Friday, 19 November 2010
Welcome dear readers to the latest issue of News, Views and Music, the only music site to come with a Government health warning – yes, that’s right, steer clear of the coalition! Moving on to this week’s edition, when Pete Townshend came up with his grand concept of the ‘Lifehouse’ to follow up his other grand concept ‘Tommy’, his band, his managers and his record critics thought he’d gone mad, with the pressure of maintaining such a complex piece across a double record too much for even the AAA’s greatest philosopher. Instead the world was left with the single album ‘Who’s Next’, a sterling work that’s regularly rated as the ‘Orrible ‘Oo’s best by fans, who as ever know better than bands, managers and record critics. But talk about the brilliance of ‘Lifehouse’ never quite died away. Years after the album was abandoned came the internet, with opportunities for bloggers everywhere to reach out to everyone around the world with sites like this one and ‘Lifehouse’s talk about uniting humanity across barriers into one great huge movement, distilling the essence and life story of every person who’d ever lived on Earth, doesn’t sound quite as daft and impossible today as it did in 1971 (even if ‘Lifehouse’ is still wonderfully,admirably thrillingly complex and – like The Beach Boys’ ‘Smile’ – tantalisingly unfinished).
As regular readers may have noticed, Alan’s Album Archives is now a proper business with adverts appearing any time soon - we even have our own bank account and everything – and it seemed fitting to us that our first issue as a fully fledged business venture should be to look again at Pete’s grand scheme of uniting the world through the brilliance in music (last analysed in ‘News and Views’ no 14). For, as Pete’s full sized concept album would have shown, music has the power to heal, to bring hope and to overcome obstacles and boundaries and there can be no better ‘motto’ for our website to have than that. As he says in his sleevenotes for the ‘Who’s Next’ CD re-issue ‘Whatever happens in the future, rock and roll can save the world’ and we humbly agree. ‘Lifehouse’ is a towering concept, of course, and one that even our normal giant-sized article can’t hope to cover – plus the only person who’ll ever really know it inside out is Pete himself and I don’t think even he’s quite sure of how it all fits together. But this issue we’ve brought you our special AAA take on the story, taking the finished album, the outtakes and the Pete-collaboration ‘Lifehouse’ play (heard on radio 4 in the run-up to the Millennium) as our guide and trying our best to make the most of it. In the meantime, it’s only fair to tell you that even though we are now a business we will continue to be as passionate, detailed and as ramshackled as we ever were and there will be no difference to your reading (you might even get to see some good adverts for albums you’ve been after for years so please feel free to click away – it all helps us keep us in CDs for the next few years you see so you’ll benefit in the long run when we come to review yet more records!)
In the meantime, happy reading and, as you’ll see when you come to read more about ‘Lifehouse’, the best way of making things better and exploring humanity’s ups and downs is to ‘join together’ so please keep sending in your ideas, your likes and dislikes and anything you like, however trivial, we have to hear it all if we want to find the ‘one true note’ of humanity one day! As you might have noticed there are two new pagesadded to the site this week to help you do just that – one features our very own musical canine Max The Singing Dog, who has already been featured on our Youtube trailers and is ciu8rrently being mobbed in the streets and who has kindly agreed to answer all your musical questions. The other page is our brand new forum – mark #2 after our old one closed down a couple of years ago – so feel free to leave your comments about the site there. To start the ball rolling I’ve added a list of my ‘Gold, Silver and Bronze’ awards, discussing my favourite three songs by the artists featured or at least mentioned on this site. It’s been very hard to whittle such a fantastic catalogue of artists down to size as I’m sure you can imagine, so bear in mind this was merely how I was feeling on the day! I’ve been asked a couple of times by readers if I can provide a list of decent individual songs to download as opposed to whole albums so here is a section for all you downloaders out there, not just those of you from the ‘old school’ like me who still listen to albums in order. I doubt any of you out there will share the same ideas that I do, so instead of reading the list and fuming why not send me your own list of three favourite songs by any artist, not just the ones we cover on the site. I’m sure it will make for some very interesting reading and a grand opportunity to spread ideas as per ‘Lifehouse’! In the meantime, on with the news stories of the past week, which look a bit dilapidated at the moment – come on guys, give me something to write about...
