Next month:
March 2004

Off The Record…

“How do they fit so many songs on something so small?” the customer enquired. He was holding a copy of The Beach Boys Greatest Hits, a twenty-track compilation, on compact disc. It was the late 80s , and although compact discs were still relatively new, the man was in his late twenties, so it was fair to assume that he knew what they were and, more or less, how they worked.

At that stage of the game, we music shop assistants were encouraged to politely enquire of the older customers, prior to taking their money, whether or not they in fact owned a CD player. It often saved a bit of bother later in the day when they’d return product they couldn’t possibly use. The best response I ever received was from a matronly old biddy in her lawn bowl whites. Her response to “have you got a CD player?” was to announce, “I have a washing machine!” Rather than listen to her list her whitegoods, I just let her go. She didn’t return disappointed, but the man in his late twenties did. “It’s not a record,” he explained, handing tThe Beach Boys Greatest Hits back to me. “No it isn’t,” I agreed. The proof, had anyone required it, was etched into the lacquered surface of the disc: an engraving that spiralled from the centre to the edge, left by the stylus that had skidded across its spinning surface.

Not that such a scratch should have interfered with the sound quality of the disc, if the initial news reports hailing the dawn of the digital music revolution were anything to go by. Early ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’-style stories – like the one about the surfing piglet and the rattle snake slithering across the desert with its head stuck in a beer can – appearing in the ‘human interest’ slot after the weather would show how you could smother a CD with tomato sauce, towel it off, bung it into the CD player and still enjoy perfect sound reproduction.

We soon learnt that CDs weren’t so indestructible, but they did prove more durable: by the mid-90s records were phased out in favour of the new format that took up less space, and, it was argued, offered better sound quality. It didn’t take long for the old format to be widely considered obsolete. I remember overhearing a little boy on the other side of a music shop counter trying to convince an incredulous playmate that his grandpa had “heaps of those big, old, black CDs that you have to stick needles into!”

By the mid-90s, a whole generation that had never bought or played a record was coming of age. Here was the first bunch of people in living memory whose vocabulary did not include terms such as ‘gatefold’, ‘flipside’ or ‘inner sleeve’; they were ignorant of the differences between seven- and twelve-inch singles; their hearts didn’t race at the at the merest whiff or trace of the heady and addictive smell of freshly pressed vinyl in a laminated cardboard cover. A whole generation who didn’t know the pleasure of collecting records. Meanwhile, their parents were busy updating their collections, replacing records with the equivalent CD titles.

Of course, vinyl enthusiasts disagreed that CDs offered better sound quality. If you took care of your records and had a decent sound system (ie a turntable, an amplifier and a set of speakers, each of which cost more than a CD player), your records sounded better than CDs because, they argued, the sound records produced was “warmer” – whatever that actually means. Besides, some instruments – particularly acoustic ones – had a tendency to sound “sterile” when recorded digitally.

Afforded the opportunity of hindsound (the aural equivalent of ‘hindsight’) it now can be said that, given a pressing in good condition and good equipment on which to play it, records can produce a comparable sound to compact discs. Furthermore, we are now allowed to admit that there were times when CD mastering left a lot to be desired – capturing and reproducing the limitations of the original recordings, such as tape hiss and signal loss, with the highest fidelity. It took a lot of technological jiggery-pokery to actually recreate that “warm” sound of a record. We know this, even if we still don’t quite know what “warm” means, because, in the case of some artists, their entire back catalogue has been or is being re-released for the third time with alleged better sound quality. By the time you’ve listened to your third copy of your favourite David Bowie, Elvis Costello or Rolling Stones album on CD, you really ought to know whether you’re actually getting your money’s worth this time. However, where vinyl enthusiasts have been vindicated most openly is in the case of original mono pressings of some classic albums. Listen to original mono pressings of Velvet Underground albums, or the Beatles’ ‘White Album’, or early Dylan, and if they don’t quite jump through the speakers and rip your bloody arms off the way Aunty Jack once promised to, they certainly box your ears – in the nicest possible way, of course.

