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Saturday, March 31, 2001

Have I Got News

Leafy Highgate

Well it's been quite a couple of days. Got down to London on Thursday right in the middle of a tube strike. Amazingly enough I walked straight out of Kings Cross and onto the No.10 bus. As I entered Kimber's street there was a huge clap of thunder, a dazzling burst of rain and the appearance of a beautiful rainbow at the end of road. I don't know how Kimber does it but I was impressed.

Seeing Kimber is always something of a tonic for me and within minutes of arriving, he opened a can of beer and uncanned a load of insults. I knew I'd arrived.

Later on we managed to get out to Bengal Berties and scoffed our way through a champion bit of grub as well as much chewing of the fat around the book. Helpful comments from Kim le Ber ensued late into the night.

The next morning I headed off to the British Library out in Colindale in North London to take a peek through their newspaper collection. Specifically to trawl through microfilm containing IT, Rolling Stone, Melody Maker, NME, Disc, Record Mirror and Volestrangler's weekly.

The collection is housed in a fine example of art deco architecture and for me it was a real treat to be there. Sadly, the staff didn't quite see things that way. As far as I could gather from the long, drawn out and generally put upon sighs which accompanied even the most basic request, they regarded people who used the facilities as dithering children of low capacity. Here's an extract which I swear I have not made up.

SS sitting at viewing maching which also prints out photocopies of the page or article you want.
British Library Member Of Staff (BLMOS) comes over. . .

BLMOS:Err you can't use that machine to view. You only use that one to print. You view on this machine (points to machine behind SS). You do your research on that one first, then you take the microfilm off that one and put it one the other machine and then print out. (All of which is delivered in a bored, oh-god-not-another-damn-fool-here-to-make-my-life-a misery-monotone.

SS: Err. . .I've done all my research (shows four pages of dense notes containing all the dates and editions of periodicals I need to consult).

BLMOS: (shaking head wearily) Ah but you haven't got the page numbers written down. You're using a printing machine when you should be using a viewing machine.

Well you get the idea. When I asked for an item I had to give my seat number. Half an hour later one of the blokey's would then come and slip a bit of paper on my console which told me that the items I wanted were ready for collection. Going to the kiosk I then hand the chit back to the blokey who had just put it on my console. He then turns round and hands me the mircofilm.

Well, you get the idea. That said I really enjoyed scrolling through those old copies of the Melody Maker. I was struck by the sheer range of music which was covered in a single edition. An in-depth interview with Irish crooner and rocking chair worrier, Val Doonican might sit next to an article on Han Bennik, which lurked in the vacinity of an interview with Eric Clapton. Well you get the idea. . .

After I finished there I headed into town to meet with World Leader David Symes and El Kimbo for some chinwagging and nosherama. David seemed in fine fettle and had brought along a bag full of his KC clippings of the 80's onwards. Comprehensive doesn't quite do it justice and combined with Kimber's collection from the same period, I was a happy camper. We then went to a restaurant ate big food and I interviewed the pair about their recollections and impressions of Discipline /KC in the 80's.

Today I went back to the British Libary for more punishment and thereafter into Denmark for a meeting with Sean Body at Helter Skelter. The very good news is that Sean really liked Chris Wilson's cover and is happy for Chris to do the interior design and lay-out. I'm so pleased about this.

Wednesday, March 28, 2001

Thrakattak Fails

Started this morning with the blaring sunny sounds of Gershwin's Porgy And Bess. It felt surreal watching Debbie leave the house a little after 7.a.m. in the driving rain and this vibrant music banging away. A complete mood lifter.

Last night, the upstairs control room aka the yellow room, aka the room with a phew ! (on account of my ingrained hippie habit of burning noxious joss sticks); Debbie was at her desk doing some school work and I was at my desk and Roy Harper was on the CD player doing his high note thang. This scene of domestic tranquillity was invaded by Alys and her mate from across the street, Susie. The pair wittered and giggled as they do and then started mucking around on one of the laptops.

Debbie and I exchanged irritated glances at each other and so I got up and changed the CD to something a little less accessible. Figuring I might as well combine business with pleasure, I put Thrakattak on the player, turned up the volume, sat down pressed play and prepared to watch two teenagers scuttle tout de suite.

As Bobby and the boys got into their mangling stride, Susie looked suitably (and aggreeably) alarmed by the banging and clattering. Alys, who hadn't battered an eyelid said "Oh it’s alright, it's just Sid's horrible music. It's probably King Crimson." The pair just sat there wittering and giggling. I was gobsmacked that Thrakattak had lost its firepower. I felt a bit like Samson just after his No1 with the Wahl clippers.

Useful discussions with the British Library yesterday regarding the tracking down of some vintage press clippings. Also useful conversation with Chris Wilson. I want Chris to work on the interior design of the book for three reasons. Firstly, I think Chris's design skills are excellent. Secondly, he's an enthusiastic KC listener and has an empathy for the material and thirdly he lives up the road which means I can be closely involved the design stages of the book. This of course isn't my decision but when I meet with the publisher I'll be pressing the case for Chris.

A copy of the draft cover artwork has been hanging in Helter Skelter's shop in Denmark Street and has (I'm told) been generating considerable amounts of interest and praise. Certainly the feedback I've received so far about Chris's work via e-mail has been extremely positive. So far Chris has done all this work on the book without any kind of payment whatsoever and has a business to run. So when I meet with the publisher I'll want Chris to receive some remuneration for his efforts to date.

Having got this far with the project, I want the thing to look and feel as good as it possibly can. Of course costs will be a factor and inevitably there's always a degree of compromise with these things, however I figure I'll only ever get one shot at publishing a book on KC and I'd like it to look as good as it can.

Had a lengthy conversation with Sean Hewitt last night. Sean has been reading through some chapters and will cast a critical eye over what he's read so far. Kim le Ber of leafy Highgate has also been going over the thing. Both are well versed in the art of the rock biography and will have a helpful perspective on the pace and style of the thing. I'm not looking for any kind of gushing praise from these two but constructive criticism which will help when re-drafting the thing to sharpen it up.

