Quicksilver Spirit

It’s easy to think groups like King Crimson, ELP ‘invented’ progrock forgetting about the California explosion in the late 60’s. I am talking about two bands in particular: Quicksilver Messenger Service & Spirit. Adventurous, challenging & timeless. Though at the time I didn’t see them as ground breaking merely as interesting & psychedelic. I have two mp3 cd collections that pair them.

By Quicksilver Messenger Service I have: Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968), Happy Trails (1969), Shady Grove (1969), Just For Love (1970), What About Me (1970), Maiden Of The Cancer Moon (Live 1983). The first two & the Live ‘Moon’ reflect the more experimental side of the group with extended explorations that transcend standard pop into a sonic avant gard. On the other three lps they have added keyboard genius Nicky Hopkins to the group & the songs become more pop oriented with a more ELP sound. Some great moments but not as adventurous in the same way.

Quicksilver were progressive in an experimental way while Spirit went in a jazzier direction that influenced groups like Weather Report. Here I have Spirit(1968), The Family That Plays Together (1968), Clear (1969), Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970), Feedback (1972). There is a definite change as the band matures. I loved the first two lps with amazing production work & jazz-rock instrumentals. One of the few non-folky bands at the time with a strong ecological message ‘Uncle Garbage.’ They even managed some radio friendly hits.

To round out this look at the psychedelic sound I’ve included the much more radio friendly Jefferson Airplane’s Live At The Fillmore East 1968 (released 1998 – just after After Bathing at Baxter’s was released this a great live lp. Finally the Electric Flag’s A Long Time Comin’ (1968) grounded by Mike Bloomfield’s guitar this was an ambitious mix of soul, blues, rock & horns. Not radio friendly though & over shadowed by Bloomfield’s work on Super Session.  

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I Love My Shirts

A few months ago I watched a British series ‘ Stitch In Time’ in which the fashion historian host, with her team of specialists, replicates clothing worn in famous oil paintings – giving us a context for the painting & the fabrics used etc. Sometimes they went to an archive that had actual clothing made in the period in question. It led me to think of the oldest clothing I now owned.

My mother was a seamstress, making clothes for herself & my sisters most of the time. She wasn’t fond of the construction of collars or putting in button holes but I did get her to make me a few shirts. On my semi-regular trips from Sydney to Halifax I would buy albums & fabric. The stores in Sydney didn’t carry ‘fun’ prints & as far as I remember, there were stores dedicated to fabric just departments at Zellers etc. I found these at a sort of Fabricland in Halifax.

I had two of the movie star shirts. This one in blue with the brown insert & one in brown with blue insert – both in this sort of western style. I made sure it had the Frankenstein monster pocket. The fabric is a heavy cotton, almost denim. I loved wearing these because of the campiness of the print & because they echoed my job – I worked at the Famous Player theatres in Sydney. This one still fits me, if I don’t button it up, but the thread is ‘delicate’ with age.

The dashiki style with the racing cars still amazes me. I love this kids pj print, though it is cotton not flannel. I also had another with a cowboys & stallions print but has been lost to time. My mother liked this pattern because it had no collar or buttons to bother with. I’ve kept my eye open on visits to Fabricland or something similar without success. Truly vintage I guess. this one doesn’t fit & the fabric itself is now delicate with age.

The tie is made from another of my Halifax fabric finds. Another cotton print that I may might have had a dashiki made of too. I have worn this tie a few times to perform at poetry readings. My mother wasn’t too sure of the construction of ties so it lacks the interlining fabric that keeps the tie in shape so it never really knotted properly so it proved not to be practical for tying someone to the bed 😦

In Sydney at this time men weren’t wearing prints expect plaids. Shirts were nondescript in mild colours. Mine were attention getters. I see now how these print choices were a part of my coming out at the time with their tres gay sensibility.

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Richard and Maria

In my classical collection I have a few stand-alone cds of Richard Wagner (1813-83). I am by no means a fan of German opera. I have seen pieces of his operas on DVD but well my only real knowledge is from Bugs Bunny. One of the cds is a sort of orchestral hits: overtures & preludes from the operas. 

