I had a good friend at school called Des (not his real name). I can’t really remember him until we got into the Sixth Form. Neither of us were particularly clued into the school ethos and we liked to consider ourselves at outsiders. We would often leave school at lunchtime to buy fish and chips. We had similar tastes in music. He loved this album and wore his copy out by playing it so much that he gave it to me so he could buy a new copy. 48 years later it’s still playing well, although it does get stuck in the middle of “With An Ear To The Ground” – I’m listening to it now. We kept in touch when we went to different universities but lost touch when I moved to Harlow in 1976. A couple of years ago, I met some friends in London and during my journey home on the train, after a few beers, I searched for him on Facebook. I got in touch and a few weeks later we met up for a drink. (Those were the days when meeting in a pub was possible). It was odd meeting up with someone after a gap of 42 years. During the couple of hours that we spent together, I remembered why we had lost touch. He was very friendly and pleasant and talked entertainingly about his life. He wasn’t a good listener and I say this for two reasons. Firstly, he never asked me anything about myself, not even a “so what have you been up to then?” Secondly, when I butted in and did talk about myself his body language was such that he looked bored and never asked any follow up questions but turned the conversation onto himself. Even when I tried to reminisce about our school days or the times we saw each other whilst at University, he didn’t seem in the slightest bit interested in developing the conversation.
Now, in this regard, Des is not unique and it would be very harsh of me to launch into a character assassination of him based on his lack of listening skills. There are plenty of people like Des who are wonderful people but either are not interested or simply don’t know how to show an interest in other people. It could be, (perish the thought!) that I’m just not an interesting person. I’m very glad that I met up with him. Does it make me a terrible person that I have no wish to see him again?
I have spent quite a bit of time recently thinking about listening skills. I have just had my fourth 3 hour Zoom meeting in 8 days with other Samaritans discussing a workshop we are going to deliver on listening skills. The workshop is good and explains how to use the 7 skills of listening: open questions, summarising, reflecting, clarifying, encouraging, reacting and the use of silence. I think I have become a little too preoccupied with how much other people listen. Some of my friends listen more than others. Occasionally it is frustrating trying to get a word in but I love all my friends otherwise they wouldn’t be my friends.
In a random couples therapy website that popped up when I googled “dynamic relationship” the advice is “Focus more on what the other person has to say then what you have to say, in other words, listen more then talk.” One of my friends, who is the best listener I know, often reminds me of this quote: “You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason.” It originated around 55 AD from Epictetus, the Greek Sage and Stoic philosopher.
In every relationship between two people there is a dynamic and it’s understandable that one person is more assertive than the other and conversely one person is more passive than the other. For example, last year I was with a friend and we had decided to go to Pub A for a beer but as we passed Pub B, he said “let’s go in here” and went in without listening to how I felt about this change of plan. I was a little surprised but not annoyed. I’m quite content to be passive if it suits the dynamic.
So what about this record? I saw it on the shelf and was reminded of the rather unsatisfactory meeting with Des but also reminded of fish and chip lunches, seeing Caravan in Cameron Hall of Residence and listening to this record in his house. It’s great. It’s proper “progressive music”.
David Sinclair played organ on this record and Jimmy Hastings plays saxophone and flute. These instruments give the songs their distinctive style. Side 2 has the obligatory 14 minute suite of songs, commonly known as “For Richard” with long solos which will either bore you rigid or excite you. Obviously, for me, it’s the latter. Listening to this record is a continual joy.
Trying to describe the personnel of Caravan over the years would be immensely complex. Wikipedia lists 17 different lineups between 1968 and now. Pye Hastings (guitar, vocals) is in each lineup. Brothers Dave and Richard Sinclair have been in and out of the band. Jimmy Hastings is Pye Hastings’ brother and although he plays on this record, he was only officially a member of the band between 1996 and 1997.
The title of the record is probably taken from a Bob Dylan song which was available on bootlegs at the time but was only officially released in 2010. The song is called “All Over You” and the lyrics go “Well, if I had to do it all over again/Babe, I’d do it all over you/And if I had to wait for ten thousand years/Babe, I’d even do that too/Well, a dog’s got his bone in the alley/A cat, she’s got nine lives/A millionaire’s got a million dollars/King Saud’s got four hundred wives/Well, everybody’s got something/That they’re looking forward to/I’m looking forward to when I can do it all again/And babe, I’ll do it all over you.”
The title song of this album starts with “Who do you think you are/do you think you are/do you think you are/I really don’t know/I really don’t know” repeated under the main melody of the verse. Straight away, the organ dominates and the drumming is flashy but great. A very traditionally “progressive underground” organ solo takes up the majority of the song. It’s up tempo, exciting and surprisingly short.
My favourite track is “And I Wish I Were Stoned/Don’t Worry” which starts quietly with some melodic organ playing and a quiet vocal. “Once I had a dream, nothing else to do/Sat and played my mind in time with all of you/Got down in the road, crossed my heart and cried/When you told me how you’d love to live and not to die.” A louder and more dynamic chorus consists of “Why why why? I wish I was stoned out of my mind.” After a couple more verses, another exciting organ solo follows and listening to the interplay between organ and drums takes you right back to the best of the progressive music scene of the late 60s/early 70s. This is why I stopped liking The Beatles! Oh well. Towards the end of the song, everything stops and a quiet voice sings “Don’t worry about me/I’ve got all that I need/And I’m singing my song to the sky/You know how it feels/With the breeze of the sun in your eyes/Not minding that time’s passing by/I’ve got all and more/My smile, just as before/Is all that I carry with me/I talk to myself/I need nobody else/I’m lost and I’m mine, yes I’m free.” Ah! They certainly don’t write them like that any more. Some would say good; I say it’s a pity. The intensity and volume increase as the verse is repeated. Finally a drum solo fades in and out.
“I talk to myself. I need nobody else.” Is that because no one is listening?