”So, who are your influences then…?”
A tale of a music group, record collecting, the counterculture & a slowpoke makin’ his way through it all.
”So, who are your influences then…?”
A tale of a music group, record collecting, the counterculture & a slowpoke makin’ his way through it all.
We formed the “band” (originally just a duo) in fall 1991 & at first traded under the name Heaven Is In Your Mind, taken from a song off the first Traffic LP. I’d gotten into Traffic when I was 15, after hearing “Paper Sun” on the radio. I actually taped it as well & this recording was, along with choice tracks by Iron Butterfly, Grateful Dead, Beatles & probably a few more, the basis for a lecture I held at school on the topic of psychedelic music & how the American and British takes on it differed from each other. I’m sure the other kids were thrilled. I bought my first Traffic LP, “The Low Spark Of The High-heeled Boys”, on a family trip to Stockholm in the early summer of 1990 & while it didn’t sound one bit like “Paper Sun” I still dug it a great deal, especially “Hidden Treasure” & “Rainmaker”. I remember playing these tracks to a friend, hoping that he’d see the light as well but it never happened. Around the same time I played him “Dark Eyed Woman” by Spirit, which he claimed sounded like Kiss, at least until the long solo came on.
Anyway, in 1991 I had just bought a single-sleeve glossy cover reissue of Traffic’s debut LP & it sounded like a dream to me, so trippy while yet so focused. Naming a band after a track on it seemed more than justified. Why it didn’t last any more than a few months I don’t know – the one we opted for instead, albeit for a very short time, was the (I hope, but I wouldn’t bet on it) tongue-in-cheek Art n’ Acid.
Just about when the name-change took place we went into a studio for the first time, recording a track for a CD comp on the local A West Side Fabrication label. They had recently abandoned their goth phase & were now Sweden’s leading indie label – not the perfect fit for us, mind you, but we had somehow gained their interest via a demo tape that among other things had a track on it called “Children Of The Rainbow”, which I had stolen (the title, that is) straight from Mu (incidentally another band I’d learned of via that 1989 radio show). That I knew the guys who ran the label might have had something to do with it as well. When the comp came out in spring 1992 (by which time we had ditched the Art n’ Acid moniker), our track “Druid Two” stood out like an I-don’t-know-what in a crowd of I-don’t-know-whats & much to my disappointment nobody commented on the incredibly cool fact the Third Ear Band’s “Live Ghosts” LP had a track on it called “Druid Three” & not by accident either, nor that our briefly whispered lyrics contained a phrase lifted straight off a 13th Floor Elevators song.
By spring & summer 1993 we had evolved into a proper band & were recording our first CD, “Cosmic Minds At Play”. I was 18 then, had been reading the Flashback book for a few years & was currently obsessing with the Paisleys’ “Cosmic Mind At Play” album. This obsession was over a short while later & writing this I realize I still haven’t grabbed an original of it – I’d better see to having this remedied soon [now sorted]. For a while I toyed around with having “Our Flash On You” as the title, after a (slightly re-named) track on the first Love album, but all that came of it was a sketch or two in a notebook now collecting dust up in the attic. The CD opened with a track called “To Earth With Love”, a title I’d nicked from an LP by Terry Brooks & Strange; I’d not heard the record at the time (although I did ride for “Ruler Of The Universe” off their “Translucent World” LP, which was on one of the Endless Journey comps), but it was too good a title to not see it re-used. The actual LP turned out to be a bit of a bore though, despite a promising b/w cover. I’m not sure if “Sunchild” was intended as a nod towards “Children Of The Sun” by the Misunderstood, but I was playing their Cherry Red comp frequently at the time, so it could well be the case. Part IV of the “Seashore Trees” suite went by the name of “Utopian Forest”, which is generic enough for it to carry no special meaning, but in my mind it meant two things: if there’s a utopia, it surely must be located in a forest, and the music heard in this forest can be by no other than Forest, a band that I’d spent a couple of years adoring – staring at the mystical covers while listening to the LPs by candlelight, incense embedding me in a dreamily wistful haze. I remember when me & Anders, my original partner-in-crime, went to a hockey game in the Heaven Is In Your Mind-days & I had for one reason or the other brought with me my Walkman & was playing a tape of the 1st Forest album on it – he asked to have a listen & came in right at the multitudes of ‘la-la-la-la’s in “Sylvie (We’d Better Not Pretend)”; him soon taking off the headphones with a smile & singing along to the chorus. Ah, we were an odd music-making match, his head was full of Sisters Of Mercy while I was groovin’ to Julian’s Treatment... so long ago. Around the same time there was a hippie chick that somehow had taken to me & she came with me & my cousin to another game. I remember her only staying for the first 20 minutes, barely saying a word but I could occasionally hear the sounds of Jefferson Airplane coming out of her Walkman.
