So June finds us well into the parallel arrangement with our Sweet Home being based not only in London (The Scottish Folds, Robyn, and sound reinforcement by Andy Washington) but in Oz, with Our Emma preparing for her Australian tour in support of the Blonde on the Tracks album. Emma mainly joins us in the comments section of the StageIt stream. You'll also see the return of the Prodigal Steve to reviews this month.
6-2-21 SHQ RH Songs by Request
Robyn Hitchcock appears in one of his trademark patterned button up shirts, this one resembling a floral couch pattern in the most magnificent way imaginable. First up is ‘Sinister But She Was Happy.’
We then get a folksy-quirky version of ‘Statue with a Walkman.’ Robyn’s higher range is right on target and subtle. We get a great spoken word break in a Dylanesque accent lending the perfect level of goofiness.
Dissonance on ‘DeChirico Street’ offers the right note of Hitchcockian dismalia, enough to keep it off-kilter while it still chugs along poppily. That’s the magic RH balance in essence--a real groove with enough imbalance to make sure we know who we are listening to.
“The Nixons” are starting -- a little sweat in Studio C. Andy is doing production and Emma is in Oz, newly out of quarantine. RH brings out the harmonica for ‘Bob Dylan’s Dream,’ the Martin Carthy connection explained. This is a straggler tune from last week’s Dylan’s birthday celebration. No Folds seem to be traumatized by the harmonica break. My own cat decides that it is a good time to sneak out of the room for the feline equivalent of a smoke break, away from the cat-taunter harp sound.
Tubby the cat checked in when the harmonica stopped and settled in on RH’s feet while he played a song inspired by the Python song ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,’ ‘The Man Who Invented Himself.’ The harmonica silence also convinces my cat it is safe to return to the room. Emma tips Tubby on StageIt from Australia!
“Raymond and the Wires’ is next, a song about both trolley buses and RH’s late father. The song is an aching remembrance and clear-eyed reckoning of the past, not cheap nostalgia. It just wrecks me.
Next up is a request for Donovan. RH kicks it off with a hopeful “let’s see what this sounds like!” ‘Sunshine Superman’ calls on both RH’s lower and mid ranges. Tubby gets a shout-out incorporated into the silly 60’s lyrics. As he wipes the sweat, RH remarks, “NIxon’s the one--it’s a lie he was a ghastly person and the people that followed him worse.” I am hollering “AMEN” at home, having volunteered on the McGovern campaign in 1972 to defeat Nixon. Alas, a 10-year-old’s passion only resulted in 7 votes for George in my county.
‘Upgrade Me,’ a pandemic era new song, follows. Tubby gets featured in a verse. The lyrics are clever and it is a worthy entrant into the RH canon. Great images. It has been recorded for the upcoming album.
Of ‘When I Was Dead’ Emma tells us in the comments, “Fun Fact: editing this song for the lyrics book was a massive pain in the arse.” I hope the lyric book will hit my doorstep soon! I am excited to have this Tiny Ghost Press debut in my hands!
RH urges us to “turn on the phantom Emma Swift apps” for harmony on the next song, one he loves to sing with her. ‘Heaven’ gets a very lovely vocal from Robyn without said app, with some delicate guitar picking punctuated with a downright drone on the chorus. RH comments “Funny how accurate your dreams can be” as he always wanted to do this--sing for us so immediately, I suppose. We’re for it too.
While introducing ‘Light Blue Afternoon’ Robyn tells us how much his relationship with his mother has improved since her passing. So many of us give up trying at that point, it is good to hear there is always room for improvement.
A bit of ‘I Often Dream of Trains’ wraps up tonight’s SHQ.
--Adrienne Meddock, Please consider supporting Senator McGovern in ‘72!
6-4-21 Sargent Pepper’s Sweet Quarantine Club Band
Oh boy! I was lucky to double dip on SHQ this week with the anniversary celebration for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Emma is still in Australia, so Robyn is solo with the support of Andy and the Folds in Studio C, London.
