Tag Archives: the nice

October 18th 1975

“Party at Hiltingbury. Good. Punch up near end – Geoffo again! Got off with Caitlin again”

I do believe I am referring to Neville’s ‘official’ 18th birthday party?!

Which was apparently ‘good’ despite our crazy friend Geoffo initiating some kind of teenage brawl at the end of the night.

As I have waxed lyrically about before I don’t think I there was ever a party at Hiltingbury Pavilion without there being some kind of altercation. The kids of Chandlers Ford were obviously ‘punk’ before it was invented?

For me, any mention of “Hiltingbury Pavilion” always conjures up Jeff Beck’s hit single “Hi Ho Silver Lining“, it being the strange 70’s equivalent of the “Macarena”… or any song that the DJ plays which the entire venue then feels somehow obliged to dance to.

“Hi Ho Silver Lining” was written by American songwriters Scott English and Larry Weiss and it was first recorded by London band The Attack (who included The Nice’s Davy O’List and Marmalade’s Alan Whitehead amongst their lineup). Their single was released in March 1967, but it was followed just a week later by Jeff Beck’s version.

Beck was all over the music media (such as it was in 1967) at the time – mainly because of his succesful “Beck’s Bolero” album, a collaboration with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins and Keith Moon – and so charted first with his balls-out foot-stomping version. Perhaps sadly for The Attack the song has been predominantly associated with Beck ever since, to the point where he has actually attempted to distance himself from it because it always comes back to undermine his more serious ‘guitar hero’ credibility.

I love the song. I think it’s a great pop song which has stood the test of time. I always do a little shimmy whenever it turns up on my iPod and resist the temptation to pick a fight with the person nearest to me.

Talking of which, I often wonder what happened to our old college chum Geoffo. He was such a fun gregarious character.

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April 9th 1973

“Went to school still feeling sick” / “Trev selling Elegy-Nice. I like the record but am not going to buy”

Man… did I still have the squits???

This is 4 days now. Surely I didn’t spend 4 days regularly dropping increasingly-skinny kids off at the pool?

I know why I didn’t buy Trev’s Elegy by The Nice. As I wrote here, there was really only the one track on it I cared for.

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March 5th 1973

“Took back Trev’s records” / “In evening went up Nigs – battling tops wiv drawing pins – borrowed 2001 Ai Space Oddesy off of him – not bad” / “Borrowed drawing stuff off of Bernie – lent Trev my Popular Hi-Fi Mag”

Stanley Kubrick’s immense “2001 – A Space Odyssey” (erm, not Oddesy) movie was released in 1968.

I’m pretty certain that by 1973 I still hadn’t seen it. (In those days films were held for five or more years before appearing on television). In later years (i.e. after the advent of the video cassette) however, it became very much a firm personal favourite thanks to its intelligent script (based on the book by Arthur C. Clarke) and impressive (even now) visuals and special effects.

The soundtrack introduced me – like millions of others – to the classical musical delights of Richard and Johann Strauss, in particular the former’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and the latter’s “The Blue Danube“.

People may not know that these pieces of music were not the original choice of Kubrick. He commissioned a full soundtrack composition from Alex North who, at the time, had just scored hit movies “Dr Strangelove” and “Spartacus“.  In 1966 the movie studio, MGM, put together a show reel of Kubrick’s early edited footage which showed the dramatic sequences using the classical music the eccentric director loosely adopted as a backdrop during filming. The studio bosses – and Kubrick himself – were so impressed with the results, this ‘guide music’ ended up being used for the final cut two years later. However, in something of a glaring snub, Alex North was not told his soundtrack was being abandoned, and never found out until he was sat down at the movie’s premiere!

I suspect my “not bad” fascination for the tracks stemmed from my familiarity of such overblown pieces previously offered by the likes of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and/or The Nice. I do know that the tracks took on an entirely new dimension when I eventually got to see the movie. The twinning of Kubrick’s visuals and these soaring sounds is as impressive as it can be.

