Saturday, 12 April 2014

71. TS and disabilty - some thoughts

I recently saw a post on Tumblr from a woman with Turner Syndrome asking if TS was a disability as she had always believed it to be. I decided to write this post rather than answer directly. Please note that this is only my personal opinion and reflections!
This is a complex question. There are many different definitions of disability. Here are There is a legal definition of disability in the UK. You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.
Further details here! https://www.gov.uk/definition-of-disability-under-equality-act-2010.
Obviously this legal definition is important for issues such as social welfare and social provision.
I found this definition on the World Health site
‘Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.
Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives. Overcoming the difficulties faced by people with disabilities requires interventions to remove environmental and social barriers.
People with disabilities have the same health needs as non-disabled people – for immunization, cancer screening etc. They also may experience a narrower margin of health, both because of poverty and social exclusion, and also because they may be vulnerable to secondary conditions, such as pressure sores or urinary tract infections. Evidence suggests that people with disabilities face barriers in accessing the health and rehabilitation services they need in many settings.’
http://www.who.int/topics/disabilities/
I looked at the wikidepia entry for disability. This looks at more depth at issues such as spectrums of disability, issues around mental health, and the effects of long term chronic ill health
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disability
Then we get to the issue of disability rights. When I attended disability awareness training recently the trainer said that while the effects of childhood polio was an impairment, it was society that rendered him disabled. He also got us to consider various forms of impairment and what we should consider ‘disability’
Being legally defined with a disability is important for getting the necessary social welfare assistance and support in employment. Keep this in mind!
Having looked briefly at various definitions of disability (please keep in mind!), I now will give my tuppence’s worth on what I think about TS and disability.
First of all it goes without saying that all women with TS are affected in different ways and all of us have different health issue. I wrote in an earlier post about specific non height/fertility issues that women with TS face such as hearing, diabetes, heart and kidney conditions. I have heard horror stories about the treatment women with TS have received when these disabilities are not recognised. It is very important in these cases that we are given and indeed insist on the necessary support with these issues. But I do not believe that having TS in and of itself is something which requires us to be legally defined as disabled.
I had members of my family pressurising me years ago to use my TS to get myself defined as ‘disabled’. I actually was very offended by this as to me it send out as message that I was not capable (and their behaviour towards me on other issues re-enforced this). It made me feel like they saw me as second class. I was also offended as I saw this as taking away support from people with disabilities and undermining their real needs.
,p>I also get extremely concerned about what is really going on with TS women being called disabled. I often feel that this is to do with the issue of the alleged ‘Social/cognitive’ issues we are supposed to have (I know this from bitter experience!) and our alleged ‘Autism’ type behaviour. I cannot go into things further but in my experience these supposed issues can be used against us or to belittle us. Even if these issues exist (and there is a lot of controversy about whether they do!) I have never once seen any constructive or useful suggestions about how to help us.
I also get very concerned about the fact that as TS is a condition that only affects females, this focusing on cognitive/social issues is because of purported failure to behave in the socially prescribed manner females are supposed to. I can’t also help but link this back to our fertility issues.
We live a world where people who have disabilities (of whatever sort) are routinely stigmatised and discriminated against. As I mentioned earlier in this post, people who are defined as ‘disabled’ want to question just what is ‘disability’. In the UK, social welfare provision and employment rights for people legally defined as ‘disabled’ are increasingly under attack. As women with TS we should be very careful about any attempt to call TS a ‘disability’

Sunday, 6 April 2014

70: A Biography in ten albums- parts 9 & 10

9: Great Lakes- Great Lakes (Kindercore 2000/Track & Field 2001)


My copy of ‘Great Lakes’

In August 2000 I went to a music festival in Athens, Georgia. It was a fascinating and rewarding few days on a number of fronts (I got introduced to a lot of very good music). I am glad I got to see a part of the USA outside of a big city. One of the bands I saw at the legendary 40 watt club was Great Lakes. This band, along with Of Montreal were the main bands that made an indelible impression on me. I brought the self-titled debut by Great Lakes in September from Kindercore Records in the USA (it was not yet issued in the UK!). It became a favourite album to listen to especially on my journeys home from Brixton on the bus. I clearly recalling listening to it as the rain fell outside one evening. It also accompanied me on long bus rides down to Bromley to see relatives and friends. This was the beginning of a very happy time for me.

