Howard Popeck expresses a view – achieving that elusive musical ‘high’, Linda Rondstat, Jim Cippolina, the impact of £5k suits on Eric Clapton, Jefferson Airplane (with 2 heads), out Dylaning Dylan (on one track)

Originally published in 2004

Occasionally, the music really really grabs me. More than grabs me, it draws me into its soul, its character, its intensity. And quite wonderful it is too. It’s a sort of ecstatic experience and all the better for not requiring chemical process to kick-start it or maintain it. A musical high in fact.

This sometimes happens with classical music but usually it happens with 60’s music for me. Not the bubble-gum type of stuff, but Bay Area acid rock, White-Boy-Plays-The-Blues stuff, Tamla Motown, visceral rock like The Who and mellower stuff like the Byrds, Mamas and Papas, etc. A fair amount of this music was I guess written and performed under the influence of LSD and other assorted hallucinogenics.

Despite the ready access to all manner of chemicals when I was a Mech Eng. Student at UMIST (that's the image below) in Manchester in the late 1960s, I never accepted the invitation and through having the foresight to take my own liquor to parties, I never fell foul of spiked punch or spiked food.

 

Anyway quite a lot of the music that grabs me is acid influenced.

A while back the ex Mrs. P held a themed 60s night for 3 other couples plus she and me. The food was 60s, we all dressed as 60s people and of course the music was 60s and I was tasked with putting it all together – music wise. And a lot of fun it was too. Went a bit over the top and recorded 9 CD-Rs of great stuff. Getting the sequence ‘right’ is very important to me. Not just high-energy or mellow track after track. Rather shades, contrasts and so on. ‘Testing’ if you can call it that takes place in my Audi A3 1.8T with standard i.e. non-Bose in-car system. My first CD-R was “60’s night #3’ – and that’s the focus of this diary entry.

I’m going to comment as best I can on the first 9 tracks. For me, almost a perfect selection, by which I mean only 2 deletions required.

Track #1: “Two Heads” – Jefferson Airplane.

It doesn’t get much more acid-soaked and weird than this. Gracie’s soaring vocals just a couple of notches down from a Ferrari-like howl heard against a fist-tight backing. Weird beyond mere weird lyrics. Love it.

Track #2: Ipcress File: Main Title” - John Barry.

Film score music at its very best. Haunting use of massed (or multi-tracked brass) against the ethereal sounds of the Hungarian Cimbalom.

Track #3: “Rock and Roll Nurse” – John Cipollina.

After Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Gibson SG wielding maestro produced one further magnificent album – The Raven. This track demonstrates just what a consummate performer he was.

Track #4: Go Out And Get It” – John and Beverley Martin.

Big mistake here. Ignore.

Track #5: All Of Your Love” – John Mayall.

Eric Clapton before he donned £5k Armani suits. This is ‘The Business’ – guitar-wise. Taut, fluent, no histrionics and this is why ‘Clapton is God’ started appearing on walls.

Track #6: Highway 61 Revisited” – Johnny Winter.

The masses think that only Hendrix could add anything to a Dylan song. WRONG! Mr. Winter takes Highway 61 to an entire new level and never loosing sight of the brilliance of the original. A guitar tone that is still I guess utterly unique.

Track #7: All This Crazy Gift Of Time” – Kevin Ayres.

Big mistake here. Ignore.

Track #8: Rock and Roll” – Led Zeppelin.

All that needs to be said re this has been written elsewhere, and better too than I could. Essential

Track #9: I Can’t Let Go” – Linda Ronstadt.

Is it me, or can that sexual energy in her voice be heard by everyone else of my age? Better known for her Tex-Mex, Nelson Riddle and Country / Country-folk exploits, this shows here to be one of the definitive rock-chicks of the era up there with Ms Slick, Joplin, Linda Hoyle and, err, that’s it. Not just a blistering performance by her but from her oh-so-tight band. Outstanding engineering and production. Brought a tear to my eye.

Epilogue:

I'm left with the lingering thought that if the music’s right, the performers are giving their all, the engineers are not fiddling about too much – then you can get your musical high without drugs, without audiophile pressings and without state-of-the-art systems.

Possibly I lack the wrong sort of imagination but I truly can’t envisage how playing this sequence of tracks through any of my fine systems could get me any closer to the heart ‘n soul and visceral excitement of the original. Scary thought, given my line of work!

Meanwhile, here's Ms Slick, in her prime.