Sunday, June 14, 2015

Vinyl log 14 - 14 June

14June1975Fairport ConventionRising for the moon
14June1975Van der Graaf GeneratorThe aerosol grey machine
14June1986Sandy DennyWho knows where the time goes
14June1986The BandNorthern lights - Southern cross

In 1975, 'The aerosol grey machine', which could be viewed as VdGG's debut album (although it was actually a Peter Hammill solo album) was a mythical beast. We knew it existed because two tracks from it had been released on the compilation "68-71", and Jeremy's brother Paul had a tape of another track ("Octopus") from this album. I think that we also knew that it had been released in America only, so no one in Britain had a copy.

I noticed one day in the Melody Maker that a record importer was selling copies of this album. So immediately I ordered one and sent a cheque in the mail. I remember that 14 June was a nice sunny Saturday, so Jeremy (whose birthday it was) and I decided to pay a personal visit to the shop selling the record, which was in a remote (to us) district of London called Blackheath. Once in the shop, I said that I had ordered a copy of the record; the sales assistant went into the store room then returned with the packaged record. No identification required.

The album has a  rather strange history; it included two tracks which were recorded at the beginning of 1968 ("Afterwards" and "Necromancer", both of which were on "68-71"), whereas the rest of the songs were recorded at the end of July 1969. The sleeve notes reference a song which is not on the record, and if I remember correctly, there were also some pressings of the record without "Necromancer". The vinyl version did not include the song "Ferret and Featherbird", which was included on the cd version released by Mr Hammill. There is also an alternative sleeve which I saw at some point in the early 70s, although I don't remember where [almost certainly the Weeley festival, 1971].

I don't remember now whether I had also ordered the new Fairport album or whether I picked it up when I was in the shop. This line up - half Fairport and half Fotheringay - had great potential, but something went wrong during the recording process. I saw the band play at the Royal Albert Hall close to the release of this album, along with G, the above mentioned Paul and his then girlfriend. It was the only time I went to the RAH; we had seats somewhere in the sky and I made a terrible recording of it, to which I have never listened.

This record was the debut of drummer Bruce Rowland with Fairport, who was to occupy the drum seat for several years. An email posted a few days ago by Swarb said that Rowland had cancer and is living in a hospice.

Fast forward eleven years: my wife and I were in New York City for a short family visit. We were staying at the Wellington Hotel, which was a few blocks south of Central Park. One day I walked up past Columbus Circle to the Lincoln Center, where there was a good record shop. I bought The Band's "Northern lights - Southern cross" along with the four record Sandy Denny box set. I don't recall listening to The Band's record that much, although it contains two excellent songs ("It makes no difference" and "Acadian driftwood").

The Sandy Denny box set was wonderful. Whilst I already owned the majority of tracks, it also contained live material and demoes with which I wasn't familiar. The set came with a beautifully produced booklet with full personnel listings along with pictures. Obtaining this box set was probably the highlight of the visit.

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