30 April 2009

Back From Bournemouth

6 Iyyar - Year 5769

Pixie and I travelled to Bournemouth over the weekend to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary - yep, 5 years, peeps. Seems like a few weeks ago. Time seems funny like that.

We stayed at the Connaught Hotel in the west end of the city. After a bit of trouble actually locating it, we checked in and headed down to the beach for a stroll. Thankfully, the weather was quite sunny and only a tiny bit breezy. The forecast called for rain and strong winds.

Back at the hotel, we went for a swim in the indoor (heated pool), used the steam room and sauna, swam again, then chilled out in the jacuzzi. Ah, now that's the life. Pixie also paid for a massage for me. No, not that kind, ya filthy oiks--just a back, neck & shoulders one. I felt very relaxed afterwards...must get another one sometime. Dinner was at Zizzi, which was appropriate as our first official 'date' was at the Zizzi in Oxford. The food was excellent and the Peronis I drank were too.

We ate breakfast at the hotel (quite a nice spread it was), then checked out. The weather was pretty nasty, with strong winds and rain. Pixie wanted to go to Hengistbury Head and walk around. We had been there last about three years ago and found it to be an enjoyable visit. The weather dampened (literally) the walk this time, though we explored more of the surrounding area, not just the main hill, as we had done before. When we arrived back at the car, we were so drenched that we each needed a change of clothes.

It was then decided we would visit Christchurch, which is near to Hengistbury Head. We had also been there before and had already seen the cathedral and most of the other sights, so this visit was mainly a shopping trip. I tried to find a funky little record or book shop, but couldn't locate one anywhere near the high street. Instead, a checked a few charity shops and found Sky's (the classical/prog band featuring guitarist John Williams) Sky 2 on LP and Macca's 3-LP live set Wings Over America. The sleeve of the Macca set's pretty battered, but the records seem to be in decent shape. The Sky set is near mint, including the sleeve. Not bad for £5.

We grabbed some lunch at a small cafe and then made the journey home. It took a few minutes to unpack and then it was time to settle into the routine again. It's alright, though, we'll be going to the Peak District for a holiday in two weeks' time.

22 April 2009

Happy Bicycle Day!

Boomtime, Discord 39 - Year of Our Lady of Discord 3175

I missed posting this on the actual day, but 66 years ago this month, Dr. Albert Hofmann had arguably the most famous bicycle rides in the 20th century. The first, on April 16th 1943, from his laboratory at the Sandoz (now Novartis) company to his home, after accidentally absorbing a tiny bit of LSD-25 into the skin of his hand. He wondered at the curious effects of the drug and decided to experiment with a deliberate dose three days later.

He ingested quite a large dose (not realising that LSD should be measured in micrograms, not milligrams) and experienced a full-blown "trip", which lasted several hours. When the drug first affected Dr. Hofmann, he felt the need to go home and again (this time with a lab assistant) rode his bike. He later stated that he seemed to be barely moving, while his assistant told him they had been cycling at a fast speed. When he arrived home, he felt panicky and had a few frightening hallucinations. Later, he was able to relax more and eventually returned to 'everyday' conciousness. With that, what later came to be known as "The Sixties" was effectively in motion.

Here's a video created by David Normal (heh heh - great surname). It's an animated feature depicted Hofmann's first LSD trips. The music is from Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother Suite:

For an added bit of fun - here's Tomorrow's My White Bicycle, one of the pinnacles of English psychedelia. Rumoured to be inspired by Hofmann's experiments, I think it's actually more about the Dutch Provo movement. Could be either, but still a great song and perfect for 'Bicycle Day':

..and coming back to the mighty Floyd, here's a vid of Bike, Syd Barrett's closer to their first full-length, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. The photos were taken for a Belgian TV show in February 1968. The sound quality's not the best, but you get the idea. It's been said that the coda represents Syd's increasing 'madness', due to the over-use of psychedelics, but no-one can say for sure.

Albert Hofmann's notes about his experiments can be found here. The great cosmic bike ride continues....

21 April 2009

R.I.P. J.G. Ballard

1 Ordibehesht - Year 1388

Obituary at the BBC website.

20 April 2009

All You Need Is Cash

31 Farvardin - Year 1388

It was announced a couple of weeks ago that The Beatles' original catalogue has been re-mastered again and will be re-issued on September 9th of this year. I'm not sure why they chose that date - though it is a month before John Lennon's birthday, so I suspect that was a factor in it. For most of the albums, this will be the first re-release since the Capitol/EMI CD editions in the late 1980s (there was a special-edition mini-LP version of "The White Album" released to coincide with it's 30-year anniversary in 1998).

