scac twiceOne of many remaining things on my bucket list is to attend a Slim Cessna's Auto Club (SCAC) show. A bucket list should meet the criteria of threshold of originality and have a certain difficulty level. SCAC are Denver-based and rarely tour outside the US and I live in Sweden. I think these facts tick in the two boxes. Therefore, I almost choked on my coffee when I read in the morning paper that they played yesterday (on March 30th 2018) at ancient Berns in Stockholm just 5 km (3 miles) from my home. SCAC were supporting Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (a band complety unknown to me). How could I miss this? I follow SCAC on Facebook and get regular updates. I knew very well that they were in Europe, but I didn't notice that they were touring in Scandinavia. So close, but out of reach. The chances are slim that they will come again soon. Then I regained new hope. Maybe I could catch them on the tour? SCAC were playing in Dublin 18 & 19 April and I was going there on a weekend trip. But, we arrived the day after, 20th April. To miss SCAC twice in two weeks is quite of an achievement. I felt equally baffled and bitter when we passed by the old Olympia Theatre, located in Dame Street. The tour poster (left) smirked at me. At least, that's how I felt. SCAC were supporting another band. The very thought of SCAC opening for another band is contrary to my values. In my world they are always the main attraction. To miss SCAC is a heavy burden to bear alone. It would feel good to be able to blame someone else, at least partially, for this cock-up. Burden-sharing is a good principle, but on what basis is the burden to be shared? In this case, it's fair to use the 50/50 principle. SCAC could be a little more informative and promote themselves better, especially when they are touring in the Old World. On the other hand, I need to be more attentive and follow up news better (if I had checked out the European tour I would have come across the show in Stockholm). The fact that SCAC was coming to my little corner of the world wasn't really in my imaginary world. I will not make the same mistake again. Two days ago I read that they're coming to Europe again (May 31 through June 23), but not to Scandinavia. I'll have to take this matter under close consideration.

  

 

BS 8 maj 1981 400This blog post is another piece in the puzzle of how I became the Ambassador. It's been a long and winding road. I guess I am old as the hills now. 37 years ago today I experienced the best show so far (nothing indicates that an upcoming show is going to surpass this); Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band in Stockholm 1981. The show was part of "The River Tour", a concert tour that took place in 1980 and 1981, beginning concurrently with the release of the album "The River", read more here (opens in a new window). Under the first and second leg of the tour he played songs that for some reasons had been left out of the album of which some were released in 1998 on the compilation box, ”Tracks”. The US part of the tour was critized for its loss of dynamics and its strong emphasis on the new album. Normally, the Boss would shuffle up and deal from his albums. The album was also thought of as too gloomy to fit live performances. "The River" is by many regarded as his finest hour. Personally, I prefer the debut album "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J." and his early and unreleased songs on the bootlegs "The Demo Tapes - circa 1971-1972" and "Before the Fame". A danish company, ICO, arranged four shows in Scandinavia. Initially, just one show was announced in Stockholm (May 7th). Whether or not the second show the following day was already decided (but not announced) or was just made space for (to be decided) is a matter of dispute. However, venues and bands are inflexible objects, which points in the direction of already decided. Tickets to the two shows were also sold at the same occasion (very practical). I have come across information that you could buy an unlimited number of tickets. This information isn't consistent with my recollection. To my mind you were allowed to buy no more than 10 tickets per person. We needed 20 tickets. To support my recollection; we needed to be two persons in the queue at all time. Bruce Springsteen had issued a directive that tickets should go to fans at firsthand and not to the staff at the record company or to the music industry in general. The ticket price, 85 SEK (approximately $10) was affordable (in the price level of 2018 it's approximately 250 SEK or $30). I still have my ticket (see top right). The old tickets seems to be valuable. I noticed two tickets for sale on internet the other day at the bargain price of $100. There were no arenas for music shows back then. In fact, arena rock didn't exist in Sweden. The venue (Johanneshovs Isstadion) was built in 1955 as an outdoor arena. A roof was added in 1962. It was mainly used for ice hockey games. The capacity was 15 000 (that is, with the ice rink covered). The venue wasn't suited for music. There were non negligible problems with acoustics and free view. The venue is getting demolished in 2020 to give room for a new residential area. Poly drug users will be replaced by hipsters. I'm not convinced that this is an entirely good thing.