♫ Lulu News: Lulu is back on our screens again this week as discussed last issue with her documentary series ‘Rewind the 60s’, looking back at the AAA’s favourite decade. The programme is as frustratingly bitty and as big a waste of her talents as we’d feared but is still worth looking out for by curious AAA readers. The programme runs till the end of the week on BBC One at 9.15am and is still available on the BBC’s I-player for a while. Monday’s edition is of particular interest, having an interview with Pete Best’s mother about the Casbah club in Liverpool where the Beatles played and helped to decorate, although alas this interesting snippet soon turns into a debate into how good a teenage Paul McCartney was at kissing! (I just know you’re going to ask so:- Not very according to Mrs Best, who was after all the mother of one of Paul’s bandmates and not really the best person to judge, but Lulu doesn’t believe that for a moment!)
ANNIVERSARIES: Birthday cakes all round for the following AAA members (November 17th-23rd): Gene Clark (Mr Tambourine Man with the Byrds 1965-66) would have been 69 on November 17th and Rod Clements (bassist with Lindisfarne 1970-72 and 1978-2002) turns 63 on the same day (November 17th). Anniversaries of events include: The Beatles receive their first ‘silver’ disc – for high sales of only their second single ‘Please Please Me’ (November 18th 1963); Danny Whitten, guitarist with the first line-up of Crazy Horse, overdoses on drugs bought with the travel money band leader Neil Young has given him to fly back home, inspiring Neil’s ‘doom trilogy’ (November 18th 1972); The Rolling Stones enjoy their first UK #1 with ‘Little Red Rooster’ (November 19th 1964); Ray Davies interrupts a Kinks American tour for the second time to re-record a single line in one of the band’s singles to prevent it being banned from the airwaves (the ‘foggin’ line in ‘Apeman’, following a ban on the brand-name ‘coca-cola’ in ‘Lola’; November 19th 1970); Scott Haldin, a 19-year-old Who fan learning to play the drums, gets the shock of his life when Keith Moon collapses at a gig full of animal tranquilisers and the band sheepishly ask for any drummers in the audience to fill in for him – only Scott responds (November 20th 1973); No less than three important Beatles releases come out for the Christmas market on November 22nd (‘With The Beatles’ in 1963, ‘The White Album’ in 1968 and John Lennon’s last record ‘Double Fantasy’ in 1980) and finally, The Rolling Stones are temporarily banned from all BBC Radio for the heinous crime of - gosh – turning up a bit late for a show for the series ‘Saturday Club’ (November 23rd 1964).
♫ Erm, not sure what happened there. That must have been another of those time travel submissions we keep getting so often these days. Anyway, that’s the buzz from the Lifehouse about the way to live, the way to be and the way to get things together. The Who are hardly unique in wanting to embrace the whole of humanity into one ideal way for the human race to live, however, so here in our latest top five is our guide to the other greatest AAA utopian concepts...
5) (What A) Wonderful World – song appearing on albums by Art Garfunkel (‘Watermark’, 1978) and Otis Redding (‘Otis Blue’, 1965): This Sam Cooke/Herb Alpert collaboration from the 1940s should sound a million miles away from the AAA largely hippie philosophy that if you give peace a chance we’ll all benefit from a better and wider vision for humanity. But the sentiments obviously rang a few bells for two of our AAA members, who both chose to make this song one of the highlights of their seminal 70s and 60s releases respectively. And what a wonderful world it would be for the humble narrator in both cover versions, listing his faults before telling his girl what a wonderful world it would be if she were to join him in his. Otis takes this song as a cowed, almost frightened narrator suddenly bursting forth with joy as optimism takes hold in the chorus whereas Art Garfunkel’s sweet tones are wrapped around a ‘round’, with the deeper tones of James Taylor and Paul Simon (unusually singing falsetto) pushing him on to find the true love of his life. Both versions sound very different – Otis’ is pure soul whereas Arty’s could come in a box marked ‘singer-somgwriters of the 1970s’ but the result is the same: in both versions the listener simply goes ‘aaah!’
