Blog oh right then, I'd better sit up, and sober up right this very second, because, this week I am saying hello to all you Shindig readers who have looked here after seeing the ad for England's Dreaming Spires. You know I only discovered Shindig a while back.(PS don't forget to download the free VGM tracks from the website) thank you Shindig for sending a complimentary copy, its heavy. I see the back issues are full of groovy people and the annual is full of all my favourite really groovy people. I haven't bought any of this yet, but I will in time go for some back issues. Because, the material is targeted towards people like myself. I mean, I like The Kinks, Roky Erickson, Steve Ellis, Billy Nicholls, PP Arnold. This is what impresses me about the magazine, it is very focused in a very cool way. I would sooner pay a little extra than pay around the same for a fatter magazine which is partly dedicated towards my taste but is full of loads of stuff which isn't my thing.
Billy Nicholls and PP Arnold
And yes at last people are paying attention to VGM. I don't have an agenda when it comes to writing a blog, maybe I ought to think 'this is how to write it to fans to get them to buy more music' but you know, I love writing a blog and I just talk as I wish (while I can, but lets not go there).
Now Village Green Machine. Basically its me, Mark Lemon. There will be a live band, comprising the coolest musicians around. PS A London date is being organised.
I go into a church hall somewhere in England, with a Vox AC30, a Farfisa organ, a Vox Continental organ, an Epiphone Casino guitar and a 1961 drum kit. And I record my songs, layering up the instruments on top, and then I produce it, with the noble help of my engineer. I just do this stuff. I try to write songs with good construction, good melodies, good lyrics. I aim to do great music and make great records. Ofcourse its gratifying but is harder work than most imagine. We remixed England's Dreaming Spires many, many times. I was learning to produce on the job. As Margaret Thatcher once said live on air, I'm always at my best when I'm on the job. She also said everyone should have a Willie. I wonder what Dennis thought. Her fave 45 was Telstar- she's a Meek fan! The Willie she had in mind was home secretary? William Whitelaw.
Yeah so that's it. People seem to adore England's Dreaming Spires, and its great some Welsh groovers are buying the CD. I reckon you've seen the pics of me at Portmeirion. What you don't know is that we did a video there for One for The Mods. This week I finished recording English Cafe, its a song with a lot of organ and 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars. It is a melancholy song about the passing of that great time you have when you are, say 17 or around that age. When there are no responsibilities, and you are discovering life for the first time, how fresh it all is and exciting. It is about how this passes, and I will tell you I was 21 when I wrote that. Good heavens, a whole decade passed since those days.
I can't stand musicians who boast. Isn't there a very thin line between self confidence and absolutely deplorable, over confidence? And what about a really big headed rock musician- oh please that's horrid.
Come to think of it, how many of you like 'rock' music? One thing I cannot stand is what I call 'cock rock'. Music like this, is played by macho men who grow their hair in an outrageously feminine fashion. Now that's a dodgy trip before we even start. Real nasty redneck vibes, with the long hair. It really stinks, I'm sorry but it is horrid. I once came face to face with a very famous guitarist of this ilk, who smiled to me. But I couldn't say hello, ok I was being a bit mean really but, can you tell me, why this whole 'rock' thing has monopolised so many young male musicians? I still hear them on the odd occasions I go into guitar shops, noodling their worth and it is sad crass embarrassing. Personally, I don't think of myself as a rocker, maybe I am a mocker, in some ways much closer to the mod thing.
For clothes, for hair, it has to be mod. Shoes? You won't catch me in cowboy boots. When did rock go stinky? I think, actually, around the late 60s, when Woodstock took place, and then ofcourse the unspeakable Altamont festival. In fairness, there were some very good rock groups, like Thin Lizzy and ACDC. But that's way outside my territory and the source from which I derive inspiration. And, crucially for me, by the 1970s pop production was beginning to lose its way. The sounds began to deteriorate, just as technology was in theory improving them. By the mid 70s we had much more controlled drum sounds, close miking. But it sounded an absolute unaesthetic crock of shit. Things got worse as the 80s unfolded, with content becoming secondary to image, and goodness knows the 80s was not a decade of any aesthetic merit, pop looked bad but relied on its looks, like an ugly prostitute. Picasso painted a picture of 80s pop- excuse spelling: D'amoiselle D'Avignon.
