Nocturnal Admissions

Between 1972 and 1977, Bryan Ferry, with and without Roxy Music made 9 of my favorite albums.
In the early-mid ’70′s, Roxy Music was about the coolest band around. They made 5 of them, each one better than the last.
They weren’t childhood friends. They weren’t childhood friends. Bryan found everyone through advertisements in Melody Maker.

In early 1970 he auditioned for King Crimson, as a replacement for Greg Lake. Although Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield felt his voice was unsuitable, they were impressed enough to help the fledgling Roxy Music get a contract with E.G. Records.

Andy Mackay replied to Ferry’s advertisement, not as a keyboard player but a saxophonist and oboist, though he did have a VCS3 synthesizer. Mackay knew Brian Eno from university days, as both were interested in avant-garde and electronic music. Although Eno was a non-musician, he could operate a synthesizer and owned a Revox reel-to-reel, so Mackay convinced him to join the band as a technical adviser. Before long Eno was an official member.

In June 1971, Paul Thompson responded to an advertisement placed in Melody Maker, “wonder drummer wanted for an avant rock group”.

Originally naming the band Roxy, Ferry changed it when hearing of an American band with the same name. “Roxy Music” was partly an homage to old cinemas and dance halls, and partly a pun on the word rock.

In October 1971 he advertised in Melody Maker seeking the “Perfect Guitarist”. Phil Manzanera was one of about twenty players who auditioned. However, Manzanera did not get the gig; the successful applicant was David O’List, former member of The Nice. The group were impressed enough with Manzanera that he was invited to become Roxy Music’s roadie, an offer which he accepted.

Bands of brothers tolerate conflicts better than a bunch of free agents. Roxy Music was never stable. They didn’t even even have a permanent bassist, but rather a rotating group of temps.

Davy O’List was edged out due to some kind of altercation with Paul Thompson prior to getting their record deal. In the meantime, roadie Phil Manzanera had secretly learned all his parts. Their first BBC sessions feature O’List. It’s interesting to compare and contrast their styles.

Bryan Ferry pursued a solo career concurrent with Roxy Music, using wonder drummer, Paul Thompson, and Roxy’s rotating bass players. Andy Mackay is the only member, besides fired Eno who doesn’t participate. He was replaced by Mel Collins. Chris Spedding largely handles the guitars, although Davy O’ List and Phil Manzanera both make appearances.

Three of the four solo albums are dominated by covers. In fact he was one of the first to tackle material not normally associated with rock n roll.
“In Your Mind” (1977) is all original material.

Then two things happened. In 1977 Jerry Hall left him for Mick Jagger, and “The Great Paul Thompson” quit due to musical differences.

Ferry’s “The Bride Stripped Bare” (1978), and Roxy Music’s “Manifesto (1979) suffer greatly from his absence, and instead feature the slick hired gun sound he’s mostly stuck with ever since.

Paul Thompson’s return did wonders for Roxy Music’s 2001 reunion tour and the reulting 2002 double live album.

In March 2005, it was announced on Phil Manzanera’s official site that the band, including Brian Eno, would record an album of new material. The project would mark the first time Eno worked with Roxy Music since 1973′s “For Your Pleasure”. After a number of denials that he would be involved with any Roxy Music reunion, on 19 May 2006 Eno revealed that he had contributed two songs to the new album as well as playing keyboards on other tracks. He did, however, rule out touring with the band. Had the record been released as a Roxy Music album, it would have been the first album since “Manifesto”* on which original drummer Paul Thompson performed. The album has, however, been released as a Bryan Ferry solo album entitled Olympia.

I’m glad they didn’t call it a Roxy Music album.

This compilation comes from his first four, 1973-77. The Roxy Music titles are covers.


Nocturnal Admissions

Nocturnal Admissions Too

*although Thompson is listed as a member of the band, two other drummers are also credited, and the drums, overall, lack any of Thompson’s signature sound.

Now I Know High

“The Grape’s saga is one of squandered potential, absurdly misguided decisions, bad luck, blunders and excruciating heartbreak, all set to the tune of some of the greatest rock and roll ever to emerge from San Francisco. Moby Grape could have had it all, but they ended up with nothing, and less.”
-Jeff Tamarkin

Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
Skip Spence – rhythm guitars, vocals
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals

Their first album, “Moby Grape” (1967) is widely recognized as a classic.
While recording their second in New York City, Skip Spence’s schizophrenia began to take over. Famously chopping down a band member’s hotel room door with a fire axe. He was committed to Bellevue for six months while Moby Grape soldiered on, finishing “Wow” (1968). Skip never returned to the band full-time. While incarcerated, he wrote enough songs to record “OAR” (1968), in Nashville, playing all the instruments. It’s an un-hinged masterpiece, in many ways similar to Syd Barrett’s post Pink Floyd albums.