We begin at the start: 'Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ gently picked to enhance the dreamlike vocals. It is a real contrast to the bombast of the album’s opening. The tempo picks up and the strums become insistent as Billy Shears is introduced and with a little effort, we launch into ‘With A Little Help From My Friends.’
The Telecaster comes out for 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,’ but the connection seems loose at the cord, so he sings acapella while switching to acoustic and harmonica for the remainder of the song. “The Freewheeling Sgt. Pepper,” he jokes.
The harp’s out so we get an upbeat start to ‘Getting Better.’ Not a trace of dismalia is to be found on this slice of Paul glad break of optimism. “Paul was always on the right side of his drugs,” explains Robyn. Perfect.
‘Fixing a Hole’ is well-suited to Robyn’s range and we get delicate verses, martinet bridges, and buoyant choruses. It is salve for the soul.
We take a tech break to call -- Morris Windsor! Robyn explains “Morris and I met a few years ago through TINDR.” LOL. Morris explains “it’s an experiment in sound” as he will attempt to sing back ups via the phone while Robyn sings to a recorded CD track. The sound is not great but the spirit is perfect. A true collaboration with Andy Washington adding the sound reinforcement in Studio C. Morris will be in-studio next week, which makes me giddy.
I noted that ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite’ had Robyn “eating it up with a fork! Nice picking too!” So I was pleased. Robyn notes that he heard Paul “play it in concert recently and surprisingly, it sounded nothing like that. On to side 2 and George Harrison.”
And is it ever. ‘Within You Without You,’ or the song that confused the kiddies back in '67, sounds surprisingly good without what feels like the album's army of sitars. Somehow RH gets a great tone and I never missed Ravi-sounds even once.
“That was raga time! Here comes Paul with the antidote to everything,” leads RH into ‘When I’m 64.’ “Paul obviously didn’t know anything about me or Emma when he wrote this,” he concludes. He adds “the flavors were changing drastically from one Beatle to another,” during this period.
‘Lovely Rita’ and ‘Good Morning Good Morning’ are both upbeat and joyful. RH even plays a “drum break” of his guitar body. Playing a complete Beatles album among like-minded souls has got to be wish-fulfillment.
‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)’ and ‘A Day in the Life’ are well-suited to Robyn’s voice, despite his regret that it is “sadly without the vocal delay.”
“This track was supposed to be the beginning but they kept it back as a single,” is his introduction to dreamy, slow, and contemplative “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
This special SHQ winds down with a George song recorded during the Pepper sessions, ‘Only A Northern Song.’ Time flew and it was great to have an intimate tour of a landmark album with a circumspect acolyte.
--Adrienne Meddock, Stop My Mind From Wandering Where it Will Go
6/11/2021 SHQ Element of Light with Morris Windsor
I was very excited for this show, in part because two Soft Boys would be in the same location (3 it turned out--Kimberley showed up in the comments!) Morris came up to London for SHQ to sing backing vox in person (not on phone) and add percussion and generally assume his responsibilities as an Egyptian.
Andy Washington was doing the honors as Emma was still in Australia. We open with ‘If You Were A Priest,' Morris with maraca in one hand and brush on snare with the other. On ‘Winchester’ Morris’s lonely highs are still extant and the sound is lovely. Brush + snare and tambourine come out for ‘Somewhere Apart’ (incidentally the title of his new lyric book--have you ordered yours yet?) Robyn asks Morris, “Did you count that?” Morris replies that he “can’t sing and count. We just looked at each other, maybe, with no counting at all.” Ha, that was our method in our band the Beef People too, mostly.
Robyn reminisces that his “gran had Ray Bans, pre-dated the Velvets by a year.” Morris: “Oh, what a groover!”
‘Ted, Woody, and Junior’ has Morris grabbing both maracas, alternately striking and shaking them. Sounds great. This little bit of percussion does wonders for the SHQ sound.
Robyn tells us that the version on Element featured a “stadium rock version” we get the 2020 version of ‘The President’ with new Trumpy context “hundreds of years later.” Robyn plays slide and it suits.
