BOOK REViEW: Waiting For Hitler, Midge Gillies

This was a fun and easy read.

Using several strands of private historical narrative – from ordinary British folk, such as two sisters in Norfolk, or Scots artillery man Frank O’Brien, and members of the Home Guard, etc, to resident ‘aliens’, such as Italian Decio Anzani, or the German Jewish Baruchs – Midge Gillies weaves a tapestry of warmly human firsthand accounts around the theme of ‘Waiting For Hitler’, or the invasion scare of 1940.

It was rather nice that there were quite a few stories relating to areas I know, mostly in East Anglia (and even London), such as Snettisham, and Hauxton. It turns out that Gillies is local – she lives in Ely! – so that might account for the unusual number of Anglian anecdotes!

A lot of what one reads here makes Dad’s Army look worryingly like documentary history, as opposed to loving satire. England, esp. after the ‘heroic’ debacle of Dunkirk, was not well prepared! And the way we treated ‘enemy aliens’ is revealed to be shockingly heavy-handed and unjust.

It’s hard to credit the impact an imminent Nazi invasion really must have had. Though this book does an admirable job of trying to convey the range of feelings, from ennui to all out panic, and from the unifying ‘we’re all in it together’ to the divisive paranoia around fifth columnists.

Perhaps because we know the feared invasion never came, even when one does read these accounts, it can all seem to partake of that ‘cosy rosy memories of WWII’ nostalgia Britain seems so obsesssed with!

Still, all told I found this an enjoyable and compelling read, and can definitely recommend it.

PS – Thanks, Chris, for gifting me this on my recent b’day. T’was a good read!

MUSiC: The Youngbloods

The Youngbloods best known hit, Get Together, looks and sounds like a hippy anthem, in the rear view mirror of music history. And so it was. Although it had a more convoluted history than its light and happy vibes might suggest.

I’m not sure if it’s a false memory, or, indeed, what it is, but I have these dim and distant memories of a mixtape cassette a childhood friend made for me, purporting, in one lengthier segment, to be The Youngbloods jamming with Jimi Hendrix. Whatever it actually was, that was some great music.*

The same pal introduced me to early T Rex (Jewel) and Beefheart (Pachuco Cadaver!). So I feel I owe him a debt of gratitude. Thank’ee, Edwin, wherever ye may be now? I last saw him (Ed’) in Ely, looking a bit like a mental health casualty of war. I rather fancied his sister Eleanor, back in the day.

But back to the present. And presents – Amazon gift vouchers – are what allows me to indulge, as I have just done, in a musical gamble: I just ordered two ‘3-in-2’ sets, both by BGO. The first collects The Youngbloods, Earth Music (both ‘67), and Elephant Mountain (‘69), whilst the second gathers together Rock Festival (‘70), Ride The Wind and Good And Dusty (both ‘71).

The only official release album I won’t have will be 1972’s High On A Ridgetop. There are some other related recordings of interest, such as drummer Joe Bauer’s Moonset (1971), and something called Crab Tunes/Noggins! Which seems to basically be The Youngbloods, sans Young, and under a different name.**

I hope this first foray into what is, for me, basically uncharted territory, proves better than my recent Harry Partch experiment. I bought The Harry Partch Collection, Vol 1, and have listened to it a couple of times. I got it ‘cause Iggy Pop mentions getting stoned and listening to it with his Stooge bandmates, and I’ve kept ‘hearing about Harry’, in relation to Beefheart and Tom Waits. I found Partch’s music really doesn’t do it for me. The ideas are more interesting than the actual sounds, which, frankly, wind up irritating me.

Reckon I’ll be returning this…

But as to The Youngbloods, in a day or two I should have the discs. And I’m hoping to bask in what I anticipate being an eclectic hippy-era melange of folk, blues and whatever else they might serve up. The cats certainly look pretty cool:

Drummer Joe Bauer was intending to be a jazzer…
Multi-instrumentalist Lowell ‘Banana’ Levinger, and friend!
Jesse Colin Young.
The early years group was a quartet: Young, Jerry Corbitt, Bauer and Banana.

* Every now and again I look into it, and usually I come up with naught. But just looking again now, I found a load of stuff with Hendrix playing with Lonnie Youngblood. That must be the Hendrix/Youngblood connection? But it’s not the music on my friend’s cassette!

Best avoided, apparently!

