November 4, 2011
pic stole from John Shafer (who may have been responsible in a roundabout way...for getting me into SMiLE..but that's another story.
It was the middle-80s and everything sounded like machines
to me: gated snares, the midi-d keyboards, the digital reverbs and drum machines. I remember
my long-time pal and musical partner Ross played me Tom Waits (Swordfish Trombones or Raindogs) and Jonathan
Richmond. These, plus XTC’s “Skylarking” and whatever bits of SMiLE I could get
my hands on pretty much kept me going during this time. Real warm, human music.
I had a copy of what I think was the first widely released SMiLE bootleg, the
one Ross had got from Mike Thornton and we’d copied onto cassette, a year or so
before, but now I had that next generation one…the CD that had the extended bits of “Heroes
& Villians”, the SMiLE version of
Vegetables and several other choice bits. I remember being so excited when I
found it at Go Boy Records down in Redondo Beach. That find… it made the day so
[I’d like to convey
the crazy obsession that I had with SMiLE at the time. I was reading the famous
David Leaf bio of The Beach Boys. I was trying to find the albums made just
after SMiLE---“Friends”, “20-20”, “Wild Honey” (I’d had Smiley Smile even
before I’d caught the SMiLE bug.) I searched all over Fresno for these albums,
but they were long out-of-print and hard to find. (I eventually found most of
them in Santa Cruz…used at Logos on Pacific probably.)I have a strong
summertime memory of reading that book, listening to these records while eating
pistachios and drinking Dr. Pepper!T he aforementioned Ross and I were trading
anecdotes we read about, or interviews we’d found, or videos we’d seen. I
remember assembling interviews and pics related to SMiLE found in music papers
and magazines and such and assembling them into a sort of collage that I put
into a frame and hung in the main living room of the house me and my band-mates
had first moved into when we moved down to Los Angeles. Then there was the strange
trips over and somewhere past Simi Valley, to the guy who lived in his pajamas and dealt in bootleg records. He had some stuff on tape that *no-one* had heard: weird mixes of Bicycle Rider
and even a session tape from “California Girls”, a strange mix of McCartney’s
“Band on the Run”. He’d play this stuff and say “Do you recognize this tune? Can you tell what’s
different here?” I think he was testing me. He kept talking about assembling a new and
better version of SMiLE that would really blow everyone’s mind. (I don’t think
he ever did. Part of me wonders if he’s still in his pajamas, and another part
is thankful for the rare bits and pieces he shared with me.)]
I was fascinated with counter-point: melodies and parts
interlocking and raising each other up. This idea was all over Brian Wilson’s
music, and in SMiLE, he had *that* as well as all the interesting textures
(like Tom Waits) and the innocent heart-warmth (like Jonathan Richmond); all
these interests of mine came together and were amplified in multiple headphone
listens of SMiLE.
I sat in my backyard and listened to Wilson’s 2004 version.
It really choked me up. All these bits and pieces had come together, and it was
lovely. I really loved the (Van Dyke Parks-made?) orchestral ‘link tracks’.
Several of the new tunes grabbed me..”InBlueHawaii”,etc.. One or two of the editorial
decisions weren’t ones that I’d have made (ha, like they’d ask me!)…but I loved
it. I loved the CD and loved the one opportunity I had to see it performed
Now it’s 2011, and just yesterday, I pulled the fascinating
little contraption out of the treasure-box-like package. I didn’t want to rush
over to the disc player or turntable. I
had a commitment for the next few hours, and I didn’t want touch this
thing until I had some time to really give it my full concentrated attention.
So that night, I started with the vinyl (guessing it’d be the closest thing to
the experience of someone in 1966, if it had actually been finished at that
Here are notes that I scribbled late last night:
Most impressed by side
3’s Wind Chimes and the various building bits at the end.
And wondering ..was
that Brian Wilson’s vocal and not Carl’s on “Surf’s Up”?
New stuff? Mostly
little tiny vocal overdubs onto tracks I’ve heard before.
Happy they used the
mostly original single version of Good Vibrations with some amusing additions. /”Fire”+the
vocals from “Fall Breaks Into Winter” was very cool and disturbing(as that
piece should be). My reaction to the music as a whole was not as emotional as
when I heard Brian Wilson’s first completed version from his 2004 release…but
emotional reactions can be explained by many outside factors. I think I felt
that the 2004 version was a closure….the First Completion. The MasterWork is
finally finished and it’s beautiful. This version feels like the Ultimate Fan’s
version of the 2004 work.—-they got a free Christmas Day in the Capital
vaults and could assemble the Final Beautiful Fan’s Version…and it is
beautiful…with the young Beach Boys’
perfect blend and heart-breaking vocals.