He tells us he wrote the next song in Highgate, never having been in LA. He and Morris reminisce about traveling from San Francisco to LA with a deli tray they had at the prior night’s gig, a perk that was new to them. They listened to Heroes side two the whole way, they recall.
Morris plays shaker (the pro-version of a Tic-Tac box) on the beautiful, atmospheric ‘Raymond Chandler Evening,’ always a stand out.
Robyn needs to “rehydrate the Nixons” before moving on to ‘Airscape.’ RH declares it “one of my favorite RH songs,” but not before riffing on the movie Yesterday. “The Beatles and Ed Sheeran--what a team,” deadpans Robyn. Morris plays stick and tambo. There are a few flubs and they crack each other up while continuing to play. These two have band closeness still.
Introduced as “very much a British seaside song,” it is time for ‘Bass.’ We always love the low range on the sonorous chorus! The Groovers rejoice.
Andy lets the boys know Kimberly is in the chat and Morris and Robyn are chuffed. Give it to the Soft Boys.
‘Never Stop Bleeding’ has Morris back with the pro-Tic Tac shaker. Robyn hypes ‘Lady Waters and the Hooded One’ by barking “give it up for...The Plague!” It is stirring during our own pandemic times to hear this song, with Emma in and out of lockdown in Australia.
Morris, man of many noise makers, adds electric guitar to the proceedings to join RH on ‘Tell Me About Your Drugs.’ Morris even took a lead and solo!
‘Each of Her Silver Wands’ ends the Element of Light show. Next week Morris will be back for I Often Dream of Trains. What a gift these shows are.
--Adrienne Meddock, save your illusions for yourself
6/16/2021 SHQ LA Songs by RH
The Covid rise in Melbourne has meant that Emma’s Australian tour must be postponed as new lockdowns are being ordered there. It has been a strange homecoming for her, so much of it in quarantine lockdown in a hotel.
Today’s show is an LA “sinister-rom-creepy special,” with songs about or inspired by Los Angeles.
First up is ‘The Man with a Woman’s Shadow,’ from Moss Elixir. Robyn plays the harmonica because Tubby’s not in the room. My possibly deaf older cat (or perhaps she can’t be arsed by anything) is sleeping through. Robyn’s Nixons have started already. Tubby surprises us by coming in to investigate the action--he is choosing to ignore the harmonica. Ah, curiosity and felis catus.
The Doors’ ‘Love Street,’ Robyn’s low speaking voice is trotted out (love it) and he picks the acoustic through the whole song, a Spanish-style Krieger of sorts.
Arthur Lee, who discovered The Doors, is our next LA stop. “The Red Telephone” was recorded by Lee’s Love, is well-suited to Robyn’s voice. The swirling guitar gives us a nice psychedelic-acoustic take. Robyn tells us he was stuck in LA making a record, “all his dreams came true.” He listened in the studio to an Arthur Lee tape as part of that experience.
The natural follow up is ‘The Wreck of the Arthur Lee’ from Respect. I love the dismal optimism of the song, but that is RH’s wheelhouse, is it not? RH tells the story of meeting Arthur Lee, really a bit of a confrontation. We’ve heard this before, but it is always welcome, like a family story now.
Robyn switched “to a different out of tune guitar,” for a Flying Burrito Brothers request, ‘Sin City.’ “LA police, they come in different flavors.…”
Up next ‘Nietzsche’s Way,’ which provokes RH’s comment, “well, that was performed.” Tough crowd, he is. He tells us he had no idea what LA stood for when he was younger, he thought maybe London Airport. He eventually learned from Rolling Stone.
A Beatles request for a George song brings us ‘Blue Jay Way.’ RH gets a great drone going. Has he a sitar hidden in that Gibson? I never thought of it as an LA song, but there it is in the lyrics.
Marcus suggested a song that Robyn had forgotten! He had to relearn his Patreon song ‘No Cure for LA.’ He plays the song with real enthusiasm, so great suggestion!
