and the Devil himself...

and the Devil himself...
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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Syd Barrett, Bob Masse and Psychedelic Art and Music


Syd Barrett

Iconic psychedelic artist Bob Masse has illustrated Pink Floyd with his colorful imagination since 1966 when he designed this amazing poster for one of their London shows:


When first formed, the true mind behind the music and the concept, at the time a revolutionary one, of adding multi-media, (including the light shows now common place in many artists’ performances), was a man named Syd Barrett. Pink Floyd recently commissioned Bob to design the poster at the heading of this feature to commemorate the anniversary of his death, (July 7, 2006) and to honor his role in their creation, which, as the original songwriter and front man, was substantial. From his naming the band after his favorite two Blues singers to his being the crazy diamond you hear them  tell to ’shine on’,  he remained a core element, even in his absence. 



Syd, regrettably, was so psychedelic that he seems to have gotten lost in the very trip that made the music what it was and left the band fairly early on. Interviews with him soon after the break-up do not really reflect the lost in Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds space I’d long heard rumors of. They do reflect a somewhat unfocused mind but one still bursting with ideas. Initially a visual artist himself, (when the band formed he was, in fact, in art school), he discusses returning to that medium and seems, from his descriptions of it and from some of his work I’ve seen, to have been expanding on what was happening in the art world at the time, as he unquestionably did with his music.



Art by Syd (Roger) Barrett,

A full feature about Syd and his tremendous influence on Pink Floyd follows as soon as I’m able. Till then, to get an idea of what they were like with Barrett around, and the initial reactions to the music of both press and public, check out these features, which were also posted on the above site, which is the best source I’ve found for info about him.  


Hits? The Floyd couldn't care less
Melody Maker, December 9, 1967, Alan Walsh

     Giving pop journalists a hard time is the blood sports of groups. It's one of the occupational hazards of the job, as anyone who's ever been on the receiving end of the Beatles rapier remarks will tell you.     Last week, it was the Pink Floyd's turn, which was surprising, for their latest record "Apples And Oranges" isn't exactly setting the charts alight. Still, I managed to penetrate their initial unreceptive attitude and asked how they felt about the record bombing after "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play" had been so well received.
     "Couldn't care less," was Syd Barrett's answer. For the Floyd don't really regard themselves as primarily a record group.
     Barrett is an advocate of musical anarchy. He believes that all the group can do is make a record which pleases them. If it's not commercial - too bad.
     "All we can do is make records which we like. If the kids don't, then they won't buy it." Ideally, believes Barrett, groups should record their own music, press their own records, distribute them and sell them.
     He feels that the application of commercial considerations is harmful to the music. He'd like to cut out the record company and wholesalers and retailers. "All middle men are bad," he said.
     Co-manager Peter Jenner said that, anyway, the groups have far more idea of what the kids want than the record companies.
     Barrett said that the reason the kids dig the Beatles and Mick Jagger is not so much because of their music, but because they always do what they want to do and to hell with everyone else. "That's why the kids dig them - because they do what they want. The kids know this."
     I met Barrett and guitarist Roger Waters with managers Jenner and Andrew king at the Central Office of Information in Lambeth. They had been viewing a colour film insert of the group for a magazine programme on Britain networked across America and Canada.
      The number they filmed was "Jug Band Blues," written by Barrett which manager Jenner said he had wanted to release as their single instead of "Apples And Oranges." He said he was pressing for it to be their next single in the New Year.
     It is almost a poetic recitation by Barrett, with avantgarde sound effects by the group. The centre passage is almost free form pop, with six members of the Salvation Army on the recording session told to "play what you like."     After the filming, we retired to a nearby coffee bar where Jenner said: "The group has been through a very confusing stage over the past few months and I think this has been reflected in their work.
     "You can't take four people of this mental level - they used to be architects, an artist and even an educational cyberneticist- give them big success and not expect them to get confused.
     "But they are coming through a sort of de-confusing period now. They are not just a record group. They really pull people in to see them and their album has been terrifically received in this country and America. I think they've got a tremendous things ahead of them. They are really only just starting."
     The Floyds entry into the pop arena was as a psychedelic group. They came in on the surge of lights and psychedelia which is dwindling rapidly today. Were they still using lights or had they made any decision to abandon them?
      "Not at all," said Roger Waters, "With us, lights were not, and are not a gimmick. We believe that a good light show enhances the music. Groups who adopted lights as a gimmick are now being forced to drop them, but there's no reason why we should.
     "In this country, groups were forced to provide their own light shows, whereas in the States, it was the clubs who provided the lights."
     "Really," said Barrett, "we have only just started to scrape the surface of effects and ideas of lights and music combined; we think that the music and the lights are part of the same scene, one enhances and adds to the other.
     "But we feel that in the future, groups are going to have to offer much more than just a pop show. They'll have to offer a well-presented theatre show."

