Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

August 20th 1975

“Went to Roskilde. Sat on church steps eating dinner. Saw Viking Boat Museum”

Roskilde is perhaps best known for its annual music festival, an event that has been held on the city’s fairgrounds since 1971. It is the “Danish Glastonbury” and over its history it has featured headliners as varied as Status Quo, Weather Report, Bob Marley, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Nirvana. 

It is an ancient Viking city with detailed history dating back to the 980’s. No, not the 1980’s… a full thousand years earlier! 

Roskilde Cathedral – built in the 12th Century – is thought to have been the first gothic-style brick-built cathedral in the whole of Northern Europe and influenced the building of many others with the similar stylings. Since the 15th Century every Danish monarch has been buried there (after they have died, of course) 

In 1975 it was the scene of a most sacrilegious act, when a pair of spotty oiks sat on its steps and ate their dinner. 

Roskilde is also home to the “Vikingeskibsmuseet”, or Viking Boat Museum. Architecturally it is one of THE ugliest buildings I have ever had the misfortune to visit, but its contents are nothing short of breathtaking… even for someone as ignorant of history as I am. 

Museum, or outside toilet block? You decide.

In 1962 five viking ships were excavated from Roskilde Fjord and rebuilt to form the centerpiece of the museum. These five ships – varying in size from a simple cargo ship to a ship of war – were originally – and deliberately – sunk back in 1070 to help block and protect Roskilde and the surrounding seaway from attack. 

However, more important to me than all this other stuff about Roskilde, it was also where my Mum was born 45 or so years earlier.

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May 23rd 1975

“Tim came round and paid me for Dylan album. Brought round Phaedra – crap. Good day at college – Geoff C jumps in swimming pool”

Hey, I’m allowed to change my mind about an album over time aren’t I?

Yes, I dismissed Tangerine Dream’s “Phaedra” as crap in 1975. It would take the advent of the Compact Disc a decade or so later – accompanied by the inhaling of certain substances – before I would declare it “pretty bloody fine!”

“Phaedra” was the tenth album ever released on the Virgin Records label, Richard Branson having signed them up to try to cash in on the “Krautrock” and/or ” Electronic” phenomena (both headed up by Kraftwerk) that were rampant on at the time. It reached the heady height of #15 on the UK album chart, despite selling just 600o copies in Tangerine Dream’s own country of Germany.

There’s not a lot to it and is admittedly a bit ‘noodly’ in its loose construction. However, I still enjoy hearing it every once in a while even if that ‘1980’s’ child (just like the 1970’s child) is long gone.

In other news, good riddance to that crappy Bob Dylan album!

Geoff C refers to a college chum who may possibly have been quite barking mad. The son of someone who owned an Army Surplus store in Southampton, Geoff would often come to college bedecked in combat gear and huge desert boots. Today in 1975 he evidently decided that he needed to go swimming, and – if memory serves me correctly – in all his clothes. The rest of us were undoubtedly in stitches as he was dragged out of the pool and away to be reprimanded.

Geoff provided far more than his fair share of laughs during that time we were together at college, and a strange phrase of his “I was under the seats mate, under the seats” – to express (either) joy or surprise at something – has stuck with my into my dotage. I often wonder what he’s doing now, apart from still dressing provocatively?

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May 21st 1975

“Tim came round in evening. He listened to and might buy New Morning”

Yes, I had been introduced to Bob Dylan.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Mr Zimmerman… in as much as I love some of his stuff to the same degree with which I hate his other stuff.

In early 1975 I had bought – or at the very least taped – Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” which had successfully taken my breath away. He managed to articulate a lot of things I was trying to express in his lyrics and the music just flowed from beginning to end, tracks like “Tangled up in Blue” and “Idiot Wind” making me realise why (my then hero) Steve Harley had so many good things to say about him. “Blood on the Tracks” was the beginning of my true appreciation for the simpler singer/songwriter style which I suppose had started with Cat Stevens a year or so earlier?

“New Morning”, originally released at the start of the 70’s, is retrospectively credited as the start of Dylan’s then re-birth in public awareness and a type of album which ultimately led to “Blood…” and the (even better IMHO) follow-up “Desire”

I can’t remember much about “New Morning” and couldn’t name you one tune from it now. I know I picked it up someone quite cheaply – Woolworth’s bargain racks again? – and, after just one listen, decided it wasn’t for me.

