Aaaaalright then, time for another Ramble On. This one’s been particularly hard to write, seeing as I’ve been self isolation with my cat for a whole month, and I’m severely lacking in the human interaction and social stimulation. I’ve always thought that if I was stuck somewhere with nothing to do, my creativity would blossom, lyrics and words would roll outta my head, into my hands and onto paper, I’d create from what was around me and learn new skills, but man, was I wrong. One month into solitary confinement and my creativity and focus is at an all time low, and me trying to fill this page with something meaningful and interesting seems like a battle bigger than the global one we’re all currently fighting.
So, instead of me forcing down a handful of bummed out paragraphs lacking in inspiration, I’m gonna share my current top 10 songs, my lockdown favourites.
Titanic – One Night in Eagle Rock
Titanic’s an old Norwegian band my Dad just told me about, and they rip – perfect if you’re into the Uriah Heep / Deep Purple heavy organ kinda vibe.
Flower Travellin’ Band – Shadows of Lost Days
I’m already seeing a pattern here, another heavy organ beauty; Shadows of Lost Days’ by Flower Travellin’ Band.
Tim Buckley – Get on Top
A bit of feel good funk with Tim Buckley’s ‘Get on Top’ – my cat sees me dance around to this on my own on a daily basis.
Funkadelic – Standing on the verge of getting it on
What would we do without George Clinton in a time of international crisis?
Cher – I Walk on Gilded Splinters
There’s a lot more to Cher than her 1998 hit single ‘Believe’, which I absolutely hate, so do dig deeper if that’s all you know, as you’ve been missing out. Her cover of Dr. John’s ‘Walk on Gilded Splinters’ is proof enough on it’s own.
Black Sabbath – Swinging the Chain
Absolute banger from ‘Never Say Die’ with Bill Ward killing it on vocals.
Blue Cheer – Black Sun
Can’t have the lockdown blues without Blue Cheer’s ‘Black Sun’.
Granicus – Taste of Love
Perfect sleaze from the lost days of Granicus – recorded in 1974, released in 2010.
Goliath – Dead Drunk Screamin’
More sleaze: Dead Drunk Screamin’ (that will be all of us soon…) from Goliath’s ‘Hot Rock & Thunder’ album.
Budgie – Breadfan
Budgie’s ‘Breadfan’ is a classic – the kinda song you turn up loud and drink beer to.
https://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Funkadelic.jpg624960Ella Stormarkhttps://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Arnold-Boecklin-Vintage-Logo-Black-279x67.pngElla Stormark2020-04-23 16:46:132020-04-23 16:46:16Ramble On: 10 Songs that are getting me through the London Lockdown
When I got this column last year, I was so stoked; to have a platform of my own where I could share my thoughts and excitement about music, and the weird and wonderful world around it. No editors and no rules, with the exception of keeping the ‘F’ word to a minimum. This month, I’ve decided to let someone else ramble on for a bit, as I wanted to share in whole this piece Peter Hughes of Sons of Huns and formerly of Danava wrote about the late, great, Roky Erickson. I asked for a few word about his favourite record, and the finished result was more than anything I could have hoped for; a heartfelt ode to one of the pioneers of psychedelic rock. Thank you Peter, and thank you Roky. – Ella Stormark
Roky Erickson was a Texas-born rock ’n’ roll howler best known for his early years with The 13th Floor Elevators, whose lysergic reverb-soaked hit “You’re Gonna Miss Me” was written by Roky at the tender age of 15 and would endure as his highest charting song and the definitive composition of his career. The 13th Floor Elevators are credited as the first Psychedelic Rock group and their first two albums, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators & Easter Everywhere are the most notable. The Elevators LSD-steeped sound rippled across Texas west to San Francisco and clearly influenced the sonic palette of a number of bands that went on to enjoy larger commercial success, the heavyweight of the bunch being boogie behemoths & fellow Texas natives ZZ Top. Guitar hero Billy Gibbons first found his footing on the Texas club circuit with his band The Moving Sidewalks (an obvious nod to the Elevators, as Gibbons himself freely admits) who later toured as the opening act for Hendrix before going on to form ZZ Top. Even Janis Joplin considered contributing her soulful blues-tinged vocals to the 13th Floor Elevators before deciding to head to San Francisco instead.
