Ça, c’est un théière volant, originale!

In truth, I’m feeling a bit under the weather at the moment – I feel like that cartoon of a stoned guy with his face melting – alas nothing as exotic as that, just a dose of man-flu and generally feeling a bit sorry for myself.

It’s half term, so I’ve not got any demands on my time for the moment – I can afford the luxury of moping around at home, watching Hammer films and generally loafing. Can’t complain…

Gong, Rockenstock, 1973

Disappearing down a YouTube wormhole is one of life’s pleasures, I reckon, and today I’ve just spent a happy hour and a half wandering through a series of hopelessly silly prog videos, inspired by a chance mention of the Matching Mole video that I’ve talked about before. That was a clip from a French TV program, called Rockenstock, presented by Pierre Lattès and released in January 1971. It’s great and worth another look, not only for the home-knitted gimp mask that Wyatt wears, without comment, but also for the great chunk that’s missing from the man’s high hat by the end of the show.

I’ve only this afternoon realised there’s a few other Rockenstock programs available, including this gem of a film made about Gong.

I’ve always had a lot of time for people who are utterly sure of themselves and are absolutely committed to do what they do regardless of whether the rest of the world thinks they’re a bit of a dick. And just as I have a huge regard for Wyatt’s psychedelic gimp mask, I can only grin foolishly and applaud Daevid Allen with his ridiculous knitted (again) pixie hat, third-eye headband and orange tunic.

The show is recorded in the band’s French house in the countryside outside Paris, where they all lived as a community. It’s terrifically barmy and features electric performances of “I never glid before” and “Witches Song / I am your pussy” (complete with ‘Whispering’ Gilli Smyth in all her feline splendour), all interspersed with chatty interviews in the band’s kitchen, surrounded by bowls of salad, teapots (flying of course) and an alarming number of bees.

There’s a delightful piece at the end when Lattès interviews a number of the older local people, including the Master of the local Hunt, who are all charmed by the hippies (“Everywhere they go they pay their bills”) and are disappointed at their decision to move back to England.

I originally watched this version which has no subtitles, picking up what I could from my schoolboy French, but just enjoying the whole thing, erm… pataphysically but if you don’t fancy that there is a longer video which adds various other Gong clips and crucially, does include subtitles.

Close the curtains, pour yourself a beer and settle in… Gong, in all their charming silliness:

You’ve been living in a world forgotten!

Turns out the odd dose of indolence and slovenliness can save you more than a little embarrassment. Who knew?

I thought about posting this a good fortnight ago, but the iron had begun to cool and I’d still not struck – as is my wont I allowed the moment to pass… But actually the fates gave me a second chance when I noticed by purest chance that the record I’d been loonishly head-bobbing along to in the car was not actually the one I imagined it was. I’d been thinking it was the latest by rangy cowpokes, Omni, but whadya know? I’m an idiot. Turns out, when I eventually prized it from the stereo, I’d actually been listening to the band’s 2016 debut, Deluxe, rather than their 2017 sophomore Multi-Task.

In my defence, I’d just stuck the thing in the car stereo without looking overmuch at the track listing and ran with it heartily. Actually, this has turned out rather well, as it’s meant that I get to start all over again with the new one, having loved the previous one. It’s also meant that I’ve managed to avoid looking like a bit of a burke (go on, I’m just going to let you have that one…).

Omni

Omni are a trio from Athens, Georgia, led by sinewy guitarist Frankie Broyles, specialising in twitchy, funky post-punk and signed to one of my regular favourite labels, Trouble in Mind. (I think I did a post about how you can pretty much pick any of TiM’s bands and blow your paper-round money on them. And, that’s clearly still the case…)

I’ll stick to thinking about this year’s record today, but I genuinely can’t decide which of the two I prefer – they’re both wondrous, boisterous things that I’d wholeheartedly recommend you get hold of.

Here’s the first track on Multi-Task, “Southbound Station”:

 

You’ll have been struck by the very first bars, I’ll warrant:

“You said to meet at the centre of Lennox Square / I’m drenched in sweat / And you can bet I’m already there,”

and in best Pitchfork-style, I’m going to take that as some sort of mission statement for the band, although I’d better qualify it by saying I don’t think this is really middle ground stuff, I think they’re throwing you off the scent a little. It’s all a clever left-field ruse…

There’s heaps of feverish running around and general rootlessness all through the record – trains, hotel lobbies, RSVPs, mints on pillows – and even as this the first song moves into its next verse (“You said to meet at the corner of Boulevard”) you’re getting used to the fact that there’s more than a little misdirection throughout.