Then came “Moby Grape ’69″, “Truly Fine Citizen” (1969) also recorded in Nashville, and finally,
“20 Granite Creek”(1971). Although Spence was no longer in the band they included him when possible, depending on his health.

This compilation covers their initial run.

They have disbanded and reformed many times, and often having to use a fake name as their manager, Matthew Katz, hung on their contract like a drowning man to a log, or worse, a sociopath. They signed their contract under duress, with a large dollop of naivete, resulting in not even owning the name Moby Grape.

From wikipedia:
“Matthew Katz insisted that an additional provision be added to his management contract, giving him ownership of the group name. At the time, various group members were indebted to Katz, who had been paying for apartments and various living costs prior to the group releasing its first album. Despite objecting, group members signed, based in part on an impression that there would be no further financial support from Katz unless they did so. Neil Young, then of Buffalo Springfield, was in the room at the time, and kept his head down, playing his guitar, and saying nothing. According to Peter Lewis, “I think Neil knew, even then, that was the end. We had bought into this process that we should have known better than to buy into.”

Due to continued legal battle between the band and Katz over ownership of their name, pseudonyms were used during several decades for performance or recording purposes; including Mosley Grape, Legendary Grape, Maby Grope, Fine Wine, and The Melvilles.

Moby Grape today:
Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
Joseph Miller – drums (son of Jerry)
Omar Spence – vocals (son of Skip)
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals (guest appearances)

They were all incredibly talented, and Jerry Miller deserves to be included in any conversation about guitar heroes.


Now I Know High

(Before) Before And After

The cover art is a silk screen print I made in 1978.

I vaguely knew Eno as the guy Eddie Jobson replaced in Roxy Music. At the time I was only familiar their third and Eno-less album, “Stranded” (1973).
I picked “Here Come The Warm Jets”, Eno’s first, because it looked slightly glam, and the title Zappa/Beefheart/Alice Cooper loony. The song titles were just as nuts.
Then I saw that Robert Fripp and John Wetton, two of my favorite musicians from my favorite band, King Crimson were involved.
Buying it was a no-brainer.
It’s Proto-punk Glam rock is nothing like the ambient works he’s largely known for today.
“Baby’s On Fire” features a Robert Fripp solo over 3 minutes long, which stands as some of his most fiery work.
From “Here Come The Warm Jets” to “Burning Airlines Give You So Much More”,
“Taking Tiger Mountain(By Strategy)”, from 1974 is much less ramshackle, but fortunately just as quirky.
When “Another Green World” came out in 1975, things were changing. About half of it is instrumental, pointing the way to his groundbreaking ambient work, “Music For Airports”(1978).
Unlike his previous albums, which were recorded in a very short time, “Before and After Science” (1977) was two years in the making. I never got into that one. I thought it was a little slick and bland.
My original plan for this mix was to be career spanning. I began by listening to Disc 3 of the irritatingly packaged and annotated Eno Vocal Box.
It consists of “R.A.F.” b-side of “King’s Lead Hat”, cuts from “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” an impressive yet ultimately dull album, 90′s collaborations with John Cale, “Nerve Net”, and the withdrawn “My Squelchy Life”.
While it wasn’t entirely without charm, it bored me to death. So much so that I nearly gave up.
Fortunately I decided instead to start from the beginning.
There is something in his first 3 albums, that has been missing for decades.
It was before he knew what he was doing. Before success, acclaim, and high profile productions for other artists.
I’m a fan, and he’s been a huge influence on my work as a musician, and a painter. While I like and respect his recent work, these early attempts at rock stardom continue to scratch my itch for art damaged excellence.

Two songs are technically by Phil Manzanera. “Miss Shapiro” is from “Diamond Head” (1975). Eno co-writes and sings. “Third Uncle” is from “801 Live” (1976). He is the vocalist and writer. Backing musicians are the usual suspects.