Roky’s psychedelic period was cut short after a series of drug arrests, culminating in his apprehension onstage in Austin August of 1969 for marijuana possession, which resulted in two Police cruisers being destroyed by fans in the ensuing riot. Unfortunately, Roky was subsequently committed to Rusk Maximum Security Prison for the Criminally Insane after pleading insanity when faced with the narcotics charges. He would spend the following 3 years in Rusk during which Roky was involuntarily subjected to electroshock therapy and forcefully dosed with Thorazine after being diagnosed as schizophrenic, though this would not be his first or last stay in such a facility. One too many LSD bad trip freak-outs combined with underlying mental health issues in the ‘60s were then compounded by the traumatic environment of the psychiatric hospital and the cruel abuses he suffered in the stead of effective medical treatment during his stay there. These hardships proved to have no small influence on the sound and subject matter of Roky’s music, who had begun to believe that a Martian inhabited his body. This is reflected in the first iteration of Roky’s new group named ‘Bleib Alien’ that first appeared in 1975. This was eventually changed to a more radio-friendly version ‘Roky Erickson & the Aliens’ in 1977 when the group started working on demos for a new album with Creedence Clear Water Revival bassist Stu Cook. The 15 songs recorded during the sessions with Cook from 1977-79 would form the Horror Hard Rock body of work from which a number of alternately titled albums were released (Self/Titled-1980, also called Runes or Five Symbols due to the ambiguous cover art, & The Evil One-1981) and would serve as the songbook from which Roky would base the majority of his live sets during this period and when he resurfaced in the 2000s.
Roky’s return to performing live deserves considerable credit to the aid of his younger brother Sumner Erickson, without whom he likely may not have overcome the odds. After Sumner gained legal guardianship of Roky, he sought the long needed medical treatment for his older brother as well as legal aid to help Roky reclaim licensing rights to his back catalogue, much of which he was cheated out of by greedy labels & others. Austin Texas studio engineer Doug Sahm once traded Roky a smoothie for three of his most timeless songs “Two-Headed Dog”, the love song “Starry Eyes”, and “Don’t Slander Me” once after a session. The must-see documentary released in 2005 titled “You’re Gonna Miss Me” after the hit from his Elevators days also played a large role in exposing his music and life to a whole new audience.
“Two-Headed Dog” kicks off the album with the harsh cries of Bill Miller’s electric autoharp, which adds a signature flavor of psychedelic sound to the group, a bright twang somewhat reminiscent of the familiar electric guitar strum and similar in function to the electric jug playing of Tommy Hall in 13th Floor Elevators, but with s strange otherworldly timbre all of it’s own. This is my favourite track on the album and Roky’s distinctive rock ’n’ roll tenor snarl screams and wails with confidence “Two-headed dog, two-headed dog, I been workin’ in the Kremlin with a two-headed dog!” In addition to Roky’s tortured yelps the other element that gets me every time is the killer lead guitar playing of Duane ‘Bird’ Aslaksen, with his hottest licks heard flying over Roky & the rhythm section pounding away on “Cold Night for Alligators.” The last standout tracks are the two slow-burners “Night of the Vampire” and “Stand for the Fire Demon”, the end of the A & B-side respectively. In “Night of the Vampire” Roky warns, “The moon may be full, the moon may be white, All I know is you’ll feel his bite Tonight… is the Night of the Vampire” before the whole band joined now by eerie overdubbed organ leans into a macabre minor-key melody that would be at home as a foundational basso continuo progression in a Baroque Fantasia. The closing track in the 10 song first release of Roky Erickson & The Aliens’ 1980 self-titled album summons listeners to “Stand for the Fire Demon.” This final performance covers the widest range of dynamics, from subdued backup singers alternating ‘oh-ohs’ with Erickson’s lines delivered with the most controlled restraint,
“Stand for the fire demon Spirits say ‘boo’ and the paper bursts into fire, Stand for the fire demon wilder, wilder, wilder, wilder,”
through to full-on pounding electric bass & drums with waves of dual overdrive-saturated guitars crashing on top and Roky’s haunting screams riding above all as he commands,
“Stand for the fire demon Stand for the demon of fire Stand for the demon of fiiiiire!”
