It’s been a difficult time for lovers of rock music with Lemmy, David Bowie and Glen Frey passing recently. On a personal note, a friend suffered two heart attacks on December 26th and it’s coming up the the first anniversary of my wife’s death.

These events have made me realise that I carry way too much baggage with me. I have a house and a storage container filled with books and music papers going back to the late 1950s. If anything were to happen to me, I would leave my friends and family the onerous task of disposing of an vast archive accumulated over more than 30 years.

To that end, my New Year Resolution is a simple one – get rid of my clutter! That means the archive in physical form. I’ve spent the last few years digitising my music paper library, so why do I still need the paper copies?

I’m currently in France and will be returning within a week to start putting papers online. Until then, you can view the copies I have here: Music paper Library. I’ll happily accept requests for complete years or single copies.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here are some NMEs featuring Bowie covers from the early and mid 1970s which I’ll soon have available for sale. Clicking on anyone will give you larger images to flick through.

 

 

You can enquire about copies via the comments here or by email to info@rockmine.com

It’s odd. A lot of my life seems to have revolved around a loose association with The Doors but when Ray Manzarek passed away recently, I was wandering the Midlands of England, looking at narrowboats and unable to comment here.

Back in the 1980s, I was lucky enough to interview Ray, Robbie and John when they were in London to launch “Alive She Cried”. Several weeks later, when Ray was back promoting his solo album, “Carmina Burana”, he was kind enough to invite me back to interview him at length about his solo work and life with The Doors.

I left our meeting with five hours of taped conversation, most of which has never been broadcast or even heard publicly. The tapes were recorded on a portable Uher reel-to-reel recorder on 5 inch reels. Both the tapes and recorder are somewhere in storage and would need to be digitized before being edited into something coherent. In the past, I had never found time to sit and sift through them. Ray was always there; a fixture of life and an articulate, entertaining ambassador for The Doors music.

My feeling was always one that at some point we’d catch up again and I could fill in the blanks surrounding the history and myth of The Doors but that will never now happen.

I think I need to dig out those tapes and find out if my old Uher still works…

It’s been a hot, sunny day in Paris and I found myself wading through a myriad images of Jim Morrison, stretched and contorted over every imaginable body shape.

There were still the cool rock chicks and the posing guys hoping that mimicking the image would give them the undeniable aura and presence that Jim possessed … but they were not alone. In equal number were the dispossessed middle aged. Crisp, new T-shirts, emblazoned with Doors images, forced over bodies once lithe and young; now fighting gravity and the excesses of beer.

Watching these older ‘pilgrims’ was like watching a host returning to a place of ritual in the hope of rekindling its youth. Shared memories and music; a common bond uniting languages.

Throughout the day, they came in procession along cemetery alleys lined with other pilgrims. Part meeting place, part bizarre catwalk set amidst lines of voyeurs. Admiring glances, updated tweets and laid back tokes contributed to a sense of carnival or picnic where the main guest was expected but unlikely to arrive.

What indeed would Morrison have thought of the pantomime being played out on a stage he’d built? The parade was constant. So many languages, looks and styles. The 21st Century Foxes shimmering in their vintage finery, hoping for the part of Pamela when it’s cast but they were few in number. Even scarcer were the clones of Jim himself. I only saw one who could read for the role but his accent was more Liepzig than L.A.

Amidst the throng he stood out. The face was right for a late 20s Morrison as were the hat and top but not the jeans. Clean, light blue denim against the malevolant black does not a rock star make.

There were family groups. In some cases, each adorned with a Doors T-shirt but they seemed to come and drift off all too quickly. Maybe it was the culture clash of generations but most likely it was just another stop on their sightseeing tour.

The crowd itself was good natured. There was little talk of Morrison or his music but lots on recording the event, for YouTube or Facebook and the mini-documentary they were making. It was like watching the world’s paparazzi finding themselves at a site without any celebrities. their predatory nature turned in on itself to look for anything worthy of the lens being triggered.

Whenever a camera was raised it was followed by dozens more. Had something happened or been seen that needed to be documented? Before long cameras and phones were focused on others taking snapshots of the crowd, there to experience an event.

