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I'm fairly certain we recorded this album over a couple of weekends in November 1973, though it could've been 72. The memory dims. Cass Yard was thick with ice on the first Saturday of our recording and our bass player skidded into the yard in his Bubble car; his bass and huge speaker probably doubling the weight. We helped Paul Todd, the drummer, with his kit and carried it up the narrow stairs to the little studio with its upright piano and the wall covered with egg-boxes and mattresses. All studios were like that then. Mike got a different kit in after complaining that Paul's sounded like wet cardboard boxes.
It was a huge learning curve for us (Jim Gordon and Pete Howells). We were young and full of enthusiasm and felt fully confident in Mike's ability to get the best from us.
Here's our memories of one particular track. 'I never met you' - The song was based on a pretty, ragtime kind of tune- fashionable at the time. We wanted to give it a musical-hall feel, the sort of thing that Flanders and Swan might've done to contrast with an underlying darkness in the lyrics. There is a call and response between the two protagonist that are being portrayed - the two ex-lovers. It about the harsh reality at the end of a relationship. One wants to deny that it ever happened. The other follows suit. In that respect the remain entwined. This might sound highfalutin but it's really just a fun take on a sad and familiar story. It was meant to suggest a light-hearted reflection on the split up but underneath it there is a sense of deep regret at the inevitability of the breakup, summed up in the last two lines "You said you loved me and I said I loved you, but now you're without me and I'm without you. "
There are only the two guitars and a metronome on this track until the very end where we go a little more surreal. Mike suggested including a recording he had made earlier of Howard Haswell-Bailey's Welsh chickens. We loved that suggestion.
Mike's favourite lines of the song were, "Sometimes I just look through, the glass I had painted blue," It made him laugh every time, and it does me now, because he heard it as, 'Sometimes I just look through the glass-eye...' it works either way I suppose.
We laid the guitar tracks down to the metronome click, which we later faded in and out, and then did the vocals, warts and all, in one take. The album was later categorised as psychedelic folk music and this of course was recorded at the first independent record company in the UK. We were retrospective pioneers in the land of make-believe. It was fun and it was hard work. The recording of the whole album took about three and a half days. The mixing, the sound effects the later additions and tinkering about were mainly done by Mike. We were doing this sort of stuff simply because we could, because we believed in it and we thought we were pushing boundaries and maybe we were, just a little.
The whole project cost about £100 which is laughable retrospectively. We were all doing it for the love of the thing really, all of us including the inimitable Mike Levon. One of those discs, in good condition is worth six times that now! We've got three between us and that's partly why we are both so incredibly rich today.
colour eight page booklets and inlays
• new photographs and original artwork
• words to all original songs
• additional tracks, out-takes, and contemporary tracks
• previously unreleased recordings
• a special label and logo
• background and recording information
• info, and anecdotes . . . the works!
and A TO AUSTR are the most well known albums on the label during its early
days from 1966 to 1975.
These and nine others make up the "Works" released through KISSING SPELL:
1 LAST THING ON MY MIND
volume 2 NUMBER NINE BREAD STREET (still to be released)
volume 3 A TO AUSTR (still to be released)
volume 4 ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS
volume 5 GAGALACTYCA
volume 6 JUMBLE LANE
volume 7 ODE by BLUE EPITAPH
volume 8 THE LEGEND OF THE KINGFISHER by GYGAFO
volume 9 TEARS ON THE CONSOLE by Chick Shannon and the Last Exit Band (still to be released)
volume 10 LOOSE ROUTES 1
volume 11 LOOSE ROUTES 2
Several of the
albums above have only ever been released in small vinyl runs : volumes
1, 5, 9, 10 and 11. All will have a considerable number of additional tracks.
The average running time of each CD will be over 60 minutes and often up
to 70 minutes. Mike has scoured his archive and made several surprising
finds, especially the ones "hidden" on the bottom track or other side of
the tape - tracks even he didn"t know he"d got!
THE FIRST TWO RELEASES are "Last Thing On My Mind" from 1966, and "Gagalactyca" from the early seventies. For details see below.
LAST THING ON MY MIND has never been released since the original 99 vinyl copies made by Mike Levon when he recorded it in 1966. It is an album of folk and early folk rock - the roots from which Holyground grew. There are standout performances from Chris Coombs and others. It"s an album of great beauty: if you close your eyes you can see the candles, and feel the dark . . . There are also several out-takes and contemporary recordings never previously released at all!
GAGALACTYCA has only been released on vinyl. It is a sister album to Astral Navigations. There are two "sets" of music : Chris Coombs and others (Lightyears Away), and Thundermother. Chris and Mike Levon wrote songs for the Light Years Away "side" of the album. Standout tracks are the short though beautiful "That Is What We Need", and "Cold Tired and Hungry" a storming track featuring Bill Nelson on guitar.
Thundermother come up with five brilliant tracks, four of them their own songs. Standout tracks are a version of "Woman" by the group, an acid guitar epic in "Come On Home", and the beautiful "Woman In My Life".
Additional tracks include Chris Coombs" tributes to Winnie the Pooh - yes, really!; and a wonderful version of Pretty Anne, a "lost" Austr track, complete with psych keyboard.
Special webpages, only publicised through the albums themselves, will be available soon for each album. They will have even more info, photos, ephemera, gossip and flavour of the times . . .