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My rake through the archive is continuing apace. It’s a major weeding, deciding what to keep, what to digitise and what to sell. The latter is hugely important as this behemoth of a thing I created 32 years ago is a veritable money pit.

I will get back to having useful information on here in the not too distant future but for now I’m on a bit of a self-publicity kick. Not my self but Rockmine. Three decades has left me with more memorabilia, music papers, audio, video and ephemera than I can possible use myself, so it’s time to put on my sales cap and act like your favourite used car salesman.

Having trawled eBay and the greater web, it’s clear I’m sitting on loads of stuff that just isn’t available and it’s about time I got rid of it. Just looking at The Beatles items I have, there’s something for every fan.

There’s some original 60’s memorabilia – Fan Club membership cards with envelope and renewal form, bubblegum cards, Beatles stockings (!), a John Lennon signed EP and much more. More recent memorabilia includes rare PR photos of John & Yoko, a full press pack for the Red & Blue albums and a Dark Horse publicity pack for George. There are also promo posters for George’s solo albums and The Beatles Anthology albums.

Finally, there are music papers and other magazines. There’s a New Musical Express going online very soon that has full page adverts on front and back pages for “Abbey Road”. Needless to say, there are also colour supplements and a selection of magazines and comics, including a rare British edition of the Dell’s 1964 “The Beatles”.

It would be nice to think I could get it all online instantly but it takes time as we are talking about thousands of items. You’ll find updates to recent additions on Rockmine’s front page: http://www.rockmine.com.

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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.

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 (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.

 

Go to Rockmine’s main site here.

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

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Monday, 26th January):

Birth

1963. Andrew Ridgeley (Wham!) born in Windlesham, Surrey.

On Tour

1997. Lars Ulrich (Metallica) secretly marries his girlfriend Skylar in secret at a small ceremony in Las Vegas. James Hetfield does the honours as best man/witness.

In Hospital

1998. Joey Ramone‘s appearance as DJ at Toronto’s Phoenix Club is cancelled when it’s announced that the 46 year old punk has been ordered not to work for two monts. Ramone was hospitalised for tests earlier in the month. Although his management told The Toronto Sun that “Joey’s condition is very serious” they gave no other details.

In Church

1962. The Catholic Bishop of Buffalo, New York State bans The Twist being danced, sung or talked about at any catholic school or youth event.

On Television

1978. Rockpalast. (WDR, West Germany). Roy Harper (WDR Studio-L, Koln). Here he is with “Another Day”

Death

1991. Singer Karen Young dies in Philadelphia from a bleeding ulcer.

Babble

It’s amazing the things you find by accident. Looking for the clip of Roy Harper I was more than a little taken aback to see the man himself pictured in Sky Trax “studio” back in 1985. What took me by surprise was that I set up the interview and live set that he did and apart from my own VHS copy, thought it sunk without trace. It seems that “Rock Arena” rebroadcast the “Pat Sharp Show” session.

I’d set up a small Scottish tour for Roy and was looking to get as much publicity as possible. He was touring in Europe before hitting Scotland, so Sky Trax was perfect to promote him there and would certainly help me. Anyone I contacted in the BBC or ITV stations seemed to take fright at the mention of his name and his promo video for “Elizabeth” was deemed unplayable by most stations. That meant getting Roy in to do a live set.

Sky Trax studios were hidden away behind the Post Office Tower in London and he’s pictured in a loading bay, straight off the street. they weren’t used to live sessions and we were plagued by mains hum that no-one seemed able to eliminate. Happy days indeed! Here he is with “One Man Rock ‘n’ Roll Band”:

 

Go to Rockmine’s main site here.

 

 

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