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Reelin’ In the Years 140: Up the Pool

I’ve still not caught up with happenings while I was away.

However, following on from yesterday’s post.

For the Lancashire coast’s heritage.

Originally from the Life’s a Long Song extended player then on the compilation Living in the Past.

Jethro Tull: Up the Pool

Friday on my Mind 158: MacArthur Park

Back to Jimmy Webb.

His masterpiece. As sung by Richard Harris; a much superior version to that produced by Donna Summer in the 70s.

Richard Harris: MacArthur Park

Live It Up 38: Chocolate Girl

This could be considered a 1980s answer in reverse to Carpet Man (see last week.)

I remember seeing the band perform this on the daily lunchtime BBC Scotland TV programme broadcast from the Glasgow Garden Festival.

Looking at this video messrs Ricky Ross and Dougie Vipond seem impossibly young. (I have taught Vipond’s eldest son.) And what was Lorraine McIntosh thinking about with that outfit?

Deacon Blue: Chocolate Girl

This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan

An Hallucinated Oral History of the Post-Punk Scene in Airdrie, Coatbridge and Environs 1978-1986

Faber and Faber, 2017, 302 p.

 This Is Memorial Device cover

To say this is an imaginary history of the music scene in the Airdrie area in the post-Punk era would be true. It would also be a bit like saying War and Peace is about domestic affairs in Moscow during the Napoleonic era. It is a picture of Airdrie and its music at the time but is also much more. The line on the back cover (also found in the text) “It’s not easy being Iggy Pop in Airdrie,” stands in for all those towns in the West of Scotland – and I dare say beyond – where expectations were/are crabbed, hopes frustrated, ambitions crushed – and all before the attempts to overcome that deficit were made. “… back then anything seemed possible, … back then being … the glory years. ….But really that would be untrue because back then everything seemed impossible.”

The text is made up of twenty-six different reminiscences, interviews, letters, conversations, emails, transcripts of telephone calls (in other words various forms of device encapsulating memory) from people either involved in or connected, however tangentially, to the legendary band around which the novel revolves, a band which captured the sound of Airdrie. But, “The thing about Memorial Device was that you always had the feeling that it was their last gig ever, like they could fall apart at any moment.”

Keenan’s tale builds up as a mosaic of all these contributions. (Among them is a wonderful rant about the extreme shortcomings of Kilmarnock as a town which is all the funnier for being written by someone from Airdrie.) Keenan is himself using the mosaic as a device for chronicling life in a Scottish industrial town in the mid-1980s. In the book’s first line the supposed assembler of these testimonials – one Ross Raymond – tells us that in compiling the book he “did it for Airdrie.” He “did it because later on everyone went off and became social workers and did courses on how to teach English as a foreign language or got a job in Greggs.” Because then, of those crushed hopes, those impossible dreams, because of the compromises people make with their younger selves as they grow older. If you like, this is Albert Hammond’s Free Electric Band in reverse. But what a glorious reversal it is. The line, “I would talk about the new groups and encourage people to drop out and go see the world, all the while living at my mum’s house in Airdrie,” sums up the contrast between the aspiration and the reality.

The conceit that this is an actual set of true reminiscences is bolstered by no less than four Appendices: A; a Memorial Device Discography (- self explanatory,) B; A Necessarily Incomplete Attempt to Map the Extent of the Post-Punk Scene in Airdrie, Coatbridge and Environs 1978-1986 – relating the interconnections between the various bands mentioned in the book (the names of the wheelchair bound members of the group calling themselves The Spazzers are brilliant,) C; This is Memorial Device (- short descriptions of the characters in the book,) and D; A Navigational Aid (ie an index.)