I could give a long complicated history of where this particular album fits into the Athens, Georgia music scene, namely what was called the ‘Elephant 6 Collective’. As well as the then core of the band (Ben Crum, James Huggins III, Dan Donahue) it included other (then local) musicians from such as Scott Spillane from Neutral Milk Hotel and Kevin Barnes and Dottie Alexander from Of Montreal amongst others. I particularly I really like Heather MacIntosh’s cello playing on tracks such as ‘Parachutes’. There is a tremendous sense of camaraderie and warmth on the album. There are songs about a mother’s protective love (Giants and tigers), the unknowability of another human being (Parachutes), and lovely instrumental interludes (a banana). The music is gently psychedelic but also very melodic and focussed. I know that the then three core members lived in the same house when they recorded this (in fact they may have recorded this in this house!) and this closeness shows. I think the songs benefit greatly from Ben Crum’s vocals which have strong elements of what is called ‘alt-country’ which bring a unique element to the music.
Sadly I cannot find any tracks from this album on Youtube. I wish I could share these songs – particularly ‘A little touched’ which is one of the songs I think describes me (Got the headphones on and it’s all too much).
I was absolutely delighted to find out that the band were coming to the UK in the summer of 2001 (I think it was August and I got to see the band at Toynbee Hall in the East end (I have been to number of enjoyable gigs there). It was a great evening with an almost party feel as it was clearly a gang of friends playing together and happy to be doing this. The album had just been released in the UK on Track and Field records, who are responsible for organising some of the most enjoyable gigs I have been to and issuing some great records. One band member was so surprised I knew the album he came up to me and chatted to me.
As result of this gig I dropped an email to Ben Crum of the band and we have remained in email contact since (on and off!). It has been a very enriching experience to be in correspondence with one of the musicians whose music has played such an important role in my life and I am always grateful for Ben’s courtesy and friendship.
I have managed to see the band a few times since 2002. There have been some great gigs at the Water Rats near Kings Cross. However possibly my favourite gig was at the Betsy Trotwood where various ‘Elephant 6’ musicians played solo sets. This evening is up there with seeing ‘Smile’ premiered and seeing the Impressions live in the pantheon of great evenings of my life.
I am very glad to say that Great Lakes are still going with a different line-up. I can really recommend the bands’ 2011 album ‘Ways of escape’ which is just a beautiful, mature and melancholic work.

10: Minnie Ripperton- Come into my garden

My copy of Minnie Ripperton’s ‘Come into my garden’

There is nothing more enjoyable than hearing something playing in a record shop and instantly needing to get that record. I got introduced to Os Mutantes and The Parliaments (George Clinton’s soul group which eventually became Parliament) this way. I came across this record this way. I was in an independent record store in Edinburgh during the festival in August 2002 when I heard this album playing and I just had to get it.
Minnie Ripperton was just 23 when she recorded this, her first solo album but she was already a music industry veteran. She had been in The Gems and the Rotary Connection (which she was in with Phil Upchurch and Sidney Barnes) as well as recording some solo tracks in the mid-sixties as ‘Andrea Davis’ on Chess.
This album continues on from the psychedelic soul of Rotary Connection and greatly benefits from the lush production, orchestral and arrangements
I managed to find a Wikipedia entry for this album which mentions that this album moves away from the psychedelic rock of the Rotary connection into something more soulful and reflective. The most famous track from this album is ‘Les Fleurs’ and its gently feminist and ethereal lyrics set the tone for the album.
Minnie Ripperton – Les Fleurs- uploaded by Minnie S Garden

However my favourite track from the album is 'rainy day in Centreville'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55xb0LYWqt4
Minnie Ripperton- Rainy day in Centreville uploaded by ejaydee

Tragically Minnie died of breast cancer at age of 31 leaving behind her beloved husband Richard Rudolph and two children Marc and Maya, who is now a successful actress.
I am including this album because I feel it is important that I have an album by a woman, especially an African American woman in this list.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

69. 'Ten' more Soul compilations I love

Again I 'cheat' by including a number of series- how could I have missed these from my top ten?