But the 2004 version
flows in a more organic fashion. This does feel a bit more like a re-creation,
where your hoping-for-the-best fan imagination fills in the gaps made by some
odd digital leaps and skips.
I felt like I was
opening some lost religious icon treasure when I opened the box set and saw
it’s component parts. The “Barnyard” “I’m In Great Shape” bits felt awkward and
Back to Nov. 4th.
With today’s re-listen I like it even more. Yeah, there are
pieces missing, but I’m very very happy to
have this nicely put together package…what with it’s documentation and
much-improved-over -the-bootlegs soundquality. And though the 2004 version is wonderful…these recordings have that rich vocal blend…you know *those* voices.
[hahaha, I’m still listening to the sessions on the other
disc…and I just heard Murray Wilson butt in, and Brian saying “Come on, Dad.
Leave me alone.” Hahaha. A bonus for us super-geeks who know too much about
Brian Wilson’s dad and Murray’s glass
October 2, 2011
…in which we finish up two albums of stuff and play a couple of gigs
After physically recovering from the tour, or perhaps before, work on several projects began. We had promised our kickstarter.com fundraiser backers an unplugged CD, and we’d promised particularly generous ones a custom-made song. Most of the recording on the unplugged CD had been done before our trip.
There were a few overdubs..some guitar solos, some harmony vocals, etc. yet to do. First I had to get that done, and then mix it. It was done within a few weeks of our return. In fact we were so proud of the results that we talked about giving it a more general release. Perhaps we will.
And now on to the custom song: I had about 8 to write and record…it became a quickly made…sort of ‘album of demos’….similar maybe to that series that Pete Townshend put out called “Scoop”. But still…finishing two albums in maybe a month’s time..and right on the tail end of this tour, it *was* a busy time in the shag-carpeted wonderland of Whispermaphone Studios.
We also got a couple of live performances in: one, a show for our pals in Food Not Bombs over in Roeding Park, and our “Welcome Home Show” at Full Circle Brewery.
LATE SUMMER/ EARLY FALL
—in which I Iose my voice again and we work on getting more out-of-town gigs
I started to lose my singing voice at the beginning of August. We had another International Pop Overthrow Fest gig (in L.A.) on August 13th. It was painful. We only had to play a 25 minute set. We hedged our bets by putting in three theremin songs, and rehearsed “Everybody’s Got an Andy Story” with Leland singing the high part and me singing his lower harmony. It went o.k., but then we played a cool arrangement of the Kinks’ “Polly” that we’d worked out, and I just couldn’t do it. Luckily, the friendly crowd sang along on the ‘na na na’s’ and it wasn’t a total disaster…but it was scary. My voice was just not working.
This set off a series of doctor visits..and a series of mood swings between hope and depression. As of now (early October), the doctor says I *will* sing again. In fact, just last night (October 1st), we played in Fresno’s FUSE Festival. We did a show in which I sang several songs (though Tom Magill of Poplord sat in to cover “Virginia Woolf”, “Forestiere Gardens” and bits of “Fighting the Big Dumb Noise”). We have a gig in two weeks at a house party
in Sacramento, and then a gig up in Oakland. I’m hoping the doctor’s prescribed mix of medicine and a diet not unlike that of a cloistered monk, will get those vocal chords happy and cooperative. Any and all prayers and good wishes out there are much appreciated.
June 26, 2011
Sunday, May 29th and Monday May 30th
— London-Manchester-Bolton-Manchester-Fresno (via Philadelphia and Phoenix)
Today was the day for traveling home. Actually, Neptune had left late the night before.
Neptune trying on impossibly expensive but pretty cool clothes in The Face on Carnaby Street.
He’d taken a bus back up to Manchester for an early flight back home. Later, he related the adventure of a middle-of-the-night bus trip filled with disappointed Manchester football fans after Italy won the European Cup (see Saturday’s post–”Day 8″).
John, Leland and I had a Monday morning flight out of Manchester, so we figured we could get ourselves and our baggage over to Euston Station (from which we could travel to Manchester) and then perhaps do some last minute souveneir shopping or looking around. When we got to the train station, we checked our bags into the storage room and headed for the exit. I noticed on the map, that we were right next to the Bloomsbury neighborhood–a neighborhood that looms large in the legend of Virginia Woolf. Being a fan, I convinced John and Leland that it’d be great fun to go and explore a bit. They kindly relented. First, we found a big, beautiful bookstore (formerly “Dylan’s”..can’t ‘member the current name). I found a book about Virginia Woolf and scribbled down some local addresses.
Here’s the email I sent the band explaining the addresses soon after we returned:
“The first place we visited…near that book store, was 46 Gordon Square.
