The first Record Box commissioned by The Space has been compiled by Joe Boyd. Legendary producer and founder of the UFO club in the 1960s; discoverer of Pink Floyd among others and producer of many seminal records from Fairport Convention to Nick Drake. The box contains high resolution images and recordings from John's own record collection.
"Then suddenly Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror - indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy - but it was an awe that smote and held him" - Kenneth Grahame, The Wind In The Willows.
Aptly named after a chapter in Syd Barrett's favourite children's book. "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" is the album that Joe Boyd "heartbreakingly, didn't get to produce". However, the record that Norman Smith did produce is now recognised as a seminal psychedelic rock record, responsible for inspiring a whole generation of guitar bands. The hard juxtaposition between the whimsical child's eye view presented in the imagery of Barrett's songs, and it's wild instrumental experimentation, not only began to represent the trip itself, but ended up defining the madness inherent throughout the psychedelic movement.
"...responsible for inspiring a whole generation of guitar bands"
Or, as EMI preferred to say in their press release at the time: "Pink Floyd does not know what people mean by psychedelic pop and are not trying to create hallucinatory effects".
AMM were a group born of philosophy rather than the performance of music, the idea of searching for sound, in a leaderless environment, attempting to create a new type of music altogether. Unlike traditional free improvisation, which created sound and reflected upon itself, AMM sought to continue way past those boundaries.
"This is a very, very obscure record, but kind of legendary" says Joe, "one of the formative things in the creation of what we now think of as Pink Floyd, the long extended solos, the abstract ventures into space with the guitar, it all comes from here". He continues, "Peter Jenner gave this to Syd Barrett and he loved this record, and that took him, combined with his own acid trips, it took him off into space", leading Barrett from quirky little songs like "Arnold Layne" and "Bike" to the drawn out insanity that made them so influential.
"Peter Jenner gave this to Syd Barrett and he loved this record, and that took him, combined with his own acid trips, it took him off into space"
Recorded in one night at Sound Technique, financed by Elektra, the musicians; Cornelius Cardew, Keith Rowe, Lawrence Sheaff, Lou Gare, and Eddie Prevost actively avoided harmony and rhythm, in an attempt to create one indistinguishable group sound. In fact, they counted 'the group' when referring to its members, so if they played as a trio, they were in fact a quartet, because they considered the group as its own entity.
The Purple Gang were named after a line in "Jailhouse Rock" but had more in common with the jugbands of the "roarin' 20's" than Elvis Presley. Formed in 1965, the 5-piece from Macclesfield were responsible for one of the defining songs of the 60's underground, as Joe remembers: "They came down to London to meet me because I was going to produce them, and I took them to this shop to see my friend Nigel Waymouth who did the posters for the UFO club, he ran a boutique called 'Granny Takes A Trip' and the group were all wide-eyed, and they went back to Macclesfield and wrote a song about a granny who goes to Hollywood for an audition, it's this completely stupid silly song, but it's good, it's catchy... we used to play it all the time in the UFO club and it's kinda a cult record. It keeps surfacing every now and again"
"It became a cult record at UFO club"
'Granny Takes A Trip' was subsequently banned by the BBC for it's perceived drug references, despite support from John Peel, who called it "one of the all-time great records". The BBC controller said at the time "a band that boasts a warlock for a singer will not be tolerated by any decent society" (their singer Peter Walker called himself 'Lucifer'). "The Purple Gang Strikes" was the band's first album, recorded at Sound Techniques Studio by John Wood and Joe Boyd, but their early promise was always blighted by the BBC ban, which hindered sales and gig opportunities, the band then split up after the summer of '67.
'Mingus Ah Um' is itself a latin conjugation, (Mingus, Ming-Ah, Ming-Um) and so it stands as a perfect metaphor for the music found within it, as Charles Mingus sought to pay homage to all the elements that his music derived from. With odes to the gospel of his youth, as well as musicians like Duke Ellington, Lester Young and Jelly Roll Morton. 'Ah Um' has become recognised not only as a definitive Charles Mingus album, but a definitive jazz album.