1. Just keep on dancing-Chess Northern Soul (Kent CDKEND 138)

2. Birth of Soul Series (Vol. 1-4 )- Kent Records- Vol.2 is my favourite but massive soft spot for Vol.3

4. Tamla Motown Big Hits & Hard to find classics (Vol. 1-4)- Vol. 1 is the one to get but all are excellent

5. Richard Searling presents a Cellarful of Soul (JAZZFM Jazzfmcd 11)

6. The Golden Torch Story (Goldmine GSCD61)

7. Up all night (Charly CPCD 8216)

9. Rare Collectable and Soulful Vols. 1 & 2 - Slight preference for vol. 2

10. Peter Young Present Soul Cellar (Jazzfm JAZZFM2CD6)- Dear PY- Thank you!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

68. A biography in ten albums- parts 7 & 8

7. Cardinal- Cardinal (Flydaddy /Dedicated 1995)

My copy of the original 1995 Dedicated version of 'Cardinal'
As I said in my post about the Impressions albums, listening to the radio became a significant lifeline for me while I was based in Suffolk for five months in early 1996. The main radio show I became attached to was Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley’s (aka the Boy Lard) night-times how between 10pm-12am, although I had been listening to this show since early 1995. It was a major help during a difficult period. I begun to appreciate ‘Indie’ music such as Super Furry Animals and Teenage Fanclub (amongst many others) through this show. However it was one track that Mark played during this period that really affected me. This was Richard Davies’ ‘Sign up maybe for being’
Richard Davies – Sign up maybe for being – uploaded by sbritt
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FVU6S7nQsA
When I first heard this my reaction was ‘I didn’t know they made them like this still!’ Mark Radcliffe played this track regularly, much to my delight. I got the album this track was from ‘There’s never been a crowd like this’ in HMV the next Saturday I was in Ipswich. It took me a while to get the album but it became a favourite.

I found out that Richard had been in two groups before issuing this album –an Australian group called the Moles and Cardinal with Eric Matthews. I was familiar with Eric Matthews track ‘Fanfare’ though Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley. Between mid 1996-1997, I worked in a trainee Librarian post and it was a very happy time of my life. It finally felt as though things were coming together after several false starts after I had finished my degree. I managed to get a copy of ‘Cardinal’ in early 1997 from the Virgin megastore on the corner of Oxford Street. When I got home that evening I went to listen to the CD in my brother’s room as I did not have a CD player in my room. I recall not being impressed by the yellow cover of the actual CD! I will be honest I did not get the album the first time I heard it (but I played it again immediately). I must have persevered in listening to it. I recall that the first time I became aware how deeply it had affected me was a few months later on a long drive with my aunt when a line from ‘Big Mink’ – ‘I meet you on the ferry and you could read my mind’ kept going through my subconscious.

The album is not very long- about half an hour or so (Richard Davies does not do long albums but each moment on them counts- a reason I respect him). It has ten tracks. Richard Davies wrote seven of the songs, with one song being co-written with Eric Matthews and Bob Fay, the albums one instrumental being credited to both Davies and Matthews and ‘Dream figure’ being written by Eric Matthews. Richard wrote some of these songs in a flat on Abbey Road, while he was temporarily based in London with the Moles. He recorded early versions of the songs that became ‘If you believe in Christmas trees’ and ‘You’ve lost me there’ (along with an early version of ‘Sign up maybe for being’) when the group did a Peel session. I tracked down this Peel session to the British Library sound archive and listened to it several times in around 2000 (thanks to their staff for their assistance!). It was interesting that even performed without orchestral backing and with very different lyrics, that the songs were still strong.