Freaking out with the Pink FloydTerrapin #12, Oct 1974

     Being asked to interview the Pink Floyd - Is an ordeal I would have wished only to my worst enemies. I was shaking like a leaf an hour before our first midday appointment.     The thought of having to talk to a psychedelic group brought me out in sugar-cube shaped goose pimples. What language do these musical Martians speak? Would they hallucinatory gaze turn me into an orange? What would be the horrible consequences of freaking out with a bunch of transvestites in Cambridge Circus? Pre-conceptions flooded my already busting mind. This was going to be sixteen hours of terrifying, heart-halting experiences.
     Nervously I tiptoed to the door of lead guitarist Syd Barrett's house just off busy Cambridge Circus in the middle of London's vice-ridden West End. The font door was painted an ominous purple. Why wasn't I being paid danger money? Was this one trip on which all expenses weren't going to be paid? Oh, to be golf correspondent on International Times and forget these blasted astronomic, hippie rebels. Syd Barrett tumbled out of his bed and donned his socks. I peeked around the small attic room looking fr women's clothing that the Pink Floyd say Arnold Layne tries on in front of the mirror. Instead his girlfriend materialised at the door and brought in a cup of coffee. Well so far there was little evidence of the terrible Arnold Layne being in the vicinity -- the Pink Floyd were covering up well. I'll shoot Barrett a [question?]
     "Syd, why did you write such a dirty, filthy smutty immoral and degrading son as "Arnold Layne"?
     Syd blinked blankly: "Well I just wrote it. I thought "Arnld Layne" was a nice name, and it fitted very well into the music I had already composed".
     "But isn't it true," said I, "that Radio London, quite rightly, banned the record because they thought it was "smutty"?"
     Instead of reeling into the wardrobe and revealing a cupboard full of feminine clobber, Syd began to explain : "I was at Cambridge at the time. I started to write the song. I pinched the line about "moonshine washing line" from Rog, our bass guitarist - because he has an enormous washing line in the back of his house. Then I thought, "Arnold must have a hobby", and it went on from there. "Arnold Layne" just happens to dig dressing up in women's clothing. A lot of people do - so let's face up to reality. About the only other lyric anybody could object to, is the bit about, "It takes two to know" and there's nothing "smutty" about that!"
     "But then if more people like them dislike us, more people like the underground lot are going to dig us, so we hope they'll cancel each other out."
     Organist Rick Wright walked in said : "I think the record was banned not because of the lyrics, because there's nothing there you can really object to - but because thery're against us as a group and against what we stand for."
     It's only a business-like commercial insult anyway," thought Syd, "It doesn't affect us personaly." Roger the bass, and Nick Mason the drummer joined the happy throng. "Maybe they were the evil people," I thought.
     "Let's face it," said Roger seriously, "the pirate stations play records that are much more "smutty" than "Arnold Layne" will ever be. In fact, it's only Radio London that have banned the record. The BBC and everybody else plays it. I think it's just different policies -- not anything against us."
