OGH Music

Aug 25
A childrens Sgt Pepper

HMS Donovan

This is one of the unknown treasures from way back then – 1970. Donovan was taking a shot at Sgt Pepper, starting from children’s songs. The music is just as amazing as the cover.

Donovan is an underrated artist, part of the youth revolution in the 1960s, and though somewhat “cosmological”, also quite wise (followed up e g in Sutras, 1996). His best guitar work is unmatched to this day, and shines through here.

Donovan, just with his voice and acoustic guitar, can take you away – like no one else.

Jun 24
Terrapin station

Maybe, the Grateful Dead were better doing free flow improvisation like on Dark Star. Or doing country rock. Yet Terrapin station struck me hard when I first heard it, this was a serious try to summarize counterculture events, when it was released in 1977. Involving an extended orchestra, choir, rhythm section, going beyond what was formerly seen as possible. I was very impressed. The concert – it is a mini concert – never left my mind. Like what some biologists call a “meme”. Once you hear it you wont forget it. At least not, if you are a musical person. It is quite demanding. I know people who heard it but could not relate to it. Too much for them, I think..

Now, Terrapin station has been remade, in today’s climate, using today’s musicians – in very interesting ways.

I have it as part of a 10xLP box, called Day of the dead.

What is it about? The lyrics are diffuse. My short hand is “therapy”. I think this works rather well. “His job is not to master but shed light” – and so on.

Recording such a big-volume many-player piece of music is difficult. The new recording is somewhat distorted, not optimal, on the loudest parts of the music. Other tracks on the LPs in this box, with less high demand for volume, have less problems.

 

Mar 30
Those were the days

My loft is a mess. Recently I found some pictures from way back when.

In the 1970ies I was a member of the folk rock band Samvirkelaget. I also played with other groups. Here, I play flute on a student concert, 1979.

Holter Øystein leads rock band 1979 1 IMG_20170330_0009

I was never that good on guitar, but could play my own songs, also.

Holter Øystein leads rock band 1979 2 1 IMG_20170330_0008

In 1981, I published a book on the gender market (Sjekking, kjærlighet og kjønnsmarked), which sold well in Norway, and later in Sweden (1983). A press photo from that time:

Holter Øystein 1981 IMG_20170330_0010

In 1984, I was a participant in the Oslo carnival.

Not sure exactly what we were doing, but I remember that we were hoping to bring back more of the ‘1968 spirit’.

Holter Øystein karnival in Oslo 1984 IMG_20170330_0003

 

oslo 1984 carnival Øystein IMG_20170330_0006

 

 

 

Apr 22
The Beatles and The Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus

Question: What were the best albums following up the message of the Beatles, on Sgt Pepper and other albums?

My answer:

There were many good follow-ups of course, due to the seminal nature of the Beatles effort.

I think the Spirit album “Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus” is one of the best, balancing right at the edge of the 1960s and 70s music styles and social sentiments.

Q: Why so?

A: The whole framework is marvellously forwards and questioning, and the setup is great. For example, Mr Skin is a rock “plus” type of song. Some forward reflection too. Very good. Critical pop journalism abounds on the album. Together with good melodic writing, arrangement and production. When the songs are forwards into the 70s, like Nature’s Way, they are not too overblown.  A prescient album, in many ways. In my rating, a classic.

Memorable lyric:

We got nothing to hide

Married to the same bride

Source: Epic LP Bl 30267, cover:

 

Spirit 12 dreams of dr Sardonicus

I found a graphic interpretation of this album here.

The music sounds great on vinyl, better than the digital versions I have found on the web.

 

 

Jan 03

New music

0 Comments Written by in Music

New music

Here are three great LPs discovered recently:

Toumani and Sidiki 2014

Toumani and Sidiki – father and son playing koras – dreamlike, lifelike, rythmic (all the more flowing, without percussion or drums). Showing how world music is coming of age, this is a new classic.

Blue Oyster Cult Secret Treaties 1974 Speakers corner 2014Blue Oyster Cult: Secret Treaties (1974), reissued by Speaker’s Corner 2014. This album was actually censored in Germany when it appeared, with the picture of the Nazi jet plane and the group shown as pilots. Turned out, most of the group were Jews! Patti Smith was involved in the lyric writing. A great rock album. Speaker’s Corner has done it again – this reissue has better sound than the original.

Krieger Robby No habla 1989Robby Krieger: No habla (1989). I got this second-hand. How come, the Doors disappeared so fast into non-interesting music (or muzak, superficial entertainment), after Jim Morrison died? This record, made long after the event, shows the same pattern. The two Doors numbers (Wild Child, You’re Lost Little Girl) are great, the rest is so-so. This LP strengthens the argument: You need content in music, if not, it won’t pay off. Even revolutionary content, like Jim Morrison provided. Krieger’s playing on You’re lost…. is just heartbreaking. Wish you were here, Jim.

 

 

Nov 03
Audio identities

Schulze Klaus Audentity

Klaus Schultze: Audentity (1983). Innovative communication KS 800025-26 (2xLP – photo: signed copy, bought at Ringstrom in Oslo, August 2014).

