Tag Archives: Tarkus

April 26th 1973

“mark came up in morning, borrwd Deep P & St.Quo cassette and returned Tarkus. In afternoon went in – bort p. of trousers and went to thing at C66”

What was this C66?

What was the ‘thing’ there?

Do you often wonder why you’re still reading this?

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April 19th 1973

“Bit boring all morning with Mormor – in afternoon went into eastleigh;- lent Mark P Tarkus and bought For Your Pleasure – Roxy Music – smart!”

Poor old Mormor. For the second time in these diaries I have referred to her staying with us as “boring”. What an complete git ungracious grandson I was in 1973.

In apparently better news I finally nabbed Roxy’s “For Your Pleasure” – about a week after first hearing it – and doubtless played it to death, deeming it – like so many other bloody things these days – “smart!”

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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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Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus

“Tarkus” can’t really be described as my favourite ELP album, but its certainly the one I know the most intimately.

Side One features the 7-part concept Tarkus suite, mostly composed by Keith Emerson, that is supposed to tell the tale of the peculiar half-armadillo/half-tank represented on the cover.

Emerson has apparently stated in his autobiography “Pictures of an Exhibitionist” (something I might read one day, for old times sake) that he pretty much presented the ambitious Tarkus suite in its entirety to the other two band members, L & P, as a ‘done deal’. Greg Lake is reported to have initially said he was unhappy with it… before happily adding lyrics to the composition which were, apparently, about “the military-industrial complex” and “the futility of war”

All lost on a 15-year-old it has to be said. It just sounded bloomin’ good to me!

The album sleeve opened up to show the weird artwork above, something I would not fully appreciate until I (presumably) upgraded my little cassette copy for the vinyl album with all its gatefold glory. It too, allegedly, tells the story. *cough*

Whilst Side 1 is perhaps testament to everything that was appealing to me about ELP, Side Two is much more of a curates egg containing more than its fair share of fillers.

I can’t help thinking that with “Jeremy Bender“, the band were taking the proverbial wee-wee.  Jeremy Bender was (according to the lyrics) “a man of leisure” who “took his pleasure in the evening sun“. Furthermore he “laid him down in a bed of roses, finally decided to become a nun“. The story continues with the titular Mr Bender apparently having an affair with a trans-gender convent sister before leaving with his suitcase.

As I have often stated, maybe these things would sound better if the listener could ingest the same kinds of drugs the musicians were on when they recorded them?

Bitches Crystal” brings us back to the bombastic offerings of Side 1, and has always remained been one of my favourite ELP cuts. I love how the drums and bass come in after the weird tinkly keyboard intro. Here’s a YouTube offering of it from some ‘reunion’ show the trio did in 1997…

It’s almost free form jazz. (Maybe why it has remained one of my faves?)

The Only Way” is another dreary Emerson tribute to Bach (yawn), whilst “Infinite Space” courts crappy-synth territory a little too closely for its own good. “A Time and a Place” is leaden and ploddy, suggesting Keith had been on the wine the night before.

The final cut is fun, but serves less as a classic ELP cut and more as a tribute to or in-joke about their (doubtless beleaguered) studio engineer Eddie Offord. “Are You Ready Eddie?” is rampant with pub-style piano and throwaway lyrics ending with “we only got ‘am or cheese” in reference to the limited sandwich choices at the studio canteen!

Rumour has it that “Tarkus” was originally going to be released as an E.P. featuring just the cuts from side one. It will always be easy in retrospect to say that it might have served the band better. However, ELP’s pretentious excesses both on and off the road were already becoming well known so why not stretch an idea too far?

Talking of pretentious excesses, people bemoan and criticise the current ‘diva syndrome’ of artists like Mariah Carey or Celine Dion and their outrageous changing room requests, etc. Let it be known that this kind of thing has been going on for decades. Back in the seventies, Greg Lake – ELP’s coiffeured bassist and vocalist – refused to do any live shows unless he could perform standing on an antique Persian rug worth thousands of dollars.

Prat!

