Eric Dolphy – Nightmare Fuel

This should be a TV Tropes entry, but the keepers of the TV Tropes website have stubbornly and abusively refused to provide me with an account – I don’t whether they’re discriminating against me or just my e-mail company.

I know from decades of trying to infect people with Dolphyism that, even for people well-travelled enough to know where he’s coming from harmonically, his exclamatory solo style can be annoying and even alarming to certain people.  And this after more than half a century, and the more abrasive screechy-atonal saxophones of the Ayler/Sanders/Brotzmann generation. Yes it’s 54 years at the time of writing. since he left this vale of tears in mysterious circumstances (diabetes, or brain haemorrhage – or medical neglect, or murder…?).

BTW – He was in fact buried, not cremated – so there aren’t any jokes to be made about a certain Zappa tune title!


The account of his last days in the film “Last Date”- which overturned the established consensus that it was simply an “undetected riot of sugar in the blood” that finished him off – could be Nightmare Fuel for some.

But musically, is there a genuinely scary moment in the extended Dolphy catalogue?

If so, then I would venture to argue that it’s not any of those shouting/howling climactic high notes in his solos. And it’s not “Jim Crow”

and it’s not any of those “musical argument” routines with Mingus [note 1].


The nightmare-moment is actually the classic Out To Lunch version of the ballad “Something Sweet Something Tender”.

There are obvious precedents for both the title and the actual tune, as we initially hear it on the album (first a fluid, rubato statement over arco bass, and then the trumpet-led slow-tempo statement, with Eric adding an embellishment or two while Richard Davis fills in the gaps with busy soloistic bass).  It could have been called “something Duke, something Strayhorn”.

And the title suggests romance, closeness…oh, no more nonsense, it suggests sex.

But don’t be fooled by the “sexy” title.  Or Eric’s one-chorus solo in which he can’t help getting a little lowdown ‘n dirty. I would argue that the real “meaning” of the tune becomes apparent with that potentially shocking musical twist-ending, after the third theme-statement, the one which ends with Eric’s little cadenza.

Maybe one doesn’t realise the “meaning” of the tune the first dozen times one hears the album track, but one may realise – with horror – when it suddenly springs to mind, when one is waking from sleep, in the early hours of the morning.

It’s a “song” about death. Not “petit mort”. The real thing.

Focus on that last section starting at approx 4.38 – when the arco bass and bass-clarinet restate the theme, so close in unison as to be one voice. Unaccompanied, save for the faint suggestion of two or three tones struck on gongs, or bells, very low in the mix [note 2].

That whole section of music is suggestive of the dying/dead person’s very last moments of consciousness, when the whole body has shut down.

In which that last shred of life, of personhood, within the brain (that which religious people think is “the soul”), perceives, sensory input already receded to near-nothing, utterly hopeless isolation and powerlessness. perceives being at an unimaginably vast distance from the world of the living.

And the final musical flourish – Eric’s little run up the scale over the final chord, over distant drum/cymbal beats and twittering high-register arco bass?

That’s the moment of annihilation. The electricity within the brain actually sputtering out.

Et puis l’eternite. Silencio.

If only it were the last track on the album, or the last track on side one, we could be sure of the veracity of this interpretation.

(1 = the studio version of “What Love” is just the most famous of several examples of the “musical-argument routine” in the Mingus catalogue.

Any idiot can spot Mingus’s string-bending “moth-er-fucker” phrases in these routines, but no-one ever draws attention to Dolphy, in the “What Love” iteration,  almost literally making his bass-clarinet say “what? what!” and “fuck you! fuck you!” (the latter in both angry-snarling and, at the very end of the track, arrogant-staccato tones)

(2 = this may be just vibrating bass strings deceiving the ear, but what if there really are bells or gongs buried in the mix? Not played by Williams or Hutcherson, but an echo of whatever was on the source tape before it was [improperly] erased and re-used? It’s not impossible – as soon as tape recording was introduced, and with it the concept of overdubbing, that gimmick followed.  The notion that jazz recording should only be about documenting spontaneous creativity was overturned first by £llington, then by Mingus, and (more famously) Miles Davis/Teo Macero. Van Gelder would be aware of all this).


Epilogue – This post should be filed under “anything Chris Knowles can do, I can do…differently!”


The Fall

While I’m here I think I should add a belated “RIP MES”.