All the Stephen children (Virginia’s maiden name was Stephen) moved here in 1904, and her brother
Thoby began their “Thursday Evenings” here—(that was a night of intellectual snobbiness where they
watched fine films like “That Hideous Sun Demon” and “Plan 9 From Outer Space”).
note: in spite of what this blog implies, it's not commonly believed that Virginia Woolf ever viewed the film "That Hideous Sun Demon"
From 1907-1911 Virginia lived with her brother Adrian at 29 Fitzroy Square–the second place we visited.
They renewed these “Thursday Evenings” here, but I think the focus was more on discussions of the various
beat groups in Liverpool, and which ones had the tightest trousers.
the source for the discussion of 'Liverpool beat groups" amongst Ms. Woolf and her friends is of dubious quality.
Sometime in 1911 Virginia meets Leonard Woolf (future husband and publishing collaborator) for the second
time at the 46 Gordon Square address, so the other siblings must’ve held onto that address for a bit.
There are other ‘big’ addresses in V.’s history..so probably even more plaques I can search out some day…like where the Woolf’s started their ‘indie’ pubishing house “Hogarth Press” which published V.’s books as well as T. S. Elliot.
The economist, who beat out V. for the plaque on that first house moved there in 1916. Below are some bits from wikipedia about who the heck John Keynes is…I think I’ve heard people use the term Keynesian…and I bet his books are even harder to read than Ms. Woolf’s. She is also more attractive.”
a view of Gordon Square
After this Virginia Woolf excursion, we found a nearby tube station and headed back to Tourist Central..which seemed to be around Leicester Square. There were still a few more William and Kate (royal wedding, you know) coffee mugs to buy! After a bit of shopping (Do they actually raise the prices on the weekends? It sure seemed like it.), it was time to get on the train up to Manchester.
It's sort of a "Where's Waldo?" pic in Picadilly Circus. Spot Leland and John.
On the train, it was our turn to experience the mass exodus of football fans back up to Manchester. We spent the entire trip sitting on our suitcases on the floor…sort of between the bathrooms and the dinner car. We were right in the line of traffic for the football folk to walk past with their massive shopping bags full of beer bottles a’ klinkin’. A nice enough trip in spite of the luxury commodations..we were in Manchester by dinner time…and time for another walk! (Oh boy!) We asked some locals where to get something good to eat…and c’mon Leland, Chinatown wasn’t all *that* far to lug our suitcases (laughs), and the Thai restaurant *was* pretty darn good! Then it was back to Bolton, where Olly and family graciously put us up for *another* night–bless the good people of Bolton! In the morning, he and his father drove us into Manchester to the airport…and we were off. Several long flights…Manchester to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to Phoenix (where we had fun reviewing pictures from the trip, and called home [Lauri and Tague were having a blast in Nashville after seeing my neice get married in Kentucky..they live in NYC...long story with lots of purdy pictures for another blog somewhere!]). Back home to Fresno by around 9:30pm . Todd picked me up—bless the nice people of Kingsburg!—-and that…is the end of this story. Great tour. Great friends. Great time.
Had to stick this picture in somewhere. There's this old church...across the street from EMI Abbey Road studios...and the church has these two more modern wings--condos built onto either side. Interesting.
David Bash and the International Pop Overthrow Festival
David Bash mc'ing at The Cavern in Liverpool. (photo by the late-great Wil Woodrowe)
For years now, David Bash has put these festivals together. (The Los Angeles edition will have it’s FOURTEENTH (!!) annual run this summer.)
The “IPO” as it’s called for short, happens in many cities in the U.S. including: L.A., Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Diego, Chicago (the list goes on) as well as internationally in Vancouver, Liverpool and London.
More than just a festival, the IPO has created a network and a community amongst independent, melodic pop/rock bands that is immensely valuable. Both the Liverpool and London shows we did were part of the IPO in those cities. In fact, our Manchester appearances were set up by one Olly Neasham (see below)–whom we connected with through our mutual connection to the IPO. They’ve been a valuable resource to us and hundreds of other bands. Viva la IPO!
[Our next appearance at the IPO festival will be in Los Angeles on the afternoon of Saturday, August 13th at a club called Fais Do Do.]
for more info, visit: www.internationalpopoverthrow.com
Olly last summer at Spinner's Records in Fresno
Neasham and his family took us in, housed us, fed us and treated us one of their own. We owe them great thanks.
Olly set up our gig at Manchester’s “Tiger Lounge” as well as an opportunity to talk with and perform for some of his fellow students at the music college that he attends.
Neasham is a soulful singer and songwriter who performs solo and with his band Jacksonville Skyline. Great stuff! Check his music out by clicking here.