As Joe himself says, "Mingus was so important in terms of, not only a brilliant bass player, composer etc, but he really reconciled Jazz, which was getting a bit intellectual in the late '50's, he really reconciled it with Roots, Funk, R'n'B and Gospel, he brought all of those things back in, in a really honest, unpretentious and non-intellectual way"
In the summer of 1968 Brian Jones left the Rolling Stones and headed for Morocco, where his friend Brion Gysin took him to a village called Joujouka, to experience the annual week long 'Rites of Pan' festival, in which a boy dressed as Bou Jeloud (the goat god) spread panic through the village as the master musicians played.
"The Maalimin of Joujouka, the Master Musicians are unique, even in Morocco. They are a pagan survival - still performing a week long ceremony in which dancer dressed in goatskins plays the part of Pan"
As it says in the liner notes, "Brian identified so strongly with the lusty little goat god that he wanted to record his music for everyone to hear". He condensed the week long celebratory feast into three definitive sections on the record; vocal chanting, flute and drum motifs, and the village horn and drum orchestra which accompanied the frenzied dance. In doing so, Jones captured music that had passed down for generations, in what was a very early example of "a westerner recording local music, not as a ethnological study, but as a trippy wiggy thing that was just cool to get stoned and listen to". The record is also a good example of how popular music was changing, from what started as predominantly a working class occupation, to a more middle class phenomenon, with people studying the art form from the outside and offering new perspectives that pushed it forward.
As Joe himself says, "it's a great moment in the history of the relationship between the west and the developing world".
Recorded in the spring of 1985 by Joe, who had just finished recording with R.E.M, following some sound advice from John Peel. Joe tells the story, "I used to always talk to John about football, but then he actually called me up to tell me about 10,000 Maniacs, and he said 'you should produce them', so one thing led to another and I made contact with them, and when they came to England, they came to visit me, I was going to license their rough self-produced record to put on my label, and make a new record with them, but then they got signed to Elektra and they asked if I could produce them",
"John called me up to tell me about 10,000 Maniacs, and he said 'you should produce them'"
'The Wishing Chair' was the band's second album, their first for a major label, but despite the added exposure that came with that, their politically charged alternate rock wouldn't find popularity until later releases.
This is the record that changed the world, the world's first real bootleg, the original album leak, and it "wasn't even a record, it was a demo, a publishers demo". Once Dylan went electric, the whole landscape of music and youth culture changed almost overnight. "Folk music was never the same, jazz was never the same because all those jazz clubs started becoming rock clubs, the non conformist kids who used to wear black turtlenecks and go see Miles Davis, were suddenly at Grateful Dead shows taking acid, and it just changed the whole thing", and then, as Joe remembers, "Dylan had the motorcycle accident, went off and disappeared", leaving the world to try and reconcile with the changes.
With Dylan recovering, reclusive, an incredible hunger for his work began to fill the vacuum he left behind. Shrouded in secrecy, a year later he began recording with The Hawks in the basement of 'The Big Pink'. These sessions would later prove to be the most creative period of Dylan's career and a defining moment for American popular music in general, and it's influence was felt all over the world, which Joe remembers well. "All of a sudden there were these whispers going around Soho in London that there was a demo at Feldmans Music on Charing Cross Road, just up the road from Dobells record store, and you could go in there, they wouldn't give you a copy, but you could go in there and listen to the demo, Julie Driscoll covered 'This Wheels on Fire' from this demo, Manfred Mann covered 'Quinn the Eskimo' from this demo, Fairport Convention covered 'Million Dollar Bash'. I remember that day, we all went in and crowded into this tiny listening booth, the professional manager from Feldmans came out, took this record out and put it on the turntable, dropped the needle, and it was WOW, an incredible experience to listen to it and to see this thing".
This is the original acetate that would eventually be heard, bootlegged, copied, reissued and ultimately adored as part of 'The Basement Tapes', it is one of the most sought after and discussed records in modern music.
"I heard them play in a little club in Chinatown, and they were doing all this American folk rock stuff, which I was kind of tired of, that's why I came to England, to get away from that stuff, but they were so good at it, and then I heard Richard Thompson take a guitar solo, and I said I've got to have these guys".