   

BS 8 maj 1981 bootleg 500The show on May 8th 1981 in Stockholm became legendary. Not only did it surpass the show the night before (which was awesome). The show is considered by many to be the best of all the European shows and is very well documented. Read the set list here (opens in a new window). Despite prohibition of photos and tape recording (see ticket above) the concert was both depicted and recorded. In fact, there are two swedish vinyl bootlegs "Follow that dream" and "Teardrops on the city". The two vinyls have despite the acoustic problems been rated as: "Ridiculously overpriced, impossible to find even at the ridiculous price, these two three record sets nonetheless rank as the very best sound quality of any Springsteen live bootleg and that's saying something.” Read more about what the real bootleg aficionados thinks here (opens in a new window). If you don't want to spend your money on bootlegs and have three hours to spare you can listen to the complete show here (opens in a new window). The two shows got overwhelming reviews in Swedish evening papers. The highlights on May 8th were "Prove It All Night", "Darkness On The Edge Of Town", "Independence Day", "Who'll Stop the Rain?", "The Price You Pay", "The River", "The Promised Land", "Because The Night", "Point Blank" and "Can't Help Falling In Love". There were a lot of interacting with the audience during the show including long and heartfelt monologues about his upbringing. I must confess that my attention was divided between what was going on stage and the lovely inner city girls (explanation below). Bruce Springsteen was already a star, but unspoiled, humble and deeply grateful for his audience. Everyone of them. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band played 31 songs of which 12 were taken from "The River" album. There were also a few covers (Creedence Clearwater Revival, Woody Guthrie, Elvis Presley and Beatles). The concert started 8.00 p.m. and ended 12.00 p.m. (including a break). We missed the last commuter train home, but we didn't care because we were bewildered, happy and tired. When I listen to the show after all these years it brings back memories. 

 

BS 8 maj 1981 Svala Söderlund 400Back in my days there were basically two ways to get tickets; by physical queue or telephone queue. You could also take your chances on the black market (limitations in the number of tickets per person and the risk of tickets being sold a second time were hot topics at the time). The two latter methods, telephone queue and black market, were unreliable. You could get disconnected for no reason and all hours of waiting would be wasted. The black market could come up with nothing, ticket prices could sky-rocket and/or tickets could be fake. Some friends and I decided to go for physical queuing (be there or be square). Rumours began to spread that the queuing had begun. We were ready to move fast. One of us with a fresh driver license drove erratically to Hötorget in the central of Stockholm with our stuff; camping chairs, folding table, quilts, sleeping mats and bags, thermos and mugs and, last but not least, a backgammon set. It was deep winter. The tickets were sold at a small sheet music and record shop, Svala & Söderlund. It was housed in the big Concert Hall at Hötorget. We got a queue ticket. We practiced two shifts (day and night) and camped for a week. I did two or three night shifts. I couldn't sleep a wink. The night shifts were weird and you were approached by very odd existences who came up to the surface at nights. It was surreal; queuing below the stairs of the Concert Hall looking out on a big open square which during the day was filled with vegetable vendors, staring at the stars and at the same time freezing your butt off. The atmosphere at night was very friendly with interesting conversations. I got acquainted to a couple of lovely inner city girls. The song "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins ran constantly on someone's boombox (I know what you think, but the song can't be that bad. Sons of Perdition made a spooky cover of it). The last days the queue began to look like a refugee camp. We had a low queue number and got great seats. Due to "inconvenient working hours" the night shifters got the best seats on the parquet towards the middle on the second row.

