R.I.P. RICHARD MASON
Remembering his mad love of music through e-mail's
Compiled by Jason Gross
After Ed Ward died, I swore I was done writing obit for writers I admired but I have to make an exception for Richard Mason. The UK writer/musician was one of the earliest people I worked with here at PSF and just as importantly, he was a high quality scribe who was always interesting, entertaining, in your face, funny and fearless about his work.
The other thing I loved about Richard was that his emails were written the way that people once wrote letters- full of details, confessions, questions, ideas and rants. I treasured these and always looked forward to them and he never disappointed. He would occasionally drop off the radar for a few years and then come back apologetically and our lengthy correspondences would be begin again.
This went on for about 20 years until I stopped hearing from him again recently, hoping and expecting that I'd get another email to say hello, hear what he'd been up to and what he wanted to work on. Sad to say, I hear from a friend and bandmate of his, Angus Stevenson, that Richard was gone. Angus was kind enough to write a farewell to Richard and ask a few other friends/bandmates to say something.
Along with what I've said here, I'd like to share some of the correspondence with Richard (there were dozens of emails to read through) to show who he was and why all of us who know him will miss him. You'll see endless top 10 lists, his ideas for articles, frustrations about his work, his most favorite and least favorite music, rants about politics, correspondence with fellow PSF writer (and record store, label head) Dave Lang and more.
Thanks for everything Richard. Hope to have a pint with you when we meet up again someday in the great beyond and argue about music all over again.
NOTE: I left in the misspellings and grammatical errors not to embarrass him but to give an honest account of his voice and writing style in pure form. Sad to say, my old mail program ate the endings of some of his early emails, which I noted below- oddly enough, I think some of the elliptical thoughts that came out that way sound appropriate for a bloke who had so much to say and was on a quest to write endlessly, one way or another. Huge thanks to Angus for culling the pictures of Richard here.
(1st e-mail from him. Responding to the question on our website, 'which artists would you like to see covered in PSF?')
The artist I'd most like to see covered is Elton John....covered in honey, staked out in the desert & left for the ants, that is....as far as articles &c. go, these'd be welcomed by me: Otis Rush,Ghost(the Japanese group),Yoko Ono,John's Children,Joe Tex,Joe Meek,Herbie Nichols,Dave Dee,Dozy,Beaky,Mick & Tich,The Legendary Stardust Cowboy,Pussy
(Mail cut off here...)
(included at the end of a lengthy email)
Anyway, thought I'd conclude by giving you my top 10 singles too!
The Pretty Things/Defecting Grey
The Who/I Can See For Miles
The Desperate Bicycles/The Medium WasTedium
Jimmy Ruffin/What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted
The Kinks/You Really Got Me
John's Children/A Midsummer Night's Scene
Bo Diddley/Who Do You Love
(Mail cut off here...)
I thought I gave you a Top 10 LPs list.
Mine change all the time tho', so I'll give you another:
Albert Ayler/Swing Low Sweet Spiritual
The Who/Sell Out
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band (that'd be in there regardless)
The Pink Fairies/Never Never Land (first LP I ever bought)
Charlie Parker/Bird At St. Nicks
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich/(yep, you guessed it)
If Music Be The Food Of Love....Prepare For Indigestion
The Pretty Things
(Mail cut off here...)
Subject: Season's Greetings
Just a quick one to say have the obligatory cool Yule (Doug or Billy, I care not) & all the beast for 1998. I am still working on stuff (it says here) including the piece on "Slates" by The Fall, a Blue Cheer thang & have other thoughts in a pipeline (whatever that may mean - nothing to do with the Chantays, though) so hopefully will be making a real 7 lasting contribution to the ol' PSF afore too long. For my part, I intend to spend the, er, festive season catching up on STUFF & repeatedly playing at max vol the ONLY truly great Xmas recording ever, namely "Don't Believe In Xmas" by the inimitable Sonics. I would humbly suggest you do the same & if it isn't loud enough then buy another copy & a tin box to play it on & up the ante even more.