The other is an lp to cd transfer of Glenn Gould’s piano transcriptions of things like Love-Death, The Siegfried Idyll. This is luscious romantic & well worth adding to your classical collection, if you don’t have it already. My partner has all the operas on DVD & CD so I’m saving them to appreciate in my old age.

Next to Wagner is another German composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) who is also noted for his operas, none of which I have in my collection or have knowingly heard. Wiki tells me he was a major influence on Wagner. In my collection I have three stand alone cds. Two are lp to cd transfers one of the opera overtures; the other are of individual concertos for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn. Third is of Symphonies 1 & 2 with suites for him operas. Unlike Wagner, Weber actually wrote more than opera.

The music is romantic without being overwrought – no one would confuse Weber with Beethoven 🙂 I certainly enjoy them when they come in rotation to be played but I don’t feel the urge to play them otherwise, unlike Beethoven whose works I go back to frequently. 



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A Nod To The Numb

A Nod To The Numb

in the club

the music was so loud

it nodded your head for you

it was like walking into

a room of parrots

each head bobbing

<>

men moved

from perch to perch

eyes dart for eyes to lock on to

conversation was nearly impossible

to shout

made what was said

sound either angry

or desperate

<>

with every nod of the head

it was hard to tell

what the response was 

meant to signal

yeah let’s go

or get lost

<>

I left the cage

unsatisfied

by any of these

nodding acquaintances

Yes this is based on real experience. One that I repeated more times than I care to recall. I know many gay men went though, & still go through, this conundrum though the venue has pretty much changed from the club to the internet. I know of men who get trapped in the endless scroll & hunt through apps in search for the elusive.

Businesses built on hope will fail if they fulfill that hope. As long as customers hope to get lucky they stick around & drink. The sooner they get lucky the sooner they leave. I can remember going out to my favourite – no not favourite but – well I’m not sure what to call the gay dance club I frequented the most often – getting dressed, picking the right jeans, t-shirt. Juggling the right time to arrive & leaving sweaty from dance & reeking of smoke in the morning. On line one does have some control over the music & how loud it is.

At least on line there is no last call rush to connect 🙂 Usually no icky slippery bathroom floors either. Pictures on line often represent the profile one clicks on, but just as often they are photoshop fantasy or ten years old or etc. Even in person one may not being getting what one sees. Bar lighting is designed to hide not accentuate. There is also the distortion of booze goggles. lol.

Starting next Wednesday & for the next several weeks I’ll be giving the Monks a rest. I’ll be doing a series of Summer Reflections in which I ponder some of the shallower mysteries of life.


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Sweet Suzi Pia Mamie Ginger

I loved glam-rock’s Suzi Quatro when I first heard 49 Crash on the radio. I dug her tough girl look & her edgy sexual energy. I have by Suzi: Suzi Quatro (1973) Who is she singing ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ to? Her girlfriend? Quatro: 1974) her self-penned Klondyke Kate might answer that question.; Mama Won’t Like Me (1975); Aggro Phobia (1976) that includes an excellent Heartbreak Hotel; Suzi … and Other Four Letter Words (1979).

Her sound moved gradually from glam-rock to hard rock. The lps are a mix of original songs written with Len Tucky, covers & pure pop bliss by songwriters & producers Mike Chapman & Nicky Chinn i.e. 48 Crash. I had all these at vinyl at one time. The later work is ‘softer’ & more diverse in sound. Although she has a rocker persona she was never a tough or as direct as Chrissie Hynde.

Another band that profited from Chapman & Chinn is The Sweet: Desolation Boulevard (1974) with hit song “Ballroom Blitz.” A dynamic collection of radio friendly pop perfect for the times. Chapman & Chinn are that era’s George Martin producing hits for many British groups. Like the later hit producer Trevor Horn you knew when you were hearing a Chapman & Chinn production.