Epilogue

A month after the show I graduated, said goodbye to class of 81', got drunk at the graduation party, a hangover followed, returned my rented dinner jacket (tuxedo) and had the weekend off before it was time to report for mandatory military service at Gotland Artillery Regiment (A7) located outside the town walls of Visby, which is arguably the best-preserved medieval town in Scandinavia and listed as an UNESCO World Heritage. The lovely inner city girls came by on their cycling holiday, left a note in the regiments sentry box and that evening we went for a drink together. We said goodbye for the summer. Then came the fall. 

 

  

driedoutwell"His roots shall be dried up beneath, and above shall his branch be cut off" (Job 18:16, King James version). Life is full of trials and tribulations, hardships and difficulties, heavy burdens and struggles, and other problems. Job really got his share. My tiny problem in comparison is that the flow of rare and hard-to-get cds seems to have dried up. My daily trawling leaves me with net meshes. I used to be so lucky. Of course, the drying up is expected when the difficulty level rises and there's only a few missing albums out there that eludes you. I've developed and trimmed my search methods and added some new contacting and stalking methods. They missing albums should sooner or later come out for sale. Economic theory predicts that when streaming services emerged the market is expected to be flooded with used cds. This hasn't happened yet and the question is why. Is it idleness or astuteness? Maybe the vinyl resurrection plays a part (even compact cassette is rising). Used cds are generally cheap today. CD copies (or at least some of them) will be rarities and maybe the present owners are waiting for that moment to sell off. The most probable explanation for the dessication is that old farts like myself like to hold on to our pieces of plastic no matter of what format is trending at the moment. For that scenario there's no method.

 

 

home taping is killing music and its illegalOne of the most misdirected campaigns of all times is "Home Taping Is Killing Music". The campaign was launched by Chris Wright chairman of British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on Oct. 28, 1981. The campaign had a fateful and high-pitched tone ("and it's illegal") accompanied by a vivid imagery (a skull-like cassette and crossed bones). The background for this bizarre initiative was that the record industry felt threatened by the newly introduced dual cassette deck (single recorders and decks had been doing its thing for years). The dual cassette deck was considered as the eqvivalent to Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Series 800 in Terminator 2 by the industry. They feared home taping (tape to tape) in an industrial scale. The underlying assumption was that home taping would cause a decline in record sales. Did they have reason to be concerned? The theoretical and empirical support was non-existent. In fact, home taping was often a gateway to a lifelong commitment as a paying consumer. The compact cassette can be summarized in crappy sound quality and poor substitute. They home tapers made copies and mixtapes for their own personal needs but in addition they bought vinyls, and later, cds. Some people may argue that home taping is morally eqvivalent to illegal downloading. However, there's a big difference. Illegal downloaders never had any intentions to begin to pay for music. The campaign failed and was ridiculed, parodied and mocked. The coverage ratio (using stamped logo and slogan on records) in the UK record industry was far from 100 percent. The cd player was launched. The nail in the coffin was when a UK court verdict ruled that "whilst it is clear that the copying of copyright material without permission is an infringement in almost all jurisdictions, the provision of a service or equipment to facilitate such copying, where that service or equipment has other legitimate uses, may not be an infringement or illegal." (CBS vs the Amstrad dual cassette deck). The campaign vanished into thin air. The campaign resurfaced 10-15 years later, but that's a different story.    