‘Cardinal’ has a certain reputation/respect on the Indie music scene for the lush orchestral arrangements of the tracks courtesy of Matthews, a classically trained musician and Davies’ melodic song writing. This was in contrast to Grunge which was prevalent at the time the album was issued. This has led to the album being labelled ‘Orch-pop’ – a label neither Davies or Matthews feels entirely happy with.

I also managed to track down the rare EP Cardinal recorded with Bob Fay called ‘Toy Bell’. This was recorded some time before the album. This includes an earlier non-orchestrated version of ‘Big Mink’ which I actually slightly prefer. The other tracks are a lot more harder and guitar orientated than the tracks on the album, more in the style of the tracks on The Moles second album ‘Instinct’ (the title track of which is a Davies/Matthews/Fay) recording. I got that album too in 1998 along with Davies second solo album ‘Telegraph’.

Cardinal – Big Mink (album version)- uploaded by sbritt
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIT3-ka0qdk

I do not know at what point this became my favourite album. All I know is that it had been by the time it was reissued in 2005 for some time. Perhaps it is because this is something made by people of almost my generation and was something contemporary. I had not entirely missed the party. It is hard to pick a favourite track but this may be it.
Cardinal- You’ve lost me there- uploaded by sbritt
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xl_vV8Zv7IQ

I was very excited by the reissue of this album in 2005, so much so I brought it twice. It contained demos of the songs on the album, some of the Toy Bell EP and some unreleased tracks. I even corresponded with Marc Riley about the re-issue and he played a track for me on air. My favourite track on the reissue not on the original album is the gorgeous demo of Richard and Eric performing ‘Say the words impossible’. This is quite different from the version that was a B-Side of their one single (yes I have this too!). At this time I was settling into the job which I am still in after ten years and the reissue began a significant twelve month period. It was interesting to note that in the reviews of the re-issue, several critics mentioned that it was Davies’ songwriting that was what made the album.

I became aware Davies and Matthews were working together again in around 2008. I managed to hear some of the demos on their myspace page (remember myspace?). They did not disappoint. In late 2011 I found out Cardinal were issuing a follow up to ‘Cardinal’ called ‘Hymns’ (after only 18 years!). Along with the issuing of the Smile Sessions and rediscovering George Harrison this has been one of the great joys of the last three years of my life, at a time when I have had much to deal with. In my humble opinion it is a worthy successor to ‘Cardinal’.

8. Curtis Mayfield – Back to the world


My copy of Curtis Mayfield 'Back to the world'

The last entry was highly autobiographical. This is almost the opposite. I have no idea when this album came into my life or where I acquired it. All I know is that out of all Curtis Mayfield’s many magnificent solo albums of the early seventies this is the one that means most to me.

‘Back to the world’ is almost a song for song reflection on Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s going on’ as it is also largely told from the point of view of a returning African American GI, has songs about environmental destruction (Future shock), the harm war and militarism does to children (if I was only a child again) and the hope and release of religious faith (Future song).

The title track concerns a returning Vietnam veteran reflecting on the horrors of the war and his limited prospects in civilian life (people don’t give a damn). The line ‘Do you think that God could ever forgive this life we live?’ always brings a lump to my throat not out of any religious sensibility but as a statement of lost grace and suffering.

Curtis Mayfield- Back to the world- uploaded by daidai dai
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mjex19ORwzQ

Most of the tracks on this album are over five minutes long allowing Curtis and his band to explore the lyrics and create sonic landscapes reflecting the state of mind of the central figure.

The central track is ‘Right on for the darkness’ another reflection by Mayfield on the divisions within US society (along the lines of ‘(Don’t worry) If there’s a hell below, we’re all going to go) and how the more economically/socially marginalised sections of the African American community were getting further left behind at the end of the civil rights movement.