The “Cosmic Minds” booklet was so full of howdies aimed at my heroes, and at myself in a way, that the Belgian ‘zine Crohinga Well ran a contest amongst their readers to see who could locate the most of them... in-house writer Louie Behiels ran away with the crown & while he didn’t find all of them (I think he missed the SRC one), he actually spotted a few unintentional leads as well. Looking at the booklet now I see Hawkwind, The Dead, United States Of America & Youngbloods. I’m sure there are more & that the teen me would be disappointed with the current me for not noticing. CW editor Andre Van Bosbeke sent a letter, asking ‘who are the people on Elephant Mountain?’ – hell, I don’t know but I’d sure like to go there.
Our 2nd CD, “Organic Mind Solution”, was released a year later, in 1994. I think Ptolemaic Terrascope commented on the cover being overly marked by carelessness; at least I know that me & editor Phil McMullen had a post-review letter exchange about it (among other things). I said I had wanted something along the lines of the quick, sketch-like b/w feel of “Zuma”, to which he replied that if I wanted “Zuma” I’d better check out this new album by some band that I can’t recall, whose cover was a complete rip-off of Neil’s 1975 aesthetics. Or maybe this was all in the review & our exchange predated it? Who knows, who really cares, but at the time these reviews & the letters that arrived every now and then, from Phil, Andre, Richard at Freakbeat/Freak Emporium, occasional ‘fans’ & others were heavy stuff. We couldn’t get more than 20 people come see us at a local gig, but a guy in Belgium, I think, wrote to tell us that we’d saved his life.
I’d long been infatuated with Marilyn Monroe, hence the “River Of Two Returns”. “The Cave Song ~ Adanech”, which I see is pretty much always mis-read as “The Care Song”, was Henrik’s title & while the Adanech part was the big thing for him, I was more than happy with the cave bit as Linn County had a track called “Cave Song” on their killer “Proud Flesh Soothseer” LP. I think it was Henrik that suggested “The One That Really Won The War” as well, again paying attention to Hawkwind whose “Who’s Gonna Win The War” we liked a lot. The first recorded version of “The One That Really Won The War” had a much longer mid-section where David, upon my instructions, recited Sea Train from atop of a balcony (the recording sessions were held at a local theatre): “Take a message to the island / Take a message to the shores / Take a message ‘cross the nation / Put an end to war”. It sounded nothing but goofy though & was ditched pretty much immediately. We eventually re-recorded the entire track, making it about 15 minutes shorter in the process.
On the back of the cover, there’s a note saying “Everything courtsey of external forces (God)” [sic] – I was somehow absolutely certain that the original source for the quote, the 2LP set by Madura, had misspelled it like this. It wasn’t until a few years later, when a buddy asked about it that I actually checked the Madura cover & realized my mistake. Looking at the CD cover now, I get a strong feel that there’s an Arthur Gee connection in there somewhere, but I can’t find it. At the time I was very much into some songs off his first LP (or what was thought of as his first back then; it was several more years before anyone realized that he was also responsible for the Arthur LP on Two:Dot), but perhaps I’m mixing up memories here.
