Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Poem: 'Decline Of The Hull Fishing Industry'


Miriam beheaded cod,
fishscale beaded.
Claimed engagement to a man
trawler-bound off Iceland,
but she’d forget –
for a while, if
I would understand

Her knife disembowelling
head to tail, turning
innards, bloodless, pale,
their stink remaining

We met at a party,
she laughed easily and
did most of the talking.
I bought her drinks and
drove her home in a
battered white Transit van
– past the dock-fronts,
cranes black against blackness,
and terraced houses in
reticulated rows, streetlamp paced
– imagining those delicate fingers
dextrously tossing corpses
into ice, gleaming dead
fish eyes coming adrift.
We made vague plans but
I was a little too drunk
and she had me park
a street away
to allay Icelandic guilt,
but every time the wind
comes in from the east
redolent of fish
I catch Miriam laughing,
beaded with cod-eyes and scales

And now the trawlers rust
and the docks silt
and I still see
those fingers

Published in:
‘MINOTAUR no.5’ (USA - October 1981)
‘RUSTIC RUB no.2’ (July 1994 - UK)
‘CHOKING ON HONEY no.1: formerly ‘I SEE EMERALDS’ (March 1999 - UK)
‘THE PENNILESS PRESS no.18’ (Nov 2003 – UK)
and the collection:
‘POWER LINES’ Unibird Publications (Oct 1988 - UK)



 In 1967 COUNTRY JOE & THE FISH were on 
the leading edge of what was termed the ‘Counter Culture’, 
and what the world remembers as the ‘Hippie Summer of Love’. 
But classic psychedelic albums like ‘FEEL LIKE I’M FIXIN 
TO DIE’ and their Woodstock Movie ‘Fish Cheer’ are only 
part of the story. Country Joe McDonald was an activist 
before all that began. And he’s still there, still doing it now… 

“into my life on waves of electrical sound 
and flashing lights she came, 
into my life with the twist of a dial…” 

I first encounter Country Joe McDonald in flickering calor-gas light, hunched over a fold-down table spidering his running order on a pad in biro. “Entertainment Is My Business”, “Janis”, “Tricky Dicky”, “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, and “Feel Like I’m Fixin To Die”. He pauses to slurp Stones Bitter from the plastic tub I’ve plied him with. Then glances down the Caravan that doubles as his Dressing Room for the duration of this ‘Leeds Folk Festival’. Geoff Francis, some-time distributor for Joe’s ‘Rag Baby Records’, sits there describing a National Lampoon satire called ‘Lemmings’, a concept-album about an ecologically-minded quasi-‘Woodstock’ where the audience commit mass suicide to alleviate world over-population. This fictional Festival also features the first and last appearance of Crosby Stills Nash Marx & Engels (wrapped in tinfoil to attract lightning during the rain-chant), and there’s John Denver singing “Eating The Baby Raw”…

“He wasn’t there” corrects Joe precisely. “John Denver, he wasn’t there. You mean John Sebastian?”

Strange to realise, suddenly, that this genial guy sat here in faded blue jeans and T-Shirt, ballpoint and pad in hand, is part of that Woodstock mythology that National Lampoon are sending up. Country Joe and The Fish, remember? ‘Electric Music For The Mind And Body’ (1967, Vanguard), ‘I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die’ (1967, Vanguard) and ‘Together’ (1968, Vanguard)? It seems light-years away that critic Lillian Roxon was writing ‘no riot or rally at Berkeley in its big historic years, ‘66 and ‘67, was complete, or even possible, without The Fish’. But although they’re remembered as the definitive psychedelic band CJ&F were never just that. The so-called ‘Counter-Culture’ was about diversity and change, about being open to influences, and using those influences creatively.

 Joe McDonald was never suckered by the fashion-accessory elements of Hippie kitsch, but instead continued to apply the constant factors of that openness, creativity and intelligence, across the years that followed. In the process he built a stack of solo albums that, although sometimes flawed, have rarely failed to come up with interesting and lyrically challenging music. From ‘War War War’ (a 1971 Vanguard album setting Joe’s songs to Robert W Service’ World War I poems), ‘Paradise With An Ocean View’ (1975, Fantasy), ‘Peace On Earth’ (1984, Rag Baby) and ‘Vietnam Experience’ (1986, Rag Baby) – to now, when he’s become a voice commenting from the sidelines, the constant irritant of conscience.

In a caravan, in Leeds, he resumes sketching out his set, a Dave Van Ronk song, then “Oh Jamaica”, “Here I Go Again” (the hit song he wrote for Twiggy), “Let It Rain”, “Coyote”, “Save The Whale”, and “Get It All Together”, while I edge my ITT cassette recorder forward, and ask:-

ANDREW DARLINGTON: Was it a personal bring-down for you when all that Sixties thing finished? You were tied closely to that ‘Movement’, it seemed to be an unstoppable upward gradient, then all of a sudden the 1970’s arrived and it was Donny Osmond and Glam-Rock.

JOE McDONALD: You shouldn’t... erm, nothing ever stopped. The media stopped covering it. That’s what happened. And it was... well, I’m not really a person that’s in love with having a high profile anyway, y’know? But there was a certain backlash within the industry which was a little disappointing, as regards all Sixties musicians, they weren’t really treated with the respect that they should have had perhaps. But it’s water under the bridge now. The media chooses to focus on certain things at different times, I suppose it has its orders from somewhere, but as far as the ‘Woodstock Nation’ or the ‘Counter Culture’ or whatever you want to call it, it was going on before the Sixties, it went on straight through the Seventies and Eighties, and it’s still going on now.

AD: I get the impression you were involved before the thing happened big in media terms, and after it had died down too. That you’ve continued on pretty much the same lines and largely ignored the hype circus.

JD: Well, yeah. Of course there’s certain things that I couldn’t have been involved in before, but I’ve been involved in progressive issues and music for my whole life. But, for instance, I mean – even ‘Greenpeace’ in the Fifties was into nuclear testing, but not really Saving Whales. They were in the Pacific Islands with boats stopping the testing. They got busted by the French. They go back a long ways. Everything goes back a long ways. Not in the media, but in real life. But a lot of the changes in the Sixties really altered civilisation as we know it, and I still think you can feel it.

AD: You did the ‘Thinking Of Woody Guthrie’ (1969, Vanguard) tribute album, and on your later ‘Animal Tracks’ (1983) you did Woody Guthrie’s “Let’s Go Riding”. And to an extent you seem to operate in a kind of Guthrie role. As a ‘Social Commentator’.

JM: Except that I’m not.... except that I don’t take my orders from the Left Wing. That was Woody Guthrie’s mistake. He was a great songwriter, a great writer and a great artist, but – it’s not until recently that things like his ‘Seeds of Man’ book have been allowed to even come out. His material was controlled mostly by political Left Wingers, and so that’s the kind of material that you heard and that got published. And I tend to make everybody nervous for the most part. Left Wing included. I’ve been ‘Eighty-Sixed’, as we say, from most Left Wing organisations for years and years. ‘Cos I grew up into that.