(Before) Before And After


Before Too

A fun fact I ran across:

Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (Chinese: 智取威虎山; pinyin: zhì qǔ wēihǔ shān) is a Chinese film from 1970, during the height of the Cultural Revolution. The film was directed by Xie Tieli and was based on a contemporary Beijing opera, one of the eight model plays allowed during the Cultural Revolution. The story is based on the novel Lin hai xue yuan (林海雪原) and tells the story of an incident in 1946, during the Chinese Civil War.
Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy has been identified as one of the most watched films of all time. Official Chinese government statistics claimed a total audience of 7.3 billion through the end of 1974. The large audience can be attributed to the fact that few films were produced during the Cultural Revolution, and almost all earlier films were banned; nevertheless, the average village held ten film showings per year, and failure to attend could have been seen as a sign of political deviation. Hence, Chinese citizens would have been expected to see the film multiple times during the Cultural Revolution era.

Weed, Whites, And Wine

I’m “Willin’” to admit that Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes” just might be my favorite album of all time.

I’ve written elsewhere about the life changing moment I received “Looney Toons And Merrie Melodies” (1970), a Warner’s Loss Leader’s 3 record set I sent away for.
“Strawberry Flats” was the third song on side one, after Faces “Had Me A Real Good Time”, and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, and before Fleetwood Mac’s “Tell me All The Things You Do” from “Kiln House”.
I liked the other songs, and I bought all those albums too, but “Strawberry Flats” stood out. So many ideas packed into a little over 2 minutes.

I didn’t know what a record store was. All I knew was the local Target equivalent. They didn’t have “Little Feat”, so I settled for “Sailin’ Shoes” with it’s bizzarre cover art.
From the chiming opener, “Easy To Slip” I liked it. A lot.

I’ve come to recognize it as a perfect encapsulation of it’s time and place. Southern California in the early ’70′s. I hear elements of Country Rock, CSNY, The Eagles, Flying Burrito Brothers, Warren Zevon, Captain Beefheart, and of course, The Mother’s Of Invention.

I’m on my third vinyl copy and have the cd.

This compilation is a tribute to Lowell George, founder and guiding light. He was a tremendously gifted guitar player, singer, songwriter, producer, and bandleader. It recreates the order I first heard them. “Strawberry Flats” followed by “Sailin’ Shoes” in it’s entirety, and then highlights from “Little Feat” and “Dixie Chicken”.

Lowell George met Bill Payne when he was a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention.
Payne auditioned for the Mothers, but didn’t join. They formed Little Feat along with former Mothers bassist Roy Estrada and drummer Richie Hayward from George’s previous band, The Factory. Hayward had also been a member of the Fraternity of Man whose claim to fame was the inclusion of their “Don’t Bogart Me” on the million-selling Easy Rider film soundtrack.
The name Little Feat came from a comment made by Mothers’ drummer Jimmy Carl Black (The Indian of the group) about Lowell’s “little feet”. The spelling of “feat” was an homage to the Beatles.

There are three stories about the genesis of Little Feat.
One has it that George showed Zappa his song “Willin’,” and that Zappa fired him because he was too talented to be a sideman, and he should form his own band.
The second version has Zappa firing him for playing a 15-minute guitar solo with his amplifier off. The third version says he was fired because “Willin’” contains drug references.
On October 18, 1975 at the Auditorium Theater in Rochester New York while introducing the song, George commented that he was asked to leave the band for “writing a song about dope”.

In any version, Zappa was instrumental in getting George and his new band a contract with Warner Bros. Records. The eponymous first album delivered to Warner Bros. was recorded mostly in August and September 1970, and was released in January 1971. When it came time to record “Willin’,” George had hurt his hand in an accident with a model airplane, so Ry Cooder sat in and played the song’s slide part.
“Willin’” was re-recorded for “Sailin’ Shoes”, this time with guest Burrito “Sneaky Pete” on pedal steel. It’s the the first Little Feat album to feature cover art by Neon Park, the artist responsible for Zappa’s “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” (On which Lowell is a member of The Mothers).

Despite good reviews, lack of success led to the band splitting up, with Estrada leaving to join Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band (And even more lack of success).

In 1972 Little Feat reformed, with bassist Kenny Gradney replacing Estrada. Also added was second guitarist Paul Barrere, a friend of Lowell’s from Hollywood High, and percussionist Sam Clayton (brother of session singer Merry Clayton). As a result the band was expanded from a quartet to a sextet.

