The Purple Bottle

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Guardian Manchester Review

Or should that be "Manchester Guardian Review"!,,1698402,00.html
Robyn Hitchcock and Minus 3
Manchester University
Dave SimpsonTuesday January 31, 20064 out of 5 stars
Robyn Hitchcock starts the set with the wrong song. Moments later, he introduces a guest musician as "the voice of Maurice Windsor - accompanied by his body". If The Fast Show had ever wanted to do a pastiche of a whacked-out, quaint, quintessentially English psychedelic explorer, they could have simply wheeled Hitchcock in front of the camera.After 30 years in the business, the former Soft Boy identifies his music as "folk rock" - a term, he acknowledges, that tends to strike terror into the hearts of anyone not in possession of a woolly cardie and the complete works of Fairport Convention. "I don't think there's anything more threatening," he concedes, even "being strapped naked to a block of ice listening to 50 Cent". But "folk rock" doesn't describe the complexities of Hitchcock's oeuvre: he is part comedian, part social historian. One surreal monologue explains how the Germans' mistake, when invading Poland, was "not having any jokes".After congratulating the audience for having "their eyes in the right place", this vocal critic of the Iraq war serenades "our rock'n'roll prime minister" with I Wanna Destroy You. Perhaps Blair the would-be rocker could have learned from Hitchcock as others have. The Smiths' Johnny Marr is in the audience and REM's Peter Buck is on stage, relishing the smaller venue and the opportunity to weave sparkling Rickenbacker magic around Hitchcock's transcendent guitar patterns. The widely held notion that all Hitchcock's songs are about fish is misleading: here, creatures with scales feature in only one of every two. "Bring me fish eggs and a violin," he croons, beautifully. But lest this get too barmy, Hitchcock delivers a sentiment his audience seem to understand: Television - about TV addling the mind - and its chorus of "Binga bonga, bing-bong!"Hitchcock leads the Minus 3 band long into the night, acknowledging their own influences with a spellbinding take on the Byrds' Eight Miles High. Now 50, fetchingly grey-haired but still looking like an errant sixth former who clambered on stage with some crazy dudes, the genius-guitarist-songwriters' genius-guitarist-songwriter is clearly in no mood to come down.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Vegetable Friends

If you've stumbled across this blog through a love of Robyn Hitchcock, then I'm sure you'll be interested in the Vegetable Friends yahoo group. It's a very friendly group that discusses all aspects of Robyn, Syd Barrett and anything related. There is also a wealth of information in the various Veggie Files and a host of groovy images in Visible Hitchcock - Join today!

Saturday, January 28, 2006


One of my flavourite new discoveries of last year was the Marshmallow album, a record full of catchy pop melodies and witty, interesting lyrics. The man behind Marshmallow is ex-Mutton Birds and Bic Runga bassist Alan Gregg, who recorded the album mostly by himself with occaisional help from friends such as Ron Sexsmith, Dave Long and the aforementioned Ms Runga. An eleven track version was released by Lo-Max at the beginning of 2003 but was rereleased with two extra tracks (and a new cover) by Storm Records in 2005. Here's a link to the official website where you can listen to samples of the album, view the two excellent videos and order the CD - if you love classic pop, you won't be disappointed! The two tracks on the Anytime Soon CD single are also excellent and well worth having as they feature the full band lineup that played a blinding set at the Cornbury Festival this summer. I eargerly await the second album!

Here's a photo of Alan Gregg:

Robyn in the Guardian

There's a very nice piece in the Guardian's We're Jammin' series in today's paper featuring Robyn and the Minus 3. There's also an mp3 of "Ole Tarantula" with the Guardian's Pascal Wyse on trombone. Here's the link:,,1695328,00.html
(if that does'nt work, go to the Guardian homepage and do a search for "Robyn Hitchcock")