Earlier in the morning, Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger had visited the grave. One mini-doc maker from Australia, captured the moment. In among the sea of bodies, Ray’s face was seen and then Robbie’s before they turned and were lost from shot. It was akin to a glimpse of the rarest animal or bird for a naturalist – Bigfoot briefly walking out of the woods, only to disappear for another how long?

Light relief came from time to time when a fan would vault the barrier to place a flower or joint on the grave, only to be chased away by cemetery security.

For me the day had a sad overtone. It seemed like the last time this would happen. It felt like watching WWWI survivors at the Cenotaph; their numbers dwindling with time until all that’s left is a memory.

For the old, it was a communal experience. A tribal gathering of allegiance to a belief in what so many had once shared. Old rituals of gathering around a record deck to share the latest sound and message of defiance from their icons are lost to the years.

It was easy to see how much has changed from the headphones that gave the young a solitary experience. Alone in a crowd, experiencing an event as if the only one there. So many seemed disassociated, merely dipping into the day before changing the playlist and going elsewhere. A constantly changing soundtrack depending on mood and venue. The sound cushioning them from the world around them.

Fans of the 60s and 70s had long since left their rebellion hanging in the wardrobe and yet they came in hope of finding a way to reconnect with a past that must seem so far away. They paid their respects and went off to a gathering outside a bar nearby. There was poetry and music and a chance to find a temporary home with like-minded souls.

Raucous sing-alongs peppered the afternoon as they sat and watched, enjoying the experience of not quite joining in. There was little interaction outwith groups of friends who’d made the pilgrimage together and when there was it seemed like an absurd game of top trumps.

For someone who’s spent years sitting in corners watching voyeuristically, it was a fascinating insight into social behaviour but I don’t know what to take from it. On a purely personal note, I found my pony tail lost in a gathering of other men in their fifties all sporting them.

A pichet of red wine drunk, it was time to move on to the Bataclan, where Ray and Robbie were playing. The queue had already formed and the odd scalper was touting tickets at 300 euros a pop but I didn’t fancy sweating it for an evening of communal singing.

I left the crowd and walked round the corner to the stage door, far enough away from the main road to hear the soundcheck or rehearsal start. At first, they verged from shambolic to chaotic but eventually seemed to find their stride. When they did get their act together, they were remarkably tight; working their way through “Texas Radio (and the Big Beat)”, “Hyacinth House”, “Crawling King Snake” and “L’America”. David Brock on vocals was surprising good and took on Morrison mantle well.

Preumably happy with their sound, they stopped and I took it as a cue to leave and take in more of what Paris had to offer.

James Douglas Morrison was a convicted felon who today was pardoned for his crime.

The Florida Clemency Board, chaired by Governor Charlie Crist, unanimously voted to grant a pardon but made it clear that they were neither seeking to re-examine the case, nor question the original verdict. The pardon was an acknowledgement of Morrison being a “son of Florida” whose body of work had stood the test of 40 years and continued to grow in stature. Members of the Board described Morrison as a drunk and a drug user.

Charlie Crist in his summing up, prior to announcing the pardon, made it clear that he was aware that the eyes of the world were watching but hoped it would reflect well on Florida. I think it did. Watching the live video feed, I was touched by the way that real people who had committed crimes were supported and decried by individuals equally vehement that their stance was just and ‘right’.

Most of the people, who stood before the board, spoke from the heart. One man applying for a pardon, really just wanted to be able to hunt again. He was given the right to get a firearms license but his pardon was turned down. Despite that, the governor praised much of his work and urged him to re-apply.

There were tales of restitution being made, of lives being changed; communities gathering round in support and people standing up to be counted. It was real life. In many ways it was during the Morrison consideration that it fell apart. An ex-policeman who had no involvement, but knew and respected the officer who had arrested Jim was there to speak against the pardon. It was a sadly farcical interval in a day that had seen moments of deep contrition but always real dignity from those who had come to make their case.

So, Morrison has been pardoned. Now what? Will it sell more records? I doubt it. Will it change anything? I doubt that too.

It did make me wonder what if Jim were still alive. Would he have sought a pardon for himself? Would he have needed to? Surely Morrison would have been the first choice for any TV company to make a fly-on-the-wall reality series about. Forget “The Osbournes”. Imagine “Life With The Morrisons”. Jim and Pam, their kids and the grandparents!

