A good friend of mine is called David Crosby. Once, when the drug excesses of the member of CSN&Y were being described in a TV documentary, his youngest son looked aghast at him and scornfully derided him with a “Daaaaaad!”
I’ve yet to meet anyone called George Ivan Morrison although my good friend John once had a T-shirt which he wore to a party where a bloke came up to him and asked why John had his wife’s name on his clothing. John had a Van Morrison T-shirt, the “V” of Van wasn’t visible and this guy’s wife’s name was Ann Morrison.
One of the great things about writing this blog is reading the blogs of all the people who like and follow my own posts. There is such a huge number of brilliant creative people out there who put my efforts in the shade. One of the recent ones that really appeals is from Stephen who writes about albums on the 50th anniversary of their release. There’s some great posts about some great albums.
Today, he posted about “Alone Together” by Dave Mason and that got me thinking about my school friend of the same name. Dave Mason was a new boy in the 4th Year (Year 10, just in case anyone under 50 is reading this) and he lived in a small village called Sevenoaks Weald which is about five miles from Sevenoaks. I lived in Tunbridge wells until I was seventeen at which point we moved to Sevenoaks. Dave Mason was typical of a lot of my friends both then and now. He was tall, handsome, friendly and utterly charming. He was generous with his time and money and invited me to share many of his social activities. I was very happy to hang on to Dave Mason’s shirt tails as my social life slowly developed between the ages of 15 and 18. I sometimes wonder if I was displaying any homoerotic attraction but then I remember my eyes nearly popping out of my head when his girlfriend modelled her new hot pants in her house for Dave and me to admire. Her name was C. Keeler but her first name was Carol, not Christine. During a Christmas holiday from Royal Holloway I went to a party at Dave’s house at which point I drank so much rum that I fell over, smashing into his parents glass fronted cabinet. They were very nice about it and phoned my parents to say I was a bit tired and would be spending the night there. When my Mum found out my “tiredness” was alcohol induced, she was furious, anxious that I not turn into my Dad.
I have no idea how or why I first heard “Headkeeper”. I would hazard a guess that Peter played it for me in his bedroom in Winchmore Hill. I used to have a cassette of this album and for a few years, I played it a lot. I now have a CD with “Alone Together” (1970) and “Headkeeper” (1972) on it. I realise now that “Alone Together” is generally perceived to be the better album: “Headkeeper” so annoyed Dave Mason on its release that he advised his fans not to buy it!
Dave Mason was a founding member of Traffic but disagreements with Steve Winwood meant that he left the group – twice. He played sitar on “Paper Sun”, he wrote “Hole In My Shoe” and co-wrote “Here we Go Round The Mulberry Bush”. After he left Traffic, he played guitar on “All Along The Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, he played the shehnai and bass drum on “Street Fighting Man” by The Rolling Stones and he played guitar on George Harrison’s album “All Things Must Pass”. In the mid Nineties, he briefly joined Fleetwood Mac.
“Headkeeper” is an album of two halves. Side One consists of five songs recorded in Hollywood and Side Two has five live tracks recorded at The Troubadour, Los Angeles. After a disagreement with his record company about his contract, he stole the master tapes only for the producer (Tommy LiPuma) to use backup master tapes. Tommy LiPuma was not some cowboy – he had founded the Blue Thumb label which had by this time already released records by Captain Beefheart, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Dan Hicks and Buddy Guy.
The live side features three songs that had appeared on “Alone Together” and the other two songs had appeared on “Traffic” (1968). They are all enjoyable performances and I know I would have loved to have seen this band live. There’s a groove that they get into that reminds me of Hiss Golden Messenger. More interesting is the five new songs on side one.
The first song is “To Be Free” which like every song on both sides of the album, is written by Dave Mason. It features a great piano played by Mark Jordan who I know from his sensationally sympathetic playing on “Listen To The Lion” by Van Morrison. As “To Be Free” develops, the band kick in, Dave Mason’s vocals become more impassioned and Mark Jordan’s playing shows more virtuosity. It’s a perfect song for Side One Track One. The YouTube clip features harmony singing by Cass Elliot – Dave Mason had produced her first solo album.
“Here We Go Again” is more acoustic featuring some lovely 12-string guitar, excellent harmonies and a good melody. Both this song and the opening song remind me of the first Grin album featuring Nils Lofgren – the long term sidekick of both Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.
“In My Mind” and “A Heartache, A Shadow, A Lifetime” both have some excellent soulful vocals from Dave Mason and some melodic piano playing from Mark Jordan.
The song “Headkeeper” is typical of a great rock track from 1972. It’s a full band performance; it’s rock but it’s not overpowering. There’s great singing, a good melody, exciting electric guitar and there are shadows of light and dark.
Dave Mason – where are you? One of you is supporting very worthwhile charities on the West Coast of America. The other you went off to be a farmer in the West Country some time in the mid seventies. As we said goodbye to each other we realised that we may never see each other again and so it has proved.