 

 

Budgie earlyThis blog post may seem a bit off-topic, but it actually has some bearing on how I later in life became the Ambassador. It’s funny how the brain works. When I wrote a blog post recently about home taping and then listened to some early heavy metal albums it triggered a memory from childhood. Obviously, it had been filed somewhere. Here it comes. I grew up in a small ”company town” at the mercy of structural change. There wasn't much to do besides football (soccer) and icehockey. Some of us upper primary school kids without direction turned to music. I didn’t have any money, but my classmate (we can call him Carl) had excellent contacts with older guys who could afford to buy LP albums. Actually, it was in his cubic-formed and semi-detached house with needle-loom carpets that I heard ”Band of Gypsys” with Jimi Hendrix for the first time. From that moment I was on the slippery slope of a milder form of music addiction. Carl later pursued an adroit career in shoplifting, insurance fraud and using shell companies for tax evasion. Carl was, despite his later career choices, entrusted and could borrow albums over night and record them on compact cassettes. This was analogue times. How did you get a copy from a cassette in those days? It was simple. Nowadays, we consider this procedure as obsolete and tedious. This is the way it was done. I borrowed the cassette from Carl and went home and connected a cassette recorder (A) to a reel-to-reel audio tape recorder (B) through a five-pin DIN connector and started to record. Then I recorded back from B to A (new cassette). All of this was done in real time (this was before any slow living or mindfulness). The sound quality was, at this point, quite terrible. Carl also had an illegible handwriting. In fact, he had trouble reading his own handwriting. I had to put in a lot of work into transcribing his scrawl from the cassette cases and I didn't always get it right. Anyway, I'm thankful to Carl for introducing me to Budgie.

budgielogo

Budgie was formed in Cardiff in 1966 by Burke Shelley (bass and vocals) and Brian Goddard (guitar). They soon found drummer Ray Phillips through an ad in the local paper. Tony Bourge (guitar) joined in 1967. They weren’t "Budgie" from the beginning. In fact, they played a few gigs under the unglamorous name ”Hills Contemporary Grass” before changing their name to the more spectacular ”Six Ton Budgie”, then changed again to just "Budgie". The story behind the band name is that they loved the idea of playing noisy, heavy rock and calling themselves after something diametrically opposed to that. A budgie is a fragile thing. Brian Goddard left the band early for family reasons (got a girl pregnant and had to get a job). Since then Budgie always had a three-piece lineup. The username Brocashelm really hit the head on the nail in a blog entry in The Metal Archives; "If you took Black Sabbath’s density, King Crimson’s peculiar song constructs, and added a dash of Rush’s overall style, you should get an idea of what’s going on here." Budgie never got the recognition they deserved. However, when Metallica, Iron Maiden and other bands later made covers of their songs they got a late but rightful redress. In this blog entry I will walk you through their first five albums; the MCA years and their golden age.

     

freudBudgie didn't sell enough albums so that the members could retire in a nice country house in the countryside with crawl distance from the local pub. The conditions for this event were in fact quite good. First, there was a growing interest for early british heavy metal. Second, the met a renowned producer, Rodger Bain (producer of Black Sabbath's first three albums), who was on a talent spotting mission in Wales. Third, they signed a contract with the big record company MCA. Their self-titled debut album is raw and brutal. The album was recorded in Rockfield Studios in Monmouth in South Wales in only four days on a eight track tape. The album starts off with "Guts" which encompass their trademarks; nasal and high-pitched vocals, thick bass lines, proficient guitar riffs and pounding drums. The second song "Everything in my heart" is a delicate ballad and only one minute long. The heavy stuff is back again in the next song, "The Author". Burke Shelley had a penchant for wordplay and pun. The fourth song is "Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman". This song is a good example of their other trademarks; weird arrangements, dynamic variations between hard and soft, shifts between mangling and sensitivity and last but not least unexpected tempo changes. The song is eight and a half minute long. The first song on the flip side is "Rape of the Locks", which bears many similarities with classic Black Sabbath. Second to Toni Iommi, Tony Bourge was the riffmaster of early heavy metal. The next song is "All night petrol", which is rather tiresome. The next to last song is a short ballad "You and I", delevered in 1 minutes and 45 seconds. The album closing song is "Homicidal Suicidal", a compact song to say the least. "Homicidal suicidal / Big time loser, big time boozer / Live and learn, let it burn / All time winner, you're a sinner". Not any lyrics of Nobel Prize standards, but the lyrics served its purpose.