Unfortunately I don’t have time to compile a Best Of The Fall, so I have to rely on what’s on YouTube already

In the unlikely event that any people who stumble across this page have never gotten acquainted with Smith & Co, well – I’m a purist – so this is what I recommend firstly and foremostly

This playlist has just a few of the singles and non-album tracks



The Acklam Hall gig (which may be the best place to hear Spectre Vs Rector)

and the “difficult” masterpiece which for better or worse will always define them in the minds of many historians…

and just to balance it out, war stories from three of the most famous Fallen Idols

Santana – updates


A few years ago I wrote a brief review on this site of Carlos Santana’s ’70s and ’80s albums, with and without the like-named band. (No hyperlink – you’ll have to look for it yourself )

Now I can add a few details –

that shambolic album with Buddy Miles is now known to be not very “live” at all – a bootleg of the actual live performance is available on YouTube.

and, as murky as the audio is in places, it shows that had the tape machines been working optimally, a better album could have been assembled.  Buddy still over-emotes in that manner we associate with cocaine users, but we have plenty of hot solo action to even things out – with Bob Hogins (the organist) and Hadley Caliman (wind instruments) emerging as the real stars of the show.  And the repertoire encompasses allusions to everyone from the Staples Singers to Eric Clapton.  Oddly, people are still having to debate which solos are by Neal Schon and which are by the leader – like I said before, anytime you hear the dreaded “volcano”, you know it’s Carlos.

As a bonus, the YouTube page above includes the contents of the fake live album (necessitated when the live recording was derailed by a combination of surface noise and power outages…a situation both Duke Ellington and George Shearing would have been familiar with).

Also on the Santana front, we’ve had a limited edition reconfiguration of the classic Lotus album – by some distance the best live record to bear his name.  And the new edition “reveals” that despite being a triple vinyl set (in a very elaborate gatefold), the original was by no means a concert’s worth of material.

The real value of this extended edition is that it comes closer to presenting “history as it happened” – now we know where “Mr Udo” fits into the continuity, where “Savor” went, and that that spectacular long version of “Neshabur” was definitely an encore.  The added material isn’t great, though.  For anyone who wondered why Leon Thomas bothered to turn up (he only had one lead vocal on the original), this new version affirms that he had several spotlit moments…but also that they weren’t all that successful.  As charming as it is to hear The New Santana Band tackle “The Creator Has A Master Plan” (a song Thomas co-wrote, lest we forget), and revive “Um Um Um” (no, it’s not Major Lance’s grating hit – it’s the “blues ever get you?” song hidden on Side Two of the Buddy Miles live album), both draw attention to Thomas’s tendency to sing off-key at the most inopportune moments.  “Light Of Life” – it was a highlight of the Welcome album but it translates poorly to the stage (off-key vocals).  But it’s not Thomas’s weakest moment – that’s “Japan”.  One hopes the audience were just laughing inwardly, not seething. at this rather childish Hallmark-card portrait of their homeland (which, musically, as with virtually all Western attempts at japanoiserie, actually sounds Chinese).

Finally, on the Santana front, I feel the need to add another instalment of Seemingly Obvious Things Which Some People Don’t Know (Part #3).

Re: The budget price albums, mixing Pacific Studio demos and live tracks from the Fillmore and elsewhere.

Pacific Studio Tracks – The standalone Jingo, As The Years Go Passing By, Persuasion, El Corazon Manda (the track given the name Latin Tropical is just an alternate mix of the same performance), Fried Neckbones (the track given the name La Puesta Del Sol is just an alternate mix of the same performance), the backing track for Shades Of Time (mis-titled Let’s Get Ourselves Together, in reference to an abandoned lyric), Treat (the longer of the two tracks to be mis-titled Santana Jam), With A Little Help From My Friends, Ever Day I Have The Blues, the short version of Soul Sacrifice (which actually has the theme at either end). the backing track for Coconut Grove, and the one-chord jams Jammin’ Home and Hot Tamales

Unknown Origin Tracks – Travellin’ Blues, the incomplete jam given the title Acapulco Sunrise, the longer version of Soul Scarifice (which is still incomplete – you get the solos but not the theme), the Jam In G Minor (which some releases mis-title Santana Jam, again!!), the incomplete version of Rock Me Baby, and the incomplete jams given the titles Funky Piano and The Way You Do To Me

Live At The Fillmore Tracks – Evil Ways and the medley of Jingo/Shades Of Time (the latter still mis-titled Let’s Get Ourselves Together)

Red Herring – Just Ain’t Big Enough (someone out there has comfirmed who it is, all I know is that Santana has nothing to do with it)

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”.

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 in the Orchestral version (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?)


Almost the only place in which I really favour the Orchestral version is the first segment of Side Two (the first 5.36 of this side) – 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 overall, 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 overall, 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 3.53 in the second file above, or 44.52 overall) – 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: ***

(* 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 8.55-12,22 in the first file above))

(** which, incidentally, is not to be confused with that song which some people refer to as Who The Fuck Is Ewie?

(*** 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 (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:

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).