The next song is introduced “by some old friends of mine, before they lost their drummer. A mention of Mulholland Drive gets R.E.M. 's ‘Electrolite’ on tonight’s card.
The top hat and harmonica come out for Tom Petty, a song with a “lot of creepy longing--one of the greatest things to which humans can aspire.” “Free Fallin’’ ensues, and I can swear to it, be I believe the lyrics were given an appropriate Robyn upgrade to “she loves cheeses...,” which would be a serious improvement to this Petty averse listener. It’s a very LA song and Tubby seems California-cool with the harmonica playing.
We are offered a Henley-off: ‘Hotel California’ or ‘Boys of Summer.’ Voting in the comments ensues while the beloved RH LA song, ‘Raymond Chandler Evening’ is up. Robyn tells us he plays it “all the time, but we keep requesting it.’ He seems a bit baffled about our collective devotion to the song.
‘Boys of Summer’ wins the fan poll, and Robyn tells us we ‘have now escaped any chance of me singing ‘Hotel California.’” Andy calls the ‘Boys” lyrics to an agitated Robyn, who stops the nonsense. “I really hate this song. I don’t know why I am doing it. I’ll play one of my own. One of my unhappiest LA songs.”
He goes out with ‘Vegetation and Dimes,’ clarifying as he signs off, “I don’t hate that song, I hate doing it.” Avoiding an Eagles-related fatwa, I suppose. Well, Lebowski had it right.
--Adrienne Meddock, loves cheeses, America too
6/18/2021 SHQ I Often Dream of Trains with Morris Windsor and Terry Edwards
Wow! 2 Scottish Folds, 3 players and 1 Andy in support! Full house in Studio C for the full album live stream of I Often Dream of Trains as part of the Sweet Home Quarantine shows. Robyn is joined by Egyptian bandmate Morris Windsor and all-around utility player Terry Edwards (ex-a bunch of bands, including The Higsons (?!) --will the Hen finally be Let Out?)
Robyn assures us this is a redux version, not in official album running order. Robyn opens the show on keyboards (!) with “Nocturne (Prelude)’ and ‘Flavour of NIght.’ He hits some wrong notes, cracks himself up, and restarts. “It’s OK, Tubby,” he calls out; even the cat's a critic. On to ‘Flavour of Night.’ RH counts in Terry Edwards on horn at the far end of the studio, and this giant harmonica monster totally freaks out Tubby (lot of noisemakers in Studio C today, Tubbs) and he asks Morris to keep time, and the shaker comes in. The Edge (stuffed monkey) and Perry the lobster look on from chairs. Morris and Terry are playing off camera. Ta-da! Combo!
The combo crowds on screen and ‘Sometimes I Wish I Was a Pretty Girl.” Terry's on keys, Morris on tambo, and Robyn on acoustic. I am admiring Morris’s Capitol Records shirt. The logo was all over Capitol Studios for Rufus Wainwright’s Judy show, so I am happy to see it. (See the review of the Rufus show at tinyurl.com/rufusjudy). They went straight into ‘Sounds Great When You’re Dead’ The verses are Robyn's and they all sing on the choruses. Sounds pretty good.
Top hats come out for all 3. They’ve been “specially chosen because none of them fits.” Terry says, “you know the saying, if the hat doesn’t fit, wear it.” They launch into a lovely three way harmony on ‘Uncorrected Personality Traits.’ Andy claps for all of us for the performers in Studio C and it really does sound great.
Robyn grabs the Telecaster, full of tremolo. RH asks if if the keys or guitar need to come up in the mix, and Terry interjects “or talent!” He’ll do nicely here, I think. Great addition. ‘This Could Be the Day’ sounds great. Since it keeps the same “wobble rate as the prior song” we get ‘I Often Dream of Trains,’ Robyn alone with the Tele. He praised Perry for the sound working out so well.
Picking up the acoustic, Robyn performed the lonely ‘Autumn is Your Last Chance,’ a song he’d written for Bryan Ferry. “I don’t think he ever heard it.”