Curtis Mayfield – Right on for the darkness uploaded by SeeSickNYC http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq6nZ5BR8QE&feature=kp

I have read a biography of Curtis Mayfield which describe the final track ‘Keep on trippin’ as a song about a lost love. But listening to the lyrics point to something far darker. The lines ‘Don’t know what you’ve been smoking, but I’m sitting here still hoping tripping will bring you back to me’ seem to specifically point to a loved one’s concern for a drug addict (the Vietnam veteran who is the central figure of the album?)

Curtis Mayfield – keep on tripping- uploaded by Zio Giu- NB the photo is of Isaac Hayes! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBNsLIIX7y0

The lyrics also refer to social marginalization and being ‘nailed to the cross’. I always feel that the ‘chilled out’ vibe of the music is created to deliberately contrast with the horrifying situation described in the music. It is not meant to relax the listener but portray a state of complete paralysis and detachment from reality. In this it is akin to Sly Stone’s ‘There’s a riot goin’ on’ album which uses a similar ‘so laid back, I’m horizontal (i.e. dead)’ vibe to portray the horror of drug addiction. It manages to be anti-drug (as Curtis was in all his music – check out ‘Stone Junkie’) while extending compassion to the addict and showing what circumstances have driven them to drugs.

I have written an earlier blog post about how much Curtis Mayfield and his music means to me. There is a humanity, humility and concern in his music which is rarely matched by other artists. It is a joy to know this album sold over one million copies. Sometimes the good guys do win

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

67. 'Ten' Soul Compilations I recommend

In answer to a recent question here are ten soul compilations I recommend. Note I will be cheating!

1. A change is gonna come (Kent CDKEND 270)- great comp of Soul tracks about civil rights movement

2. A soldiers sad story/Does anybody know I'm here? (KentCDKEND 226/ CDKEND 245)- Two heartbreaking compilations of soul tracks about the effect of the Vietnam war on the African American Community

3.Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures Vols. 1-4. Magnificent stuff. If I had to recommend one I would recommend Vol. 3

4. New York Soul Serenade (Kent CDKEND 149)- sophisticated stuff- features a Dionne Warwick production...

5. Gettin' to me (CDKEND181)-named for great 'lost' Ben E. King track that kicks it off

6.Northern Soul's Classiest rarities Vol.1 (Kent CDKEND 192) although I love Vol. 2 as well

7.Okeh - a Northern Soul Obsession vol. 1 (Kent CDKEND 132)

8. Movers and Soothers-(Goldmine GSCD81)- not necessarily Northern Soul but a compilation that means a lot to me.

9. Wigan Casino Story - (Goldmine GSCD51)- Great, great compilation featuring that all important 3 before 8 -may no longer be in print (sorry!).

10. A Cellarful of Motown Vol.1, although I love Vol. 2 as well.

There are at least five compilations I am really sad I could not include and is purely down to my personal taste. I may return to this topic!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

66. A biography in ten albums -parts 5 & 6

5.Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
My copy of Stevie Wonder's 'Innervisions'

I first heard Stevie Wonder’s ‘Innervisions’ at my aunt’s house in Kent in around 1992, along with the Isley Brothers’ ‘3 and 3’ album (and The Who’s ‘Tommy’ while we are about it!). I had been a fan of Stevie’s 60’s Motown work (which of course mainly focused on singles) and wanted to hear his acclaimed 1970’s albums. I listened to this incessantly at University.

Some facts that put this album in context. Stevie was 23 when he released this album- it was his 16th album. He had been a recording artist for 13 years and had been having major his for ten years by the time he had recorded this album. Just think about that for a moment! The maturity shown in this album both in terms of musical experimentation with its mixing of Jazz and synthesisers (courtesy of pioneering act Tonto’s expanding headband’) and lyrical themes is astonishing (mind you Stevie had been doing this since he was 21 with ‘Music of my mind’)

I love footage of I have seen of Stevie recording ‘living for the city’ with Tonto’s expanding headband working the synthesiser’s in the background- they can’t help grooving along! Sadly I could not find this so enjoy this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99gNYaz6YaM
Stevie Wonder 'Living for the City' Uploaded by Freya0815007

This album was part of a run of (in my humble opinion) essential albums from Stevie in the 1970’s. I have all of them in my music collection and I could have easily picked any other of these albums. Why did I choose this one? I love ‘Talking book’ and ‘Fulfillingness’ First Finale’ almost as much and they are just as good. Well, this was the first Stevie Wonder solo album I became familiar with. It will always have a special place in my heart because of this.