     That sounds like sense. Syd got up and moved stealthily to the tape recorder. Ah-hah, they're going to try subliminal brainwashing. They're going to lock me in a revolving echo chamber full of laughing gas and pipe Stockhausen through the portholes while Suzy Creamcheese writhes on the transparent roof in a "Matey" bubble bath, being watched intensely by the inmates of the Asylum of Clarentoe under the direction of the Marquis de Sade.     Syd put on one of the new Pink Floyd album tracks instead. And, Gadzooks, it's foot tapping stuff. Quite interesting pop music actually. "Avant garde" I think it's called.
     Warming to the Floyd's tape of numbers like "interstellar" and"Flamin'", I began to think that maybe I was wrong -- maybe beneath the hustle and bustle of the in-crowders and the newspapers reports, here was a group not quite as weird as everyone makes out.
     "Let's go for a drink," they said. A drink? surely hippies don't drink? But sure enough there we were in the pub dowing good old fashioned brown beer. And another, and another.
     And then it was off to EMI studios for the group's recording session. Quite a normal affair. No kaleidoscopic lighting, no happening or freaking -- just a lot of hard work.
     Where does the group think they fit in the pop music structure?
     "We would like to think we're part of the creative half in that we write our own material and don't just record other people's numbers or copy American demo discs", said Nick Mason. Our albums shows parts of the Pink Floyd that havent been heard yet."
     "There's part we haven't even heard yet" chipped in Roger. It's bringing into flower many of the fruits that remained dormant for so long" added Nick. "It all comes straight out of our heads" says Syd, "and it's not to far out to understand. If we play well on stage I think most people undestand that what we play isn't just a noise. Most audiences respond to a good set."
     And despite those terrifying premonitions and the misinterpretd facts, and the blown-up rumours, interviewing this so-called "psychedelic" group was an enjoyble experience. They were very normal people.
     In a cacophony of sound played to a background of multi-coloured projected lights, the Pink Floyd proved they are Britain's top psychedelic group before the hip audience at UFO Club, tottenham Court Road, on Friday night. In two powerful sets they drew nearly every conceivable note from their instruments but ignored their two hit singles. They include "Pow-R Toc-H" and a number which received its first hearing called "Reaction in G" which they say was a reaction against their scottish tour when they had to do "See Emily Play". Bass player Roger Waters gave the group a powerful depth and the lightspoured onto them on an impressive scene. Many of the audience found Pink Floyd's music too much to sit down and in more subdued parts of the act the sound of jingling bells from their dancing masters joined in. It is clear that the Floyd prefer plaing to UFO-type audiences rather thatprovincial ones and at their best in an athmosphere more acceptable to them. Supporting the Pink Floyd were the Fairport Convention making their first appearance.






Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mike Seeger, Levon Helm: My Long, Strange Americana Trip

photo by Keith Garvin

Part I... From Seeger's 'True Vine' to Levon's 'Dirt Farmer...

The above photo, which has always been my, (and seems most others) favorite, was taken in a town I called 'Flatpick Kentucky'. It was shot, (and I was somehow not), by the son of Bert Garvin. Bert Garvin was Bill Monroe's first banjo player. They'd met up in Flatpick and well, they did what most everyone there did, they picked. They did it not only because their talent compelled them but to escape the mines, the railroad, the oil company, the nuclear plant. Music helped some escape daily, a few for good. (You can read about my first encounter with them here at GratefulWeb. I met them covering the Appalachian String Festival for the magazine.)

Bert could have been one of those people who got out for good. Mr. Monroe begged him, he said, to go to Nashville. "If you aren't the best banjo picker there when we arrive", he told him, "I'll see to it that you are in short order." A child with cerebral palsy at home, Garvin couldn't do it. He stayed in Flatpick, worked for the railroad, and eventually became near deaf. "I've I'da known Bill Monroe was going to be Bill Monroe", Garvin said, "I'dve gone to Nashville." 

How did I wind up in Flatpick with Bert's rifle and my own banjo, (to my delight he'd agreed to teach me)? Well, it began, as did, indeed a great deal of the popularization of folk that led to the Americana genre, with Mike Seeger. For those of you who don't know, he's the brother of Pete and, like him played a heavy hand the first Roots revival. In fact, he's the guy who filmed Jesco's dad, D. Ray White, (check out my videos with Jesco at my YouTube channel). His film, of course, started that 'Legend of D. Ray White' that Hank III made famous.  As if that didn't all substantially help shape the genre, (in many, many of it's now multi-faceted manifestations) , Dylan credits Seeger with inspiring him to write his own songs.

Writing for Northern Virginia Magazine at the time, I suggested a series looking at how technology and resultant DIY movement were shifting the industry. I'd find 5 Virginia artists, from Grammy winners to emerging, who illustrated this. I suppose, in a way, I was forming the idea for this piece and this time - or maybe I just listened very closely to what they said and proceeded to do the same. Either way, I somehow went from ... well, let me just finish telling you the story.

Researching Virginia artists, I discovered Mr. Seeger. To my surprise, the Google search turned up his phone number. Can't possibly be the same Mike Seeger, I thought to myself. I then thought to myself what the heck and picked up the phone and called to find out. Sure enough it was. 

So began what neither of us knew would be his last interview. (You can read it here and here). Northern Virginia Magazine then bailed on publishing it, though he'd just won his Grammy for True Vine that year. By coincidence, GratefulWeb needed writers to cover an Old Time festival nearby. I wrote them and said I wasn't sure I could make it to the festival but I sure would love if they'd publish these interviews with Mr. Seeger. Of course, they did, as you'll discover above.

Having a good story idea wasn't the only reason I wanted to talk with Mr. Seeger. Dylan has always been what inspired me to write. Reading the Chronicles, I discovered it was Seeger who'd done the same for Dylan. Well heck, I thought, if you want to write songs like Bob Dylan start where he did. As I talked with Mr. Seeger, I began taking traditional songs and writing my own based on them. I then not only interviewed him but had the opportunity to discuss my music with him. While he and Joan Baez were at the Newport Folk Festival, I even got a note from her about one of them, to my continuing surprise.

Not long after our interviews, I found myself in South Jersey and discovered. I looked around to see if there might be something I could write about. To my delight, Soozie Tyrell, Springsteen's Seeger Sessions fiddler and E Street Band member, was playing at the Stone Pony. (The legendary venue that launched Springsteen, Bon Jovi and others). So, of course, I went. From there, I returned to Appalachia to learn banjo from Bert, (and to have that amazing photo taken).

Many interesting things happened in Jersey. Learning that Old Time music had been preserved in the Pine Barrens, as it had in Appalachia, I made a trip to Albert Hall, where the traditions are maintained. When looking through their archive, I found the original  outline of Mike Seeger's program for schools that launched the 'Foxfire' series, which is still in print. An arts teacher at the time, I used it to implement something similar in inner city schools. Yet another, unexpected way Mr. Seeger changed not only my life, but in this instance the lives of hundreds of children too. 

But it was at the Stone Pony that my life began to not only change but revolutionize.  I was invited to spend the weekend with them, (in the oceanfront hotel Johnny Cash once owned a floor of) and what a weekend it was. There was not only Soozie Tyrell but more bands than I can now recall to count (it was Labor Day weekend), a coastal hurricane that prevented what would have been a certain visit from Springsteen and, to top it all off, there was the moment I met a member of the Levon Helm Band.