Sunday, March 25, 2001

Top Ten Guitarists

Last night was movie night and we watched a Jackie Chan movie called Shanghai Noon. The kids all loved it and Debbie and I raised a titter or two between us. Then after they had all dispersed to the various parts of the house, Debbie and I watched O Brother Where Art Thou by the Cohen Brothers. We saw it last year at the cinema and I thoroughly enjoyed it then. As we were out at the shops yesterday I'd mentioned to Debbie that I'd really like to see it again. In the local video shop Debbie turned on the charm and came out with a pre-release copy for free. I was astonished as it wasn't even advertised as being in the shop. "There are some compensations for being a mouthy redhead" said Debbie in a rather smug way.

Once the movie had finished we caught the tale end of Channel Four's top ten guitarists programme. There was a flurry of e-mail on the subject last night and this morning. So without thinking too hard about it here's mine.

In alphabetical order . . .

Syd Barrett for being right out there. Zippo lighters were never so cool as when this diamond geezer ran them up and down the fretboard. See Emily Play and achieve nirvana.

Steve Cropper for being right in there. You get the feeling that he could keep time and hit the button whilst being caught in a Hurricane - "Flash don't make cash"

Dave Davies for producing some ear popping classics that ever spat through an AC 30. Maybe not a great technician but a sound that defined a generation.

Robert Fripp for triumphing over adversity. Described in a forthcoming book as being "like a paraplegic that learned to walk."

Fred Frith for stoic sonic experimentation at the margins in the face of critical and public indifference.

Dave Gilmour for clean and simple lines despite the lacklustre nature of much of the material. A great melodic player who can pack so much drama into a few bars. His entire solo on Money is flawless.

Roy Harper for those long rambling solos into uncharted depths of echo combining folk picking with outer space. Harper can veer between ethereal through to the intimate bite of an ancient melody.

Jimi Hendrix for the sheer electricity of his performances. Virtually re-defined rock guitar playing seemingly overnight and with records like Electric Ladyland it's easy to hear why.

Johnny Marr for re-discovering the art of songwriting and bringing it to a generation to spotty faced miserablists in and around Manchester and the rest of the world. There's hardly a Smiths track which isn't the recipient of his witty, ingenious and inventive arrangements and superbly crafted playing.

John McLaughlin for having his inspired runs of fancy which can leave you breathless. Sometimes hampered by needlessly flashy or lumpen jazz rock, his energy and soul always comes through. Sometimes when I listen to his playing my jaw drops.

Tom and Joe grizzle over their homework this morning while Sam and Alys argue over nothing. Debbie loaded with cold and unwell and me . . . feeling bad about feeling so good when everyone else is patently under the cosh.

Some more positive feedback from one of the readers of the book so far and some very encouraging news from the publishers about the style and the content of the book. More work on the 80's Crim today. Thanks to everyone who wrote to me regarding their memories of the Discipline / KC shows.

Saturday, March 24, 2001

A Weekend Hippie Remembers. . .

Last night was spent listening to the League Of Gentlemen, solo RF and Steve Reich. All punctuated by loud sneezes from Debra who is either developing a cold or is having an allergic reaction to the particularly virulent joss stick which I insist on burning. I like to think that it keeps the kids at bay but I know I'm probably deluding myself.

Tom and Joe are up and at 'em this morning. So far We've added wax and water washes to a small canvas I somehow managed to start a week ago. Joe has now moved on to watercolours whilst Tom is now reducing a candle into a ball of wax. Our musical accompaniment this morning is the Crafty ponderings of Escape Veloopicity by Michael Peters.

Alys had her mate Suzie sleeping over last night. In amongst the phenomenal detritus of landfill proportions which two teenage girls are casually capable of generating, was a request of Debbie, that they be allowed to go to Hippie Green in Newcastle.

On closer interrogation Hippie Green, it turns out, is none other than old Eldon Square. This is a quadrangle of green with a war memorial in the centre. I used to hang out there when I was a teenager myself circa 1972. Then it was full of week-end Hippies all trying to re-create what we imagined down town San Francisco to be like. Poetry, music and Brown Ale. Actually now I come to think about it, it was mostly Brown Ale. The summer of 1972 was a good one and we used to congregate on the green with burning joss sticks, tinkling tinkly bells and saying "far out" as convincingly as we could manage whilst not quite keeping a straight face.

Newcastle's Eldon Square circa 1973 - Sid sitting on top of Bob Marshall


There used to be a lad called Dennis who used to bring a guitar along and strum it in an absent minded kind of way, which I now realise was because he couldn't really play it. We used to imagine ourselves singing protest songs ala Country Joe And The Fish but in reality the best Dennis could manage was a slightly arthritic and faltering rendition of The House Of The Rising Sun, punctuated by Cagean silences as his fingers uncurled into the next chord shape. This at least had the virtue of being about "lurve" and had been popularised by The Animals - stout sons of Newcastle who, for all we knew hangers-out in Eldon Square a few years earlier.

One regular attendee was a blokey we called Moondancer. He was impossibly handsome with a tanned muscular body and Californian style facial stubble. Normally such attributes would provoke ugly, unreasonable jealousy as we were pale, thin, spotty and if we were lucky possessors of a lip covered in bumfluff. However, the reason we liked Moondancer was he was as mad as a bag of Badgers and with no prompting whatsoever he would start to dance and wildly gyrate to the sound of a different drum that nobody else in his close proximity could hear. He's probably in charge of GNER or railtrack.

At around 5.30 (aka as "opening time") we used to drift and blur our way down to the Old George, quaff toxic levels of Brown Ale, sing along to the Juke Box and then go back to the little patch of Old Eldon Square. In the noisy twilight there were usually two principal reasons to be there. One was baiting passing skinheads and what was called at the time - getting your hand. Baiting skinheads was not without some risk as it could start off well but easily end in violence. Come to think of it this could easily apply to getting your hand. Often this was at least consensual though in all probability not very sensual, more of a rough fumble if truth be told. The plain fact was that no matter how much we boasted of enjoying the carnal pleasures with our chosen paramours, most of us had only ever gotten as far as the Billy Mill roundabout.

I was very lucky however. I was going out with two girls though not at the same time. Both were older than me and both used to get in The Old George pub. Yvonne was blonde and Joyce was a brunette. The main advantage was that older girls put it out and went the whole way. After the pubs had all chucked out and you'd said goodbye to your mates and the town had been drained of the thousands of city centre revellers, you could walk hand in hand back to Old Eldon Square and get comfy behind the flower beds.

