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bowie_gold4

I’ve finally finished the first of a small limited edition as a tribute to David Bowie. Each one is cast using a mould taken from a life mask made in late 1974 or early 1975 for the film, “The Man Who Fell To Earth”.

They’re cast in resin plaster and allowed to cure for 5 days prior to being gilded with 25 – 30 sheets of 23.5 carat, heavy gold leaf. A process that takes about 15 hours to complete. Finally, they’re given a protective coating of varnish to ensure the gold leaf isn’t damaged.

Not surprisingly, I’ve decided to call the edition, “Golden Years”. The finished product is a museum grade piece that makes a stunning exhibit and conversation piece. Further details can be found on Rockmine’s main site at: http://www.rockmine.com/rockmall/goldenyears.html

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I found myself in Aberdeen last night, in the middle of a blizzard of snow, wondering if it were possible to be further away from the Canvey Island of Dr. Feelgood. Not that odd a thought, as I was there to see “Oil City Confidential” at one of only four cinemas in Scotland showing this hybrid rock/cinema event.

Sitting at the start of the second decade of the 21st Century, watching a paean to proto punk, pub rock is probably pretty weird as evidenced by the almost embarrassing smattering of people that left probably 90% of the seats vacant. Director, Julian Temple had melded a strange amalgam of home movies, film noir clips, reconstructions, live footage and talking heads into a fatally flawed film. That isn’t to say it wasn’t a good film, or an interesting one. It was, but it didn’t gel as a film about Dr. Feelgood. Far more, it seemed to be an homage to Wilko Johnson.

If Wilko was dead, not Lee Brilleaux, I could see the point and how it would work; friends and band-mates recounting anecdotes and tall tales but this didn’t work for me – because of Wilko. His stage persona was lithe, frenetic, focussed but as narrator of his own story he seemed largely lost. It didn’t help that I seemed incapable of accepting that the old shambling figure before me seemed nothing more than a detached observer of his own life. This really couldn’t be Wilko.

From time to time, we’d see this narrator play something to illustrate part of the story but the playing, like his words, was all over the place. I met him once. Dr. Feelgood were in the middle of their first U.S. tour but during a few days off, Wilko flew back to London. I was at United Artists offices in the city, sitting in reception when he walked in. The exact details are somewhat clouded by the passage of time but the trip home had been prompted by the non-appearance of a bag of white powder in The States.

The receptionist greeted him warmly and having ascertained why he wasn’t on the other side of the pond, found the missing bag. Wilko then asked for a room with a typewriter and disappeared. On my way out from seeing the press officer, I was walking past an open door when the, by then wired, guitarist called out to me. He’d been busy battering out lyrics on a portable and asked me if I’d listen to some of them and give my opinion. I remember being impressed both with the occasion and words but that’s all the information I’ve retained.

That’s the crux of my problem. I remember the Wilko that I met and yet I seem unprepared to accept that I have aged as much as he has. Somehow, the juxtaposition of the 1970’s high-energy performances seen in the captured live footage, with the guitarist as he is now seemed all the sadder. I wanted an unsullied celebration of this all too English amphetamine fuelled, electric, delta blues. I wanted the snapshot in time.

Canvey Island was itself a major player in the film. The faded fifties glamour of the casinos and holiday camp were a powerful backdrop to the evolution of the band. Even seeing it now, it offered far less pathos than inspiration as we followed one of the regular 2 hour tours that takes fans round all the important Feelgood landmarks.

The fact that fans still take those tours is testament to something hugely important that was sidestepped to a large degree: there was a Dr. Feelgood after Wilko left the band. It might not have been as exciting an era as when he was part of it but it saw the band continue to grow as a group of musicians and Lee Brilleaux take his rightful place as one of Britain’s best blues men. They may never again have had the startling effect that their early years made on the music industry but it can easily be argued that without Feelgood, there would never have been Punk. Unlike Punk, of course, Feelgood weathered the changing musical tastes of several decades and stayed true to their roots. They also remained in the hearts and minds of fans of basic rhythm and blues.

