Tag Archives: Focus

February 6th 1973

“Scored in basketball” / “Focus’ other single Hocus Pocus enters chart at 30, Sylvia goes up to 9” / “Still don’t know whether or not to take out Angela – decisions” / “Found out that Gra was in same fix as I am about a girl – Bah!”

This is what you all want isn’t it?

A proper slice of teenage angst.

Not just for me apparently, but also for my friend Gra. We appear ‘plagued’ by wimmins?!

Why, exactly, would I be hesitating to properly take out Angela? Was her question at the church weekend something akin to asking me to be her boyfriend?

My diary entry does give the impression that I am both indecisive and nonchalant about it all. You would think that a 15-year-old hormonal boy – who had recently participated in ‘sleeping bag fumblings’ would be eager to repeat the experience as regularly as possible wouldn’t you? In my case apparently not.

Taking precedence however was the fact that my favourite Dutch warblers now had two simultaneous hit singles in the charts and that……

great dribbling hell!………

I….. I….. I played basketball?????

Look out Harlem Gobstoppers, here I come!

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February 1st 1973

“Arguverge” / “Started to get stuff ready for the TIB w-end at the Vicarage” / “Bort new training shoes” / “Thought about buying In Search of Space or swap it for S&G Cass + H.T.T.B.” / “Focus on TOTP”

Another cornucopic diary entry. (Is there such a word as cornucopic? Computer says “no”)

Mum & Dad threatening to row again

My anticipation builds for another weekend of potential teenage debauchery at the vicarage

A new pair of ‘trainers’ – more likely plimsolls

Music trading. I know that S&G Cass refers to Simon & Garfunkel, but I am racking my beleaguered brain to remember what the acronym H.T.T.B. stands for.

Focus on television again. It feels bizarre now that a single appearance on a Thursday night’s “Top of the Pops” was considered enough of an ‘event’ to mention.

It was like that then though. It’s not like these days when pretty much any video or live performance can be called up on YouTube, ‘music’ television repeats the same set of songs over and over again and/or you can buy video compilations of your favourite artist’s material.

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January 30th 1973

“Pete wants to buy my S+G cassette for £1 – will sell” / “Wrote another silly play for Martin. One we dun in dinner hour very funny (guffaws of laughter)” / “Sylvia Focus enters singles chart”

I sometimes look at my entries and just blink in the sunlight.

Whilst I can understand the comment regarding selling my S+G (Simon & Garfunkel) cassette for a quid and my barely contained excitement at Focus’ Sylvia dropping into the Top 30, I really have NO CLUE regarding “wrote another silly play for Martin” nor the now mind-altering “One we dun in dinner hour very funny (guffaws of laughter)

What WAS this all about, and why – given the apparent response – can I not remember a damn thing about it and why am I not now earning millions from being a successful comedy writer?!

That was a rhetorical question by the way. Just in case any of you readers decide to get smart with me!

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January 27th 1973

“Focus on in Concert! – REMEMBER!” – taped it” / “Taped M.waves for Rob” / “Put 8 bob into savings” / “Went up trevs and got sleeping bag for next week”

I wonder if the “Focus – In Concert” recording was on the radio or on the TV? Whichever, I know I would have been sat with my tape recorder’s microphone carefully placed in front of the speaker and that I would have kept mindfully quiet throughout the proceedings so as to not undermine the performances.

Not sure I could do that now – being somewhat more fidgety and impatient. (i.e. “Old”)

Another 8 bob – eight shillings – into my savings account. That’s *ahem* 40p (or 58¢) in ‘today’s money’. Woooooooooooh!!!

Yes, we never owned sleeping bags in our house. Probably because I hated even the IDEA of camping out (I still do). I always had to borrow one, carefully ‘disinfecting’ it before and after use.

I do however know that this sleeping bag would become particularly significant in a few days time!

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January 24th 1973

“Allen lent me a useless recording of the Goon Show + Parkinson” / “Listened to Moving Waves again – FUKIN  FANTASTIC” / “2nd (Day) Aniv of finding ‘istry book”

Poor old Allen. Does his best in lending me a recorded cassette of the show I spoke of a few weeks ago, and I pooh-pooh it.

