Monday 30 April 2012

Poem: 'Alice's Adventures Through The Windshield'


I am the victim
of secret Government experiments,
which re-wired my brain with electrodes
reconfigured my gene-code with alien DNA
subjected me to new hallucinogenic chemicals
then tried to make me vote Conservative

I’m the product
of covert operations
which infiltrated my genome with nano-virus
carried out laser-guided surgical strikes
against my nerve-centres and enforced an
embargo against my sexual life-style of choice

I was cloned in Area 51 where
the moon-landing was filmed,
abducted by greys and gene-spliced with Elvis,
gender-reassigned and forced to mate with myself,
my past reprogrammed with false-memory syndrome
– of which these memories are some... but which ?
I taught Manson the chords to ‘Helter Skelter’
I was there with Bush & Blair contriving Iraq
I showed Mary Shelley that Boris Karloff DVD
I was on that grassy knoll in Dallas
I faked the John Lennon shootings

I’m the victim
of a hidden agenda
which genetically modifies my poems,
samples and digitally remixes my syntax,
(available in all formats), deconstructs
and downloads my vocabulary on MP3,
I’ve been detoxed, Roswell’d, and X-Filed,
so this poem... if it ever
gets to be a poem, is the penultimate truth
about the Rosicrucian-Illuminatus-McDonalds-
Papal-K2-Lodge Conspiracy, and the
Men in Black who control them all…

 Published in:
‘BUSWARBLE no.57’ (Australia – Oct 2001)
‘HANDSHAKE no.48’ (UK – April 2002)
‘SCIENCE FRICTION’ edit Paul Rance (UK – August 2002)
‘GARBAJ no.10’ (UK – August 2002)

Book Reviews: Two By Frederik Pohl

Book Review of:
(Granada paperback – 1978
ISBN 0-586-05211-9)

‘There is very little that can be said about Frederik Pohl, except everything’ explains Harlan Ellison in ‘Dangerous Visions’. Distrust Golden Ages. All genres have them – Rock, Big Bands, Comics, Movies, and they all tend to happen around the time the story-teller hits that watershed of emotional vulnerability that occurs between puberty and maturity, twixt twelve and twenty. When the soft grey cerebral underbelly is at its most receptive to new high-power inputs. When the guy in the movie says ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’s been going downhill since Buddy Holly died’, it says more about his own state-of-adolescence than it does about either Rock ‘n’ Roll or about Buddy Holly.

Frederik Pohl’s autobiography is sub-titled ‘Science Fiction’s Golden Age recalled’. You get the picture? Demonstrably the best SF ever written on this planet did not appear in magazines like ‘Thrilling Wonder’ or ‘Super Science Stories’. Pohl himself states as much – he admits that ‘the worst of modern television is not quite as brainless as the average pulp story of the Twenties or Thirties’. But that’s where his allegiances lie because that’s when he first became a ‘practitioner of the solitary vice of Science Fiction’. He was a ‘tall skinny guy with glasses’ caught up in a Depression Years’ escapism industry, a boy Bolshevik with acne prominent enough to be taken for an ‘auxiliary nose’. In those far-off days, membership of the Young Communist League held in tandem with membership of the Futurians SF fan-group presented him with no contradictions because both were progressive, both offered tantalisingly vibrant visions of tomorrow harnessed to that same smug clique elitism of being on the inside of that fantastic vision.

‘Reality is a terrible annoyance to a novelist’ he can concede, while simultaneously getting down to the gritty and torturous reality of creating Golden Ages for later generations through a non-stop barrage of fine books. From the sociological SF of ‘Gladiator-At-Law’ (1955) about multinational capitalism at war, ‘Slave Ship’ (1957) about the military training animals to fight wars, and novels as bizarrely compulsive as the utopian ‘Jem’ (1979), or as breathtaking as ‘Gateway’ (1977), the Nebula-award winning opening to his acclaimed ‘Heechee’ series. All the while charting other people’s blueprints as Literary Agent and Editor. Much of the way we now think about Science Fiction was shaped by the persistent nudging of Frederik Pohl.

His remembrance of things (and futures!) past is contagiously readable, loose as only a pulp survivor can be, jokey, bustling with anecdotes about Harlan Ellison and Lester Del Rey trashing a restaurant, about John Campbell testing out the ideation of ‘Analog’ editorials by systematically provoking arguments with every luckless individual who stumbles into his office, and about now-forgotten hacks sweating out ten-thousand words a day – filling entire magazine-editions under half-a-dozen pseudonyms, and still coming out of it broke! The book bulges with typewriter portraits and line-sketches that are lethally accurate, perceptively humorous and gently mocking. What such tales lack in the critical objectivity of – say, the ‘Billion Year Spree’ school of cool academicism, or the ‘Hell’s Cartographers’ nuts-and-bolts self-historification, they balance out with meandering intrigue, fascinating diversions, and Pohl’s own distinctly bragging easy-on-the-eye word-flow.

Born in 1919 he was inoculated into SF early. If you think Mark Perry’s punk-era ‘Sniffin’ Glue’ invented the fanzine you’re over half-a-century late – Pohl was doing that in Brooklyn round about the time he was discovering sex. By nineteen (and page 57) he’d already made his first professional sale (a poem, “Elegy To A Dead Planet: Luna” to ‘Amazing’) – and rapidly, in succession had become pro editor of two magazines, enabling him to buy stories from himself! As his tale unfolds he pulls few personal punches. He relates details of his four marriages, a World War, and his artistically successful but commercially disastrous seven-year spell as a Literary Agent. Among other legends, he represented expert dreamers like Isaac Asimov, John Wyndham, and Clifford D Simak (‘of the top fifty SF writers in the early-Fifties, I represented at least thirty-five!’). Yet he still managed to emerge $30,000 in debt! He went on to edit both ‘Galaxy’ and ‘If’ clear through the sixties – ‘the pay was miserable. The work was nerve-ending. It was the best job I ever had in my life’. Yet, pursued by this dogged ‘Fool-Killer’ of a ludicrously absurd and terribly annoying reality, he still found time to write, write, and then write some more – ‘making up lies about things that never happened’ in novels as powerful as the anti-utopian Madison Avenue satire ‘The Space Merchants’ (1953), or through classic short story collections such as ‘The Man Who Ate The World’ (1960), ‘Gold At The Starbows End’ (1972), clear up to relatively recent ‘Platinum Pohl: The Collected Best Stories’ (2005).

Pohl’s visions of tomorrow continue unabated, and if that original simon-pure vision got slightly dog-eared in the process, it remains fundamentally as vibrant. There are unmistakeable lines of continuity. ‘When you invent a new civilised planet’ he explains, ‘you have to invent a new society to inhabit it, when you invent a new society, you make a political statement about the one you live in’. Something of the 1930’s boy-Bolshevik remains detectable in such an analysis. Pohl’s personal Golden Age is pretty stunning.