For me, the most poignant part of the film was Wilko sitting with his life in cuttings and pictures spread out before him. I had a deep sense of intruding on a private moment, watching someone access personal memories that should never be lightly shared. That, more than anything else troubled me. It seemed that he had lost his own connection with those events; was seeing them as a third party and yet I understand the reasoning (if there is one).

Despite that pathos there was one real sense of emotion in the film. It came from Shirley Brilleaux, Lee’s widow. She was filled with such feeling for this man that saw her smile, laugh and cry whilst thinking of him. Such simple emotions that were obviously heartfelt left me hungering for more knowledge of her husband. In many ways, Shirley was the unexpected star of this film. She did Lee proud.

When the film petered out there was a break before the video feed was turned on again. It was just enough time to hit the bar and hope for better things to come. I wasn’t expecting much, based on what I’d seen of Wilko and the announcement that Alison Moyet was going to be a guest did not bode well for me. “Alf” from Yazoo with Wilko Johnson? No way!

Strangely, that was the unexpected highlight of the evening. She looked great and sounded amazing! As for the shambolic narrator, a simple truth became self evident – all he needed was an audience. Not a film crew but a real audience that he could strut his stuff in front of – and boy, did he strut! The moves, the energy and, of course, the licks were all there. I just wanted someone to put a “Wilko” wig on him and take me back 35 years. The video feed was stunning. To see every chop of his fingers on those strings, every chord change, was incredible. I just didn’t want to see the bushiness of his eyebrows or the lines on his face that the high definition picked out in minute detail.

Playing counterpoint to Wilko’s machine-gun like guitar was Norman Watt-Roy on bass. Watt-Roy goes back to 1968 with The Greatest Show On Earth, an early signing to the Harvest label. From there he joined Glencoe, then Loving Awareness and finally Ian Dury & The Blockheads. It was an odd sight. He seemed unaware of his guitarist but somehow, as is the case with all great bass players, totally attuned to him. Odd isn’t really the word. More outlandish. Part gargoyle let loose; part Orang Utang; part octopus. A figure dancing to his own tune yet producing the most incredible runs far beyond the reach of many. His dexterity on the fretboard and his obvious skill with picking and slapping the strings between the bridge and first pick-up was totally breathtaking.

There was one other guest onstage. A leather-jacketed harmonica player that looked totally familiar and yet I couldn’t believe I was seeing. Charles Shaar Murray, one of the greatest music journalists ever, showed he really knew how to blow a blues harp and paid a fine tribute to the one man missing from the stage – Lee Brilleaux. Somehow, that tied it all together. Wilko’s guitar was as good as it ever was but his singing was weak and reedy.

Alison Moyet lifted the event, as did C S M but really all it did was point out that Dr. Feelgood was at its best when the original line-up was together. A stunning guitarist capable of great lyrics and a wonderful vocalist who could make a harmonica wail unlike anyone outside the American blues elite. One thing is certain, Lee and the Feelgoods are missing from today’s music and that’s sad.

The last week should have seen me working in the house. There’s painting, plastering and varnishing to do but with Friday’s daytime temperature a chilly -8 C, it will have to wait.

It’s meant I’ve been huddled over a heater in front of the computer and working on my various blogs that haven’t had any attention paid to them for ages. The Rockmine Television one is very nearly finished. I’ve only got 2009 and the start of this year to do and that will be every U.K. number one up. At the moment, along with the Eurovision Winners, it amounts to 1157 videos.

I would have completed it had I not been distracted looking for festival footage. I started collecting rock video in 1982 and have cupboards full of video tapes that would take me years to digitize and as a result, I’ve become rather bored by the whole thing, or so I thought. A casual trawl through YouTube once again got me excited about video.

You mention festivals and everyone will say Woodstock, Isle Of Wight, Glastonbury, Reading, Knebworth, Phoenix, T In The Park, the Hyde Park Free Festivals and many more. Material from all of them is available but I discovered was there was footage of Fehmarn Isle, Bilzen Jazz ’67, ’68 & ’69, Windsor ’67, Copenhagen Jazz ’68, Rome ’68 and even Kastival ’68!

