Dylan at Blackbushe Airport 1978
This was just around the time that ‘Street Legal’ came out and a few of us decided to get tickets. Christine had been a Dylan fan since the early sixties, in fact it was Christine who first got me listening to him. Like a lot of other people I had heard him and thought he couldn’t sing. But when I started listening to his early albums I realised what a phenomenal songwriter and singer he was. The first album that made an impression was ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’. There are some fantastic songs on there – ‘My Back Pages’, ‘Chimes of Freedom’, ‘To Ramona’. It was a move away from the protest songs with which he had, much to his displeasure, become associated. But the album I was ultimately most impressed by was ‘Bringing it All Back Home’. This was where he made a big move from acoustic to electric music. Although he had used electric guitars and drums before this, on ‘Bringing it All Back Home’ one whole side of the album was electric, starting with what is, in effect, a beat poem put to music, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ which, in D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary ‘Don’t Look Back’ is the music to what I think is the greatest music video ever made, long before music videos were the mindless accompaniments to music they have become. See what you think…..
Anyway, back to what this post was meant to be about, Dylan at Blackbushe. As I said earlier a few of us decided to get tickets. I can’t remember exactly who went, my memory generally isn’t of the best. It surely can’t have been the alcohol and valium that I was consuming. Christine and I were there, of course and, as far as I can remember, an old school friend of mine called Roy and his wife? girlfriend? companion? There may have been others. We travelled down in, I think, Roy’s camper van. When we got there the place was huge, a massive field surrounded by a fence and then further surrounded by car-parks. I recall later in the day deciding to go back to the van for something and it taking forever to find it. Continue reading
In the late 70s I was rhythm guitarist in a band called Dilettante. I had been playing with a more RnB type band called A.K.A. Bats and was approached by two musicians, Dave Paillow and Mike Bannon, to see if was interested.
The band didn’t have a name then but we sat and talked about what their influences were. Mike was very keen on Captain Beefheart and dub reggae which immediately made me interested. Although I was enjoying playing with A.K.A. Bats and we had done some good gigs, including headlining at the Kulture Shock event in the Great Hall at Lancaster University, the music we were playing wasn’t really the sort of stuff I wanted to do. The band was popular and a lot of the material was good for dancing, but I really wanted to be involved in something more experimental.
This was around the end of the first wave of punk and a lot of the music I was listening to, apart from old favourites like Bowie, Zappa, and Genesis (alright, we all have our weakness, but only Peter Gabriel Genesis, not the Phil Collins stuff), was punk (Sex Pistols, X-Ray Specs) and post-punk (XTC, Magazine). Plus I was getting in to some of the new US bands, particularly Patti Smith whose ‘Horses’ album had really made an impression. And of course there was always Beefheart.
So I quit A.K.A. Bats and joined the newly named Dilettante. We started rehearsing at what was the Musician’s Co-op rehearsal room upstairs from Single Step. It’s now the Whale Tail cafe but then it was just a big, bare room with no heating, no carpets and bare stone walls. I’ve tried to find a photo of it as it was then but no luck. If anyone has any photos from the time I’d be most grateful. Continue reading
Lancaster in the 70s was very different from how it is now – less alternative, fewer students, more traditional. But it had one thing we don’t have now, a really good indoor market. And in the market was the best record shop around, Ear Ere.
That’s where I bought my copy of Lou Reed. As far as I can remember Ear Ere was originally up on the balcony overlooking the market. You could go in and browse the albums, listen on headphones, and buy whatever you wanted – and I wanted all of them!
This is when Christine and I lived on Havelock Street, before we moved to Golgotha Village. I can’t remember if it was before or after Matthew was born, but it was definitely around the time. So I took it home and listened to it…….. and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t like the Velvet Underground stuff and felt as though he didn’t really know where he was going without the band. And he had a strange assortment of backing musicians (Steve Howe! Rick Wakeman!). Not exactly cutting edge rock musicians. So I took it back, told them I didn’t like it, and they let me take something else. They were great like that at Ear Ere. I can’t remember what I swapped it for. Continue reading
Second Dive – ‘When it’s good, it’s really good’
In the mid to late seventies I was married to my first wife and living in a tiny little cottage at the top of a hill in Lancaster, an area called Golgotha Village.
Golgotha Village. The tiny house towards the right was ours
I was going through a tough time; anxiety, panic attacks, drinking too much (far too much). There was a pub in Lancaster called The Farmer’s Arms run by a couple called Eddie and Peggy where the local misfits, tokers and bikers used to congregate and I spent a lot of time there. My habit was to drink too much, smoke too much then sit at home listening to music, usually on headphones as the house was so small that it was impossible to listen over speakers without bringing the neighbours knocking on the door and complaining. I’ve just remembered that I had my stereo housed in an old upright 78rpm cabinet, with the record deck where the 78 deck would have been and the amplifier and tuner etc. in the bit below where the doors are. I thought it was really cool as, when it was all closed up it just looked like an antique record cabinet.
Anyway, one of the albums I listened to constantly was Diamond Dogs and, in particular, the track ‘Sweet Thing’. It seemed to echo the way I was feeling much of the time.
We had a friend called Dave (Devo) who visited us regularly on his Triumph Bonneville to help us roll cigarettes and listen to music. One day we were listening to ‘Sweet Thing’ when he suddenly said;
“The lyrics are wrong, it’s not ‘When it’s good it’s really good and when it’s bad I go to pieces’, it’s ‘When it’s good it’s really good and when it’s bad I go to’t Farmer’s’.
Not a great joke in itself but what he was really commenting on was the fact that I was pretty much falling to pieces and that alcohol was the way I was dealing with my breakdown. Not longer after this my wife divorced me; thank god she didn’t stay around for more misery and heartbreak. I lost touch with Devo and wonder what he’s up to now; whether he’s still riding around on his beloved Bonneville or, like the rest of us, settled down and become normal.
I still listen to Diamond Dogs occasionally and still think it’s one of Bowie’s better albums. Sweet Thing is still a great track but I’m not going to pieces now and haven’t been in the Farmer’s Arms for probably thirty years.
I wonder what happened to the 78 cabinet. It might be worth a bit of money now.