Another friend we saw on this trip was Andrew Hickey. We met him after some internet correspondence during The Trike Shop’s last trip to Liverpool in 2007. Hickey is working on a multi-book project detailing the work of The Beach Boys on CD. I ordered his book at and devoured it within a few days. I’d t hought I’d read enough about this subject, but the mark of a good book of this type?—it made me want to go back and listen to the albums all over again to pick up on the things he was talking about. Fun too, that while the Beach Boys are such an archetypical California experience, here’s their recordings covered by someone who grew up nowhere around here, and has fun with the fact that the American high school experience and the surf/hot rod culture (and it’s lingo) is quite foreign to him.
check out this page to order: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/andrew1308 It features a few different books that he’s written, and hardcover, softcover and downloadable versions of the Beach Boys book.
June 21, 2011
Saturday, May 28th—London
Today was the date of our last show for the tour—another gig for the International Pop Overthrow Festival. We were scheduled for 4:15, but time slots can be a changeable thing at a festival; the schedule might have flexed a bit, but it turned out great.
It was a nice slow morning. Leland was off in the neighborhood doing some souvenier shopping. Neptune had gone into the city center to do some recon for his journey home that was to begin tonight. I went wandering down the street. Popped into a shop or two and even into the local library (looked much like any small branch library back home).
Around mid-day, Leland and I took off for the gig. We had to find the venue, then take a cab to a nearby audio equipment rental place, and then get the keyboard back for the festival that afternoon.
This equipment place was massive. It seemed to have offices, a warehouse and, we think, a sound studio or two (for rehearsal? recording?).
Anyways, we got the keyboard, got into the taxi cab, who’s clock was ticking loudly and expensively, and got back to our venue: The Bull and Gate in the Kentish Town neighborhood of London.
We played through the door marked 'venue'. The more traditional 'pub' part of the building was just to the right--though they were sort of connected.
Since we were a bit early, and pubs don’t seem to serve tea, and I was still being careful with my voice, we stepped next door to a sort of luncheon cafe’ and had a cuppa.
The cafe'/luncheonette next door.
We heard a lot of good music that afternoon. In fact, I was much impressed by the high-level of excellence displayed by the bands we watched at both IPO Liverpool and London. The funny thing about today’s show, is that , in looking at the festival program, it doesn’t match up very well to the planned proceedings (laughs). First I heard an excellent solo performer. Then came Squire–a terrific mod-style band. I commented to IPO director David Bash that they reminded me of The Jam, and he told me that they were a key band in the Mod Revival of that time. Soon afterward they played “Walking Down King’s Road” a single of there’s that I recognized from a compilation I had back in the day. Great fun. I can’t quite recall the exact order…but we heard The Mayflowers, a slamin’ three-piece of power-pop from Japan. I think we were next…
The Trike Shop at the Bull and Gate. ( I'm guessing'Club Fandango" must be some sort of recurring thing/promoter in this venue?)
Good gig. We felt confident and played well. Reports were, that the sound was very good. A very very satisfying last show for the tour (except it wasn’t quite the last…).
(thanks to Gene Day for this photo and the one just above!)
Then came the Beta Rays, another terrific band, and they were nice enough to say how they’d enjoyed our set. After this was Mini, a terrifically talented band—I’ve been calling them the Poplord of London. (…while we all know Poplord is from Fowler, Ca!). They all sang and played with great skill AND they had songs worth the playing! Good stuff.
Celebratory photo after (what we thought was) our last set of the tour.
Somewhere in here, David Bash informs us that one of the scheduled acts has had a breakdown on the motorway between here and Liverpool, could we play another set? And of course, the opportunity to play was accepted with happiness. The crowd was a bit thinner the second time around, but we had a great time and rocked it up, throwing in the songs from the tour that we hadn’t done in that afternoon’s previous set. Both shows were captured very well on a three-camera video shoot with pretty good sound. My band mates had the foresight to make sure we acquired these. I’m sure we’ll put some of this material out…youtube?, copies for sale at gigs?… Anyhow, two very fun sets captured on ‘film’ for a great document of this week of music..
Neptune tunes while I scribble out an alternate set list for our second final show of the tour.
And after all that, another fantastic highlight was a Swedish gentleman called David Myhr. He played his first four songs solo on acoustic guitar, then closed his set with a number of songs with Mini backing him. Wonderful! I’m going to have to search out this guys music, it’s pretty fantastic.
A nice picture of The Bull and Gate courtesy of Gene Day.
So that’s how the musical portion of the tour closed. A great time was had by all. (We even saw some more Fresnans. Gene Day (known locally for his work as a sound engineer) and his wife were in London on business and learned that we were playing. He also supplied a few of the photos in today’s posting.)