Mamie Van Doren was a low-rent Jayne Mansfield (who in turn was a low rent Marilyn Monroe). She starred in many drive-in exploitation films. Here I  The Girl Who Invented Rock & Roll (1997): a great compilation of famous fun including the juicy ‘The Beat Generation.’ I also have the Dean Elliot soundtrack for College Confidential (1959) – one of Mamie’s movies that is a searing look at college life with songs 🙂

It only seemed right to include Pia Zadora’s I Am What I Am (1986). This lp was much better than I expected. Pia can actually sing & could have been a Lady Gaga with the right dance music producer & could also do a great duet lp with Tony Bennett. I suspect she was too comfortable to stretch beyond a tasteful choice of material Finally something on the ‘what the fuck’ side of pop, Ginger Baker’s Airforce 2 (1970) includes his take on  Cream’s Sweet Wine. I put it here because of the sweetly off-kilter female vocalist on all the cuts. Baker is a powerhouse drummer & used his fame from Cream to produce some intriguing lps of world music. Intriguing but the critics found them puzzling & not nearly as rock as Cream & thus were disappointed. But you know I rather enjoy the Airforce’s rather shambling production & horns. 

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All Due Respect

All Due Respect

when listening

one must not move the head

particularly 

to show agreement or disagreement

to do is 

infringing on the speaker’s right

to be heard without judgement

to acknowledge in any way

is condescending

either seeking or offering

approval from the speaker

<>

they need no approval

they do not speak

for your approval

merely to be heard

it is important

to keep one’s head as still as possible

so as not to distract

the speaker 

or the other listeners

<>

do not violate

invalidate

their emotional space

by any expression at all

give them the dignity 

of privacy

<>

if you understand this

stop breathing

In many recovery meetings ‘crosstalk’ is discouraged to give people the opportunity to share without interruption of direct commentary or advice. For the most part it is a good practice as some people clam up if interrupted before they finish a sentence. In workshop setting this rule is often stated too. It makes, I hope, listeners listen rather than thinking of responses to what they are hearing.

I’ve ended a couple of friendships because the person was so eager to jump in that I didn’t get to finish what I was saying. I don’t repeat back what I’ve just heard either to prove to the other person I have been hanging on their every word. I remember once being asked ‘Are you listening to me?’ To which I replied ‘No more than you are listening to yourself.’

But it is impossible to get our faces to shut up. Investigators are trained to read our unconscious facial expressions. They are almost as good as gay men who can tell at a glance if you are interested in them or can convey their interest, or lack of it, with a simple lift of an eyebrow. Non-verbal communication becomes second nature & takes a real effort to control. Poker face anyone?

I also remember an Asian martial art action film star being interviewed & the interviewer saying how much they loved the actor’s voice. The actor laughed saying ‘That’s not my voice! You love the voice actor who dubbed me.” 

When I tune into zoom meetings I adjust the feed so my camera is off & I’m getting audio only so that I’m not distracted by faces, pets, background activity. The others don’t get to invade my personal space. I only need to hear what is said, something I often wish I could do in ‘real’ life. 


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Toronto Stumped

These stump pictures cover a span of about ten years. Some were after storms had brought these trees down, others of tree cut due to being rotten at the core (like some of us lol) – others I suspect were removed to improve the view.

rotten to the core

guess my age
gone to pieces
after a wind storm
vintage?
peas out of the pod
trunks
cut down in the prime of life 😦
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Hola Flora e amigos

I have two mp3 cd collections of Latino music anchored by Flora Purim – a diverse mix of Spanish & Portuguese musicians, of vintage & modern artists.

By Flora Purim (Brazil) I have Butterfly Dreams (1973), Stories To Tell (1974), Open Your Eyes You Can Fly (1976),Everyday Everynight (1978), Sings Milton Nascimento (2000). (elsewhere I have her work with Chick Corea, & Airto Moreira)

I first heard her with Chick Corea. Chick is one of the lollards of jazz-rock & also a jazz piano god. As a result her first few lps have a strong feel for jazz-rock but in a much more Latino direction. She a clear soaring voice that is comfortable with adult pop, avant guard experimental, folk & jazz. Check out Dr. Jive on YouTube – it is an amazing rush of energy & merges her sensibilities in an almost psychedelic explosion. I love all these lps.   