We recorded a bunch of tracks during the “Organic” sessions that remain unreleased still and I’m pretty sure the tapes are long lost, so for the sake of posterity I’m picking out a couple from the deepest banks of memory, just to let them leave some sort of imprint on reality beyond the mutual mind of the band. We were into watching exploito movies at the time & did a 14 minutes long instrumental thing with a slightly Spanish flavour called “Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls” – David was way into Z-man Barzell – that was intended for a Crohinga Well comp that never happened. A vocal number called “Mountain Song” took a cue from Shiva’s Headband with lyrics about people in the city ‘standing in line / looking pretty / but take me to the mountains / to a long forgotten home / a place to call my own / a no-people zone’, but the music had little to do with these Texas barnyard rockers.
In spring 1994, I’d been to see a show in Skellefteå & afterwards went to my mom’s place & she told me some American guy had called and asked for me. This turned out to be the well-known dealer/collector Michael Piper from Santa Cruz, California. Much to my surprise & delight he was looking to start his own label & wanted us as the label launcher. About a year later, when we were touring Belgium & Holland, the resulting double album was released & me & Andre picked up a couple of boxes from the Belgian customs. One of the boxes also had my copy of the brandnew counterfeit of the legendary Fifo LP by the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band in it. I distinctly remember Johan Wellens, today a well-respected dealer, asking whether it was an original... but we were so much younger then, we’re older than that now.
“Sleepy Eyes And Butterflies” was a killer track on the sole LP by the American band Man (the more well-known Welsh band of the same name, a k a the Manband, had blown me away back in 1991 with the cover art of “2 Ozs Of Plastic With A Hole In The Middle” – ‘the blue guy!’ – and that long two-part track; I remember my cousin commenting that ‘this is further out than even the Dead’). I had bought the US Man LP from an older guy in the south of Sweden & we were discussing how some of the lead vocals on the LP recalled Lawrence Hammond; we agreed that there were similarities on the Knowbody Else album as well, and he sent me a letter some time later, saying that he’d heard the ‘Mad River voice again’, on the New Potatoes LP. I hadn’t heard it at the time, or even of it, but found a copy a few years lears later & while I don’t hear too much Hammond in there, I do love the record – enough for it to creep into the sleeve notes of my first solo CD. The same guy sold me copies of the JK & Co LP (which Michael was going to reissue, with me writing the sleeve notes, but a boot came out of it before we were done & the whole project stopped short), and the first Sweet Pain record (again, the American band), as well as shitloads of other things. 1995 saw a release of a Swedish psych comp called “Let Your Freak Flag Fly”, on which we had a long track & our booklet page came with a Sweet Pain quote on it; again it disappointed me mightily that nobody was paying attention! A year before, me & Henrik had made a tape under the name of The Gracious Pond, which quoted JK & Co... circles.
Michael always had a bit of an affinity for the same not-quite-namedropping games on his releases that I’ve revelled in on ours & the quotes in the run-out grooves on “Sleepy Eyes” were his – although the one from “Forever Changes” was a nod to me & the very first time we spoke on the phone. I believe the other one was from Devil Doll. I wanted a Terence McKenna quote on the back cover & Michael actually got in touch with McKenna for an ok, something I’d never considered doing & still haven’t so many years later. Come to think of it, most of the times I haven’t even credited the people whose fine thoughts I’ve borrowed for my own enjoyment. Sorry, Gary Snyder.
”Sailing The Seagoat”, released a year later, contained a track called “Sleepy Eyes And Butterflies” – I had completely forgotten about this until I just now looked at the cover. “Waiting For You In The Woods Of Dawn” was a line from a Mad River song, probably “Eastern Light”, while “Time Is Like A Promise” was one of two perfect songs on the first Tir Na Nog LP (the other one being “Our Love Will Not Decay”). “Seagoat” was originally intended as a cassette-only release & in retrospect I kinda wish that it had happened that way instead of a more wide-spread, ‘official’ CD. Or that we’d paid more attention to details. Almost forgot: that ‘old times’ quote is from the Fargo album on RCA – betcha didn’t see that one comin’.