Thus begins Joe's recollection of working with Fairport Convention, who are now regarded as the most important band in English folk rock, and 'Unhalfbricking' as the album that saw them take a mighty leap towards gaining that status. The turning point, with hindsight, was the song "A Sailor's Life", which saw them take their first steps away from American folk rock, towards traditional English folk. As he remembers, "They'd learned the song from Sandy Denny, who was their singer. She used to play British folk songs in the van as they were driving around, or in the dressing room, and they liked this song and did an arrangement of it" I said 'You've got to record this, it's fantastic', and they said to me, 'We were thinking, what if we got somebody, a traditional musician, somebody like Dave Swarbrick to play on it?' And I said 'Oh, you want Dave Swarbrick? I'll call Swarbrick' and they said, 'You know Dave Swarbrick?' You know, they'd just discovered this world of English folk music. They knew nothing, they were all oriented towards American folk rock, and they were the classic English kids who didn't like folk music. They were more open minded than most, but they'd never taken it seriously. And all of a sudden, with this one tune, they were like 'Let's do this'. So I called Swarbrick and he came in and played violin and this was like a first take with one run through. It changed the game in English folk music.
"It changed the game in English folk music"
'Unhalfbricking' features three covers from Bob Dylan's basement tapes, but Dylan and The Band would do more than offer them material to play, unwittingly, they would help them make a decision that would be pivotal in their career, as Joe says. "Everyone was listening to Big Pink and was so intimidated by it, that they felt 'we can't possibly look west for our new repertoire, but hey, here's an idea, let's do something as British as Big Pink is American". It was this move, which started with "A Sailor's Life", and arguably peaked with the "Liege and Lief" album that followed, that cemented Fairport's legacy. "Irony being of course, that most of The Band were Canadian".
"Fairport Convention were doing a show at the Roundhouse, this Vietnam protest marathon, they went on at a civilised hour and then they went home. It was a 24 hour concert, Ashley Hutchings stuck around, he heard this kid come out and play two songs and he went up and said can I have your phone number? Do you have a lot of songs? Are you interested in making a record? He did my talent scouting and the next day he came into my office, handed me a piece of paper and said, 'you better call this guy he's kind of interesting', it was Nick Drake".
Joe went on to record and mentor Nick through his first two highly influential albums, 'Five Leaves Left', and 'Bryter Layter', "It was so much fun working with Nick in the studio because the music was so good, the songs, the guitar parts, it was the producers dream. To have this core, this fantastic core of stuff, that when you added something interesting around it the whole thing, everything, just sounded better". He remembers, "Richard Thompson [of Fairport Convention] came in to overdub a guitar solo and just kept listening and looking at Nick, turning his head sideways, like where does this guy come from? Where does he get this stuff? What is this?"
When it was released in 1969, 'Five Leaves Left' made little to no impact. The world wasn't ready for his music, the music press were ambivalent to it, and Drake's career was hindered by his overwhelming shyness, Joe takes up the story, "I soon realised that Nick was too shy - you couldn't throw him into the bear pit of a folk club, because he didn't have any jokes or stories and he had to retune his guitar after every song, very complicated guitar tunings. Then came the 'Liege & Lief' concert, which was after the 6 month period where Martin has died, Fairport almost broke up and they went out to a farm in the country and invented themselves over again. We put out 'Liege & Lief' and a few weeks later we had this date at the Festival Hall, and the impact of the record was such, everyone knew what had happened, Melody Maker was all over the story and had been out to interview them about what they were doing, so the place was sold out, and it was very respectful because of the grave circumstances. So I had John and Beverley Martyn open the show because Fairport didn't have a big repertoire, we'd have had them do the whole concert but they only had an hour's worth of tunes so they just did the second half. The first half was John and Beverley and half an hour of Nick. I had John and Beverley go first, as I knew sending Nick out first would be a disaster, at least John could tell some jokes and Beverley was friendly; they would warm everybody up and Nick would have his slot before the interval. Everyone was very respectful and it was fantastic. It was so thrilling, you could hear a pin drop. Nick didn't say a word, but he was flawless and everyone was mesmerised. Everyone gave him a huge ovation, and he had to do an encore. This was right after this record came out, and we were so happy, everyone in the office loved Nick. But we got over confident because of that, we thought ok, now we can send him out. So we sent him out on this tour and it was a disaster, the circumstances were never the same, he called up after 4 dates and said 'I can't do this anymore, cancel the rest of the tour', and he never played live again".