top 10 for 1997
SCOTT WALKER/Tilt (CD)
THE OUTSIDERS/CQ (CD)
VARIOUS ARTISTS/Digging For Gold 1 & 2 (LP/ CD)
THE ELECTRIC PRUNES/Stockholm '67 (LP/CD)
THE OXFORD CIRCLE/Live At The Avalon Ballroom (CD)
RANDY NEWMAN/Soundtrack to TOY STORY (VHS Video)
FAUST/You Know Fa(us)t (CD)
THE POETS/In Your Tower (CD)
THE ZOMBIES/Zombie Heaven (3CDs)
THE TELETUBBIES/Teletubbies Say Eh-Oh (CD single)
Some time in 1997
top 10 all time
Big Star/Sister Lovers
Captain Beefheart/Safe As Milk
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band
The Pretty Things/S.F. Sorrow
Sly & The Family Stone/There's A Riot Goin' On
The Pink Floyd/The Piper at The Gates Of Dawn
The Stooges/Fun House
Jimi Hendrix/Electric Ladyland
Subject: More tedium
MENTIONED IN DISPATCHES
"You ain't no punk, you punk
You wanna talk about the real junk"
How to follow the mighty Subway Sect, I hear you ask? Well, one easy way out of this knotty problem might be to list all those groups who don't make it onto these hallowed pages for one reason or another and explain in words of less than one syllable why. Not real punks. Not from the U.K. Not relevant to this line of enquiry. Not known at this address. You know the sort of thing. Here goes!
Do me a favour; about as punk as Les Baxter! And yes, I know they were there at the time, just like the Feelgoods and Ian Dury & all the other pub rockers, but, unlike said characters, did they really have any influence on anyone until the late '70s Mod revival, let alone punk rock? No, they jolly well didn't. Anyway, there's plenty of perfectly respectable (or so I've been led to believe) stuff been written on them, so, if you're so minded, toddle off & read that & leave us to our febrile musings. Much obliged to you!
'Ditto' is the word we desparately grasp for here. Do you remember that spiffing part-time bluegrass group ol' Granpa Jerry Garcia, late of this parish, used to have? Thought not. You'd not be entirely familiar with the fact that they were called Old & In The Way then, would you? In which case my attempt to link this singular fact with an unflattering description of the outfit formerly known as The Guildford Stranglers would fall flatter than the most orthodox pancake, would it not? Nonetheless, a point has, I feel, been made. Any road, they who would try to rip off the mighty Seeds must bear the consequences. Next!
Different kettle of fish altogether. Absolutely seminal punk rock. The first two LPs constitute some of the finest work done in this field. No frills, no filler, no gimmicks, just straight ahead attitude, attack, songwriting and playing skills - the fine line between respect for the terminally unfashionable concept of 'rock'n'roll' (this is before The Clash decided rock'n'roll was okay again) and rejection of the majority of what surrounded them was never more adroitly negotiated, not by the Damned, the Pistols, not by nobody. As regards their exclusion from this piece, I regret this more than I can say; nevertheless, it says 'UK punk' in the title. The Saints hailed from Brisbane, Australia. Case closed. Rest assured they will be considered at length in a future piece and given the due they undoubtedly merit. Depend on it.
THE FALL/SWELL MAPS/THIS HEAT/THE ONLY ONES/XTC & doubtless countless others I'm too lazy to mention.......
Not punk rock. Just about all the above formed some way before 1977 in some form or other and undoubtedly got their break as a result of the climate of the time. All good, or even great in the case of The Fall and the Maps, but, and I'm putting my foot down with necessary force here, not punk.
THE RAMONES/TELEVISION/BLONDIE/TALKING HEADS/THE HEARTBREAKERS/ PERE UBU et cetera........
Wrong side of pond.
So there you have it. No doubt some truly excruciating faux pas have been made. That's fine; they'll go nicely alongside all the others you've already spotted. In case you hadn't noticed, this is nothing more and nothing less than a hastily cobbled together list of prejudicial
(Mail cut off here...)
(about the difficulty of dealing with Klaus DInger (Neu!) for an interview)
Subject: Who won the fucking war anyway?
I think I understand your situation perfectly.
No way do I want to cause hassle for you.
Nor do I want Klaus to be upset by anything I might write, though I do think it's a wee bit precious of him to effectively ('scuse the split infinitive there) say 'This is how it was, it's now engraven on the tablets; anyone who disagrees offends me personally.' If he doesn't want to hear views opposed to his, then maybe he should just keep quiet. But I'm sure he's a lovely guy & all that crap & I'm not a confrontational chap at heart. Most of all, I don't want him on your case! So show it to yer mates if you want otherwise.
You remember that last message of mine where I made that cheap crack about most SF 60s bands not being to my taste & listing the exceptions? Of course, I forgot my fave SF band of them all......... BLUE CHEER! I seem to recall I threatened a piece on Dickie & co. many moons back; now realising the heresy I committed yesterday, I feel honour-bound to put matters right by delivering a eulogy to the Cheer for your perusal, and pronto. So I'll work on that next & you see what you think. Hope all well your end - as Al Finney says in that great film 'Saturday Night & Sunday Morning,' 'don't let the bastards grind you down!''