Flora didn’t appear in a void though, she was preceded in the 50’s by Yma Sumac, a Peruvian-American coloratura soprano with a range of over four and a half octaves. I have her Mambo! (1954) , Legend of the Sun Virgin (1952), Voices of the Xtabay (1950). The queen of exotica she picked up where Carmen Miranda left off with a series of amazing, authentic recordings that haven’t been bettered. The original cover art alone on these is amazing. Grab a hits collection.

Sergio Mendes Brazil’66 brought an interesting spin on Latino music by interpreting current pop songs as sambas etc. I have Fool on The Hill (1968), Four Sider (1972). They mix Brazilian standards as well thus exposing us try their native sounds as well. A bit middle-of-the-road – an easier to take version of Flora Purim lol.

If you want to step even deeper try Sivuca (Brazil): Sivuca (1978), Quinteto Ulrapuru (2010) – I had his 78 lp on vinyl on the east coast & loved it – playful, romantic street/folk music. the 2010 lp is mature & verges of modern classical. Hermeto Pascol’s (Brazil): Eu e Eles (1999) Is a fun, quirky work – he plays in the studio with sound effects & almost silly vocal styles: words gargled with water. 

Violeta Parra (Chile) (1917-1967): Las ultimas composiciones, is best known for ‘Gracias a la Vida’ which is given an amazing recording by Mercedes Sosa. Parra is a folkie solo singer – a sweet voice, an acoustic guitar with songs of political protest, love & hope. Obscure, mind you. She reminds me of the 60’s coffee house scene.

Mane Silvera & Swami Jr.- Ima: with Silvera on sax, Jr. on acoustic guitar. I borrow this cd from the library, made a cassette copy & then downloaded the mp3 – I love love love this jazz duo – playful, lyrical & one of my favourites. Who could resist a musician named Swami Jr? I love the playing of both these  musicians & have more by each elsewhere in my collection. This is a must have.  

Jon Hendricks’s Salud! Joao Gilberto (1963) is a pleasant exploration of Gilberto that was ahead of its time. Easy listening takes on classic songs by one of America’s foremost male jazz singers.

In this collection are couple of Spanish lps as well. Antologia Del Tango Argentino – a collection of archival tangos – yes there was a major recording industry outside of the USA. Finally a dip into more recent sounds with Orishas (Cuban hip hop): Emigrante (2002), El Kilo (2005). Energetic, passionate & full of samples of Cuban big band & jazz. Remarkable modern music.

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Small

Small

I am small in public

I try to take up as little space as possible

my stiff arms are held

as close to my body 

as my muscles can make them

I do not brush up against anyone

I don’t look them in the eye

I sit were I am out of the way

I make room for others

others whose right to the air I breath

is greater than mine

I am infringing

on the need of more valuable people

to take up all the space

they deserve

I shun attention

<>

I am large in private

I dance around the room

I sprawl on chairs

spread my legs wide

take up as much space as I can

I breath

I laugh out loud

I don’t watch where I’m going

my shoulders brush the wall

I can make contact with anything

in private I am free

in public I am caged

The endless rules for Buddhist monks cover in detail nearly every aspect of their lives & many merely refine the previous one. But we humans have our own set of unwritten rules of behaviour that are more cultural conditioning than anything else. 

All of these rule poems were written pre-covid & some of them seem prescient about social distancing, masking in public – cages to control behaviour, that even as restrictions are lifted, some people are happy to maintain. I, for one, often felt that restaurant tables were mashed in too tight – so tight I sometime knocked over drinks on one table while squeezing into the next one. In some situations one can’t make themselves small enough. Don’t stand next to me, or if you, don’t breathe.

It’s also about the ‘mask’ we often wear. Being nice to people who we can’t stand, demeaning bosses, manipulative romantic partners, attention & energy vampire who count on us maintaining some mask polite behaviour that becomes approval of their actions. To speak up becomes being ‘a wet-blanket’ ‘not sense of humour’ ‘don’t be so judgemental’ or ‘like or lump it.’

Social conventions are cages to protect us from each other, I suppose, & like clothing, they hide our private thoughts from the world.


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