This recent photo would seem to suggest that – even though his star has very much faded – he is still in the habit of using the rug. I wonder if he now does it as “an ironic statement”?

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January 16th 1973

“2nd Maths Mock o’level – BLOODY hard” / “After two weeks of solid revision, had to do piles of copying up” / “Got Quid for Focus ticket” / “Got Tarkus tape back from Precision”

A diary entry that has made me both remember AND forget things in equal quantities.

Firstly, conveniently forgetting that my Maths mock was BLOODY hard (please note swearing, spelled correctly, for absolute emphasis), my brain is somehow farting over the phrase “copying up”

Don’t get me wrong, I recognise the phrase “copying up” from the days at school, I just cannot – for the life of me – remember what it relates to exactly. As several of my old schoolchums might be reading this… maybe they can shed a little light on it?

The thing I CAN remember – perhaps surprisingly – is with regards to that comment about getting ELP’s Tarkus tape back from Precision. (I must have had a faulty one or something?)

The compact cassette began life in the mid-60’s, designed by Philips, primarily/initially for dictation and personal recording use. It was introduced to replace the unwieldy, huge and non-portable reel-to-reel tape recorders which had been popular for some time. The cassette was therefore an early example of product miniaturisation as a result of consumer demand, something which still exists to this day. People only have to notice how small their mobile/cell phones have become in the the past 5 or 6 years.

In 1971 three things happened almost simultaneously that propelled the cassette into the forefront of commercial recordings and allow it to take on the LP’s dominance.

The first was that the 3M company rejigged the transport mechanism inside the tape shells, making the tape run cleaner and with less flutter.

The second thing was the introduction of chromium dioxide (Cr02)tapes, giving much improved and longer-lasting quality.

The third, however, was the most revolutionary.

Tapes invariably gave off a hissing sound when played back, the result of the tape moving across the machine’s heads. In 1966 an American scientist named Ray Dolby invented a professional noise reduction system for recording studios that all but eliminated that tape hiss. That system was known as “Dolby A”. Several years later he perfected a second version – Dolby B – that made high fidelity (hi-fi) a reality on home tape machines and cassettes.

The combination of all these factors – together with the sheer portability of the format – made the cassette market take off like a proverbial rocket. (However, it would be 1979, and the advent of the Sony Walkman that would take the format all the way to the moon)

I am digressing to tell the story of the cassette, but here’s the thing I CAN remember from this period in the seventies.

Lord, then Sir, Lew Grade

Record labels did NOT release their own tapes in th UK. Instead of manufacturing the cassette versions of their best selling albums, many licensed them out to Precision Tapes, a subsidiary of Sir Lew Grade’s massive ITC Entertainment Group. (Digressing a little:- Lew Grade was the man wholly responsible for bringing  shows like The Prisoner, The Saint, Thunderbirds and The Muppets to our TV screens!)

So, although the cassettes would carry the same artwork, credits and content, the sales and distribution of those tapes would be handled by Precision.

At least until the record manufacturers had tooled up their plants to churn out tapes alongside vinyl LP’s.

So, my “Tarkus” cassette was a duffer and I obviously had to return it to Precision – rather than Manticore/Island Records – for a replacement. The date being prior to the whole “sale of goods act” – which came into force in 1979 – that meant I could have merely returned the tape to the retailer for a new non-faulty one.

You know, when I actually remember something as intrinsic as this, I get genuinely excited.

(What’s the betting I have it all wrong?)

In one of life’s “chaos theories”, I would later work for the video offshoot of Precision Tapes – for a period of about two months in 1980. Worst job ever.

Hmmmn…. have I written anything about ELP’s “Tarkus”? ….. checks EFA70’sTRO search facility…. Oh…. I see I haven’t…..

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October 13th 1972

“argument still on verge” / “got tarkus back from rob”

Mum & Dad are still arguing. (I have actually stopped myself from publishing every date when I write “argument” or “arguverge” as my one and only diary entry for the day. Too painful)

Plus, proof that I didn’t just filch albums from other people, I actually lent things out too!

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