I know it’s rather sad to say it but I got rather excited by that. I went looking for footage of the Sunbury Festival in England and found another of the same name in Australia that I’d never even heard of. And I call myself a rock music archivist! There is just SO MUCH stuff out there! It really is a video collector’s dream. So, while I haven’t yet finished one listing, I’m adding masses of stuff for the next one. There are people who would say that sums me up perfectly but, hey! what the hell…

Having put a posting up several days ago, I was completely taken aback when my stats rocketed. It’s very strange to discover that the key to the blogs is just to be me. When I started www.rockmine.com back in 1995, I shut myself in my office for several days while I got to grips with HTML and then just put up the stuff that interested me. Somehow, over the years, I forgot that.

Many years ago, Radio One’s “Newsround” did a piece on me. I was the last article on it and it went straight back into Nicky Campbell, who described me as “anally retentive”. Fine praise from a James Bond collector! I prefer to remember Mick Wall who, when he was editor of Classic Rock, came to visit the archive with the board of directors of Future Publishing and called me “the real deal”. The editor of Total Guitar said I was “the God of anoraks”. Oh, happy days!

Yet here I am snowed in, wondering what on earth I’m doing in the wilds of Perthshire with a garage and a house full of books and papers when all I really need is in my head. Mid-life crisis is really no excuse for the amount of time I’ve taken to remember that! Back in 1975, I was working on a college project that needed a slogan or dictum. Being a pretentious sod, I came up with “If religion is the opiate of the people, then rock music is marijuana for the masses”. Somehow, I forgot that myself.

If you want to get up, or get down, get maudlin or melancholic, energized or ecstatic, music can get you there. Since I was a kid, I’ve known that and yet it’s so easy to lose track of the simple constants and truths we hold dear. Oddly, in amongst more than 1,000 number ones, I found songs to do all of those things and songs that took me back to so many moments in my past. There are even songs I hated that had other memories attached that give them significance way beyond their artistic value.

That’s what makes rock and pop wonderful. There are tracks today that don’t do anything for me and yet they’ll be no less significant for someone twenty or thirty years from now than the music that I still listen to. The secret may just to be open to everything. That’s what made John Peel such a great DJ, he listened to everything with an open mind and an open heart.

If music touches you, it doesn’t matter who it’s by, or what it is. All you can say is that you feel it.

I am, as they say, a tad frustrated. Having exceeded a certain age, I should be past my mid-life crisis but it seems to continue unabated.

Back in the mists of iTime, I effectively shut myself away in my office for about five days. I did venture out for meals and shagging but the rest of the time was spent trying to master HTML. The mission was a success, I sort of got the hang of it and hand coded a site that went online on July 18th, 1995. Fuck! Is it really that long ago? It feels like yesterday and yet, it also feels like another lifetime.

Now, here I am with a web-site and a blog – but am I doing either? The answer is simple. No, I’m not.

What you get comes straight from my head. Sometimes, I will accept, I have no idea what’s going to present itself on the screen in front of me. It’s stream of consciousness, or drivel (whichever you might think). The one thing that’s been a constant, since that very first day, is it came out of my head. It wasn’t checked with someone or edited and yet the blog has ground to a halt.

Someone has been very sweet and was checking it for me on a daily basis but I realised that it was screwing me up beyond belief. Since I was in my teens, I’ve written, poetry, porn, crap of all sorts but it just came from my fingers. I didn’t need to think about it and I didn’t. I typed it out, posted it – and waited for a cheque or a rejection note (and in some cases, come-ons from the editors of top-shelf magazines). It was a laugh, a job, something to do but I always took it seriously. It was me. Just as this is.

My head has always been so fucked that it’s a wonder I could ever function on anything resembling a normal state. I come from a dysfunctional family but then, who doesn’t. I hate confrontation but am incredibly confrontational. I always have been but who really cares. We’re all like that. It’s year upon year of suppressed anger that eventually takes over. You lose sense of yourself and yet somewhere in the back of your mind you can often find the key. One moment, one situation, where rather than face a confrontation, you simply give in. That moment, where you want to say “no” more than anything and don’t, is where it all goes wrong.