Our late night al fresco fumbling rarely lead to anything other than a pair of soggy trousers which at the time I never really minded. Of course having missed the last bus I would then have to walk home. Five miles later, the semen-drenched loons were all but dry but one's inner thigh might be somewhat chaffed. The solution to this, we knew, was full penetrative sex and this was not possible without purchasing a condom. For most of us at that time buying a Blob was an act of irrepressible and extreme optimism. Mind you, even if penetration wasn't achieved, you managed to walk home with dry trousers and unchaffed inner thighs which was, whichever way you look at it, a win win situation.

Thursday, March 22, 2001

Have You Seen These Men?

Looking at the 80's period Crimson. This half of the book doesn't quite work for me and so with some reluctance I'm unpacking it and giving it a right good going over. It was written absolutely yonks ago and reading it back, I know I can improve it 100 %. This might cause problems with the publishers but I'd rather try and get this part of the book right. So tonight I'm reading all the old stuff and taking a dirty great big metaphorical pencil to it.

What I need is some eye witness accounts of Discipline at the Venue in London in 1981. Were you there ? Had you seen Crimson before or was this you first time ? Whatever your experience was good or bad drop me a line at the e-mail address in the TxT link at the top of the page. When I was at DGM last year, there was very little in the photo archives of the 80's period. Does anyone out there have any pics of the band during that time ? Backstage ? On-stage ? In the slasher ? Only photo's which you've taken yourself please rather than anything lifted off the web or have acquired from elsewhere. Let me know at the same address. Usual KC book rules apply - no financial remuneration possible but a credit and a mention in the acknowledgements.

The boys declared Iron Jim at hit so far and have more chapters outlined for further consumption. This morning Joseph was so anxious about his spelling test. All the way to the bus stop in driving rain we recited the ten words which he's desperate to get right. I try and tell him that it's OK if he doesn't get ten out of ten but of course, he doesn't give a tinkers cuss what I think about it. It's the old peer pressure in his class that is getting him so animated. After the half and hour journey, he's getting ten out of ten with a reliable nine. Phew !

Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Review: Paul Schutze Phantom City

The whole house is shaking to the mighty thrum of Paul Schutze's Phantom City Site Anubis. Doors are rattling in their frames, children scurry about with their fingers jammed in their ears and the insurance man has a wild look in his eyes as he hears the sounds rushing toward him in a pyroclastic flow. The big noisy stuff sounds like Miles Davis circa Bitches Brew - chock full with wah-wah on everything, spongy bass and vast swathes of creamy, dreamy texture. Dense, knotty thickets of instruments rise and fall creating an eclectic stew that shifts and undulates in a vast tidal wave of sound. As daunting as this might sound, Paul Schutze holds it altogther with the calm assurance of a conductor at the top of his game. Highly recommended.

Bitingly cold when I picked up the boys from school. They were both in good fettle but were late getting out of their classes and consequently we missed the bus. There is an assumption that the majority of parents ferry their children via car. However I don't drive and so have to throw myself on the tender mercies of the bus timetable. That means a good long wait of at least a half hour till the next one. Eventually we got home and the boys were delighted to find a copy of Iron Jim by Andy Howarth had arrived in the post. When he's not writing books Andy sometimes find the time to visit the DGM site and make the occasional contribution to the guest book. Cheers Andy - I'll let you know what the kids make of it.

John Wetton is playing in Newcastle tonight but sadly I can't get along as Debbie has got a big meeting at her school and we were unable to organise a babysitter. I left a message at the stage door wishing John good luck for the show tonight. The upside of not going out tonight is that we get to read Iron Jim.

Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Alligator Man

Sun and irrepressible blue sky. . .which is just as well as I spend the morning feeling bilious and on verge of the Technicolor yawn. Debbie reckons it's my wild social life catching up with me.

You always get a tinge of anxiety when your children leave the house without you there to guide, interpret and intervene if needed. You always wonder how well they'll stand up on their own two feet and no matter how rational you are, it's always a tense time until they come back through the door. So maybe my acid, upset stomach and all is something to do with that.

In the post this morning were CD's from Ian Boddy and Gordon Haskell. The Bodster has sent me a listening copy of the CD that will be given away with the June edition of The Wire. It's a sampler featuring an overview of the nine DiN releases to date. The Wire is in danger of being colonised by DiN as the label lore section of next month's edition will feature DiN and I understand two new DiN releases are going to be reviewed.

The CD from Gordon is a promo copy of his soon to be released album Alligator Man. Gordon was really up about it when he rang a couple of weeks back and judging by the quick run through I had this morning, his enthusiasm is certainly justified.

A couple of helpful E-mails from Robert and a hurried message from Andrew Keeling on the blower. I must have chopping onions.

Monday, March 19, 2001

Crimson's Psychogeography

Walked out to the shops yesterday with Debbie and got a wet red head for my trouble after being hit by a blizzard. Debbie, was a wet redhead and wearing glasses, was also operating on automatic pilot for most of the time we were out. Still, it was highly enjoyable blinded for most of the journey.

The kids spent the bulk of the day in dreaded homework and school project scenario's in varying degrees of penury. Person Most Chipper award went to Alys who was doing a project on Japan (the country not the group) and constructed a beautiful penguin for me using the ancient art of origami. We cheated a bit by making a body for the penguin out of the cardboard innards of a toilet roll. He now sits on my desk, head askew and a fish tail slapping about in his capacious beak. I was going to call him Portillo but as Debbie pointed out most of my growing collection of penguins are called Portillo. So I've broken with tradition and christened him Michael Ancrum.

Talked to Andrew Keeling last night who had very kindly given me a steer on some very disturbing dreams I've been having all last week. We also discussed the new ELP biography and the musical analysis therein.

Caught up with Robert's diary last night and felt my heart sink at being described as an expert even if it was in inverted commas. To me, an expert is like one of those blokey's that you see on Antiques Roadshow, who pick up a pot of some objet d'art and then launch into a definitive description of the object, its history, context and value. And they make it look easy and make you think that you probably knew all that stuff all along.

Well it's true that over the last couple of years I've been able to get access to most of the folk who make up Crims past and present. And its true that I've spent quite a few nights tapping away at the keyboard trying to make sense of it all and my own feelings toward the music. This for me, has been particularly fraught. Without wanting to be overly melodramatic, there's not a line in the book so far which hasn't been anything less than difficult. I can put my hand on my heart and say there hasn't been one occasion when I have felt remotely like an "expert".