** After a bit of digging I’ve discovered that Noggins was the nominal group, and Crab (Crap?) Tunes was the title of the album. The album artwork and personnel make it look intriguing and inviting. But apparently it is an appalling musical turd, and very deliberately so, as it was fulfilling a ‘contractual obligation’ to the band’s record label. But this doesn’t quite stack up with the chronology: their first three albums are with RCA, then Corbitt left. Their next four albums were for Warner. And the last of those, High On A Ridgetop, came after this. Weird!?

This, on the other hand, might be worth checking out.

MUSiC: Iron Maiden Go Postal!

Steve Harris must be super-chuffed!

Iron Maiden didn’t trouble my recent top five post. But back in my mid-teens I was listening to them a lot. And I still do, occasionally. Power Slave was my favourite album back then, with Piece of Mind coming next. I’m not so keen on their pre Nicko/Dickinson stuff, and I haven’t followed their later releases. By which I mean everything after Live After Death!

Still, though I’m not their biggest fan, it’s nice to see them being honoured by the Royal Mail. They have their beers as well. So they’ve really gotten into the bloodstream of the nation, and now the postal service as well!

Well done fellas! You’ve earned it. Read more about this here.

PS – Not that I give a sh*t for anything to do with royalty/monarchy. Butt… shouldn’t it be Charles’ head in profile on stamps now?

MUSiC: My All Time Top 5 Albums?

For sheer innocent sentimental sweet beauty, this is a corker!

Wow!? How hard is this!? It’s easier to pick my top few artists, Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits are no brainers. After that it gets tricky.

This one is etched into my being; melancholy beauty, at its most powerfully maudlin.
But I love For The Roses as well!

This all came about when I wanted to pick a ‘top five albums’ list, to illustrate a private posting on cataloguing my CD collection. it rapidly became clear that it was not going to easy!

J-Fusion at its slick funky glossy and melodic best.

If it were my current top five that’d be different. My most listened to CD right now, for example, is Casiopea’s debut. But I’m also listening to a lot of Sons of Champlin right now, and I’m not as sold on them as the other artists that I’m featuring in this post.

Intense, colourful, surreal, poetic, earthy. Amazing!

I know it might seem weird, but as a historic top five disc, Trout Mask Replica is definitely up there (with Lick My Decals Off in hot pursuit!). Not music I’d listen to all the time. And my honeymoons with these discs were many many moons ago. But I have an abiding love for them.

Slabs of sound, wafting through space and time, all floating atop Leibezeit’s incredible grooves.

Can’s Future Days also has a special place in my musical heart, closely pursued by Tago Mago!).

Memories of this on constant rotation are bittersweet.

And whilst I’m thinking in the longer term, like this, then I suppose Steely Dan and Donald Fagen figure large. Aja, Katy Lied and The Nightfly all being rave faves.

Ah, The Don. An almost perfect record!
Mad cover! Great album.

Apart from the Casiopea one, so far these are all song-based albums, of a broadly speaking Pop nature. If I were to pick some Rock albums, Thin Lizzy, Zep and Van Halen would be right up there (even Slayer, perhaps?).

It’s close with Lizzy, ‘twixt this…
… and this. Still In Love With You is Divine!!!

Likewise with Zep, is it this one…
… or this one?

With Zep I was equally taken with all of I, II and III. I only got into IV later, and – as brilliant as it is – (Stairway alone is priceless, it didn’t have the same visceral impact the first three had.

And then there’s Jazz…

This was massive for me in my mid-teens. Still love it.

I could go on like this. Should I go with Caravanserai, or Welcome, for Santana? With Herbie, is it Fat Albert, Headhunters or… Coltrane’s Love Supreme is up there, as is Davis’ Kind Of Blue (or back in my late teens, ESP).

And what about Brazil? Jobim, Joyce, Marcos Valle… and on it goes!

I got lost in the deserts with this one!
This ought to be a guilty pleasure. But I have no shame!

I’m finishing with one that really isn’t anywhere near the top. But to be fair to Slayer and the album, I’ve listened to it tons. Rather like true crime and serial killers – the kind of dark subjects with which Slayer themselves were obsessed – I find it hypnotically compelling. If Van Halen’s 1984 is a ‘guilty pleasure’, this is a ‘dirty secret’!

A dirty little secret…

Anyway, I can only conclude that picking a top five favourite albums is pretty near impossible! I mean, The Beatles Rubber Soul, a biggie for me around 16-18, did t even get a mention til right here at the very end!

ArT: More Gene Deitch…

The Cat… Gene’s buff, a speccy nerd obsessed with jazz!