Ozzy was famously invited to dinners at the White House with George Dubya. Jim would surely have managed golf with the governor and maybe that other old Hell-raiser, Alice Cooper. Or would it have been poetry tours and maybe a chair at some Ivy League university?

All the rock stars who’ve had their own series, Tommy Lee, Brett Michaels, Gene Simmons et al, were just pretenders to the crown of rampant, out of control, king of shock-rock. I will leave you with this parting thought: the fact that Jim’s dead surely can’t stop anyone making the series, can it?

I’m completely puzzled by the desire to have Jim Morrison pardoned. Who benefits from it and what are the motives behind those seeking it?

Let’s get the crazed conspiracy theorists ideas out of the way first. Some believe Jim Morrison never died in Paris. He faked his death to get out of the music business and escape his notoriety along with avoiding a jail term or a long drawn out appeal process. In the unlikely event that this is what happened, I can see that getting a pardon would be necessary if Jim wanted to return to the States without being incarcerated. He would be 67 this coming week and might well wish to return to the Land Of The Free.

Since the days of the Vietnam War, Paris has provided refuge to a variety of Americans seeking solace in its bohemian bliss. Unfortunately, some of those still there seem out of step with the society that once offered them so much. With old age looming, what better time to go ‘home’.

That’s the most outlandish reason for a pardon and it has to be discounted but if you have a dollar or a pound burning a hole in your pocket then go down to your local bookmaker on Monday morning and put a bet on Jim turning up again if the pardon is granted. Just remember who gave you the tip!

Reality, unfortunately, is far more complicated than that. If, as we have to assume, Jim cannot benefit from this then who can? My knowledge of US politics is poor at best but when one hears of an outgoing governor considering clemency there is a temptation to see it as a way of getting their name in the history books.

Society, like the times, has changed. Politics and music were at opposite ends of the social spectrum but that polarization doesn’t exist any more. Presidents and Prime Ministers want to be rock stars while the rock stars lecture the politicians about morality. What has happened?

When Jim Morrison appeared in court, it’s quite possible that the only knowledge (if any) the then governor had about him or The Doors was the cost of policing their concerts. The judge who sat on the case would probably have had no idea about rock or pop and merely saw Morrison as the antithesis of all he held dear. Now, of course, we know what governors, presidents and popes have on their iPods and even High Court judges admit in the middle of cases to owning such things.

The Doors are, as they always were, cool but now it’s with the law-makers and decision-takers not the kids who rebelled to the music in the sixties. Today, everything and anything is sold to a soundtrack of rock music. Cars, gadgets, even political parties. Rock has lost its power to corrupt, excite or change by itself being corrupted by power.

Jim Morrison, once the outlaw; the shaman; the court jester of rock is cast forever as THE bare chested rock God. Androgynous; asexual; unthreatening. His image is pretty and far from unsettling but above all, it’s caught in time. Like a specimen in a cabinet of something extinct which we can no longer comprehend. He was. He didn’t continue to grow with us like the myriad other musicians with whom we grew up.

Like Jagger; the malevolent magus who showed us the dark underbelly of rock. The Satanic majesty in front of whose performance, the audience brutally sacrificed one of their own is now a Knight of the realm. Morrison was also a middle-class boy but Mick went on to be part of the society he once shocked. That society was epitomised by The Times of London but even it realised that the old order was changing in the latter part of the 1960s.

On July 1st 1967, William Rees-Mogg, its editor, wrote an editorial entitled, “Who Breaks A Butterfly On A Wheel?” While many hold that the leader was a criticism of the law against cannabis in the U.K. at the time, it was, in fact, pointing to a miscarriage of Justice. Mick Jagger had been sentenced to 3 months in prison for possessing amphetamines which had been bought legally in Italy. The leader, and the fact that The Times had seen fit to concern itself with something which many saw as trivial, was a turning point.

Jagger was released on bail and went on to appeal the conviction but it is possible that neither would have happened had it not been for The Times. London in 1967 was a long way from Miami in 1969. Liberal attitudes were sadly lacking in the America of the late sixties. New York and San Francisco may have been hedonistic hotspots but the rest of the US languished in a dull conservatism, reminiscent of the dour Pilgrim Fathers. London had no such hang-ups.