My favourite moment on this album is the bridge between ‘Living for the city’ and ‘Golden lady’. The two songs, which are very different (one an acclaimed denunciation of racism in the USA, the other a gloriously euphoric Black pride anthem as a love song. The mournful ‘Oh no!,Oh no!’ ‘Living for the city’ (sung for the ill-fated young man at the centre of the song) fade out and a few sad piano chords play. Then the tune turns joyous and the son ‘Golden lady’ kicks in.

 If I had to choose a favourite track ‘Golden lady’ would be it. This song proves the point that the ‘Personal is political’. This is no mere love song, it is a song of pride in all African American women and their strength.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cf31Lt4I9S8
Stevie Wonder 'Golden lady' uploaded by emilwonders

Indeed I love the sequencing of this album. The elegiac ‘All in love is fair’ merges into the infectious Latin beats of ‘Don’t you worry about a thing’- I love Stevie’s conversation at the beginning of this track into the parting denunciation ‘He’s misstra know-it-all’ I also love the cover art which takes Stevie’s physical blindness and turns it on his head. His damaged eyes become able to see things that ‘sighted’ people cannot. The artwork is actually a very accurate portrayal of what Stevie’s eyes actually look like. Stevie Wonder is one of the most important musical acts in my life and this album started this relationship.

6. The Impressions- This is my country/Young Mod’s forgotten story
My copy of the 1996 reissue of The Impressions 'This is my country/Young Mod's forgotten story'

This may be a bit of a cheat, but I am including both albums under this entry as they have been issued as a single CD since they were reissued in 1996. They were recorded by The Impressions in 1968/ 1969 towards the end of Curtis Mayfield’s period with them. I first became aware of these album when they were reissued on CD in early 1996. I was working in a house in Suffolk for five months. I had to spend a large part of the day by myself so listened to the radio a lot. Brian Matthews played the title track from ‘This is my country’ on the radio one morning. I was determined to get the CD the next time I was in Ipswich which I did. I actually brought quite a few CDs in this period which have been important to me ever since (more of which anon).

The two albums reflect on the horrific events of 1968 and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy (They don’t know’) and the rise of Black consciousness (‘Mighty, mighty (spade & Whitey)). Songs such as ‘Choice of colours’ on ‘The Young mods’ forgotten story’ continue Curtis Mayfield’s career long concern with self-empowerment and self-respect within the African American community. ‘This is my country’ is a still heartbreakingly relevant declaration that African-Americans have a stake in US society which too often they are denied.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_esbRoOeR0
The Impressions 'This is my country' uploaded by ForestasGampas

But there are also tender love songs such as ‘Gone away’ and the ‘The Girl I find’ (which Curtis would revisit on his last heroic album ‘New world order. Curtis would produce versions of ‘Love’s happening’ and ‘Stay close to me’ from ‘This is my country’ for the group the Five Stairsteps (a group I would fall in love with when I got an anthology of their early recordings the following year).

I must admit a soft spot for ‘Seven years’ from ‘The Young Mod’s forgotten story’ because of its skilful interplay of Curtis, Fred and Sam’s voices. It is an unnervingly mature song about a marriage gone sour from a 26 year old.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--wgHJfGCns
Impressions -Seven years - uploaded by Robert Miles

I refer above to the fact that I love soul music because it regularly recognises that the personal is political and that romantic/intimate relationships do not exist in a vacuum but exist in a set of social/political/economic and racial circumstances. These albums love songs reflect this.