How I feel sometimes when transcribing drum parts!
The neighbours disapprove of The Cat’s listening habits.

Non Jazz stuff…

Not sure what he’s up to here. But look at all that fab gear!

Myeah… back to his primary love, good ol’ Jazz Music!

I love this pic; bassist looks after his bull fiddle in the rain.
Ok, so I’m featuring this one again… but I just love it!
Ditto this one!

If anyone’s interested, I found this, a page with an interesting selection of record changer magazines for sale, featuring the cover art of Deitch and others.

This is one from the above linked page.
The man!

MEDiA: Gene Deitch, RIP

Gene, with sons Kim and Simon.
We’ve all been here, right?
What has come to be known more recently as ‘crate digging’.

Oh no! I just posted about cataloguing my CD collection on FB. I thought I’d illustrate that post with an image by Gene Deitch, whose character The Cat was an avid record collecting jazz buff.

Deitch did some amusingly prophetic cartoons.
Haha… love this!

In finding an apt image, I discovered that Gene passed, aged 95, in 2020. I have a nice book, Cat On A Hot Thin Groove, about his illustrations for Record Changer magazine.

I bought this book about him years ago.

He also created characters like Nudnik, as well as animating such famous cartoons as Tom and Jerry and Popeye, and doing all sorts of other artistic/illustrative work. I’ve peppered this post with a few images by him I either love for their visual artistry, or their comic wit, or, frequently, both.

I got the image at the top of this post from an excellent obit’ from the NY Times, which you can read in full here.

Deitch in his Prague home/studio, in later life.
I pinched this for an Xmas card one year.
Bold abstraction meets jazzy figuration.
His Record Changer covers alone would be a great legacy.

I’ve not watched Munro (1960) – see below – yet, but as soon as time allows, I’ll be doing so (tomorrow, perhaps?*) * aka later today!

I find Deitch’s art, by which I’m mainly referring to his Record Changer and jazz related cartoons, design and illustration work, really inspiring. His mainstream animation stuff I’m much less familiar with or aware of.

But, rather madly, I’ve discovered that Deitch was also involved with one of the earliest screen adaptations of Tolkien’s writings. I love Tolkien, and I was really quite surprised to find yet another point of connection here with Gene Deitch!

As with Munro, I’ve yet to watch this Hobbit based animation. I glanced at a minute or so of it, whilst drafting this post. It seems quite a loose adaptation! But I look forward to watching it in full.

MUSiC: Nirvana, Herbie Mann & Bill Evans, 1962

I love this album!

It’s on my Xmas/birthday wish list (here, if anyone’s interested*). I think I discovered it during a brief stint when, in my mid to late teens, I worked briefly at the Cambridge Central Library, in what was then (pre Grand Arcade) Lion Yard

Around that time I was using the library’s music collection – CDs were starting to replace vinyl (I even had a back room job at the library, helping facilitate this change-over) – to edumacate myself further, particularly re jazz.

Thanks to their esoteric selection I discovered this and numerous other great recordings, such as as Alice and John Coltrane’s Infinity.

Another fabulous recording.

The only reason this is four and a half and not five stars is the poor audio quality. I’m amazed that all this time later, nobody’s done a decent remaster. This is top drawer music, totally meriting a good sympathetic sonic clean-up!

* Password protected, to keep it private! I can email the password to anyone wanting to see it…

MUSiC: Waka/Wazoo, Zappa, 50th Anniv. Set

Interesting, but…

I do love Zappa: iconoclast, relentless hard worker, experimenter, ribald irreverent wit, obsessive archivalist. I also love the breadth and depth, dependent upon that last facet of his work, of his recorded legacy.

But sometimes, and this might be a case in point, what’s happening with his bequest to history starts to seem like nothing so much as barrel scraping for financial gain.

Let’s take the video above, which gives a taster of this recent multi-disc set, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Waka/Wazoo mini electric big band era/experiment.

It basically sounds like the rhythm section backing track, sans horns, or big band brass overdubs. I actually really like hearing the music like this. But at the same time, if lots of the tracks here are simply rhythm section run throughs or alt takes, without the ‘topping’, it’s hardly a celebration of the big band idea!

I’ve read quite a few reviews of this set that express dissatisfaction or disappointment due to the original album tracks – which most buying this set (me included, should I buy it) will already own – only being on the fifth disc, which is Blu-Ray. Many, once again myself included, won’t have a Blu-Ray player, potentially making this crucial portion of the set redundant.