AD: Don’t you think it helps to work within some kind of ideological framework?

JM: No. I think it’s dangerous. Nobody knows what’s going on, and anybody who thinks they know what’s going on long enough to establish an organisation based on that idea is a little bit crazy if you ask me. No-one knows what’s going on. No-one’s ever known what’s going on yet. But someday everybody will know what’s going on. But it won’t be us, it’ll be generations from now. It’s very hard to figure out the galaxy and everything... (Joe gives a low laugh, waves dismissively with a plastic spoon he’s in the process of devouring a tray of vegetable goo with)

AD: So what ideas are you true to? Your own personal interpretations and definitions?

JM: Well, as an artist, yeah. I deal with my own personal interpretations. But I try to change all the time, that’s something important. Just to know people who are changing all the time, and just trying to figure out the right answers, y’know? It gets easier as you go along, and you have some hints y’know. Like, dying isn’t so great. And being alive is generally pleasant.

AD: Do you still enjoy performing?

JM: Oh yeah. I love performing. Specially under certain conditions. This kind of thing, like a Festival, I really love, it’s gonna be a lot of fun. I do half acoustic and half electric. I mean, I’ve been doing this solo thing for a long time, and it’s getting kinda boring to me. And the entertainment business is death when you start being bored with your own act. It doesn’t take an audience long to figure that out. So I like doing electric things with a band, and a few solo things too, I do a few Benefits at home solo.

AD: In parallel with your solo career you’ve always maintained a working relationship with other ex-members of the Fish. There was a ‘Country Joe & The Fish’ re-union tour around…

JM: ...1979. The anniversary of Woodstock. But that wasn’t the full line-up. That wasn’t Bruce (Barthol) and Chicken (Hirsch) and Dave (Cohen), it was other people (including bassist Pete Albin formerly of Big Brother & The Holding Company and guitarist Bob Flurie).

AD: Then there were announcements of a re-union to coincide with your 1984 ‘Peace On Earth’ album and tour (while Joe also issued ex-Fish Barry Melton’s LP ‘Level With Me’ (1981) on his Rag Baby Records label). Will there be other Fish-related projects?

JM: It’s not a matter of... it’s a matter of the right time, y’know. And Barry, yes. He’s an attorney now. I know he’s busy in his Lawyers business. He passed the Bar, and he never went to school for it. He did it all by correspondence course. It took him ten years. But he’s a Solicitor. So there you are. It just goes to show you what perseverance can do!

AD: You also had a ‘straight’ job at one time, ‘Red Star Music’, a store selling instruments.

JM: You’re remarkably well-informed. That didn’t last long. ‘Red Star’ yeah, but it didn’t... that was what I would call a fiasco. While Barry’s sitting for the Bar has turned out to be a big success.

AD: Is there a clear difference between work you do on stage and in the studio? For some bands it’s a completely different discipline.

JM: Well. I try to do as much on the stage as I do in the studio. But then, truth of the matter is that it is two different experiences. When you’re listening to music at home, particularly on the headphones, it takes on the quality of a modern motion picture in that you’re sucked into the Movie. You’re completely sucked into the thing you’re listening to when you’ve got your headphones on. Or you’re in the Disco and it’s up really loud, and your eyes are not really working. Your imagination and your ears and your brain are working, but when you’re in a concert your eyes are working much more than your ears. And that’s why most live records sound pretty terrible.

AD: Do you have strong opinions on the current sampling and sequencer Dance music that dominates the radio, Clubs and charts?

JM: Syntho-Rock? Techno-Rock? I really love it. Computers and synthesisers are the future music of the planet, that’s for sure. But you can’t change into the future without understanding the past. That’s stupidity. Like I said, I’ve just finished over ten years of playing, searching around traditional roots, because in the Sixties I didn’t have much chance to do that. But in the Fifties that’s what I was doing. And I have a tape music magazine where we feature some, like, roots of modern music and things like that. And so I’ve been doing, like, acoustic Folk, American traditional music, things most people don’t even know anything about anymore. But in spite of our attachment to traditional music – or traditional anything, the past is wrong and the future is correct. As a general rule. If you want to be a competent musician nowadays you have to know where it came from. Even internationally it’s a very difficult business. And you have to know all the modern stuff too, and project your own image onto that.

AD: When we spoke earlier you mentioned that on your first Country Joe & The Fish album (‘Electric Music For The Mind And Body’) you used ‘a little influence of John Cage, and David Tudor concepts’. They are still respected names.

JM: Are they? At the time that was very radical, very radical stuff, but now... it’s not. Well, that’s the roots of modern synthesiser music, I suppose. At the time everybody thought they were just crackpots. But now – compared to some modern avant garde music, it’s pretty conservative stuff. I’m not a big fan. I’m essentially a Pop musician and my roots are in traditional music. Traditional classical music, and traditional Folk music. I’m really not... but, I do have some things in the can which are not music at all! So I guess I’m lying about that (laughter). There are some tracks on my recent albums which are really... I don’t know. I think I’d have difficulty arguing that they are music at all actually, in the traditional sense.

AD: On your ‘Child’s Play’ album (1983, Rag Baby) you use what you call ‘Environments’. A technique of placing each song in some kind of context by the use of stereo sound effects. Background restaurant noises on the track “Not In A Chinese Restaurant” for example. The motives sound not dissimilar to those of people like Brian Eno who create ‘ambient music’ albums. Music intended for different settings, like his ‘Music For Airports’

JM: I’m more inclined to do music in airports!

AD: for the car?

JM: No. rather music in the car. Music you can play while you’re in the car – so it would be a case of music IN the car, FOR the car! Music IN the airport, FOR the airport. I mean, ‘cos when you have your Walkman – or whatever you call those tape recorders – WalkPERSONS, you can really put yourself just about anywhere, can’t you? But one thing you’re gonna be sure of in my music is that I’m not gonna put you in the studio anymore. And I can’t really guarantee what’s going to happen in that studio while we’re cutting tracks. That’s a little element of surprise. It’s sorta like not knowing if they’re going to drop the bomb or not.

AD: Your de-gendering the ‘Walkperson portable’ reminds me of your mixed-gender anti-sexist All-Star Band. That band and album (the 1973 ‘Paris Sessions’) with its Feminist bias seemed like a very brave project. Do you think those ideas still stand up?