I was so excited when “Dixie Chicken” came out, until I played it. They had 3 new people in the band and it tilted towards New Orleans, and lite funk, which was not what I was looking for.
However, the title is a classic and “Fat Man In The Bathtub” is one of their finest moments.
I didn’t hate the album.
Then came “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now”. Another Neon Parks cover, and a reworking of two songs from “Sailin” Shoes” played as a medley. Which I now understand was made to better reflect their live shows at the time, for which they were getting quite a reputation, but to my ears was a travesty.
I didn’t buy any more of their albums after that.

George continued to produce the albums, but his songwriting contribution diminished as the group moved into jazz fusion, a style in which he had little interest. In August 1977, Little Feat recorded a live album from gigs at the Rainbow Theatre in London and Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. “Waiting for Columbus” is considered by many to be one of the best live albums of all time, despite the fact that significant portions of George’s vocals and slide work were over-dubbed later in the studio. It was released in 1978, by which time it had become apparent that Lowell George’s interest in the band was waning, as was his health.

In an interview with Bill Flanagan (for the book Written in My Soul) conducted eleven days before his death, George made it clear that he felt the demise of Little Feat was due to his having allowed the band to be run democratically, with the result that Payne and, to a lesser extent, Barrere, had a presence as songwriters and in production which was disproportionate to their abilities.

Nowhere on the wikipedia page I reworked for some of this does it mention that Lowell’s drug use was a contributing factor to his abdication of leadership in the band. Or that Zappa fired him for smoking dope.

His only solo album, “Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here” (1979) is mostly covers. I’ve never heard it.

Too bad there isn’t more of this.

Link In Comments

The Curse Of The Mekons

The Mekons should be better known. They are so much more interesting than Radiohead, or Oasis, for instance.

They were briefly signed by A&M, and released one great album, “The Mekons Rock ‘n’ Roll” in 1989, but the fit was poor, and they were soon back to indie purgatory.
Their next, “Curse Of The Mekons”, which is even better, didn’t even see a US release initially.

I used to gauge a new record store by how many Kevin Ayers albums they had. Then I’d check for Roy Harper and Lee “Scratch” Perry. A quick indication of the depth of their catalog.
In the early ’90′s I added The Mekons to the list. Their cd’s were pretty hard to find, but over the years I managed to collect a baker’s dozen. This compilation covers from 1987-2002.

Formed in 1977 by a group of Leeds University art students: John Langford, Kevin Lycett, Mark White, Andy Corrigan, and Tom Greenhalgh (Gang Of Four and Delta 5 came out of the same group of students). I just now found out that they took the name from the Mekon, an evil, super-intelligent Venusian featured in the British 1950-1960′s comic Dan Dare.

The band’s first single was “Never been In A Riot”, a satirical take on The Clash’s “White Riot”.
They’re debut album, “The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strnen”, was recorded using the Gang Of Four’s instruments, and due to an error by the Virgin Records art department, features pictures of that band, instead of The Mekons on the back cover.

Through the years, the band’s musical style has evolved, incorporating country, folk, rock, and occasional experiments in dub. These days, The Mekons are often described as a post-punk, cowpunk and/or alt country band.

The Mekons
Jon Langford
Tom Greenhalgh
Sally Timms
Sara Corina
Steve Goulding (The Rumour)
Susie Honeyman
Rico Bell
Lu Edmonds (The Damned)
J. Mitch Flacko

Past members
Ben Mandelson
Dick Taylor (original Rolling Stone and Pretty Thing)
John Langley
Kevin Lycett
Mary Jenner
Robert Worby

Mekons Mekons Mekons


I highly recommend the terrific documentary, “The Revenge Of The Mekons”

Mekons Mekons Mekons

Acid Washed Weekend

I didn’t buy a copy of the original double lp”Nuggets” as compiled by Lenny Kaye in 1972.
I never really sought this stuff out before getting Bowie’s “Pinups” in 1973. At first I preferred his versions because the sound was so much better. I thought the Kink’s original “Where Have All The Goodtimes Gone?” sounded weak and thin by comparison. On the other hand, Syd’s “See Emily Play” had something that Bowie’s did not.

Neither of those are here, however.

Only “Lies”, “Open My Eyes”, and “Farmer John” appeared on the original 1972 “Nuggets”.
The rest are from the much expanded Rhino versions, and a few from various other sources.
I included the best, and most obscure songs I know, while mostly avoiding the usual suspects.
While I’m sure some of this is familiar territory, I hope it’s the surprises that really get you.

Enjoy your trip!