Oddly when The Doors played there, in 1968, they were listened to and treated like artists with a message. Jim didn’t have to resort to the histrionics of Stateside performances to get attention. The audience sat and watched; and took it all in. Morrison was an unfettered talent, lost without any guidance and seeking excess. He wrote the book on the self-destruction of rock stars and sadly too many read it and took it to heart. There is of course another, underlying, question. Had Jim’s ambition run dry? Did he replace talent with excess in a confused effort to rekindle that which he had lost or had he come to the realisation that he had nothing left to say?

When you can no longer entertain or inspire, what are you left with? Is it just shock? On stages like Miami’s Dinner Key Auditorium, were we just seeing Morrison play out his own tortured loathing of himself and his audience? If only he had been able to truly grasp that and sell it back to the world, Jim’s legend would have continued to grow. Look at Roger Waters and “The Wall”.

Pink Floyd built a physical wall between themselves and their fans. The Doors had massed ranks of police. One wonders if he would have learnt anything from the Punk explosion where raw aggression and violence to and from the audience became itself the subtext of performance.

So where does this leave us? If Jim Morrison’s conviction is wiped from the record books does it change what he was? The answer, of course, is no. It certainly can’t build on his legend. If anything it may only tarnish it. Morrison, the king of shock-rock, sanitized and airbrushed into being the purveyor of pop ditties and adolescent angst-ridden poetry.

I’m astonished that The Doors are letting this happen. I’d like to see crowds outside the Governor’s office protesting at the fact he might grant this pardon. How many man-hours have been taken up by this and how much will it cost? And what does it matter?

Switch on the TV any evening after 9pm and you’ll hear far worse than Jim Morrison ever uttered. You’ll see real nudity and often explicit sexual acts. Every night, the News carries disturbing, sometimes harrowing and often shocking images right into our living rooms.

You cannot look back on past times and past convictions and re-write history. If you’re going to do it with Morrison then you have to continue back through the ages. Every black activist who was jailed on trumped-up charges in the Deep South, for trying to claim their basic human rights, must be pardoned. Anyone persecuted for their religious beliefs before these times of tolerance, or homosexual jailed before the laws were changed must also have their convictions quashed.

The problem is where do you stop? Let’s pardon all those involved in the Salem Witch Trials and bury their remains in consecrated ground. It all seems so easy and is such a simplistic concept but times will change again. Maybe not in ten or fifty years but if we ever return to a prudish society, will the lawmakers then have the right to re-establish Morrison’s conviction?

It will never matter whether or not Jim Morrison exposed himself. He didn’t need to. Mass hysteria probably meant the audience believed he did, regardless of the facts. Let him rest in peace and leave the myth and legend intact.

I feel in the mood to burble a while. The recent viewing of “Oil City Confidential” has had me thinking more than a little about music and life. I’m absolutely fine as long as I never look in a mirror. On the odd occasion that I accidently stumble in front of one, the true extent of the rift in the space/time continuum becomes glaringly apparent. Am I really that old? Yes, I am. I could, perfectly legally, have great grand children – and I had the gall to moan about how old and shambolic Wilko Johnson looked last week.

… but I really don’t feel as old as he looked!

Oddly, my reaction has been to have a nostalgia binge. In the main, I was concerned with the music but as is always the case, I strayed into the realms of the internet and computers. They are, of course, all connected. It’s fifteen years ago that I opened my web site. In those days, you could leave your machine on overnight to download music and maybe, if you hadn’t dropped the connection, you’d have an album sitting on your desktop in the morning. Try it nowadays and it can take just one minute.

The sad thing about that is nothing has any real value. If you’ve got a Rapidshare account and a free day, you can download hundreds, if not thousands of albums. Browsing http://www.rlslog.net will mean that albums, games, TV shows, films and even e-books are just a free click away. In many ways, I think the music we listen to, like so much else in our lives has truly become disposable.