  

freudThe self-titled debut album received moderately positive reviews. It's hard to believe today, but in the 1970s a band could get an opportunity to grow and evolve through albums and find its true shape and form. Even the big record companies had a certain element of patience. However, Budgie was bent and shaped from the very beginning. There was no difficult second album syndrome (DSAS). Budgie began to work on their second album called Squawk (a loud, harsh or discordant noise made by a bird or a person). Rodger Bain got renewed trust as producer (co-producer is more correct). Budgie knew which song to place where. "Whiskey River" is a hard and driving opening song. The second song "Rockin Man" got the guitar riffs, plink-plonk basslines and drums in the right places. In the third and extremely Beatles-inspired song "Rolling Home Again" it's all too clear that this album isn't as focused as its predecessor. The fourth song "Make Me Happy" makes this fact even more clear. They were trying to combine different styles and made experiment. The order is restored in the next song "Hot As A Docker's Armpit", allegedly coined by Steve Marriott in another context. The song has the same song structure as many of Black Sabbath songs. The first song on the flip side is "Drugstore Woman". This bluesy song is as simple as a shoe sole. The song seamlessly goes over into the instrumental "Bottled". The next to last song on the album "Young Is A World" is one of the highlights. It begins as a meditative ballad and gets slightly harder. The song is a good example of the unexpected tempo changes. The closing song "Stranded" was inspired of a bass guitar riff from John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin). Squawk was recorded in two weeks in Rockfield Studios. The album isn't as doom-sounding as the debut album. It's more of heavy metal intermingled with acoustic interludes. However, the album meant that Budgie could reach a larger audience and begin to tour in UK and Europe. The album outshines the other MCA albums at one point, namely the album cover. It's the work of legendary artist Roger Dean.

      

freudThe third album "Never Turn Your Back On A Friend" is flawless. It veers more towards progressive rock than their previous two albums. Produced by Budgie and recorded at Rockfield Studios. Album cover by Roger Dean. The opening song "Breadfan" deals with the love of money (slang: bread) "Breadfan, open up your mind, open up your purse / Open up your bones, never, never gonna lose it." The song starts with one of best guitar riffs of early heavy metal. Speaking of unexpected tempo changes. In the middle of the song there's a melodic interlude which goes over into the initial riff. The next song is a cover of "Baby, Please Don't Go", a blues song popularized by Big Joe Williams in the 1930s. Budgie's claim to fame in covering this classic song is the rolling basslines, rhythmic drums, catchy guitar and Shelley's spectacular vocals. The third song is a beautiful ballad "You Know I Always Love You". The fourth song "You're The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk" begins with a drum solo for nearly two minutes (it was the 1970s) before a guitar riff comes into play. This song has all the desirable attributes. It's gets even better in "In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter's Hand". This proves that Budgie were a class act and also give a glimpse of what might have been. The next to last song is "Riding My Nightmare", a ballad and the weakest song on the album. The closing song "Parents" still hits me with the same force after all these years. The music is mid-paced and acoustic. The lyrics are percipient. "When I was a little boy / They would say to me / Don't go in the world and play / It's bad company". A couple of verses later Shelley sings; "Wash your hands and up to bed / Mind your manners / Or you're dead / Mind the cars cos you've got school on Monday". Guitarist Tony Bourge makes his guitar sound like squeaking seagulls in the end of the song, maybe a nostalgic reference to the upbringing on the South Coast of Wales. Anyway, this is a groundbreaking album.      