Morris rejoins with the shaker for ‘Heart Full of Leaves.” Terry brings a trumpet. He’s a really Swiss Army knife of instrumentation. ‘My Favorite Buildings’ gets an almost skiffle feel, Morris on maracas, Terry with the shaker, and playing the trumpet on the end of the song, sounding great with the “kitchen echo” providing a nice effect.
All three sing ‘Trams of Old London’ intro, and Terry grabs a guitar, Robyn thanks us for joining this highly experimental show (its been successful from where I sit).‘Ye Sleeping Knights of Jesus” rounds out the album.
Robyn wishes Sir Paul a Happy Birthday and Terry plays piano on ‘Photograph,’ the other Ringo’s great hit (the feline one has not deigned to show himself in some time). Robyn’s lead, Terry and Morris's backing vocals and the longing of the lyrics are really poignant as we realize what a beautiful time we’ve all had together today.
--Adrienne Meddock, I wait for eternity. Or Basingstoke. Or Reading.
6/25/21 SHQ Sea Shanties and more!
Today’s show will contain SEA SHANTIES by the suggestion of Andy Washington, an idea so skewed it must be perfect. Robyn is wearing the theme in his most maritime print, the flying fish. He says he’s ready for press gang picking. Ahoy!
He begins in the key of E--”the key of confidence!” with ‘Give Me A Spanner, Ralph,’ harmonica blaring. I don’t believe I caught this on a previous SHQ. Tubs must be out of Studio C. He tells us this one was written in 1973, and the Nixons he is sweating are in honor of his presidency of that year.
‘I Want to Tell You About What I Want’ is always welcome, and the sound is glitching in an artful way, as phrases are randomly repeated. It is a neat effect. The song is so lyrically delicious that an extra bite here or there won’t go wasted. Commentarians say they are having glitches too. It’ll work out.
Robyn songs will intercut the shanties' “fundamentally erotic sound to vintage Bob Dylan fans.” The harmonica comes out, the cats are upstairs, and the traditional ‘Fare You Well Lovely Nancy” is begun and suddenly brightened by bass and depth controls rounding out the wonky sound. Fab! Andy has jiggled a cord and reset the interface. RH: "Excellent wiggling!"
Robyn proclaims it a “cat-free and harmonica-rich night” and points out that the next song, while his, is not technically a sea shanty. ‘Not Even A Nurse’ follows, harmonica still out and resounding. “Sleeping with Your Devil Mask’ is next, and it looks like he is playing slide bare-fingered, and a very vigorous version. For a hot day, he’s very vigorous and upbeat.
The next song is a sea song, if not a shanty, and the lyrics are landing hard with me today: ‘Luminous Rose.’ The carnage of the European wars is a visceral and ever present companion in old Blighty, American shores largely spared from its physical impacts. Too much perspective.
We get a true traditional shanty, ‘Sam’s Gone Away,’ with Andy joining in on percussion by request, tapping a glass. It is an upbeat number, expressing the longing to go to sea. Poor sod.
Robyn tells us we’re "going over the Tropic of Capricorn of the show, past the equator in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Sea Shanties by R Hitchcock Show.”
‘Ghost Ship’ a dreamlike seafaring tale, with a mid-song shout-out for Tubbs as he dares to enter Studio C’s temporarily harp-free zone. When the song ends, he tests Tubbs for harmonica sensitivity. Tubbance actually ventured further in the room and allowed Robyn to hold him for the first show in several weeks.
‘Raining Twilight Coast’ features beautiful fingerpicking. The sea theme has been a great idea and I am quite enamoured. We get a “live with no effect naked singing R Hitchcock" on ‘Adventure Rocket Ship.’ Next, a Patreon “song in A that didn’t make the new album.” Robyn is in great voice and is very energetic. There are “trains across the ocean for drunken submarines” is one line, uniting two big themes. He’ll call it ‘My Sunken Life’ or ‘There Goes Tomorrow.’ “That’s for Emma.”
The show concludes on a sea shanty, the Pogue-esque traditional ‘South Australia.’
--Adrienne Meddock, Out of Dramamine