I saw The Impressions live twice in the last two years featuring Fred Cash and Sam Gooden, with Reggie Torian singing lead (It says something about Reggie that though he has some big shoes to fill to replace the still missed Curtis he does a magnificent job. It was one of the great experiences of my life. I actually managed to get Sam and Fred to autograph my CD afterwards. I will not forget the slightly strange look Fred gave Sam when he signed. The group sang ‘This is my country’ and ‘Choice of colours’ in the concert, acknowledging the importance of the two albums they came from to a UK audience.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

65. A biography in ten albums - parts 3 & 4


3.Beach Boys –Pet Sounds (Capitol 1966)

 
My copy of the 1990 cd reissue of 'Pet Sounds'
 
I first heard of this album in 1988 on Capitol Gold when it was the featured album of the day one Sunday. I finally brought a copy on Vinyl in a local Our Price in Streatham with a voucher I received for my 18th birthday (from a friend called Angela- thank you Angela!) in 1990. I played the album regularly while at University between 1991-1994, and it became a favourite.  I sold this vinyl copy in 1997 after I brought the album on CD. Even though this was a favourite album, it took a few years for me to fully appreciate it (I was a bit distracted by the Smile album sessions- more of which anon) but when I did….
However over the last six or so years this has become my favourite album. It may well be to do with the fact that this album works so well on my regular trips to Dublin and suits the beautiful Irish countryside and sea side at Skerries like no other music. It is therefore linked for me with a place of great beauty and peace for me. Pet Sounds is inextricably linked for me with my regular trips to Dublin, and my hope to eventually make a home there.
Of course, it may also be due to the fact I have seen Brian perform this live. I saw him perform it twice in 2002 when he first came to the UK and the thrill of revelation was unequalled to any live concert I have ever been to.  Brian and his band did not try to exactly replicate the record but managed to interpret it anew.  I also saw him perform it in 2006, as part of the album’s 40th anniversary celebration.

My favourite song on this album by some distance is ‘Don’t talk, put your head on my shoulder’. This is such a heartbreakingly tender song. As I wrote about Brian in my blog post about him, he offers a more gentle and affectionate model of masculinity in his music and song is for me is a prime example of this.  I have read that Carole Kaye’s bass line on this echoes Brian’s request to “listen to  my heart”- answering each time he softly sings “listen”
Beach Boys- ‘Don’t talk, put your head on my shoulder’ uploaded by unknown360D
This film explains the evolution of this gorgeous song

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIETb-6n1M8

Behind the Sounds- ‘Don’t talk’ – Uploaded by Behind the sounds
I think no other song sums up my life like ‘I guess I just wasn’t made for these times’. I frequently reflect on the line  ‘They say I got brains, but they ain’t doing me no good’. It sad to reflect this song accurately reflects Brian’s sense of isolation and dislocation.

Beach Boys ‘I guess I just wasn’t made for these times’- uploaded by witheyesclosed

This is perhaps the only album I would argue deserves its own box set. I did eventually buy this box set about five years ago and it was worth it for all the out-takes and alternative versions. I particularly love Brian’s piano demo of ‘Don’t talk, put your head on my shoulder’

I listen to this album every day on the commute into work.  I sometimes listen to it twice a day. I never once have grown tired of the album and get actual withdrawal symptoms. Listening to this album each day is like a promise to myself.

4. The Beach Boys The Smile sessions (Capitol 2011)


 
My copy of 'The Smile Sessions'
 
Now this is a complex one as it involves three different albums (so consider this post covering all three of them)!  I was first introduced to this via a bootleg cassette I brought at University in about 1992 (this was a tape of the 1990 Japanese Single CD bootleg). I was a fan of the Pet Sounds album. I had heard of the Smile sessions and was keen to find out. It was a bootleg cassette of the Smile Sessions that turned me into a die-hard Brian Wilson fan.  I absolutely fell in love with the fragments I heard.  I particularly loved the vocal line from ‘Wonderful’ and this is possibly my favourite track from the sessions. I loved ‘Wind-chimes’ and the out-takes from ‘Surfs up’ including Brian’s piano demo. One track that I liked but which has gone up in my estimation over 20 years is the track called ‘Holiday’ on this bootleg, but which was actually called ‘Look’ and which was called ‘Song for children’ on the completed 2004 version! (more of which anon!). I think it is House Music almost 20 years before it became popular!