What ‘a writer has to sell is his own perspective on the universe’ he rationalises, and Pohl’s perspective is well worth the price of admission. Personally, I missed out on his Golden Years, mine came later, but the way he writes it makes you wish you was there. But Golden Ages are constantly renewing. ‘You can blow up the world as often as you like, but there is a future, there is always a future, and while some of it will be bad, some of it will be better than anyone has ever known’. I’ll buy that future – and pretty much any of the others he writes.

Book Review of:
(Orb Books – 2005 - ISBN 0-765-30145-8)

Frederik Pohl has been writing fiction across more decades than most of us have been alive. Yet his stories seldom betray their vintage. Instead, they chameleon into some timeless Pohl-space that defies time. Sure, in the earliest of these tales – “Let The Ants Try” (1949), there’s a three-hour nuclear war that destroyed civilisation in 1960, but so precise a lapsed-time date detracts nothing from the accelerating plot which switches around through time altering the present with dizzying speed.

While the plot of “Waiting For The Olympians” (1988) – which I’d not read before, vaguely mirrors Dick’s ‘Man In A High Castle’ in which a sci-Rom writer in an alternate present is (reluctantly) persuaded to concoct a fantasy alternate history of a world which sounds suspiciously like our own. There, the resemblance ceases. In his time-stream, the Roman Empire persists, to become global. Here, it is Roman Legions which clash with the Mayan civilisation, not Spanish conquistadors. Christianity never happened, Jesus was let off with a caution, there was no crucifixion, hence the cult based on the cruciform icon never took off. Is that good? Pohl is morally equivocal. He provides no neat equation. In the global Roman Empire there is no war. But there is institutionalised slavery, the morality of which the characters never question. And such matters are incidental anyway. The narrative is mainly concerned with Julius’ brain-storming deadline-haunted search for a plotline for his next novel, in which he’s assisted by friend Flavius Samuelus who just might be a disguised version of Isaac Asimov. Or perhaps not. While he’s threading his restless travels from the London backwaters, through the Imperial city itself and down to Alexandria, there’s a simultaneous further plot-thread – the impending arrival of a first-contact alien delegation. But that’s of lesser importance. When the aliens inexplicably break off contact and return to the stars that’s of lesser consequence than the progress of his seduction of Rachel, and the success of his novel. Not the vital alternate history, but the rejected earlier novel that led to the imposition of his publisher’s thirty-day deadline in the first place. Pohl’s morality can be quirky, if not downright perverse. Why have the aliens chosen not to make contact? Again, you draw your own conclusions. Because Earth still practises slavery? Possibly, but Pohl stays schtum.

Elsewhere, “Day Million” (1966) – which I’d already read several times before, is still a stunning foray into head-spinning future-sex. It originally appeared in ‘Rogue’ – a soft-porn mag… or maybe that’s too strong a term for the time, perhaps a ‘girlie pin-up’ title would be a more accurate description. But what must have made a puzzling read for its sensation-seeking readership retains the potential to amaze as its multi-sexual hyper-evolved protagonists pursue their convoluted but effortlessly inventive courtship. And if Pohl seems unfeasibly pleased that a now-forgotten Liverpool indie-band took their name from his story-title “The Day The Icicle Works Closed” (1959), then the story is way-better than anything that minor-league band ever produced.

“The Merchants Of Venus” (from the August 1972 ‘Worlds Of If’) is a startlingly good, intensely suspenseful novella, and the first of his acclaimed Heechee series set into overdrive by the enigma of the 250,000-year old alien artefacts across the solar system. Its human dilemma centres on Audee Walthers, an airbody driver who exploits visiting ‘Terry’ tourists to the Venus Spindle colony, on a planet other writers had long since bypassed but which Pohl brilliantly reactivates, complete with toxic yellow-green 95% carbon-dioxide atmosphere with fluffy clouds of hydoflouric acid at 20,000-millibar surface pressure, driven by 300kph winds at 270C surface temperature. Venusian meteorological and hesperological conditions are meticulously reasoned, as the arrival of spaceship ‘Yuri Gagarin’ carrying megarich Boyce Cochenour and his WAG-companion Dorotha Keefer offers Audee the opportunity of hunting the ‘Big Pay-Off’. His need for a life-saving liver-transplant gives his urgency extra momentum, or he’ll go into total collapse within ninety days. ‘Liver, bye-bye; hepatic failure, hello’. By contrast, Cochenour is 110, but surgically gen-modified to the physical condition of a muscle-beach man half that age. There’s three-way personal tension in Walthers’ seashell-shaped craft as they go prospecting the super-hostile terrain for an unlooted Heechee warren in the restricted South Polar Security Area, where it becomes clear that Cochenour’s need is as urgent as Walthers, with his wealth – and hence Walthers pay-cheque, in doubt. With the digs as bare as his bank account, and both with nothing left to lose, they follow an earlier lead to Trace C in the military exclusion zone. It’s almost a treasure map marked ‘X’. But, betrayed by Cochenour, with the biological countdown hurtling, and life-support metres running into the red, he and resourceful Dorotha are stranded in the warren as the tale goes into furious meltdown. Suffice to say that, although the military impound his unlooted discoveries in the warren, his pay-off covers med-expenses. He gets the girl, and the new liver. In fact, something of Cochenour will stay a part of him always. Brilliant! With just about every S-Fictional ingredient any reader could possibly want.

The most recent of the thirty titles in this fine collection – “The Mayor Of Mare Tranq”, rescued from a 1996 anthology, is a playfully affectionate tribute portraying fellow-writer and sometime-collaborator Jack Williamson as the man who saved JFK from the Dallas assassination, and as a reward gets to crew the Apollo moon-launch alongside Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Consistent with his five decades-plus of stories, it shows that to Pohl, all of time and all of space are tinker-toys to make and re-shape at whim. Always have been. These are stories that creatively crumple reality into imaginative paper-shapes, and seldom give their age away.

Expanded from a feature on website:
‘THE ZONE: BOOKS’ (UK – February 2007)

Wednesday 25 April 2012

CD Review: The Creation: Our Music Is Red, With Purple Flashes'


The story of a gaudy 1960’s legend seen through
the distorting perspective of CD compilation:
by CREATION (Edsel Records DIAB 857, 1998)

How Does It Feel To Feel…? It feels like this. Snap-drum steps, then creaking and groaning like some monstrous wounded mutation crawling, dragging itself comfortably numb into a dense wall of taut short-fuse distortion, strafed by tortured squeaks and squeals of burring guitar in pain. Creation can be awesome. So who gives a damn about Creation – yet another lesser mid-sixties band with two minor chart entries? Ask Jimmy Page. He requisitioned Eddie Phillips tetchy-rasping violin-bow droning Gibson 335-guitar technique at the very inception of Led Zeppelin via his stint with the Yardbirds. Ask the Sex Pistols. John Lydon named Creation’s “Life Is Just Beginning” as one of his favourite singles on a July 1977 Capitol Radio interview. Ask Ron Wood, John Dalton of the Kinks, or Kim Gardner of Ashton Gardner and Dyke, they all served briefly in the Creation line-up. Ask Shel Talmy, producer, co-conspirator and some would say creator of the Kinks and the Who. He always talked of Creation with high regard. Ask Raw Records who reissued a double-‘A’-side single of Creation’s “Making Time” c/w “Painter Man” in the midst of the Punk explosion, and a decade after their initial vinyl incarnation. They did not seem out of time. Then Alan McGee not only used the group’s name to title his influential new record label in 1983, but was even instrumental in reforming Creation to record new material for his label. And finally, why not thank the invaluable Edsel archivist label who compiled the most complete yet anthology of the original group’s braincell-blazing work – ‘The Creation: Our Music Is Red – With Purple Flashes’, uniting both sides of all the singles, plus rare Germany-only material, and previously unreleased tracks salvaged from the archives of oblivion.

