Hi if you are new to reading this blogzine, and if you've been here before, its good to have you back.
I've been planning my personal jukebox, coming soon to the front page of the website. Every week we will add one of my favourite records, gradually building a collection of some of the most exciting, liberating and uplifting pop ever made. Naturally it will have a mid 1960s bias, but, the entertaining thing may be, I am going to be honest about the records I really love - even if, that doesn't fit with the mod thing, or any other acceptable good taste territory. In fact, I sometimes consider "good taste" to be rather a bore.
'God Only knows'
on a Dansette
It sounds a rather middle class thing, and actually it can be very much about snobbery. "What have you been listening to this week?"- "there's a support group for people like you". Cheers. I always found Leonard Cohen heavy going anyway. Really, it will be a chance for me to run around with my knickers down, thumbing my nose at all and sundry. And I am expecting you to come and watch. Well, listen, not watch, but you get the idea. I just don't care any more what the good taste police think I ought to like. Do you? I do know a great record when I hear one, though. And that really will be the only criteria. And yes I am a bit eccentric, if you must know. What do you mean, you knew that already.
Track 1 on the Village Green Machine jukebox is a record, made in the early 90's, which sounded as if it had been made around 1966. It is influenced by The Who and The Rolling Stones, and was the best shot by a band who were briefly on Go Disc records. Some of you will have guessed already what the record is. They had a singer and bass player who is among the best in the country, and who is still making exciting, challenging music now. I count this record among my very favourites, it is as exciting as even the best by The Who, Kinks, or Stones. That good! If you haven't heard it, you need it in your life. Keep an eye on the Village Green Machine front page, for this first track on the VGM jukebox. PS It ought to have been a no 1 record, should have found a place in people's hearts and in the corporate psyche in the way There She Goes by the La's has. It is as good a record.
Village Green Machine
news. I am on the look out for a Farfisa player for live work, I'm speaking with one lad already. I still want to go live. I get offered interesting gigs. We have been producing the waltz time Sartorial Of England, which doesn't sound like anything else, although the guitar is influenced by Link Wray, the keyboards by the music from Tales Of The Unexpected. There's backwards guitar and weird backwards vocals, and a certain dark quality, a foreboding atmosphere with lyrics about modernist clothing, about dressing well. So its an odd crazy one off conundrum, business as usual really. It sounds good, though. Its the analogue tape sound and the valves, making the difference.Also I have re recorded One Of The Kings, a song I wrote when I was 20, about a novelist whose book I appreciated at the time. Twelve string Rickenbacker features, as will heavy fuzztone guitar and a lot of melody. Lyrics inspired by Ted Hughes. I would like to be thought of as a serious writer like Ray Davies and Morrissey, which is a bold ambition, but I am stating it because I think the lyrical content may be overlooked in my work, and that I may be written off as 60s retro, end of story. Well, its 60s retro beginning, not end of story, and quite separately from any 1960s considerations is the lyrical content. I am a serious writer, I hope not write anything I would be embarrassed to read out loud at a poetry reading. Chuck Berry could recite his words in such a context, so could Moz, Ray and Lou. It is not some kind of florid Keats or Wordsworth thing, not that I have anything against them. It is, writing literally from the stuff of life. And I don't give a stuff about having an arty, poet image. "I wondered lonely as a cloud" indeed. No, I write real things. I can match those buggers Morrissey and Ray. I think. I hope. Mind you, Waterloo Sunset is brilliant and I've really got my work cut out. They are working class writers, Moz came from a semi the same as I do, and Ray, I believe came from quite a poor background. A facility with words is an aptitude. I can write, I can't do other things very well. Its horses for courses, I do what I am good at, and refuse to do things I am not good at. The video is coming along well, as well. I had no education, but, my father was an English teacher, and any grammatical errors were pounced on as a child.
He learned me how to speak proper.
This week I enjoyed watching Frankie Howerd's Confessions. I have always liked Frankie (shut your faces) so will do a little research...don't titter.
Sitting here on a Thursday night feels right. Criminally under refreshed, I shall soon be taking a cantankerous entertaining elderly relative out to the hotel bar, where we will cover the table with bottles in a long established tradition. Mind you, sobriety is not exacting quite the price of pain and tedium it so often does this evening, as I have on my Dansette Conquest record player, a very splendid 45 by none other than Mr Frank Sinatra, entitled This Town. It is an incredibly simple tune, and all the better for it. It is the sound of Frank's big band moving with great style into the decade of Carnaby, Quant, and all the rest. Emblazoned with wailing blues harmonica, and a bank of acoustic guitars, and a massive, massive sound, it is a tune with attitude etched with harpsichord...in the centre of this huge jazz horn driven song is Frank's narrative, swaggering vocals with the sound belonging to Sinatra alone, it is a valuable piece of music to furnish life with. It fits like a great piece of furniture into a stylish room....This Town, by Frank Sinatra.
Tonight (Saturday) I played a few incredible records on the Dansette before I went out. One was I Can't Help Myself by The Four Tops. It sounded, like a worthy forefather of northern soul- which is what it is. That riff crops up in so many NS 45s. With the volume up, the bass up, and not too much treble, the Dansette sounded just incredible tonight, so smooth and punchy too. It is a late 50s one, the later ones, at least according to my experience, are less convincing. I have a late 60s Dansette which is rubbish, but the earlier ones....I think everyone should get some great 60s 45s and play them on a Dansette.
I played evergreen classic Soul Man by Sam and Dave, a record which attunes me to the solid brilliance of Steve Cropper. They certainly don't make them like that any more. Thumbing through my original 45s here, I find California Girls, by the Beach Boys of course. It must be the soul of the musicians which makes it sound like that. You can't have irony in music. Here, Brian reminds me that God exists. Pause...that's a hard sentence to follow...but I will try, and I'm glad I have one of the few 45s to hand which is better than California Girls.It is, that sublime enchanted garden of sounds and colours, called God Only Knows by BRIAN WILSON AND THE BEACH BOYS. Sorry, I had to shout it. Compared to some, I am not a massive fan, I am not an obsessive, but, there is something just incredible about these records and I think, God Only Knows, is a) the greatest pop song ever written (melodically/ structurally but not lyrically) and b) is so beautiful, that it suggests, a higher dimension of life, and I do say this from my heart that I actually think...beyond all this world and its pain and rapture, ... put it this way, Brian has written the soundtrack... I may be going too far, but if there is a heaven, God Only Knows, is the music one might find. God Only Knows is just so, so special.
More Village Green Machine
news. We have been in intensive production sessions for Sartorial Of England, making many small volume adjustments, bringing the guitar up for one part, the keyboards up for another...it sounds incredible, on tape. Because of the tape sound. Its a mod song, I hate having to promote myself on here, I just can't do it any more. It sounds so conceited. So I will just state the facts in future. I aim for the stars creatively. I have sacrificed a lot for music and won't stop now, and I am pleased with the results, often. Sometimes we scrap things, but often I am amazed by what turns out. Music runs like a golden thread through the troubles of life - that's how I see it and maybe its the same for you. As long as we have our ears, then it shall remain, an uninterrupted river. I quit music in the 90s, disillusioned. I didn't expect to come back and find so much going on, with the internet opening up so much, and the music happening for me like never before. Its great and I wonder sometimes if I would sacrifice all I have for music if I had my time over again, and I don't know the answer. But I love what is happening for me in many ways, despite the huge challenges and difficulties we face with VGM. People have no idea how difficult it is doing music, and all entailed. Its murder really. But, it is just brilliant sometimes.
The writer Mark Lemon's band website is Village Green Machine