It was Saturday night. Soozie was going to play soon and no was was yet 100% positive Springsteen wouldn't be there, (he often is). Everyone running the Pony, and I who had been keeping pace up to then, was exhausted. The promotions directer and I were in the office and the national tour manager rushed in, (for the 100th time that night at a break neck pace), saying:

"So and so broke a string and his other guitar is in the car and he wants to know if he can go and get it but it's going to slow down the set and then so and so doesn't go on until time x and then so and so till time y and etc etc..." I turned, looked at him and said, "If he can't play with 5 strings what's he doing on stage at the Stone Pony? He does realize that Soozie is going to go up there and play with 1 string - you know.... Seeger Sessions, Appalachian instruments..." "She's right!" The house promoter said. "Tell him no."

I heard laughter behind me, turned and in the hall bands were using to go from trailer to stage were 3  who I assumed were roadies. "See!" I said, "The Men in Black concur!" They continued to laugh and I approached them and continued my tangent. "WHO are you?!" They asked. "I'm a writer for GratefulWeb that just interviewed Mike Seeger." I replied. I then recounted some of my adventures in Americana up to that point. When they took the stage with Soozie I realized Brian (who had just started playing with Helm), Paul Ossala of the Saturday Night Live Band, and more - the world's top musicians who play with pretty much everyone you can think of.  

I then travelled to Appalachia and there met Jeff Walburn, who was soon traveling to Nashvile for   the Americana Roots Association conference week. He was going not only with the Garvins but Michael O'Neill, (who is, of course, part of the upcoming showcase I'm in this year). Learning that O'Neill  had played and co-written with Bob Weir he was a perfect interview for the GratefulWeb series by this time in progress. You can read our first talk here.

When I got home, after many more adventures, I talked with Brian and our conversations about music, including my own, have continued, (as have my talks with Mike and the Garvins), over the years. The 'Dirt Farmer' Grammy, (the first award given in the Americana genre), was soon to be won, though they didn't know it yet. Our interview, which recounts some tales from his fascinating life and some additional details of my adventures in Asbury Park, is here.

I caught up with The Levon Helm Band again, I believe when the Grammy had just been won. At that time, the documentary, "Ain't In it For My Health" was being filmed and I was entertained by tales of what that was like, what the tour had been like... got to fully see from the inside out the vast tapestry of talent that made up the new 'Band'. They were going from there to Nashville for the AMA conference week and suggested I go also so that I could continue to write about it plus more. I declined but found myself caught up immediately in a wave of coincidence, (which had and has been a steady theme throughout my adventures)...

...this story continues on to Woodstock, to the Deaths of Mr. Seeger and Mr. Helm on down to the upcoming AMA conference week. You can read about it... in the next installment of our Americana Music series. Coming very, very soon.





Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Upcoming Americana Showcase in Nashville, It's Almost AMA Week Everyone!!!

I am very excited to be part of Mary Leland Wehner's Coco Paco's showcase at the Rutledge here in Nashville Sept. 17th. (Just in time to kick off the Americana Music Conference!) The gathering of some of Americana's most gifted singer/songwriters in part echoes the genre-shaping 'Americana Tonight' performances produced by Mary Leland and her late husband, Mark Wehner. His passing was a tragic loss not only to his loved ones but to the genre and I know my fellow performers join me in striving to honor his amazing spirit during this special night.

  Mary Leland and Mark Wehner, photo by Peter Cooper, The Tennessean
 
The Artists...

Michael O'Neill


Southern Crossroads artist and former band mate of Bob Weir Michael O'Neill is not only a talented artist but also also an Americana producer and radio host. After cutting his musical teeth opening on U2's first tour, he signed with legendary manager Don Arden, (father of Joan Osbourne). Michael's weekly 'Who's Bad Now Radio Hour' broadcasts live from Seattle, Washington.

Brigitte DeMeyer


This Nashville singer-songwriter has collaborated with giants of the Americana world like drummer/producer Bradley Blade, (who she met when he was performing with Emmylou Harris' band, Spyboy). She co-produced her fifth album, 'Rose of Jerhico' which features Grammy-Award winning Newgrass pioneer Sam Bush. Her performances and albums have included Buddy Miller, Steve Earle, Ivan Neville, the Indigo Girls' Emily Sailers and many other noted artists. More about Brigitte here.