Beach Boys- Look/Song for children – uploaded by Smile 892001
In 1995 I listened to a radio documentary about Smile featuring Brian and Van Dyke Parks, which included some wonderful out-takes. I got Smiley-Smile (along with Wild Honey) on CD for my birthday that year after hearing this documentary, thinking it included these out-takes. All I can sayis  I was somewhat disappointed! I persuaded my Dad to get the Beach Boys Good Vibrations box set for me from the USA as it included half an hour of Smile out-takes including ‘Wind-Chimes’, ‘Wonderful’ and ‘Surfs up’. I was very glad to own these legally! In early 1996 I got the CD of Friends & 20/20 which to my absolute delight included the completed version of Cabinessence (just glorious- I prefer this to Heroes and Villains, Surfs up and even Good Vibrations)
Beach Boys- Cabinessence – Uploaded by Smile892011

I even brought Domenic Priore’s legendary book ‘Listen, look, vibrate smile!’ which tried to reconstruct the story of Smile and what it would have been like if completed. Domenic Priore is friends with Darian Sahanaja and their many hours listening to Smile bootlegs would eventually reap rich rewards when Darian was asked by Brian to help him create a completed piece of music based on the out-takes in 2003.
I managed to download further out-takes on Napster in around 2000 (remember Napster?) I apologies to my parents for the cost as this was pre- broadband! I managed to download gems such as ‘whispering winds’, ‘Earth song’ (no not that one!) and ‘I want to be around’
Now I have to admit that listening to these out-takes does evoke bitter sweet feelings. While I love this music with all its inventiveness and expansiveness, it is impossible not to dwell on the enormous cost its creation had on Brian. I do not buy into the myth that the Smile album caused Brian to finally loose his sanity. But it is clear that there were many issues around the creation of his music which lead to Brian withdrawing not just from the Beach Boys and ultimately the music industry. It also withdrawing further into himself and that its failure to be completed further exacerbated his existing mental health issues. It is important that what happened to Brian is not romanticised or viewed as 'cool'.
The only bright point for me in 2003 was Brian’s announcement that he planned to complete the Smile music and perform it in London in January 2004 at the Royal Albert Hall. I did not attend the actual premiere but did attend the second night. It was one of the most transcendental spiritual experiences of my life and I was enraptured to know how all these fragments I loved finally came together. I think if anything seeing Brian and his band perform the piece the second time in June 2004 was even more transcendental.
You can imagine how pleased I was when it was announced Brian and his band were recording this completed version of ‘Smile’. This was released as ‘Brian Wilson presents Smile’ in September 2004. I brought it on the day of release and for almost two years I had ‘Our prayer’ (the opening track on the album) as the piece of music I woke up to each morning.  This album is not Smile as it would have been in 1967 (it is not claiming to be) but is an astonishing piece of work in itself. It garnered high critical acclaim.
As Brian wrote himself this looked like the end of the story. Not so! To the amazement of seasoned Brian fans like myself, in 2011 it was announced that Brian was working on a boxed set of the Smile Sessions. This got released as a two CD set with a completed version of ‘Smile’ based on the 2004 version and various out-takes and a five CD box set with extra goodies. My budget did not stretch to the five CD box set but I am more than happy with the 2 CD set. Apart from my own delight at being legally able to own these astonishing pieces of music legally (and Brian finally getting royalties!) it is wonderful to know that Brian has been able to have resolution to this painful part of his life and got to see for himself that this music has spoken so deeply to many people, especially other musicians. He has won through eventually. This music still has the power to surprise and delight me.
As an aside the packaging of both 'Brian Wilson Presents Smile' and 'The Smile Sessions' are exemplary.