Hope you had a good time. What was the beer like? Or are you a wine & spirits man? Anyway, looking forward to hearing about it. Afraid I haven't been colossally industrious in terms of writing - been ill for a start - but i'm working on stuff. I have started a Blue Cheer piece but I found a superb story all about one of their gigs in the course of reading an interview with Simeon from the Silver Apples in the Ptolemaic Terrascope (do you know that mag?); subsequently I mailed the PT's editor to ask permission to quote the story & I'm waiting to hear back on that as I really wouldn't want to use it otherwise....but it's such a good account of the Cheer live I really want to include it if at all possible. I'm also working on a piece about the legendary 'Time's Up' Buzzcocks session, which I acquired recently & have been inspired by. A seminal piece of (punk) rock history in my opinion. I'll keep a-working away on all this & send you something when it's finished. Hope all well
also December 1998
Top 10 purchases of 1998
ALBERT AYLER -THE COMPLETE VILLAGE VANGUARD (2CD)
BECK - MUTATIONS (CD)
B*WITCHED - C'EST LA VIE (CD 45)
THE HIGH LLAMAS - COLD & BOUNCY (CD)
MICHAEL HURLEY - BELLEMEADE SESSIONS (CD)
KLUSTER- ERUPTION (CD) *
VAN DYKE PARKS - MOONLIGHTING: LIVE AT THE ASH GROVE (CD)
RAINBOW FFOLLY - SALLIES FFORTH (CD) *
THE JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION - ACME (CD)
THE TAMPERER featuring MAYA - FEEL IT (CD 45)
1998 update of all-time favorite album list
BIG STAR Third/Sister Lovers/Beale St. Green (whatever you care to call it)
YOKO ONO Plastic Ono Band
THE OUTSIDERS C.Q.
PERE UBU The Modern Dance
ORNETTE COLEMAN Dancing In Your Head
SLY & THE FAMILY STONE There's A Riot Goin' On
VAN DYKE PARKS Song Cycle
ANNETTE PEACOCK I'm The One
THE ROLLING STONES Exile On Main St.
&....er....PUSSY GALORE Exile on Main
That's right, ILL, in capital letters. (Apart from which, if I typed it normally, it'd just be Ill. What might that mean? Some shit LP by Led Zeppelin? (Enough to make anyone ill!) Who could say?
Anyway, it's only right it should be in capitals as I've been really, REALLY ill & that's why you haven't heard anything from me for a while. You know how someone's ill for a couple of days & they say they've had flu? Well, that's not flu. What I've had IS flu; I was in bed for over a week and off work for almost three. I felt like shite & still don't feel anything like 100%. As Iggy said, 'NO FUN'. On top of all this, my marriage nearly fell apart around this time, though that's OK now.
(egged on no doubt by myself and Dave Lang, Richard would come up with lists like these)
HAWAII'S GREATEST HITS
1) V/A Book Him, Dano! the Story of Hawaiian Music (8 CD box set)
2) V/A Aloha, Ya Cunt - Hawaiian Death Metal Compilation CD
3) V/A Hula Shaker - Hawaiian Crap 60s Retro Stylings Compilation CD
4) David Byrne & Brian Eno Rip Off Indigenous Cultures Vol. 17 CD
5) Straight Outta Maui - 47 Old Skool Dudes W/Loud Shirts CD
6) The Sound Of The Tsunami - Les Baxter & His Underwater Combo CD
7) Charlie Don't Surf - Charles Manson Plays Honolulu Prison bootleg CD
8) I Am Magnum P.I. - The Fall Live at the Half Melon bootleg CD
9) The Song Of The Hawaiian Goose - Wildlife Recordings 47 LP box set
10) Live In The Big Smokey Crater - Skip Spence (CBS Hawaii LP promo copy)
SKIPPY [Skip Spence best albums besides Oar].:
1) Don't Shave Much Anymore ltd. ed. cassette (41 made, Hymen Recordings)
2) Don't Wash Much Anymore 7" (Down & Out Records, Palo Alto)
3) Holed Up In a Hotel With A Witch CD single (Dribble Records)
4) The American Syd Barrett Disclaimer Album (ltd. ed 10" EP, Wax Factor)
5) Burger Flipper - The Lost Years CD (withdrawn due to legal wrangles) 6) I Used To Be Sane spoken word
Top 10 for the 1990s (incl. rereleases)
KEITH HUDSON/PICK A DUB
SILVER APPLES/SAME & CONTACT
MICHAEL HURLEY/LONG JOURNEY
JOHN THE POSTMAN/PUERILE
YOKO ONO/PLASTIC ONO BAND
2) Top 10 for the 1990s (excl. rereleases)
CAPTAIN BEEHEART/GROW FINS
(Mail cut off here...)
top 10 for 2011 (which would have been 11 years in the future)
U2/Cod Surrealist Bullshit CD/minidsic/LP/cassette
DJ Soup Kitchen/All The Ladles In The House Say OW! CD
(Mail cut off here...)
