The Stars My Destination, part 2

Hello there.

This is part two of my “musical journey”. Thanks for reading part one and thanks for the constructive feedback – Nicol in particular! If you haven’t read part one you can read it here.

So then, where did I leave things? Ah yes, in the back of a blue VW camper van with Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd being pumped from a tinny stereo. Next up is:

6) The 13th Floor Elevators: Now the first rule of record shopping is never buy a record based on the sleeve. That rule is up there with; save often and multiple times in RPGs and say, never watch anything Star Wars related post-1997. You know, the really important rules in life. I’ve pretty much abided by this rule forever. However, on the one occasion I threw caution to the wind I came up trumps.

Back in my time in sixth form I had the pleasure of being taken to Cobb Records in Porthmadog by our head of art. We were on an art field trip for a week. A field trip I remember more for 1) a grotesquely huge pair of red Y-fronts ending up on a teacher’s head in a fit of accidental rebellion; and 2) an otherwise sane classmate being convinced he was Ryu from Street Fighter II thanks to the single Tai Chi class he’d attended, rather than any art I actually created.

As I was saying, our head of art took us to Cobb Records after learning that some friends and I were into the Beatles and the Velvet Underground. The record shop was the first “proper” independent record store I’d been to. I spent hours meticulously leafing through the racks and one of the records that caught my eye was the Elevators’ first album, The Psychedelic Sounds Of. At the time my knowledge of 60s music other than the top tier bands was fairly limited. I had no idea who the Elevators were or what they sounded like. Something compelled me to buy it though – probably the kaleidoscopic sleeve or the “far out” liner notes written by band member, Tommy Hall.

Was it a rash purchase? Yes, but it paid off. The Elevators are my favourite band and probably always will be. There’s something compellingly charged and otherworldly about Roky Erickson’s vocals, Stacy Sutherland’s guitar and Tommy Hall’s bizarre electric jug. I would say to anyone who is curious about the weird and wonderful world of sixties psychedelia to start with the first two Elevators’ LPs Рthey are most definitely mandatory listening.

7) Walkin’ With Jesus – Spacemen 3: After my A-levels I took a year off to go travelling -  travelling to Milton Keynes city centre and back. I had a temp job at House of Fraser, see. What did I learn from my one and only job in fashion retail? Firstly, people will buy any old crap if it has a designer label on it. And secondly,  Moschino clothes are REALLY ugly. Or at least they were circa 1998. Okay, the link to Spacemen 3… Milton Keynes’ HMV is situated opposite House of Fraser and I spent most of my lunch breaks browsing the racks, looking for hidden gems nestled amongst the mire. It was often a thankless task but one day I chanced upon a CD compilation of early Spacemen 3 singles. I hadn’t heard them before but knew they were Jason Pierce’s (Spiritualized) old band so thought; “Why not?”. Ultimately, I ended up being obsessed with the band, and their brand of lo-fi psychedelic miasma opened my eyes to “cosmic” music post-1969.

8) Acid Techno: In 1998 I made a half-arsed attempt at higher education. It was a short dalliance with university life, lasting one academic year. Despite being an academic car crash I have fond memories. I met some cool (if somewhat wayward) people and experienced a place where there was actually the faint waft of culture. Admittedly though, the latter is probably more a damning indictment of the cultural wasteland that is Leighton Buzzard, my hometown, than an endorsement of Southampton’s nightlife. Actually that’s being a bit mean-spirited to Southampton. You see, Southampton had a decent little acid techno/free party scene going on back then and I was introduced to it via the new set of friends I’d made down there.

Being somewhat of a wallflower in my previous “crap pretend hippie” incarnation, the liberating qualities of MDMA and screaming 303s were not lost on a newly shaven-headed me. However, my dalliance with techno was ultimately very brief. It’s not a scene I have kept up with. Nor is it one I have any inclination to get back into. However, it did make me realise that there’s more to music than the traditional “rock” format. I’m much more open-minded towards electronic music as a whole – and the ridiculous notion that music is not “proper music” unless it’s played with guitar, bass and drums is a ghost long since exorcised.

9) Yeti – Amon Düül II: The Germans made some bat-shit crazy music in the early 1970s, they really did. Whilst American and British bands knocked on the doors of perception in the late sixties, the German “kosmische” bands of the seventies kicked the back doors in.  Amon Düül II’s second album, released in 1970 is a fine example of the more incendiary end of the kosmische scale (see also Ash Ra Tempel’s first LP and Tangerine Dream’s Electronic Meditation for other good examples). Also, Yeti means a lot to me as it was the album that exposed me to another layer of the Krautrock onion. Showing me that there is more to German rock music than *Can, Kraftwerk and David Bowie recording there.

*Please take note, BBC4 documentary makers.

10) Les Rallizes Dénudés CD-Rs: As I said earlier in this blog, I had an ill-fated flirtation with higher education in the late 90s. Despite it ending in tears – and mood swings – I did meet some good people. One of which was my friend Matt. We both share a passion and thirst for new music and I owe a lot of my current tastes to his influence. One of the bands that sums up that influence, and Matt himself to some degree, is Japanese underground legends,  Les Rallizes Dénudés. Looking back, the excellent CD-R comps he made me circa 2004 were the foundation of my love of 70s Japrock and 90s/00s noise-rock.

Well that concludes my musical journey. I guess it could be construed as a slightly self-indulgent topic to blog about  - but you know what? I don’t care. It was a fun blog to write and mulling over what artists, albums and songs to choose brought back a lot of memories, good and bad. That’s part of the beauty of music though isn’t it? Its ability to transport you to another time and another place; teasing forth memories previously lost in the ether.

 I bloody love music.

6 thoughts on “The Stars My Destination, part 2

  1. Got to say that the only reason I bought the 13th Floor Elevators’ was because of the cover and the name Roky Erickson was cool. Great article Si.

  2. Can’t really argue with your list. The Elevators were the ‘first’ in so many ways. I could make a reasonable case for tracing the huge majority of bands I listen to back to them, whether it is the Birthday Party, Nirvana, Wold…

    Interesting to see Acid Techno making the list. Tellingly, once the charm (the drugs) of ‘dance’ music wore off, I returned to the more traditional guitar based fare and have never looked back. Must admit I do like to blast out Pounding Grooves every now and again though.

    Some people are compared to a summer’s day…me, to a cult, semi-obscure Japanese noise rock band. Perhaps because 20 minutes in my company make people’s heads feel like they are about to explode, perhaps not, still it’s better than being one of life’s Take Thats I suppose.

Please leave a comment. Many thanks.