It wasn't until much later, after his death, that Drake's music gained the popularity and recognition it deserved, and now all three of his studio albums are considered to be highly influential. Joe points towards Robert Kirby's evocative string arrangements as an example of this, "Nobody was writing string charts for singer songwriters like Robert Kirby in those days, very very different sensibility, what he did, at first, I mean nobody bought these records at the time, but over the years everybody knows the music and Robert Kirby's style has become so influential, now if you hear a dignified sensitive acoustic singer songwriter record with strings, you can very often hear Robert's influence on those records".
Although they didn't realise it at the time, with "Five Leaves Left", Nick Drake, a painfully shy twenty year old kid from Warwickshire, had created one of the masterpieces of English folk music.
Whilst the album was a commercial failure, songs like his slowed down version of Jackie Wilson's classic 'Higher and Higher' showcased the talent Muldaur had as a singer, and the list of musicians involved in the project is staggering. As Joe says, "It was fun to make, Geoff had a great time getting all of his favourite musicians".
"There are only three white blues singers, and Geoff Muldaur is at least two of them"
The album features Jazz and Blues players who had backed the greats, from Aretha Franklin to Ella Fitzgerald, to stand alone musicians like John Cale from The Velvet Underground, and Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention, who said himself, "There are only three white blues singers, and Geoff Muldaur is at least two of them".
Before Van Morrison began his solo career, he found success with Them, signing his first record contract with Decca aged 18 years old. 'Lead Singer' is a compilation of 24 tracks from that two year period (1964-66). Although short lived, the band left behind a considerable influence, with bands like The Doors finding inspiration in their primal twenty minute live jams of 'Gloria'.
As Myles Palmer wrote in the liner notes: "Bulging with guts, tension, menace, even a hint of mystery, and viewed now in the glorious certainty of hindsight, it contains some of the quintessential statements of blue eyed R&B". 'Here Comes the Night', a track that Joe is not alone in calling a "classic", and 'Baby Please Don't Go', feature a young Jimmy Page who was busy cutting his teeth as a session musician on guitar.
For his fifth solo album, Boz Scaggs, renowned for his involvement with the Steve Miller Band, recruited the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section to record with him, decamping to their studio in Alabama in 1972. The rhythm section were famous for their work with Aretha Franklin and all in all, were responsible for 75 gold and platinum records.
"The rhythm section were responsible for 75 gold and platinum records."
The sessions were produced by Roy Halee, who engineered 'Like A Rolling Stone' for Bob Dylan, and produced albums such as 'Graceland'. Despite the "really good credits" as Joe put it, the album never received anything more than critical acclaim.
Thomas Mapfumo is known as the 'Lion of Zimbabwe', born in 1945 and driven into exile by Robert Mugabe because of his politically incendiary music, for which he coined the term 'Chimurenga music', meaning liberation. Gwindingwi Rine Shumba was the first 'Blacks Unlimited' album, released in 1981 it features two of Zimbabwe's most renowned guitar players: Jonah Sithole and Leonard Chiyangwa, who together with Mapfumo are celebrated for their innovative approach to traditional Shona mbira music.
"The poet laureate of the revolution in Zimbabwe"
As Joe explains further: "This music is such a great example of an African culture taking its own traditions and adapting it to electric guitars and modernity, that whole beat is mbira, it's the thumb piano, that's the basic music of that part of Africa, singing whilst accompanying yourself on thumb piano, and Mapfumo is just the master of all of that. And then you throw in that kind of Jamaican influence, and you have the Thomas Mapfumo sound. The passion and commitment of him being the minstrel to the resistance of white rule, and the soundtrack of the revolution that overthrew white rule. In his singles there would be coded messages for the troops who were still fighting in the bush, and eventually he was the sort of the poet laureate of the revolution in Zimbabwe"
Moby Grape's eponymous 1967 album was their debut, and a career high that the San Francisco rock band never replicated. Rolling Stone magazine placed it at 124 in their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, saying, "Moby Grape sang like demons and wrote crisp songs packed with lysergic country-blues excitement, while the band's three guitarists Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis and Skip Spence created a network of lightning". Their three pronged guitar attack inspired an army of copycats, who tried and failed to replicate the urgency of songs like Skip Spence's 'Omaha'.