Back in the days, you could go into real shops selling real records, where you could stand in a booth and listen before buying. If it was an album, you’d sometimes eschew the ubiquitous carrier bag, unless it was transparent. Then, at least, your peers could wonder at your taste and style and envy the record you were taking home to play. Sans carrier, it was an under the arm job and that was fraught with danger. Would your garb clash with the latest artistic statement you were carrying? In these days of iPods filled with a lifetime’s listening, people really haven’t got a clue.

In my teens, I wore an khaki Army greatcoat when most around me were clad in Air Force blue ones. My personal feeling was this was a far better background for most albums one might be transporting. While it never seemed to be compulsory to have a Roger Dean cover under the arm, there does seem to have been something about them that appealed to the teenage male psyche. Those were innocent days. It was perfectly possible to walk out of a record shop and, because of the vinyl you were carrying, find yourself in someone else’s home, listening to them try and out play you in a rather sad version of top trumps.

Essentially, everyone was trying to garner “Prog Points”. The weirder the cover, the longer the tracks, the more unpronounceable the track titles or band name, the more inaccessible the music – the higher the “Prog Points”. These “innocent” days were possibly marred by a misuse of copious quantities of cannabis that dictated when an album scored incredibly high “Prog Points”, the listener could at least declare, “Oh, wow man!”

The 1980’s were a big let-down for me. I’d liked the energy of punk but the styles of the New Romantics were too bizarre for my tastes. I can easily accept that it probably had little to do with musical trends and far more to do with me, in my twenties, trying to find identity when it seemed that all around me had lost theirs. Decades can change but that doesn’t mean my listening habits had to. They didn’t but that was no excuse for some bands to treat their fans as lab-rats and expose them to a fanciful form of musical experimentation that would see some groups blatantly try to jump on any passing band-wagon.

In some cases, we even had musicians with hugely successful albums behind them, turning their back on on the recording studio and opting, instead, for the soundstage to create that most hideous of entities, the pop promo video. Now, of course, everyone is a video director, a reporter and … a blogger. I can accept that it offers everyone a freedom to communicate and artistic expression but it doesn’t seem to have any excitement.

For a collector of rock video like me, YouTube is a dream come true but it’s also my worst nightmare. I spent more than a decade trading video around the world and now, it would take you weeks to garner what I’ve collected. It all seems so lifeless. There may be ease of use and speed of download but it feels moribund. The fact that ad agencies now use viral e-mail campaigns is surely proof of this.

Rockmine, as a web site went online on July 18th, 1995. The world wide web, as it then was, had been in existence for 20 months. They were strange, exciting, halcyon days. I had an Apple Powerbook 180c. A stunning machine that looked a bit like a Tonka Toy computer and had a 9 inch colour screen and a massive 3mb RAM. With RamDoubler and MaxRam, I could con the poor beast into thinking it had 36mb RAM. Enough to run an email client, browse the web and work in PhotoShop! New, it cost well over £ 2,000. I bought mine second hand for £ 800 and have never had the heart to throw it out, even although it has long since ceased to boot up.

I used to frequent the newsgroups in those early days. The Internet Marketing Digest and the VRML list were my two favourites. Everyone was trying to work out how to market themselves and some of us had hopes of a true virtual reality in cyberspace. One day on the IMD, a member was kind enough to give all the other members a mail to which we could post details of our sites. He was Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo and he guaranteed we’d get listed within 24 hours! On the VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) list, the members once got an even stranger posting. We were asked to check out the US Army’s tank battlefield simulator that they were building on the web.

Technology keeps expanding and yet I seem to remain unexcited by it. The nearest I’ve got to it of late is a bit perverse. For the last 4 months, I’ve been without a Mac laptop which, sadly, has troubled me deeply. It’s the first time in nearly 15 years that I haven’t had a Mac portable with me at almost all times. The straightened strictures of the current economic climate have discounted any possibility of getting a new one.

I do have a PC laptop which, like any PC’s is a tad unstable but at least it is a portable computer – made all the more acceptable by the fact that it now runs Mac OS 10.5.5! How sad am I that instead of getting excited about music, I’m genuinely pleased to have conned a poor unsuspecting PC into running Apple software, even if it has to be as a virtual machine.

Here’s a screen grab of my desktop

and a close up of the System Profiler

OS X running on an Intel Celeron M! How cool is that?

Oh, and just in case you wondered, it is perfectly useable.