JM: Well, that album certainly stands up, yes. It’s kinda the roots of Feminism in a way, you know – from a male point of view. It was the only thing of its kind around at that particular time. It was very radical. That band had three women musicians in it. I have a million stories from that band. It was only together a year-and-a-half but the things that happened to that band were like the ‘Adventures Of The Furry Freak Brothers’ or something. Really. I mean, people just could not understand that there was a woman playing the piano and a woman playing the drums and a woman playing saxophone. They didn’t understand that. The promoters didn’t understand that, the Press didn’t understand that, the audience didn’t understand that. They saw and heard something else. It was like ‘Alice In Wonderland’, or Science Fiction schizophrenia or something. I had to throw one Reporter out of the Dressing Room because he kept demanding to know who the girl backing singers were. He’d seen the whole show! So I introduced everybody in the band to him and I told him we didn’t have any background singers. Then he wrote all the names down and then he wanted to know the background singers names! And that routine went on somewhat like ‘Monty Python’ for about thirty minutes. He began frothing and I had to have him removed from the room, and as he left he was screaming “you must be crazy, I just wanna know the names of the BACKING SINGERS...!!!!”

AD: Like the only musical role he could envisage for women was as backing singers? Or groupies perhaps, but not as musicians?

JM: We were playing in the mid-West in some rather large Mafia-like Club in a town, y’know, and I came back with Anna Rizzo who was playing drums at the time, and Tucki Bailey who was playing sax. We walked into the club and went up to the Bouncer, and the guy at the... it was a little ticket-booth sort of thing. Well, it wasn’t a booth, it was just a podium sort of thing. And I said ‘I’m Country Joe, where’s the Dressing Room?’ And he said ‘just go straight through there, turn left, but the Chicks have to have passes’. And I said ‘no problem, it’s the drummer and the sax player. Let’s go’. We started to walk in and he just went ‘WHUUUMP!!!’, dropped his hand right down and said ‘I’m sorry, but you know, the Chicks have to have passes’. I said ‘this is the BAND, and we’re going to the Dressing Room if you don’t mind’. And he said ‘YOU can go, it’s OK, I’m telling you, your Dressing Room is down the hall to the left. But the CHICKS have to have passes’. So Tucki and Anna are starting to crack up now, they’re really laughing like crazy now. But I’m starting to get a little bit ticked off. So I said to this guy ‘I don’t know what your problem is, if you’re retarded or something, but THIS is the saxophone player, THIS is the drummer. I’M Country Joe. THIS IS THE BAND. And WE’RE GOING TO THE DRESSING ROOM!’ He was a very large person too. And he said ‘I’m really sorry man, I don’t want any hassles or anything, but the Chicks are GONNA HAVE TO HAVE PASSES!’ And I said ‘WHERE’S THE FUCKING MANAGER?’, y’know. And this guy standing beside there flashed this Police Badge in front of my face and said ‘don’t use that language in front of those women’. He was a plain-clothes Cop who had been standing there next to this guy all the time! And when he did that Tucki and Anna were just sort of rolling on the floor in laughter. And then they were laughing at the situation so hard they were just cracking up, and the Cop didn’t know what to do. He started blushing because he thought he’d saved the day. Then Tucki and Anna started saying ‘you ought to hear what he makes us listen to during the show!’ Anyway, finally the owner of the Club came and he said to the guy ‘let ‘em in’. And then we went in. But that was a common occurrence with that band. I’m telling you, it’s a case of, sometimes you’re doing something which is like, advanced, and it’s incomprehensible. It does not compute. I think that a lot of Animal Liberation is like that at the moment. It’s one of those things, it does not compute. And at that particular time, which was 1971, Feminism didn’t compute.

AD: I wonder if Kim Deal had those problems when she was with the Pixies? Or Gillian out on New Order? Or the Spice Girls! It’s a lot healthier now where musicians are accepted on their merits rather than their race ore gender.

JM: Female bands! Female stars! They’re all over the place! I mean, it’s really hard for a man in this business nowadays. Really. When you think about it, how many famous women singers and women musicians there are, Bonnie Raitt, the Hearts, in New Wave, Sheryl Crow, there’s more and more...! (the interview breaks down in waves of laughter).

It’s usual for journalists to edit interviews, rearranging, selecting, and in some cases rewriting conversations. It’s impossible to fully convey Joe’s humour, or the circuitous process of his arguments without presenting them intact, without alteration. Hence I’ve kept omissions to a minimum, and not corrected the usual false starts and repetitions that inevitably crop up in conversation. Joe McDonald is an intelligent and very likeable performer with a unique way of fusing humour and perception, the most valuable aspects of the past with the most urgent concerns of today. Hopefully this comes across best when he’s allowed to speak for himself.

“be the first one on your block 
to have your boy come home in a box…” 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Edgar Allan Poe: The Original Imp Of The Perverse


 An overview based around the book ‘VISIONS OF POE’, a 
selection of EDGAR ALLAN POE stories and poems with 
photographs and an introduction by SIMON MARSDEN 
(Michael Joseph/ Webb & Bower, £14.95) 

those little slices of death, 
how I hate them...’ 
 (Edgar Allan Poe, quoted on the introduction to 
 ‘Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’)

A gothic window from Castle Bernard, County Cork, mist-shrivelled, ivy-entangled. Perspective is vague, so that at first glance it’s a plundered grave, then it’s a door opening out onto a dread landscape of mystery and inexpressible terror. But no, it’s only a window. Then there’s a stone cadaver etched against the wall of Beaulieu House, County Louth. A grinning skeleton, a macabre victim of a premature burial or the Red Death plague, obscenely disinterred and left there to putrefy. But no, it’s only a particularly grotesque sculpture.

The photographs, from ‘Visions Of Poe’ (Michael Joseph/ Webb & Bower, £14.95, 1998) were snared by the artful Pentax of Simon Marsden whose previous work includes ‘In Ruins’ (revised edition, Little Brown, 1997), a highly personal photographic essay of churches and historic buildings in his native southern Ireland. On such evidence it’s obvious that Marsden uses his lens not just to record – but to interpret, selecting his targets, his lighting and angles, to build atmosphere. In this case to illuminate a sympathetic descent into the maelstrom of psychological horror created by the fiction and poems of Edgar Allan Poe, examples of which are matched to Marsden’s pictures – there’s “The Raven”, “The Fall Of The House Of Usher”, “The Masque Of The Red Death” and others.

Poe was a dark fantasist, with a natural perversity he considered to be a universal condition. ‘His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have thought him mad’ Poe writes of Prince Prospero – the decadent aristo who seals himself into his castle to escape the ravages of the ‘Red Death’. A man whose works are ‘delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There were much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little that which might have excited disgust.’ Poe could have been describing his own art, which is riddled with recurrent necrophilia, disease, cannibalism, demonic possession, resurrection of the dead, madness, mesmerism and premature burial, all described in a deliciously morbid prose that lingers on decay and death.