There's a little montage at the official website, showing the new packaging and a bit of the deluxe booklets, as well as the description in the 'news' section (that I linked to - you have to scroll down a bit). It appears one can buy them all at once, as a boxed set, or individually (you can pre-order them on Amazon now). The CDs are all in stereo, including the first three or four albums--which were issued only in mono on vinyl. There will be a separate "Beatles In Mono" boxed set as well. The two Past Masters CDs, first released in 1988, have been combined into a 2-disc'er - and the songs with mono mixes will be included in the boxed set, as a bonus.

There have been some complaints about EMI not including the mono mixes on the stereo discs (as there's enough room on a standard length CD). That seems a fair complaint to me. Other fans thought there should be out-takes as bonus tracks. It'd be nice, but the bootleggers have already sorted all those - check the Purple Chick releases. In my estimation, the PC versions are some of the best Fabs boots around now. Sure, EMI are grabbing the dosh from one of their most lucrative acts (along with Pink Floyd and Queen), but I can cut 'em a bit of slack for only re-issuing this stuff once so far - unlike the Floyd back catalogue, which is on it's third re-issue now. Virgin, MCA/Universal and Atlantic do the same, so it's not just one major label's habit.

Will I buy 'em? Yep. What can I say, I'm a sucker for re-issues, especially if it's the good stuff - and this, my friends, is the good stuff. I don't know if I'll go all out and buy the mono boxed set--I could ask for it as an X-Mas gift. If anyone's looking for some of the 80s Beatles CD re-masters, I'll be at the Kassam boot sale next month.

11 April 2009

Long Weekend

Jour du Duodi, Mois de Germinal - Annee 217 de la Republique

Hello again - I haven't had much to post lately, so I apologise for the lack of content. My mate Singing Bear sent me a load of musical goodies, which I am currently listening to quite a bit. He sent two of the Esoteric Recordings Man re-issues I don't own--the 3-CD Back Into The Future album and the double-disc Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics. Both sound excellent and "Back Into.." includes an entire live set from the Roundhouse in London in June 1973, spread over two discs. The Harvest Records anthology A Breath Of Fresh Air was included. It's a 3-CD set of tracks spanning the label's heyday from 1969 to 1974. All the big names are there..Deep Purple, Kevin Ayers, Barclay James Harvest and, of course, the Floyd. There's also some obscuro-treats from Shirley & Dolly Collins, Pete Brown (in various combos) and Tea & Symphony. Well worth owning! I also got a copy of the Rhino re-issue of Yes' second full-length, Time And A Word. I used to have it on cassette a long time ago, but Rhino's remaster contains a few great bonus tracks, like the 1970 single Dear Father. The rest of the shipment was a copy of Uriah Heep's 1971 album Salisbury (the deluxe Sanctuary re-issue from 2006) and The Wailing Souls' At Channel One, which has some quality dub cuts. Phew - that's a lotta listening. Cheers, Bear! I'll have some stuff heading your way soon.

I bought a few more discs from Amazon as well--the Mark Hollis solo album, first released in 1998, Peter Hammill's A Black Box (the Virgin/Charisma re-issue from 2006) and The Moody Blues' 1970 Isle Of Wight set (released at the end of last year on Eagle Records). All seem excellent to me, but I'm especially liking the quiet textures of the Hollis record. It's almost a continuation of the softer bits on the last two Talk Talk albums, except the arrangements are very sparse. It turned out to be a fitting swansong, as Hollis has not released anything since. Pixie bought the new Doves CD, Kingdom Of Rust, last week and we've been spinning that lots too. My own verdict is that it's pretty good - some of it stretches back to their electro-incarnation as Sub Sub, the rest seems to be 'classic' Doves--ethereal but stepping up to the rock plate when needed. One of the best I've heard so far this year.

This month marks Pixie's and mine 5th wedding anniversary. Seems like only yesterday.... I want to thank her for agreeing to be my goodwyf and staying with me through the tough times and setbacks, as well as the during the fun and upswings. We'll be heading to Bournemouth on our anniversary day for a small getaway. It promises to be a lovely time.

I've held off on starting a new podcast episode 'till after we get a new PC. Yep, we've decided that the ol' Compaq is a bit knackered now--being 6 years old. I've been in touch with a consultant and he's going to try and put together a custom jobbie for us. The main things I wanted were a bunch more memory, a CD and DVD burner and an updated Photoshop program. Pixie wanted Microsoft Word and Excel. We've also entered the 'wireless' age and upgraded our broadband package to include a wireless modem. The intrawebnet does seem a tiny bit faster now--but I have a feeling we'll see a big change after we've got the new PC. We're looking to buy it in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned.

That's my report on this extended holiday weekend--my mind is a bit scrambled from trying to remember what day it is. Hope you're enjoying yourselves...get out and enjoy the weather if it's nice.