It looks like I previewed it for and tried to palm my errant purchase off on Tim, who had previously worked with me at  Lancaster & Crook.

Fingers crossed!

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Album: Cockney Rebel – The Psychomodo

Produced by Alan Parsons – of Project fame – and with orchestral arrangements by Andrew Powell – later producer for the likes of Kate Bush, Al Stewart and The Hollies – “The Psychomodo” was Cockney Rebel’s (as they say in America) sophomore album. (“Sophomore album” representing a phrase I have always hated)

Although it never threatened the USA charts it rode the wave of Harley’s hit single “Mr Soft” all the way to #8 on the UK album charts

Sweet Dreams” kick starts the album in a jaunty – but angry – manner, Harley immediately going for music journalists’ collective jugular with the caustic
Pop paper people printing Rebel Insane
They in my head and digging into my brain
“,
a verbal smack-down for the many who had dismissed his talents following the release of the debut album

This then morphs into the title track, “The Psychomodo“, another angry tirade where Harley seems very disconsolate indeed..
“I been losing my head
I been losing my way
Been losing my brain cells
At a million a day
I’m so disillusioned
I’m on Suicide Street”

Mr.Soft” was the massive hit single, a fairground ride rebuilt as a pop song. It includes the engaging couplet
Mr Soft, put your feet upon the water
and play jesus for the day

and a little nod to David Bowie with the telling
Spot the starman, rough and tumble
which some have suggested is Harley comparing his ‘critical lot’ with that of the Thin White Duke. I tend to look on it a little more objectively, thinking that Harley is merely accepting the bad that comes with the good of fame.

36 years after its release “Singular Band” still sounds – to me anyway – the big hit that was never released as a single. From beginning to end it oozes radio-friendly Top 20 fayre. Quirky & different, driven by snare drums, a finger-plucked violin and Harley’s voice I reckon it would have taken the charts apart back in 1974. It has the perfect dead-stop ending for DJ’s too!

The lyrics to “Ritz” – which closes down Side 1 – are as convoluted (and now, sadly dated) as they come. If I have a complaint about this cut – immense sonically – it’s basically that Harley tried just too damned hard on the lyrical content, sadly coming across as a Dylan-Lite.

That said it contains one of my favourite pair of rhyming lines of all time…
Couch my disease in chintz-covered kisses
Glazed calico cloth, my costume this is

… both utterly beautiful and cheesy in the same breath

Side 2 of “The Psychomodo” feels like a different beast to me. I’ve always felt these 4 cuts were a little concept project all by themselves

Cavaliers” feels like a lengthy outtake from Harley’s debut album, Steve once again using the lyrics as another musical element. He adds brass instruments and a harmonica almost as a ‘test’ of the listener… ‘do they work?”… for me, no sorry they don’t

Despite finding it sonically average, it contains some of his most captivating lyrics…
Long-tailed coat, a silly joke; they drink
like men then see them choke on coca-cola
Morgue-like lips and waitress tips and you
Shuffle around on your Sabrina hips

If I was disappointed in “Cavaliers” (for me always the weakest song on the album) then the last three cuts more than make up for it, representing Steve Harley at his very best.

Bed in the Corner” is another carnival ride, an oblique (vanquished) love song that highlights Harley habit of using the violin as a lead instrument and then lushing everything up under an orchestral arrangement.

It morphs seamlessly into “Sling It!” a song where Harley seems to accept his own ‘anger’ and starts to laugh about it warning that we should all
Be careful, this is only a game
just prior to the song breaking down into a fragmented wall of noise

Tumbling Down” is album’s tour de force and a cut which provided the  fitting finale for every single 70’s Cockney Rebel gig I ever went to. Harley is still sounding off and being bitter about his detractors…
Gee, but it’s hard when one lowers one’s guard to the vultures
Me, I regard it a tortuous hardship that smoulders
like a peppermint eaten away
will I fight, will I swagger or sway?
Hee, hee, M’Lady, she cries like a baby to scold us
see her tumbling down, tumbling down

but by the end he seems to accept his lot, blaming it on the media interest in music in general, berating the press for undermining it value.

It’s all summed up in the one-line refrain
Oh dear, look what they’ve done to the blues, blues, blues
a simple (but telling) lyric I sung so hard and so loud at CR concerts that I regularly came away with a sore throat

Looks like it was still a crowd-pleaser in 1984?…

“The Psychomodo” is another of the mere handful of albums I know inside out, back to front and about as intimately as is decently possible. In itself it briefly taught me to learn a little more about the writers and musicians I knew influenced Harley’s songs (Baudelaire, Dylan, Rousseau, Dylan Thomas), some of which has stayed with me all my life. 