Born in the Michael Dukakis city of Boston over two-hundred years ago – 19 January 1809, Edgar Poe was immediately orphaned. His father, the Irish actor David Poe, deserted the family in 1810 and died soon afterwards. His mother – Elizabeth, died of pneumonia a year later. The middle name ‘Allan’ he took from the stepfather and benefactor he alternately vilified and, when finances deemed it necessary – fawned over. The young Poe was ‘removed’ from the University of Virginia for immoderate drinking and gambling which amassed debts of $2,500, and was subsequently court-martialled from West Point Military Academy for deliberate neglect of duty.

He nevertheless went on to reasonable success as editor of various periodicals – ‘The Southern Literary Messenger’ and ‘Graham’s Magazine’, minor triumphs again sabotaged by his personality problems which tended to terminate each position with the sour fetor of acrimony. He was neither a pleasant, nor an easy work colleague. In mitigation, Poe’s notorious drink problem was exaggerated by a diabetic condition, complicated by a ‘brain lesion’ that rendered him particularly succeptible to alcohol. His use of opium and laudanum is also well-documented, but hardly exceptional at an time when such tinctures were the widely-accepted valium of their day. More genuinely odd is his marriage to his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia, who was already ill with the tuberculosis that was to kill her. The ‘consumption’ that seems to have been a source of Poe’s unhealthy fixation – not unconnected to the memory of his mother’s death. 

Dour and melancholic, Poe favoured neat black clothes. He was socially ill at ease, his conversations as precise and formal as his writing was meticulous. He wrote poems. He wrote protean Science Fiction that influenced HP Lovecraft, and Jules Verne – to whom Poe was ‘le créateur du roman merveilleux-scientifique.’ He wrote detective fiction, including ‘The Murders In The Rue Morgue’ (‘Graham’s Magazine’, April 1841) from which his ‘C Auguste Dupin’ served as A Conan Doyle’s model for ‘Sherlock Holmes’. But above and beyond these things, Poe created an image. The image is dark and malevolently brooding. The image is Gothic horror, a nightmarish fiction of all-pervading repulsion so obsessive that it survives and even subsumes its persistent reinterpretation by literary critics, symbolists, Freudians – and film-makers. From a single short story sequence novelist-scripter Richard Matheson was able to flesh out an entire movie – the Vincent Price/ John Kerr 1962 chiller ‘The Pit And The Pendulum’. Roger Corman, whose series of Poe adaptations stand as his most startlingly disturbing work, similarly expanded the seven-page prose-poem ‘The Masque Of The Red Death’ (in ‘Graham’s Magazine’, May 1842), into a horrifically effective full-length film that inhabits Poe’s mythos remarkably accurately, its malign spell absorbing and colouring all additional invention into itself like a spreading bloodstain. Corman’s ‘The Fall Of The House Of Usher’ (1960) with Vincent Price is a wide-screen shocker pervaded by a genuinely flesh-crawling atmosphere, while Boris Karloff joins Price and Peter Lorre in Corman’s special-FX classic ‘The Raven’ (1963), announced as ‘The Macabre Masterpiece Of Terror’.

In much the same way, Simon Marsden’s photographs not so much illustrate Poe’s stories as are infected by their bacillus, they enter Poe’s twisted vision, they draw vile energies from his morbidly introspective fascinations, and peer out through the distorting lens of his perversity.

Poe died – as that heavily over-written scenario demands he must, in grotesquely romantic squalor. After failed suicide attempts, bouts of insanity, fits and delirium tremens, he was on his way to Richmond to marry himself out of penury, when he disappeared during a stop-over in Baltimore. He was found much later on the street in a wretched condition. Following four days of hospitalised raving he groaned ‘lord, help my poor soul,’ and died. He was aged just forty.

 Edgar Allan Poe’s life has been described as ‘a long slow suicide,’ the black drugs ‘n’ booze aspects of which were posthumously exhumed by decadent French poet Charles Baudelaire who helped embellish them into the unshakably powerful literary mythology that persists. It was left to Anthony Burgess to question that myth in an ‘Observer’ book review (15 January 1978) by pointing out that ‘Poe’s life, though wretched enough, was not exceptionally so. It was the life of any writer struggling in a world devoted to commercial values.’ What makes Poe’s work so exceptional – Burgess argues, is his apparent self-absorption in that ‘wretchedness’ which – like Marsden’s camera, tints and taints all of his life-experience, and all of his creative perceptions. Poe was rigidly agnostic, a man who – according to expert fantasist Sam Moskowitz, ‘knew that the ultimate damnation lay in the distortion of a man’s own inner consciousness and not in any supernatural event’ (‘Science Fantasy’ no.38). 

Irregular, querulous and eccentric, unacknowledged in life and unmourned in death, Poe casts a long and blackening shadow that’s now exquisitely reinterpreted through the demonic gargoyles and macabre mansions in Simon Marsden’s ‘Visions Of Poe’.

‘dreaming dreams 
no mortals ever dared to dream before…’ 
(Edgar Allan Poe from ‘The Raven’)

Monday, 28 September 2015


Book Review of: 
(Headpress / Critical Vision - £13.95 / $19.95 - 
ISBN 190048613X) 

What’s so funny ‘bout Peace Love and Understanding? Well, nothing. Except that TV-clips of Hippies in silly hats, idiot-dancing, and human-daisy-chains in the park, are in danger of eclipsing the significance of what really went on in those down-dirty late-sixties. ‘Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair’– of course, but chances are that Charles Manson will also show up at the Love-In. For every Woodstock there’s an Altamont. For every Flower-Child, a Street-Fighting Man.

David Huxley’s valuable research into one particularly neglected cranny of the era, magicked into life by the lavish visual explosions provided by Headpress lay-out – vividly visceral, explicit, disturbing… and fun, goes some way towards redressing that (sub)cultural imbalance. Comics – or ‘Comix’ are his thing. The strips that ran in the ‘underground’ periodicals, and their more specialised comic-book spin-offery. More specific yet, their British manifestations. Artists such as Hunt Emerson. Tracing his lines, which form garish detonations of ludicrous invention, fluid – but angular. Faces, shapes, and figures in dynamic melt-down, vibrating with psychedelic energies. Elaborate spirals and coils of brain-matter, goggle-eyes veiny and drifting free from their sockets like loose balloon moons…

Comic-strips and animation have always been something of a cultural oddity. Their exaggerations are implicitly surreal. Think ‘Desperate Dan’ – no, really think about it. What the hell is that about? Think about the open-ended repetitive non-story structure of ‘Wylie C. Coyote & the Roadrunner’. Existential ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ or what? And it’s always been slightly subversive too. As far back as you can go Political Cartoons have been a weapon of ridicule against the corrupt pomposity of the ruling class. The sixties-cum-early-seventies had no monopoly on any of this. What it did do was reignite it all through new mix-and-max outrage combinations. Through a generation of new artists, Robert Crumb among them, illuminating the youthquake happening all around them. And by their being independently published through the new global phenomenon of disreputable titles calling itself the ‘underground press’, made possible by the proliferating cheap accessibility of offset print-technology. It also benefited from good timing.