While record collectors stuck by their favourite format, their lives were made difficult by the fact that new records had become an expensive indulgence stocked only by certain specialist stores, imported from overseas as the Australian dollar continued to lose ground on the foreign market. At least, for a time, they could find sought-after titles in second hand shops at a decent price. Meanwhile, a lot of other music lovers have subsequently started to come to their senses, realising that there is more to recorded music than just the music: there is also the packaging, and the sentimental value invested in it. While Japan has begun to reissue CDs in miniature replica album sleeves, complete with facsimile inner sleeves and posters, there are people who are keen to just own their favourite records again, with the cover art and sleevenotes they don’t have to go blind trying to enjoy, and – if pressed to admit it – that “warm” sound they still can't quite define. However, re-purchasing the records you once owned and loved is now an expensive exercise, and often a work-intensive one, taking place either on-line or in specialist collector stores. Demand has ensured that they are no longer as cheap as they were when you were replacing them with CDs. Despite this, discerning collectors turn down those compact discs because they still know full well:

“It’s not a record”.


ADDENDUM
Thinking about the habits of record buyers, and an unfortunate addiction to this here blogging business, led me to dust of this piece of writing that has been kicking around for a couple of years. It was composed during the lead-up to one of the Glebe Record Fairs (inaugurated and run by Egg Records) with the encouraging information of the owner that “we know people at newspapers and could maybe get you editorial”. As usual, it got me didley squat – but I’m quite happy with the writing that resulted, apart from the fact that after such a good start and an excellent (for me) series of gags, it ended weakly with no real conclusion. And in the end, even as a minor record collector, I don’t think that I agree with my ‘findings’ as such. I don’t particularly care much for mono first editions of anything, although mono editions of Beatles records interest me when the mixes or edits differ markedly to their stereo equivalents (the mono Sgt Pepper’s, for example, features a shorter version of ‘She’s Leaving Home’, in a higher key – well, it doesn’t really, it features the same one sped up a bit – as well as a number of other anomalies and variations; the mono ‘White Album’ has a shorter version of ‘Helter Skelter’ because it doesn’t fade back in after it fades out – unfortunately depriving monophiles of Ringo Starr’s shouted statement, “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!”).

In addition to collecting Beatles song variations, some albums must be owned on vinyl purely for the packaging. The original pressing of the compilation album Monty Python’s Instant Record Collection, for example, came in an elaborate cover that could be folded and inserted in such a way as to resemble a whole pile of records. The Japanese ‘LP replica’ CD reissue has yet to be released.

Apart from that, I’m usually interested in owning different editions for the variations in artwork or content – there’s an English pressing of Cream’s Wheels of Fire, for example, that saw fit to ‘improve’ upon Martin Sharp’s excellent psychedelic artwork by printing it in negative and reversing the front and back covers. Thus, collecting vinyl mostly seems to come down to the medium rather than the music, but to explore this properly would require a whole other piece of writing.





Inner City Survival Guide Pt 1: Dealing With Beggars

The cognitive dissonance engendered by my encounter with the note-carrying, orphaned mute – guilt at not giving her anything versus suspicion of yet another pan-handler in inner-city Sydney – reminded me of the beggar who abused me from the step of a shop on King Street, Newtown. There was a time when you could walk along King Street and be accosted by someone wanting money on every corner. Most of them were polite, albeit shifty if you offered to buy them a meal rather than give them cash – they clearly were not starving, merely gagging for their next dose – but the beggar who accosted me was a young, strapping lad who looked as though he worked out and was in need of his next batch of amphetamine or steroid. He really did specify coinage in his spiel, I really did only have one coin in my pocket, it really was a ten-cent piece and he really did abuse me, proving, much to my amusement, that beggars could indeed be choosers.

This, the first, and to date, only Part of an Inner City Survival Guide that really ought to be written, first appeared in The Chaser and then in Revolver (a publication that evolved into The Brag). In order to make the story palatable, the teller had to become the butt of the joke. It reminds me a bit of (fat) comedian Dave O’Neil’s routine about inner city beggars, which I saw him do at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala in 2001. O’Neil becomes the butt by also becoming the beggar. When he asks for money, he assures people that it’s only for heroin, but they reply “bullshit, you fat bastard, you’re gonna buy food with it!”


Do not call me an arrogant, heartless capitalist bastard for this, but I refuse to pay good money to people who do not earn it. Actually, as I get a little misty-eyed and reluctant to pay good money even to people who do earn it, ‘arrogant, heartless capitalist bastard’ is exactly what you should call me. Naturally, my most loathed nemesis is that species of city dweller who insists on accosting me in public and asking me whether I “have a dollar” or can “spare some change”.