After the gig, we popped next door to the cafe’ for some food. We were all very hungry. John and Neptune hopped across the street ( I wish we had photos of the hopping) and got some pizza. I ordered my first ‘fish and chips’ of the trip there at the cafe’. After supper, it was time to head on back to Golders Green and see Neptune off for his long trip home.
cool building in Kentish Town on our way back to the tube station.
[special note: At the same time as our show, a huge soccer ...sorry...'football' match was going on in London. Spain vs. Manchester. The European Cup...which I guess is a HUGE deal. (This may have accounted for the slightly thin crowd during our second set.) The 'pub' side of the Bull and Gate was packed with folks watching on the television. This game, and it's fall-out would affect our journies home. (see more in the Last Installment of the UK tour!!! coming soon...)]
Good night Kentish Town.
June 16, 2011
Friday, May 27th —London.
My journal entry for this day (from a notebook I was carrying) consists mostly of a long list of places that we saw as we walked through London with the help of Leland and his “Beatles Walking Tour” book. Of course, along the way, we saw many non-Beatle-related London-ey things as well. (This book had the details though: “here’s the Gentelmen’s toilets that Lennon posed in front of to promote the so-and-so TV appearance he did for Peter Cook’s TV special” and such.)
John leaps down to the loo in Broadwick Street.
another John...copying our idea!
It’s a testament to how many miles we walked and how tired we were that I only had the energy at the end of the day to make a list. The weather forecast called, as was usual for our London stay, a goodly chance of rain. The threatened rain, since this was our day set aside to be ‘tourists’, thankfully never came.
Here’s that list:
The Beatles gave the Krishnas a lot of support to set up in London.
M.P.L.–Soho Square (McCartney’s business offices )
[reportedly has an exact duplicate of the Abbey Road Studio #2 in the basement...We should all have one of those.]
”Hey Jude” and “Dear Prudence” are among the handful of White Album-era songs recorded here. [They had an 8-track recorder a little sooner than EMI.] George Harrison recorded his first post-Beatles album, the triple-set “All Things Must Pass” at Trident. Also many of the other artists on Apple Records were recorded here. Many other noted artists recorded here in the early 70′s, including Free, Genesis, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones…for more on Trident Studios…go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trident_Studios.)
mmmm. sandwhich break.
The Toilets in Broadwick Street (see pics above)
Once a place where the pop stars shopped in the ‘swinin’ 60′s’, it’s now mostly chain stores of the ‘Banana Republic’ sort.
Although this is just the sort of place that I would like to find on Carnaby St., I must admit, it's just me being a 'certain type' of tourist. They charged accordingly. Cool stuff though.
Ringo felt that if they ever played the Palladium, they would’ve really ‘made it’. They played here in ’63.
Brian Epstein’s offices
former “Bag o’ Nails” club
late night McCartney hang out (He met first-wife Linda Eastman here.) Also site of early Jimi Hendrix Experience gig.
3 Saville Row
#3 Saville Row--the former Apple Records offices.
Apple Records office where the Beatles performed on the rooftop.
The famous rooftop of the famous Apple Records where they played their famous songs...
(Beatle’s Royal Command Performance in ’63)
Marlyebone Rail Station and the alley adjoining
(scenes from Hard Day’s Night filmed here, including the chase scenes at the beginning.)
Here's the alley. Cue film music...
Abbey Road EMI Studios (and the famous crosswalk outside)
another shot of the Abbey Road crossing...I hadn'd realized it was so close to the EMI Abbey Road studios...but that's them all in blue scaffolding.
We took a bus home. Check 'ride a double-decker bus' off the tourist check list.
June 14, 2011
From the window of a cool record store that we happened upon in Chelsea.
Oxford Street ... I think.
obviously, John didn't take this one--outside EMI's Abbey Road Studios.
Some of the messages left outside Abbey Road Studios.
A drummer can serve many roles in a band.
Our pal John Shafer is sometimes the electricity and fireworks that sends a song over the top. Oftentimes, due to his keen ear, he makes himself an integral part of an arrangement that keeps a song alive and breathing.
We all know the man can play the drums, but he also has a sharp eye for noticing the unique and interesting along the way. Since many of his pictures capture a dimension of our trip that I’m probably not conveying with just the ‘travel log’ or ‘narrative’ approach of the blog, I’ve included a few of these images here. These shots are from the at-this-point-not-yet-written-about Day Seven of our trip. We were in London with a day off to be tourists.
Bikes at the end of Carnaby Street
Alleyway sign in London
A Department Store (!!!) at the end of Carnaby Street.