It is worthwhile to note that after numerous different versions were released over the years, in 2013 Light in the Attic Records released an edition of’ The Evil One’ with 2xLPs containing all 15 songs recorded by Roky & the Aliens during the 1977-79 sessions with Stu Cook and is worth obtaining if for no other reason than the inclusion of Roky’s chilling song “Bloody Hammer.” Roky died last May 2019 aged 71, his music as relevant now in these uncertain times as ever as we face a global pandemic that threatens to usher in untold evils, not to mention stands to spoil Record Store Day leaving vinyl stores empty with most folks fearfully self-quarantined at home. Looking back on the entirety of Roky’s life, his hardships and struggles in the end are unequivocally outweighed by his triumphs in music, early on with psychedelic rock and later Horror Rock and ultimately with his output finding renewed acceptance and culminating in Roky enjoying the most widespread success of his career with a commendable final effort he finished strong with performances at festivals and on tour both throughout the US and abroad.
https://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/unnamed-1-scaled.jpg20832560Ella Stormarkhttps://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Arnold-Boecklin-Vintage-Logo-Black-279x67.pngElla Stormark2020-03-23 10:49:042020-05-26 09:29:53Ramble On: An Ode to Roky – By Peter Hughes of Sons of Huns
13th of February 1970 something changed in music, and it was never the same again. With Rolling Stones and The Beatles having been topping the lists the previous decade, the music industry saw a shift in the late sixties; San Francisco had the summer of love, The Beatles dropped acid and went to India, Muddy Waters released Electric Mud, Hendrix set fire to his guitar and introduced wah-wah to the masses, and the New Yardbirds became Led Zeppelin. By 1970, change was in the air. In Birmingham something had been brewing for a while, with four local boys, Tony, Geezer, Ozzy and Bill, coming together to make music, hoping their band would take off enough to keep them out of the local factories. Little did they know about the adventure ahead…
Starting out as ‘The Polka Tulk Blues Band’, they changed their name to ‘Earth’, before eventually becoming ‘Black Sabbath’. Prior to this, Tony and Bill had been in Mythology together, and Geezer and Ozzy in Rare Breed. However, their current musical endeavour was unlike anything they’d done before.
With the release of their self-titled debut album on the 13th of February 1970, Black Sabbath blew minds and melted brains. The album’s opening track, also conveniently called ‘Black Sabbath’, kicks off with roaring thunder and church bells tolling, before Tony Iommi dives right into – the heaviest shit the world had ever seen, and a slowed down, doomy take on a part of Gustav Holst’s ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’ from The Planets. The album did not exactly receive critical acclaim, quite the contrary, but did definitely not go unnoticed; people were talking and a fan base was building, and just a mere seven months later, they followed it up with a second album worthy of it’s predecessor, the mighty ‘Paranoid’. Despite the radio refusing to play their music and critics still dismissing their sound, Black Sabbath was here to stay. Fast forward five decades later, they’ve sold more than 70 million records worldwide, with their impact of music being undeniable, making them one of the most influential heavy metal and doom bands of all time.
By the time I first heard Black Sabbath they’d already been around for decades with the likes of Dio, Cozy Powell, Glenn Hughes and Ian Gillian, to name a few, all swinging by the band, and I was already familiar with heavy music through the likes of Motörhead and Iron Maiden. Still, Black Sabbath was different to anything else I’d ever heard before, and I can’t even imagine having been accustomed to years of innocence in the form of ‘Yellow Submarine’ and The Mamas & The Papas, to then being hit by by a wall of sound in the form of Black Sabbath – what a time to be alive for such a moment in music!
When interviewing Orange artists we’re always interested to hear more about how they first came across us, whether it was seeing Orange amps played, or playing them themselves. The most common answer to this question, across a variety of genres, artists and generations is Black Sabbath’s Beat Club performance from 1970, blasting ‘Paranoid’ from a full Orange backline:
“You can watch Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ video where both Iommi and Geezer Butler are using Orange, so when I was given the opportunity to try it for myself I took it straight away – Orange always just had that ‘aura of the masters” – Andreas Kisser, Sepultura
Other artists mentioning Black Sabbath’s Beat Club performance includes Graveyard’s Truls Mörck, Giorgos from 1000 Mods and Thomas from Monolord. So, needless to say – Black Sabbath has been an inspiration for generations of artists and aspiring musicians, and hell, they’ve probably helped us sling an amp or two. So, Black Sabbath, Tony, Geezer, Ozzy, Bill and everyone else who swung by the band and kept their legacy alive, thank you, for everything you did for music, for everyone you inspired, and everyone you entertained.
