It might have been twenty years ago (today?) that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play but it was twenty one years ago today that Roo and I got married. We had “got together” in 1991, moved in together in 1992 and finally decided to scratch the seven year itch in 1999. Roo was determined to have as low key a ceremony as possible so the only witnesses were supposed to be Martin and Melissa. Just before the wedding, Martin got back together with an old girlfriend and so she was also a witness. A bit odd but it was fine – we bumped into her recently at Arthur’s and she didn’t recognise us. The five of us travelled to Haywards Heath for the ceremony and there was a family buffet at our house afterwards. Ben and Anne were invited to the buffet – after all, it was all Ben’s fault that Roo and I ever met – and we had a great photo of Roo and I along with their three children. This confuses casual visitors to the house when they see this photo. My Dad and his sister came but my Mum decided that she didn’t want to attend. That’s a bit harsh – I think she did want to attend but she hadn’t left the house after a mild stroke a few years earlier and she was terrified and mortified in equal amounts. Other family members thought this was disgraceful but I didn’t mind. To be honest, I just wanted the main part of the day to be over with and was looking forward to the party in the evening. During the family gathering, there were two memorable encounters with members of Roo’s family. One close family member presented us with a bottle of champagne and told us to save it for a special occasion. This was our wedding day! I engaged another relation in a long interminable conversation about his children; his oldest son had just enrolled on a course at Plumpton Agricultural College which has an excellent reputation. I asked him whether his son was enjoying the course to which he replied “it’s okay, but you know what they say. ‘Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach.'” I had resumed teaching the previous year at this time.
I escaped at around 3:00 p.m. to go and set things up for the party at the Ad Astra Hall in Hassocks which we had booked for the evening celebrations. I set out the chairs and tables and made sure the sound system was working. I had made four cassette tapes which amounted to six hours worth of music. I had carefully planned the first side to be simply music to test the system and the first thing I did when I got there was to put on “Wedding Tape 1”, Side 1 and suddenly the title track from “Astral Weeks” was resounding through the empty hall. For years, I had never thought I’d ever get married and yet, here I was, four hours married, listening to “Astral Weeks”. Soon, Martin arrived with the beer – a phrase that still brings tears of joy to my eyes.
The evening went well. My only regret is that, having asked Paul and Rob to play some of their great music for us all on the stage at the front of the hall, very few people took the time to listen to them. The rest of the evening went well and I was pleased when Anne told me later that a close relation of mine had told her that everyone deserves to be happy for one day in their lives. A friend of mine from Chancellor’s, David, was there and said hello to Roo who told him that she had never met him before. He replied, indignantly, that she had been to his house. Percy was there and he had driven from the West Country with a broken arm. He had six pints and drove home. I had invited the whole of the Maths department from Oakmeeds but I was disappointed that only Agnes and one other person from Oakmeeds turned up. It was good on Monday morning when I met another teacher on my way in to work and she asked if I had had a good weekend to which I replied “Not bad. I did get married though.” A small, sad, angry, embittered and trivial part of me always felt resentful when a member of staff got married from that point on and a huge fuss was made of them when my own wedding had passed unnoticed. Obviously, these days, I’m not so pathetic or small minded.
The music went well. I went to the loft earlier this morning to try to find the cassettes but I may well have, foolishly, thrown them away. Not that foolish, as I no longer have a cassette player but it would have been interesting to know what music I thought suitable. I do remember a lot of dancing and Ben certainly took centre stage with his Mick Jagger impersonations, grooving to “Brown Sugar”. I hope that the music was familiar to most people and not too esoteric. What I do remember is Dave and Gay coming to say goodbye towards the end of the evening and I persuaded them to stay and dance to Half Man Half Biscuit. I also remember that towards the end of the evening, I was dancing to “Regiment” by Brian Eno and David Byrne from “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts”. Presumably, at that stage, most people decided it was a suitable moment to leave. A bit like when I used to put “Starsailor” by Tim Buckley on in my room at College, signalling to everybody that it was time for them to go. I have a yearning now to find those cassettes and reassure myself that I wasn’t quite as self-indulgent as these choices would indicate. Still, everybody should be happy for one day in their life.
It was Percy who first introduced me to this remarkable album. He used to compile cassettes (which I have also lost) called “Let’s Make This Precious” and they were all themed. One of the compilations’ themes was sampling and this album is generally regarded as one of the first albums to use sampled sounds. “America Is Waiting” was on Percy’s cassette.
A Nigerian writer called Amos Tutuola wrote a book in 1954 called “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts”. A small boy from West Africa is abandoned by his family after slave traders approach the village where he lives. He flees into the wilderness outside his village and encounters the spirits that live there. The series of stories in the book describe the life of the boy in the bush (wilderness) of ghosts (spirits). Neither David Byrne nor Brian Eno had read the book but just thought the title was appropriate. I guess the sampled vocals on this album could be interpreted as ghosts in an unforgiving land.
There are three versions of this album. The original, which I have here, consists of eleven tracks. In a 1982 reissue, the first track on Side Two, “Qu’ran” was replaced by a track called “Very Very Hungry” because the Muslim council of Great Britain objected to the use of samples of Muslim chants. In a 2006 expanded version, seven extra tracks were included.
The album is like no other album that I own. There are elements of ambient music, as pioneered by Brian Eno. There are many electronic effects – in fact, Robert Fripp is credited with Frippertronics on “Regiment”. This involves some form of tape looping that Robert Fripp pioneered. The sampled voices and other sounds are from a variety of sources including a Lebanese mountain singer, an exorcist, a chant by Algerian muslims, an Egyptian pop singer and a radio evangelist. One description of the genre (from AllMusic) is “worldbeat funk rock” and the bass and drums on the album provide an insistent groove to most of the tracks.
“Help Me Somebody” includes a sample of the Reverend Paul Morton from a broadcast sermon in New Orleans in 1980. The YouTube clip is different to the album version but no less remarkable.
“The Jezebel Spirit” includes sampled vocals from an exorcist. The website “Bible Knowledge” claims that “Without question, the nastiest, evil, most disgusting, cunning, and seductive spirit in Satan’s hierarchy has to be what many call the Jezebel spirit.” The anonymous exorcist used in this song implores Jezebel to leave the woman (possibly a prostitute) who is being exorcised. Some of the words that are heard include “She was intended by God to be a virtuous woman. You have no right there. Her husband is the head of the house. Out Jezebel! Out! Out! In Jesus’ name“
“America Is Waiting” includes a sample of broadcaster Ray Taliaferro saying, amongst other things “America is waiting for a message of some sort or another. No will whatsoever. No will whatsoever! Absolutely no honor.” His career started in 1967 when he was considered to be one of the first African American talk show hosts. He had a reputation as one of the most leftwing broadcasters and he was later known for his strident criticism of George W. Bush.
My favourite song on the album is “Regiment”. The remarkable sampled vocals come from a Lebanese mountain singer whose name is given as Dunya Yunis on the original recording and Dunya Yusin on the CD re issue. There is also some incredible synthesiser playing from Brian Eno who said “The two tracks that work really well for me are ‘Moonlight In Glory’ and ‘Regiment’. I think those are the two real achievements of the album, and I think my synth solo on ‘Regiment’ is possibly the best I’ve ever played. People think it’s a Fripp guitar rip-off; it really is me on synthesiser.”
Clearly, watching me dance to this song at the end of the evening will have been the highlight of the day for all of my friends that were able to be there. For those of you who missed it, all you have to do is ask and I’ll show you how it’s done.