Creation are something of a cult. A flash and gaudy legend.

Correctly, John Reed’s liner-notes make claims for Creation as ‘the ultimate exponents of freakbeat’. But in their time they more perfectly epitomised Op Art in UK Pop-Rock. Op, or Optical Art, specialised in the manipulation of strong, distinctive, deliberately disturbing visual effects. Bridget Riley rammed geometrical black and white vortices of lines, squares and angles that affect the observer’s sense of perspective. Two-dimensional, immobile, they nonetheless appear to ripple, shift and move, slithering dizzyingly and confusingly across the optic nerves in a quite disconcerting manner. A spin-off of Pop Art, both styles were picked up and plundered by the image-hungry aware of Swinging London through exhibitions – and later through glossy Mod journals like ‘Rave’, and TV Shows like ‘Ready Steady Go’. Both of these august institutions promoted Op Art rock bands.

Flip out the sleeve of that first Who album, ‘My Generation’ (1965), get a load of the jacket John Entwhistle is wearing, made out of a Union Jack, remember the spiral bulls-eye pattern on Keith Moon’s T-shirt in early TV-slots? That was a marketing of Op Art. While those distorted guitar sounds and effects spattered across “I Can’t Explain”, “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” and “My Generation” are attempts to translate an optical effect into an aural one. Just as the angry grating guitar solo mid-way on the Smallfaces debut single “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” was also billed as Op (or Pop) Art (the two distinct artistic disciplines tended to blur with general acceptance).

But Creation were the ultimate Op Art band. A group who best epitomised the whole proto-psychedelic movement. Eddie Phillips first told Norrie Drummond of ‘New Musical Express’ that ‘we see our music as colours. It’s purple with red flashes’ (4 November 1966). So explaining their whole theatrical dynamic which was planned and executed as a multimedia assault, from Phillips’ violin-bowing technique and ear-splitting controlled feedback, through vocalist Kenny Pickett who aerosols instant Abstract Expressionist art on stage choreographed to the music, using spray-cans or spattering paint-bombs on canvas-screen backdrop-props which he then rips up and shrapnels at the audience, or ignites into vivid action-art pyres. Sometimes he paints willing girl’s bodies too. And the band’s astonishing singles – while predict the wildness and weirdness of psychedelia to come, tie themselves temporally to the whole visual arts movement better than any released before, or since.

The band got together around May 1966 after metamorphosing from Mark Four. The central element was Kenny Pickett (real name Kenneth Lee), the twenty-one-year old vocalist from Cheshunt – which also happens to be Cliff Richard’s north-of-London hometown. After a spell as roadie with Neil Christian’s Crusaders, and as Blue Jacks vocalist, he would stay the course through most of Creation’s group changes to come. The coexisting vital element was Edwin Michael ‘Eddie’ Phillips, also twenty-one, from Leytonstone, who joined Blue Jacks as lead guitarist, and went on to co-write much of Creation’s finest material with Pickett. Soon after, Jack Llewellyn Jones, a year older and also from Cheshunt, joined on drums. The final element in April 1966, twenty-year old bassist Bob Garner, came from Warrington. Originally named Mark Four, this is what’s usually referred to as the ‘classic’ Creation line-up, although it remained intact for only the first two singles. This is also the line-up that would reform in July 1993. In the promo shots they’re four smarter-than-thou Mods, basin-cut fringes, matching purple shirts, tight hipster pants with broad white pvc belts, and a cool sharp demeanour, cavorting in vaguely esoteric settings, with an edge of Floydian wackiness. They ceased being Mark Four when they inked a management deal with the Arthur Howes Agency, under Tony Stratton-Smith who was also hard-scrabbling, but would soon become a mover and shaker with Charisma in the Prog-Rock 1970’s. And The Creation – a name supposedly lifted by Pickett from a book of Russian poetry, is a great name, sucking in everything from the primal Big Bang detonation to the biblical creation-myth via Haydn’s oratorio. Then there’s the artistic process of creation that sluices in another set of equally-evocative allusions…

Located around the same timespace nexus there was this American called Shel Talmy, a one-time classmate of Phil Spector according to legend. Talmy arrived in London in 1963 to achieve the dubious distinction of turning the Bachelors – previously a harmonica novelty act, into a top ten vocal group. He redeemed himself a year later – and created the seeds of his own legend by acquiring an independent production deal with Pye. An arrangement that led to the Kinks, and from then until the 1967 sessions that made up their classic ‘Something Else’ album, he produced all their hits. How much of that sound can be credited to the Kinks, and how much to Talmy can be judged by the way he went on to use a modification of the “You Really Got Me” riff as the basis for the first single by his other band. Enter “I Can’t Explain” by the Who, for whom Talmy even penned the ‘B’-side “Bald Headed Woman” (already done as a track on the first Kinks album). Then, like that other pioneering independent record producer, Joe Meek, Talmy ignited his own independent label, and its associated music publishing outlet ‘Orbit’. The label, called ‘Planet’ – barely lasted a year, but during that period it launched Creation.

It is 2nd July 1966. On the ‘Melody Maker’ singles chart the Beatle’s “Paperback Writer” is no.1. While entering the lists at no.45 is “Making Time” by the Creation – the label reads Planet PLF 116. Opening with the sharp shock-detonations of its tight bursting guitar power-riff, them rumbling drums, it morphs into an obsessive-compulsive group-manifesto as written by Pickett & Phillips. In a 1976 ‘Melody Maker’ interview Talmy recalls how the record ‘had the bowed guitar recorded at distortion level, the drums almost as a lead instrument’, with lyrics impatient for change, first demanding ‘why do we have to carry on? always singing the same old song?’ – out with old, dull conformist past, before supplying its own instant-response answer with guitars nagging like urgent toothache, as raw as a graze, they’re ‘lookin’ for an open door’ they’re ‘never taking chances’ for new advances, ‘acting the fool’ because ‘people have their uses’ on the path upwards to greater things. No hesitation. No doubts. Yet the following week confusion sets in – the single is no.49 on ‘Record Mirror’, it is no.40 on ‘Melody Maker’, and no.45 on the ‘Disc’ chart. 16th July it hits no.36 (in ‘MM’, and no.42 in ‘Disc’), and makes a last appearance at no.50 (‘MM’, and no.43 in ‘Disc’).