https://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Black-Sabbath-1970.jpg7201080Ella Stormarkhttps://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Arnold-Boecklin-Vintage-Logo-Black-279x67.pngElla Stormark2020-02-23 09:00:002020-02-20 18:46:47Ramble On: 50 Years of Sabbath
I’m not gonna lie, I do tend to get, uhm, how do I word this, carried away, while on DJ duties. I’m pretty sure (convinced…) this is a quality that’s been passed down in the DNA from my Dad, as controlling the music tends to be a never ending battle between us. Of course, he wins, every time! He’s got 30 years on music history on yours truly – clearly a winner. Anyway, back to me. I’d say music is definitely my passion, and as I’m not player per se (meaning I only play for my cat), I’m an incredibly good listener – If listening to music is a skill, I consider myself highly skilled – I could listen for days, and whenever I get the privilege of DJ duties, whether it’s in public or in private, I take my job, very, very seriously.
Most times I’m good at it, great, even! But, there has been a few instances where I’ve misread a room completely, and when I say misread I mean really, really misread – which also is short for ignore, as I’ve just ignored what absolutely everyone else wanted to listen to so I could get my fix. My best example of this, is making my guests sit through an entire Motorpsycho album (it was a double….) when they were craving Pink Floyd. Probably not my finest moment, but oh well, what can I say – if you don’t like me at my “Motorpsycho at midnight”, you don’t deserve me at my “Prince at parties”, and on the subject of parties, I’m pretty good at them.
Next time I’ll be serving up a healthy dose of bangers and mash to the public is on the 14th of February at Jimi Hendrix’s old Brook Street flat, and let’s be honest, there’s not really any other guy I’d spend my Valentine’s day with, so it’s pretty perfect. With 22 days to go, I’ll be rummaging through my record collection like crazy, cradling and canoodling my precious gems, while trying to figure out who gets their five minutes of fame on holy ground. I’ve been a Hendrix fan for longer than I haven’t, and the fact that I get to spin my choice of records where he once lived, is kind of a pinch me sort of situation – would Jimi approve of my record collection, and agree with my selection?
For those of you who aren’t aware of the ‘Jimi’s old flat situation’ – during his time in London from 1968 to 1969, Jimi resided at 23 Brook Street, where funnily enough, composer Handel lived 200 years prior. In recent year, the property has been refurbished and opened to the public as a museum, paying homage to both Handel and Hendrix. Hendrix’s flat has been re-made by the help of Jimi’s then girlfriend Kathy Etchingham to pretty much exactly how it was during his stay there, allowing you to step back in time and get an actual insight of how Hendrix lived, trippy time travel!
14th of February marks the four year anniversary of the opening of the flat, and it’s celebrated with one of their ‘Friday Late’ events, which is a regular thing – meaning you can actually attend a house party at Hendrix’s house – what?! When discovering Hendrix at 14, I never thought in a million years that I’d ever be able to set foot in his house, let alone be invited to share some of my own favourite music with fellow Hendrix fans, and I truly feel honoured to have been asked to do so. 23 Brook Street is an important part of music history, and well worth a visit if ever in London, as part of one’s psychedelic pilgrimage.
https://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/image3.jpeg10671600Ella Stormarkhttps://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Arnold-Boecklin-Vintage-Logo-Black-279x67.pngElla Stormark2020-01-23 19:11:002020-01-23 19:12:57Ramble On: Spinning Records Where Jimi Jammed
As the year is coming to an end, it’s time to reflect on my musical highlights of 2019, before venturing on into the next decade; the twenties – how did we get here so soon?! Musically speaking, 2019’s been good to me, great, even! I’ve attended more gigs than I can even remember, and despite having been doing this work for years now, I’ve at times had to pinch myself in excitement about all these opportunities I’ve been given, and I just wish I could go back in time and tell my 15 year old self.
In 2019, we unfortunately lost the good Dr. John, but were also blessed with the news of the return of Rage, and with where the western world is heading now politically, we need them now more than ever. Preferably in the UK – perhaps in Hyde Park, please? Rage Against the Machine is the final band on my bucket list and I would pretty much walk through fire to be able to attend one of their shows, although I’m hoping I wont have to go to such extreme lengths. Anyway, as I’m bracing myself for the next decade, it’s time to get nostalgic about all the good times I’ve had this year.
Favourite Gig of 2019 This is such a tough one as I’ve seen so many incredible acts this year, however, taking my friend Holly to have her Sleep cherry popped at the Kentish Town Forum in October was pretty awesome – you just can’t beat a shirtless Matt Pike.