Is this a semantic debate or a rock blog? It’s both, believe me. For me at least, it is. I have to take ownership of what I have done and continue to do. The mistakes I’ve made are numerous but as long as I take responsibility for them, it’s fine. They’re in the past and gone but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to learn from them.  I have a vivid memory of sitting on the floor as a small child playing with a construction set and a friend of my mother’s asking why I wasn’t out on a bright summer’s day playing with friends. Before I could answer, my mother did. “He’s happier playing on his own in here”, she said.

Needless to say, I didn’t want to be stuck in the corner of a room listening to two women bitch about everything and everyone they knew but I didn’t open my mouth and say anything. Here we are, four and a half decades on and not much has changed, except for one thing. I know where I fucked up and it makes me desperately unhappy. It’s amazing how satisfying even saying, “No, I don’t want coffee tonight” can be.

The archive; the almanac; the memorabilia – all of them are, in some ways, extensions of myself but they’re not me. Now, all I want to do is do something with them. In the case of the garage and the huge piles of newspapers I’ve found a solution I’m comfortable with. I’m burning them! A one-inch pile of tabloids will easily make two paper “logs” more than 3 inches in diameter. They burn for at least an hour and make very little ash. Carefully positioned at night, they’ll even keep a fire going until the next morning. Ripping up things – and creating warmth – what could be more satisfying?

In amongst this upheaval, I’m trying to rebuild my iTunes library. In the last few years, it’s quadrupled in size but I look at it with deep sadness. Everything that ever gave me joy is there but the artists that created those works are pale shadows of their former selves. They no longer inspire me. I want someone to do that again. I want to hear something new and exciting but I struggle, I really do.

If it wasn’t for the wealth of sites on blogspot.com providing links from everything from the most obscure 60’s releases to albums that will hit the shops in a month or so, I would go nuts! The music industry whinges on and on about illegal downloads but it’s all crap. Back in the “good old days” you could go into a record shop and while away an hour or two in listening booths, or in later years at “listening stations” but you could listen to new releases by anyone and everyone. That doesn’t happen anymore. back in the ’60s and ’70s the amount of music on mainstream TV channels was vast in comparison to today. From “Crackerjack” to “The Black & White Mistrel Show” and even “Tonight”, you could see and hear what was happening in music.

We’re not talking about the latest project from Simon Cowell here, we’re talking about real music, written and performed by real bands who had slogged for years paying their dues in flea-pits and bars across the land. I really miss that.

At one point, I thought my problem was that I didn’t care anymore but it’s really the opposite. I care too much. I hope I never, ever stop caring but I need new, exciting music and I’m not getting it. If you know of anything exciting, send it to me. I AM SERIOUS! And don’t worry what it is. My tastes are extremely eclectic but one thing remains constant. The best single ever recorded – “London Calling” by The Clash.

 
From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Monday 10th February):

Birth

1940. James “Jimmy” Merchant (Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers) born in New York.

On Tour

1980. Sammy Hagar‘s UK tour which should have started today at Portsmouth’s Guildhall is postponed. His son is in hospital in the States with kidney problems and Hagar wants to be with him.

In Court

1988. The breach of contract case brought by Zang Tumb Tumb Records against Holly Johnson finishes at the High Court in London. Mr. Justice Whitford, presiding, rules that restraints in Johnson’s contract were unreasonable. He dismisses the label’s action and refuses to grant the injunctions they were seeking to ensure that Holly would not record for another company. Giving his verdict, the judge said: “Mr. Johnson, who I found entirely reasonable, was, in my judgement, entitled to free himself from these onerous obligations… He is a singer. He wants to make a living”. Holly, who was tied into a ZTT contract as a member of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, had been looking for a solo contract with another label. The judge adjourned the case until a later date when the matter of costs will be decided. On leaving the court, Holly (27) said, “This is a great day for recording artists everywhere and I believe this will help them in the future to get better and fairer agreements. Now I just can’t wait to start work again”.

In Hospital

1998. Frank Sinatra is once again admitted to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles following reports that “Ol’ Blue Eyes” is suffering from blood in his urine which may indicate bladder cancer.

On Television

2004. The Ellen DeGeneres Show including musical guest, Sting

Death

2002. Folk singer Dave Van Ronk dies in New York University Medical Center, where he’d been undergoing treatment for colon cancer. His management company said that during the treatment “his cardio-pulmonary system failed”. Van Ronk (65) had been an influence on many of the singer songwriters from the sixties onwards, including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian and Suzanne Vega.