I'm a writer only in the sense that I write. Real writing is done by people like Peter Ackroyd, Samuel Beckett, Thomas Pynchon, Iain Sinclair, Peter Sinfield and other luminaries who can take disparate huddles of words and transform them into something which can make you laugh, cry and sing - sometimes all at the same time. Not being a professional writer or journalist, I find that getting a good few hundred words a day is a constant struggle and the thought that these words are going to be scrutinised by a discerning public (or not) does at times send a shiver through me timbers.

This book is not and cannot be definitive. I'm always sceptical about anything that passes itself off as being definitive and if proof of this is needed then just go and take a look at your CD collection.

There are plenty of people out there who know more about Crimson than I do and when I bump into them, I am always amazed at their ability to access minute details of trivia and information. Sadly, I am not one of them. Each bit of information I have in my bonce about Crimson seems to have a distinctly short shelf life in my head. Some of them are committed to paper but my guess is that most are not.

So as I've said once or twice before, the book is only my shot at the Crimson, my attempt to make some sense of the comings and goings of the individuals who came to play. I can't give you any real insight as to where the music came from or what it was meant to signify. Your take is likely to be just as valid and quite possibly as "authoritative" as my own.

Reading through the draft so far, I seem to be telling a tale which begins in Winton, takes in Wimborne, moves quickly to Bournemouth and then hits the road to London. Once there it intones a series of names - Fulham Palace Road, Hyde Park, Wardour Street, Wessex, and a whole host of other locations which carry (for me at least) a mythic impact. Thereafter, it criss-crosses the Atlantic as Crimson sheds members with alarming frequency and ultimately ends up in Nashville. Yes folks, it's as exciting as that !

Somewhere on this trudge along the ley-lines of Crimson's pyschogeography, despite the individuals and their internal wrangles, extraordinary music occasionally manifests itself and . . .well if you were there, you know the rest.

Saturday, March 17, 2001

Phone Calls & Clippings

E-mailed Ian Wallace this morning for a point of clarification and blow me if he didn't ring me up. My favourite diarist was in fine fettle and able to provide me with the bits and pieces of information I needed with impressive recall and his typical good humour.

Not too long after I got another phone call from David Symes who I'm meeting up with in a couple of weeks for a pint and a natter. David also has some press clippings which sound very useful for the latter part of the book.

Designer Chris Wilson e-mailed me with his suggestions for the page lay-out of the book. I have to say I thought it looked wonderful and Chris under his own steam has perfectly captured the look and feel which I was after. I'm so used to seeing the words in a standard PC format but I confess to getting a real thrill when I saw the text laid out looking and looking all proper - just like a book !

Now all I have to do is try and persuade the publisher to spend huge sums of money on this lay-out.

Friday, March 16, 2001

Laffalonga Jakko

A night spent on the blower. . .Jakko "What bleedin' day of the week is it ? Jakszyk. He's been a busy bee trying to hit a deadline for the end of the week and then if he's very lucky he's going to take a break. General chit chat exchanged and some non-specific arrangements about meeting up for a natter the next time I'm in London. Came off the phone after an hour or so and realised that my face ached because I'd been smiling so much. This rictus says something about Jakko or something about me - I'm not sure which.

Not long after that, there were more smiles and grins during a conference call with John Wetton. Most of this was spent discussing the merits of Bananas In Pyjamas and animal genitalia. John was in fine fettle and mentioned he was playing in Newcastle next week at the Opera House. I'm going to see if I can make it along.

Also telephonic discussions with the Great Kimbrini down in the leafy environs of Highgate. He was somewhat lathered and slightly bushwacked after offering guiding vibes to one of the UK's larger financial institutions. We're trying to hatch some plans to get some serious nattering done in the coming weeks although this would involve the co-operation of a train company called GNER who own some trains and Railtrack who own the rails that the trains run on.

Amazingly enough, there are trains and track which stretch all the way down to London and, I'm told, even more track that stretches all the way back to Newcastle. If you stand at the end of the platform in Newcastle's Central Station looking north, the tracks seem to continue quite a way off into the distance. I'm told that these rails go to Scotland but don't quote me on that.

Just caught up with the guest-book and Sandy Starr's suggestion about abandoning chronology in favour of thematic construction. I've tried playing around with different formats but you'll be disappointed to know that for me it was the admittedly dull march of time that won out. Even in this context, there are some many points where time and co-incidence tend to pre-echo and fold in on each other. There are so many worms of synchronicity which burrow through the KC story it's frankly astonishing.

As to highlighting the diverse influences which come into play with Crimson's music, I've picked up one or two interesting strands but I suspect that it'll be Andrew's book which will deal more thoroughly with this than my meagre scratching on the subject.

Thursday, March 15, 2001

A Blind Date

A Blind Date With Sid Smith . . .

A while ago John Smallwood threw down a challenge. "I'm going to send you a CD with a load of mystery tracks. Your mission should you choose to accept it is to try and challenge your preconceptions and listen to the music without knowing who the artist is." Or something like that. Well, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing so without further ado here goes. John tells me he will put me out of my misery and let me know who did what and to whom. All of the following was written in real time as each track unfolded or uncurled as the case may be.

Track One
sounds like a cross between Gentle Giant and PFM. Haven't a clue. Rocks along in an agreeable if slightly too flashy for its own good kind of way. We're talking big Hammond organ and haircuts that would frighten the Wolf Man himself.

Track Two
Not a bloody clue. All classical piano with some odd percussive effects thrown in. Sounds a bit too restrained for Rick Wakeman.

Track Three
A wild twitch-funk fest that gets the toes tapping. Sounds heavily influenced by Herbie Hancock - hell it could well be HH himself. The keyboard playing generally has a more European feel with a few Zawinul-esque runs thrown in. The last solo sounds dead like Herbie. OK I give up. Best one yet though.

Track Four
It has that boxed in digital sound which early samplers used to reek off. The world music ethnic chorus is probably meant to provide a textural variation but sounds too grafted on. No idea who what or when.

Track Five
The chorus sounds like the theme music from one of those US lawyer/Doctor shows - humane and uplifting with a hint of urgency to demonstrate how busy all the characters are being regular human beings. With the guitar being so prominent a feature it has to belong to one of the kerjillions of top flight blokey's who can bend and tap notes while ringing their agent about the production points. It's crass enough to be Pat Metheny but hasn't got his syrup. Urgh ...a jokey little tag at the end which at least has the virtue of reminding us not to take this beast seriously at all.

