this is to accompany HOLYGROUND : THE WORKS CD VOLUME 5
released through KISSING SPELL LIMITED January 2001
of this page includes opinion, memories and recollections
which may not be completely accurate : the opinions
expressed are not necessarily those of Holyground
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track by track : Light Years Away
track by track : Thundermother
other CDs in the series
words to songs
Mike came up with title.
GAGALACTYCA is a sister album to Astral Navigations. Lightyears Away has pretty much the same line-up, though with less from Brian Wilson and Brian Calvert who had both left the country. Four songs were destined for Astral Navigations when it was to be called Windows Of Limited Time : Save The Big Jam Roll, The People Show and Woman In My Life. Aren't You Glad You Stayed? was intended to open the album, which is why it is heard at the end of A - Austr.
Although planned, the album was not actually released until the early 1990's when a vinyl version was released with the help of Hugo Chavez' 'Magic Mixture' label. Only 450 of these were made, most signed by Dave Wood and Mike Levon.
'shirl' is Shirley Levon; 'slyv' was Dave Wood's partner; 'jan' is married to Chris Coombs, and 'anne' is Kevin Young's wife. Esme was Mike and Shirley's cat, (as was Jumping Jack Flash), and her purr lives on at the start of the THUNDERMOTHER tracks. Cath and Linda were usually to be found hanging around the studio or Mike's flat. They can be seen in the video of the making of ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS too. 'Mitchell Deaver' is Mike and Shirley's electric fire.act akt, v.i. to perform, to produce an effect n, the very process of doing something. [L. actus, action]
Originally there was no group name on ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS for the songs on side one of the vinyl LP. The two sides of the record were however given titles : "Light Years Away" and "Heavyside Layer". Gradually the mix of musicians and composers on side one became known as LIGHTYEARS AWAY, so this name was used for the group on GAGALACTYCA.SAVE THE BIG JAM ROLL
Coombs Crumar Multiman keyboard, guitar, vocals
Mike Levon sfx, whispers, drums
Steve Channing lead guitar, guitar, vocals
Pete Taylor bass, Multiman piano
The Multiman keyboard was borrowed from Gifford Rolfe of the group Skybird. Steve Channing was connected to the JUMBLE LANE crowd who were recording their LP in late 1970, early 1971.THAT IS WHAT WE NEED
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The tape effects are of Shirley Levon wearing high heels and walking past the microphone, and slamming the door.
Mike recalls : "I wrote the song about the great times I remember going down to Moodies pub on Bread Street and calling in at a house on St. John's Square. A nurse called Sonia lived there with her mother, and I was playing Dylan's BLONDE ON BLONDE daily".
Pete Taylor says : "I've only the the vaguest memory of recording Pretty Anne - Mike says I played the claves, but I've absolutely no recollection of this. In contrast I can remember playing the the bass on Big Jam Roll as though it were yesterday - and I still wake up in a cold sweat. At the time I was playing guitar in a sort of jazz / cabaret group - pretty relaxed, take off the odd verse and chorus while the pianist played etc. Then by chance I bumped into Chris who asked if I still had my bass. Phrases like 'simple song. . . . . no problem to you . . . . . . buy you a pint (I'm still waiting, Coombs!) . . . . OK for this weekend,” were exchanged.
So I turned up with my beat-up old bass to find that I was to share a track with Steve, playing the lead guitar part. It soon became evident that Steve had the bobby's job: play a couple of licks and then rest for a few bars while I had to plod on through the entire song without pause, hesitation or bum note. Now, this doesn't sound unreasonable for someone who considers himself to be a musician, and indeed it isn't - for the normal upbeat 3 minute song that we all love and cherish. But the Jam Roll was, well,
B I G, B I G, B I G.Eight minutes twenty nine seconds big. I'm not sure I'd ever played for eight minutes twenty nine seconds without a break, let alone without playing a bummer. Add to this that every time I played a bummer (usually 7 and a half minutes into the song) everything had to stop and Steve had to play, from the beginning, all his finely crafted (but cissy!) lead parts yet again, and again and . . . ..
When drowning your entire life is supposed to flash before you in an instant. The Big Jam Roll recording was a sort of inverse drowning. If the first seven minutes twenty nine seconds seemed to last a long time then the final minute was on a geological scale - the whole of creation had time to form, divide and multiply
'OK you're seven and a half minutes in . . . .nearly the end . . . . . no bummers . . . stay relaxed . . . . .STAY RELAXED . . . . .Oh God, my minds gone blank . . . . .what comes next . . . . . . if only my left hand weren't gripped by cramp . . . . . get a grip . . . .
no relax . . . . .shit . . . . . sorry, Steve.”
