Write Here, Write Now: 10.17 – Is There a Better Way?

Status Quo – Is There a Better Way? “The time is running out on you

I felt like some QUO tonight, and started with Again and Again, but it is particularly repetitive, didn’t have a good YouTube version with the lead guitar notes and is a Rick Parfitt song. Generally I prefer it when Francis Rossi takes main vocal duties.

So this one, actually sung by Alan Lancaster. But I like it because it it big and brash and basic, Lancaster being the one who always seemed to be the one closest to rock in his musical style, the others veering over into pop. It is relentless, driving forward with his heavy bass beats every step of the way. This is he closest the band got to their heavy rock label, I’d suggest.

My friend was not a big Quo fan, so we tended not to play much of them when together. Through my life, I’ve often gone for trashy bands that right-thinking people got no pleasure from. Sometimes I’ve tried to persuade them of my musical discoveries. I’ve learned over time that there is little point in this.

Is there a better way? Undoubtedly. But it’s difficult to change your ways and who you are unless something better comes along. In the Quo’s case there were many better bands that came my way, but I still have a soft spot for them and the repetitive noise they made.



Write Here, Write Now: 10.16 – Kyrie

David Fanshawe – Kyrie (African Sanctus)

Quite often I will call my children in for lunch or supper and they are so absorbed in their Playmobil world, that I don’t think they are being rude in not coming to the kitchen, they have just got themselves so involved with the characters and the stories they are creating, that they just don’t hear me or register the meanings of the words. I may be being charitable, but it seems to take them a few repeated requests to respond and join us.

I mention that in relation to tonight’s song because, back in 1978, David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus received one of its world premieres at Worcester Cathedral and our family had tickets to go and see it. My friend wasn’t interested in it at all, and back then I didn’t fully appreciate the appeal of the innovative combination of African and other world music with classical and Christian choral music. However, I was intrigued enough even back then to want to go.

But then my dad found out that David Fanshawe was giving a talk a few days before the concert – would I go with him to hear? At the time he asked me, a few hours before the talk was to start, I was deeply involved, with my friend, in some Lego construction project, with pieces spread out all over the floor. My friend wasn’t interested and I was torn between staying and going. It might have been worth a listen, but I was too absorbed in what I was doing to tear myself away.

I don’t know if, had I gone, David Fanshawe would have made a big impression on me. The music was I think fun enough, a bit like the instrumental ‘Zambezi’ probably would have been my honest reaction back then. What I remember was the internal conflict about the talk. In the mid 80s I decided I would go with my dad to the ETH in Zürich to witness a talk by an English physicist with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The fairly unknown Stephen Hawking made a reasonable impression on me with his pre-Brief History talk for science novices, so maybe I learned from my mistake, or maybe they balanced each other out. I think now, whenever an opportunity comes up to try something new, I do try to grasp it with both hands and enjoy the experience.

As to this song, it is magical in the way it glides from muezzin’s call to choir’s song, then meanders between the two, no false notes between the two, before fading.

Write Here, Write Now: 10.15 – Hand of Doom

Black Sabbath – Hand of Doom “What you gonna do? Time’s caught up with you

Having covered most of the bases of the music that I used to listen to with my friend, I’m coming to the impression that the music it’s worth giving my time over to for the remainder of the month may well be largely Black Sabbath. Not for any morbid reason, but because it’s the band whose back catalogue I know least, yet as far as I can remember, he used to listen to out of choice far more than I did.

The one album I would have thought I knew best was Paranoid. The title track, War Pigs, Iron Man, Planet Caravan, Fairies Wear Boots, Rat Salad – all familiar names and often songs to me. And then, today, I noticed this track for the first time, snuck in third from the end of the album. Back when music had to be listened to end to end, on record or cassette, it was often the case that songs bled one into another. So, particularly with songs where the title was not immediately obvious just from listening to the song, it was just more of the sound of the group.

What is most impressive about this song is the rhythm section – bass and drums. The bass is so melodic, it really leads the song. The drumming is tight but flowing, hitting the beat but in a way that adds so much extra through the fills.

In a way, I think my friend liked this band because they were subversive – singing about taboo subjects, with a strong, doomy, anti pop music to go with it – play it loud and annoy your parents, sort of thing. I still don’t think I care that much for the themes that Geezer Butler wrote about, but I can begin to appreciate the quality of the music that was created to support it.

Write Here, Write Now: 10.14 – Friends

Led Zeppelin – Friends. “looking for what I knew

The third Led Zep album. I remember one of the sisters of my friend had this LP, complete with the rotating volvelle. It was intriguing as it seemed less straight ahead rock, and more pastoral/acoustic in the overall style.

There comes a point in trying to remember a friendship that was some 40 years in the past, however pivotal, that the striking memories and the broader recollection of character, the emotional associations, the environmental context have been described and I find myself wondering if that was all there is is left of the 5-10 years we knew each other – flickering mental images? Not even conversations, but vague ideas of what he brought out in me, filtered through and shaded by so many encounters since those days.

I don’t remember us listening to particular songs, just that there are record sleeves and cassette inlays that stir up mud from the pond of my deep memories. But listening to Friends now, there are resonances and associations triggered that seem valid to draw attention to.