Right through August, Creation tour. For a while Jack Jones was replaced by Liverpool drummer Dave Preston, the papers blamed illness, but already there were rumours of trouble within the band. But the killer was yet to come. The classic coupling of two Pickett/Phillips songs, “Painter Man” (at 2.48) and “Biff Bang Pow” (a mere 2.23) (Planet PLF 119). This is Op Art as wide-screen as a Roy Liechtenstein cartoon blow-up, ephemeral Pop flash with the trash-aesthetic. The autobiographical lyric sets the back-story about going ‘to College, studied art to be an artist, make a start’ – maybe like Jarvis Cocker, who ‘studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s College’?, he ‘studied hard, gained my degree, but no-one seemed to notice me’. It’s already a kinetic junk-art assemblage spinning at 47rpm, a collage as rich as something by Richard Hamilton. Sneering ‘classic art has had its day’, this, it says, is the pulse of now! So he ‘tries ‘cartoons and comic books, dirty postcards, woman’s books, here was where the money lay…’ Peter Blake had snatched teen-beat imagery from Elvis, Fabian and Ricky Nelson, Creation were snatching it back. With a beautiful simplicity it merges into Andy Warholian imagery to ‘do adverts for TV, household soap and brands of tea, labels all around tin can, who would be a Painter Man’. The record is quirky and powerful from the opening chords, through a guitar-break played on barbed-wire, a surprise ‘La-la-la’ break with Who high back-up vocals, into the penultimate scratchy excerpt from “Mona Lisa” violin-bowed into the fade. A Mona Lisa with Marcel Duchamp’s moustache intact, and probably a cheap litho postcard reproduction anyway. In the same flash arty vein the coupling again delves into flash-visuals, ‘Biff Bang Pow gonna knock you out, Biff Bang Pow’ explodes up as if from a superhero graphic-art frame, cut-&-pasted from the speech-balloon of that most Pop Art of artforms the comicbook! Again ‘it’s happening RIGHT NOW’, so ‘do it right now.’, with jagged spluttering guitar-bursts propelled by the Who’s “My Generation” rhythm track overlayed with (then-)trendy references to ‘you’re always around me like a Double-‘O’ spy’.

“Painter Man” charts at no.31 (in ‘Disc’, and no.44 on ‘Melody Maker’) on 29th October 1966, the week that Question Mark & the Mysterian’s “96 Tears” tops the US ‘Cashbox’ Hot Hundred and the Monkees “Last Train To Clarksville” debuts in the UK Fifty at no.50. In the first week of November Creation are welcomed as ‘a most exciting group enters this weeks ‘NME’ Chart for the first time this week – the Creation, at no.22’ (no.38 in ‘Record Mirror’, no.39 in ‘Melody Maker’, & no.26 in ‘Disc’). By 12th November it reached no.20 (in ‘Disc’, no.36 in ‘RM’, no.27 in ‘NME’, & no.29 in ‘MM’). But it gets no higher. 19th November saw it, and Creation, with their final chart appearance at no.34 (in ‘Disc’, no.35 ‘MM’). The same week the “Ready Steady Who” EP and Cream’s “Wrapping Paper” crawl into the Fifty. There’s a tale (repeated in ‘Record Collector: 100 Greatest Psychedelic Records’) that “Painter Man” benefited from Stratton-Smith’s decision to spend £600 buying the record into the charts. Maybe. There are similar smears about Brian Epstein buying the Beatles “Love Me Do” chart-placings. Julian Cope repeats another oft-told oft-denied tale that Creation ‘were so close to making it, Pete Townshend asked their guitarist, Eddie Phillips, to join the Who. He wouldn’t, so Townshend joined the Creation fan club.’ Maybe.

1966 ends with Creation in an odd situation. With two chart platters, and a third provisionally titled “Peeping Tom” lined up for January release, the label went bust. ‘Planet’ ceased to orbit, and Talmy took his wards back to the majors. Creation seem to lose momentum during the uncertainty. With the onset of the New Year the weirdness starts in earnest. Pop, and Op Art became just one of the influences fused into the vast eclectic amorphous monster of acid-fueled West Coast esoterica. But by then, cranked up high on Phillips distorted guitar wranglings, Creation were already being recognised as some kind of pioneers They’d become ‘Ready Steady Go’ regulars, and as psychedelia began infiltrating hip London, cult counter-culture journal ‘Oz’ wrote about ‘Creation, who were always into happenings and were wont to flood the floor of their club off Regent Street or somesuch (at the time) mindtwisting surprise’. ‘Melody Maker’ quoted Talmy thus – ‘they were a very original avant garde act. They used to set fire to stages and things. And Kenny Pickett, the vocalist did action paintings on stage, an idea a lot of people copied. I like original ideas and original groups with original ideas’ (1976 interview). Creation themselves, deadpan, told Norrie Drummond ‘we just want our act to be visual as well as musical. We want to give the public real value for money’. Stratton Smith was more verbal – he explained ‘they paint because they feel like it, not simply because its gimmicky. They just paint when the feel moved to. They experiment with their music too’.

Although the band were relocated to Polydor (who distributed ‘Planet’ anyway), mainstay Kenny Pickett abruptly quit, supposedly to concentrate on songwriting, although Johnny Rogan records in ‘Starmakers & Svengalis’ (Trans-Atlantic Publ, 1988) that Creation’s ‘prospects as a creative unit took a savage blow when key writer/ lead vocalist Kenny Pickett was ousted from the group following a struggle over leadership’. Whatever, it reverberated further inner convulsions. Bob Garner filled in on vocals as new bass-player Kim Gardner was brought in from The Birds. Another single, again produced by Talmy, “If I Stay Too Long” c/w “Nightmares” was issued in June – maybe an indication of that loss of certainty, it was slower harmonic Pop, a little softer, a more blatant attempt at commercialism. Cenceding their clique in-references to art-movements were just too esoteric? After all, Status Quo had followed up their “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” with the string-laden anguish of “Are You Growing Tired Of My Love”. Easybeats had followed “Friday On My Mind” with sensitive love-song “Hello, How Are You?” Both worked their sales magic. Perhaps it would do-the-do for Creation? There’s token lyrical quirkiness, ‘people stopped and stared at me, as if I wasn’t right – Oh no’, but it also provides proof that the band are capable of operating in other gears. But for hard-core fans, the flip more than compensates in the freaky-weird stakes. There are oblique bass figures, odd disconnected clicks and echo-reverbed voices and abrasive creaking noises before the riff kicks in around the nagging insistent hook. ‘I’m in a state of constant confusion… images shifting before your eyes… whining noises inside your head’. An acid trip? A Night of Fear…? until the it’s-all-a-dream opt-out about ‘wake up shouting, sweating with fear’.