Steve, ever gracious, never complained. Thanks, mate, I still remember your kindness. And the Big Jam Roll. Well, in the clear light of day I remember it with great fondness.
But sometimes in the hills on starlit nights I look up to the heavens and contemplate the great questions of life: how did it all start? what are we doing here? is there life after death? and if there is, will it be like a great celestial recording studio where I get to play the first seven and a half minutes of an eight and a half minute song before playing a bummer and having to start again? and if I do go to a recording studio afterlife, will I be in heaven? or . . . . .?"
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Originally the song was meant to go from the 5/4 ending you can just hear, to 7/4 then to 9/4 and so on. The plan was to have saxes on it, possibly from John Perfect's jazz band from Bretton. John was a college tutor, and had already recorded with Holyground on A to Austr. Biff Byford was another of the Bretton students associated with JUMBLE LANE. He and Chris became friends and Chris used him on several songs.COLD, TIRED & HUNGRY
Yvonne Carrodus was Chris' first wife, although when this track was recorded she was not yet married to him. She appears on the cover of A TO AUSTR with her sister, Gail, and Gail's friend, Denise.
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Chris Coombs vocals, tambourine, claps
Bill Nelson guitars Liam Arthurs bass
Chris arrived one night and uttered the immortal words 'I'm cold, tired, hungry & ain't got no coat”. Quick as a flash, Mike offered: 'What a good line,” and the rest is history.
No-one can recall for sure who played the bass drum on this track - it might have been Mike. And we guess that Liam played bass. Another JUMBLE LANE escapee, Liam was quite often around Holyground's studio. Below is a picture of him with Chris Coombs and Ted Hepworth in the studio, (left to right : Chris Coombs, playing the harmonium with his back to the camera; Ted Hepworth on drums; Liam Arthurs on bass; Cath Wood right at the back; and Mike Levon).MELANIE : MERLIN EST
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When Chris decided not to release 'King John's Christmas', Mike wrote these words - based on part of the King Arthur theme of A to Austr. NOTE - this sentence is a correction from the booklet where what was printed does not make sense!
The tune is from one of a series of songs written by Chris with Biff Byford's help in the winter of 1970/1971. The original words are from A A Milne's poems in NOW WE ARE SIX, and permission to release the track has not so far been forthcoming. Both songs, (KING JOHN'S CHRISTMAS and THE FRIEND), featured Bill Nelson. Never one to let a good tune lie, Mike wrote an extension to the King Arthur theme from A to Austr.AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU STAYED?
Phil Harmonic was a whiz on the Multiman - he plays different rhythms with each hand, and the bass line with his feet. The whole song was recorded with only one 'bounce' so Chris could add the pipes.
The backing for this song was completed before ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS was finished, and can be heard on the run-out grooves of that LP. Brian Calvert hadn't left for Australia at that time so he wrote the tune to Mike's words, and played the acoustic guitar.
Likewise Brian Wilson was still around - he left to live in the Bahamas shortly after this. The lineup is therefore the old A TO AUSTR group, with Chris singing rather than Brian.
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Brian Wilson > Ted Hepworth > and Brian Calvert >
The swinging cat guitar was a joint effort between Mike and Brian Wilson - using echo and sustain they produced an unearthly sound which has recently been reinvented on an album by U2. The Multiman part was added later when Chris had the use of it for a day to record the other tracks.
NOTE - this heading ended up in the wrong place in the booklet. FEBRUARY (IN MY BABY'S SOUL), PRETTY ANNE, and MAINLINE WOMAN BLUES are the only additional tracks on this CD, that is, tracks which weren't on the original vinyl release. THUNDERMOTHER's COME ON HOME was on the vinyl LP in a shortened form; the full version is on this CD.
Chris Coombs vocal, acoustic guitar, lead guitar, finger snaps
Pete Taylor bass, backing spoken vocal
A kind of folk-jazz track, not quite the sort of song usually found on "Astral" or "Gaga"!
Pete was also at Bretton, in the year before Mike. Mike in turn was in the year before Shirley Bayly who he later married, and Shirley was in the year before Chris Coombs came! I hope you followed that!Pretty Anne
This song shares its rhythm and some of its structure with the more famous KING OF THE ROAD. As far as we know it's the only time Pete has been on vocals! The bass Pete used for these recordings is one he built himself.
Anne Bauducel, later to marry Mike's brother and become Anne Young, was the other figure on the cover with Mike.