Top ten list for the previous millennium (0-1000 A.D.)
Myrrh Is Murder - The Three Kings
Oops Upside Your Head - Fatboy Henry 8
Greased Lightning - B-Boy Benny Franklin F*** Tha Police - Jane Austen & Her Pithy
Nineteenth Century Social Observations
The Bad Rapping Of The Marquis De Sade - The, er, Marquis De Sade
Smoke On The Water - Jesus H.'Don't Bogart Those Loaves & Fishes' Christ
I Can See For Miles - 'Old Nick' Copernicus
Safe European Home - Country Joe Stalin ('It's MY country & I'll pack y'all off to a gulag if I want to...')
I Am The Cosmos - William 'Don't Call Me TJ' Shatner
It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding - Jumping Jack 'F For Fake' Kennedy
Favorite surf-death songs (there is only one that I know- Peter Stampfel's "Surfer Girl")
Gosh, I know lots, viz....
California Girls? Hell, Who's That Fussy? - Ted Bundy
Dune Buggy Beat (On The Unborn Brat) - Charlie & The Girls
Smurf's Up, Abraham, You Old Bastard - The Rest Of Humanity
The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey's Grave - Butthole Surfers (How th'hell did that get in here? Authenticity- pah!)
If Surf-Death's The New Thing, I'm Sure As Hell Not Gonna Miss Out - Garth Brooks
(How could I have left Garthy-poo out of the hairdos top 10? Shame on me!)
I Rip Off All Other Kinds Of Music So Kill Me If I Don't Rip Off Surf Music Too - Beck
The Ballad Of The Hang 10 Hangman - Leonard 'Woody' Cohen
Wax Me Till I Bleed - Pop Ignatius I
Now That's What I Call Surf Death - Various Artists
Brian Never Could Get Anything Right - The Rolling Stones
Best hair-doo's in a rock star
Roger Daltrey 1965-67 (the 'dippedy-doo' period, mais naturellement...)
That nice young man who did vocals for The A Flock Of Seagulls
Wm. 'Bootsy' Collins (N.B. Risks automatic disqualification as possibly not his real hair - memo to check FBI records first thing in the morning)
That daft berk in The Prodigy who thinks he's really scary (mummy!)
Dave 'comb-over' Crosby (hair today gone tomorrow, if I could only remember my mane, &c. )
Phil Collins HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA cruelty to dumb animals can be fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Elton John DIT-FUCKING-TO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Nedra out of the Ronettes (my phone number is...)
DikMik out of Hawkwind (my dealer's number is...)
Lastly, but of course, Eugene Reynolds from The Rez/villos (the quiff of all time)
Major musical candidates for a revival of the Nurenberg "Crimes Against Humanity" law (talking about particular groups and artists, not individual songs or albums)
Barbara Streisand (was it really necessary to even mention that one?)
Anyone who's ever recorded with or associated in any way with the above felon
Those nice boys in Foreigner
Mariah 'Pariah' Carey
Bryan 'Everything I Do, I Do For Me' Adams
I'm putting my head on the block here I know, but, Van Morrison
Ditto, Bruce Springsteen
Double ditto, Elvis 'Ray C
Top 10 from 1951
Boo Hoo Hoo I'm A Great Big Baby (Pardon?)/Johnnie Ray
The Mellow Years (comp)/Ike Turner
You're In The Army Now - Early recordings/Eric Dolphy
Your Failing Heart/Hank Williams
Feisty Fuzztone Fuckfest/Chet Atkins
Dammit, This Whitewashing Sure Is Messy - Early recordings/Albert Ayler
How Come You Wear Them Gloves So Long, Girl?/Anita O'Day
Pardon My French/Slim Gaillard
New Sounds In Industrial Psychedelia/Ray Charles
(Mail cut off here...)
Hello, hope yer well...I am, sort of....any news your end? I've some, if you can call it that.... Firstly, my workload these days is such that the amount of writing I can do is next to none. I really want to do the Slits & ATV pieces but it might take a while (apart from anything else, I need to get some music I'm missing to do both groups justice in print); you have been warned. The other thing is I may be changing jobs soon & that'd mean even less access to a computer than I have now. In case you didn't already know, I've always done all my writing during 'spare time' at work; this may become a thing of the past soon. I'm not at all happy about all this, but I think it's only fair to
(Mail cut off here...)