However, on watching the movie, I felt retrospectively disappointed that that the soundtrack never did feature HAL’s version of the popular “Daisy, daisy, give me your answer do“. Maybe the errant computer was asked about having his early Stephen Hawkisms included and replied “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that“?

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January 28th 1973

“Dave came up in the morning and borrowed Pictures and lent me Roxy Music”

I was almost dreading the debut mention of Roxy Music in this blog.

Why? Because it is extremely difficult to explain the impact that the band – and their style – had on this particular teenager. It’s also difficult to explain to an audience now wholly familiar with their sound just HOW radically different they appeared to be in 1973.

Vocalist Bryan Ferry – originally a ceramics teacher from Newcastle – formed Roxy Music in November 1970. This was a few months after he had failed to secure the spot as King Crimson‘s new lead singer following the departure of Greg Lake. (Yes, that Greg Lake) However, Crimson’s Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield liked Ferry so much they helped the vocalist’s young band obtain a management contract with EG Records.

Ferry started the band with bassist Graham Simpson, then recruited saxophonist Andy MacKay and drummer Paul Thompson via wanted ads placed in Melody Maker. MacKay brought along his university chum Brian Eno to act (initially) as a technical advisor. Phil Manzanera joined the band just as they started recording their debut album, replacing former ex-Nice guitarist David O’List.

Ferry initially monikered the band “Roxy”, an homage to the name given to old-fashioned cinemas and dance halls across the UK. He then found out there was already a similarly-named American band, so added “Music” to differentiate the two.

The band’s debut album was recorded – along with their quirky hit single “Virginia Plain” (not included on the original LP release, but subsequently added to LP & CD re-issues) – in March 1972 and unleashed on the public a few months later.

I feel somewhat ashamed in retrospect that it apparently took me until January 1973 to first acknowledge it!

The sleeve alone stood out as completely different to everything else I was listening to at the time. Whilst groups like ELP, Deep Purple or the Edgar Broughton Band featured terrible representations of the band members, Roxy Music turned things on their head by having an extremely glamourous model – Kari-Ann Muller – lounging across the gatefold.

If that wasn’t enough to draw this impressionable teenager in, then the musical contents certainly did.

The opener, “Re-Make/Re-Model“, starts with the sounds of a cocktail party in progress before launching full-tilt into what, on the surface, appears to be a traditional rock & roll song from the 50’s, complete with solos from each of the band members. Subsequent listens unveil a whole separate texture to the song, with Eno’s futuristic synthesizer sounds and MacKay & Manzanera’s instruments creating an almost cacophonous roar. There’s more than just a cursory nod to The Beatles “Day Tripper” in the riffing, but the most off-the-wall element is the vocal chorus of “CPL 593H“, allegedly the number plate of Ferry’s car at the time!

Ladytron” is one of Ferry’s (what-would-become) trademark ‘seduction’ songs, and kicks off with an eerie duet between MacKay’s oboe skills and Eno’s synthesiser blips and gloops before eventually descending into another band battle of sounds and noises.

If There Is Something” is quintessential early-Roxy. It forges a sound that the band would duplicate over and over again;- Ferry’s vibrato – but utterly nonchalant – vocal styling at the forefront with repeated band melodies behind him. MacKay’s oboe playing is nothing short of magnificent, his mid-song solo bringing the tune its melancholy.

It would be easy to think that “2HB“, which closes side 1, is Ferry’s personal tribute to pencils. It is actually a song dedicated to actor Humphrey Bogart, specifically his role as Rick in Casablanca. In keeping with the movie, this song has a detached moody atmosphere, entirely driven by Ferry’s electric piano and MacKay’s erie Eno-enhanced sax.

Side 2’s opener is “The Bob (Medley)” , a bitty & somewhat unstructured affair – and probably my least favourite track on the whole album. Punctured by the sound of warfare (Bob is an acronym for “Battle of Britain”) the song is split into sections that veer dramatically from each other. It’s almost as if the band are showing off just a little too much, or trying a little too hard with this track, although it has be stated that without Thompson’s thumpy drums or Manzanera’s fretwork it would amount to very little indeed.