Small street on our walk to the station on our way to St. John's Wood (where the Abbey Road Studios are).
Another interesting thing about John’s picture taking: he takes pictures of groceries.
On our last band trip to Liverpool (2007), he spent a bit of time photographing rows of baked beans, dog food packages, and breakfast cereals. Enough so, that the store security sort of had to ask him about it. (You know, these American cereal terrorists and all…) Here are some pictures of one of the fruit stands on our street in London.
June 12, 2011
Thursday, May 26 Bolton-London
We spent a lot of the next few days on 'the tube' or 'the underground'..the subway in London. Our home station was "Golders Green".
What started as a full day of travel (Olly’s house in Bolton) to London, ended
with a rocket-fire evening walking tour of the ‘great monuments of London’.
We took the train to London’s Euston Station , then took the tube to Golders Green–the neighborhood of London we’d be staying in for the next few days. The weather had been mostly kind to us throughout the trip, but it was really pouring down strong as we lugged the luggage up Golders Green Road towards the King Solomon Hotel. At this point…we were just a bit tired. We’d really filled our days and had been moving at a fast pace since the moment we’d started this trip. After getting drenched, we took…it was maybe a whopping 45 minutes or so downtime in our rooms before meeting up again. Then we decided to have dinner locally–just down the street. There were a number of restaurants, most of them marked ‘kosher’(except for the KFC!). Golders Green is a strongly Jewish area. Our hotel rooms all had the little wooden mezuzah attached to the doorframe—I’d never seen these before, and most of the guests were speaking foreign languages or had strong foreign accents. ( I didn’t recognize the speach…could have been Hebrew? or some Eastern European languages? Some of the folks we met who worked there were Serbian..some Polish.)
We ended up eating at an Asian Vegetarian Buffet down the road. Pretty good stuff, and Leland being a vegetarian was happy to discover this place. ( He seemed to have a pretty easy time finding appropriate meals all through our trip…until we hit the Phoenix airport on the way home (and the flight there wasn’t much better….’um, we had one of those vegetarian things…but now we don’t’.)
Our London neighborhood. Looking up towards our hotel. I liked the curve of the road and the sillhouette of the buildings.
Looking down that same street towards the tube station.
Here's our hotel. Not very luxurious, but affordable for a troupe of musicians, served a big breakfast, and had easy access to the Underground. Leland was the mastermind of practical road management--a great quality to have along.
After relaxing and catching our breath, we hopped on the tube thinking we’d go see Leicester Square and nearby Picadilly Circus; get a taste of London while we still had some of the evening left.
We took the tube to Charing Cross, walked over to Leciester Square (which as all boarded up in the middle and under construction), then over to Picadilly Circus and basically began a night of whirlwind power-walking all over central London. We walked down the Pall Mall to Buckingham Palace (which looked nice lit up in it’s night lights), then over and around to the area near the river that has Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
The Houses of Parliament had a sort of protest/camp-in thing going on(close guantonimo/stop the war)–seemingly to coincide with Obama’s visit which was happening pretty close to the time of our visit.
Buckingham Palace. Flags up, Queen must've been in--resting up for our gig tomorrow at the Bull & Gate most likely.
Houses of Parliament
It was a great high to be walking around on a beautiful night in London. Rain had been predicted off and on throughout the days we were staying in this town, but only on that initial walk to the hotel did it actually come down. The lights were gorgeous, and with most of our shows behind us, I think we’d felt that we were already quite happy with how things were turning out. One more show to go, and tomorrow set aside to be ‘tourists’. Life was good.
We were looking at Westminster Abbey…and I was convinced that this couldn’t be the ‘front’…cuz it looked like a side view…no matter how gorgeous it was….so the rest of the gang agreed to try and ‘walk around the block’ to the front. Well, it wasn’t as easy as all that. The ‘block’ wasn’t exactly square…and it was a bit of a maze, and a few of the little roads seemed quite small and deserted and reminded me of one of those ‘Jack the Ripper’ or Hammer Studios horror movies set in foggy Victorian London. Well, we soon made it back to a more well-lit and noisy area..and saw what may or may not have been the ‘front’–it was definitely marked as the ‘entrance’ if you were attending services—the ‘tours’ went to the ‘side’ –the one you see in our posted picture here. Later, if I can figure out how, I’ll post a short video that John took….hope it works here on the blog–it’s just of us standing and enjoying the scene on the bridge over the Thames and waiting for Big Ben to toll 11 o’clock. You can also see the Millineum Eye (the gargantuan Ferris Wheel) on the other side of the bridge. For now, here’s a photo of the big clock itself.
June 10, 2011
Wednesday, May 25 Bolton-Manchester
Olly's car loaded to the gills with our gear for that night's show.