Subject: Clicks & Klangs
(about an indie publication we were both writing for)
What's all this then? You been roped into writing for this thang too? Looking forward to your pieces, esp. DIED TOO YOUNG....let me guess now, Andy Gibb, Minnie Ripperton, Russian roulette exponent out of Chicago (Terry something??), Jobriath, Falco, Rob Pilatus out of Milli Vanilli, Stiv Bators, Wendy O. Williams, Klaus Nomi, 'Razzle' out of Hanoi Rocks...is there anyone I've forgotten? Any road, can't wait for the 1st issue. And yep, I've written something too....a review of Bill Drummond's '45' autobiog. & very fine it is too (the book)...which isn't to say I've been neglecting my PSF duties; I've done over 1000 words for the Neu! piece already, though when it'll be finished is still 'up in the air'. Dave Lang sending me tapes of mad free jazz doesn't help; how am I supposed to concentrate w/Frank Lowe in both ears? Hope all well w/you; I'm doing fine but have no money to spend on music which stinks. (The situation, not the music I'd want to spend money on if I had some.) Let us know your news & stuff: what was that electronic music set you were involved with again? Not that have any money, of course, hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...
How to Make an unprecedented album like belle & sebastian- funny titles like theirs
Sever All Connections With Rational Thought, Lesser Being
You Appear To Have Mistook Me For Someone Who Gives A Flying Fuck
Above All Else, To Thine Own Self Be Unfaithful
Under The Pavement, The Empty Space Where The Beach Used To Be
Sink Your Rotting Teeth Into The Spinal Cord Of World Peace Bloated Fragments Of Second
Rate Literature Are More Than Enough
All Human Life Is There, So Prepare The Explosives With Care
The Postmodernist Recording Artist Refuses To Eat Anything Other Than Cake
Go Tell It On The Mountain Of Madness, Future Supper Of Yog Sothoh
All Arrangements For Your Premature Live Burial Have Been Authorised
(his response after I turned down an article and said 'hope you're not too pissed')
Well, I would never be 'pissed' unless I drank too much & assuredly would never be 'pissed off' if you decided not to run anything I wrote. You're the editor, you say what goes in & stays out. Fair play. But it would be nice to see it in if there's nothing better coming in to merit its exclusion. But you can be sure I won't make an issue of it. That's how I feel about this, pretty much. I'd certainly understand if you didn't run it given the nature of the piece & I'm just sorry I wasn't able to come up w/anything more suitable
(email after not hearing from him for about 3 years)
Hello Jason - remember me? Richard Mason, from England. Back again after many years (well, 3 + 1/2...) how the devil are you? I'm OK, new job, new house but same old appalling lack of musical taste...please let me know if you'd be interested in my writing any more drivel for PSF. I have something in mind. Let us know how you are. Is Dave Lang still in touch? It would be great to hear from you again! Sorry it's been so long...
Richard Mason, Bovingdon, England.
P.S. Top 10?
My god! Richard !You've returned, my son! Mother & I were so worried about you! It's so good to hear from you again! Dave Lang & I'd keep wondering "whatever happened to that guy?" Don't you ever disappear like that again- we missed you too much. Of course, I want to work with you again- you're one of my favorite writers. Please lay your ideas on me, my boy. As for top 10 lists, we should definitely go back to our games (i.e. best records from 2020, best albums of 15th century)
Hello Jason - I blush even as we speak. I'm flattered. You're very kind. It was always a pleasure doing non-business with you. I could never write for money or slag things off; I'm a fan, not a writer. I just write rather than bother my heroes at gigs. Please send my best to Dave, ask him to mail me if he's able. OK, the plan is...Annette Peacock. I'm going to write a book about her, basically - I'll send you an extract very soon. I have no publisher; I'll put it out myself, on paper or online, dunno yet. I have a lot of ideas (& MOST of the recordings, more on that anon); would you be interested in serialising it, or even just putting bits of it on PSF? I expect to make no money at any stage, this is a labour of love. Why no-one else has done it is beyond me. There are people I want to get in touch with & talk with, e.g. Bowie, Eno, Bruford, small fry like that...then there's Kenneth Ansell, Charles Shaar Murray, other critics who praised her. Can you suggest any others? (Byron Coley?) Do you know how to contact any of these folk? And then there's the lady herself...ideally I'd want to be able to do it with her blessing & co-operation. Any idea how to get in touch with her (via Marilyn Crispell, maybe?) And as I said earlier, I'm missing a few of her crucial works, most notably the REVENGE LP by THE BLEY-PEACOCK SYNTHESISER SHOW (never reissued on CD except maybe in Japan, stupidly rare now)...if you know anyone who can do me a tape that'd be more than enough & I'd be more than grateful (in a pecuniary sense)...but if she is overtly hostile to the idea, I don't know...please let me know how you feel about all this. Of course, if I get the inspiration to write about other shite, I will send it on to you. I did a couple of utterly facetious reviews for UGLY THINGS earlier this year which were the first things I'd written in ages...not too bad; we'll see how it goes. Let us know. More anon. Cheers
P.S. I LOVE the DNA comp [that I co-produced]. I've awaited that for years.