The gore-overkill of Will Gaines’ 1950’s manic over-the-top EC ‘Tales From The Crypt’ led to questions in the House, and the subsequent imposition of the Comics Code, ushering in the gentler mockery of ‘Mad’, and an interlude of squeaky-clean aspirational UK comics following the pristine parentally-approved example of ‘Eagle’. So ensuring that a decade-long frustration built up among cartoon-artists, and a sleaze-thirsty readership, a combination that was bound to blow sooner, rather than later. More? Fuelling the ‘underground’, as well as exotic drugs, trippy vinyl, and a retro-affection for Aubrey Beardsley there were reference points to Marcuse’s ‘Frankfurt Circle’ – a New Left Think-Tank, McLuhan’s ‘The Medium Is The Massage’ proclaiming the end of literacy as we know it, and the dawn of Homo Ludens – the ‘Play-Power’ ethic. All conspiring together to show that absurdity, stupidity, chaos and black humour are just as valuable philosophical constants as logic, reason and rationality. Ideal ingredients, in fact, for graphic excess.

Initially the visual dimension of the UK titles – ‘It’, ‘Friends’, ‘Oz’, ‘Styng’ and the rest, was characterised by an over-reliance on American reprints (Crumb’s ‘My First LSD Trip’, Gilbert Sheldon’s ‘Wonder Wart-Hog’). But the early local contingent soon includes Jeff Nuttall’s free-form cut-up ‘Physiodelics’, Mick Farren’s scripts for Edward Barker, the ‘Largactilites’, Chris Welch – creator of the odd SF-saga ‘Ogoth’ who doubled by reviewing Pop singles for ‘Melody Maker’, Hunt Emerson’s debut in Birmingham Arts Lab’s ‘Large Cow Comix no.1’ through to his ‘Thunderdogs’ mayhem in 1980 and ‘Firkin The Cat’ for ‘Fiesta’, Brian Bolland’s ‘Little Nympho In Slumberland’ in ‘Graphixus no.3’, Mal Burns, Bryan Talbot, and much more.

Michael Moorcock’s innovative SF-fantasia ‘Jerry Cornelius’ was serialised through issues of ‘Frendz’. As regards self-contained titles, ‘Cyclops’ – at just 15p from the ‘Innocence & Experience Press’, cover-proclaims itself ‘The first English Adult Comic Paper’ in July 1970, followed by Felix Dennis’ ‘COZmic Comics’ – no.3 of which consists entirely of British artist Mike Weller’s work. Then the spectrum of titles runs from Alchemy Publications’ ‘Brainstorm Comix’ with a no.1 print-run of 3,500, to Joe Hirst’s modest Bamforth-derived spirit-duplicated naughtiness via Filey-based Fiasco Press. From ‘Napalm Kiss’ to Robert Crumb’s celebrated orgy-spread highlighting ‘Nasty Tales no.1’.

And the Establishment played its scripted part to perfection. We’ll be outraged – it said, if you’ll be outrageous. They were duly outraged. They took the ‘Oz’ Skool-Kids issue to the Old Bailey, and busted ‘Nasty Tales’ for obscenity. Both shock-chic stories are fully recounted here by David Huxley (who modestly omits his own art-contributions to Denis Gifford’s ‘Ally Sloper’, ‘Blood, Sex & Terror’, ‘StreetQuomix’, and ‘Either Orcomics’, while admitting to an SF weirdo in ‘Pssst’). And – although falling outside this book’s time-frame, the tradition of legalistic repression continues into the 1990’s when ‘Savoy Editions’ artist-publisher Dave Britton is jailed for the immaculately nasty ‘Lord Horror’ comic-books.

So where did it all go? Well, it continues to continue in grubby low-profile photocopied small-press editions. ‘Viz’ graduated from bedroom fanzine into a corporate institution. ‘2000AD’ – launched by IPC as a continuity of the ‘Eagle’-mentality, complete with an updated Dan Dare, discovered its long-term survival strategy through more sophisticated adult material with enough severed heads, erupting eyeballs and gratuitous nudity to bring a macabre glow to Will Gaines’ tomb. Both titles thrive. While Shelton’s collected ‘Furry Freak Brothers’ are out there on Amazon even now, alongside the lavish graphic-novel editions of DC and Marvel comic-book heroes, their drug-wise antics just as sniggery-relevant to today’s pharmaceutical tastes as they were Cheech-&-Chong-wise back then. Robert Crumb is the subject of at least one docu-movie, with a spin-off soundtrack CD. Felix Dennis – once ‘Oz’ wunderkind, is a media fat-cat with a sideline in self-publishing his own poetry. And now David Huxley’s cool academic prose preserves, keenly analyses, places in context and neatly squares the cartoon frame of the best of the rest. Cool. Groovy. Highly recommended…

 Published in: 
‘DREAMBERRY WINE (Jan-Feb)’ (UK – Jan 2004) 
‘SONGBOOK no.2’ (UK – Feb 2004) 
‘MONOMYTH no.14’ (UK – May 2004)

Sunday, 27 September 2015


Album Review of: 
aka ‘ROCKIN’ CHAIR’)’ 
 (Hoodoo Records) 

Chester Burnett was a big man. The primal Wolfman. Motown had the Pop hits. Stax had the Memphis Soul Stew. But Chess had the fiercest roster of Blues ever assembled on planet twelve-bar, Chuck, Bo, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and the spine-chilling Smokestack Lighting Howl of the Wolf. The rawest voice from hell, supernaturally surreal in its doomed menace. So way-down slow it becomes gut-bestial thunder. Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits try, but can’t come close. It’s a scary Howl at the Moon against life and the injustice of living. ‘I’ve had my fun, if I never get well no more.’ That you know every one of these songs through reverent awed white R&B covers is a given. When Jim Morrisson leers ‘the men don’t know, but the little girls understand’ he’s aping the lascivious Wolf prowl. Wolf is the strutting priapic Rooster Jagger was trying to be. Although this was Burnett’s second album, issued in 1962, it was assembled from a series of singles, the earliest sessions as way-back as 1957, yet they’re consistent, the flip-sides as powerful as the ‘A’s. And there are ten valuable bonus tracks, each as vital. You don’t argue with the Wolf. He was a big big man.