The title may be a little pretentious, but this is a very good double album.”Audentity” – well, in a sense, yes, it is about audio identity. The songs are symphonic works, up to 31 minutes per LP side. The musicians are really allowed to stretch out.

Instead of poor orchestration (typical of progrock etc), we just get Schultze (“computer and keys, program”) and Rainer Bloss (“sounds, Glockenspiel”) doing several synth voices, replicating an orchestra, and if this is a little limited, it is also often rewarding and fresh. Moreover instead of a drum machine we get Michael Shrieve, excellent on drums as always. Besides Schultze, the album’s biggest surprise is Wolfgang Tiepold on cello, who offers much of the orchestrated feel, playing stellar complex cello along the way.

Mar 07
Calibrating ‘misogynism in music’

The Beatles is a major indicator, for this purpose, 1963 onwards.

They were the greatest thing  happening for music, at the time. Artists and producers tried to succeed, according to new standards set by the Beatles.

At this date – February 14 – i do not have a full data material on the Beatles. However I have some material.

One analysis of the way “love” is treated in Beatles songs, suggesting three main periods:

1 Mixed – communal. E g She loves you, which not only tells of a woman active, loving a man, but another man, lovingly giving the message. A mega hit of all time, due to this special angle.

2 More troubled – from I feel fine, to Ticket to ride – also gradually, more private, less communal or collective. Increasing misogynism.

3 More reflective – from All the lonely people, She’s leaving home, and onwards. Less directly realist, more widely experiental. Reduction of misogynism.

Later we heard J0hn the main Beatle like he was divorced, Paul happy with Wings, and so on. But I think these were the three main Beatle stages.

Feb 27
A ‘rolling’ stone? – a follow up

 

Stones Her satanic majesty 67

“Why don’t we sing this song all together
Open our minds let the pictures come
And if we close all our eyes together
Then we will see where we all come from”

There is not much misogynism that I can hear, on this LP, with the demanding title: Their satanic majesties request.  This album was released later in 67, after the three albums described in my first blog post on this topic.

There is no mistake – they really tried to re-adjust their course. I have the original UK LP with the 3D cover. Mick in the center is visible from all angles while Brian is mostly invisible. Brian contributes much to the sound however, a bit like Eno, later.

Richie Unterberger, at Allmusic, writes:  “Without a doubt, no Rolling Stones album — and, indeed, very few rock albums from any era — split critical opinion as much as [this ..] psychedelic outing. Many dismiss the record as sub-Sgt Pepper posturing; others confess, if only in private, to a fascination with the album’s inventive arrangements, which incorporated some African rhythms, Mellotrons, and full orchestration. What’s clear is that never before or after did the Stones take so many chances in the studio. (Some critics and fans feel that the record has been unfairly undervalued, partly because purists expect the Stones to constantly champion a blues ‘n’ raunch worldview.) ”

The album was not seen as successful. The opinion of the day, in the music press, was that the Stones should get back to their roots. They had been misogynist before – but in my interpretation, it was mainly after this “slap in the face” reaction to Their satanic… – and the death of one of their members – that they developed this into a more general “sneering attitude”.  Thereby the band changed their direction (Sympathy for the devil), contributing to 1970s misogynism in rock music, beyond attitude, as staple fare.

After some years they tried to stop this, in their own records (e. g. You can’t allways get what you want, A fool to cry, Waiting for a friend, and others), yet it was not much heeded, since at the time, the Stones were gradually falling out of fashion. and had become marginal, to pop/rock in general.

 

 

 

Feb 15
A ‘rolling’ stone?

A rolling stone?

Stones records 65-67 v2

I was surprised, recording digital versions of my LPs Around and around (1965), Aftermath (1966) and Between the buttons (1967) recently, how mysogynist the Stones were at the time.

It is not just “who needs yesterday’s paper, who needs yesterday’s girl”. It is “Under my thumb” (“the girl who once had her way”), and much else. It smells bad, worse than I remembered. Together with some stylted upgrading of idealized women (“my sweet lady Jane”), the main impression regarding women is that they should be distrusted and kept in command.

True, this was not the main message of the Stones – the main message was one of revolt. But it was part of the “sneering revolt” attitude. No longer the idealized love of the Beatles – love in more low-down ways.

Although the Stones got their largest hit Satisfaction from a text deriding consumer society rather than women, other hits (e g All over now) have misogynist traits. True, the Stones got some of it from the traditions they followed, but there is no mistake, they gave it a further twist too.

However – why is it that misogynist traits in music from this period sometimes go together with the best music? I don’t know. This is a private rule of mine, since it happens on several records (e g Deep Purple: “Why did not Rosemary ever take the pill”) from the 60s and 70s.

I think, perhaps it is not misogynism, this is not what actually happens in the music-making, it is more like a bit daring text, or some other element of revolt, also against women, the things close at hand, as well as society. These are actually two very different aspects, although they have often melted into one. It is only the first revolt aspect that actually engages the good music. Misogynism as a longer term proposition instead tends to stifle artistic creativity. This is my hypothesis.

