice one: picturing himself amongst the literal and colloquial rats, trying to blot out the conversation he needs to have with his partner, and (unsuccessfully) the conversation around him.

voice 1, completing the sentence: …from the Time-Life guardians in their conscience-bubbles.  Safe and dry in my sea of troubles.  Nine to fives with suitable ties – (I’m) cast adrift as their sideshow.  A peepshow.  A stereo hero. Becalm, bestill, bewitch.  (We are) drowning, drowning in the Real.

He’s taking refuge in the music of another hypocritical “protest singer”.  The first fellow-travelers (in the literal sense) to catch his eye are the ordinary workers.  The thought crosses his mind that as a (still fairly minor) celebrity (but a celebrity nonetheless), they might be drawing some amusement from his presence.  But the “peepshow” is two-way: he’s intensively watching the people around him, he can’t help it, even with his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend at his side.  As we make our way to the “main” part of the song: the three b-words.  Easily mistaken for commanding phrases, not (self-directed) verbs.

The next verses are fairly self-explanatory.  Here’s a link: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/m/marillion/fugazi_20088836.html

Fish described this part of the song as (paraphrasing heavily) being suddenly surrounded on the train by London’s losers, the people most in need of help.  But unless Fish was now turning his personal-stereo off and listening very intently, to some dangerously unguarded conversation, we suspect his imagination may have been working overtime.

Howso it may be, we first meet a pimp and his whore (an ex-glamour model who presumably has sunk further into need, and so traveled further into vice: drugs may be involved).  Both are immigrants, each eager to be rid of the other, though deportation is the last thing Magdalene (her real name, we can assume) would want.

We then meet neo-Nazis (who, just like “18” himself, are not themselves “Aryan”, merely parading a peroxide standard) – they have been, or are caught in the act of, daubing “testaments of hatred” on a Brixton wall.  Finally, in this part of the song,  we encounter a homeless person, possibly a veteran of the army or navy.  He seems to have escaped from the pages of a certain Ralph McTell song. Amid “the roadways” of “the English capital”, some things never change.

Another pause.  Archetypal “dramatic” chords.  Fish’s imagination drifts off – he adopts a “global” view for the final verse.  A jibe at the misinformation / colloquial opiation perpetrated by Britain’s (90% hard-right-wing) newspapers.  And then a reference to the then-nascent orbital nuclear-defence system proposed by Reagan (a project later to be revived by Bush Junior and shamefully not retracted by Obama and Trump).  “Pandora’s Box of Holocausts gracefully cruising satelite-infested heavens” (never mind “the button“, here’s the space-junk: and the impending collision).  Live performances clarify that “we” are “waiting” for the apocalypse, and that “we” are as “insane” as our leaders.  We vote for the muthafukas after all.  We shout down the opponents of WMD possession as “naive” – more concerned about the loss of a few jobs in a fundamentally-immoral industry than our own security (indeed, advancing a perverse downside-up notion of what “security” is).

Having at last posed the (fumbled) question, the call to responsibility: “do you realise – this world is totally Fugazi?” (forgetting that “fugazi” is a noun, not an adjective), Fish appears to correct his stated position in the introductory verse.  Back in his police cell, he realises that as an “entertainer” he has a responsibility to inform, to incite political action.  To risk accusations of hypocrisy and write those damned protest-songs.  Because if he doesn’t, who will?  “Where are the prophets?”, and “where are the poets?”.  And (live version) “can you tell [him] whereabouts [he]’ll find the sentimental mercenaries?” – if not by starting with the man in the mirror.

 

 

 

Sidi Bou Said – classic live footage on YouTube

Like the Black Session radio broadcast, this fills a gap in the catalog – a (partially) improved-audio, Friese-Green free, document of the Brooch era.

So – hear a few lyrics clearly for the first time (perhaps), double-check who plays which guitar lines, ponder Claire’s modelling of a “Kristin-Hersh-look”…and recall what a brilliantly-blended vocal team Claire and Lee were.  (Not forgetting Mel, of course – for some reason we get a drum-cam view of proceedings at one stage).

 

An interlude: seemingly-obvious things which people still debate #1 (Pink Floyd)

Where do the “movements” in the Atom Heart Mother “suite” begin and end?

From what we know of the piece’s origin and evolution (even before Ron Geesin got involved), we can deduce that it was never really a suite, just a structured “jam” that expanded over time (as did the various melodic “themes” that provide its framework).  It certainly wasn’t conceived as the piece of “program music” which some critics (Simon Reynolds for instance) interpret it as.

So we can assume that the subtitles were a ruse to extract more publishing royalties (comparable to the “including…” subtitles to all those early King Crimson songs).  In the same way that it doesn’t really matter which bit of “21st Century Schizoid Man” is “Mirrors” – because “Mirrors” doesn’t actually exist – it also doesn’t really matter where the “Breast Milky” is sucked from, or where the “Funky Dung” is dumped.

 

But… if we’re going to play that game.  The first CD edition of the album actually did divide the epic into six tracks.  So this is our starting point.  The question is: do you agree with their start / finish points?   I think most will answer “well…some of them”.

For whatever it may be worth – here’s my version of it (oops, wrong act)

0.00 – 5.26: Father’s Shout – so all the substantial composed material, all the “main themes” of the piece, can be contained under this heading.  Makes sense to me, because there isn’t a major slackening of tempo during these five minutes, there’s continuity.

5.26 – 10.12: Breast Milky – the choral section (or, prior to that, the “Gilmour falsetto” section).  The title may be just “cattle thematics” in keeping with the album cover…or a reference to the physique of certain ladies in the chorus(?!)

10.12 – 13.20: Mother Fore – the modulation is the turning point, when one movement in the suite gives way to the next.  This is the first part of the funky jamming section.

Here I part company with the mid-’80s EMI CD.

13.20 – 15.29: Funky Dung – I believe the title (definitely “cattle thematics”) must be applied to this section, because the rhythm is still funky, and what the vocalists are singing/intoning is, one might say, a load of bullshit!  Also, because there are only six subtitles, the partial reprise of the Main Theme must be contained herein.

15.29 – 17.50: Mind Your Throats Please – I think everyone agrees that this title must apply to some part of the sound-collage / noise section.  Unlike EMI, however, I would apply it to the first half…

17.50+: Re-emergence – If we all agree that the title must apply to some part of the major reprise of the Main Thematic Material, then, unlike EMI, I would apply it to the entire reprise section, including the part which overlaps into the sound collage (i.e up to “silence in studio!”)

 

RIP Caroline Crawley

Shelleyan Orphan left a four album legacy encompassing many unforgettable songs. Caroline Crawley – one of the least heralded victims in 2016’s celebrity death epidemic – left a larger recorded legacy including outstanding performances with Babacar and [especially] This Mortal Coil, plus worthy lesser-spotted guest appearances (e,g with The Cure in Mansfield 1989: not inconsequential given her relationship with Boris Williams).

Obviously she wrote or co-wrote, and sang lead or co-lead, on those four outstanding Shelleyan Orphan albums. Century Flower – though arguably the least satisfying of those albums, in nuts-and-bolts songwriting terms – is the keynote work in terms of Caroline’s vocal performances. Her voice wasn’t, in truth, S.O’s unique characterizing determining factor (that would be Jem Tayle’s peculiar contra-tenor voice) – but on Century Flower the voice matures, gains some added roughness (no longer merely a pretty-little-thing) and possibly expands in range. (It’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TRiIgdn9JI)

I hope the other three albums are uploaded to YouTube shortly.

Newcomers are directed to Humroot and We Have Everything We Need, these being the most consistent and certainly the most musically diverse (also Caroline sounds divine throughout the latter album!). [Try these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zDh1PtksoQ and then https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAA3hJA9JdY). Meanwhile their debut Helleborine demands attention as an “aesthetic manifesto” – with all the neo-chamber-music stylings and literary references the band name might suggest. (try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwttiOkdIHs)

John Coltrane live recordings 1963/65

It seems like a lamely unimaginative way to spend one’s time – immersing oneself in Coltrane. But when a recording you thought you knew intimately, and could “switch off from” – i.e use as background music – suddenly reveals itself to you as if brand new, alerting you to details you(?thought you)’d forgotten – you find yourself remembering the truth of the maxim that we should never take genius for granted.

Today I rediscovered the first Philadelphia Showboat recording.  It was recorded on the sort of equipment you associate with audience bootlegs – and the sound is as good [a moment of digital distortion notwithstanding] as you could hope for from a 1963 bootleg.  But – it’s definitely worth acclimatising to that.  Because if you only wanted one Coltrane live recording from the intermediary period (i.e 1962 through 1964, in between the two creative peak years) – this would be it.  The quartet (which inspite of what you may have read, definitely includes Jones, not Haynes) has never played better.

We get full-tilt versions of two not-so-obvious quartet standards – “The Promise” (incomplete and often misidentified as “Afro Blue”) and “Out Of This World”, and the ubiquitous “Mr PC” in which the blues changes are by now irrelevant (it may be significant that the drum solo happens here).  Then there’s a surprise revival of “Good Bait” which shows how far this group had already traveled from bebop-style chordal improvisation (as soon as his solo starts, Tyner sounds like he’s regretting the choice of tune and is eager to bust out of it – when Coltrane starts it’s the pianist who drags him into harmonically unstable territory).  And the highlight – a very long “Impressions” which I recommend as a corrective to anyone who’d been gravely disappointed by that equally large version of “One Down One Up”.  That was monotonous and slow to lift-off.  This isn’t – this is the shattering rollercoaster riode you were hoping for.  Worthy of Coltrane’s reputation – and Jones’s.

Later the same day I jumped into the (not-released-on-Impulse) Half Note broadcasts These are classic specimens of the 1965 sound – “we’re still playing the old repertoire but we’re going to burst the tonality and rhythm if it takes a collective heart attack!” So, even more “where does Elvin find the energy?” and “whoever said Tyner wasn’t on the same page?” moments.  The session that hasn’t turned up on a million budget CDs – but is usually on YouTube – is most in need of promotion.  It’s the one with a long version of “I Want To Talk About You” in which Coltrane doesn’t bother with a cadenza because he’s already poured it all out, half-buoyed and half-dragged by the others…followed by, let’s just say, something resembling “Brazilia”, which shares a few stock licks with the Antibes version of “Resolution” and is possibly even more intense.  Of course the historical highlight is the untitled original known unofficially as “Creation” – a foretaste of Coltrane’s immediate future in the nagging bird-call tone of the theme, the increasing atonality of the improvisation and the sheer energy on display.  But let’s not forget the “budget-CD” version of “Impressions” (actually from March 19th) with the ever accumulating tempo and the Coltrane/Jones duet that really sounds like a dry run for the Antibes “Pursuance”.