Not, I suspect, because the contents were poor, more likely that the quality was sub-par, failing to meet my exacting criteria for recordings taken from a TV speaker!

Add that disappointment to another useless aside about my history book and a bad-spelled swear word and it all sums up what, on the face of it, feels like a very negative day for this particular teenager?

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January 23rd 1973

“Bort MOVING WAVES – FOCUS – ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT” / “Got opticians appointment” / “Today is the 1st (day) Anniversary of finding my history book”

Why did I write that stupid line about my history book? (Monty Python had WAY too much influence on my teenage brain I reckon!)

I suspect making an appointment with an optician scared me. (It always has). I wonder if this might have been the fateful “contact lens” appointment? (More on that later. If I can bear to write it)

As for “Moving Waves”, my brief review in 1973 may have been somewhat biased? After all my anticipation of finally buying this album had been building for almost a month or more. I suppose that, unlike in later life, I couldn’t afford to have “buyers remorse” about the music I bought. Heavens forbid that a 15-year-old boy should ever make a mistake?!!

If you wake up one morning fancying some shrill yodelling underpinned by mellotrons, flute music, classically-tainted piano and what can only be described as “heavy metal” guitar, then I really can’t recommend “Moving Waves” enough to you!

This album was originally released in 1970 with a totally different cover – and entitled “Focus II” – in Holland, the band’s home country.

Following the astonishing “hit single” success of the quirky single “Hocus Pocus“, the album was repackaged and reissued all over the world.

The album did amazing business in England following an appearance by the band on TV show “Old Grey Whistle Test“. (Something I have spoken of before) It also reached #8 on the USA Billboard album chart.

Side 1 kicks off with the single, then mellows right out on “Le Clochard” a somewhat haunting instrumental highlighting guitarist Jan Akkerman’s more laid back style.

Track 3, “Janis“, was also released as a single (an unsuccessful release in it’s own right… not surprising considering it is perhaps the weakest cut on the album).

Tracks 4 and 5 (“Moving Waves” and “Focus II” respectively) are often considered ‘classic’ Focus compositions, combining Thijs Van Leer’s weird imagery and piano chords over Akkerman’s jazz-influenced guitar work.

The whole of Side 2 is a 23 minute “concept” track (I often wonder if there’s any album in the early 70’s that didn’t include some kind of tripped-out ‘concept’ piece?). “Eruption” is an ambitious suite split into 5 segments which the band pull off with professional aplomb. It’s a captivating musical journey of stunning guitar licks, hammond organ and drum solos, all infused with excitement and melody.

Here’s a 10-minute sample of “Eruption” courtesy of You Tube… you will notice that Thijs Van Leer has forgotten to put his shirt on…

“Moving Waves”, along with “Focus III“, are without doubt my favourite Focus albums. Other Focus albums like “At the Rainbow“, “Hamburger Concerto“, as well as their debut, “In & Out of Focus“, failed to fire my imagination anywhere near as much.

And the least said about 1975’s terrible – and APPALLINGLY-titled – “Mother Focus“, the better. At least IMHO.

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January 20th 1973

“Leicester 1 City 1” / “Bloody couldn’t get Moving Waves – no bloodyshops had it” / “Bort Record Rack” / “Dun lot of copying up and homework”

Hahahahahaha!

Could it be that this one day provided some kind of deep-rooted emotional basis for running my own store later in life? That need, maybe, to try and make sure customers did not suffer the same kind of utter bloody frustration as I did when trying to buy “Moving Waves” in 1973?!

It seems I instead settled for a “record rack” although – as is usually the case (something which regular readers MUST be getting used to now?) – I can’t remember anything about it. A box? A wire-framed storage rack? Neither? We’ll never know, because I’ll never know.

There’s that reference to “copying up” again. Yep, wish I knew.

The crossing out of the swear words were mine. Embarrassingly at the insistence of my father who – in a rare moment of not allowing me to express myself and do my own thing – sat me down one evening and told me I had to cross out all instances of swearing in my diary.

Which means that, yes, he must have read it.