Later, the Stones tackled life crises and more gender-equal relationships like everyone else, sometimes with depth and perception (You can’t always get what you want; Black and blue; I’m just waiting for a friend). But at the time, in the 1960s, they were the great “opposition” to the love theme of the Beatles, a more working class and less women-friendly version.

“We want Rolling Stones, Beatles go home, yeah yeah” was a slogan here in Norway. The Stones and the Beatles both stood for a new “free” sexuality.  But the Stones were associated with “macho” tendencies in the youth revolt of the late sixties.

One could say, the Stones had balls, they tackled this dilemma by the horns, creating songs like Sympathy for devil. “Please allow me to introduce myself – I am a man of wealth and taste”. This is not, actually, so far from Roy Harper: I hate the white man, or other critical songs at the time. Even if it is not Leonard Cohen: Suzanne.

And there is no telling, whether things would have been better, with a more feminist attitude in the band. I think so. Yet according to the morale at the time, it could have meant a less intense, less good band. E g in the direction of the US band Bread (quite a horrible thought. Or a UK version of Jefferson Airplane – doable, but not likely in this setup). The Stones did try the psychedelic direction, including more madonna-like portraits of elevated femininity, without much success (Her satanic majesty’s request). Go back to where you sneer, seems to have been the main reaction – back to your roots.

Stones records 68-70s 2

 

There is the possibility that the Stones were not mainly recording their own sentiments. They were just doing their best as critical pop-rock musicians, musical journalists – more obviosly so, in songs like Mother’s little helper – recording the sentiments and happenings at the time. This is not all there is to it, but it does connect to a major part of the code at the time, and deserves a hearing.

Together with the assumed “misogynist” texts we find much youthful suffering and will to establish a relationship (e g Time is on my side). The so-called misogynist statements are partly derived from an older blues context and should be seen in a wider context. At the time, it was age and class rather than gender that governed the attentions of the day. The Stones’ early output was part of an age revolt, a youth counterculture, not a gender revolt.

Even so, however, the background misogynist pattern, and the chosen “sneering difference” from the more optimistic love message of the Beatles and others, become more obvious, listening to their 1965-67 albums once more, in 2014.

[NOTE: Raewyn Connell and Michael Kimmel have mailed comments to this text – to be updated]

 

May 11
Kevin Ayers (re)discovered

 

On (re)discovering Kevin Ayers

 

Some of his music is very intense, and has great complexity and depth


(Kevin Ayers, 1972 concert)

Why pick up Kevin Ayers? Well, he died 68 years old in February and I was sad by this news. His songs are not closed, not polished, but open, or opening up in hazardly and unexpected ways. There are good reasons to rediscover his music. Ayers grew up partly in Malaysia, was a friend of Syd Barret (Pink Floyd), and liked the “whimsical” attitude of the best English pop music.

I thought I had heard most of it when it came out, from the late 1960s onwards, and I probably did at friends’ places and at parties, but it turns out I only had tapes of two of his albums, Shooting at the moon (1970) and Yes we have no more mananas (1976), both of which I enjoyed and played quite often, but sort of forgot later. When I went from tapes to vinyl in the 1990s I eventually picked up the Yes we have.. album (Harvest / EMI SHSP 4057) for NOK 150 and The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories (1974, Island ILPS 9263) for 100. Good used vinyl was cheaper than today. I bought many used LPs, and again, Ayers was sort of forgotten.

This has changed for the last weeks. The Dr Dream sequence, with Nico on vocals, is still very dense, chilling, and top quality – this is a good and underrated LP (did they listen not just to side A but side B also, at Allmusic.com, which gives it only two stars?) It has a very strong message to counter culture, be vary of dream makers, Dr. Dream and his ilk. Although the album arrived a bit late, and was not much heeded. This was prog after prog had fallen out of fashion.

The cover of The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories, scanned from my LP, below.

 

The cover has a man and a woman holding up masks to each other. The main sequence is complex music, not easy listening. The idea is that we are not really real to each other, in today’s society.

As I said, Ayers has been heavily played over the last weeks, and emerges as a much more interesting figure than I first thought. Listening to Unfairground (2007) in a digital version, I like the “prog” attitude which is still there in his songs. I hope it does not die out. On this album he emerges as older, more mature, still witty and observant, still with melancholy, but also more depressed than the 1970 man.

The way I see it, this depression is not psychological, mainly, but sociological. It happened to Ayers and a lot of other progressive artists from the 1965-75 period. It happened to the conscious part of the “1968 generation” generally. “What happened to our dream?” is a symbolic question.

Neil Young sings: “We were gonna save the world, then the weather changed, and it fell apart, and it breaks my heart” (“Walk like a giant”, on Psychedelic Pill 2012). “But think how close we came”.

Basically, the revolution that the “counter-culture” wanted did not happen. It was beaten down in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic convention in 1968, and in Paris and Prague the same  year. “There’s blood in the streets of Chicago”, Jim Morrisson sang (“Peace frog”, Morrisson Hotel 1970); George R.R. Martin described it in his novel The Armageddon Rag.

Repression was the order of the day, here in the UK: