Amoeblog

Nick Drake, happy birthday ...

Posted by Whitmore, June 19, 2008 09:58am | Post a Comment


60 year ago today Nicholas Rodney Drake, enigmatic British folk musician, was born. Today he lives only in myth, legend and allegory. Drake, who released three albums in his lifetime, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter, and Pink Moon  failed to find a wide audience thirty odd years ago, but since his death in 1974 has found a continuing growth in popularity and influence.

Nick Drake was twenty years old when he signed to Island Records, releasing his debut album Five Leaves Left in 1969. Over the next few years he recorded only two other albums, though none sold more than five thousand copies in their initial releases. His reluctance to perform live or be interviewed no doubt contributed to his lack of commercial success.

Throughout his life Drake constantly battled depression. After the completion of his final album, 1972's Pink Moon, he ceased performing and recording, and chose to withdraw from society to his parents' home in rural Warwickshire. Drake died from an overdose of the prescribed antidepressant, amitriptyline, on November 25th 1974.

There was no public announcement or notice of his death. Initially there was no effort to even reissue his three albums, but in 1979 the box set Fruit Tree, compiling his three completed albums plus a handful of home recordings and left over sessions, was released. However, once again, sales were poor, the album received little notice from the press, and by 1983 Fruit Tree was deleted from the Island Records catalogue. Still, a fanatical following and interest never ceased. Musicians such as Robert Smith, Peter Buck, Kate Bush, and John Martyn cited him as an influence. In early 1999, BBC2 aired a documentary, A Stranger Among Us—In Search of Nick Drake. And most notably in 2000, Volkswagen featured the song Pink Moon in a television commercial, and within one month Drake had sold more records than he had in the previous thirty years.

Lyrically mysterious, full of symbolic meaning, often existential, Nick Drake wrote heartbreakingly, beautifully sad songs. Here are a few.

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Please Please Me

Posted by Whitmore, March 22, 2008 07:29pm | Post a Comment

45 years ago today,  March 22, 1963, the Beatles released their first album Please Please Me. This mono version was rush-released to the public in the UK to capitalize on the success of the hit single of the same name which had reached #2 on the charts. The album contained six cover songs, but more importantly it contained eight songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A stereo version of this album was later released in 1963 on April 26th.

In the U.S., most of the songs from Please Please Me were first released in 1964 on the Vee-Jay Records label on the renamed album Introducing The Beatles. And in 1965 a similar collection was issued once again on Capitol Records as The Early Beatles. The unexpurgated Please Please Me was not released in the U.S. until the Beatles catalog was released on CD in 1987.

Other than the singles and the flip sides of "Please Please Me" and "Love Me Do" (the Beatles' first single which had charted and reached #17 in the UK), all the other tracks were recorded in a marathon session on Monday, February 11th, 1963, at Abbey Road Studios. The Beatles, with George Martin producing, essentially recorded their live act in 9 hours and 45 minutes. The entire day's session cost around £400. And besides John, Paul, George Harrison and Ringo Starr playing their respective instruments, George Martin also played a little piano. The earlier tracks recorded the previous September and November had session player Andy White on drums, who has also recorded with the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Herman's Hermits, and Tom Jones.

The Klutz Cargo Adventures, epilogue ...

Posted by Whitmore, November 24, 2007 04:47pm | Post a Comment

You think people get crazy around here the day after Thanksgiving; check out this shopping frenzy in the UK last January. A cargo ship, the MSC Napoli, ran aground about a mile from the town of Branscombe, dumping more then 200 containers into the ocean. And what a bonanza on the beach, (if you didn’t mind the accompanying chemical and oil spill), some barrels were filled with perfume and wine, while others contained battery acid!  Some of the larger cargo containers held BMW cars, motorcycles, auto parts, tractors, bags of dog food, weird bric-a-brac and bales of wool. Police tried to close the beach to prevent crowds from ransacking the containers and seeking to claim ‘salvage rights’, but by the time the local scavengers were finished, about £1million worth of ‘treasure’ was carted away to make a little seaside village an even more idyllic place to live, and shop. That is if you don’t mind the battery acid killing off the local sea life …

 

search for the holy grail: episode 4

Posted by Whitmore, November 11, 2007 11:32am | Post a Comment


A particularly rare and much sought after EP from Anne Briggs, The Hazards of Love from 1963 on Topic Records, draws a pretty penny these days on Ebay and other auction sites. Though she never sold a vast number of albums, Briggs was a leading figure on the English folk music revival of the mid 1960’s. First gaining prominence as a traditional a cappella singer, (“The Hazards of Love” has just one song complemented by any instrument, a bouzouki), by the late sixties Briggs would add a bit of instrumentation to her recordings but more significantly she would also include some of her own compositions. Her musical legacy is significant; it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say she was the defining voice of the era, influencing virtually every folk singer from June Tabor, to Sandy Denny, Jacqui Mcshee, Maddy Prior, to Eliza Carthy and Beth Orton. Many of her songs have been recorded by some of these artists plus others such as Pentangle, Bert Jansch, and Dorris Henderson.

Anne Briggs has always been something of an elusive and slightly mysterious figure on the British folk music scene. In the 2006 documentary, Folk Britannia, Richard Thompson recollects that he only ever stumbled upon Anne Briggs twice; and on both occasions she was drunk and unconscious. Her entire catalogue consists of only 3 full lengths albums and this EP, and half of those recordings are her singing completely unaccompanied. The common explanation for her limited output, Briggs retired from recording in 1973, has been her own anxiety and apprehension about the sound of her recorded voice. But whatever the reason, it’s been over 30 years since Anne Briggs has produced any new recordings, and it is unlikely anything new will come to light soon.  

On The Hazards of Love, one of the best cuts is Rosemary Lane, later to be recorded by guitarist Bert Jansch, and become one of his signature pieces. Anne Briggs was the source for quite a few traditional songs Jansch would later record (they’d been great friends since meeting in the late 50’s) including Blackwaterside. Jansch's instrumental accompaniment was later copied, virtually note-for-note, by Jimmy Page for Led Zeppelin's Black Mountain Side. Oh the tangled web we weave …  

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Remember, remember the fifth of November

Posted by Whitmore, November 5, 2007 08:58am | Post a Comment
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
gunpowder, treason and plot,
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'twas his intent
to blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!
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