As well as this, I reckon I can also hear a fair amount of “found”, overheard snippets of rush-hour conversations, studiously collected and languidly delivered by bassist Phillip Frobos (and feverishly embellished by Broyles’ dot-to-dot guitar work). It makes the lyrics sound as disjointed and fragmented as the tunes themselves.

Musically, the songs are pretty chaotic too. Tight, zany, Devo-ish chords collide with each other like so many cartoonish cars concertinaed together after an unlikely traffic incident. Actually, I’ve said “Devo” (I’ve read XTC a couple of times too), but over the week I’ve thought again and again about Bill Harkleroad and Jeff Cotton’s Through-the-Looking-Glass guitar pieces from Trout Mask Replica. It’s all a bit breathless and hysterical.

Have a listen to “Tuxedo Blues” and tell me it ain’t so…

 

Cracking stuff and not for the first time, I’m left thinking “Where would we be without the good Captain?”

Everybody knows, that you’ve been untrue

As Glaws suffer another (historic) drubbing in Salford, my thoughts – never the most robust – drift towards the maudlin…

If, God forbid, I was to pack up now and meet an insalubrious end over a half-marked pile of Maths books or putting away grassy netballs in an ill-lit PE shed, well, let’s just say I’d not really have my papers in order. Pension provision: patchy. Tax affairs: still unresolved. General final arrangements: yet to be put in place. Most alarming of all, I’ve still (still!) not settled on my All-time Top Ten Albums.

I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this before, but suffice to say, I’ve not really made much progress… Inexplicably, this band’s oft-neglected masterpiece has somehow never put up its hand.

The Flamin’ Groovies, the Fleece

As an older bloke, you have a little more money and the CDs come and go – thick, fast and with a little less gravitas than in the days of youth. As a teenager, you have no money and the records you do get hold of you hold onto hard, listening to them with a fury and determination you never match later on. I can remember as, say, an 18-year-old I probably only bought a handful of records – Forever Changes, 5D, Closer, Nuggets, The Velvet Underground & Nico, Smash Hits (and a few others I do not care to share with you at this point). And the Groovies’ wonderful Shake Some Action.

Some of those records haven’t aged as well as others but Shake Some Action still sounds as fresh and world-weary as it always did. Packed full of light but scuzzy Beatles-y pop songs that turned out to be a full ten or fifteen years out of time – too late for the Beat Explosion, too old for the punks. Graceful, crafted and grimy.

To be fair, very little else of their output gets anywhere near it – most of their other records are pretty much standard rock‘n’roll and 12-bar blues Of course many other bands did quite nicely out of doing exactly that but not the Groovies – I don’t think they even found a niche on the pub rock circuit. Who knows?

So, all in all, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I eagerly snapped up tickets on the announcement of a UK tour, back in the Spring – not the least because I had a ticket to see them in Barcelona on holiday a few years back. Then, the euphoria lasted less than 24 hours when news came out that the gig was cancelled with Cyril Jordan in hospital.

There was a pretty good turnout at Bristol’s favourite gummy-floored rock venue, with a smattering of younger faces and even a few ladies amongst the sea of battered leather and feathery hair loss. Thankfully, Jordan looked in pretty good shape, boldly dapper in some sort of polka dot (or possibly cake pattern?) shirt and still in possession of the most San Fran of all haircuts, parted defiantly in the middle. Buddy Chris Wilson looking a little more middle-aged, lead most of the evening taking most of the vocal duties and the occasional guitar lead.

As the opening notes of “You Tore Me Down” rang out across the floor, something of a shiver ran down my spine, and the arrival of the distinctively thin twin-vocals was genuinely memorable. Don’t mind admitting, I felt a little emotional.

I like to think it was a proper Groovies evening with jaded harmonies; effortless Berry-esque guitar breaks; a few sound problems, accompanied by some earthy language and an absolute wagonload of riffing. As well as being one of those “I never thought I’d see this” sort of nights, it was actually really good fun. There was a fair amount of reminiscing and story-telling between songs but also a couple of new ones played. (They were greeted with some good natured booes and a few laughs onstage but were actually OK. There’s a new record out – I was tempted…). But I counted three songs from Shake Some Action and a final run of “Teenage Head”, Shake Some Action”, “Slow Death” and “Jumpin’ in the Night” gives you an idea of the evening. A great night…

In these nervy days, you often get searched going in to gigs, so I’m not keen on taking my proper recorder. I do have some phone recordings, though, which are not quite as “warm” as the others but still pretty good and give a good account of a cracking evening.

You Tore Me Down

I Want You Bad

Slow Death