Thanks so much for making it happen.
2004 Top 10
ANNETTE PEACOCK I'm the one
ANNETTE & PAUL BLEY Dual unity
ROBERT WYATT Rock bottom
ROBERT WYATT Ruth is stranger then Richard
THE OUTSIDERS CQ
ALEXANDER SPENCE Oar
CAPT BEEFHEART & HIS MAGIC BAND Lick my decals off, baby
IVOR CUTLER Prince Ivor
THE SLITS Once upon a time in a living room
FRIPP & ENO No pussyfooting
subject: Sincere comiserations
(Shortly after the US presidential election that year- sent to Annette Peacock, Johan Kugelberg, Mike Stax (Ugly Things))
Ladies & gentlemen - please accept my heartfelt sympathy upon hearing the appalling news from your country. All I can say is "better luck next time". Although, to put it in perspective, there is the reassurance (?) that 'no matter who you vote for, the government always gets in'...spoken like a true disciple of Abiezer Coppe...
More rubbish about other rubbish anon,
"just remember that 55 million Americans said that they didn't want George Bush Jr. for president."
Oh Jason, please don't think I'm smugly putting your country down. I'm well aware of the degree of feeling towards the thief at your end, from all parts of the country & all sorts of folk. People in the UK can be very self-satisfied & it's not as if we have anything to be satisfied about, what with there being no real opposition to Blair except those further to the right. Plus, we don't even have a constitution & still have a Royal Family, for fuck's sake! In my ideal world, President Peacock would hold talks with her ageing UK counterpart, Prime Minister Wyatt (a ramp having been installed at the White House) regarding the insidious threat to world safety posed by Coldplay & Norah Jones.
Foreign affairs spokesman Clinton (G) would then make an official statement regarding The Funk (as usual), UK Foreign Minister C. Hayward would get his melodica out & all parties would adjourn to the Oval Office for vodka & a good ol' jam. Dream on, eh?
Best as ever
(lost contact until he wrote again then- edited out a few bits about his health issues here)
Since 2000, I've had a tough time. I had some health issues & spent a year & a half not doing much except getting some therapy & downing plenty of prescription dope. I'm OK now, due to the support of my wife. I was out of commission & out of work for a fair amount of time & have only just really got myself together again, with a new job (working as a PA for the local council in the Children & Families section). My daughter is now 13 & I put a lot of energy into her...; I'm far more grounded & sensible than I was the last time we communicated...All quite traumatic. I wasn't able to listen to any music for years; I just couldn't. It's only recently I could sit down & really give a piece of music proper attention. I also find now I can't really enjoy some of the more rock-orientated music I used to. I listen to more jazz, blues, folk & contemporary classical music. I love the OHM set you curated! But I'd love to write for PSF again. I'd also love to hear from Dave, so please pass my email address on to him. I'm rather rusty on modern music so if you have any pointers I'd appreciate them. I did notice that 4 of my favourite artists died in the past few years, i.e. Derek Bailey, Syd Barrett, Klaus Dinger & Bo Diddley. The other day I read some of my past PSF pieces & felt rather embarrassed; I feel I can do a lot better now.
I saw Martin Carthy live last Friday & have another i/v [interview] promised, so that's another article in the pipeline. The gig was amazing.
I don't write as much as I used to and don't listen to as much music either, partly because the medication I'm on, which I have to take at a specific time of day, knocks me out. I spend all day at work, come home, eat, talk to family, take happy pill, zzzzzzzzzzzz. Great.
I can only usually get to listen to 1 piece of music a day & give it the attention it deserves. Last night it was OTHER AFTERNOONS by Jimmy Lyons, for me one of the greatest saxophonists ever but sadly nowadays for the most part labelled merely as 'the guy who played with Cecil Taylor' (as if that's faint praise!) Night before it was a live Boredoms show from 95. They never cease to amaze me.