Meanwhile, another American gentleman, Pat Reilley in San Antonio, had gotten in touch with us, and wanted to cooperate on an LP release – “Garden Of A Well Fed Head” eventually came out of it. I’d wanted the album title to be “Sweetness To The Lord”, but Pat, being from Texas n’ all, felt that it had too many religious connotations, so we swifted between this & a track that was originally called “Garden Of A Well Fed Head”, which I believe is the one called “The Cave Song – Garden Of The Dwarfs” on the finished LP. I had no idea we had two cave songs (nor so many gardens – there’s one on “Organic” as well). Anyway, “In The Land Of Roses And Snow” was inspired by “Roses And Snow” off a Robbie Basho LP that Michael had given me. I remember mentioning how much I dug Basho over the phone to Michael back in 1994 & three(!) days later I received a package containing three sealed vintage Takomas, but “Song Of The Stallion”, which had the “Roses”cut, came to me a couple of years later. The “Garden” LP comes with yet another Dead bow of head & the “Euphoria Euphoria” probably was commenting on the many psych(-ish) bands there were who called themselves Euphoria, but I don’t know why I didn’t name it “Euphoria Euphoria Euphoria” then. Or, ok, it really doesn’t sound very good. By the way, nowadays I only care for the Capitol one. The run-out etchings quote Baccara; we’d been fooling around vocally with this disco ditty although we didn’t know what it was at the time – just the melody & the first few words – so David called his older sister who could hip us to the rest & what band (again: “band”) it was. By pure luck we discovered that if you place an empty inner bag on top of the front cover, which Pat had designed via inspiration from Yatha Sidra, it spells out ‘ACID”. Amazingly beautiful artwork by Caryl.
For the last part of what we referred to as “the Mind Trilogy” (of which “Cosmic” and “Organic” were the first two, obviously), we switched labels to the UK imperium/emporium Delerium, hoping this would take us up a couple of notches as far as making our stuff available. “House In The Country” was picked by Richard Allen to be our cut on the Delerium boxed set that came out a few years back – don’t know how many of the punters realized that when we wrote this track back 1995, I’d borrowed the title from the Pretty Things’ “A House In The Country” (which of course was a cover of the Kinks’ “House In The Country” – I’ve never been into them though), probably not too many. Hopefully nobody thought we’d lifted it from Blur, although indie grand pops Thomas would probably have liked it better that way. “Outlaw Mutation Boogie” was a Digger event (& suitably enough the 4 AM recording session out in the midst of a field was monitored by the police), while McGannahan Skyjellyfeti [sic] continued in the grand Madura tradition of spelling mistakes – I really don’t know how this came about, if Ivor (Trueman), Richard’s co-hort, couldn’t read my notes or what – not blaming Ivor, if so. Apologies, dear Warlocks. More importantly, on the outer rim of the disc itself, tucked away amongst a bunch of legal crap, was a quote from one of my all-time fave bands, the Goose Creek Symphony.
I’d picked up Goose Creek’s “Words Of Earnest” in 1994 at the Garageland store (where I’d later work for a couple of years) & they wowed me royally right away. Around the same time I got to know a fellow collector who eventually would go under the name of German Twin South, or simply GTS – we were very much into the same sounds & he too had had his feet swept away by these Kentucky moonshiners (by the way, one of the best songs ever is Bill Staines’ version of “Kentucky Moonshiner” on his self-titled Evolution LP – beyond the fucking pale, to speak with Jerome) & we soon set up a contest: who’d be the first to have a complete run of Goose Creeks? It wasn’t quite as competetive as it may sound, after all he hooked me up with a copy of their first & I sorted him out on the 2nd, but the stage was set & we’d run like hell to get up there first. Of course the only title that proved to be a bit tricky – this was way before any ‘a click away’ craziness, remember? – was their last one, privately released & I believe withdrawn as well. In any event I won, after GTS was kind/stupid enough to mention that he’d seen it in one of Mike Olivieri’s Goldmine ads (I also bought New Dawn-producer Gary Nieland’s solo LP and 1st Joe Cohen from the same list). I fully believe that there might not be a single person on Earth or elsewhere who’s played the first three Goose Creek LPs as much as I have – I love them, simple as that & this will be apparent enough in a while.