Shirley Levon, Anne Bauducel, and Mike
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Chris Coombs vocals, organ, slide guitar, cicadas
Mike Levon claps, whispers Pete Taylor bass, claps
mix with following additions
Chris Coombs tambourine, finger cymbal, vocals
Mike Levon cardboard boxes
Steve Channing lead guitars, vocals
Pete Taylor claves, Logan String Chorale
remaining Arthur song from "A to Austr", influenced by Pete's journeys to India
and Afghanistan, and later by Chris visiting
Turkey. At that point Mike had been as far east as Skegness.
Taylor's passport photo!
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A major part for Mike in this song: whispering the part after the chorus. The 'cicadas' are in fact a whole pile of tambourines and maracas which Mike thrust into Chris's hands and said "Try shaking them in time and see what we get . . . "
The second version boasts cardboard box drums, a new finger cymbal Chris bought just for this track, and Pete hitting two pieces of wood together which Mike had collected and which sort of sound like claves, not that Pete has any recollection of playing them!
A Frazer - D Rodgers
Dave Millen guitars, vocals, bass Jerusalem Smith drums
A last minute telegram from Miffy (David John) : 'Try to obtain bass amp. See you tonight” . . . and another lost weekend . . .
Ginner and one member of the group Jerusalem Smith
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Ginner (Dave Millen) sings and plays all but drums on this, and would have played them too if he could! One of the few occasions when Mike would record five separate 'bounces' of the tape to get all Ginner's parts on - and the quality still holds up!LADY (LAY BY ME)
The steel pipe was a short length of scaffold tube picked up in the yard below the studio.THE PEOPLE SHOW
Thundermother all came from Preston and would travel over for a weekend at a time to record. Mike has started to try to piece together the history of Holyground. Some dates which are relevant to this CD are printed below:_____________________________________________________
February-March Early work on A to Austr as 'Chief Crazy Horse'
June first contact with Preston rock scene, met David John (Miffy) & 'Doug'.
early July Brian Calvert arrived.
February Mike wrote 'Aren't You Glad You Stayed?'
April-May in Preston to meet Thundermother
June 'A-Austr' completed
June Global Village concert in Thornes Park, Wakefield
August 'Cold Tired and Hungry' and 'That is What We Need' recorded
Autumn 'Astral Navigations' started.
January Thundermother recording : 'Rock Me Babe'
February Thundermother recording other tracks
April 1st 'A-Austr' released
April 'Gagalactyca' tracks being recorded
June Thundermother live at Bretton Hall College
October recording 'Jumble Lane'
January recording Bill Nelson's 'Northern Dream'
May 15th 'Astral Navigations' released
July 'Jumble Lane' released
John vocals, percussion Fred Kelly drums,
Frank Newbould bass, guitars, vocals
Dave Millen guitars, vocals
This track was intended to go on ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS along with WOMAN (IN MY LIFE) until the track SOMEDAY was recorded. It was only supposed to be a five minute track but it over-ran and thus these two tracks were not included.COME ON HOME
Dave Millen guitars, vocals David John percussion Daz bass
The acid guitars were recorded through an echo unit plugged into the mixer causing a severe distortion, patent Holyground!
This is a longer version than the version originally on GAGALACTYCA. Apart from some percussion and Daz on bass, its a Ginner solo effort, with the harsh acid guitars matching Ginner's hard edgy vocals.WOMAN IN MY LIFE
Ginner (Dave Millen)
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John vocals, percussion Fred Kelly
Dave Millen guitars, vocal
Frank Newbould bass, guitars, vocal
Mike woke up to the sounds of John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. This track, recorded straight after, had similar production touches. Dave Millen was still getting over what Shirley Levon offered for breakfast - jelly : 'weirdest breakfast I ever ate”. . .
Mike with the mixing gear (around 1971)
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LINE WOMAN BLUES
'Doug' guitar, vocal Dave Millen lead guitar
Doug, or 'Duke', as he was better known had found Holyground in June 1968 when they were recording the early tracks for A TO AUSTR. Amongst the first recordings Mike made of anyone from Preston were acoustic blues with David John, (Miffy), and with Ginner. Duke and Ginner are heard here - no other tapes have survived; some were stolen during a break-in later on.RECORDING GAGALACTYCA
Like 'Astral Navigations' Gagalactyca was recorded in mono on one track of a two track Ferrograph tape machine. This was then copied to the other track adding more instruments or vocals, and back again adding more. It was usual to do this three, and occasionally up to five times. Mike used a mixer built by drummer Ted Hepworth, and had a grand total of six microphones. He also had a hand built compressor and a spring echo unit. The studio was twelve foot square, covered in polystyrene ceiling tiles, and the control room was a small landing outside, only seven foot by five.
In the photograph of Brian Calvert can be seen the Truvox tape recorder that Mike recorded NUMBER NINE BREAD STREET on. He was still using it during this period to make copies of tapes.
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