  

muensterbergerThe fourth album "In For The Kill" is their masterwork. Actually, this was the first album of Budgie I heard (and taped). By this time drummer Ray Phillips had left the band and been replaced by Pete Boot. The album was produced by Budgie and recorded at Rockfield Studios and Lee Sound, Birmingham. Album cover by John Pasche Gull Graphics. The opening song "In For The Kill" is six and half minute of hard mangling with a thick bassline, a few but disctinct guitar riffs and effective drumming. The second song is "Crash Course In Brain Surgery". It was originally released in 1971 as a single. This is a catchy song with lyrics as weird as the title. The third song on the album is an acoustic song, "Wondering What Everyone Knows". For once, Burke Shelley lowered the pace and sang in clear and beautiful way. The result is flabbergasting. The fourth song is the suggestive "Zoom Club". Almost eight minutes of droning heavy metal. Tony Bourge brings out his hardest riffs and solos. Distortion, echo and reverb - all at once. The bass and drums are exquisite. "Come on everyone of you g.I's / You are the ones who can care / Speed on you wonderful dropouts / We'll break the walls of this room in". This grandiose song has stood the test of time. "In For The Kill" contains one of the best A-sides in early heavy metal. Time to flip side. The song "Hammer And Tongs" isn't a nod to Led Zeppelin's "Dazed And Confused", it's a deep bow. "Running From My Soul" is a straightforward rock'n' roll song and doesn't leave any mark in history. The closing song "Living On Your Own" is almost nine minutes long and wraps it all up. The song structure is, as I wrote above, similar to many of Black Sabbath's songs. This can't be a bad thing.

 

freudNothing lasts forever. Even the longest, the most glittering reign must come to an end someday. The downfall of Budgie began with their fifth and last album on MCA, "Bandolier" (a bandolier or a bandoleer is a pocketed belt for holding ammunition). The album was produced by Budgie and recorded at Rockfield Studios and Mayfair Studios, London. The album illustration was made by Patrick Woodroffe. Drummer Pete Boot had left the band and been replaced by Steve Williams. The albums opens, as always, with a very strong song "Breaking All The House Rules". But what happens next? The dreamy "Slipaway" is pure soul music and "Who Do You Want For Your Love" is a funky groove. The order is restored on the flip side in "I Can't See My Feelings". The fierce guitar riffs, bass lines and pounding drums (including cowbells) are all there. The following song is a cover of Andy Fairweather Low's "I Ain't No Mountain" from his 1974 album "Spider Jiving". The decision to include this song on the album is beyond the pale. Budgie ends the album in style with "Napoleon Bona-Part One" and "Napoleon Bona-Part Two". Very witty and amusing song titles. "Bandolier" marks the end of the band's golden age. Since "Bandolier" they have released six studio albums, four live albums and five compilation albums. Furthermore, they changed the lineup several times, disbanded and re-formed and are since 2010 on a long-term hiatus. All resuscitation attempts were in vain after "Bandolier".

The injustices in the music industry are numerous, extensive and outrageous. Budgie never became as big as ”the big three”; Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. On the other hand, it's only fair. Budgie didn't belong on the pedestal among "the big three", but they were better than most other contemporary bands (except maybe for Judas Priest). Budgie stood beside the road and saw themselves being overtaken by less talented bands. Despite talent, dedication and hard work Budgie only achieved moderate success. Why? Here are some hypotheses. They were too normal. No sex, drugs and rock'n roll mystique. Burke Shelley would fast from 3 PM before gigs and perform breathing exercises to keep his voice in shape. Tony Bourge sought musical purity and avoided to listen to other bands in case it would influence him. Ray Phillips, the first drummer, wanted to do more commercial things. No provocative religious themes or references. Budgie suffered from bad press and lacked strong management of Peter Grant-type (Led Zeppelin). Their record company MCA did nothing to promote them. At the same time, they were too abnormal. Quirky, humorous and playful lyrics, weird arrangements, banshee vocals, unexpected tempo changes and an unorthodox mix of hardness and softness. The critics mocked them, not many people liked them and "we few, we happy few" loved them. The most important reason for the lack of success was the absence of a hit. "Breadfan", "Crash Course In Brain Surgery" and "Zoom Club" came close. Close but no cigar.

 

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