Favourite Album of 2019 My mates in Sacri Monti released their second album ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’ and it’s just fantastic, a beautiful mix of the current San Diego psych sound, mixed with elements of 70s prog and twin guitars along the likes of Wishbone Ash. I love it, and so does my dad, which, let’s be honest, is the ultimate seal of approval. Dads know their stuff.
Favourite Festival Experience of 2019 I’ve enjoyed every single festival I’ve been to this year, but as the majority of them were for work (Desertfest London, Download & Black Deer Festival), I have to say the one that allowed me to kick back and relax, and more importantly, turn off my phone: Portugal’s Sonic Blast Moledo – from being drenched to the bone watching Earthless in the torrential rain, to be poolside for Giöbia while drinking Super Bock in the sun while surrounded by some of my best friends, it’s a pretty hard one to beat.
Favourite non-musical Music Event of 2019 I’m a sucker for a music exhibition and cried my way through both the Bowie and Pink Floyd exhibits in London a couple of years back, so of course – when Home of Metal announced their ’50 years of Black Sabbath’ exhibition I was hell bound on a train. A day out spent in Birmingham educating myself on the purveyors of doom – I had a blast.
Favourite Song of 2019 Hardly a new song, but Neil Merryweather’s cover of Donovan’s ‘Sunshine Superman’ is my most played song of 2019, which came as no surprise at all. Who doesn’t love some funky rock ‘n’ roll you can dance to? You can view and listen to my full Top 100 here.
With that done and dusted, I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who’s read and commented in 2019, and I look forward to sharing more musical musings with you all in the new year. Happy holidaze!
https://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/IMG_0124.jpg20483091Ella Stormarkhttps://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Arnold-Boecklin-Vintage-Logo-Black-279x67.pngElla Stormark2019-12-23 08:48:222020-04-06 09:17:30Ramble On: My Musical Highlights of 2019
A couple of weeks ago I was watching Sleep in London, or to be more specific, staring down a shirtless Matt Pike at the Kentish Town Forum. Of course, there’s plenty of shit-hot guitarists out there, but Pike’s something else, he’s like some larger than life icon, like the Godzilla of metal and doom – guys, have you got any idea how many amps we’ve sold because of this guy? I mean, I don’t actually have any legit numbers on hand as numbers ain’t my forte, but it’ll be tons, guaranteed – Matt Pike, and Black Sabbath using Orange in the ‘Paranoid’ video pretty much opened the doors for Orange to the world of stoner and doom – so thanks guys, for paying my bills. Anyway, back to topic.
Let’s rewind back a bit to the early 90s, 1992, to be specific. While Brit-pop was very much a reality in the UK, something way heavier was going down across the Atlantic as a baby Matt Pike at the tender age of 21 released Sleep’s iconic ‘Holy Mountain’ alongside bassist and singer Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius. One can only imagine the Earache rep’s reaction receiving the demos and ‘Dragonaut’ blasting out the speakers, Tony Iommi’s legacy embodied by the next generation!
With the release of ‘Holy Mountain’, Sleep became one of the earliest stoner rock connoisseurs, and pretty much created the genre alongside Kyuss. Following the successful release of ‘Holy Mountain’, the band ventured further underground and away from the mainstream, as they followed it up with the hour long track titled ‘Dopesmoker’ or ‘Jerusalem’. Unfortunately, Sleep didn’t last for long after that, and went their separate ways. However, if music’s what you do, a hiatus is gonna kill ya, so Matt Pike returned not long after, this time with High on Fire, where he, after a few hits and misses with various band members ended up on vocal duties as well as guitar.
In recent years, Pike’s been busy with both bands as Sleep returned with the spectacular The Sciences, which was conveniently released, in secret, I might add, on the 20th of April 2018 via Third Man Records – of course it had to be a 420 release! Now, this is one of those albums I remember exactly where I was when I heard about it, sat at some far too swanky (but amazing…) hotel in Tilburg getting ready for Roadburn Festival when all of a sudden my Instagram feed was filled with the surprise record, and I knew there and then that my instinct to haul my Bose speaker from grimy London to sweet, sweet Holland wasn’t for granted; I found the album and shut my girlfriends up and made them listen, and lo and behold – Sleep was back, as if they never left. Opening and title track ‘The Sciences’ builds up for a solid three minutes, before all hell breaks loose with ‘Marijuanaut’s Theme’, which I must just say is Sleep at it’s finest.
