Posts Tagged ‘The Incredible String Band’

Tir Na Nog

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

tirnanogstronguk, Tir Na Nog, Chrysalis, Matthew Fisher, John Martyn, Nick Drake

Listen: Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog
Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog

I was desperate to see Tir Na Nog when they toured the US in ’72. It never happened.

Although being the college concert chairman at the time, having pushed through Rory Gallagher, Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, Colosseum, Atomic Rooster, The Electric Light Orchestra, The Pretty Things and The Incredible String Band against everyone’s “who the fuck are these people” stances in one school year mind you, it didn’t really allow me any more puts. By then, the budget was spent anyways. Otherwise, they’d have been there.

Tir Na Nog’s second and third albums were released in the States, and I particularly loved that third one, STRONG IN THE SUN. It was, well still is, a seminal recording, right up there with the best from Tyrannosaurus Rex, John Martyn and Nick Drake. Indeed the album includes a cover of his ‘Free Ride’, itself worthy of 7″ status. Tracks like ‘Cinema’ rivaled some of Pink Floyd’s tracks from MEDDLE for being…cinematic, funny enough. If you’d told me Norman Smith, Denny Cordell or Peter Asher had produced some of this stuff, I’d have believed you. The album is that good.

Indeed, Matthew Fisher from Procol Harum was in charge of production, and as with similar duties on Robin Trower’s BRIDGE OF SIGHS, did an A+ job.

When I up and headed for London during summer ’73, I took a night off from The Marquee to see them play a small, sit-down-cross-legged room, God knows the name of it now. But the show remains a vivid memory.

There was a time, around ’85, and Howard Thompson was looking at cover songs for 10000 Maniacs. I guess as a potential single, possibly a one-off film submission or something. I recommended ‘Strong In The Sun’. I thought Natalie Merchant would have done it some beautiful justice and Tir Na Nog could have gotten some well deserved recognition. Didn’t happen. ‘Peace Train’ was chosen instead, against the band’s wishes. Years later, turns out Natalie insisted it be removed from that album. Elektra complied..

There has to be someone out there in need of a great song to revive their sagging career: Nelly Furtado, Jewel, Anna Nalick, Five For Fighting, Vanessa Carlton, Paula Cole or wait, Natalie Merchant.

The Pretty Things

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Listen: Havana Bound / The Pretty Things
Havana Bound / The Pretty Things

It’s May 19, technically the anniversary of booking The Pretty Things at my college. I celebrate it every year, well given this also marked my first date with Corinne, it’s impossible to forget. Talk about impressing a girl, this totally did the trick. Yes, our first date was a concert by The Pretty Things, with all the backstage trimmings.

I was the school’s event chairman and conveniently, there was no concert committee. None of the other students were interested. I believe that reality is known as a dream come true. Not only did I worm my way into the campus radio station as music director, I was also booking whoever I wanted with the school’s money. A spoiled freshman, that was me.

Needless to say, only British acts got the slots: Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, Rory Gallagher, Atomic Rooster, The Incredible String Band and The Pretty Things. Not a bad lineup for year one.

Given they had a manager that turned down The Ed Sullivan Show, it’s no wonder The Pretty Things never made it to the US during the 60′s. Hard to believe, and neither did The Small Faces.

After having called it quits post their album PARACHUTE flopping in ’70; it was like a miracle that The Pretty Things were reforming to record FREEWAY MADNESS in late ’72. Seemed a lifetime then, and the news was a big deal to the small but already twisted following The Pretty Things had acquired.

Then, on top of that, a premier US tour for spring ’73 was announced. It seemed too good to be true and booking them became my mission in life, School work tabled, getting The Pretty Things to town top of the list. Success, I got the band to play for $500 on May 19th with The James Cotton Band as openers. See the poster below.

Never did I envision at the time that one day, years later, I’d have my own label and actually reissue the FREEWAY MADNESS album. Never ever crossed my mind, but life can take you on the wildest ride if you let it.