There are some longueurs but Keenan ventriloquises the voices of his “contributors” well; each of the twenty-six chapters is internally consistent. (One is excessively fond of brackets.) Another, in a vigorous West of Scotland demotic – the only piece that isn’t rendered in a kind of “standard” English – explores philosophy, “ma existence wus closer tae a state o suspended animation, a series a frozen gestures caught between the impossibility uv the future and the improbability uv the past,” creativity, “Ah became obsessed wae the idea o automating, o inventing a form o music that wid play itsel and wid form its inspiration fae itsel … a form o spontaneous birth that held within itsel the DNA that wid facilitate endless versions and restatements o itsel,” and a disquisition on the amniotic night, “wur just seeing things the wrang way roon, the fervent dream that we ur, but then I began to see the dream as a computation, the specifics o the dream as distinct variables what could be slotted intae reality, as intae a circuit board that would then send the whole thing aff on a different trajectory althegether.” A third asks of The Who, “Has there ever been a more depressing vaudeville take on rock n roll to this day?” The personal interests the contributions reveal are many and varied. I particularly enjoyed the aside on the lack of merit of a certain translation of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (Michael Karpelson’s) as compared to another (that of Diana Burgin and Katherine O’Connor.) Others celebrate their existence, “thank God we have many headcases in Scotland, many headcases in Airdrie,” others their universality, “We all live out our unhappiness on different scales,” a metaphor which manages to be both dimensional and musical.

Then we have, “I had grown up in the sternest, most backwards, illiterate, repressed motherfucking viper pit in the west of Scotland.” (There’s competition for that title I can assure you.) “I fell in with the music scene. The art scene was up itself. The fashion scene was vacuous. The book scene was going on behind closed doors.” (The book scene always does.) “You have to understand that when you’re talking about a local scene you’re talking about an international scene in microcosm….It fostered belief. It encouraged you to take the music and lifestyle at its word.” An invitation to disappointment.

Though there is not really much about music in it (music and its emotional effects are of course notoriously difficult to describe in prose) This is Memorial Device is by turns funny, mordant, poignant, profound and elegiac; an attempt to convey the elusive. It is a hymn to music and youth, a threnody for the passing of time, a celebration of a spirit as relevant to the world as it is to Airdrie – and Scotland.

Pedant’s corner:- burglarising (the book is not set in the US. The word is burgling,) ass (ditto, the British usage is arse,) lip-syncers (lip-synchers surely?) “the first summer after I graduated from high school” (there is no graduation ceremony in Scottish schools and therefore no graduating; if they are old enough and wish to leave pupils just get their teachers to sign their leavers’ forms – and go,) a wee tin solider (soldier methinks,) no siree (sirree,) ambiances (ambiences.)

Friday on my Mind 157: Carpet Man

The death of Glen Campbell and his rendering of Wichita Lineman (and Galveston) reminded me of how good a songwriter Jimmy Webb was. Webb’s style was kind of out of tune (ahem) for the times but there were still a lot of hits that came from his pen.

Looking it up I’m surprised this one wasn’t a hit in the UK. As I recall it a got a lot of airplay.

5th Dimension: Carpet Man

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

Friday on my Mind 156: Wichita Lineman – RIP Glen Campbell

Sad to hear the news earlier this week of the death of Glen Campbell.

He had one of the clearest voices in popular music. Though he had among other things previously been a touring member of The Beach Boys and I must have heard his version of By the Time I Get to Phoenix he first really came to my attention with Wichita Lineman written by Jimmy Webb which it seems Campbell recorded even though apparently Webb hadn’t finished the song.

This apparently live performance doesn’t have the “Morse Code” strings which come in at the end of the refrain.

Glen Campbell: Wichita Lineman

The video below – featuring clips from throughout Campbell’s career – does though, as the recorded version provides the backing.

Glen Campbell: Wichita Lineman

Glen Travis Campbell: 22/4/1936-8/8/2017. So it goes.

Friday on my Mind 155: Dance Round the Maypole

Produced (and sung on) by Roy Wood of the Move, early ELO and Wizzard, this is an absolutely typical Roy Wood song (compare Blackberry Way) as credited to The Acid Gallery. Wood’s voice on the chorus is unmistakable though.

The Acid Gallery later became Christie (of Yellow River No 1 fame.)

The Acid Gallery: Dance Round the Maypole

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

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