The following month I had my first ever on camera interview lined up with no one else than Matt Pike at London’s Desertfest, and this fantastic new release peaked my fear and excitement even more – I struggle at times to transcribe interviews I’ve conducted due to the sound of my own voice recorded, so adding my face into the mix with a camera monitoring my every movement caused for some sleepless nights, and I had about five of them before I eventually dragged my wreck of an anxious self to Electric Ballroom to conduct my biggest interview to date, and you know, without the exception of looking slightly out of place (who wouldn’t? It’s the ‘Matt Pike Effect’!), I didn’t fuck up! Plus, the positive comments I received after were just so enocoura… Ahhh, in a perfect world, eh? People love talking shit online, and here’s one of my personal favourites from the Youtube comments:
Classic comment section BANTER. It took every inch of self-restraint in my six foot tall Viking-self not to fire back at cool guy numero uno ‘MasterBait’ for questioning my Motörhead knowledge, but as I’m not a certified keyboard warrior myself I let it pass. For the record, it’s ‘Stay Clean’ – why? Cause of Lemmy’s sexy solo, duh, although the entire ‘Overkill’ record is a masterpiece on it’s own.
More than a year has passed since the interview, and in that time Pike’s released ‘Electric Messiah’ with ‘High on Fire’ who also won a Grammy award for ‘Best Metal Performance’ earlier this year, and he’s chopped off half his toe of due to diabetes, which is pretty god damn rock ’n’ roll on it’s own. While he’s been busy touring excessively with both bands after their latest releases, I do wonder what he’ll bring us next. Living in a time where the original rock stars are fading, I am thrilled about Matt Pike’s existence and continued contribution to music.
https://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Matt-Pike-High-on-Fire-at-Desertfest-London-by-Ella-Stormark-II.jpg10801650Ella Stormarkhttps://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Arnold-Boecklin-Vintage-Logo-Black-279x67.pngElla Stormark2019-10-23 09:00:362019-10-23 18:03:43Ramble On: The Matt Pike Effect
First of all, let me start by saying that I’ve sat down to write this article three times now, the first two times getting too stoned (sorry Mum & Dad, I did it for the art!) to do anything but eat fistfuls of granola and play with my cat while listening to Santana’s Woodstock set on repeat. This time, my mind is clear – fuelled by coffee to the point of explosion, the western way. Now, let’s get to it.
If there’s one historical event in music I would have loved to be a part of it’s Woodstock, three days of peace, love and music – although the reality of it would probably be getting lost in a crowd of half a million people in a time before phones, while tripping balls on acid – which would be either fantastic or incredibly stressful – it’s a double-edged sword, rabbit-hole roulette.
Either way, there’s no denying the mark it made in music history, and even with all political views aside, that spectacular line up is worthy of headlines on it’s own: Hendrix, Creedence, Santana, Ten Years After, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Johnny Winter, Sly and the Family Stone, Ravi Shankar, Canned Heat, Grateful Dead, Mountain, Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – I mean are you fucking for real…? Last week marked the 50 year anniversary of the festival, which is why it’s been on mine, and oh-so many other people’s minds.
Being born about 40 years too late to attend and experience the festival in it’s messy and beautiful glory, I’ve done my best in the past couple of weeks to live out the Woodstock experience as well as I could fifty years down the line; I spent three days at Sonic Blast Festival in Portugal with a group of friends, dancing in the apocalyptic rain to Earthless at midnight, before partying at Jimi Hendrix’s London flat during the Woodstock weekend anniversary, drinking his favourite rosé which was handed out for free. Needless to say I felt like an absolute piece of shit the next day as we obviously managed to get our hands on more than the allocated bottle per person.
Anyway, I’m rambling, back to the festival.
Woodstock happened at a crucial moment in time; The Vietnam war was raging and brothers and sisters dying, Martin Luther King Jr had been tragically killed a year before and people were fighting for equality, whether it be due to gender, race or sexual orientation. Then all of a sudden, an angel of a farmer under the name of Max Yasgur kindly leased one of his farm fields to the festival promoters, which then attracted nearly half a million people who celebrating peace, love and music. The festival, did not go down well with the locals, fearing what these scruffy looking longhaired youngsters would get up to in their town. Luckily, Max Yasgur came to their defence:
“I hear you are considering changing the zoning law to prevent the festival. I hear you don’t like the look of the kids who are working at the site. I hear you don’t like their lifestyle. I hear you don’t like they are against the war and that they say so very loudly. . . I don’t particularly like the looks of some of those kids either. I don’t particularly like their lifestyle, especially the drugs and free love. And I don’t like what some of them are saying about our government. However, if I know my American history, tens of thousands of Americans in uniform gave their lives in war after war just so those kids would have the freedom to do exactly what they are doing. That’s what this country is all about and I am not going to let you throw them out of our town just because you don’t like their dress or their hair or the way they live or what they believe. This is America and they are going to have their festival.” Max Yasgur to the Bethel town board.