I have ideas for some other pieces; ever since I first heard him, I've wanted to do a piece about Jerry McCain and one day I will. I may even try and get an i/v with him seeing as he's still alive! Other potential subjects include Shirley Collins, Sonny Simmons and Charles Hayward. But I'm a long way ahead of myself. I'll let you know about the Annette [Peacock article] as soon as I'm able.
I heard from Dave [Lang]. In good form. Busy as ever. Power to him.
(Richard would finish his Annette Peacock article for the December 2008 issue)
(his response to me sarcastically asking 'No Britney though...?" about his recent lists of favorite music)
Not as such, no. I tend to view the 'Britney Spears/singer' paradigm in much the same way as I do the 'Sarah Palin/human being' paradigm, i.e. with a terminally jaundiced eye. Whether I'd prefer Britney or Sarah [Palin] to show up at my front door would, I suspect, depend upon the proximity of the nearest flamethrower.
Do you think Sarah will run in 2012? I would be concerned if she did. I always remember Linton Kwesi Johnson in 1978 saying, in his immaculately polite librarian's speaking voice: "The prospect of a Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher is very disturbing, you know". At least now all British politicians are pretty much the same at present and the chances of the extreme Right getting any tangible power is rather slim...although, of course, that was about the situation in 1975 when Thatcher was elected Conservative leader. I seem to spend more & more time worrying about this sort of thing these days.
I suspect it's something to do with being a dad. Of course, politicians for the main part are just cyphers and business/armed forces run the world. That'll never change, unless W. Axl Rose opts to lead us all in the glorious revolution.
Back to Britney: I do attempt to 'keep up' with teen stuff (being the parent of a teen): their music is strange & alien to me. Of particular concern is this 'High School Musical' franchise. Where is 'High School'? Someone said New Mexico, but Google Maps revealed nothing to me. My daughter rejects the slimy charm of the one known as "Zac Ef Ron" in favour of the huge Afro that controls the brain of the one known as "Cor Bin Bleu": a sensible decision, on the whole, in my opinion. Actually, the songs in this venture are, as bubblegum goes, not bad, easily on a par with anything issued by the "Kylie Minogue" or the "Christine Aguilera" corporations of late, which admittedly isn't saying a whole heap. As for this much feted 'dance music', it's a misnomer, surely? I've never seen anyone Popcorning or doing the Madison to it. All they do is simulate sex. That's not dancing! You need proper music for that, like Bill Monroe or Young-Holt Unlimited.
I'm ranting now. How is Mark E Smith these days, anyway?
Hello Jason - hope you're well. Sorry for the delay in getting back. Had a bad few days; no energy, depressed. Feeling much better now.
I appreciate the plethora of [Lester] Bangs. My feelings on his writing are, for what it's worth, that he obviously had talent but I never enjoyed his writing, plus I feel his influence on subsequent rock music criticism was negative (not his fault, of course); too many imitators. And the whole thing of critic/performer: no-one ever made that work for me. Have you ever heard the records Nick Kent and Charles Schaar Murray made? Dreadful things, even worse than their ghastly writing. The whole NME late 70s school was a very bad thing for me, a lot of people disguising their intelligence and backgrounds in order to try and sound 'hep' and a lot of others using their university textbooks to try and sound clever. A (now deceased) friend of mine said to me in 1979 "I can see Parsons & Burchill writing trashy novels & columns for right-wing tabloid papers in a few years": shame he didn't live long enough to see his prophecy come 100% true. I us ed to think Greil Marcus was a good writer until he started getting sucked in with the Situationist claptrap; which brings me to Johan Kugelberg's article on record fairs. He's a clever, witty writer (I corresponded with him for a while a few years back and recently emailed him but he hasn't replied as yet) but that article pissed me off hugely for 2 reasons. First is his wholesale appropriating of Guy Debord's writing style and ideas (Debord was an intellectual Nazi of the highest order). Second is the whole concept of the record fair, which for me is abhorrent inasmuch as it involves people with loads of money (let's face it, there's no point whatsoever attending a record fair if you don't have loads of money) playing mind games with each other over recordings from which the artists will never see anything. I began to write a piece about all this; for comic effect, I wrote it in the approximate style of Damon Runyan (if you're going to cop a writing style wholesale you should do it from a master like Runyan rather than a dullard like Debord), but ultimately my heart wasn't in it & so I deleted it. So I've reverted to a previous plan and am going to write pieces on "Randy Newman Creates Something New Under The Sun" and "Song Cycle" (possibly as one piece, given the various links); I'll keep you posted but it may be a while. I wish I had more time and energy to write more but I simply don't. I've all but stopped collecting music now. I'm 50 next year & given the number of recordings that I possess that I haven't listened to yet, I feel it's time to call a halt. I don't come across much modern music I like, which is perhaps a good thing, but these reissue bastards don't help, damn their hides. I'm sure there's lots of modern music I'd enjoy but I don't have the inclination to seek it out like I used to.