Track Six
Big doomy production. Sometimes I wonder if synthesisers are a boon to modern man or the death of imagination. The wispy pan-pipe synth lines carbon date this sucker to early to mid-eighties. Sounds like a one man band - all gated Linn drums and frilly sequencers. The production is obviously meant to be the thing to listen to rather the music which actually isn't all that bad. Sounds like a flugel horn solo and I only know two flugel horn players - Hugh Masekella and Ian Carr.

Track Seven
Discordant guitar opening playing at high volume and distorted harmonics. Just when it sounds like its going to get down and boogie it jumps into a mid-paced shuffle. Clunky, bumpy and thunky it sounds like Alan Holdsworth slumming it in the mid range. However, I don't recall Holdsworth sounding this rocky and using a twang bar like that. The drumming isn't to bad at all.

Track Eight
DX 7 tinkly keyboards and strident soaring guitar and a big booming crunch of a snare suggest a swaying stadium of people with lighters aloft. "White light, it's a magical night - a ghostly presence in the midnight air" sing the singers, it appears about sighting a flying saucer. It's songs like this which give alien abduction a good name. Oh god - it just got classical and tricky dicky. Where are the Greys when you need them ? Are they really singing "Hello yellow Christian take the time to notice me" ? I just hope John Smallwood has a lot of medication if he listens to this tosh on a regular basis. In the immortal words of John Kimber of leafy Highgate "If you ever fuckin' play me that again, I'll stab you!"

Track Nine
Lots of classical piano and upfront guitar negotiating their way around some quick moving passages. All the flute, big chords and use of volume pedal makes me think of Steve Hackett bizarrely enough. In fact it sounds very like Foxtrot era Genesis (particularly the closing section of Supper's Ready). Not a clue who this might be. Now all fast and furious with the main theme re-capitulated as is the style of fashion of many a progster. All I'm prepared to say about this is that it sounds very English which almost certainly means it was produced by YVGOZY who are the best band to come out of Malmo. Probably. Track Ten
Bubbly bass and brushed drums rumble away over a very happy tune with a South African feel to it. A woman scats over the top in a state of high excitement. It sounds post-Graceland though. Jennifer Warnes meets Ladysmith Black Whatsits.

Track Eleven
Mellotrons and high twangy guitar over a rock steady beat. And now an abrasive soprano saxophone coming in. Strange mix with the 'tron enveloping everything. This has to be a guitarist's album given its prominence. Sounds at times like Jan Ackerman but I never heard him in such a proggy symphonic setting. The big finish tells us these blokey's mean business. Not bad in a retro kind of way.

Track Twelve
What on earth is this ??? Sounds like the theme music to a swinging sixties happening show. Very Groovy. Mmmm. The drums sound almost speeded up and they're very busy. Could this be a Frank Zappa tongue in your cheek pastiche ? Horn section, muted trumpets, soprano sax and electric violin.! the drums are absurdly busy - was this geezer getting paid by the note ? A crazy waltz with a manic grin. Can I have some more of this one Mr. Smallwood. I like it.

THE NEXT DAY. . .

This just in from John Smallwood . . .
Dear Sid

Ok, here’s the answers. I sent you a CD with a disproportionate share of music by Italian artists. I did this at the risk of incurring the wrath of our favorite drummer (whose comments could not be included in a family site like DGM), and my wife (“sounds like the Eurovision Song Contest”).

The line-up:
1. Cherry 5 – “My Little Cloudland”
2. Il Baricentro – “Trusciant”
3. Il Baricentro – “Afka”
4. Banco – “Anche Dio”
5. PFM – “Colazone a Disneyland”
6. Zyklus/Ian Carr – “Before the Oil Ran Out”
7. Terje Rypdal – “Chaser”
8. It Bites – “Yellow Christian”
9. Locanda della Fate – “A Volte un Istante di Quiete”
10. Laine Carroll – “M’bTanga Blues”
11. Druid – “Theme”
12. Arti+Mestieri – “Giro di Valzer per Domani”

Track One
This is an Italian band named Cherry 5. I’m hoping that you give the end of this song, which last about 2.5 minutes, several more listens and report back me.

Track Two /Track Three
Both are by another Italian band named Il Baricentro. Two keyboards, no guitars.

Track Four
Banco from a more recent CD, “13”.

Track Five
PFM. Also, the mystery track you liked so much at the end of the other CD I sent was also PFM.

Track Six
Good guess! Downbeat’s Blindfold Test is calling. This is an electronic group formed by Ian Carr and Neil Ardley called “Zyklus”, after the Zyklus computer.

Track Seven
Terje Rypdal.

Track Eight
Those Cumbrian lads “It Bites”. I became a fan after seeing them live. I think this one will grow on you.

Track Nine
Another Italian, “Locanda della Fate.”

Track Ten
This was sent to me by Dave Mattacks, who produced it and played drums on it. A British pianist and vocalist named Laine Carroll. July 1995.

Track Eleven
Another Midlands/Northern group, Druid. Surprised you didn’t know this one.

Track Twelve
A final Italian, Arti+Mestieri. I love your use of the word “waltz”. Great song called “Giro di Valzer per Domani”, which I understand to mean “a turn on the waltz for tomorrow.” A nice title to think of while listening to the music.

Any changes to your comments now that you know who did what with which and to whom? John

Hi there John,
Nah. . .no changes in comments particularly. I really liked PFM's Photos Of Ghosts and El Kimbo sent me a copy of the Italian mix of that album which was even better. Didn't get off on the World album as much it must be said. As for IT BITES . . .there should be a law against this kind of thing.

Monday, March 12, 2001

Flashes From Roy Harper

Talked to Andrew Keeling for a little while on the telling bone yesterday. As ever, it's always good to natter. We kicked around chicken and egg theories about LTIA and pondered on some of the influences which were obviously whizzing around in the air when that album was made.

It's clear as we talk that Andrew is engaged in a work of such monumental detail it's going to be a huge undertaking on his part. I know from my own experience of trying to get the Crimson story into some kind of order how tiring that can be. Yet in the scheme of things I'm barely scratching the surface of the music. Rather I'm concentrating instead on the symptoms of the music, its effect and, ahem, legacy. I'm writing up the story of the numerous bods who've played it and listened to it over the years.

Andrew has the daunting task of penetrating the parts and piece which make up the architecture and telling us all how it fits together.

Revising the Court chapter. As I read over the semi-completed drafts of the book I continually find vast gaping holes. I stop and look incredulously. How on earth can you purport to write something about the original Crimson and NOT mention in any way shape or form the whole "good fairy" riff ? Doh !