If you take away the musicians actually performing and only focus on the logistics of it all, Woodstock wasn’t far from being the Fyre Festival of 1969; they had initially pre-sold 100 000 tickets to the festival, but as attendees started to show up, fences weren’t ready and the amount of people were so high that they were unable to stop the massive stream of hippies pouring into the area – hadn’t it been for traffic being so bad, they estimated numbers would have been higher. With nearly half a million attendees, they were also running severely low on everything; food, water, medical supplies, you name it. Still, despite the sporadic rain, lack of, well, everything, protests from the locals and just general chaos of it all, Woodstock was a peaceful celebration uniting hundreds of thousands of people through to their love of music and acceptance. Today, we might just need a Woodstock more than ever, the rainforest is on fire, and the world is ruled by mad men – we all definitely need to take the edge off a little bit.
After a mere four years of working freelance for Orange I decided it was time for me to make an attempt of getting one step further, to second base, you might say. ‘Can I pretty please have a column where I write about everything music related, and give it a cool Lester Bangs sorta name?’ I was holding my breath waiting impatiently for the reply; ‘Let’s give it a go.’ Shit, so I’m doing this – a column where I share my thoughts on whatever, but what do I call it?! Then all of a sudden, there it was, clear as day; ‘Ramble On’ – it’s perfect! I landed on this name as I, well, talk a lot, and the Zeppelin song is an absolute banger.
Growing up I knew Led Zeppelin from my dad’s record collection, to me they were one of those epic bands from way back when, when rock ‘n’ roll was still new, and giants walked the earth – there was no one like them, except maybe Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd. All three giants from lost times that helped shape music the way it is today. I never dreamt in a million years that I’d ever get the chance to catch any of them live, well, Zeppelin for obvious reasons, that ship tragically sailed and sunk on the 25th of September 1980 with the passing of John Bonham.
However, I’ve managed to see Robert Plant twice, first with Alison Krauss in 2008, then second at the iTunes festival at Roundhouse in 2014. My heart skipped a beat both times as I cried myself through ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ – how could I be hearing these songs played live? I’ve also seen another quarter of Zeppelin in the flesh with John Paul Jones playing with Seasick Steve, where he played a variety of instruments alongside bass, some of which I’d never seen before and to this day am still unaware of what were. Obscure to say the least!
I’ve somehow also managed to catch Black Sabbath twice before it all ended (although not with Bill Ward, gutted!) – first time in 2014 with Motörhead (which again for me was a major childhood dream come true!) and Soundgarden supporting, not knowing the importance of what I was witnessing and the end of two eras to come as both Lemmy and Chris Cornell, two such massive figures within their own genres, passed away within the next couple of years.
Last summer I also got to see Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, my Virgo birthday brother from another mother; I’d been obsessing over Waters since watching his ‘In the Flesh’ DVD at 13, and being gifted Floyd’s ‘Wish you Were Here’ for Christmas that same year. Fast forward a few years to finding ‘Live at Pompeii’ and the damage was done, hell, you don’t get that stuff these days. The stuff they use to have, do, well, we probably don’t get that these days either… Anyway, I’m loosing track as I often do, hence the name ‘Ramble On’ (works well, huh?), which brings me to my next point of the fact that I have yet to see Jimmy Page perform; the ultimate guitarist, and the final boss of rock ’n’ roll legacy. Maybe just break out that Earls Court dragon suit one last time…?!
Despite being fortunate enough to have caught these incredible artists decades after it all begun, I can’t help but speculating and dreaming about how it would have been to see them in the glory of their heyday, when Black Sabbath spent more money on coke than recording, Pink Floyd exploring psychedelics and visuals at the UFO club, and Led Zeppelin melting minds with four day long versions of ‘Dazed and Confused’ while taking on the title as ‘the greatest band in the world’. Until time travel’s invented I’ll just watch ‘The Song Remains the Same’ religiously instead, and ramble on.