Published in:
‘R2: ROCK ‘N’ REEL’ Vol.2 No.47
Sept/Oct (UK – September 2014)

Thursday, 27 August 2015



I’m the Old Man Who Falls Down,
today I fell down by the Mirfield towpath,
a passing postman helps me to my feet
a lady walking a Yorkshire Terrier
fusses helpfully with some tissues, she
assists me unsteadily to the ‘Pear Tree’,
the concerned landlord gets me a cup of tea,
I thank the postman for his generous help
I thank the lady with the Yorkshire Terrier,
I’m so grateful to the landlord of the ‘Pear Tree’,
what would I have done without their help?
he insists I go to A&E and Annabel will drive me,
she works mornings in the ‘Pear Tree’
because she has a three-year old son,
she smiles nicely, and helps me into her Peugeot,
I’m careful not to drop blood on her upholstery,
I thank Annabel for her kindness,
she says not to worry, it’s the least she can do,
I thank her as I go into A&E
where they check this and feel that, no,
nothing broken, is there pain when you do this?
I say I’m sorry to be a nuisance
and everybody has been so kind,
he says ‘don’t worry, it’s what we’re here for’
and its reassuring that ordinary folk are so helpful,
afterwards I catch the bus home…

last week I fell in Horbury High Street,
the people were so kind and helpful,
I couldn’t believe how generous ordinary folk can be…

next week I might fall in the Wakefield precinct
outside the Cathedral, beside the Ridings mall,
yes, that seems like a good place to fall,
because I’m the Old Man Who Falls Down…

Wednesday, 26 August 2015



Robyn Hitchcock is the Soft Boy who fell to Earth, 
the Soft Boy who never grew up, the Man Who Would Be Syd
 – the once and future Syd Barrett. Or a fruitcake. 
But with the patronage of REM and his strongest album yet – 
‘RESPECT’ (1993), he’s on the brink of even greater notoriety. 
Andrew Darlington watches him soundcheck, 
 discusses Axe Murderers, Tree Surgeons, and 
 the Food Blender Theory of Song Composition, 
 LSD, Mother Fixation, and the 
 (insensitive soul) behind the Freak Show… 

A satellite.

Hung on Derby’s South Orbital road, ‘Mickleover College Of Higher Education’ has the still calm ambience of deep space. The lawns are kept neatly clipped for an (apparently) absentee student body. Over the slow hill from the Car Park you can see Nissans and Fiestas shuttle dumbly like silent coloured beads up and down the M-way threads. We go across those lawns, down through the halls. Asphalt and grass to concrete and glass. Robyn Hitchcock lopes as if he’s in free fall. You can make up your own version of Robyn Hitchcock, ‘cos they’re all true.

Former Soft Boy, then front-person with the Egyptians, then Soft Boy again, he’s either ‘a flower in the field of English eccentricity’ (Dave Thomas, ‘New Musical Express’ 30 March 1985), or ‘a fruitcase’ (Paul Strange, ‘Melody Maker’ 23 March 1985). He lopes as if he’s lighter than air. Lopes as if he’s Eight Miles Higher on janglipop fantasia, scratch ‘n’ sniff guitars, and lyrics that take you for a loop. Lopes as if he’s attached to gravity and normality by the slenderest umbilical lifeline of physical necessity.

Is that the version you want? And how does it accord with Hitchcock’s own self-view?

Robyn, why is your band ‘The Egyptians’, and not – say, ‘The Italians’?

‘Do you feel particularly strongly that it SHOULD be ‘The Italians’?’

No. I just wondered why, out of all the races of the world, you chose the Egyptians.

‘How did YOU acquire YOUR name? Did YOU have any choice in the matter?’

No, but then you weren’t BORN ‘Egyptian’, it was the result of conscious choice.

‘Not quite, because I’M Robyn Hitchcock – THEY’RE the Egyptians!’

At soundcheck he’s speaking in tongues. A recitation. He’s stood at the mike while they find his sound-level, hands clasped in the Catholic attitude of prayer, reeling off this pious dramatic monologue heavily accented in pidgin Spanish. A young Catalan boy ees adrift at sea, wonders where hees Momma, where hees Poppa, the ocean swells, the clouds storm… then he hears the voices of Angels, and the Egyptians peal off acapella bell-tones around him as they’re miked up.

So far he’s playing the date for laughs, but underlying it all, this is serious ‘ting. Robyn and the band – including Softs Morris Windsor on drums, and Andy Metcalfe, bass/ keyboards, are now receiving much critical respiration, gaining media momentum through a series of manically inventive records and the resuscitation of what Margaret Thatcher deemed ‘the oxygen of publicity’. They have an extensive back-catalogue of oddly-titled albums to draw from. The most recent include the acoustic ‘Queen Elvis’ (1989), ‘Eye’ (1990) and last year’s thirty-eight-track ‘Soft Boys: 1976-‘81’, and ‘Respect’ – possibly his most perfectly-realised album yet, crammed with titles such as “When I Was Dead”, “The Wreck Of The Arthur Lee” and his Vera Lynne tribute “The Yip Song”.

Recorded in the kitchen and the living room of his Isle of Wight home, around the time of the Autumn Equinox, ‘Respect’ is further evidence, as if further evidence were REALLY needed, that Hitchcock is the most exhilaratingly deranged mind to operate within the tacky parameters of Pop since… um… Syd Barrett? The analogy is hard to avoid. Has been made with brain-numbing regularity in every print-piece he’s ever been subjected to. So once we’re sat face-to-face in interview-space, I try not to mention the ex-Pink Floyd acid casualty.


Instead, we talk about Robyn’s work with REM – who cover ‘Respect’s “Arms Of Love” on the ‘B’-side of “Man On The Moon”, while both Peter Buck and Michael Stipe guest on his ‘Perspex Island’ (1991) album. We talk about co-writing with Captain Sensible, and Hitchcock’s ‘Groovy Decay’ (1982) sessions produced by sometime Shamen collaborator Steve Hillage (‘I like him, but we don’t have the same metabolic rate at all’). And we talk about the current album, produced by John Leckie whose track-record includes the Fall, Verve and the Stone Roses… but it seems we’re predestined to the subject of Syd.

‘He was one of those rare things, the genuine article’ Robyn opines carefully. ‘Don’t forget, I’m quite old. I’m well over thirty. Barrett was very young when he started. And poor old Syd just believed it all, y’know. He also believed in GETTING FAMOUS – which is a dangerous thing to a kind of immature personality. He believed, literally, in what he did and said, whereas most people realize that whatever level you’re on, this is Show Business, this is a Performance. Bob Dylan believed in what HE was doing, and got completely fucked because of it. I’m not saying that it has to be a SHAM, but you have to KNOW that you are providing some form of entertainment for people. You are not an Axe Murderer. You are not a Tree Surgeon. You are not Bruce Forsyth. But you ARE providing something for people, an alternative world for them to watch. Anyone who wants to keep their head in Show Business has to realize this. You can be as near to your own personal self, or as far as you like. But poor old Syd just believed it all.’ A quirky Hitchcockian grin beneath a spray of black hair. ‘It was just the incredible unreality of LSD, the incredible unreality of fame, the incredible unreality of growing up – combined with a bit of Mother fixation, and you’re gone!’ A moment’s pause, then ‘but I never met him. I wasn’t in the Pink Floyd. It’s all just theory.’