The greatest thing you ever can do now, is trade a smile with someone who’s blue now

My friend died in sad circumstances. Our life paths and choices had taken us far away from each other in the decades since I left Worcestershire. I’d lost touch with almost everything about him, and he would have been a very different person than the boy I knew. There is very little chance that I could have made a difference. Many people pass through our lives, and we pass through the lives of many others in our turn. Some relationships, connections, exchanges will inevitably be shorter-lasting than others. And yet, seeing a video of him shortly after I’d heard the bad news, there was something of the friend I knew in the expression on his face, the intonation of his voice and and particularly the look in his eyes. Early years form the core of who we are and that remains like the central tree ring in the trunk of our ever-developing being.  Of course now it is idle speculation, but who knows what long-forgotten connections would have been reactivated if, for some reason, we’d found our ways into each other’s lives again.

It’s very easy just…

Knowing the right thing to do, having the courage to reach beyond the normal patterns of behaviour, finding the right words to say at the apposite time. Sometimes I feel these things are beyond me. There have been several times over the years when a passivity on my part, a lack of understanding of what the other person is going through, a selfish or thoughtless choice of action have left me wondering if I had acted differently, the person involved might still be alive. Again, idle speculation – in the end, we all go.

And yet some things stay the same. It strikes me how amazing that the song I am listening to now is exactly the same pattern of sound waves as was the case when listening to it back in the seventies, almost as if it was a portal to a previous era.

It’s not, and the past cannot be changed. But it does no harm to try to remember and celebrate those we used to know.

Write Here, Write Now: 10.13 – Living After Midnight

Judas Priest – Living After Midnight. Fact of blog life

With NWOBHM, there was a sense that any band under that label was fair game and worth a listen, even one as silly as Judas Priest. Looking at this video, I’m reminded of Bad News, the Comic Strip metal losers by their stage antics, as well as the sort of glam rockers like Suzi Quatro, by their dress sense.

By the time we were listening to Judas Priest, we were out of single digits and approaching teenage years. The only time back then we lived after midnight was the once a year New Years Eve party, when we would crowd into some lucky person’s house to play games until late into the evening when we reached that magical hour. An education, boys slightly older than me were always doing something cool that I wouldn’t have dared to do at that age, but would emulate later – playing complicated board games which led me into D&D by when they would be surreptitiously drinking. The NYE party when I started experimenting with alcohol, they by then had girlfriends. It seemed so unfair that they had the advance on us in leading the way towards being a teenager. There was no more NYE party for me after that, as I left the area and went off to boarding school.

Judas Priest stand for me for those last silly pre-teen years , when we were no longer children, but not yet really ready for the next stage in life.

Write Here, Write Now: 10.12 – Another Monty Python Record

Monty Python – Another Monty Python Record

As a break from all the heavy rock/metal, another record that we used to play so often that we knew it off by heart. This was long before we saw the films or the repeats of the TV series.

Listening to it now, phrases come back almost before they are uttered right from the first apology. I’m reminded how we liked it so much that we made our own sketches with silly voices on cassette.

There was so much more to it than just silly voices, of course. Crude humour, high brow references dropped , songs, puns, abrupt ends to and starts to sketches, drama, satire of British TV and radio done believably and with confidence.

Many of the references soared way over my head back then. I had no experience of the originals that were being ripped to shreds, nor of the character archetypes that exist in British culture as much now (in other forms) as they did in the late 60s, early 70s.

That doesn’t matter because almost all of the sketches are just funny in their own right. Also, now I get more than I did then, and the jokes come thick and fast, even through the longer sketches.

Write Here, Write Now: 10.11 – Backwater/Just Take Me

Status Quo – Backwater/Just Take Me. “In the dark early morning

If I think back now, the band that my friend probably was most devoted to, in terms of the albums I remember him playing me with most devotion, it would be Black Sabbath. Apart from the second album, with songs like Paranoid, War Pigs and Iron Man, they never made much of an impression on me, apart from a general low toned, slow grinding sound with Ozzy’s nasal whine a distinctive feature.

For me the band that stood out was Status Quo – more upbeat, more good time boogie – not really to his taste at all. Another friend was devoted to them and I was intrigued to see all the concert posters in his room of the band all dressed in light blue denim. I started with 12 Gold Bars and listened to other albums, but it was Quo Live which was the really impressive album. All the heavy sound, power and dynamism of the live experience on a record. Very different to what they recorded in the studio.

About 2/3rds the way through this track, you can really hear all four members on fire, powering away at great speed – how could they be so accomplished? Coghlan’s drumming still impresses me, pounding and filling the rhythm, particularly from about halfway through, cowbells and all. Rossi’s guitar fires off squalls of lead guitar notes, while Parfitt and Lancaster churn away in the background.  Funnily enough, I don’t know who sang – one of the latter two, but which? Raucous barking, about as far as you can get from Rossi’s more mellow sound.

There was a backwater in Salwarpe. Behind the village church, steps went down to where the canal and the river flowed through the village – an eerie wooded place with much moss and lichen, as I recall, which I have have flood dreams about over the years since leaving the area. More to be soundtracked by Black Sabbath than Status Quo, I feel.