Got a very helpful e-mail from David Cunningham yesterday which not only managed to give me a shot in the arm but provided me with some important details in the post-Crimson projects of Giles and Muir. Thanks for that one David.

Listening To . . . Roy Harper
Roy Harper - Flashes From The Archives Of Oblivion
Roy Harper - Flat, Baroque & Berserk
Roy Harper - Lifemask
Roy Harper - Stormcock
Roy Harper - Valentine

Sunday, March 11, 2001

Seeing Music As A Physical Presence

A sublime sunny morning with beautiful skies and warm, golden sun. The kids are out in the street playing football but almost every kick of the ball is interspersed with a detailed argument about the rules and whether or not player X has made an infringement of some kind.

Listening to Desert Island Discs earlier in the week and heard the pianist John Lill talking to Sue Lawley (which if you say it quickly enough sounds like So Lonely). In amongst the expected fawning and cringeworthy obsequiousness which Lawley specialises in, the pianist described how music was for him a tangible presence and then related his experience of dealing with it directly. In very matter of fact terms he described a premonition where a voice told him he would win the piano competition he had entered in Moscow.

He'd also seen music as a physical presence occupying space and taking on a form. He then went on to describe how during some performances in his career he'd had a form of out of body experience where he was able to see himself playing from the perspective of some of his colleagues. Moreover, he described the audience as being a vital part of the circuit and their capacity to make or break performances via subtle interactions or violations.

Part of last night was spent talking with some chums who I'd not seen in a while. One friend in particular is going through quite a hard time and as he told us his tale of woe I realised how much he was failing to see the positive aspects of what he was experiencing. Now of course one can sound insufferably smug coming out with that kind of line on things but as he complained about his treatment on a particular issue, all I could see was how good this was for him. After a while I pointed this out to him and he just looked stunned. "Haven't you been listening to a word I've just been saying ? " he asked incredulously. "Yes, of course, it's just you can put a different slant on things and realise that what's being said actually sounds much better than you realise."

This did not go down well and things went from bad to worse. So I jumped ship and left it alone.

Saturday, March 10, 2001

A Love Story

6.50 a.m.
Having just done some back exercises I open the door to be greeted by the sight of Tom and Joe inching their way along the corridor covered over by their quilts pretending to be large caterpillars. Now that's the way to start the day. Quite an overcast day but still bright and full of the old isn't it great to be alive routine.

My mother spent quite a long time last night musing on the death of her partner, Harry. Although it's been a few years she still acutely feels the pain of their enforced separation.

Doreen and Harry had found each other late in life. Both coming out of marriages that had gone wrong and loveless, they thought they were consigned to spend the rest of their years moving in polite but essentially lonely social circles. Then they met and became inseparable companions for day trips, talks, lunchtime recitals and eventually holidays abroad. When booking the first holiday, the question of separate rooms inevitably came up. Both in their sixties, Harry assumed that they'd have separate rooms but Doreen took charge and got them a single room with a double bed which saved them a bunch of money and upgraded their relationship at the same time.

Although my mother had no ties their days out and trips abroad had to be organised and planned around Harry's care of his elderly mother, Ada. She was in her nineties, infirm, incontinent and requiring regular attention. Harry being a dutiful, loving son did the bulk this but also received help from social services who sent a home help in twice a day to help dress and undress Ada.

Harry had called round to deliver some shopping for his mother. He'd made her a cup of tea and was taking five minutes out before preparing his mother's evening mother. What Ada didn't realise was that as Harry sat down in the chair he suffered a huge, devastating heart attack and was dead before he touched the back of the chair. His mother thought he had gone to sleep.

The next day social services made one of their regular calls but were unable to get any response. Six hours later they called back but this time shouting through the letterbox and checking with the neighbours. Checks were made at Harry's house but he couldn't be found. The next day there was still no reply and the police broke in to find Ada distraught with her dead son sitting in the bedside chair. He'd been dead for over 24 hours.

My mother was in Carlisle visiting friends and I had to make the call.

Six months later Ada, in the wonderful words of Kinky Friedman, stepped on a rainbow and joined her son.

There isn't a day when my mother doesn't think about him. She's forgiven her God from taking Harry away but she can't stop the pain of absence.

Thursday, March 08, 2001

Singing The Body Eclectic

The dancing cymbal work of Eric Gravatt propels Weather Report's Unknown Solider into blissful tones and colours. Is just me is this one of the most hope-inspiring pieces of music around. I mean, I know its supposed to be about war and how grim it all is but as the piccolo trumpet comes in, I just want to dance !

Actually I'm struck by how much ProjeKcts One and Four remind me of this early period Weather Report. There's that same restless fury and generation of a million musical ideas thrown up during a performance. Listen to side two of I Sing The Body Electric or the deeply exciting Live In Tokyo (from which the live side of ISTBE is edited from) to see what I mean. Some sincerely savage sounds.

My PC is making noises like a turbo-charged coffee percolator - I half expect to see smoke coming out of it at any moment. Sean Hewitt rang me the other day to tell me that his had actually blown up. I am caught between selling the children into slavery to buy a sleek new lap-top (in anticipation of a mobile future) or go for some kind of upgrade option which costs a lot less. Thing is I'm not overly confident about the longevity of this machine. I had one major crash last year resulting in the loss of material and increasingly these days, the machine just blinks off. I've learnt to back things up on a regular basis (i.e. .daily) but still have a general sense of unease about the thing.

Scouring through the catalogues, I realise that a new hard disc with a memory the size of Swindon is much cheaper than buying new. The adverts say how easy the step by step installation instructions are but I don't have the confidence and I'm frightened that I'd end up losing everything.

Does any UK based reader of this diary have a copy of last years Guardian which featured ITCOTCK as the best album cover ever ? It was a two page spread featuring a huge reproduction of Barry Godber's painting. I put mine away somewhere safe . . .well, you can guess the rest I suppose. If you do have a copy I'd be very grateful if you'd let me know via the usual means.

A bright summer day. On the bus going to school this morning the boys pointed out all the bulbs which poked out through the grassy road sides. Is it that time of year already ? There's a clematis in our back yard that has actually been flowering since last summer. If Vivaldi were around today, he'd surely re-title his classic opus to car adverts - The Weird Seasons.