Where was I? Right, “The Mind Of A Brother”. Much like with the “Sleepy Eyes” release, we first saw copies of this while abroad, this time in London, where we played the 1999 Terrastock festival. Apart from our own set we also backed Tom Rapp on a few songs – a pretty major event for me, as I’d long been an admirer of his work. I even named my mailorder business & store (RIP) after one of his albums. For a record geek it was pretty cool to be sitting between Tom & Pete Frame while they were discussing Reprise albums from way back when. On the same trip, the same record geek picked up a great rural hippie folk LP by Australian Hans Poulsen in a London shop. The record came with a couple of oddball inserts, one headlined “Fasting – The natural way to cleanse the body internally” & the other “The Aquarian age and the need to establish communes or fraternities”. For some reason I was going to show these to the other guys long after we’d left the store, only to discover that one of the ‘serts wasn’t there anymore. I backtracked to the shop, tried to explain what I was looking for to the guys who worked there, but they just looked at me as if I were a mental case. Just as I was about to walk out the door, I spotted the insert on the floor behind the counter & could leave there happily. It still carries with it a shadowy record dealer footprint. The album itself, “Lost And Found”, is really pretty good with some brief sitar & backwards bits on one track & great electric leads on another; lyrics are very much of a back-to-the-land character & I imagine Hans would’ve been a great show opener on those joint Huckle & Perth County Conspiracy live dates. His other LP on the same label kinda sucks though.
In 2002, when on tour in the USA, I was approached by a friendly guy by the name of Rob Thomas in a record store (lotsa record stores now). He gave me a few copies of a just-released LP by his band Sunburned Hand Of The Man & we got to talking quite a bit. Oddly enough it turned out that they had also released a ”Mind Of A Brother” album (or CD-r, or whatever). All accidental, as I’d never heard of them before & while he was somewhat familiar with our stuff I don’t think he’d actually seen or heard of our Brother. It turned out that Rob & the band were pals of the No Neck Blues Band, whom in turn I had heard of before – they had written me back in 1996 or so, sending over a copy of their “Letters From The Earth” CD, a photo & a short hand-written note, saying they’d love to have us come over to play their Harlem loft some time (‘this is a goal we speak of often”!). This actually happened nine years later... I had completely forgotten what my response to their CD was, but apparently I said something about there being moments on it that recalled Ya Ho Wa 13 & Red Crayola, which they rightly took as praise.
But anyway... because the Delerium adventure didn’t really turn out the way we’d hoped (blame it on Porcupine Tree, who occupied most of Richard’s time), we decided to form our own label, Goddamn I’m A Countryman Records & our own publishing company, I’m Gonna Farm You Off My Mind Music, as well. The latter was just a hoax, we never bothered with any publishing rights after the Delerium CD. The name of the label was from a short laidback rural sing-along that we never recorded, perhaps thankfully. Actually I’m not really sure if I ever mentioned this song-idea to the others. The name of the ‘publishing company’ came from the not-very-good “Country Suite” by Dave Loggins. With titles like “Movin’ To The Country”, “Wild Millie The Mountain Girl” and others, you’d be excused for thinking this would be an excellent major label rural hoedown thing, but it really isn’t. The song that we took the name from had some great lyrics though: “Well goodbye big city I’ll sure be glad to get out / I’m gonna plant my roots in rural America / And change my street to a mailing route / A bib overhaul, an office for a stall, a dollar for a dime / I’m gonna get me a plow, a sow and a cow and farm you off my mind”.