Nevertheless, the coupling failed. It vanished without trace, in England. Abroad they were more fortunate. They’d already played an eventful residency at the German ‘Big Ben Club’ in Wilhelmshaven while still known as Kenny Lee & The Mark Four, now “If I Stay Too Long” became their third of three German chart singles, leading to successful headlining dates. A contemporary advertisement bragged of their being the third top touring group and fifth top recording group in Germany in a matter of seven months. They even rushed out a Germany-only album – ‘We Are Paintermen’ in 1967, with the singles broadened out with bonus tracks that would remain unissued in their homeland for years to come. A fairly routine Mod dance-cover of “Cool Jerk”, a 1966 US R&B hit for the Capitols, which might have come from someone like the Action. There was “Hey Joe”, already familiar through versions by Love, the Leaves and the Byrds, but which Jimi Hendrix made his own, and they replicate Hendrix solos with talking interjections. There was also an ambitious attempt at Dylan’s epic “Like A Rolling Stone” edited to a more manageable 2:59mins. In all, it remains a curious grab-bag of material falling short of the classic album they were capable of. And maybe a missed opportunity.

Meanwhile, they go back into the studios with Talmy, with two Eddie Phillips & Bob Garner songs – and a big Polydor publicity push. The result was October 1967 single “Life Is Just Beginning” (at 2.58) and “Through My Eyes” (at 3.05). Despite what had come before, it was a beautiful little single that opens with a bizarre baroque string quartet passage, which fades into the slightly out-of-phase voices chanting the title phrase, leading into a reflective “My Back Pages”-type lyric that runs ‘when I think of all the things I’ve done, in my younger days. Not knowing what was right and wrong, and life’s sorrowful ways’. Moving into now with ‘I just can’t stop to think for you, I must have my fun’, with the unrestrained optimism of ‘there’s so many things to do’, for ‘I discovered yesterday, life has just begun’. The ‘B’-side veers into lysergic-imagery layered with lines like ‘to trip around the world would be OK’, close enough to imply the chemical-catalyst of spiritual change – ‘if you could see through my eyes, you would get a big surprise, things you never noticed before, things you’ve never seen I’m sure’. It’s one of those sniffy-superior ‘I’ve done acid so I know more than you do’ scams. Phillips’ more muscular guitar break is also technically improved, relying on a more conventional, Claptonesque style, while staying clipped Punk-concise. But the single only sold a few copies. I bought one. John Lydon bought one.

Everyone has their favourite shoulda-been band. The sixties more than most. The great underappreciated names who never actually made the grade, while lesser bands high-charted, came and disappeared. The names that persist, celebrated by cult enthusiasts in fanzines and specialist websites. The Action, Artwoods, Idle Race, Johns Children or Dantalian’s Chariot So who gives a damn about Creation – yet another lesser mid-sixties band with two minor chart entries? If I had to nominate my favourite shoulda-beens, it would be Creation. The art-edge gave them a niche frisson. I scrutinised the music press small-ads, alerted by the ‘New Neurosis Melting Minds’ ad-copy for “Painter Man”, the William Morris pastoral-baroque promotional artwork setting on which they’re imposed for the ‘NME’ cover-ad for “If I Stay Too Long”, and the protean surreal-sci-fi panel for “Life Is Just Beginning” which attracted attention, and even a few publicity-friendly accusations of blasphemy. They conjure all manner of speculation that, against the odds, the vinyl is well-capable of living up to. Such detail matters. Crucially, Eddie Phillips – the group’s other sound-defining mainstay, chose this time to take a three-month band-break, preventing the single getting the exposure it deserves. The vocals of “Through My Eyes” plead ‘what a better world it would be, if they’d take some notice of me’. Well, the world didn’t notice. The world, in general, wasn’t listening. It was tuning out…

To fill the period of flux, in February 1968 the earlier Teutonic hit “How Does It Feel To Feel” was put out, their most awesome slab of psych-Rock, its words and phrases clenched around chaos, Eddie Phillips’ zip-gun guitar lacerated and battered from action to reaction. Could it be, one wonders, that some chemical alchemy is infused into these spiralling black vinyl grooves? A suspicion barely dispelled by the catchy Pop it’s coupled with, the mutant nursery-rhyme “Tom Tom” about the ‘pipers son’. But it was too late, to all intents and purposes the band’s assault on the British public was over. The record got lost in the deluge of newer freakier flashier names. Nurtured by fans, and two decades later revived to greater visibility by Ride, “How Does It Feel To Feel” was passed over. Yet there was still one more single to go. In May 1968, Kenny Pickett reconvened a new Creation line-up, with stalwart Jack Jones, while Kim Gardner introduced former band-mate Ronnie Wood out of the Birds. The four toured heavily across Europe. Ronnie later told ‘Q’ magazine that Creation ‘were so big in Germany that once we topped the bill over Diana Ross & The Supremes. I had a taste of being mobbed and Beatlemania in Hamburg, clothes ripped to pieces’. Then “Midway Down” c/w “The Girls Are Naked” became a beautifully strange combination awash with oblique imagery. A Fellini-grotesque carnival sketch populated by the Barker, the Bearded Lady, the Dancing Bear, the Gentle Giant, and the Three-Foot Midget who ‘hopes he won’t be small forever’. And a flipside retro-snapshot of the Soho-after-dark sleaze-life of neon-lit strip-clubs and their seedy clientele. With a title slyly lifted from a poster used by ‘The Windmill Theatre’ to announce the lifting of the Lord Chamberlain’s restrictions on moving nudes on stage, it celebrates strippers, like Trixie-Lee who dance for pervy male delectation. Yet, inexplicably, it stalled.

Creation played their final gig in April at the ‘John Lewis’ store in London’s Oxford Street. Then split. Talmy went on to produce less. To work with String Driven Thing and Pentangle. He co-produced the 1977 Smallfaces re-union album, and tried unsuccessfully to work with the Damned. With eyesight failing, he went into movie production and book publication through the Talmy-Franklin imprint. In the meantime, Creation singles were becoming collector’s items, provoking occasional attempts at a revival of interest. In August 1973 Tony Stratton-Smith’s Charisma rebooted the bands back-catalogue by issuing ‘The Creation ’66-‘67’ (Charisma) reasonably priced at just £1.99 to introduce its new budget series. This first serious attempt to retro-document the group’s history was co-promoted with an album of Orson Welles’ 1938 ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast radio-transcripts! It was jacketed in surreal-art of an apparently juvenile nude playing bowls, and was accompanied by publicity blurbs drawing attention to, and making its primary selling point, the presence of subsequent star-names Ron Wood of the Faces and later the Rolling Stones, John Dalton of the Kinks, and Kim Gardner of Ashton Gardner & Dyke, who – admittedly, had all been incidental line-up components at one time or another. Sure, it featured “Painter Man” and “Making Time”, but for the first time there were other tracks too, less familiar gems, “Uncle Bert” and “Can I Join Your Band”. The former starts out with the sound of running water, and ends in a madly contagious sing-along chorus. Uncle Bert – a cross between Pink Floyd’s Arnold Layne and the Who’s Uncle Ernie, is lurking deep on Hampstead Heath, ‘rumour has it he’s a tea-leaf’, or a perv or a deviant ‘with his trousers hanging down’. The insane scenario grows even more surreal as ‘a dog named Rover bit his rotting wooden peg, the dog went off with splinters in its teeth, and Uncle’s leg went rolling down the heath’. It’s riotous fun is continued with the irresistibly persistent chant of ‘can I join your band’ over compulsive accelerating rhythms. Telling the back-story of an absentee army-musician father leaving Mummy and the kids starving in the slums, so he pinches his grandmother’s savings to buy a new guitar, and sets about his new career. In sneaking satiric humour ‘my coat is suede, I’m a hippie guy, always stoned and eight miles high’. Such tracks add new highlights to an already lustrous legacy. But essentially, the tale is told. And by that time Kenny Pickett was rumoured to be driving a taxi.