Fast forward to ’94, The Medicine Label is up and running out of the Warner Brothers New York office. Mo Ostin, then chairman of both Warner and Reprise, but based in Burbank, would often visit our building at 75 Rockefeller Plaza. On one particular trip, we were talking in the hallway, and it just occurred to me that this was the moment, so I asked, could I re-release The Pretty Things album from the catalog, then lying dormant having been unavailable for years.

“Sure. Good idea, just check to see it hasn’t been scheduled by the reissue department.”

I nearly blacked out with excitement, unlike the reissue team, who smelled a potential predator upon hearing the news.

“Not to worry guys, it’s a one-off.” Reissue departments were very cautious of the finite back catalog from which they drew.

Suddenly, with FREEWAY MADNESS on the schedule, the original 1/2″ master tapes were delivered to my office along with cover art films, bios, press shots, studio logs, you name it. There sat history in the Warner Brothers pouch, as it was referred.

Well who better to write new liner notes than Phil May?

Luckily, we’d been introduced a few years earlier by Shannon O’Shea, a UK friend who was managing the band around ’90-’91. I would often stay in Notting Hill Gate, and Phil lived just down the street from my hotel, on Talbot Road. We spent many an afternoon in his local pub. A nicer guy you will not meet, and the recollections. Endless.

So yeah, Phil May was only too happy to write those CD reissue liner notes, and while rummaging for some bits to post here, I found the agreement below between the WB art department and Phil for the job:

The real moment on FREEWAY MADNESS was ‘Havana Bound’. It was picture perfect Pretty Things, and originally the UK B side to ‘Over The Moon’, released in ’72 as the album’s official single.

Huh? The B side? Not to take anything away from ‘Over The Moon’, great great song but come on. What planet did that decision originate from? ‘Havana Bound’ deserved a big red A label.

Well now was my chance to right wrong so we scheduled a US 7″ of ‘Havana Bound’ to promote the CD reissue and service college radio but mostly because I just had to have it on an A side. Few things have been more exciting than the day those box lots arrived from the plant.

Believe it, the record business in it’s heyday was a euphoric free-for-all.

Above: The promo only insert from the ’73 US release of FREEWAY MADNESS
Below: The 8×10 press shot that accompanied FREEWAY MADNESS mailings to US journalists in ’73

Steeleye Span

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Listen: Hard Times Of Old England / Steeleye Span

I can completely understand why some folks found Maddy Prior’s voice grating. Never really noticed until now, all these years later. Sometimes I’m clearly asleep at the wheel. For instance, during the commercial heyday of southern rock, I couldn’t for the life of me get why the US was not into Roy Wood’s Wizzard or Sparks. So there you go.

Folk rock, as with jazz, seems allowed to deal themselves the occasional out of jail free card. In the case of a voice, there are plenty of folkies who get appreciated, where in any other genre, that same person would be considered unacceptable. The Incredible String Band or The Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee come to mind.

Whatever. ‘Hard Times Of Old England’ was a big favorite when current. I played the hell out of it on my college station, not exactly a fit in upsate New York.

Although the single was not a UK chart success, unlike some of Steeleye Span’s other releases, one would have thought it might turn into an anthem, ever present on pub jukeboxes across the land. A bit like The Strawbs‘ ‘Part Of The Union’.

The record certainly got embraced by the BBC heavily, the public just didn’t buy it.

Joni Mitchell

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

JoniYellowUKA, Joni Mitchell, Reprise, Asylum

Listen: Big Yellow Taxi / Joni Mitchell JoniBigYellowTaxi.mp3

When it came to folk, I stuck to the UK stuff. Even then, it was never high on my list. I did have a mad patch for Fairport Convention, especially around the time of FULL HOUSE and ANGEL DELIGHT. Plus there were moments when Lindisfarne or The Incredible String Band topped the list. As for the North American stuff, not so much. Songs here or there.