It also inspired me (like many ‘tortured’ teenagers of my ilk) to start *gasp* writing my own dodgy poetry. Yes its an ugly thought. Yes, I still have some of it. No, I probably won’t inflict it on you. I may comment on it, but I’m unlikely to share it. Some things are best left unpublished, if you get my drift?

In pure commercial terms “The Psychomodo” was very much the career-maker for Steve Harley. He did have one more ‘perfect moment’ to come however, and it features as a cut on my next Cockney Rebel album review… for “Best Years of our Lives”.

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(1974 Albums) Various Taped Recordings

I have reported in some detail all the records I bought during 1974.

The back pages of the diary also shows a selection of taped recordings I owned – many of which have already been discussed in my 1972 and 1973 entries.

However, there is a tiny handful of other albums I apparently recorded to C-90’s in 1974 that certainly seem worthy of a mention or two….

Clouds – Scrapbooking
Clouds were a Scottish Prog Rock band, unique in not having a lead guitarist amongst its line-up. They signed to Chrysalis Management around the same time as Jethro Tull but never enjoyed the support or public acclaim that Ian Anderson’s one-legged flute antics nurtured.

“The Clouds Scrapbook” was a concept album marketed as being some kind of a companion piece to The Beatles’ “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. I think we all know how that marketing idea went?

I’m pretty certain I borrowed this album from Tim B who I worked with at Lancaster & Crook. Years later I believe I also bought the LP for 69p from Woolworth’s clearance racks. I never hung onto it and would/could not recognise one single track from it these days.

Leo Sayer – Silverbird
Leo Sayer’s first claim to pop fame was as co-writer of Roger Daltrey’s debut solo single, “Giving It All Away“.

His own career was launched by 60’s pop idol turned actor, Adam Faith. Sayer’s second single “The Show Must Go On” – which Leo performed (strangely) in a Pierrot clown costume – reached Number 2 on the UK chart, a feat which then kickstarted a run of no less than seven consecutive Top 10 singles, including the worldwide #1 smash “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

“Silverbird” was his debut album and it reached Number 2 on the UK Album Chart. It remains a fixture in my collection and a track or two occasionally pops up on shuffle. The songs are a little bit dated but still well composed and performed. “Oh Wot a Life” is a favourite of mine.

Two bits of Leo Sayer trivia… The first is that Leo now lives in Australia and became a fully fledged Australian citizen in 2009. The second is that “Leo Sayer” is cockney rhyming slang for “all dayer”… an all day drinking session. No wonder he feels like dancing!

Alan Hull – Pipedream
Straight off the bat I will state that “Pipedream” remains one of my favourite albums of all time.

Alan Hull was a member of Newcastle-based folk rock band Lindisfarne who, in the early seventies, enjoyed a run of singalong hits including “Lady Eleanor“, “Meet Me on the Corner” and “Fog on the Tyne

Ructions amongst the band around 1973 resulted in the band breaking up. Three members went off to form Jack the Lad, whilst Alan Hull recorded and released “Pipedream” before eventually agreeing to be part of an “all-new” Lindisfarne. (It didn’t last long, he disbanded the group again in 1975)

“Pipedream” is an album chock-full of lovely gentle little songs all featuring Hull’s pretty unique and pleasing vocal style. Personally, I don’t think there is a bad tune on it and I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who likes singer/songwriters. I think my favourites are “I Hate to See you Cry“, “Justanothersadsong”, “Country Gentleman’s Wife” and the opener, “Breakfast”

Hull died suddenly at the age of just 50 – of a heart thrombosis – in 1995. A real loss to the musical firmament.

Funnily enough, as much I like this album I have never even been vaguely tempted to investigate his other solo work. Perhaps it’s about time I did?

Yes – The Yes Album
Although “Fragile” will always remain my favourite Yes album, I’ll admit that (and despite the whole ELP vs Yes rivalry that existed back then) I have also frequently dabbled in their others… “The Yes Album” being a case in point.

For a start it kicks off with “Yours Is No Disgrace“, perhaps one of the best prog-rock album openings of all time. I love the way the Hammond slips in round the back of the drum and guitar intro… it almost gives me goosebumps.

