I asked Roo the other day what she would prefer, if something good was about to happen. Would she prefer to know about it in advance or would she prefer a surprise? She thought for a minute and then decided that she would like a surprise. This had been confirmed to me when I gave her a dog towel with hundreds of pictures of Bruno all over it for our wedding anniversary. It was a surprise gift and I’ve never seen her look so happy since she won the Fantasy Cricket League all those years ago.
The reason that I asked her is that I had seen that The War On Drugs were about to release a new live album. It’s got all the good tracks on it – “Thinking Of A Place”, “Under The Pressure”, “Pain” etc. Should I tell her and let her have a month of looking forward to it or would it be better as a surprise? As she rarely reads my blogs, the delivery from Resident Records (I’m trying to not use Amazon any more) will be a surprise for her on November 20th. Or, if she does read today’s blog, this will be a surprise for her.
I think that as I get older, I like surprises less and less. Changes to my routine are hard to accept and that is why, like everybody else in the world, I’ve found the past six months hard. I’ve “joked” in another post that my plan is to become more spontaneous but that plan is not going well. It’s got to the point where, when I speak to Dave on the phone, we agree an agenda for the phone call beforehand. That way, we cover everything we need to; it’s a very sensible idea and it avoids surprises. You might think that makes me look a bit sad but I couldn’t possibly comment.
I once got tickets for a Billy Bragg concert and thought it would be a lovely surprise for two of my friends (who didn’t know each other very well) if I invited them both to come with me but didn’t tell either of them about the other person coming. I can still remember how furious they both were with me, not because they disliked each other but that it was a surprise and a change to their expectations of the evening. It was a good gig though.
I never used to be so keen to avoid surprises. In May 1972, just before I took my A levels, I sent off for two free tickets for a gig that was part of the “BBC In Concert” series to be broadcast on Radio One. I can’t remember who I went with but we got to the venue, somewhere in London and we had no idea who we were going to see. It seems mad now but in 1972, I liked most music that was played after 7:00 p.m. on Radio One so I thought they’d be a pretty good chance I would like whoever it was. I can remember sitting in my seat, in about the tenth row in The Paris Theater, feeling very excited as Pete Drummond walked on stage and said “Ladies and gentlemen, please give a very warm welcome to tonight’s very special guests, Wishbone Ash”. I applauded wildly, turned to my mate and smiled broadly and then thought a minute and sighed inwardly. Wishbone Ash, famed for their twin lead guitars. A steady band, good but not exciting. I enjoyed the concert but I would have instantly forgotten it, if it weren’t for the strange idea of travelling up to London from deepest Kent (Sevenoaks) to see a gig, but not know who it was going to be by. You can hear me clapping wildly on this clip.
If Wishbone Ash had wanted to know how twin guitars should sound, they should have travelled forwards nearly fifty years and listened to Garcia Peoples. “Nightcap At Wits’ End” is a great rock album and features a range of different styles. The review in UNCUT mentions the following bands as influences: Husker Du, Crosby Stills & Nash, Pentangle, The Coral, Martin Carthy, Ryley Walker and Led Zeppelin. Side Two of the album is presented as one long medley with four songs connected by three short pieces of music edited from long jams that the band have played in the studio. This clip shows the sort of thing that they can produce when left to improvise.
“Painting A Siege That Carries” is excellent, featuring great interlinked guitar, strong vocals and building towards a melodic and exciting climax over seven minutes.
“One At A Time” has a similar feel, with a lovely guitar lick. This song has a similar feel to “The Roundabout” by Ryley Walker and Garcia Peoples have, on occasion, joined him on stage for some long drawn out psychedelic jams.
They have also played with Chris Forsyth who, like The War On Drugs, is from Philadelphia. This concert looks about a million times more exciting than Wishbone Ash at the Paris Theatre in 1972.
This is exactly the sort of rock album I love. It’s not overblown, there’s no hysterical vocals but there’s lots of great guitar playing; it’s exciting and the band often develop into a groove. It often reminds me of Side One of “Happy Trails” by Quicksilver Messenger Service with John Cipollina’s magnificent guitar playing. “Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to tonight’s special guests, Garcia Peoples.” If only.