Almanac Music: Not Quite Bob – Weirdness: Audience, Malcolm McLaren, Barry Adamson, Gavin Bryars



Not Quite Bob – Weirdness – Audience, Malcolm McLaren, Barry Adamson, Gavin Bryars


I’m pretty sure most people have got stuff in their collection that is a bit off beat, a bit eclectic, a bit … weird.  Things bought on impulse, guilty pleasures maybe, things you’re not sure about but really like.  And can’t really say why.  These are mine.  In the case of all but one of them there’s only one album in the racks.  As much as I like each of those one albums it didn’t make me want to get more.





They were formed in 1969 with the key members being Howard Werth on guitar and vocals and Keith Gemmell on sax and reeds.  They made 4 albums across 4 years and the last of those, 1972’s Lunch is the one I’ve got.  How to categorise them?  Hit Google and you’ll find them on prog rock fan pages.  I don’t reckon they fit there.  The more famous and accessible bands in that sphere – Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, ELP – well they’re not like them.  And they’re not in the guitar hero, macho man singer space either – Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath.   Not Pastoral Poms like Traffic or Lindisfarne or Fairport Convention.  Not pub geezers like The Faces or Brinsley Schwarz or Humble Pie.  Which leaves them swimming in the pool occupied by Van der Graaf Generator and Soft Machine and Uriah Heep.  Except they’re not like that either.


They’re like this.  ‘Buy Me An Island’.




That track is almost certainly mimed to the recording.  There’s more brass heard there than just one sax.  The story?  The sax player is Keith Gemmell, one of the founders.  The albums producers didn’t think the brass sound was fat enough so they brought in Jim Price and Bobby Keyes, alumni of the Stones touring band, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen band and many others.  They punched up the brass which is a big feature of Lunch along with Werth’s voice.  Soon after Gemmell cracked the sads and left.  Audience breaks up, has a rest for 30 years, reforms for a while in 2004, records a live album, play for several years thereafter and then peter out.  Here’s Lunch.  Why Lunch?  A mate lent it to me.  He had a record collection full of weird stuff like this and like nothing else.  I play this album as much as anything from ancient times.  I can’t pin down why.  Prog Rock fans label this the worst of the 4 studio albums.  I disagree.  See what you think.





Malcolm McLaren

Straight from Wikipedia.


Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren (22 January 1946 – 8 April 2010) was an English[1] impresario, visual artist, singer, songwriter, musician, clothes designer and boutique owner, notable for combining these activities in an inventive and provocative way. He is best known as a promoter and manager of bands the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols.


There’s not much point in expanding on that.  He made a few albums, all quirky, of the time, they stand as curios mostly, brilliantly produced, hip records.  He was famous for his 15 minutes and died at 64 from cancer.  It would be too dismissive by half to label him a footnote in musical history but when words like iconoclast get bandied around you know there’s a bit too much red cordial and Colombian Marching Powder in the punchbowl.


Let’s settle on influencer.  Way before it became a millennial’s career path.


However.  In 1994 he goes to Paris.  And makes a record called Paris.  The single?  ‘Paris, Paris’.  Of course.  Vocals shared with Catherine Deneuve.  Of course.





Aside from his own peculiar voice the other singers on the record include Francoise Hardy and Amina Annabi but it’s not the singers that make it, it’s the brilliant jazz arrangements and playing on the evocative songs.  It’s not on Spotify but the full album is on YouTube with a French travelogue that makes you want to head out to Tulla to spend the Qantas credits. Or it might make you want to barf.  Paris by Malcolm McLaren is an album I play more frequently than good sense might dictate.





Barry Adamson


Manchester born, Barry Adamson crosses the entire landscape of musical genres.  Alt rock, punk, electronica, acid jazz, jazz, soul, funk.  And note, nothing even remotely Bob-like, but then this piece is a complete digression anyway.  He was in Magazine, then The Birthday Party which morphed to the Bad Seeds.  In each case as a Bass player.  What’s he doing here with the other weird kiddos?







‘The Man With The Golden Arm’.  A fever dream based on the title track from a film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra.  Welcome to the Murky World of Barry Adamson.





On the strength of that track which I bought as a 12” vinyl single from Exposure Records in Kew I then picked up the album which is a collection of the post-Bad Seeds Adamson solo work.  Down, dirty, brilliantly produced and played it’s like the soundtrack to a David Lynch film.  And … hello, he’s also done that working on the score for Lynch’s Lost Highway.


From there, ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’.





Live Barry Adamson stuff isn’t all that easy to find but from the same collection and on stage in 2010, ‘Jazz Devil’.




Which is an apt description I reckon.  Not just a performer though, even though he’s right at home in front of an audience, he’s also a much in demand producer having worked with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Depeche Mode and Grinderman amongst others.  A poignant reminder of the touch he brings to the records he’s worked on is this, Anita Lane covering ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.





Take that Nancy.  Anita Lane is a whole other story, having died recently after a tumultuous life, having written songs for early Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds albums and recorded infrequently in her own right.  Another sad early departure.


Anyway I have to admit that I constructed the weirdo storyline for this piece just so I could include Barry Adamson.  I’ve got a few of his albums which are all infused with the coolness evident here.  Weird to some, vital to others.  I’m in the latter camp.



Gavin Bryars


Which brings me to the showstopper in the weird stakes in my library.  Gavin Bryars.


Richard Gavin Bryars was born in Yorkshire in 1943.  The nearness of their ages is pretty well the only thing he shares with Bob Dylan.   Musically?  Poles apart.  Bryars is a classically trained musician who learned the double bass, started out in conventional jazz (if that’s even a word you can apply to jazz) then began writing pieces in a more avant-garde, free improv mode.  In 1969 he first performs a piece called ‘The Sinking of The Titanic’ which is a meditation based on the notion of what the band was playing as the big boat sank.


Later in 1971 he produces a taped performance called ‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet’ which is built on a incantation sung by a homeless man he came across in the streets of London.  He loops the voice and lays over it an orchestral score that builds to a crescendo over some 25 minutes.  In 1975 Brian Eno paired the pieces to make a full album which he released on his Obscure Recordings label.


The ‘Sinking of the Titanic’ is here.





Jesus’ Blood as a piece has been frequently performed by major classical ensembles to great effect.  It’s quite simply, mesmerising.  Rather than link the track as the second part of the Brian Eno produced album (which is the one I own) here is a performance by the Phaedra Ensemble in London in 2016.  While the piece is a written piece I’ve heard quite a few versions of this where each orchestra applies their own spin on it.  This one is stunning.





Search not very hard and you’ll find a 60 minute version which Bryars recorded with his own ensemble in France in 1990 and in 1993 a 74 minute version was recorded featuring Tom Waits.  As much as I love Tom that might be a bridge too far.


Despite my affection for these two pieces I still haven’t tracked down or played any other Gavin Bryars recordings.  In as much as I can’t pin down why this album so appeals I remain strangely incurious about his later works.


Maybe they’re likely to be too weird in my imagination.


Gavin Bryars, the Brownlow medallist in the school of strange.  The others?  All get coaches awards.



More from Trevor Blainey can be read Here




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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    I’m really enjoying Gavin Bryars TB, a new discovery for me. I enjoy that classical form reminiscent to Barber and others. With feet up and recuperating I’m finding the music as you said, mesmerising. I’ve added his albums etc from Spotify to my playlists. Thanks TB!

  2. I loved this tribute to Barry Adamson. His work with Magazine gave me a whole new appreciation for the bass player. The Correct Use of Soap wouldn’t be nearly as good without him . A real class act. Thanks for this Trevor

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