Wednesday, March 07, 2001

Ch-ch-ch-ch -Change Is

A True Story . . .

In the late 1960's Newcastle was a place on the point of change. Newcastle was on the up and up. The economy was in good shape, the ship yards were full of supertankers and for a while, charismatic Council leader T. Dan Smith's claim that he would make the city "the Brasilia of the north" looked like coming true. Smith's vision (with a little help from his friend, architect John Poulsen) would see much of the fine Victorian heritage bulldozed to make way for the tower blocks, vast concrete bunkers and malls with all the charm of the Kremlin on a sleet-ridden Tuesday.

The Council's Licensing sub-committee in the new, white marbled labyrinthine civic centre and the local constabulary kept a watchful eye on the tolerated infringements and indiscretions of Geordie club land with its bit of under-the counter-how's-your father ? Cabaret and gaming were well worth dipping your beak into if you had the connections and the bottle and so the trains to and from London Kings Cross often carried big men, whose smart suits lent an ill-fitting shape to the violence barely contained within their well tailored lines. Every once in a while somebody would get stabbed or shot and the boys in blue would go in hard whilst shocked city fathers would ring their hands on TV, lamenting the hostilities in public but accepting the hospitality in private.

For the most part, the night life in late sixties Newcastle was a queasy mix of flashy formica and frothy beer, nothing too poncy for the hard boys who liked to play hard. Nothing too . . ."southern". It's rumoured that Fleetwood Mac wrote "Someone's Going To Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight" (the b-side to Albatross) after an eventful visit to the city. If you've ever seen the movie Get Carter then you'll have a flavour of what it was like. Somewhere behind the visiting "top singing sensations", the exotic (almost esoteric) dancers and the mini dressed dolly birds, a small number of organisations and families ran the show.

South of the river, Billy Botto made sure the punters were happy with a diet of one-armed bandits and the smoky come-as-you-please. In Newcastle itself, the Bailey Organisation (a totally respectable and legitimate concern with some directors from down the Smoke of course) had the top spots - La Dolce Vita and The Cavendish. These were straight up and down, chicken in a basket, cabaret and corn, over-priced drinking establishments where you could dance a bit, gamble and perhaps make out with the brass, if you weren't lucky enough to pull.

Into all of this in late 1968 came comedian and TV game show host Bob Monkhouse (left). Monkhouse had fallen in with Ronnie Markham, who had a sure fire scheme to open a real swinging hot spot in the cold, cold north. Ronnie had big plans bring a slice of psychedelia to the site of the old Piccadilly Club in Bath Lane but needed a big backer with big money. Figuring that the Botto's and the Bailey's had enough of the action he wanted some independence. He laid out the plans to Monkhouse who was persuaded to underwrite brewery loans and pour huge sums of money into the expensive refit of a three floor fun palace called Change Is.

Ronnie lived in a well heeled suburb of Newcastle called Darras Hall. Ronnie also had a lavish lifestyle and expensive tastes and a housekeeper courtesy of the Change Is pay roll. And as Monkhouse worked any engagements he could to earn more money to put into the club, Ronnie's habits became more and more immoderate.

Teaser ads ran in the local press proclaiming that London was green with envy and Manchester blue with despair at the ever changing, mind blowing experience which Change Is promised to be. The adverts listed "Star cabarets, strobe lights, pulsing sounds, sexy light shows, mad movies, 'nicks' and 'nickettes', groovy gifts, saloon bar prices, dissolving picture walls, fabulous musicians, big name groups, hot fast menus, gormet dishes, guests stars, souvenirs - plus a hundred secret etceteras !!!" And Bob Monkhouse was footing the bill for the entire lot. Friends and colleagues said he was acting out of character by sinking everything he owned into this exciting money pit venture with a guy he hardly knew.

Markham was the MC at Change Is, entertaining the punters and introducing the acts with a real flair. And so he should. He was also known as Romark - the stage hypnotist and a good one at that. A very good hypnotist as it turns out.

Three weeks after the club opened, Dik Fraser and Peter Sinfield rolled in off the M1 and started unloading the gear at the back of Bath Lane and a nascent King Crimson, booked in as GG&F, played to the punters of night time Newcastle. The band stayed with Mrs Gaylor in South Shields not far from the amusement arcades which of course were owned by Billy Botto's crew. A week later the Crimson boys left - some taking with them souvenirs that were given to them by some generous lasses who'd been around a bit.

A few months passed by and Bob Monkhouse woke up one morning to the sound of near bankruptcy calling on the breeze. He woke up, cut his losses and bailed out of Change Is. Writing his autobiography and looking back on this period Monkhouse believes that Markham had put the 'fluence on him and had conned him out of hundreds and thousands of pounds in a remarkably short period of time. He was glad to be out of it. A while later Ronnie was also glad to be out of it, making off with huge sums of cash and doing a definitive disappearing act that David Copperfield himself would have been proud of.

E-mail from Jakko today which made me laugh. Some of it went like this.

Following something I read in your diary re Heartbeat. Well, it's not a programme we watch but we did happen upon it last year. What music were they using as incidental? Moonchild. Indeed they used lots of it. Also the other lunchtime the Bob Monkhouse fronted quiz show, Wipe-out, was on silently in the back ground of the studio (I do lots of stuff to picture). The question was 'which of the following people are keyboard players.' The are about 16 names on a big board from which players have to choose. By the time I'd noticed it there were about 4 names left visible. Bob looked at the board and said 'Well, you have the following names to choose from Dave Greenfield, Mrs Mills, Russ Conway and Robert Fripp' At this point Bob shook his head in disbelief and turned to the camera and said 'You know there's a good friend of mine in the west country and if he has just tuned in his jaw will have just hit the floor.' It must have laid there next to mine. I wonder who his friend is? Toyah ? Fripp himself? Did Bob ever audition for Crimson? I can feel a new chapter for the book coming on - Jimmy Tarbuck sings Lizard. I'd buy it.
Speak soon me old mucker
Jakko

More headlice found, retrieved and dispatched. This of course means another round of ELP as the hair drying music. This came not from Tarkus but from Trilogy courtesy of Chris Wilson who loaned me his copy. I really liked this album when it came out but today, other than it's properties as a vigorous accompaniment to towelling, it failed to weave it's magic spell.

