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Not Friday on my Mind 49: Legend of a Mind. RIP Ray Thomas

Ray Thomas, who died this week was a multi-instrumentalist not very well-served by most of the time on stage with The Moody Blues merely flourishing a tambourine or otherwise not seeming to do very much. That perception would be to undervalue him greatly.

It was his contribution as a flautist where he really counted, a contribution that only added to the already distinctive sound of the band. As a flautist in a rock band he was for a while unique. (Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull came along later as did Peter Gabriel with Genesis.) That flute embellished mightily the power of Nights in White Satin, the song which became emblematic of the revamped Moody Blues.

A founder member of the band in its first (bluesy) incarnation – Go Now etc – his solid bass voice enhanced the vocal harmonies which were so much a part of the re-incarnated band’s sound.

For some odd reason there seemed to be a regular order of song-writers in those early albums by the “new” Moodies with Thomas always having song three* on side one as one of his spots.

Among his songs were Another Morning*, Twilight Time, Dr Livingstone, I Presume?*, Dear Diary*, Lazy Day, Floating*, Eternity Road, with his collaborations with Justin Hayward, Visions of Paradise and Are You Sitting Comfortably? being especially memorable.

It was song five, side one on In Search of the Lost Chord, though, that was his apotheosis. That song was Legend of a Mind with a lyric about Timothy Leary and supposed mind expansion, “Timothy’ Leary’s dead, No, no, no, no, he’s outside looking in.” Apparently Leary once told Thomas the song made him more famous than anything he had ever done for himself.

But who needed drugs when music itself could be this transportive?

Here’s a promotional film for Legend of a Mind made around the time of its first release. Thomas’s flute solo here is sublime.

The Moody Blues: Legend of a Mind

Ray Thomas: 29/12/1941 – 4/1/2018. So it goes. Thanks for the trips round the bay.

Oh, Maggie, What Did We Do?

Anyone looking for a metaphor for the parlous state of the UK today doesn’t need to go very far. They only have to look at Theresa May’s speech at the Tory Party Conference yesterday. Just about everything that could go wrong did. The prankster illustrating the lack of authority the office of Prime Minister now holds. That letter falling off the slogan in the background which says it all about how austerity has hollowed away national cohesion and expertise. The slogan itself – a blatant example of truth reversal (they’re not building the country; they’re tearing it apart; they never do anything for everyone, they act for themselves, those who fund them and the extremely well-off.) A leader struggling to overcome the problems (albeit not entirely of her own making – though she didn’t do much to prevent their coming to pass and arguably contributed to their increase) in front of her.

And what on Earth was that about the British Dream?

There isn’t a British Dream*. We don’t do that sort of thing. We’re not USian.

But the phrase reminded me irresistibly of this song written by Roger Waters and taken from Pink Floyd’s album The Final Cut, from which I filched this post’s title. And the question it poses is a good one. I can trace all the ills that befall life in the UK today to that government from the 1980s. Kow-towing to the power of money, rampant exploitation of workers, poorly paid jobs, lack of social housing, high private rents – all have their roots in those times.

There are two unfortunate references in the song’s lyric, though. “Nips” (but that of course enables the rhyme) and “England”. She did damage to a hell of a lot more than England, Roger.

Pink Floyd: The Postwar Dream

*If there is it consists of getting the better of Johnny Foreigner and despising its own working class.

Not Friday on my Mind 46: (Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree

This Roy Wood song was originally planned as a single but ended up as the B-side of Flowers in the Rain famously the first song to be played on Radio 1, fifty years ago this week

There’s a great rhyme in the lyric: plans/underpants. Not to mention cider/beside her.

The Move:- (Here we go round) The Lemon Tree

Jeff Lynne (of ELO fame)’s first group The Idle Race also recorded it as a single but it was only released in Europe and the US.

The Idle Race: Here We Go ‘Round The Lemon Tree

Reelin’ In the Years 139: The Pretender

You know I have a soft spot for rhyming. (See for example here and here.) There is an art to it when it’s done well and inventively, the rhymes woven into the overall story the song tells.

In this song Jackson Browne manages to find at seven rhymes for pretender. Some are reasonably obvious – legal tender, his fender, the spender, contender, surrender – but one is inspired; ice cream vendor. I must say though that “end there” is a bit iffy.

