Monday, 18 June 2012

Why I hate The Doors

I had wondered around Pere Lachaise clocking and checking the important, the famous and of course the dead - Comte had been first – it’s a sociology thing – founding father and all that. Inevitably though you stumble across old Mr Morrison in a corner of the cemetery. All incense sticks, cigarettes and armed guards. It’s an odd state of affairs to have an armed gendarme protect the ‘soul’ of the Lizard King but he’s there each day – at the ready in case some immaculately stoned youth decides to scrawl their own poetry over the headstone and further add to our misery.

It’s a depressing sight – you’d think in a cemetery it was always going to be – but there’s something fevered in the response of the visitors to this dead centre. I don’t think I’ve seen any other rock n roll graves – it’s not something I’ve taken an interest in to be honest. You know check out Bolan, Curtis, Ogden’s graves. I did read once that Andrew Innes had been sick at Elvis’s ‘shrinestone remembrance area’ [tm The Colonel] in Gracelands’ getting himself, Duffy and the Throb thrown out as a result. I thought this was an honourable way to recognise the impact of the King. Excess and reverence and retching rolled into one. But I haven’t really gone in for the whole great and the dead tour – laying 45s at the final resting places of the decadent and confused.

We happened across his big old grave to be honest – there was some foreign exchange student all wild eyed and haired staring intently at the stone – strung out on LSD and just going with the flow – no headphones – no ipod – just the soundtrack of his mind. I hope he didn’t have a Jefferson Airplane moment that brought him crashing back to reality – it can happen you know. Anyway he was giving the grave the wide eye and the guard was guarding – he may well have had his own soundtrack going on in his mind – it was hard to tell. He did look mightily bored though – I guess it doesn’t help the esteem when you’re down the local tabac and you say you’re pretty much security for someone who already took the bullet.

Except Jim never took a bullet – he took a bath. And died in it.

Not exactly like Marat is it? Not as important - although it was clear from the historical archives that Marat needed a wash – he’d been down in the sewers. It’s probably fair to say that Jim needed a sponge down too – what with all the leather and the blubber he’d piled on. And I’m not saying you can’t be large and a rock and roller – once again ladies and gentleman I give you the King. There’s a whole mythology that runs riot with Morrison all mystical musings and predictions and contradictions about words and actions and this is why I guess I hate the Doors. Because you don’t happen to find the Doors – no paths lead there. You are told about the Doors by a guy who’s finding his inner Native American and his experimentation has opened up the way to discover truths and that about himself, and America and the people [because they’re strange right?] and that he once looked at the skies above Arizona and Jim spoke to him.

And that person always wears a pair of leather trousers and will invariably drink ‘bourbon’ and will harangue you at your first university party.

I once had a pair of leather trousers and long hair. I hadn’t meant to tap into the Jim zone – I hadn’t witnessed a car load of dead Native Americans on a dusty Scunthorpe street – I had just grown my hair and bought some trousers from Daryl because he didn’t want them – it was more a club thing – the trousers were from William someone – bought in Manchester or Covent Garden or something – not Camden.

Anyway there were those that lost their way to the JD and the poetry of the Californian highway – I had made sure that I wasn’t one of them. I think it’s the studiedness of it all that grates with me – the elevation of a few choice words and phrases that taken as a ‘gospel’ and enlightened look at the now or in this case the ‘then’. I get the feeling Morrison was the Madonna of the 1960s – soul less and shallow but justified by those around him because they felt they should know a few references to this book and that he’d read and quote. I had a moment of transcendence with The Doors – found myself feeling quietly safe at a party in Brockley when Jim and the boys were playing – mild freakin’ whenever the Pixies were played. I got through it. Ended up throwing fried chicken across the streets of Lewisham – funny how the Doors can lead to that.

Wild abandon in a vacuous manner.

So as I said I think the overblown [American] saga that goes with the Doors and constant elevation of ‘god like’ status galls me and may well be the barrier to actually listening to them. Coupled with the fawning over Ray Manzarek’s keyboard action [I have a recollection of reading endless articles in some musical instrument magazine found in my local music shop] and already the gander is up. There’s a nod to the leftfield on the cover art that rankles me as well – and I can’t find the inclination to find out more. Perhaps I like my cool from the East coast – a different kind of leather.

However alongside this irrational hatred of The Doors comes the acceptance that they pretty much invented the ‘baggy scene’. And though it pains me to admit ‘Peacefrog’ is a groove that’s good to get down to. It rolls and it trips – jangles and jumps in simple lines and fluid bass. It’s like The Charlatans early demos. I haven’t heard them – but I guess this is what they would sound like.

So whilst inviting you in to hate The Doors with me. I give you this a testimony to the enduring ability to forgive and not take sides. I’m too old for that. I’m 41 today – so here’s The Doors. I’m a changing man.