Anyway, we should be ‘talking up’ the albums and the recent Soft Boys re-union tour, instead of hanging luster on the language of antique legend. And Robyn’s product deserves all the press inches it can garner. I mean, who but Hitchcock, like some latter-day tripped-out Lewis Carroll, could rhyme ‘Norwich’ with ‘porridge’ (on “Listening To The Higsons”), follow it with “When I Was Dead” – his own obituary spun out into the haunting script for Luis Buñuel’s next movie (‘the Devil asked me to supper, he said ‘Careful with the spoons’, and god said ‘oh ignore him, I’ve got all your albums’, I said ‘yes, but whose got all the tunes?’’), then crown it with a gloriously demented “Wafflehead” with cheese-grater instrumentation and lyrics worthy of a Govt Health Warning? That’s all PURE Hitchcock.

Writing? ‘The important thing is to DO it without being aware of yourself at all. It’s like speaking in tongues. TS Eliot, I think, said ‘You should concentrate on the words, on the technique of writing, and let the substance take care of itself.’ So it’s almost like automatic writing. You just have to, sort of, find a flow. As if it’s a kind of lava. Once the lava is streaming down the mountainside, you can do this to it, you can do that to it, and then it congeals, and then you’ve got this lump which is a song.’

Is there an internal logic to the apparently random elements in the lyrics? ‘I wouldn’t know. From my experience of me I would have thought there wasn’t much internal logic. There’s certainly no logic I can think of now. I mean, someone was once interviewing me and saying basically ‘how does your brain work?’ Y’know, as if I could lift it out and put it on the table in front of him and say ‘well, I think there’s a meridian here, unscrew this bit and see – would you like to try it? Shall we swap brains?’ You can’t. You can identify other people in the songs, you can see styles coming up, you can say ‘oh-oh, here come the Byrds again’. But I can’t tell you where songs come from. ‘Cos it’s just like probing a jellyfish, it can’t be done. Or it’s like trying to freeze a rainbow…’

--- 0 --- 

‘Ev’ry eve’nin, put on my dish-worker’s suit…’ voice slurred, distorted, nudged out of shape, moving octaves lower down into jazzy cadences. Hitchcock bends into the mic for a word-perfect run-through of “Yeh Yeh”. Neat little Roland synth masquerading as Hammond organ stitching in improvisationally around the exaggeratedly smooth vocals pouring down like silver. Then, as the last notes die in the unfocussed speakers, ‘is that alright?’

‘Great’ from the sound-mixer, adding irreverently ‘that’s the best one of your songs that you do.’ A Hitchcock grin, a pout of his lower lip in mock-Jaggeresque petulance, ‘that’s Georgie Fame, 1964 – one of HIS hits. Another was “Sitting In The Park”…’

…And another was “In The Meantime”. I’m watching the soundcheck from across an empty dance-hall that’s masquerading as an off-duty gymnasium. Small high oblong windows slant spots of dusty light across the scuffed parquet floor. A couple of Students Union Entertainment Officials hang around to view the proceedings, their attention spinning between the stage and a girl with tight faded Levi’s, a full T-shirt, and long blonde hair. She purposefully ignores them out of existence. And I’m watching the stage with a grin that’s difficult to suppress. Soundchecks are supposed to be boring affairs of repetitions up and down the fret. But not with Robyn Hitchcock it ain’t. ‘What do you want us to do now?’ enquires Robyn helpfully.

‘Oh, nothing in particular’ from the sound-desk. Hitchcock runs a reflective Blues line from his Fender, meandering this way and that, then tentatively sings ‘no – thing in par – tic-u-lar’ so it fits into the loose twelve-bar structure, tasting it for its line-length lyric quality. He repeats the guitar phrase, tagging ‘nothing in particular, that’s what my Baby said to me. Nothing in particular, that’s all she wants from me’ onto it. The bass picks up on the chord progression and feeds gently in behind him a second before the keyboard begins developing and shaping the idea. Hitchcock’s now in full flood, pulling a matching middle-eight spontaneously from the air, before returning lethally to what’s now become the chorus, the band powering it to a mock-dramatic crescendo, ‘I sometimes swear… I sometimes swear they know EXACTLY what I’m gonna play before I do’ he sings, as they taper down in perfect unison to a classic Blues finish. A complete four-minute song created out of a throw-away phrase, then forgotten.

No-one applauds. In the corner, by the disconnected Fantasy Gaming machine, a portable colour TV is tuned soundlessly to… I think… a Channel Four Rock Show. Moving masses of shapeless Heavy Metal hair, leather-bands of studs, bulging cod-pieces and Flying-V guitars in phallic poses. A group like that’d strive a month hewing out leaden riffs of a song not half as crafted ‘n’ concise as the one Hitchcock makes up and trashes on a whim and the spur of a moment.

--- 0 --- 

‘What I like is obvious in what I play’ Hitchcock concedes. ‘You’ll always find traces of my influences. That’s how it should be, unless you disintegrate into your component parts, like – say, Love’s Arthur Lee. Or even John Lennon, in some ways he disintegrated into his component parts. I think you never completely outgrow whatever your roots are, you don’t REALLY transcend them, but you DO develop them, you do tend to synthesise them. You get your own voice, it just takes a while. I remember Dylan saying ‘you’ve gotta listen to all these guys, Sonny Boy Williamson, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly,’ and he’d just reel out all these names. Then the Beatles would reel out THEIR names. And now I can reel out all of my people like Bob Dylan, Syd Barrett, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Brian Poole & The Tremeloes (snigger)…! It’s like a Food Blender where at first the nuts haven’t been chopped up properly and you can still identify bits of mushroom and bits of red pepper. And then, in the end, it all ends up as a sort of purée. So I suppose you could say I’ve been through the blender, and…’ he pauses. Runs his fingers through his permanently disheveled hair. ‘I don’t know what your question was, but I’m sure that’s the answer.’

I resume – it’s like, in your song “The Man Who Invented Himself”, have you invented ‘Robyn Hitchcock’?

He looks bemused. ‘Oh, I’m not an invention. I’m the genuine article.’

But you are, on your own admission, in ‘Show Business’, a ‘Performer’. Surely there’s a temptation to exaggerate the Hitchcock persona into product – ‘near your own personal self’ perhaps, but also – to an extent, an invention?

But ‘no. People are invented by their parents. They give you the car and you just have to drive it. Inevitably, how you steer it once you’re given it is up to you. Maybe that’s what maturity is – knowing you can control it? In which case I’m still not particularly mature. But I mean, you’re handed the apparatus. I didn’t invent me, I’m simply steering him. I WILL have co-invented my children, and then they can shake THAT off!’