(I disagreed with what he said about Marcus and Kugelberg and told him so but he didn't reply about that)
(I hadn't heard from him since June 2011 and then tried to correspond with him again in early 2014)
Hello, Jason, thanks for this. Lovely to hear from you.
I too have missed our correspondence: I'm sorry that it was a long time since I've been in touch.
I can't recall what I've already told you about what I've been doing over the past few years, so forgive any repetition of stuff you know.
After a difficult marriage, which ended 3 years ago, I'm now living on my own, still living + working in Oxford. There are a lot worse places to be, despite the fact that Oxford's one of the most expensive places to live in the UK (more so than many parts of London), both in terms of house prices (I rent a room + it's not cheap but I don't earn enough to ever get my own place) + the price of food/other essentials) + as my daughter's at university here (we meet every week + get on fine) I have to stick around here. My job's OK (admin/IT backup to a team of children's social worker, my employee = Oxfordshire County Council) + I have an OK, quiet life. I don't know or see many people but I'm used to that + mostly manage it OK.
I mostly listen these days to either 20th century electronic music, much of it relatively new to me, or "krautrock", which I was raised on as a teenager. I was very lucky to have a penpal in Berlin in my early teens who sent me cassette compilations of German groups + a penpal in Paris who did the same for French groups. I heard a lot of obscure music early on, at the expense of what contemporaries at school thought I should be listening to. I still have never heard a whole Led Zeppelin LP. If I owned a record shop, I'd have an "englischrock" section - you know, Status Quo, Yes, Fairport Convention, Slade, Hawkwind, Average White Band, Henry Cow, etc....you get the gist, I'm sure! The more I recognize the incredible variety of musics of the German 1970s bands, the more I laugh at the word "krautrock". Still, I suppose poor old businessmen have to use that kind of word. Mind you, if it hadn't been for Richard Branson, a lot of people over here wouldn't have heard those great groups. I bought a lot of records from Virgin when it was just a west London warehouse, run by rich, sweet hippies, doing mail order only. And I used to live very near the Manor studios + would walk out there to see if I could spot any musicians; I did see Kevin Coyne having a cigarette outside the studio once, but was too shy to go + talk to him. Another great artist Branson gave a chance. I digress.
I'm still in touch with Annette Peacock; she last emailed me a couple of weeks ago. She may have another recording out soon, but I don't know if it's new stuff or a reissue. She's entitled legally to reissue most of her back catalogue now, I believe. It's just down to money + what she wants to do. When she puts something else out, I'll write for you about that, if you're in agreement. Often when we correspond, we don't talk about music at all, though. I feel privileged to know her; she is a remarkable person. And a lot of fun.
I've also been playing some music myself, for the first time for almost 2 decades. I play bass guitar in a group called The Same, a 5 piece, singer (female), 2 guitars, drums + me (all male). We so far only do obscure 60s "freakbeat"/"garage" covers but will write our own stuff too eventually. We started rehearsing last year + played our 1st gig on March 21st at a pub near where I live; it was good + fun. I've also been doing my own music,on my own, but more about that another time.
I've been reading some PSF back issues. Some great writers + pieces. Thanks. Do you write much nowadays? How's things with you in general? Please let me know. Got to go and buy milk + tobacco. More soon.
All the very best
Aside from any writing, I've been doing my own music (instrumental experimental compostion/inprovisation) + have recorded several pieces; I can send you a CDr of some of it (purely for you, personally; I do this for my friends) if you wish: please let me know if this is of interest to you + enclose a postal address if so. The sound/recording quality is not great: it was recorded in very primitive circumstances.
I rather doubt if anyone would be interested in ever releasing any of it, but there you go. I'd certainly value your opinion.
also June 2014
(I'd asked him to send me his music, which you can hear on this Bandcamp site- the most current song there came out around the time he wrote this to me. This was the last email I could find from Richard.)
Thanks, Jason. I'll get a CDr of my music (it goes under the name "Delia's green lampshade") in the post to you v. soon. If you do know anyone else who may be interested in hearing it (purely for pleasure &/or to help propel me to global stardom hem-hem) please let me know. There is also some DGL product available via Bandcamp.
I doubt I could get either piece done by July 15; the [Richard] Maxfield LP has yet to arrive and I'd have a lot of listening to do before I could write anything. Also, I'll move house early next month. But I'll keep you posted.
Also see Oleh Hodowanec's tribute to Richard
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