Sunday, August 3, 2008

incredible string band

the hangman's beautiful daughter: the hands of time betray no deducible fortuitous sway.

Chasing the unstoppable momentum of time through wormholes, and digressing into equally obtuse conversations with Jon regarding the futility of measurement in today's comments sections, there is nothing for it - it seems - but to resort to the strange beauty of the Incredible String Band.

The acid folk duo - originally a trio featuring Clive Palmer - consisting of Robbie Williamson and Mike Heron were formed in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1965 and bravely soldiered through a decade of bruising until their demise as a band in 1974. They were first spotted by Elektra scout, Joe Boyd, operating out of Clive's Incredible Folk Club, on the fourth floor of a building in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow, where they were house band to an audience of folk music enthusiasts and sundry social misfits.

From Wiki:
"They recorded their first album, titled The Incredible String Band, at the Sound Techniques studio in London in May 1966. It was released in Britain and the United States and consisted mostly of self-penned material in solo, duo and trio formats, showcasing their playing on a variety of instruments. It won the title of "Folk Album of the Year" in Melody Maker's annual poll, and in a 1968 Sing Out! magazine interview Bob Dylan praised the album's "October Song" as one of his favourite songs of that period.

The trio broke up after recording the album. Palmer left via the hippie trail for Afghanistan and India, and Williamson and his girlfriend Licorice McKechnie went to Morocco with no firm plans to return. Heron stayed in Edinburgh, playing with a band called Rock Bottom and the Deadbeats. However, when Williamson returned after running out of money, laden with Moroccan instruments including a gimbri which was much later eaten by rats, he and Mike reformed the band as a duo.

You may recall their performance at Woodstock in 1969, where they famously refused at first to set foot on the stage in the pouring rain. As a result the String Band were dropped from the subsequent movie documenting the festival, and when they did eventually bless the crowd with an appearance on the second night of the event their set went down like a lead balloon.

Disbanding to concentrate on solo careers with mixed results, the Incredible String Band reformed in 1999 and continued to perform until 2006.

Rosa is a recent convert to their insidious intensity and cajoling tongue. If you don't already know of them, I'm hoping you will follow brazenly enthusiastic in her bare footsteps too.

INCREDIBLE STRING BAND: CHINESE WHITE from "5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion" LP (Elektra) 1967 (UK)

INCREDIBLE STRING BAND: THREE IS A GREEN CROWN from "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter" LP (Elektra) 1968 (UK)

INCREDIBLE STRING BAND: OCTOBER SONG from "The Incredible String Band" LP (Elektra) 1966 (UK)



Your driver said...

Yep, some skeery shit. Now I know why I couldn't find the album I was looking for. I remembered the cover of The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter but the songs from 5000 Layers etc. In case anybody comes after you for stealing money from musicians, I purchased and downloaded The 5000 Layers from Amazon. Now, would someone explain to me what it was with hippies and long, long, long songs? I know that short songs were forced on us by the limits of early recording technology, but now, when it is possible to record even longer songs, nobody much is recording hippie length songs. I didn't like most of those long songs. When they played them on free form radio, circa 1968, hippies would just swoon over how noncommercial they were. I finally realized that DJ's liked to play them because it gave them a chance to go to the restroom. I will make an exception for 'Tangled Up In Blue'. That was a great song that told a long story.

ib said...

"5000 Layers" is a great album. Cool you actually went on Amazon and bought it.

It's a weird thing with long songs. I had much the same conversation with Beer a while back. Although I was a huge fan of the 2"/3" 45 right back to when I was a young kid, I actually acquired the taste for really long songs as soon as I realised they allowed you to come up on a trip and surf off into inner space without the jolt of interruption. Another thing, Jazz jams - of which I'm quite a fan, as you might have gathered - benefit hugely from the room to grow.

I don't feel "Three Is A Green Crown" is overly long. I like its lengthiness even though I definitely buy into where you're coming from with smug assholes nodding their heads to the drawn-out jam, and the DJ on a burger/toilet break. It's a punk thing ; mod thing ; soul thing. Call it what you will.

"Tangled Up In Blue" is a beautiful song. As is "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands", another hugely long one.

Jorn said...

89 tune ISB jukebox

ib said...

thanks, jorn.