The Creation. Let there be volume. Biff! Bang! Pow! The cartoon-explosion ‘POW!’ on the cover-art of Jam’s ‘Sound Affects’ LP is a direct reference. Their PR handout once claimed ‘this culture will take its place in the world just as the renaissance and Picasso’s blue period have’. Well, maybe. On a marginally more realistic level Talmy was still praising the demised Creation. ‘All those guys knew each other’ he reminisces to ‘Melody Maker’, ‘Pete Townshend used to think Eddie Phillips was the greatest guitarist in Britain and he probably was. He may well be again. He’s been out of it for years, driving a bus for London Transport’. In fact Talmy and Phillips worked together again, produced a Phillips song called “I Don’t Know How You Feel” which has ten guitars overdubbed, combining the energy and attack of Creation with a slightly smoother finish. And Eddie worked with Kenny Pickett too. Talking about Eddie Phillips, Kenny Pickett told ‘NME’ ‘we’ve got this love-hate relationship, a bit like Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, but that’s what makes our songs brilliant’ (9 July 1994). Later, there would be the genuine full Creation reunion. With more gigs and new records. But they occur outside the focus of this feature. Creation are gone, but they left a flash, gaudy, if slightly dog-eared legend in their wake.


‘Dark from the Catacombs of Mind & Memory
Sinuously emergent – traumas rampant!
                                   – ad for “Painter Man”

May 1964 – MARK FOUR – “Rock Around The Clock” (Bill Haley song) c/w “Slow Down” (Larry Williams song) (Mercury MF 815) followed by second Mercury single “Try It Baby” c/w “Crazy Country Hop” (Mercury MF825) the line-up is Eddie Phillips (guitar), Kenny Pickett (vocals), Mick ‘Spud’ Thompson (rhythm guitar), Jack Jones (drums) & John ‘Nobby’ Dalton (bass)

August 1965 – MARK FOUR single “Hurt Me If You Will” (Pickett/Phillips) c/w “I’m Leaving” (Decca F 12204) the line-up is Eddie Phillips, Kenny Pickett, Jack Jones (drums) & John ‘Nobby’ Dalton (bass) who then quit to replace Pete Quaife in the Kinks. The tough group-penned Bo Diddley-esque ‘B’-side features what some claim to be the first extended feedback guitar solo in Rock

February 1966 – MARK FOUR single “Work All Day (Sleep All Night” c/w “Goin’ Down Fast” (Fontana TF 664) with Eddie Phillips, Kenny Pickett, Jack Jones (drums) & Tony Cooke

June 1966 – CREATION single “Making Time” (Pickett/Phillips) c/w “Try And Stop Me” (Pickett/Phillips) (Planet PLF 116) line-up is Eddie Phillips (guitar), Kenny Pickett (vocals), Jack Jones (drums) & Bob Garner (bass, previously of Tony Sheridan Band, the Merseybeats and Lee Curtis Allstars)

October 1966 – “Painter Man” (Pickett/Phillips) c/w “Biff Bang Pow” (Pickett/Phillips) (Planet PLF 119) reaches no.8 in Germany in April 1967. In the UK Creation tour with David Garrick, who had hits with the Rolling Stones’ “Lady Jane” & “Dear Mrs Applebee”

June 1967 – “If I Stay Too Long” (Garner/Phillips) c/w “Nightmares” (Pickett/Phillips) (Polydor 56-117). In February Kenny Pickett had abruptly quit, so Bob Garner fills in as vocalist, with Eddie Phillips, Jack Jones, & Kim Gardner on bass (ex-Birds)

29 July 1967 – Creation play ‘International Love-In Festival’ at London’s Alexandra Palace with Pink Floyd, Eric Burdon & The New Animals, Tomorrow, Blossom Toes and others

1967 – ‘We Are Paintermen’ Germany-only LP also distributed in Netherlands, France & Sweden (Hit-Ton HTSLP 240-037) with “Cool Jerk” and “Hey Joe”, plus French single “Can I Join Your Band” (written by Kenny Pickett) with Phillips, Jones, Garner & Gardner, “Like A Rolling Stone” and studio out-take “I Am The Walker” (Pickett/Phillips) with Pickett, Phillips, Jones & Garner. There’s also a Germany-only single “Cool Jerk” c/w “Life Is Just Beginning”. This album eventually appeared in the UK as a Line LP (OLLP 5234)

October 1967 – “Life Is Just Beginning” (Garner/Phillips) c/w “Through My Eyes” (Garner/Phillips) (Polydor 56-207) with Eddie Phillips, Jones, Garner & Gardner. Eddie quits for three months, then rejoins Creation

4 November 1967 – Creation appear on BBC radio’s ‘Saturday Club’

February 1968 – “How Does It Feel To Feel” (2:58mins) (Garner/Phillips) c/w “Tom Tom” (Garner/Phillips) Polydor 56-230) with Eddie Phillips, Jones, Garner & Gardner (a slightly different 3:04min US mix, with Shel Talmy’s remixed guitar solo, was issued November 1967 on US Decca 32227)

May 1968 – “Midway Down” (Wonderling/Shapiro) c/w “The Girls Are Naked” (Pickett/Garner/Jones) (Polydor 56-246). New line-up convened by Kenny Pickett, with Jack Jones, Kim Gardner & Ronnie Wood (also originally from THE BIRDS) replacing Eddie Phillips. Ronnie claims he was kicked out of the JEFF BECK GROUP on 1 June – his 21st birthday, and immediately joined Creation. Ronnie plays on German recording sessions, documented in ‘Sounds’ (21 May 1977)

1968 – “Bony Moronie” (Larry Williams) c/w “Mercy Mercy Mercy” (Williams) (Germany only Hit-Ton 300-210) with Pickett, Phillips, Jones & ace session-player Herbie Flowers (of Blue Mink & Sky)

1968 – “For All That I Am” (Kahan/Friedland) c/w “Uncle Bert” (Garwood/Pickjohn) (Germany only Hit-Ton 300-235) with Pickett, Jones, Gardner & Wood. Lyrically, the close smooth harmonies of the ‘A’-side seem to be a thank-you for losing his cherry!