That’s evasion, surely? The wacky eccentric Hitchcock has got to be a deliberate creation, a conscious decision he assiduously (acid-uously) promotes? I remind him of a long-lost BBC-TV ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ appearance on which there’s a fifteen-second interview space he devotes to a dialogue on the wearing or not wearing of socks. He told a confused Richard Skinner that the Soft Boys had ‘a lot of problems because of the kind of socks we wore. But I don’t hold any grudges. I still wear the same socks,’ and so on and so forth.

‘Well, that’s as important as anything else’ he explains guilelessly. ‘In fifteen seconds what SHOULD you say? I am 6ft 2” and I think I’m god! I’m just about to bash my head through this wall? I have got fifteen seconds to say I disagree with American policy in Nicaragua? What IS the most important thing you can say… or do you just discuss socks?’

In a later Radio One ‘Saturday Live’ he was asked ‘why the lyrical bizzaro?’ On ‘Respect’ he sings ‘heartburn and chemistry and lung disease, make mincemeat of your passion on days like these… Good Morning Mr Seagrove, have you met my dead friend, Seth?’ (on “Driving Aloud”). So why the Lightbulb Heads, the Yodelling Hoover, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Toilets – why not Moon ‘n’ June lurve songs? To which came – perhaps bitter, ‘Saturday Live’ riposte, ‘I’ve written dozens of songs about falling in love, it’s just that nobody ever plays them. They always play the ones I write about Lightbulb Heads.’

How about that, then? ‘Ah, you mean that expectations are imposed on me?’ he grins, catching my drift. ‘You mean I’m having to act out a Freak Show while inside there’s a sensitive individual? Well, yeah – I know what you mean. Sometimes there is an insensitive… er, a SENSITIVE individual inside, sometimes there isn’t.’ He breaks up laughing over the mis(?)placed prefix. Then ‘no, I DID write quite a lot of love songs, that’s true. They’re lying around somewhere. The LP I did with Steve Hillage has got a few of that sort of stuff.’

But does Hitchcock ever resent the expectations imposed on him? The necessity to be forever brained-out? ‘Perhaps their view of me is accurate?’ he counters. ‘They’re probably right to see me that way, I can’t really comment. I know you have to have a certain profile. Think of pro snooker-payer Steve ‘Interesting’ Davis (the ‘Spitting Images’ caricature), he’s looking for something to ‘hype him up’, they say ‘but you’re so DULL, what CAN we call you?’, so he thinks a bit and says ‘alright (in gnarly accent), you can call me ‘Interesting’. So he becomes Steve ‘Interesting’ Davis.’ It’s anything for a certain amount of visibility. But you need to have no fear on my behalf, I’m not putting myself out at all to do any of this. I’m aware of what people think of me, but there’s no gross exaggeration at all.’

A reflective pause. Then Robyn ‘Interesting’ Hitchcock, the man who did (or perhaps didn’t) invent himself, confesses ‘I always wanted to enact this character on a public scale. Not a VAST public scale, but public enough to be able to live on. Just enough to exist on. Money just to live, or is it to live for money…? no, not to live FOR money! You know what I mean…?’

Well, yes, no, I dunno – I’m still not sure who’s zooming who, who’s inventing who, which came first, fact or fruitcake, chicken or omelette, but it’s sho nuff fun finding out.

Robyn Hitchcock: ‘Respect’ is overdue.


Black Snake Diamond Röle, 1981
Groovy Decay, 1982
I Often Dream of Trains, 1984
Fegmania!, 1985 (with the Egyptians)
Element of Light, 1986 (with the Egyptians)
Globe of Frogs, 1988 (with the Egyptians)
Queen Elvis, 1989 (with the Egyptians)
Eye, 1990
Perspex Island, 1991 (with the Egyptians)
Respect, 1993 (with the Egyptians)
Moss Elixir, 1996
Jewels for Sophia, 1999
Luxor, 2003
Spooked, 2004
Olé! Tarantula, 2006 (with the Venus 3)
Goodnight Oslo, 2009 (with the Venus 3)
Propellor Time, 2010 (with the Venus 3)
Tromsø, Kaptein, 2011
Love From London, 2013
The Man Upstairs, 2014


Groovy Decoy (A re-worked version of Groovy Decay, featuring demo versions of many of that album’s songs), 1985

Invisible Hitchcock (Outtakes and rarities, 1980–1986), 1986

Gravy Deco (A compilation of the Groovy Decay and Groovy Decoy sessions), 1995

You And Oblivion (Outtakes and rarities, 1981–1987), 1995

Mossy Liquor (‘Outtakes and prototypes’ from Moss Elixir), 1996

A Star for Bram (Outtakes from Jewels for Sophia), 2000

A Middle-Class Hero (Italian-English authorised interview book written by Luca Ferrari with three outtakes CD included), 2000

Obliteration Pie (Japan-only collection of live tracks, rarities, and new studio re-recordings), 2005

I Wanna Go Backwards (Boxed set of reissued albums, with many previously unreleased outtakes and rarities), 2007

Shadow Cat (Outtakes and rarities, 1993–1999), 2008

Luminous Groove (Boxed set of reissued albums, with many previously unreleased live performances, outtakes and rarities), 2008

There Goes The Ice (Vinyl-only collection of rarities, most previously issued as digital-only tracks between 2010-2014), 2014


Gotta Let This Hen Out!, 1985 (with the Egyptians)

Give It To The Thoth Boys: Live Oddities, 1993 (Cassette only release sold on tour 1993) (with the Egyptians)

The Kershaw Sessions, 1994 (with the Egyptians)

Storefront Hitchcock, 1998 Storefront Hitchcock L.P., 1998

Live at the Cambridge Folk Festival, 1998 (with the Egyptians)

Robyn Sings, 2002 (Double live album of Bob Dylan cover songs)

This is the BBC, 2006

Sex, Food, Death... and Tarantulas (Live EP), 2007

I Often Dream of Trains in New York, (CD+DVD), 2009


Robyn Hitchcock, 1995 
Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians: Greatest Hits, 1996 (with the Egyptians)
Uncorrected Personality Traits (Rhino Records best-of compilation of solo material), 1997


Time Between: A Tribute to The Byrds (Imaginary Records), 1989

Pave The Earth (A&M Records), 1990

More Oar: A Tribute to the Skip Spence Album (Birdman Records), 1999

Ernie: Songs of Ernest Noyes Brookings (Gadfly Records), 2001

Listen To What The Man Said: Popular Artists Pay Tribute to the Music of Paul McCartney (Oglio Records), 2001

Wig in a Box (Off Records), 2003 

Terry Edwards Presents Queer Street (Sartorial Records), 2004

Abbey Road Now! (Mojo Magazine Free CD), Oct 2009 – ‘I Want You (She's So Heavy)’

The Madcap Laughs Again! (Mojo Magazine Free CD), Mar 2010 ‘Dark Globe’

Son of Rogues Gallery (ANTI- Records), 2013 ‘Sam’s Gone Away’