Things get properly back on course with “Chance Meeting“, one of Ferry’s more traditional love songs. It is peppered with Manzanera’s guitar – having first been fed through Eno’s box of electronic tricks – and underlined by Ferry’s own gentle piano playing.

I personally feel that “Would You Believe” is one of Roxy’s unsung little masterpieces, so ‘unsung’ that there’s no footage available at all on YouTube. The boogie-woogie piano, drum, guitar and sax section that intersperse the contrary starkness is pure rock and roll, and offers more than a mere hint to some of Ferry’s influences,

Sea Breezes” is, pure and simple, a Roxy Music ‘classic’ – assuming such a thing even exists. It is one of my – admittedly many – ‘shower songs’, wherein I persecute the walls of our bathroom with my singing. It starts off pretty traditionally, Ferry’s gentle voice overlaying some fine guitar, synth and sax work. Suddenly the silence is punctured by a drum break and we find ourselves in new territory altogether, amps turned up to ’11’ and the band members noisily battling each other. Then, as quickly as the noise starts, it all mellows out again and Ferry once again professes his love for the song’s protagonist. Delightful stuff.

Bitters End” ties the album up, a 50’s doo-wop pastiche containing a strange choral refrain of “bizarre” almost summing up the entire album’s sound. Its also the song that seems to ‘go’ with the band’s image seen on the inside LP sleeve.

I think those images ‘drew’ me to the album as much as the music itself. There’s Manzanera in ‘fly’ sunglasses a decade or two before U2’s Bono discovered them, MacKay personifying “rock’n’roll”, and Ferry & Eno in leopard/tiger skin leather jackets, the latter looking particularly ‘other-worldy’ (and, bless him, displaying early signs of hair loss)

The second Roxy Music album “For Your Pleasure” was the album that REALLY sealed my personal – and lifelong – fascination for the band, but this very assured debut introduced me to their quirky stylings and unique sound in a major way.

It also goes to underline the fact – repeated again for those that have forgotten it – that I was willing to listen to – and appreciate – just about anything that came my way. Whilst many of my school chums may have been fixated only by Heavy Rock or Pop Music my own listening rounded up both of those and a whole lot more besides.

I often wonder if bands such as Roxy Music would stand even half a chance in the current music ‘business’. I would like to think that with someone as always forward-thinking and technically-savvy as Brian Eno in its ranks the band would find a way of getting their music across to the masses but I’m not convinced there would be a 100% guarantee of success.

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December 16th 1972

“Went down Trevs + borrowed D.Purple, Man, Groundhogs, The Nice”

I have not mentioned which specific albums I borrowed from Trev, but I have more than an inkling it was the following …erm… ‘gems’….

Deep Purple – The Book of Taliesyn
If I even recorded this album, I doubt very much I kept it. No Ian Gillan on vocals (predecessor Rod Evans) and dull plodding tracks which included a Neil Diamond cover (“Kentucky Woman“), a Beatles cover (“We Can Work it Out“) and the horror that is Purple’s version of Phil Spector’s “River Deep Mountain High

I don’t know if this was considered a concept album or not, but if it was I suspect the concept may have been “poop”?!

The Nice – Five Bridges
The Nice (Brian Davidson, “Python” Lee Jackson and Keith Emerson… for those not in the know) were actually commissioned to write this suite of music by the City of Newcastle for their 1969 Arts Festival.

The title refers to the (then) number of bridges which spanned Newcastle’s River Tyne, the cover of the album featuring a fish-eye image of the famous Tyne Bridge.

This was Keith Emerson’s first foray into “classically orientated” songwriting and…. well, it kind of shows. The structure is somewhat naive and rudimentary, although I am sure at the time it not only impressed Newcastle but several hundred thousand prog rock fans as well.

Not me though. It’s fair to state that this album has not stuck with me over the intervening 36 years.

Groundhogs – Split
This is more like it!

The Groundhogs really were one of the inventors of what became heavy psychedelic rock.

They formed in the 1960’s, essentially as a blues band, even acting as John Lee Hooker’s backing troupe when he toured Britain.