Our first release was a 10” celebrating our first ten (ten for ten, y’know) years together, although it actually came out a year late. Its title was simply a tribute to one of the hippest names in the annals of rock history – Reality D. Blipcrotch, leader of the Bolinas-based band One (I also dig the UK band One on Fontana, but naming the record “Alan Marshall” really wasn’t going to happen). A couple of years after the release I received an email from an ex-girlfriend of Reality’s, asking whether I knew of his current whereabouts. I didn’t & asked her to have him get in touch with me, should she succeed in locating him down the line, but I never heard back again. The Dead references are plentiful once more, but the Great Society get a 1st shout out & yet again we tip our hats in direction of the Diggers & Hawkwind. Less obvious, unless you’re really into the West Coast bag, is that forgotten piece of ballroom action that was the Cleveland Wrecking Co. Anyone sitting on tapes? This was our first release of the new decade & it was also the first without Mårten who’d come aboard in time for “Organic”, although he guested on “Cosmic” before that. As a consequence of this, our old pal Niklas (who actually was the one I originally had in mind for the project that became Heaven Is In Your Mind, although at the time he wasn’t really into it when asked) joined inn (sorry!) on guitar, with Henrik switching to bass. In the process we kinda got into a second wind & a much needed such it was.
Some claim that the Dead’s “St. Stephen” was about the late, great Stephen Gaskin, founder of the Farm in Tennessee. I was in touch with Stephen around 1997-98 – he sent me a sealed copy of the Farm Band’s “Communion” LP among other things; I also recall a very happy email from the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. About a year or so later we got an invitation to play a gig at Skogsnäs, one of Sweden’s oldest & most succesful hippie communities, in many ways a micro version of the Farm – Stephen & his buddies peaked at 1,500 heads (you bet), while Skogsnäs never rose much above 100. But hey, Sweden’s a tiny place. Bo Anders Persson lived in the not-quite-immediate surroundings for a long time, along with his son & 30 sheep, and for a while thought about joining the community. Around 1980 the sad tale of Taråberg (a Skogsnäs offshoot, sorta) took place – legendary Swedish counterculture stuff, but this is maybe not the place to go into great details about it – and the people of Skogsnäs put out a fine 7” in support of their brothers & sisters at Taråberg with Bo Anders playing fiddle on the A-side.
We stayed in the rather mind-blowing home of two of the founders, Lillis & Sarah. None of us in the band had seen anything like it before; I especially recall the floor-to-ceiling carved wooden dragon in the kitchen. It turned out that our hosts had been to the Farm in the late 70s & I was happy to hear some first-hand stories about that place, as well as a bit of Skogsnäs lore, of course. Lillis commented on our gig that we reminded him of Iron Butterfly live and Träd, Gräs & Stenar. As we were about to leave the next morning, I spotted a tiny shelf of records, but didn’t have the time to browse them. The only thing I could make out in passing was the “Alive” album by Perth County Conspiracy – there always were strong bonds between Swedish and Canadian hippies & PCC alumni Bob Burchill even lived here for a while. Every home needs a copy of his “Cabin Fever” LP.
Anyway, we recorded the Skogsnäs gig & three years later it was released on a Countryman CD: “Live Volume One: Do Your Thing But Don’t Touch Ours. Skogsnäs 26/10/99”. Yeah, Goose Creek again & while it’s the one LP of theirs I find very mediocre, it’s a good title – although I communalized it a bit – and the front cover is great. A few years ago I happened upon a sleeve sans disc & this is now sitting proudly out in the barn, along with the machine gun 10” by Freedom Singers, Appaloosa & a bunch more.
I’m a bit surprised to see that we didn’t put out any more albums until 2005 – the years in-between that year’s “Rotvälta” & the Skogsnäs live CD were reasonably fertile in terms of gigs & recordings. In fact I checked a discography just to be sure I wasn’t forgetting anything, but alas these were blank years in terms of recorded output. And there’s not really a lot I can say about “Rotvälta” either – that was a short-on-info cover if I’ve eveer seen one. We’d been playing the bulk of the material live for some time & at a local festival where Träd, Gräs & Stenar followed us, Bo Anders told us backstage in his characteristic drawl that we were “very persistent”. I guess we’d been taking the end theme to its limits that day. Writing this I decided to do a quick internet search & it seems the record is a bit of a favourite with some people out there. Not having heard the CD since it came out, I was intrigued enough by a couple of reviews that I pulled out my copy for a spin & I have to admit it really is pretty good – if you’re into the ritual, tribal, nocturnal side of things you could do worse than picking it up for a few bucks. If played under the right circumstances it might well take you places.