4) Wonderland – song appearing on album by Nils Lofgren (‘Wonderland’, 1983): You may have noticed that I’ve listed this little known song from perhaps Nils’ most obscure album of all as one of my three favourite Lofgren tracks on our forum. This minor classic has Nils’ teenage narrator imagining a world that is perfect, one where there’s no ‘Fairytale Hollywood people messing with your head’, ‘nobody has to hurt anybody for yourself to get ahead’ and even the pretty girls ‘think that being nice is cool’. The whole song is wrapped up with a lovely catchy tune and some witty observations about the small things in life that could change our lives so easily if only we did something about them, making ‘Wonderland’ a lovely place where ‘compassion is something people understand’. Talking about compassion, how about seeing this rarest of all Lofgren CDs released so all the Lofgren newcomers can get to hear this track too?
3) Wooden Ships – song appearing on an albums by Crosby, Stills and Nash (by Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1969) and Jefferson Airplane (‘Volunteers’, 1970): This co-write between Crosby, Stills and the Airplane’s Paul Kantner is the ultimate 60s hippie utopia. Fleeing from the remnants of the Earth caused after a nuclear bomb has been dropped, the narrator sails off in his own boat to a distant land where the survivors of the two sides in the war mingle, find they have much in common and begin to respect each other, working together to give humanity another, better, more peaceful chance. The opening lines, sung by Stills but actually taken by Crosby from an American church, that ‘if you smile at me I will understand because that is something everybody everywhere knows in the same language’ was taken as sacred text by music lovers of a certain ilk in the late 60s (me included) where life is ‘easy, you know – the way it’s supposed to be’. We look at this song in greater detail on our review of the first CSN album, no 29 on our list.
2) The Nutopian National Anthem –song (well, of sorts) appearing on album by John Lennon (‘Mind Games’ 1973): Roll over John Cage – when John Lennon was going through his immigration hassles in America, desperate to stay in the country he’d visited with Yoko but facing deportation because of a minor drug’s conviction in 1968, Lennon dreamed of a country with no borders and immigration controls, where people could join him if and when they wanted. These three seconds of silence at the end of side one of the Mind Games album are Lennon’s very Yoko-influenced attempt to make up a new anthem that wouldn’t be restrictive or patriotic in any way, with the listener free to come up with their own thoughts or sing their own made-up anthem over it if they chose. Lennon even gave the buyers of the ‘Mind Games’ album a chance to become an ambassador of Nutopia in their respective countries if they chose, in which case hello to you, fellow Nutopians! The title of Lennon’s imaginary country is a typically goonish take on the words ‘new’ and ‘utopia’, with Lennon updating the hippie concept of paradise for the 70s generation. See news and views no 77 for more.
1) In Search Of The Lost Chord – album by The Moody Blues (1968): ‘The Lifehouse’ by another name, this is The Moodies’ take on the grand old theme of ‘The Lost Chord’, a note in music mankind was given at his creation and that if re-discovered could unite humanity and heal all the rifts that have developed across time. That concept gets lost somewhere across this record, only really being heard on the moody ‘House Of Four bDoors’ looking at the development of humanity through the years in terms of the music discovered in each period and the beautiful ‘Visions Of Paradise’ imagining a better tomorrow on a song that merges Western and Eastern instruments. There are, however, a number of interesting diversions into the importance of thinking for yourself, travelling across the world to find answers because ‘we’re all looking for something’ and meditation. See review no 22 for more.
And that’s that for another issue. There might be a bit of a delay getting the next issue to you – possible teething problems with the new-look site and all that – but we’ll do our best to be back on the net in no time at all. If The Coalition don’t get us first! Happy reading!