Tuesday, March 06, 2001

Dik Fraser and Taking The Blame

New York City. . .
A little after six a.m.
The expected storm hasn't quite materialised. The skies are grey but full of chilly promise. The phone rings and Dik Fraser picks it up to hear the buoyant, chipy tones of a Geordie accent worrying the tiny speaker. "Hello Dik - it's Sid ! How are you this morning ?"

When I was a kid, Sid and Dick were two extras who used to appear in the comedy sketches of UK comedians, Morecombe and Wise. Apart from the time when they helped sing the unforgettable "Boom Hoo Yatatataa song", Sid and Dick would usually stand in the background mostly keeping schtum for the duration of their appearance in front of the cameras.

Today, Sid and Dik chatted away for a well over an hour about the ghosts of Crimson's past. Dik started off his public career as Crimson's roadie but after a spell in Morocco returned to become Crimson's tour manager until 1974. Talking to him helped provide a very different perspective to life on the road from that of the musician. When asked to describe the job of a tour manager, Dik paused and said "Taking the blame".

My mother had her day of tests at the hospital yesterday. She'd been experiencing errant pains and palpitations in her chest in recently and they thought she might have developed angina. Good news is after exhaustive tests and a scanning procedure which involved simulating my mother running a marathon, they have given her the all clear and told her that she has "a beautiful heart". One way or another it's been a difficult year for her given the family bereavements and so on. She's 74 and we talked about mortality. She said "Well, it's no use worrying about it. What's before you won't go past you."

Listening to the first couple of Back Door albums after nearly twenty five years of never having heard them. Colin Hodgkinson's playing was ever so strong. Once upon a seventies, I had a couple of days playing with Tony Hicks the drummer on the Back Door album. I was trying rather feebly to provide the bass line to Chameleon by Herbie Hancock and Tony Hicks was pretending that he didn't mind. Nice bloke.

Monday, March 05, 2001

Foot & Mouth

Foot and Mouth continues to spread like wildfire across the UK and has even halted some of the countries sporting fixtures - so it must be serious. The slaughter of animals continues and there's talk of a selected cull on Dartmoor. We had thought about planning a family trip out to Warkworth Castle this week-end but it this might not be possible.

Earlier tonight, Debbie and I hatched some plans to take in a visit to leafy Highgate and the great Kimbrini. At the moment there are serious concerns about the safety of the railway following the crash on the Eastern line in which ten people died. This was the result of a freak accident - a truck towing a car left the road and rolled down an embankment finally settling on the line in the path of an oncoming train. The train hit the vehicles and was de-railed onto the other line and in the path of an oncoming freight train.

The railway network in this country hasn't really recovered from the crash last year. Trains are routinely late and one feels lucky if you arrive at your destination only an hour after the stated time.

Ian McDonald rang last night to catch up with news of the C4 top ten prog rock bands. Ian had been interviewed for the programme but sadly his contribution wasn't used in the end. Having said that Ian felt more relieved than disappointed as he was less than impressed with the circumstances of the interview and the complete lack of knowledge of the subject displayed by the crew who were there to get his hour plus contribution down on tape.

Also talked to Dik Fraser last night to set up an interview for later in the week. Dik and the late Vik were part of the original Crimson road crew and Dik went on to be Crimson's tour manager for many a year.

One of the highlights of KC's section on the C4 programme was the appearance of some silent footage of KC at Hyde Park. Having talked to the programme's producer I've now found out which company has the film and I'll be contacting them to see if it's possible to access it. I think some stills would look wonderful though I have no idea of what the practicalities of snatching stills from this footage might be - assuming I get permission.


Sunday, March 04, 2001

C4's Top Ten Prog Rock Show

Beautiful Sunny Sunday morning with gold and silver shards thrown across the sea. This is most definitely a Vaughan Williams kind of moment. Last night I watched Channel Four's Top Ten Prog Rock bands show narrated by Mark Radcliffe and presented by UK comedian Bill Bailey. Earlier in the day I'd received a couple of e-mails from people wishing me luck although strangely Sean Hewitt urged me to break a leg. I have to admit to some feelings of nerves as the show started and several distinct palpitations when it came to Crimson.

In a little over five minutes the show glossed over the history of the band but generally with a playful respect. The best part for me was the brief footage of Hyde Park which was the first time I'd ever seen it. Inevitably, there was lots of gaps and omissions given the format and the time available but it turned out better than I thought it would.

The show featured Camel, KC, Hawkwind, ELP, Jethro Tull, Rush, Moody Blues, Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd. I'm not sure that I'd describe some of those as Prog but that's probably just splitting hairs. Debbie defines prog rock as "lasting an eternity and having lots of organ that goes diddly-diddly-diddly-diddly." So by that criteria Camel, ELP, Tull, Yes, Genesis and the Moodies fit the description. Rush, I have to say I've always managed to avoid and on the evidence of what I saw and heard last night, there's no question of a late shift in that policy. As to Crimson, Hawkwind and Floyd, they have their own sound and style which to my ears places them well outside the prog category as defined by my resident prog expert and wearer of lacey basques.

Ultimately on the scale of things such categorisation is largely irrelevant and probably not worth spending too much time on. Macan, Martin and Stump (great name for a band) have whole books which do that so I'm not even going to frazzle my brain cells trying to work that one out.

As a postscript to watching the show, this week-end was also Alys's fourteenth birthday and she had three of her fourteen year old chums sleeping over. As Debbie and I watched the show in our bedroom on a TV specially imported for the event, we could hear gales of laughter emanating from the front room down below. The girls had hired a video to watch and we assumed it must be a good one by the sounds peeling up.

About two minutes after the KC slot had finished they all came running upstairs and Alys and her mates shouted words of derision and insult in my direction as they had just watched the show. I asked her what she thought and much to her mates pleasure she cackled "What a bunch of ugly saddo's - and that includes you !"

Got a shock the other day to hear on the radio that Seattle had been rocked by an earthquake. I got on the web and found a news site with some pictures. The first one I looked at was a shot of the Fenix (see picture) looking a bit worse for wear. This was where ProjeKct Four played when the West Coast tour rolled into town. No fatalities as far as I can tell but billions of dollars of damage.

It's been snowing a lot lately and on Friday night I walked my mother up to the bus stop at the top of our street. The bus never came and nor did the next one. After nearly forty five minutes of standing in the cold a bus finally came into view. A phone call to the company revealed that the road conditions were judged to be so bad that the service was withdrawn. This is not a rural route and between Gateshead and Whitley Bay it's all main roads. I bet the buses are running in Reykjavik though.

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