Monday, 11 June 2012

This is new electric pop and soul

When I was in my twenties – Paul – my brother and Ian – our bassist – and of course friend – used to fantasize about seeing the return of Brian Wilson. Not the Eugene Landy version – although we thought the ‘Brian Wilson’ album was sublime in places – it was just the digital production that was letting us down. That momemt when the keyboard sounds over enhanced or the reverb is too crisp and lacks the warmth [of the sun] we had become accustomed to from repeated listens to Today and Summer Days Summer Nights. 

No we collectively channeled our desire into seeing the real Brian ‘back’. Our late night haze creating the set lists that Brian would sing as Mike Love took a kicking from all of us for stepping on Brian’s [vocal] chords for all those years.  We never thought it would happen though – much like hearing Smile – it was the stuff of dreams.

Those holy grails of pop.

Yes we had bought the Smile t-shirt from Pet Sounds in Newcastle – postal orders duly sent off – we had the artwork – just not the tunes. Well not the real finished item. Somehow we had acquired tapes and bits and pieces of unfinished teenage symphonies to God – mainly from Duglas from the BMX Bandits – a lovely listener and unselfish sharer of sounds all the way from Scotland on handwritten C90 cassettes. He made bleak days in steeltowns somehow seem sunny.

But it happened. Paul and I – unfortunately not with Ian – it should have been with Ian – but he wasn’t ‘on the scene’ then. First witnessing the beauty of Pet Sounds in fourth row seats in a Nottingham hall to finally shaking Van Dyke Parks hand as Smile was aired for the first time in London. And we were there. Witnessing that Brian was well and truly ‘back’.

So Smile was dutifully bought and loved beyond reason. I guess it wasn’t the real Smile – but it was a Smile made with love and [mercy] and affection – it felt like it belonged to Brian and therefore it mattered to us. It wasn’t 67 but it was still breathtaking and ‘out there’.

Blew my mind – phew – with all its good vibrations.

And this got me thinking to all those lost gems – those mythical musical monsters that we’ve heard excerpts and snippets from. Records like the legendary third My Bloody Valentine album – although to be honest they have released four albums but Berlin squalls and Lazy simplicity don’t seem to count in that story. It’s the Creation years – the big bankrupt stories – the perfection and re-re-re-recording of guitars and bends. And now it looks like it will eventually see the light of day – somewhere in Shields sonic schedule we’ll get to final bathe in the bliss of blended guitars and claustrophobic beats.

Then there’s the maverick Maver’s and that second La’s long player – but even with sprinkles of sixties dust on monitors and mixers has yet to be finished. You can find bits and pieces – scattered over limited CD releases and bootleg files that do the rounds on the internet. But it isn’t the album we were meant to – going to hear – it certainly isn’t the record that Lee wants to hear – otherwise it would be here. Now.

But the one that keeps me up at night and would have kept Paul, Ian and me up all night is mention of World of Twist’s second album. The Twist were a wonderful Manchester band of real entertainers and dreamers. They were the future of rock n roll – an acid Manc MC5. Looking forward with an eye on the past. All of that and so much more.

Genuine pop potential. They never made it big. Their first album ‘Quality Street’ is a treat. Popping and fizzing with shock and awe all over its tracks. Except it sounds shit. No bottom end – all treble and no amps turned to 10. They made up for it live though – you forgave everything when they performed. They had it. Simple as that. So even though I often play Quality Street and I’ve written about the Twist before – I stumbled over something at the weekend that blew my mind again.

When Tony Ogden – the lead singer of World of Twist died I was gutted. Paul as ever had tracked down his recent excursions into the studio – most likely situated in his bedroom – and purchased Escape from the Love Machines by placing a tenner in his hand – a tenner that most likely went on hedonism and good times. And I thought there was that returning beauty in songs like Honey and then he goes and dies. Dead. No more tunes. Over. Obituaries written and mention of a second glorious World of Twist album, John Robb rubbing it in that it lived up to all those expectations we had – a Manchester ‘Smile’.

So another trawl through the internet – a hopeful google search and a set of redundant returns. Hoping that one day someone – perhaps the Adge would just put it out there – not looking for a return. And so to Soundcloud – I was looking for something else  - that’s sure fine looking man – something like a Carl Craig mix when a fleeting unguarded moment meant I’d typed the twist into the search facility.

And there it was. Nine tracks – mostly instrumental – but nine tracks of new World of Twist material. Nine new ones. I immediately rang my brother. I asked him to record it – he has his ways and means. I was shaking when I said what I’d found. It’s 2012 and I found the fucking Twist. This was the culmination of what the internet was invented for – that and shifting your old Adam Ant badges [but that’s another story about how I invented social networking and ebay before other people’s minds caught up]

I know it’s not in its final mix and they’ll be no unveiling at the Royal Festival Hall – but this one chimes right up there with sitting and hearing Smile played in it’s entirety by Wilson and friends. It is simply the World of Twist making music that begins to hint at how it should have sounded. It’s an Indiana Jones moment when you chose the right grail – it’s Tony and friends making pop music.

It is as simple as that. I will not describe it. You’ll either get it or you won’t.

There are some things that should never be lost to the masses.  There is no youtube link – this is a soundcloud file.

Play it and listen to it all.