Jackson Browne: The Pretender

Reelin’ In the Years 138: Life’s A Long Song

I just love the rhyming in this song’s lyric.

The only slight blemishes in its perfection are the lack of any assonance (rather than rhyme) in song/fill at the end of the first refrain – though song/dawn and song/all in the second and third are fine in that regard – and that in the last line of the first verse fret doesn’t rhyme with fear and cheer.

When you’re falling awake and you take stock of the new day,
And you hear your voice croak as you choke on what you need to
say,
Well, don’t you fret, don’t you fear, I will give you good cheer.

Life’s a long song. Life’s a long song. Life’s a long song. If you wait then your plate I will fill.

As the verses unfold and your soul suffers the long day,
And the twelve o’clock gloom spins the room, you struggle on your
way.
Well, don’t you sigh, don’t you cry, lick the dust from your eye.

Life’s a long song. Life’s a long song. Life’s a long song. We will meet in the sweet light of dawn.

As the Baker Street train spills your pain all over your new dress,
And the symphony sounds underground put you under du
ress,
Well don’t you squeal as the heel grinds you under the wheels.

Life’s a long song. Life’s a long song. Life’s a long song. But the tune ends too soon for us all.

But the tune ends too soon for us all.

Jethro Tull: Life’s A Long Song
Ian Anderson: Life’s A Long Song, Chamber version

Friday on my Mind 154: Bend Me Shape Me

This is one of those songs which started out in the US and was recorded by a British band who had the bigger hit in the UK albeit this time with an altered lyric. Unusually the hit US version by The American Breed, which I think I prefer, also reached the UK charts. In the video below (set to the recording I would suggest, but with added screams) they were obviously hamming up the miming.

The American Breed: Bend Me Shape Me


Amen Corner: Bend Me Shape Me

Live It Up 35: Reward

What a striking opening line. “Bless my cotton socks I’m in the news.”

This, the biggest hit from The Teardrop Explodes, screams 1980s but is somehow also timeless – and the brass was an unusual touch.

Reward is also notable for having a definite ending and not fading the way most pop songs do. Anything else though would have been a travesty.

Herewith is a live version.

The Teardrop Explodes: Reward

Reelin’ In the Years 130: You’re a Lady, Love is the Sweetest Thing, Roll Away the Stone

I discovered two sad departures this week, both Peters, though one of them actually occurred in January.

Peter Skellern’s affection for the brass band sound made him stand out as a bit old fashioned in the early 1970s.

His biggest hit was You’re a Lady, no 3 in 1972.

Peter Skellern: You’re a Lady

I remembered his revival of Frank Noble’s song Love is the Sweetest Thing as being a bigger hit than in fact it was. It apparently only reached no 60. It has a brilliant lyric, though.

Peter Skellern: Love is the Sweetest Thing

Peter Overend Watts was Mott the Hoople’s bass player and is seen quite prominently in this clip:-

Mott The Hoople: Roll Away The Stone

Peter Skellern: 14/3/1947 – 17/2/2017. So it goes.

Peter Overend Watts: 13/5/1948-22/1/2017. So it goes.

Reelin’ In the Years 111: The Combine Harvester

From the sublime (Al Stewart, last two weeks) to the gorblimey.

I’d almost forgotten about this till the good lady said she’d heard it on the radio this week

The Wurzels were a band from Somerset – a traditional rural farming county – who dubbed their style Scrumpy and Western after the name for a type of cider and a USian music genre.

A parody of Melanie (Safka)’s Brand New Key from 1971 with lyrics more appropriate to agriculture this, believe it or not, was actually a number one hit in the UK in 1976. For three weeks!

Bits of it are still funny, though. I especially like the spoken, “Just you wait till I get me ‘ands on your laaaaand,” towards the end.

The Wurzels: The Combine Harvester:

Another Wurzels parody, this time of Una Paloma Blanca, got to number three in 1976.

The Wurzels: I am a Cider Drinker

There are clips on You Tube of the Wurzels performing this on TV but on one of them they are introduced by a paedophile and the other is incomplete.

Reelin’ In the Years 109: On The Border

Not the only “pop” song to be about the Spanish Civil War but the subject certainly marks it out as lyrically unusual. But then Al Stewart’s lyrics tended to the eclectic.

This is a live version.

Al Stewart: On the Border

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