[note: I know there were some nice photos taken of this night's gig in Manchester. I'll post them when I track them down.]
Woke up to the great hospitality of Olly’s house. Lots of good stuff there for us for breakfast..and then Olly gets up and makes us (the non-vegetarians in the group that is) Bacon Butties (bacon sandwhiches on white bread with butter—mmmmm so delicious and heart-friendly too!). [They were awesome.]
Then Olly got us packed up and off on the motorway to his school in Manchester.
It’s a small music industry oriented college that’s built around a former commercial recording studio. They have fascillities for folks to study performance, recording, artist management, DJ’ing—anything that’s in that field. Olly said it’s a bit of an experiment at this stage. Very cool though.
Setting up to play at the music college that Olly attends in Manchester.
We set the instruments up in a large classroom, then went into another to be ‘interviewed’. We were trying to discuss the things that might be relevant to them: how we funded the tour, how we set up a tour so far from home, etc. Of course the ever-present theme of ‘community’ was discussed, as well as how the International Pop Overthrow festival really set the framework for this particular tour—and served as a real mechanism for ‘community’ once again—even meeting Olly was through this festival’s network.
So we spoke, and then went next door for a couple of songs: “Sun Up” and then to the theremin for “Miserlou” (the theremin’s always a big hit). Nice kids (I keep resisting using the term ‘kids’…but relative to us ahem…’veterans’ (laughs), yeah.)
One young lady, when hearing of my worries for my voice, produced a packet of cough drops (often called ‘sweets’ in this country) that she said Tom Jones swore by. (They were pretty potent!)
After this presentation, we loaded up a nice pile of gear borrowed from the college for tonight’s gig. When piled onto the parking lot it was hard to believe it was going to fit into Olly’s little Ford Fiesta….but applying great ingenuity….he made it work.
(As the picture above shows…)
Next, we all went downtown on the tram (around here we might call it a “light rail”. In Germany, I was familiar with these rides as the “Strassenbahn”. We went for a bit of a walk through Manchester’s “North Quarter” neighborhood—lots of record stores, independent clothes shops for hipsters, etc. Fun stuff. We got a little bit of gift shopping done for the folks back home.
on the tram to downtown Manchester
Olly took the tram back to fetch his car and the gear. The rest of us roamed over to look at Manchester Town Hall–a wonderful and massive Victorian beauty of a building. It was just after 5 o’clock, so we suspected it was closed for viewing, but we went through the door anyway.
Manchester Town Hall
The older man at the desk said,” I’m sorry, it’s closed.” A moment later, he adds,” But if you’d like to look around in the lobby…go right ahead” The place was a wonderland of long, arched stone hallways. In another moment, the man says, ” If you’d like to go upstairs, I’ve called ahead.” So we walk upstairs, and there’s another older gentleman…at first he looks unsure, but then, here we go again, we get the full-on private tour! (Now some of this might be put down to the friendliness of the people [certainly a factor], but the serendipitous timing of all these ‘lucky tours’ we’re getting really did feel like we were having some cool gifties dropped into our laps by Someone Upstairs.)
some sort of comfy lounge area inside the town hall
with our new friend Barry, the docent in the Manchester Town Hall
After our tour of all the grand meeting rooms, council chambers, etc. [one of them had recently posed as the "House of Lords" in the most recent Sherlock Holmes movie], we wandered back over to the Tiger Lounge (our venue for tonight’s show) and saw that Olly had beaten us there. We loaded the gear, set some things up and generally got ready.
The Tiger Lounge, Manchester--our spot for tonight's gig
The Tiger Lounge was a cool and kitchy basement club. Various decades of ‘retro’ were spread around the rooms. Apparently , on DJ nights, they only spin vinyl. Very Swinging Bachelor Pad. I was drinking copious amounts of tea and hot water–and sucking on the Mighty Tom Jones Cough Drops.
Who wouldn't want a shag-carpeted seaside cave complete with hi-fi? Leland in the 'green room' of the Tiger Lounge.
When the entertainment began, the host for the night, a guy called Stuart, played a couple of sort of Nick Drake-type style songs. Very very good.
Then Olly did a set of his soulful numbers—excellent as usual.
Then came a sort of performance-poet guy called Martin (can’t remember his stage name). He set up various synth loops with some hand-held gizmos, and sang/spoke his poetry. Very engaging and quite good. This was definitely shaping into a night of extreme variety–but good stuff.
We were on next and we were all hyped up to play.
Apparently all the hydration and magic cough drops did their job, because singing was a joy. The band were white hot and rockin’. We were able to play a slightly longer set since we weren’t part of tightly scheduled festival, and we had a ball.