Being a comfortable, middle class Australian, I prefer as a rule to make donations to registered charities and worthy buskers. Those who purport to be members of the former must provide adequate documentation, and afterwards, a receipt. Those who would claim to be the latter must be genuinely entertaining. Therefore, the smelly down-and-outer who once sat on an overturned bucket outside the Hoyts cinema on George Street chanting “buskin’, buskin’, buskin’, buskin’, buskin’”, no doubt a PoMo boho hobo – ie “postmodern bohemian hobo” – deserved a bit of change. The guy who plays air guitar with a plank of wood also got some pocket shrapnel, but only the first time I saw him. He failed to entertain subsequently because he kept playing the same song each time. Although, there was one occasion when a small group of spaced out youths took formation around him and mimed the other instruments; this would have deserved some form of remuneration had I realised that they were playing a Milli Vanilli song.

As for those who refuse to put a little effort into obtaining money from me, I cannot but regard them with acute disdain. They are to the arrogant, heartless capitalist bastard what bathroom germs are to Ajax Super Strength Bathroom Cleanser. I loathe the way they accost everyone at the bus stop or storefront, the way they will pick out anyone who looks even slightly more well-heeled than themselves, in order to approach with outstretched palm and cover story about ‘lost trainfare’ or ‘a telephone call’ or ‘food’. Why don’t these people change their stories a bit – they could easily provide light relief for the well-heeled middle class with tales of their own poverty and misery. I have devised some nearly foolproof methods of evading such pan-handlers. Only ‘nearly’ foolproof, since some fools – the hungry ones in particular – refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer.

If you are standing in line at the bus stop quietly reading The Financial Review and some young man, say, is working his way along the cue asking each commuter in turn if they can spare some change, be prepared by following this simple two-point plan.

Firstly, study the beggar’s own demeanour. Secondly, listen to the spiel he employs. Now you are ready. When your turn comes, adopt his waiting-for-the-next-fix swagger and jerky body motion and be in his face before he can be in yours. In that split second before he has the opportunity, ask him the question he would have asked you, in the exact same manner that he would have asked it. “Yeah, like, do you have any spare change?” you’ll enquire. Most of the time, he’ll be too confused to rise to the challenge and will move on to the next person. Occasionally, he may reply “Nup,” in which case you are free to say, “Yeah, like, neither do I, ay?!” and return to the publication guilt-free. The last time I attempted this routine I caught the beggar a beauty: he was so surprised that he ended up handing me the dollar that the woman in front of me had only just given him. Wasn’t I the lucky duck!

On other occasions you will be specifically targeted because of your briefcase, blazer, combed hair or shopping bag with ‘Prada’ emblazoned across it. At times like this it helps if you are scouting the pavement ahead, because the woman who is about to accost you saw you long before you will see her. It is important to be aware of her before she has managed to weave between the pedestrians that separate her from you. Where possible, change your course unexpectedly so that her momentum forces her to pass you; seeing someone behind you to pick on will be easier for her than chasing after you. However, often you will not be aware that she has you in her radar until she is right on top of you. If this is the case, then when she asks, “do you have a dollar” you must adopt your most clipped accent and employ the most flamboyantly rolled R’s that your mouth will allow to utter the following reply: “Of course I have. In fact, I have severrrral hundrrrred thousand!”

You must keep moving briskly while you say this, however, and in an unexpected direction if possible. Although the woman will still be wiping the spittle of your flatulent fricatives out of her eye, a colleague of hers who is working the same stretch may be able to grab you and beat you to a bloody pulp. On the other hand, if you maintain your pace the worst you will have to fear is being called a wanker in public. As you are a wanker with a home to go to, a dinner to eat and a bed to sleep in, this will not worry you in the slightest.

There are times when your beggar will be of the uppity variety. I once had one who asked, “Can you spare a coin, brother?” I replied, “yeah, whatever” and flipped him the sole coin from my hip pocket without breaking my stride. He must have looked down at it with some disdain, for he was soon yelling after me, “F*cken ten cents?! You can f*cken pick that up and keep it; I’m not gonna f*cken bother with ten f*cken cents.” Who was I to discuss fiscal policy with someone so insolvent? Who’d have thought beggars could be choosers?

“You asked for a spare coin and that was the only one in my pocket,” I ranted. “What would you like me to do, write you a cheque? Do you take Amex? Eftpos maybe? Can I put this on Fly Buys?”

