Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Here & Now Experiment

I love live albums. Ever since I started listening to and collecting records I have loved the live album. Before year zero I had live albums by the likes of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep ("I've got chewing gum on my boot"), Kiss ("Alive 2"...with stickers) and even Lynyrd Skynyrd - and loved them all, then along came Throbbing Gristle and took the live album into another arena. Alongside This Heat and then Nocturnal Emissions these groups were mixing live recordings with studio recordings. Not first track studio/second track live/third & fourth studio etc but mixing them all together into one big whorl of sound.
Then there was the split live LP and none better is 1978's "What You See...Is What You Are", a split LP by Alternative TV and Here & Now on Deptford Fun City Records.
I love the work of Mark Perry. Mark P. From his life after life through to his strange kicks his body of work is genious. I even love his rant at Miles Copeland that is on the (strange) "Mission Is Terminated" double LP. You guessed it - I'm a fan. (I must point out here that I have not seen or heard any ATV or Mark Perry after the 1981 "Strange Kicks" LP). On "What You See....." ATV offer "Action Time Lemon", a bitter lemon, the furious "Going Round In Circles" and the epic "Fellow Sufferer" - classics to a man each and every one of them.
Back in 1978 the LP introduced me to the sound of Here & Now. Here & Now were a strange beast, a carry on from the free festival era of the mid 1970's...like Nik Turner's Inner City Unit and The Pink Fairies - bands that us newbie punk types should be "into" and pay respect. Spawners of Crass and The 012, and yes I did like the Here & Now tracks. They were/are kind of "punky" and sing-a-long and had a touch of humour but (in 1978) I could never bring myself to buy a full studio LP by Here & Now. "What You See.....Is What You Are" cost £1.75, Here & Now LP's were selling for £3.00 plus! And they were filed in the "prog" section in Sanctuary Records (Lincoln's finest) and "prog" was a section that was OK for browsing but not for buying. (Unless it was a Christmas present for a friend).
Earlier this year I found the Here & Now "Floating Anarchy" 7"EP secondhand on a Market Stall in Cambridge. It was unpriced. I already had the B Movie picture disc album "The Dead Good Tapes" in my hand (priced at £7) when I asked the chap "how much"? He said "tenner the both" and I said "sold"! It is a brilliant EP with two studio tracks from the "What You See...." album. Great versions of "Addicted" and "Dog In Hell". I found myself playing "Dog In Hell" repeatedly when I came home from work...I was singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star...What You See Is What You Are" to the kids at bedtime. I decided to experiment was it time to buy the album from whence the tracks came?
The album is called "Give & Take" and I remember the sleeve so well from flicking through vinyl in the 1970's. The names associated with the LP were familiar too, Dave Anderson from Rough Trade (Red Crayola/The Pop Group) on the mix with Kif Kif who had worked with The Instant Automatons, 23 Skidoo and The Androids Of Mu. So I bought the CD version on the Cherry Red Records subsidiary Esoteric Recordings because it included the three tracks from the "Floating Anarchy" 7"EP as well as a studio version of "What You See....Is What You Are".

The CD kicks off with a cracking studio version of "What You See...Is What You Are", guitar riff and drumming is superb, and then what follows is 5 tracks of pure self indulgent hippy-trippy sub Barrett era Floyd mixed with the worst Steve Hillage album you can imagine. In my days I have been to many a house/flat/squat (delete as applicable) to score some draw, and there was always one place that was the last resort, the grin and bear it, the bite the fucking bullet we're off to Rainbow Pete's, or Itchy Dave's or Mick Man's pad. You knew you were going to be there a while and you were going to have to listen to endless Gong, Hillage, Hot Tuna and Velvet Underground and say that you love it, just to score the eighth on tick and pray you never see the guy again (even though you owe him a tenner)! This CD is the soundtrack to my early/mid 1980's nightmares. But it contains studio versions of three tracks from one of my all time favourite live albums.
Tracks 1, 7 & 9. Ignore the rest, the experiment was an interesting one.

1: Here & Now "Give & Take" CD Cover.
2: Alternative TV + Here & Now relax, 1978.

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