Or maybe, thinking about it – and perhaps a little more likely as Dad has always respected my privacy – he was reacting to my Mum complaining to him about the language I was using because she had found and read it whilst cleaning?

Oh, the indignity.

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January 19th 1973

“Lent Tarkus – E.L.P. to Johnny M and borrowed Machine Head and Deep Purple in Live Concert off Gra” / “T-1 day to get Moving Waves (If I have got enough money mite get Focus 3 instead)”

OK, I have officially confused my 50-year-old self here

Most of this is straightforward stuff, but I am having a hard time working out exactly what “Deep Purple in Live Concert” refers to.

I’m pretty certain I am not referring to Purple’s “Live in Japan” album, as I am sure, being something of a stickler for a certain level of teenage accuracy, I would have said “Live in Japan“.

The band, years later, did release a double live album entitled “Deep Purple in Concert” – which consisted of live BBC recordings from 1970 and 1972 – but this was not issued until 1980 at the earliest.

Therefore I am left with two possibilities.

One being that I am referring to Deep Purple’s ill-fated – and somewhat scary – ‘duet’ with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra entitled “Concerto for Group & Orchestra“, an ugly notion that, and please trust me on this, has got NO more prettier with time.

The second possibility is that Gra(ham) loaned me a…. gasp!…. bootleg recording of a concert. I do remember he travelled a lot with his father overseas and usually came back with ‘pirated cassettes’ of all the new release albums whenever he went to China or Japan. Could it be that an overseas foreign music pirate was also selling bootleg tapes? Erm….well, yes!

Machine Head” is much easier to scribble a few lines about.

It remains Deep Purple’s best-selling and most successful album. No wonder really when it contains seven seamless track, including the triple whammy of heavy metal classics that are “Highway Star”, “Space Truckin” and “Smoke on the Water”

Highway Star” was first conceived on a tour bus in the presence of a reporter who had asked the band how they wrote songs. Apparently, Ritchie Blackmore grabbed a guitar and started playing a simple riff to which Ian Gillan sang some improvised nonsensical lyrics. By the time the band had reached their destination, the song had been refined, completed and… was performed live on stage that very night for the first time!

As good as the riff and the song is, the thing that always makes it for me is that extended organ solo from Jon Lord. Stunning.

Talking of extended organ solos, lets do it all again for “Space Truckin” shall we Mr Lord? A sci-fi rock & roll boogie of epic proportions – albeit with dodgy lyrics – which features what can only be described as a “hammond freakout” by Purple’s keyboard player. Here’s a live version from New York in 1973….

Truly awesome

Smoke on the Water” is, for me, the ultimate rock riff. It is the only riff I can play, and to my wife’s continuing chagrin I attempt to play it on almost ANY kind of musical instrument you can think of. I think my highlight may be programming a whole set of children’s toys to play it simultaneously in a WalMart one, otherwise boring, afternoon a couple of years ago.

As most (rock &/or roll) people know, the song tells a true story about the band going to Montreux to record an album where, amongst other scheduling delays, they witnessed the city’s casino burn to the ground. A fan at the Frank Zappa concert being held in the casino’s auditorium shot a flare gun at the ceiling, setting fire to the rattan covering and eventually the whole building. Deep Purple watched the whole thing go up from across Lake Geneva (hence “smoke on the water” – d’UH!).

The rest of the cuts on “Machine Head” are no slouches either, although I’ve never personally cared too much for “Maybe I’m a Leo” or “Never Before”. “Pictures of Home” seems to be a weird showcase for every member of the band’s solo talents whilst “Lazy” is often regarded as another Heavy Rock “classic”.

Although, maybe surprisingly, this is NOT my personal favourite Purple album (I reserve that distinction for “Who Do We Think We Are?” – of which I am sure I shall talk more about later this diary year) it is, without hesitation, the one I always have, and always will, recommend to anyone thinking of popping their toes in Deep Purple (smoke-enhanced, or otherwise) waters for the first time.

My fevered anticipation for “Moving Waves” continues, although I see I have muddied my own pitch by now considering Focus’ ambitious double album “Focus 3” as a possible alternative.

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