A LOUD three-piece (Peter Cruickshank on bass, Ken Pustelnik on drums plus the magnificent Tony “T.S.” McPhee on guitar and vocals), the Groundhogs seminal work is perhaps “Split“.

Raw and real, the album (apparently a concept album based on ‘the mystery of schizophrenia’ – really?) oozes thumpy drums and classic guitar riffs. It’s grunge about 20 years before grunge ever occurred in my opinion, best epitomised by the classic cut “Cherry Red“, which veritably thunders along aided by licks to absolutely die for.

One to turn up to eleven! 

Man – Do You Like it Here Now, Are You Settling In?
These days I often remark that the only good thing to come out of Wales is the M4 motorway.

This is based on my personal experiences of the country (and many of its people) during my “Virgin” years, of which there will be further discussion later… but not, I hasten to add, until my 1978/79 diaries roll around.

But I digress. Whilst Wales is perhaps better known for musical acts such as Shirley Bassey (better known by myself as Burly Chassis) or the MIGHTY Sir Tom Jones (no-one is worthier), there’s also been an underbelly of other quality acts* and artists.

Man are one of those quality acts. Born out of the burgeoning South Wales music scene in the 60’s, and with remnant band members from (out and out pop group) The Bystanders, along with Dream, Help Yourself and the Global Village Trucking Company (pub rock acts all) Man formed in 1968 to create a worthy footnote to the history of UK progressive rock.

They took the sound of American west coast psychedelia (‘borrowing’ most evidently from Quicksilver Messenger Service) and turned it around a little for European ears and consumption. The group’s live acts were “stoner” affairs, featuring songs that were often experimented with or endlessly extended into head-tripping jams of musical prowess. (An example here)

Do You Like it Here Now, Are You Settling In?” was the Man’s fourth (fully blown) studio album, and my second introduction to their work in 1972. (The first being their contribution to the “Greasy Truckers Album” mentioned in a previous EFA70sTRO post.)

It’s a personal opinion of course, but I feel there are classic “Man cuts” to be found on this album. The laid back groove of “Angel Easy” with its nine-note guitar break,  “All Good Clean Fun” featuring gimmicky backward lyrics, the sublime “Manillo” and, for me the best, “Many Are Called, But Few Get Up“.

That last cut randomly appeared just a few days ago on my i-Pod during my morning constitutional and I could not have been happier to hear it again. (My i-Pod must have known I was going to write about Man?!)

Man continue to record and tour, albeit with a rapidly changing line-up of musicians. Members are fired later to return, others have had to drop out as a result of illness, whilst some continue to tour despite their illness.

Apparently, the most comprehensive history of Man can be found in band member Deke Leonard’s autobiography “Rhinos Winos & Lunatics“, a book which one day I have vowed ro read! (I no longer buy books, instead preferring to get them from our local library here in Northern Kentucky, which is a magnificent resource… but one which, sadly, does not extend to autobiographies of second-tier Welsh Rock band members)

Unfortunately for you out there in readersville, this will doubtless NOT be the last mention of Man as my diaries continue to be unveiled. I admit they are something of an acquired taste and had I not grown up with them as I did, I too may be giving me the evil eye! Sorry folks, I can’t always give you Benny Hill and West Side Story!

(*Manic Street Preachers and The Stereophonics excluded)

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July 25th 1972

“nothing much in the morn. in afternoon went swimming and went to mick’s house + bor. records. Taped America + Slade 1” / “new set batts > 59 days” / Vicarage 7.30 for rounders match. we won” (6m)

The diary entries are at least getting longer and a bit more informative this school holiday aren’t they?

There’s that swimming thing again, and the mick I don’t remember.

The tape player batteries – after what has seemed like a long absence – also make a welcome return to my diary pages. 59 days does seem like a phenomenal length of time for them to have lasted… unless of course I was doing other things instead of listening to music. Which by itself begs the question; “why didn’t I write about those other things?”