April 1968 – CREATION split, leaving unreleased tracks “Ostrich Man” (Pickett/Phillips) – a lyrical near-relation to the Beatles ‘Nowhere Man’, issued in 1982, and “Sweet Helen” (Pickett), not issued in the UK until 1993 1968 – ‘The Best Of The Creation’ (Repertoire REP4736), compilation album issued in Sweden & Germany only

January 1970 – Eddie Phillips plays guitar on PP ARNOLD LP ‘Kafunta’ (Immediate IMSP 017) as part of her TNT Soul Band, various tracks produced by Mick Jagger and Steve Marriott. He’d already played on her July 1968 single “Angel Of The Morning” c/w “Life Is But Nothing” (Immediate IM 067) which reached no.29 on the chart

1972 – single by SMILEY, a new group formed by Bob Garner, of Kenny Pickett song “Penelope"

1973 – release of LP ‘The Creation ’66-‘67’ (Charisma LP CS8) featuring tracks previously unissued in the UK ,“Can I Join Your Band”, “Hey Joe”, “Cool Jerk” & “I Am The Walker” (which is superficially smoother, but with a sinister edge, what is the man with the dog in a bag doing standing beside the river?). There’s a tie-in single “Making Time” c/w “Painter Man” (Charisma CB213)

November 1973 single – “Tell Laura I Love Her” c/w ”Blind Boy” (M & M 10023) confusingly, this is not The Creation, but a similarly-named New Zealand band!

1975 – ‘The Creation’ (UK compilation LP)

1976 – Kenny Pickett & Eddie Phillips start working together and issue singles “Limbo Jimbo” (a cod-Ska rewrite of ‘Painter Man’) and “Little Lolita”. While Shel Talmy produced Eddie Phillips “I Don’t Know How You Feel” and “Be-Bop Mary Ann” single in April

August 1977 – CREATION single “Making Time” c/w “Painter Man” reissued (Raw RAW4) Raw is a Cambridge-based Indie label

17 March 1979 – “Painter Man” a ‘NME’ no.7single for BONEY M (Atlantic/Hansa K 11255) with all the spiky elements smoothed away into novelty Pop, the track is also featured on their Top Ten album ‘Night Flight To Venus’. At least the royalties allowed Kenny Pickett & Eddie Phillips to pursue other projects..!

February 1980 – Kenny Pickett composition “Dancin’ Man” a single for JO-JO LAINE (wife of Denny Laine) on Popular-Hammer label

February 1980 – KENNEDY EXPRESS single “Is There Life On Earth” (Jet 171) one of two singles written & produced by Kenny Pickett & Eddie Phillips

October 1980 – “Teacher Teacher” a 2:35min single for DAVE EDMUNDS & ROCKPILE (Columbia 1-11388), Kenny Pickett/Eddie Phillips composition excellent track too, shoulda charted!! (also featured on the album ‘Seconds Of Pleasure’ Columbia 36886)

October 1980 – newspaper ‘The Observer’ (12 October) claims Kenny Pickett is living with astrologer/author Teri King, and that he co-authored hits including CLIVE DUNN’s “Grandad” (with Herbie Flowers). According to Flowers – who’d played sessions with Creation, he came up with the idea after following an easy primer book on composing. All he needed was a hook, and he was struggling to come up with anything. He phoned Kenny Pickett who came round, ringing the doorbell, and the ding-dong from the doorbell provided the hook he needed. The fact that, on the back of Clive Dunn’s success as Lance-Corporal Jack Jones in TV’s ‘Dad’s Army’ this lumbering novelty reached no.1 (9 January 1971) where all of Creation’s incandescent original work failed proves the basic absurdity of Pop justice! Kenny Pickett & Herbie Flowers also collaborated on tracks for Herbie’s BLUE MINK

May 1981 – THE TIMES, a group masterminded by former-Television Personalities founder Ed Ball, issue Creation tribute single “Red With Purple Flashes” c/w “Biff! Bang! Pow!” (Whaam! WHAAM002)

1982 – ‘The Mark Four & The Creation’ (Eva label Eva 12005, Germany-only LP) all ten tracks cut by Mark Four, plus four by Creation including “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Sylvette”

1982 – ‘How Does It Feel To Feel?’ (Edsel EDCD106, 16-track vinyl compilation extended to 20 for CD) includes 4-page pull-out with pictures, discography & excellent sleeve-notes by Brian Hogg, with “Life Is Just Beginning”, “Through My Eyes”, “Ostrich Man”, “I Am The Walker”, “Tom Tom”, “The Girls Are Naked”, “Painter Man” etc, with tie-in 1984 single “Making Time” c/w “Uncle Bert” (Edsel E5006)

1984 – ‘ReCreation’ (Line label, LP)

1985 – ‘Live At The Beat Scene Club’ (7” EP)

April 1987 – “A Spirit Called Love” c/w “Making Time” (Jet Records 7047) (+ bonus track “Mumbo Jumbo” on 12” EP) Creation reunion line-up

1990 – EDDIE PHILLIPS solo LP ‘Riffmaster Of The Western World (Promised Land) cover-shot shows him playing guitar with his violin-bow against a Union Jack backdrop, includes “The Jimi Hendrix Trilogy’

1993 – ‘Lay The Ghost’ (Grapevine COCRE1, LP) A reformed Creation (Kenny Pickett, Eddie Phillips, Jack Jones & Bob Garner) makes its debut at ‘The Mean Fiddler’ in North London in 6 July 1993, the full 14-track set recorded as this live album which shows them rusty, but with the explosive power still intact. Eddie Phillips wrote off two violin bows during the evening. The first song is “Batman” which segues into “Biff Bang Pow”. The rest of the set consists of “Life is Just Beginning” (played for the first time live), previous live favourites such as “I’m A Man”, “That’s How Strong My Love Is” and “Hey Joe”, a new song “Lay the Ghost” (according to John Reed ‘an attempt to salve the emotional rifts left three decades earlier’), plus “Try & Stop Me”, “Nightmares”, “Tom Tom”, “Through My Eyes”, “How Does It Feel To Feel”, “If I Stay Too Long”, “Making Time” and “Painter Man”. Kenny Pickett returned to his aerosol painting but this time did not set them alight. The album cover painting is by the late, great Vivien Stanshall

1994 – ‘Painter Man’ (Edsel NESTCD 904, UK budget LP compilation) 25-tracks including “Making Time”, both US & UK versions of “How Does It Feel To Feel”, “Can I Join Your Band”, “Sweet Helen”, “Ostrich Man”, “Mercy Mercy Mercy”, “Hey Joe”, “I Am The Walker”, “Uncle Bert”, “Lime A Rolling Stone”, “Cool Jerk” etc