Will Kimbrough



Another great Nashville singer-songwriter, Will Kimbrough, will be performing with Brigitte. With songs recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Little Feat, Jack Ingram, Todd Snider and others, Kimbrough has additionally collaborated in the studio and on-stage with Rosanne Cash, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Mark Knopfler, Buddy Miller, John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Mavis Staples and others.
 
Lonesome Liz:


photo by Lonesome Liz

I'm a multi-disciplinary artist who's productions and performances have included the work and music of Drive-by Truckers artist Wes Freed and others.  Also a writer and blog host for 'Outlaw Magazine' and 'GratefulWeb.net', I was the last person to interview Americana giant Mike Seeger before his death, (you can read it here.)  I also wrote a Levon Helm retrospective soon after his passing which received praise from Bob Dylan himself, (featured here). This special performance will spotlight songs written during talks with, (and sometimes with feedback from), both Mr. Seeeger and members of Mr. Helm's remarkable band in honor of their enormous impact on not only my own music but their tremendous, genre-defining contributions to Americana from the 60s to the present day. You'll find my music here.

Lonesome Liz's Band of Lost Souls ...


Kara Clark



The grand-daughter of a guitarist for Hank Sr., Kara has been praised by not only Edwin McCain, (who called her style and talent, "...just what Country Music needs.") but also Shooter Jennings, Metallica/Alice in Chains producer Toby Wright and others. This Rusty Knuckles artist is most often seen playing guitar and singing her soulful originals with The Kara Clark Band, this showcase provides the unique opportunity to see her play both dobro and piano.

Cameron Bentley

photo by Lonesome Liz

Multi-disciplinary artist Cameron Bentley performs routinely with both Liz and fellow showcase artist Jon Taul. Both his music and visual art have been inspired by both his grand-mother, Marilyn Mellencamp and his cousin, John Cougar Mellencamp. Also a talented singer/songwriter, you'll find his  songs here: http://www.reverbnation.com/cameronbentley and his visual art here: http://www.benayr.com/cameron/arttrain.html.

Mike Cullison

  photo by Gregg Roth

Nashville singer/songwrite Mike Cullison has honed his songwriting skills with honed his songwriting skills with Johnny Neel, (the Allman Brothers) and Mike Stergis, (Crosby, Stills & Nash), and other leaders of the craft.  A story teller first and foremost, he describes his new cd, The Barstool Monologues as a 'Honky Tonk Canturbury Tales'.

Calico


Band members Snap Dragon Calico, Juniper Calico and Perry Rose Calico are bringing their brand of California Country to Nashville. Neil Portnow, President and CEO of the Grammy's, calls them "Just dropping." Join us to see why! More about their music at their website.

and Americana's rising star ...

Jon Taul


When Jon Taul isn't performing, you're likely to find him watching his corn grown, building a swing out of barn wood ... or you might not find him at all 'cause he's gone fishin'. Read more about the man and his music in The Hardin County News Enterprise.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Manning Issue - In the Eyes of a Wise Child

When my son was asked to reasearch/write a current events paper, he chose Manning and then posted this as his Facebook Status. I then shared it with my friends and was so amazed by both the volume of response (108 comments) and his management of them that I wanted to share it with GratefulWeb readers. Here is the thread, (names omitted):

"With 0 input/opinion from me whatsoever other than he should read about it, this is what my 11 year old just wrote for his Facebook status: 

"Ok so look at this headline I found. "Bradley Manning is sentenced to 35 years," now why in hell is he sentenced to 35 year. The Constitution says "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America," Now let's see here. He is trying to form a more perfect union yet he gets 35 years in prison. I think he is a hero. If you say otherwise then you are not involved in anything halfway controversial. So who does agree w/ me?"

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