6 miles on the bike including, no doubt, the journey to the Vicarage in Eastleigh for a game of what I then knew as “rounders” and what I now know as “baseball”, the “we won” comment being the only thing I don’t associate with my current team, the Cincinnati Reds. Ha-ha.

When I say taped America I don’t mean the Horse with No Name people. Instead I mean the single track “America” from The Nice’s “Elegy” album… mentioned a few days ago.

Keith Emerson & Co’s rendition of “America” is an exercise in keyboard excess, pure and simple. If he could do something with the Hammond organ on this 10+ minute live cut he did it, turning Leonard Bernstein’s musical ode about Hispanic immigration into an unlikely Prog Rock classic.

This is one of those tracks that, over time, led to me investigating – and appreciating – a lot more music.  At 14, I was not even aware of “West Side Story”, the movie the song was written for, but when I eventually saw it (on betamax) I was blown away (it remains one of my favourite films, watched over and over again) and I know the soundtrack inside out. Its striking brass and strings style led me to appreciating other high concept orchestral work like George Gershwin and Stravinsky.

Even back then though, my musical tastes varied wildly, as I am sure future diary entries will testify.

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July 21st 1972

“Trev came up. He brought up N.E.T.E. + Elegy. In afternoon we played cricket + F.ball and got told off by Grumpy”

I got told off by myself? Oh…. got it, this was not 2008, but 1972!

I really was an energetic little toad wasn’t it? Cricket and football all in the space of one day? I’d be pushed to play both of them in one decade now.

Still, once again Trev brought with him some more musical ‘education’, and the mere mention of one – N.E.T.E. – has surprised me significantly.

I have always maintained that the Island compilation album “Nice Enough to Eat” (hence “N.E.T.E. “) was the first album I ever bought. It would seem from this diary entry that I have deceived myself – and others – for a very long time? After all, I would not borrow the album if I already owned it, and didn’t I buy an Emerson, Lake & Palmer album a few months ago?

Given the fact that “Nice Enough to Eat” contains gems from the likes of Traffic, Nick Drake, King Crimson and Blodwyn Pig, and “Emerson Lake & Palmer” is … well … Emerson, Lake & Palmer, I can no longer ‘boast’ to be anywhere near as cool and hip as I’ve always thought I’d been with my first ever record.

Bugger.

That said, N.E.T.E. is a great album and (had it been my first) the perfect primer for a my ‘life in music’.  Part of a trend of ‘sampler’ albums released by the more intelligent labels around this time – the trend including Bumpers, You Can All Join In, El Pea, and The Rock Machine Turns You On, this was sold at the bargain price of about 79p (or $1.50).

The word ‘gems’ I used earlier is not an overstatement either. From Nick Drake’s utterly sublime “Time Has Told Me” (which was to become a personal anthem for my wife & I during our dating years…. “You’re a rare, rare find“) all the way to Spooky Tooth’s anthemic “Better by You, Better than Me” and via the somewhat scary “21st Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson.

The album single-handedly introduced me to a lifetime’s appreciation of the work of Steve (Traffic) Winwood and Free, as well as utter adoration for Nick Drake’s brief but staggering output. However, the Drake song aside, there is one cut that has stuck with me more than any other. Dr Strangely Strange stumped up “Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal” for the compilation and what a great song it is, peculiarly summing up how I often feel about myself. I have included this on so many mix tapes over the interim 36 years, I feel like I have somehow personally introduced this band to the world, even though they have continued to very much remain an unknown quantity. The problem is (in my ‘umble opine) that whilst that song was great, the album it came from, “Kip of the Serenes” – despite being produced by the mighty Joe Boyd – has always been a massive let down to me. Like so many other bands and artists – just the ONE killer song!

Yes, despite now discovering it wasn’t my first ever vinyl LP purchase, N.E.T.E. will always feel like it was… even if my introduction to it was as yet another ‘borrow’ from my friend Trev and his brother Steven.

Elegy” by The Nice is another matter altogether. The Nice included amongst its number the “E” from ELP, (yes, them again!) which is why I was eager to hear it. I only liked the one cut, and a diary entry a few days from now will go into it in far greater depth.

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