It is important to take a tone with such beggars. Otherwise this attitude of turning down charity may threaten their very profession. If there ever comes a time when beggars can be choosers, ordinary people will stop feeling the necessary guilt that forces them to hand money over. And if ordinary people stop feeling guilt – and start acting out of a genuine sense of altruism – arrogant, heartless capitalist bastards like me will stop being able to feel superior in saying ‘no’.

In order to preserve our sense of superiority, we have to save uppity beggars from themselves.





Heartless Bastard Me

I was just doing my Sunday thing, sitting behind the counter in Egg Records’ city store, wishing some customers would come in and buy stuff, when all of a sudden a woman strode purposefully in, parked herself directly in front of the counter, and thrust an open lecture pad in my face.

Damn, I thought, this is going to be one of those nuts who either


a) compiles lists of millions of titles of albums, and stands by while the shop assistant searches from one end of the store to the other in order to confirm, John-Cleese-in-the-Bookshop-Sketch-like, that we have nothing on the list currently in stock,

or

b) compiles lists of millions of titles of songs, and stands by while the shop assistant searches from one end of the store to the other in order to find out that the few albums that actually feature one, or if you’re lucky, a couple, of songs from the list, are unsuitable because the other songs contained therein already reside somewhere else within the customer's collection and must not be replicated, or just do not appeal to the customer’s taste.

Not that there’s anything wrong with either of these things; technically, searching the store from one end to the other is what I’m paid to do. It’s just that if the customer searched the store from one end to the other, rather than standing back and letting the shop assistant do it, there’d at least be a chance of the customer stumbling onto some other gem worth spending some money on.

Rather than one of the infuriating lists, the woman’s lecture pad bore a scrawled note informing that in addition to being mute and an orphan, she was bereft of a husband and had not seen her daughter for nine years, despite having searched desperately for her, but as her most immediate problem was hunger, could I possibly help her out by handing over ten dollars? When I informed her that I in fact couldn’t, she stalked out in silence, making a dismissive gesture that, strictly speaking, wasn’t obscene, but certainly conveyed the spirit of obscenety.

More obscene, however, was the realisation, the second after she’d left, that I probably should have offered her a couple of bucks in exchange for letting me take a digital photo of her and her note.

Does this make me a bad person?

What about if I scrawled the offer down in a notebook of my own and flashed it at her?

God must certainly think so; I’ve spent the rest of the day knocking whole shelves of stock over.




First Impressions…

My friend Nos was on the phone doing his David Bowie impression. Having heard Mr Bowie speak for the duration of a press conference, come away with a recording of it, listened to it several times and then re-edited chunks of it for broadcast, I can say that Nos’s impression is pretty spot-on. In fact I did say it. Nos explained that he’d essentially ‘cracked’ the impression by imitating the way Phil Cornwell does David Bowie on Stella Street. It’s interesting, he noted, how it’s often easier to do an impression of someone when you’ve heard someone else’s impression of that person.

Opera director and occasional brain surgeon Dr Jonathan Miller, pointed out some time after helping launch the 60s satire boom with Beyond the Fringe that no one in Britain ever really did an Indian accent, but rather did their impression of Peter Sellers doing an Indian accent. This was probably mostly true, at least until the dawn of Goodness Gracious Me.

In a similar way, Nos says, he sometimes finds it helpful to see how someone else has caricatured a person, in order to work out how he’ll go about drawing a caricature. It would seem that the process is about working out what particular features communicate the essential nature of the face you’re trying to draw or the voice you’re trying to imitate. Sometimes it’s easier once you’ve seen what features someone else has latched onto – then doing it your way.

I often find myself doing the same thing as a writer, especially when I have to review a film or an album that I don’t particularly care about, and I haven’t yet worked out what exactly I think about it, or why. It helps to read what someone else has thought – what bits of the film or the music stood out for them. Usually I disagree with them, either on what they’ve latched onto, or what they’ve concluded from it, which is a good thing. When you agree, it’s much easier to paraphrase, rather than to construct your own set of arguments and conclusions.