25 June 1994 – cover of “How Does It Feel To Feel” by RIDE reaches no.58 (Creation CRESCD184)

July 1994 – “Creation” c/w “Shock Horror” + “Power Surge” (Creation CRECRESCD200, single) follows the groups appearance at the Royal Albert Hall ‘Creation Undrugged’ party organised by Alan McGee

July 1996 – ‘Power Surge’ (Creation CRECD176, album) new recording (by Kenny Pickett, Eddie Phillips, Bob Garner & Jack Jones), produced by Alan McGee & Dick Green, with “Creation”, “Power Surge”, “Someone’s Gonna Bleed”, “Shock Horror”, “That’s How I Found Love” (which borrows from “That’s How Strong My Love Is”), “Killing Time”, “Nobody Wants To Know”, “City Life”, “English Language”, “Free Men Live Forever”, “Ghost Division”, “O+N”. Sleeve art by Tony Egelnick. ‘Vox’ calls it ‘a mish-mash of stompalong rhythms and mock garage-y attitude which is only saved by the odd hint of psych’ (August 1996)

January 10th 1997 – Kenny Pickett dies of a heart attack. The remaining trio play together for the last time at his wake

1998 – ‘The Creation: Our Music Is Red – With Purple Flashes’ (Edsel DIAB857 label, UK compilation), full 24-tracks with “Making Time”, “Try & Stop Me”, “Painter Man”, “Biff Bang Pow”, “If I Stay Too Long”, “Nightmares”, “Cool Jerk”, “Like A Rolling Stone’, “I Am The Walker’, “Can I Join Your Band”, “Hey Joe”, “Life Is Just Beginning”, “Through My Eyes”, “How Does It Feel To Feel” (UK & US versions), “Tom Tom”, “Midway Down”, “The Girls Are Naked”, “Bony Moronie’, “Mercy Mercy Mercy”, “For All That I Am”, “Uncle Bert” + previously unissued “Ostrich Man” & “Sweet Helen”. Full sleeve notes by John Reed

1998 ‘Creation: Complete Collection Vol.1 – Making Time’ (Retroactive RECD 9002) 20-tracks including “That’s How Strong My Love Is”, “Instrumental No.1”, “I’m A Man”, “Ostrich Man”, “If I Stay Too Long”, “Try & Stop Me”, “Tom Tom” etc

1998 ‘Creation: Complete Collection Vol.2 – Biff Bang Pow’ (Retroactive RECD 9003) with “Painter Man”, “Life Is Just Beginning”, “Sweet Helen”, “Sylvette”, “Can I Join Your Band?”, “Mercy Mercy Mercy”, “Like A Rolling Stone” etc

October 2001 – Kim Gardner dies of cancer in Los Angeles, where he’d been running a pub called the ‘Cat & Fiddle’ on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard

2004 – ‘Psychedelic Rose: The Great Lost Creation Album’ (Cherry Red) CDM RED 256 recorded during 1987/1988 with Eddie Phillips & Kenny Pickett unnecessarily sweetened with synths, it includes “Lay The Ghost”, “Psychedelic Rose”, “Radio Beautiful”, “Far From Paradise”, “Doing It My Way”, “Making Time”, “Painter Man” (5:38-min video clip) & “Spirit Called Love” plus two tracks (“United” & “White Knight”) which Eddie Phillips also recorded as part of the ‘British Invasion All-Stars’ LP with Yardbird Jim McCarty and others, & a Spoken-Word history of Creation read by Joe Foster (from the book by Sean Egan) + DVD ‘Red With Purple Flashes: The Creation Live’ also on Cherry Red

2007 – ‘Creation: The Singles Collection’ (Get Back label, Italy only)

July 2008 – “Red With Purple Flashes” (single-sided limited-edition Promo on Planet 240708, 200-only)

July 2011 – ‘Woodstock Daze’ solo EDDIE PHILLIPS album (Skyrocket Records), with “Woodstock Daze”, “Waiting at the Crossroads”, “Dreamers of Dreams”, “Work All Day (Sleep at Night)”, “Biff Bang Pow”, “If I Ever Stop Moving (I’ll Fall Out of the Sky)”, “Mr X”, “Always & Forever”, “I’m Leaving”, “Good Times”, “PsychArelic”

Credit to Brian Hogg ‘Bam Balam’ fanzine
for some discographical details

Original draft-version published in:
‘DIVERSION no.7’ (UK – October 1978)

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Live: Loudon Wainwright III in Leeds

Gig Review of:
at ‘Fforde Green’, Leeds, Yorkshire

I read all the right critics. Through a process of assimilation I’m able to determine what’s current and politically acceptable (i.e. what sells), in a variety of areas including film, art, books, anarcho-syndicalism, and contemporary music (i.e. any music that allows you, for the price of a haircut, to belong to a group of people who think alike and consider themselves the one true stylists of genuine hip). The problem is that Loudon Wainwright III totally confounds that whole logic. By rights he shouldn’t even be here, alive, on this stage, never mind doing a two-hour solo set and coming back for two encores. Anyone who sings about dropping acid and listening to the Grateful Dead has got to be terminally brain-damaged, right? Not coming on with more lethal irony and cynical wit than a truckload of early Elvis Costello albums. So I ditch all accepted credibility standards, and just enjoy.

He comes on more ‘Beat’ than Tom Waits, leather flat ‘at, attempted beard, ludicrously striped soccer jersey and $20 shoes he claims he bought off a dead pimp in Austin, Texas. He hobo-grimaces and guns clear through the entire Lexicon of sex, illustrations provided by a hugely lewd and lasciviously lolling tongue. His humour is finely tuned, his guitar tuned only ‘close enough for Folk’. And I ain’t laughed so much since the last Tory Party Political.

“(IDTTYWLM) I Don’t Think That Your Wife Likes Me” (from ‘Fame & Wealth’, 1983) – emphasised by gun-shot stage-kicks – is a killer, as is “Saturday Morning Fever”, a plea for tolerance on behalf of Elmer Fudd. “Surfin’ Queen” is a complete debauched Fifties Beach movie with Annette Funicello waxed down and used to catch that last wild wave. Then there’s that ‘Dead Skunk in the middle of the road – stinkin’’ (from ‘III’, 1972). For the most they’re masculine songs, ‘sleazy but sexy’, about boozing and women, but they touch all the bases behind that stereotype. He’s never more perceptive than when he’s at his funniest, and through that strategy he managed to observe the minutia of relationships more accurately than most tediously serious writers. The ‘sad love’ of divorce, breakdown, and separation comes through on “Call Me Mr Guilty” by avoiding sentimentality and delivering each line tipped with vicious steel toe-caps; just as in “Woke Up This Morning And Didn’t Have The Blues” the confession of loneliness and loss surfaces only through its repeated comic denial.

The Music Lounge of this spacious and imposing hostelry is jam-packed to the ceiling with hairy and grizzled people joining in the choruses of songs I’ve never heard before. But what the hell? This time I’ll give the right critics a miss and just let ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Wino guide my sleigh tonight’.