This is the record that got John his first, unpaid, radio job working on the Kat's Karavan show for WRR Radio, Dallas. As Joe notes, "Produced by Doug Dobell, of Dobell's record store, 77 Charing Cross Road, it's now been knocked down, it was a huge brick modern apartment building, but such a mecca for Jazz, Blues, Folk music". Dobell himself wanted to raise interest and awareness of Lightnin' Hopkins in Europe, so released this limited pressing of his music, including tracks like 'Blues For Queen Elizabeth' that were unreleased elsewhere. Hopkins was perceived by many to represent a style of rural blues playing that at the time had not been popularised, unlike the Delta Blues, whose scene was beginning to flourish.
"perceived by many to represent an area of the Rural Blues that had not yet been popularised"
Dobell wrote in the liner notes, "Unlike many of his predecessors, Lightnin' is gifted with a dramatic sense of performance: a flow of posturing and animation that he developed on the 'concert stage' of Houston street corners, charming a circle of onlookers to coax their coins into his pocket".
'The Rural Blues' was a study of the blues compiled and annotated by Samuel B. Charters, who Joe describes as a "great, influential guy", of the record he said, "this was kind of an accompaniment, or as a follow-up to the accompaniment of a book that Sam Charters wrote in the 50s called 'The Country Blues', and the record came out full of reissues and fantastic tracks, called 'The Country Blues'. This was the follow up to that and it did pretty well. It was an even deeper plunge into that".
In an interview with Matthew Ismail, for his book 'Blues Discovery', Charters himself said, "For me, writing about black music was my way of fighting racism. That's why my work is not academic, that is why it is absolutely nothing but popularisation" he goes on, "by introducing music I can have somebody look across the racial divide and see a black face and see this person as a human being - that's why my work is unashamedly romantic."
"He was really the first one to bring these old blues records to life"
'The Country Blues', and this follow up, 'The Rural Blues', are now seen to be seminal in recording the history of this massively important style of music, they are recognised as the first real study of it. Joe takes up the story, "He was really the first one to bring these old blues records to life. Who were these people? How did they get made? Who were the producers? What were the circumstances? Where were they from? It was fascinating. Reading that book, I said 'Oh man, I was born 40 years too late'. I really wish I'd been able to be a record producer in the 20s like Ralph Peer. And then I fancied myself a baseball player, but I was never that good, and I was playing on the school team but I was second string. So it was the day before the big game, dance weekend, my girlfriend came to see me at boarding school, and I was on the reserve so I was catching balls in the outfield for the first team that was taking hitting practice, and I was feeling pretty bitter about all that, and the window opened nearby, and a new Fats Domino record came out over the AM radio, called Walking to New Orleans. And I thought, of course! That's Domino from New Orleans, and that's the same New Orleans that Louis Armstrong came from, and Jelly Roll Morton came from and all these greats from the old days, and the music isn't in a compartment. It's a continuum. And if it's a continuum, I can record it, and I can be Ralph Peer. I hadn't been born too late and if I happened to become a record producer, everybody on the first team of the baseball squad would be jealous. So that convinced me, that was my moment when I decided to become a record producer, all because of reading this book. And this record, it's frustrating as a record because it's got a fantastic selection, it's just an unbelievable tastefully assembled selection, but because he wanted to get so much on, he faded some of them out, so you don't hear the whole thing. But of all these, I'll play Hambone Willie Newburn, Shelby County Workhouse Blues because I've never heard it since anywhere else, and I'd never heard of Hambone Willie anywhere else. He is just one of those characters who probably only made one record, but it's a great record. And then it fades out!".
"One of the good things about this 'Golden Decade' series is that it caters for loonies like myself who devote our otherwise drab and miserable lives to the hunt for obscure and deeply unpopular records" or at least, so wrote John Peel in the liner notes for this stellar collection.
"This is an extraordinary collection"
"This record had some great things that I used to listen to: Suzie Q by Dale Hawkins... I remember dancing to The Walk by Jimmy McCracklin, Clarence Frogman Henry or The Moonglows and High Heeled Sneakers by Tommy Tucker, any of these tracks are just great. It's just such a well-picked out compilation" says Joe, of the sampler, which has tracks from all eight of the original series, released through the early '70's, and is a great introduction for newcomers or enthusiasts of 50's and 60's R&B, Soul and Doo Wop."