Some of you might have noticed (yeah, right) that I’ve not yet commented on the label that put out our first three CDs (as well as the “Freak Flag” sampler), Garageland Records, but that’s just because this narrative goes a bit back & forth at times (time is circular after all) & here is where I’m adding them to the topic list (beyond their store which I actually did mention up above, that is), as it in some ways connects us with the ‘Gentle Path Highway’ CD that we released on the Countryman imprint in 2007. When I was about 14 I watched the Woodstock movie for the first time & I was blown away by it. Not so much the music, which was cool enough but I’d heard better from most acts represented, but by the vibe, the scenery, the aura... you’ve got to look past endless rehashes & legal fights over the name, past baby boomer tiedyed nostalgia & looking-backs on scary TV channels & instead imagine a kid in a north Swedish rural community where nobody but him had ever heard of the Dead or even the Airplane; for him (or me, getting a bit confused here) this was something bordering on the mystical – who were these wild people captured in hazy forever sunshine (even when raining) colours, where did they come from, where did they go? The best part of the movie for me has always been the pre-festival footage of the stage being built, freaks riding horses across the fields, tribes rolling in with their painted buses – this was what I, at the time, imagined the 60s to be like. And so it came to that for a few years I bought a bunch of books on Woodstock & in at least one of them there’s this photo of two crossing paths in the woods, where handmade signs let us know that one is the Groovy Way and the other’s the Gentle Path Highway. Which really is a far better tributarian title than the awkward “Magic Meadows Of Yasgur”, a track we recorded in 1992 (for another local sampler) & that I put on a tape for Garageland. I didn’t know much about them, except for their cheap (but legal) single-sleeve b/w reissue of Blue Cheer’s “Outside Inside”, which I’d been blasting throughout the summer of 1991, but I had a feeling they might be interested in our stuff – and when Lars Gillén, head of the label, called me the same day that he’d received the tape, this was confirmed. The rest is maybe not history, but for a while we served each other well enough. By the way, “Civilization Blues” is my permanent state of mind.
And then came silence. Heaps of it. Instead of dwelling on this, I figured I’d ramble a bit about a record trip that I undertook in the summer of 2000, together with GTS, that will eventually lead us to 2014 & “Greazy Green & The Stoney Lonesomes Vol.1”. We spent four & a half weeks on the American west coast, mostly hunting for records but also getting lost in the Yreka/Eureka (mumblin’ motherfuckin’ busdrivers!) vortex & a whole buncha other things, including an afternoon spent with a stoned, yodelling ex-roadie of John Cipollina, a story that maybe will be shared at some other point.
Anyway, for the most part we were based in San Francisco & while neither of us care much for cities (John Ylvisaker didn’t either), this place does carry with it something special, not least so if you consider its musical scene of the late 60s the apex of music, which we both do. Acid rock, man – there’s nothing like it. We soon stumbled upon this dusty cave of a record store called Jack’s Record Cellar, which I somehow had entirely missed when I was in town four years earlier. Perhaps the oldest store in the Bay Area, its racks were well picked over by collectors predating us, but it was absolutely reekin’ of something way beyond mere records; history (the ancient Quicksilver Messenger Service poster on the front door that looked like it had been sitting there since late 1966) & potential in equal doses. Who knew what any of these dust-covered boxes that lined the floor & walls would contain? As it turned out, a bunch probably came with 78 blues relics – at least that was what seemed to keep the store alive. We got to talking a whole lot with proprietor Wade Wright & his right hand Roy Loney, and they sorta explained the lack of people in the store with the fact that they were happy enough with the big bux spenders that came in every now and then for some crazy-rare pre-war things. We had mentioned a few wants to them & during our last visit we were getting down to business, via some trade & cash deals. Wade was selling me his personal copy of the Mad River EP, which he had bought from the band after a gig in some Berkeley park, while GTS purchased one of