Music Paper From Today
 
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New Musical Express from 10th February 1968. A copy taken from Rockmine’s almost complete run of U.K. music papers. The front page is mainly given over to a rare gem of UK psych pop from The Nerve. Original copies sell for more than £ 30. Both the A and B side can be found on the Psych compilation CD, “Magic Spectacles”. 

Daily Babble
 
As you can see from the image above, I’ve got a working A3 scanner again. Now all I have to do is work my way through the thousands of music papers I have! I need to sort my system for scanning. I pulled out 4 last night and my office is now in total disarray. I took 4 piles out from different shelves and different papers and now I can’t move around the 8 piles I created. Aarghh!
 
I went out to the garage to look for some other mags to scan and found a load of “Sounds”. All had paper tabs in for news stories that I was meant to include in The Almanac. What was that I was saying about having a system? I suppose I better try and tidy up – or do some more scanning… 


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© Copyright 1995 – 2008 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Sunday 9th February):

Birth

1942. Carole King born Carole Klein in Brooklyn, New York.

On Tour

1963. On the Helen Shapiro tour, The Beatles perform at the Empire Theatre, Sunderland, Durham, playing two shows during the evening. The first leg of the Shapiro tour is due to finish tomorrow with another two shows in Peterborough but The Beatles will not be appearing. Their place will be taken for one night only by Peter Jay & the Jaywalkers as they’ll be in London recording their first album. The Beatles will be back with the tour when it restarts on February 23rd.

In Church

1991. Andrew Lloyd Webber and his new wife Madeleine have their marriage blessed at a church service followed by a reception at the couple’s mansion in Ecchinswell, Hants. They were married in secret at Westminster Register Office on February 1st. Only five close family members and friends attended. They had originally planned a full church service for today but felt the publicity would not be appropriate during the Gulf War.

In Hospital

1967. Lulu is admitted to hospital in London to have her tonsils removed. The 18 year old singer is cancelling all engagements for this month, including a series of six shows for Scottish Television.

On Television

1973. The Midnight Special (U.S.A.). Show 3. Host: Johnny Rivers. Guests: Ace Trucking Company; Albert Hammond; Merilee Rush; The Spinners; Steely Dan; Paul Williams; Wolfman Jack.
The Partridge Family (U.S.A.) in an episode entitled, “Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex…But Couldn’t Pronounce”.

Death

1981. Bill Haley is found dead on his bed by one of his children at his home in Harlingen, Texas. The rocker was fully clothed and it’s thought he died from a heart attack, probably six hours before being found. He was 55.


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© Copyright 1995 – 2008 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Sunday, 8th February):

Birth

1946. Alfredo Fito (Canned Heat) born Adolpho De La Parra in Mexico City, Mexico.

On Stage

1963. Shane Fenton is pelted with eggs when he appears at a lunchtime rock ‘n’ roll session at the Lyceum Ballroom in The Strand, London. Fenton was a last minute replacement for Jess Conrad and was miming when the eggs started to fly.

In Court

1980. David Bowie‘s marriage to Angie ends as their divorce is finalised today. David gets custody of their son, Zowie (now calling himself Joe). Angie gets a cash settlement of £ 30,000. She’s also telling the world that she expects to make another £ 100,000 by writing her memoirs!

In Hospital

1997. The New Edition reunion tour runs into problems in Los Angeles. Bobby Brown fails to show for the gig claiming he has flu and couldn’t perform. If that wasn’t enough, Ronnie Devoe walked off stage during the set after seeing his uncle, the group’s manager Brooke Payne, collapse with chest pains in the wings. Devoe accompanied his uncle to hospital where he was checked over before being discharged to rest at home.

On Television

2008. Later… With Jools Holand. (BBC-2, U.K.) Mayra Andrade; Morrissey; Ida Maria; British Sea Power and Joe Brown. Morrissey performs four tracks. Here he is with one of them, “All You Need Is Me”.

Death

1973. Max Yasgur, the farmer on whose land Woodstock was staged, dies of a heart attack in a Florida hospital.

 

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© Copyright 1995 – 2009 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.