Warner Brothers started doing these double album samplers for $2 (including postage) around 1968, showcasing the spectrum of their varied roster. They had most of the good progressive acts, and one of the four sides was always skewed toward folk, including the likes of Pearls Before Swine, Tom Northcott, The Pentangle or Joni Mitchell. Often the songs were album tracks, but on this one occasion, ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ ended up a single. Despite my ambivalence toward female singer/songwriter voices in general (Joan Armatrading and Phranc excluded), I developed an unlikely attraction for Joni Mitchell’s. Her forays into other musical styles worked fine, better even, in my book.

JoniRaisedUKA, Joni Mitchell, Asylum, Reprise

Listen: Raised On Robbery / Joni Mitchell JoniRaisedOnRobbery.mp3

COURT AND SPARK was one of those albums that everyone loved. Like Carole King’s TAPESTRY, it was hard to find a non-believer. As a career step, she took that big one forward, proving her future would be long and respected. The album may be flawless.

‘Raised On Robbery’ got a lot of album rock play, but not much Top 40. Perfect. It proved her depth at a time when full length sales meant way more than the single. It was almost jazzy, who knew then it’s dixieland leanings would play out down the road as she took on Charles Mingus?

JoniHelpMeUKA, Joni Mitchell, Reprise, Asylum

Listen: Help Me / Joni Mitchell JoniMitchellHelpMe.mp3

COURT AND SPARK gained such traction, and sold so well, there was no choice but for Top 40 to play the next single. ‘Help Me’ always sounded good over the air. I don’t believe I switched it off once. Deservedly, it climbed to #7 and became a staple for years.

JoniFree, Joni Mitchell, Reprise, Asylum

Listen: Free Man In Paris / Joni Mitchell JoniParis.mp3

One night in the late 60′s both Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins played shows in Syracuse – at different venues. What were the promoters thinking? ‘Both Sides Now’, written by Joni and then a hit for Judy, lured me to attend the latter’s. I would say “mistake’, but to be fair, Judy Collins was great that night, mentioning her good friend was across town and thanking her for the hit.

The Incredible String Band

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

incrediblethismoment, The Incredible String Band, Elektra

Listen: This Moment / The Incredible String Band IncredibleMoment.mp3

incredibleblackjack, The Incredible String Band, Elektra, The Gun Club, Steeleye Span, The White Stripes

Listen: Black Jack Davy / The Incredible String Band IncredibleBlackJack.mp3

Acquired taste. Okay, I agree. During the late 70′s folk boom and the accompanying blind acceptance of, I didn’t know what to make of some of these acts. I don’t think anybody did. The Incredible String Band were English so I put the time in to find some positives. I mean everyone needed a few essential folk genre bits for the collection. And they did have some happening album covers. Seems they released several in very short order – so many that I never ended up buying one out of confusion. Then I LOOKED UP came out and started to get a few plays on the local college station, Syracuse University’s WAER. I took the plunge and bought. My two, by far, favorite tracks (‘This Moment’ and ‘Black Jack Davy’) were A and B sides in the UK. How handy.

Shortly thereafter, the SU Concert Committee booked them into a weird part chapel/part venue joint on campus. It was usually reserved for jazz events, don’t remember the name, but I did see The Soft Machine there. Most likely, they could be considdered jazz if you stretched it – and I’m glad they did – wow, great show.

Anyways, The Incredible String Band were spectacular. Featured the expanded (Mike and Robin plus girlfriends Rose and Licorice) lineup from I LOOKED UP and the about to be released U. In hindsight, the girlfriends were a bit of a Spinal Tap move sans tambourines. Still, we loved it.

Whoever Black Jack Davy was, many a song has been written about his folklore reputation. This version is not to be confused with other excellent ones of the same title by The Gun Club, Steeleye Span and The White Stripes.

And the above ‘This Moment’ (3:19), to my knowledge, is a 7″ vinyl only version. Every LP and CD contains the full 6:09 minute take.