the Country Joe & The Fish Rag Babies (still pretty rare & pricey at the time) that Wade fished out of one of them boxes, or maybe it was from underneath his mustache – I’m a bit cloudy on this one; Roy sold us sealed originals of the Flamin Groovies 10” (I’m not a fan of their output overall, but this one’s great). Wade n’ Roy had also picked out a few things that they recommended to us & for me the coolest one of these (together with Mark Levine’s “Pilgrims Progress”, but we couldn’t agree on a price on that one) was the sole release by Maine’s best kept secret, Homegas. A wonder of rural backwoods charm & heady action, this is long overdue for a lengthy Farm Fave rap, but for now let’s just say that if you’ve ever had long hair & owned a wood stove, you need this. Wire readers may feel more confident if I add that it was released on Takoma & produced by Mr. Fahey himself. Sleeve notes tell of a fire that destroyed parts of ‘610’ (I won’t even mention it, but it’s close enough to think about), where the music of Homegas was born, as well as that of Greasy Green and Stoney Lonesome. Yeah, yeah, I Madura-d the first part of the name, so shoot me, but the ‘S’ was intentional. “Cosmic Barley” was me late-night-amusing myself via the opening “Buckwheat Boogie” & Deadly inspiration. Drop City was a legend already in its time & one of few communes covered by the Oracle. R. Crumb let the Simp and The Gimp go there (‘Hey, what’s cookin’ cats n’ chicks! How’s th’ scene out here in th’ sticks!?’ ‘Y’all havin’ a ball, ya sak-o-delic freakos!?’), but there are other accounts out there that may be closer to the truth. While you’re at it, check out Libre too. Jerry Jeff Walker might’ve turned outlaw later on (always a good thing), but he was way cooler & better when still with the Circus Maximus. Part of the front’s obviously an hommage to Tjyvis & crew. Kommun2 chief Tobias hated the cover & I had to wrestle him for it – things got real ugly, but I’m a mean sonofabitch when the stakes are high & wouldn’t let no southerner talk me into going colour. (Don’t know where this fits, so I’ll put it here: soon after me & GTS got back home after our west coast adventure, I discovered that my dad had an American penpal in the 50s, by the name of Wade Wright. Who knows?)
The future is a bleak & scary place & if you can, get a piece of land & get back to it. There’s something coming that will once again acknowledge a few giants – I know there’s more of Goose Creek Symphony & the Diggers, as well as Country Joe & The Fish combining with a beautiful typo from my favourite Far Valley Farmer, the Tesch. Quite likely a whole bunch more as well. I almost travestied the Hawklords through a ‘the last but none’, but I don’t like things to be all that definite (and I don’t like the Hawklords album very much either); maybe just leave them there for others to pick up while we keep on descending. I hear reality’s a deadly place anyway.
I’m adding the following almost as a post script, but if you think it has little to do with what I’ve said above, think again. There’s a song by Kate Wolf, “You’re Not Standing Like You Used To”, which always brings tears to my eyes, because a few lines remind me very much of my father when he was dying after some years of illness (sadly, the same illness had taken Kate earlier). The song also comes with one of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve heard: “Find out what you really care about / live a life that shows it”. To me that means having a roof over my head with a stove inside for warmth & cooking, a forest where I can gather myself & firewood & hang out with the animals, and a garden where I can grow my food; all coming together under the umbrella that Lloyd Kahn calls “shelter” (sidenote: did anyone else notice Rick Bockner in Lloyd’s outstanding “Builders Of The Pacific Coast”?). In between I don’t mind some poetry, art & a lil’ bit of music, most of what else there is I can do without. During two summers, before I moved out here in September 2004, I lived in a tent by the ocean. I walked in the woods, communicated with the spirits & learned things I use everyday still. About 1/6 of a mile from the tent there was a series of ponds tied together by swamps; in the early morning hours hundreds, thousands of birds were singing there & a couple of times I joined them with my trumpet, letting it echo through the mist, glimmer in the midnight sun & I believe those were the times when I finally understood what Robbie Z sang years before: “that must be what it's all about”, only his take on it was different than mine.