Then there’s the almost hillbilly-esque Steve Howe guitar solo “Clap“, and I suppose “Starship Trooper” can’t be considered too shabby can it?.. even if I personally feel it’s a little too rambling for its own good.

Side Two offers the earworm of “I’ve Seen All Good People” and… well, precious little else as far as I am concerned.  (I’m sure there will be die-hard Yes fans who will disagree with me.)

I’ve never actually owned “The Yes Album” on any format (other than the recording I made in 1974… that counts, right?) although when my wife and I merged our transatlantic CD collections I was happy to see it amongst hers and duly ripped the songs mentioned above across to my i-tunes

Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things
If we ever wanted to know what kind of singing route Bryan Ferry – and thus Roxy Music – would eventually take, we only have to listen to this 1973 solo album of ‘classic standards’ crooned by the man himself.

It’s as eclectic a choice as it is good. There are certain songs that I heard for the very first time when Ferry sang them (“It’s my Party“, “Don’t Ever Change”, “Loving You is Sweeter than Ever” & “River of Salt”) whilst there are others (“Sympathy for the Devil“, “Don’t Worry Baby” & “Piece of my Heart“) which I actually prefer over the originals!

His cover of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” was and remains peculiar, whilst the magnificently crooned title track, “These Foolish Things“, cemented Ferry’s by-then reputation as a “lounge lizard”

What’s amazing about this album is that the concept – covering old standards – is as succesful today as it was in 1974. Hell, Rod Stewart’s entire post 1999 career has been founded on doing just that with, and I hope Rod won’t mind saying this, pretty lacklustre results.

Do I still like this album? Yes I do. My caveat is that I think Ferry honed the idea to perfection with the second set of solo covers, “Another Time, Another Place” a year later… an album which I am sure will turn up amongst these diary pages in due course.

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June 15th 1974 (Part 1)

“Went up Tims in evening for a music session – did a take of Jelly Baby”

OK, confession time. 

When I advised people to Google the hit single “Biffo the Bear” a few days ago, I did so tongue very much planted in the side of my cheek. 

I’d actually forgotten – as much of this diary project appears to prove – about ‘my band’ 

It was a trio actually. Consisting of me, Tim B and his younger brother, whose name I can’t recall. 

We composed and rehearsed “potential number ones” in the dining room of his parent’s country house in Fair Oak. 

Most songs turned out to actually be “number twos” 

The only way our album would’ve shifted off the shelves at Asda’s is if the store was hit by a massive tornado. 

I ‘played’ piano. I use the word ‘play’ in the loosest possible sense. As Eric Morecambe once said “I hit all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”. I had NO idea how to play a piano, just as Tim had NO idea how to play an acoustic guitar or his brother a tiny drum kit or their Dad’s bongo. Yes, our trio sported a bongo. 

I like to think of us as ‘avant garde’ musicians, long before it became trendy to be utterly inept at playing instruments. (Think Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth) 

My handcrafted Matinée Idol logo, saved from 1976. Hardly Barney Bubbles is it?

Did our band have a name? No it didn’t. See, now that’s what is weird… give me a few years beyond 1974 and the superficial necessity for exactly the right name would have been my absolute primary concern. Glam and Punk rock taught me a lot about ‘style over substance’ 

(I did have a name for a band I pretended to be in – and based an art project around – a few years later. A name which I thought was GREAT and quite Roxy Music-esque… Matinée Idol… which, sadly, now sounds like a Simon Cowell TV show about discovering a new soap opera performer!) 

Do thought-lost recordings (a la Dylan’s “Basement Tapes”) of our power-poop trio exist? Sadly, no. Although I did take my little tape recorder along to our ‘sessions’ and small elements were recorded, it was actually used to create noise effects from the piano. I call it my Brian Eno phase. 

However, in the process of full EFA70sTRO disclosure I’ll embarrassingly admit that I have held onto a couple of the band’s erm…. ‘unique’… lyrics composed back in 1974. One is handwritten and one has been diligently typed. I don’t suppose anyone would want to see them, would they? 

Really? OK, they’re in the next post.

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April 11th 1973

“Last day of term – oooray!” / “had haircut” / “went up collins’s house in evng”

That self-portrait is just so flattering isn’t it?

Reminds me of Bob Dylan’s self-portrait he supplied to CBS for his 1970 album of the same name.

Except mine looks more professional!

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