The theremin went over big again. “Dear Prudence” felt great—Neptune really played well–a most fortuitous choice for the position since Martin Hansen couldn’t travel with us this time. “Here Comes the Bus” was as “Who-ish” as could be, and John and Leland slammed it home. A very very fulfilling gig. We made some new friends and had a ball—AND the bar served us pizza afterwards. Nice.
Olly with his parents Rod and Gail and girlfriend Aimee at the Tiger Lounge.
June 9, 2011
Tuesday, May 24th—-Liverpool–Bolton
it was street scenes like this (and their chimneys) that led to: Neptune: "Very Dickens". Blake: "Very Dick Van Dyke". John: "Dickens Van Dyke". --- laughs all around w/ oaths that this needed to be the name of our next album.
The big excitement this morning was the trouble the band had rousing me from bed. They expected I’d OD.’ed on the cough syrup I’d been drinking or something–but nothing so rockn’roll-dramatic: just sleeping like a rock (with the earplugs in)–by the third try, and with some louder knocking, I was up—and it was time for
THE DAVID SUMMERS WALKING TOUR OF LIVERPOOL!
Yes, like last time, Mr. Summers generously gave of his local knowledge and led us through a walk of The Dingle (the not-so-well-off neighborhood we’d been staying in and where Ringo grew up) and beyond. When you’re in a different (and to you) exotic country, every little building is interesting, but especially to us Californians where a 75 year old building is ‘historic’. That same cool red brick church, still beaten up, but now looking like they may be on the road to refurbishing it, was just ’round the corner, as was that funny fortress looking thing. First official stop: The Princess–the pub around the corner (and maybe 30 yards from) Ringo’s boyhood house. This was the spot last time where we saw some pretty weathered locals listening to a bunch of American country music on the jukebox. Today, it was still early, so fairly deserted.
Then trucking up this and that street, back to the back-to-back Liverpool Institute and Art College where Paul/George and John (respectively) went to school (it’s now LIPA, the performaning arts institute that McCartney’s contributed greatly to..and apparently each year hands out the diplomas for [cool perk for grads!]).
Then down up that street past the Ye Crack, a little cafe/pub where the students would often gather and a tad farther to The Philharmonic….very swank pub—looks like someplace that [name your fave Victorian fictional character but I was thinking...] Sherlock Holmes would stop for a brandy and cigar. It’s famous for its beautiful urinals! (no kidding…like an upscale English Madonna Inn–laughs).
inside The Philharmonic
After a drink and further chatting..we trucked on along and got to the MASSIVE Anglican Cathedral. Massive doesn’t even begin to describe this place …it’s massive hulk dominates the area, and it’s absolutely awe inspiring inside. I’m enjoying what looks like ..to my amateur eye, the cool mix of wood and brick work you see inside these English churches.
outside the Jacaranda...it was closed, but...
Dot invited us in and gave us the tour anyway.
So we got inside the Jacaranda (another one of those “Margaret moments–see “Day 3″). The Jacaranda was a coffee bar, another one of those early Beatle venues. Below, in the basement/performance venue are murals painted by their friend (and sometimes Beatle) Stu Sutcliff–still preserved; thank goodness for the bad taste of the 70′s that covered these walls with wood panelliing rather than painting over them.
We then walked down to the river where we were off to take a “ferry ‘cross the Mersey”. At this point we had to say goodbye to our good friend David who was going back to his life in Lancaster. We poked around and did some souvenier shopping in the official Beatle’s shop at the docking area there…then had a nice sort of round-trip sightseeing ride on the ferry—a bit windy…but no more rain.
Then it was back to The Pineapple to grab our bags and say goodbye to that home-away-from home and the nice people there.
Then it was Lime Street Station—Liverpool to Manchester to Bolton.
Olly and his parents picked us up in two cars, loaded the whole gang and our gear in, and took us to their nice (and large) home in Bolton. Then it was off to a grand meal at a Victorian coach house just outside of town—a big traditional meal in a big traditional setting….roast beef, yorkshire pudding ( I skipped the ‘black pudding’)…the works.
Then back to the Neasham house where we were immediately treated like family. Rod (Olly’s dad) pulled out his eclectic assortment of LP’s to play and Gail (Olly’s mom) pulled out her original pile o’ Beatles albums–first time I got to really look at one of those early issue boxes of the Let it Be album–with the book inside and all (only the 2nd time ever that this Beatle freak has even seen one of these books). So good day just being travellers and tourists.
dinner at the coach house--around the table from the left: Leland, Neptune, Blake, Ollie, Aimee (Olly's girlfriend), Gail (Olly's mom), John
the Victorian coach house we were taken to by Olly's family.