Sadly, rather than constructing their own set of arguments and conclusions, or even paraphrasing, some people find it easier still just to change the byline at the top of the article, their only original input being their own name. What is most annoying, however, is that this level of plagiarism is nowadays an accepted mode of journalism. Particularly in a country like Australia, that has, per capita, more print media than any other nation, readers don’t appear so keen on reading anything original or in-depth; it just has to cover the bases. Journalists, therefore, don’t have to be particularly original or in-depth – they just need to submit something by deadline that covers the bases. Which is why you can browse through the arts pages of even the respected news dailies, and find that an underpaid staff writer has re-jigged the same press releases with only slightly more flair than the barely paid scribes at the free entertainment weeklies.

It’s probably worth noting that both Phil Cornwell and Nos ‘do’ Bowie by half singing everything in a heavily vibrato’d cockney tenor. That’s not how Bowie speaks, of course, but it’s quite often the way he sings. So if Bowie rings you and starts ‘singing’ his side of the conversation, rather than merely speaking it in a cockney accent, it’s probably Phil Cornwell or Nos on the phone and not the Dame himself.




Closing The Perception Of Doors

doorsfront

The contention that, in 1984, the Doors had “sold more records than they had during the entire time they were together” (see “It Was Twenty Years Ago Next Year”) could be incorrect. It may well be the case that in 1984 the Doors in fact sold more records than they did in all of the years up to 1984 combined. Even so, the ‘collector’s edition’ single released in 1985 – ‘Road House Blues’ coupled with ‘Wild Child’ (essentially, two lesser tracks, derived from an ouvre of lesser tracks) – failed to dent the charts in Australia. One thing’s for certain: by the end of the 80s, it was a truism that you knew it was time to leave the party when everyone started singing along to Doors records. And when they started singing along to Led Zeppelin, you knew you should have left while they were still singing along to the Doors.

If only it could have ended there.

The 1980s interest in the band culminated with the film The Doors (1991), another trawl through the late 60s by director Oliver Stone. For this outing, Stone cast in the role of lead vocalist Jim Morrison the actor Val Kilmer. As Morrison himself sang in ‘Riders on the Storm’, “An actor on a loan/A dog without a bone…”

If only it could have ended there.

Two original members of the Doors, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger, are currently touring as “21st Century Doors”, much to the distress of original drummer John Densmore. Severe tinnitus prevents Densmore from joining his former bandmates on stage to play rock ’n’ roll and so he has been replaced by Stewart Copeland, former tub-thumper for the Police, who has in turn been replaced by Ty Dennis.

Whaddaya mean ya never heard of Ty Dennis? He was the drummer in “modern, edgy-arty, quirky” Hollywood band Fire Bug, who boast “intense female vocal delivery” (because you just can’t get enough of the ‘intense female vocal delivery’ subgenre in rock ’n’ roll!) as well as drumming in one of the numerous line-ups of the also-fronted-by-a-female band, the Hollywood New WaveMotels. (‘Fire Bug’? ‘Motels’? ‘Police’? Can you see a theme developing here?) At least Ty will fit in with the Hollywood/LA mindset that originally helped inform the Doors.

 




 



 


However, what mostly distresses Densmore is that the band is being fronted by Ian Astbury, of the Cult. Densmore claims that when he, Manzarek and Krieger soldiered on (with a couple of drearily lacklustre albums) after Morrison passed away in the bath in July 71 (or did he? Perhaps he did re-surface in Africa under the anagrammatic pseudonym Mr Mojo Risin’ – as he'd always threatened he would) they agreed that only the three of them in partnership could continue to use the name ‘The Doors’.

What qualifications does Ian Astbury have that enable him to deputise for Jim Morrison, anyway? Apart from the ability to spout bad poetry and wear leather trousers, of course. It’s a pity that Michael Hutchence passed away; he also happened to fit the criteria. Indeed, if the INXS track ‘Mediate’ is anything to go by (from Kick, 1987) Hutchence could even have made the bad poetry rhyme, something that seemed beyond Jim Morrison’s capability. Perhaps when Astbury’s finished hanging out with The 21st Century Doors, he can put in an appearance with INXS. That’s after he’s also finished being in the reunion line up for the MC5; he appears to be taking turns to provide lead vocals with David Vanian, the longest-lasting founding member (and therefore keeper of the flame) of The Damned.I’ll let comedian Denis Leary have the last word on both the life of Jim Morrison and the wretched biopic he inspired. “I can sum it up for you in five seconds,” says Leary, on his album No Cure for Cancer (1993). “‘I’m drunk. I’m nobody. I’m drunk. I’m famous. I’m drunk. I’m dead.’ There’s the whole movie, okay?! ‘Big Fat Dead Guy In A Bath Tub’; there’s your title for you!”