'You know, the good guys always live near water," says Robyn Hitchcock, talking about America, his favourite place of work. "Everyone within 50 miles of lakes and oceans seems to vote Democrat; the rest are doomed cattle who vote Republican. My audience is pretty much 100% Democrat."Robyn's current band is American too, and the singer-songwriter is flattered that they have travelled over to our "freezing, dark, damp air for not an enormous amount of money to play a bunch of clubs". Smiling behind shades, they seem happy to accommodate a random trombone, too, but that could just be the jetlag. "It's pretty unusual," says Robyn. "Imagine if you had to jam with all rock journalists. What would Charles Shaar Murray be like?"What a nice bunch of people, I say to the woman who runs the studio. It then becomes clear, to her gobsmacked amusement, that I have no idea I am playing with Bill Rieflin, Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck - that's REM, just about. Robyn wasn't exaggerating when he said he had made a few American friends. Back with the band, I try to construct a nonchalant remark that reveals I (now) know who they are, without giving away the fact that I didn't 30 seconds ago."Things are so polarised in the US," says Robyn. "It's a bit more of a community. Over here, I don't know. You've got some lovely people who come along and listen to music and you've got some very weird ones. True music fans are always a bit weird anyway." Robyn's wit - apart from shackling him to Syd Barrett comparisons over the years - divides people. Some find him self-consciously nuts; for others his surreal visions get right inside life's loopy realities. "The humour is just something that people have had problems with over the years. Right back in the new wave days people thought I was ideologically unsound and that I was just taking the piss. I can actually pinpoint one of the incidents, from the Soft Boys. We had one bit in 5/4 time, which never went down very well with the new wave police because prog was officially out. Then we had a bit that was very simple, darr der darr, darr der darr ... And we nodded our heads like Status Quo, 'cause it was a bit of boogie. The cognoscenti from the music press thought, OK, they're trying to take the piss out of Status Quo, they are obviously wise guys with nothing new of their own. They're from Cambridge anyway, fuck 'em. Next!" The band have a stack of tunes to get through before the first gig of the 2006 tour. Sometimes they sound like they are trying to put together a flat-pack chest of drawers. "Pete, the verse thing has got some D in it. You know that drop-down thing the second time? It's got that D with errm ... no, C, with a ... I don't know why it is 11 beats at the end. I probably ran out of breath." Robyn listens to the trombone: "It reminds me of the air bass that Beefheart used to have. Bruce Fowler used to play trombone through effects." Bill lights up behind his kit: "Ahhh, one of the mighty Fowlers," he says, and rehearsal derails into a chat about The Magic Band. Robyn tries to sum up his reputation: "I don't know how I'm perceived at all, actually." I'm sure he does; it's more that, having survived the music business this long, he is not too bothered any more. "It's always an advantage to be a foreigner in some ways - at least before they start rounding people up. It's a generalisation, but they say we tend to have class and the US tends to have race. Just as in the 1960s rock went middle class - that's [rock manager] Peter Jenner's term for it - so in the 1970s it went faux working class. The industry was still run by middle-class people - and the journalists were 90% middle class. But there was an attempt to make the whole thing seem like it was from the terraces. We weren't: we were palpably middle class. We could barely put down our cucumber sandwiches long enough to dash off a few riffs." Robyn writes, draws - and even played a villain in the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, directed by Jonathan Demme, another friend and fan. But aged 10 he heard Bob Dylan and knew he would be a musician, whatever the hardships. "You've got to be bloody-minded and stay bloody-minded. It's a paradox: you have to have a lot of self-belief but at the same time you can't expect life to kiss you on the nose every morning. It's really pretty brutal. "Dylan was like a golden comet for the first five years of his career and then, although people kept treating him like a god, he was in a wretched state. A man in deep unhappiness wandering around the world, wailing. I thought, God, that's the man I envied, that's the man I wanted to be! Jesus! I'd rather be Robyn Hitchcock."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Sacred Crab himself, currently touring the UK but not near enough to sleepy North Berkshire for us to attend. Since this picture was taken, nearly twenty years ago, Robyn's hair has become a lot greyer, but he still strikes the same poses and the music is just as great. Posted by Picasa

The Vale of the White Horse in the background Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Purple Bottle

Welcome to The Purple Bottle!