But you know, I was just learning to play then, I was a young kid. And something rather monumental happened to me. You'll like this. One day, when I was a 15 year old boy, a picture caught my eye. I thought they looked absolutely fantastic, it changed my world and direction and life, that one picture. Who was it? I will tell you. It was, Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd. Syd's Floyd. I was 15. I had been listening to rock, and disco. But I had a collection of 60's 45s my father had given me from his days on hospital radio, when they threw out the non charting promo 45s ( this is where I got freakbeat classic I Don't Want You by The Anteeeks from). I saw this picture of The Pink Floyd, and it began a journey of discovery for me. Into the world of 60s music. I got The Doors first 2 albums on a back to back double vinyl. The Byrds greatest hits. Soon after, The Velvet Underground, Revolver, and other landmark 60s albums. I also began to collect 60s vinyl, particularly 45 rpm vinyl. I remember now buying the Stones The Last Time in the rag market. Ofcourse, there are loads of great singles by all the big 60s British names, the singles bands. When did the Hollies, The Searchers of Manfred Mann ever make a bad single? Track by track, I discovered the soundtrack which would sustain me. I might add that 20 years later I am still discovering. The 60s seems to have been an extraordinarily prolific time, I thought I knew it all but ofcourse new tracks keep coming to light, and the northern soul compilations I buy often contain a number of absolutely unbelievable tracks. But anyway back to the 80s. ...
It wasn't good, as anyone with taste knows. Ok there was great music but the general cut and thrust was pretty dreadful. I could look through my Virgin Encyclopaedia of 80s music and find all sorts of vile examples. Who wore a peacock yellow jacket with the sleeves rolled up, with a mullet hairstyle? I don't know. But its bad. Some young kids now call this classic pop. However... (ps wasn't that David Bowie? I love him, I think he has renounced those days now- but has he ever really been welcomed back?)
I was already turned on towards the 1960s, especially the '64-7 period. Hungry for current sounds, what was there? Well, Joy Division had just come and gone. I liked some of their stuff. Julian Cope made 2 excellent psychedelic tinged LPs, the first of which was a masterpiece. Australia's Church made Unguarded Moment, I'm Almost With You, and other attractive if at times clumsy (early) stabs at psychedelic beauty. But they mattered to me, and to we Birmingham musicians who were disenfranchised from 80s Britain and its music culture. REM had mystique, a compliment returned to we Jacobites people, when REM backed Jacobites Nikki Sudden on an LP of his. We listened to compilations, like Nuggetts, Pebbles and Chocolate Soup For Diabetics. Other bands like Dream Syndicate, Green On Red, and especially for me the magnificent Rain Parade from the US, this was the trip. It was at this time I began to take an interest in a specifically English sound, though. The Beatles exemplified this, especially with the Strawberry Fields/ Penny Lane 45 ofcourse. But more than this and above this monumental artistic achievement, for me lay 2 records, both I am glad to say British hit singles. One was Arnold Layne, the other See Emily Play, by the early Pink Floyd ofcourse. Experimental pop masterpieces of the first order, zeitgeist defining, psychedelic, pop, poetic, and extremely English with Syd ofcourse. How wonderful and beautiful. And Syd ofcourse, he dressed cool didn't he? Compared to George Michael and Duran Duran? He looked like a deity compared to them. And a romantic psychedelic poet. Handsome, young, great hair, fantastic dress sense, charismatic, poetic, very gifted with melody and structure in songwriting, and with an attractive vulnerability in his voice, which he managed to combine with being really cool as well. An avant-garde artist, voyaging into the unknown, taking the listener then and now on the, er, trip. Syd remains the English exemplar, as an artist.
I think now you get the idea of, how I got into the scene I did and am still into. Ever since I began writing songs when I was 15, people have been telling me I am talented. I try at all times to remember what I am up against. I am confronting genius.
Mark Lemon- Village Green Machine