The group on tour…

Here’s a complete rundown of the contents of the discs:

CD1 - Paramount Studios Recording Session Alternates and Outtakes

1. Your Mouth (Take 1)
2. Big Swifty (Alternate Take)
3. Minimal Art (Eat That Question – Version 1, Take 2)
4. Blessed Relief (Outtake Version)
5. Think It Over (The Grand Wazoo) (Outtake Version)
6. For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) (Outtake Version)
7. Waka/Jawaka (Outtake Version)

CD2 - Paramount Studios Recording Session Alternates and Outtakes, continued

1. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus (Alternate Take)
2. Eat That Question (Version 2, Alternate Take)
3. Big Swifty (Alternate Mix)
4. For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) (Alternate Mix)
5. It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal (Alternate Mix)
6. Waka/Jawaka (Alternate Mix)
7. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus (Alternate Mix)
8. Eat That Question (Alternate Mix)

CD3 - George Duke Demos – The Master Versions

1. For Love (I Come Your Friend)
2. Psychosomatic Dung
3. Uncle Remus (Instrumental)
4. Love

George Duke Session Outtakes

5. For Love (I Come Your Friend) (Basic Track, Take 1)
6. Psychosomatic Dung (Basic Track, Take 2)
7. Love (Basic Track, Take 1)

The Grand Wazoo – Live

8. Approximate (Live – FZ Record Plant Mix)
10-Piece/Petite Wazoo – Live / Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA
9. Winterland ’72 Opening And Band Introductions
10. Little Dots

CD4 - 10-Piece/Petite Wazoo – Live, continued (Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco)

1. America Drinks
2. Montana
3. Farther O’Blivion
4. Cosmik Debris
5. Chunga’s Revenge


Waka/Jawaka Blue-ray Audio
1. Big Swifty
2. Your Mouth
3. It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal
4. Waka / Jawaka

The Grand Wazoo
1. The Grand Wazoo
2. For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)
3. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus
4. Eat That Question
5. Blessed Relief
A fan’s archival compilation of this era.

MEDiA: Royalist Propaganda Overload

I’d like to know who this brave lady is.

Teresa, having dined royally, so to speak, on Versailles, is now watching Marie Antoinette. As she does so it strikes me that in the last few decades we’ve seen not just a rising tide, but a veritable tsunami of royalist propaganda.

These two shows are about past French Royalty, admittedly. But the almost universal chorus of abjectly sycophantic bootlicking around the recent passing of Liz II really shocked and upset me. This toadying, far more than the passing of one elderly and obscenely overprivileged woman, is what I find deeply saddening.

We had a brief period, post WWII, in which, for a while, there was a semblance of some move towards real progressive and enlightened change in the UK. The creation of the NHS, a growth in the ambitions of the BBC. But all these things seems now to be under the very real threat of Tory vandalism and dissolution.

A great but rare sight. The ‘other’ view in public sight.*

And the orgy of misty-eyed revisionist veneration for royalty that we’re living through now is a stark reminder of the degree to which we are now an increasingly enslaved and backward looking nation.

I wondered if anyone in the UK shared my feelings, and googled the theme using numerous selections of search terms. And what I found most of was the very same obsequious royalist garbage that so disturbs me. It took quite some digging to begin to uncover what one might call such things as republican or anti-royalist stuff.

Alas, if only ‘t’were so.

Here is one of the few things I found. And it’s very good. I think I might try and use this and future similar posts to try and gather together such thoughts/links, etc.

Interesting to note that I can not, so far, find the names of either the ‘not my king’ lady, nor the ‘f*ck imperialism’ protestor. The former was allowed to continue her protest, whilst the latter was removed and charged with a ‘breach of peace‘.

A truly scary sign of our times…

In a previous post that touches on this theme I was able to find the identity of another protestor. That individual was Paul Powlesland, above, a barrister who said around the time:

‘One of the many things that makes me proud to be British is our freedom of speech. It’s one of our most precious and sacred rights and it’s far more precious to me than the royal family is.’

Amen to that! But is the idea of free speech in the UK now no more than an illusion? It’s starting to look that way.

* The most recent Jubilee was, for the most part, a horrifying display of forelock tugging idiocy. I didn’t encounter any anti-Royal views in the media at the time. Even allusions to other viewpoints were rare. And, of course, the vast propaganda machine supporting royalty steamrolled over any neutered opposition. So Liz wasn’t the last of her ilk. Alas…