Originally released in April 1967 (DM122) although this is the '69 reissue, 'Say You Don't Mind' was the debut single for Denny Laine's Electric String Orchestra, his first release after deciding to leave The Moody Blues. Produced by Denny Cordell, himself fresh from recording Procol Harum's classic 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale', it is rumoured to have string arrangements written by John Paul Jones who was a session musician at the studio.
"This song, is still, for me, one of the songs of that summer of '67"
Despite many plays on John's radio show and several high profile gigs (their first major show was with The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Saville Theatre) the song wasn't a hit until it was covered by ex - Zombies frontman Colin Blunstone in 1972, by that time Laine was playing in Ginger Baker's legendary 'Air Force', before going on to work with Paul McCartney in Wings, the project he is best known for. Whilst this version of the song has stayed relatively unheard, it was seminal in the history of the UFO club, with Joe Boyd remembering it as "one of the songs of that summer of '67".
Whilst the UFO club's legacy is dominated by Pink Floyd and Soft Machine, they soon found success and became too big to play there, it was up to bands like Tomorrow to fill the gap, and with their single 'My White Bicycle' they had written one of the underground anthems of the time. Although the sales figures don't reflect it, Tomorrow more than held their own with the other early psychedelic rock bands, they "became the symbol of the second era of UFO" remembers Joe.
"We always played My White Bicycle at top volume"
"It was such an interesting time because there were these pioneering groups: Pink Floyd and Soft Machine who were already into taking music in another direction, but then there were these bands like Pretty Things, Tomorrow, The Nice and all these bands that had been blues bands or straight pop bands of various kinds and somewhere in the winter to spring of '67 they all took acid and the music just completely changed it became this much weirder kind of music"
"The thing about Toots, which is so fantastic, his songs are like little slices of daily life - it's this little snapshot of Jamaican life, and he says some really deep things sometimes, but always starting with one moment. Bob Marley, as great as he was, used to have these overarching statements about freedom and life, everything; the time where he went very specific was 'No Woman, No Cry' speaking about a specific time, made a fire in the government yard, and that was one of his greatest songs, Toots does this all the time."
"I'm so obsessed with Toots, I think Toots is one of the great artists of the world"
Like '54-46 Was My Number' which followed, 'Struggle' is based upon the time Toots spent in prison for marijuana possession. Recorded and released in 1968, it is one of The Maytals lesser known tracks, and is musically more rocksteady than the brand of reggae that The Maytals would later be loved for.
Pink Floyd's first single and breakthrough song 'Arnold Layne' was produced by Joe Boyd at Sound Technique studios in January of 1967, a month after their first appearance at the UFO club, and a month before they recorded 'The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn'. Syd Barrett's song about a transvestite that steals women's clothes from washing lines, is a three minute pop song derived from the band's lengthy experimentation, a condensed version, but when they played live, "even when they started with a tune like Arnold Layne, they would go into these long improvisations and then return to the song"
'I'm The Urban Spaceman' was the band's most popular song, reaching #5 in the UK charts in 1968, although it was B-Side 'The Intro and the Outro' that made it's mark on the UFO club, with DJ and founder John Hopkins playing it "all the time"
Songwriter Neil Innes won an Ivor Novello Award in '68 for writing 'I'm The Urban Spaceman' which is surely one of the most memorable songs from the scene, a prime example of how some of the more "out there" jazz bands found a home within the psych movement, it features production credits for Apollo C. Vermouth, which was a pseudonym for Paul McCartney and Gus Dudgeon.
This Al Green cover gave Talking Heads their first Top 30 hit, which, according to Simon Reynolds "made a striking gesture of racial border-crossing at a time when when New Wave was at its most starchy white". 'Take Me To The River' was the only single to be taken from the band's second album, 'More Songs About Buildings And Food', the first of three albums they would make with Brian Eno, whose production added depth to an already intense, slowed down take of the soul classic. The sleeve features a Pete Frame 'Rock Family Tree' documenting the history of the Talking Heads.