Acid Washed Weekend

The Road To Ruined

I approach singer/songwriters with caution. It can be a rabbit hole of disfunction with boring musical accompaniment. Mix that with Jazz and I really worry.
Maybe because John Martyn’s “Solid Air” is both, and works so beautifully is why it’s been one of my very favorite albums for over 40 years.
It was the first record I played on my first real stereo system, which I bought by working as a busboy at a Marie Callender’s in 1974.
When I was putting this together, I couldn’t bring myself to interupt it’s flow, so tracks 7-15 are 1973′s “Solid Air”. The first six come from “The Tumbler” (1968), “Stormbringer!”(1970)*, “The Road To Ruin”(1970)*, “Bless The Weather”(1971), and the last eight are mostly from “Sunday’s Child”(1975), with the final song taken from “One World”(1977).
He was an incredible guitar player, fantastic singer, and songwriter.

But he had no shortage of demons. I hear many of his love songs as heartfelt apologies for bad behavior.
That’s why they ring so true.

In the ’80′s he morphed from underground folk artist into adult contemporary soft jazz blandness.
And then proceeded to gain about 300 lbs.

I’d Rather Be The Devil

The Act You’ve Known For All These Years

This has been a popular idea for some time.
I first encountered it in the ’70′s when critic Robert Hilburn suggested in the LA Times that although they’d broken up, you could assemble virtual albums from their solo work.
This can be done for every year they all made albums.
The first possibility is most interesting to me.
Almost all of these songs, except for the selections from “Plastic Ono Band” (which include Ringo), were at least written while they were still a band, if not rehearsed during “Let It Be”.


It’s clear they were all moving in different directions, but that was also apparent on “The White Album”.



Beatles ’70

Here Comes The SUN

If Elvis is Jesus then Sam Phillips is GOD. I’ve read Peter Guralnick’s terrific two volume biography of Elvis, as well as “Lost Highway: Journeys and Arrivals of American Musicians”, so I look forward to his latest, “Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock N Roll”.

All the songs on this collection come from the accompanying 2 CD set curated by the author.
I don’t have a single argument with his selections. These are my favorites sequenced by me.
Everybody should stop off in Memphis on their way to New Orleans. When I had to pick one or the other I chose Nashville, and I don’t regret it, but next time will be Memphis.
In the ’80′s I had a friend working in a record store who routinely sold me fancy imports at her employee discount. I discovered SUN through Charly Records, and their top-shelf reissues. They all look and sound great. I still have a lot of them including a 9 record set of SUN Blues.

I dug the brief post- punk Rockabilly revival of 1980 (culminating with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love), and even formed a band with a childhood buddy which went on without me to get a record deal and everything(Jimmy And The Mustangs).

I know all these songs like I wrote and played them myself and you should too.
The music speaks for itself. Regardless of the weather have a SUNny weekend!

Here Comes The Sun

A Saucerful Of Tears

Five guys, one bike.

Pink Floyd’s sophomore effort could very well be the worst of all time. Syd Barrett, their guiding light, and principal songwriter, became the goose that laid the golden eggs, and infamously flamed out, leaving them at the apex and in the middle of recording. I don’t think it was just acid, or insanity. I think forming a band was fun, but it suddenly becoming a vocation, and pop stardom stopped being so. He really wanted to be a painter, and he was a pretty good one from what I’ve seen.

Anyway the rest of the band found themselves in quite the pickle with an album begun and no songs. The title track can only be described as a composition, as it’s not a song or even music,really, except for the last section by Richard Wright, which I’ve used as a long intro to “See Saw”. My band, The Smoove Sailors write more interesting “jams” every week than the title tune.

I’ve been thinking about fixing A Saucerful Of Secrets for a long time. It was the unlistenable half of A Nice Pair, and just as bad as Ummagumma (The best part of which is the picture of all the gear on the back). A Saucerful of Tears is almost long enough to be a double album. Like if the White album lost “Revolution 9″ and “Goodnight”, which I would never miss.

It’s the most democratic Floyd album as it features at least four songwriters and five singers.

I’ve compiled all the Syd Barrett songs recorded after their debut, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, including the still unreleased “Vegetable Man”, and “Scream Thy Last Scream”, plus a couple singles with David Gilmour from the same period, but not on the album.

“Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” is not my favorite, but is the only one involving all five members. “A Jolly Bunch of Pop Tunes” Syd might say.

I think it plays rather well, and because it’s all from the same period, could have been released this way. Enjoy!

Rehearsing for “The Wall”


A Saucerful Of Tears