doorsback





It Was Twenty Years Ago Next Year


singlefront


British music mag Mojo has started re-issuing classic books about rock, and I picked up their edition of The Longest Cocktail Party by Richard di Lello. Before going on to be a screenwriter of such shows as Midnight Caller and the film Colours, Richard di Lello was the assistant to Derek Taylor, the Press Officer of Apple Records. When Apple went bust, di Lello decided to write The Longest Cocktail Party as the first ‘insider’s story’ of the end of the Beatles.

I’d actually read the book before, having picked up a cheap paperback copy for a buck in Woolies when I was a kid. I was in Year 8 when I read it. Reading it again, I realised that so many of the shorthand clichés and descriptions in rock journalese that I have been using throughout my life are things I’d pilfered from this book, in particular the off-the-cuff glib witticisms of Derek Taylor. When John Lennon started turning weird, for example, the press was utterly mystified by the behaviour of the formerly loveable moptop. Now he was gallivanting around with an eccentric Asian artist and appearing naked on album covers. Taylor staved off initial press enquiries into Lennon’s behaviour thus: “He was what he was then, he is what he is now, and he will be what he will be when the time comes for him to be whatever it is he’s going to be.”

I remember this quote in particular because I pinched it for an Year 8 English assignment in 1985. We had to devise and market a band, and in this instance, the phrase was uttered by Ricky Clothesmaker ('Ricky' being a diminutive of 'Derek' while a 'clothesmaker' was also known as a 'tailor', of course), who served as publicist to the band Psychedelic Spew.

Created in collaboration with classmates Nick O'Sullivan and Ben Reynolds, Psychedelic Spew were significant for riding the crest of that wave of late 60s ‘Summer of Love’ nostalgia from way out into the ocean. If you recall, that wave didn’t really hit until 1987 (when the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album was re-released with the ‘It was twenty years ago today’ campaign, and when the Good Weekend, then an A4 glossy, was adorned with a proofsheet of Sgt Pepper cover photo outtakes.) In 1985 the Doors were starting to get big again; the previous year, they’d sold more records than they had during the entire time they were together. And remember, the Doors were the dags of psychedelia, getting into it when, even for West Coast bands in America, the Summer of Love had well and truly turned, thanks to Charlie Manson and his Family, into an horrific winter of discontent. Indeed, even Oliver Stone’s Platoon’, the first of the big ’80s ’Nam cash-ins featuring ‘music from the period’ soundtracks by the likes of Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix, was still a couple of years away. So without even trying, Nick, Ben and I tapped into a major marketing bonanza before it had really hit.

 

 

 

Further details of Psychedelic Spew are sketchy, but I remember bandmembers included Fenderbaker Vox and Sapidus Brown. Fenderbaker Vox seemed to derive his moniker from two sources: his first name is a corrupted amalgamation of Fender and Rickenbacker, two popular makes of electric guitar (probably a mistaken attempt to name Fender's ‘stratocaster’), while his surname was inspired by Bono Vox of U2 (a stage name that roughly translates from the Latin as ‘Good Voice’). That ‘Vox’ was also a popular brand of guitar amplifier favoured by the Beatles (the Marshall stacks, that would have made the band audible above the din of screaming fans, must not have been perfected prior to the end of the Beatles’ live tours in 1966) was probably why his first name was an attempt to name a guitar. As for Sapidus Brown, he was the band’s mysterious fourth member. A shady character, his features were always occluded in band photos and performances, thanks to wide-brim hats and judicious use of lighting. The only other factoid I remember about Psychedelic Spew is that their song ‘Living in Scandinavia with David’ was wrongfully banned for the apparent ‘LSD’ reference in its title; it was clearly just a song about life on the road, having toured Scandinavia with David Bowie in the mid-'70s.

Apart from these memories, sparked by a couple of clever turns of phrase in the book, was the sudden recollection that I still had a copy of one of Psychedelic Spew’s singles, in a picture cover: ‘Across the Spewniverse’, with ‘Spewberry Fields Forever’ on the flip side. It was initially issued with a brown paper bag since, as the story goes, the quality of the music tended to lead to regurgitation. I can’t find the original paper bag. But here are some scans of the artwork.