Camel, Mirage – Did cigarette advertising prevent the rise of this iconic album?

Camel, Mirage – Did cigarette advertising prevent the rise of this iconic album?

Talent

Have you ever seen a talent show on TV where one act is so unbelievably good and despite all the talent they not only don’t win, but they don’t even make the finals? You have? It’s annoying isn’t it? Well if there was a TV talent show for albums, then Camels 1974 album, Mirage would be one of those albums that would do just that, a clear winner that would not even make the finals.

Mirage was voted number 21 in the 50 greatest Prog rock albums of all time in Rolling Stone magazine so musically, why it would fail to sell well is a mystery. Mirage is a well rounded, jazz, folk, metal fantasy-themed progressive rock album of the highest order yet it failed to enter the UK album charts and only just crawled into the US billboard 200. Perhaps its to do with the bands endorsements of cigarettes that had something to do with its lack of publicity and therefore lack of sales?

Whatever it is, we’ll look at it later, first lets get you listening to Camel , Mirage via YouTube before you read any more so you can judge for yourself how brilliant it is or login in to Spotify

If you want more information on the group Camel then here is a full biography on Last.Fm otherwise if you’re interested in Camels second album, Mirage, the bands finest work then stick with me. I’ll take you on a Mirage journey in more detail starting with all the facts and figures of chart positions and pressings and then we’ll look at a few other oddities and concentrate of the music with a little help from Billboard 200, Paul McCartney, Londons’ Philharmonia Orchestra and some cigarettes…

Chart Position

According to RateYourMusic.com the album was first released in the UK on 1st March 1974 and was rolled out to USA, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Greece in the same year. The Deram was the first and most valuable of the labels, although it was also pressed on Passport, Janus, London, King and North American labels . I have an original UK pressed Deram with the inner sleeve as seen below and in Rare Record Collector 2016 guide it’s valued at £50. I would add though, I wouldn’t sell it at any price, so please don’t ask!

IMG_3433

Finding chart positions has been difficult because Mirage didn’t set the world on fire but after some research I have found back issues of billboard magazine which has helped track down the USA positions. It’s first occurrence in the USA charts was at position 205 on 16th November 1974 where it was in the “bubbling under” section of the Billboard 200 pop charts and a week later when it had crawled to position 203 before eventually breaking into the charts at position 188 on 30th November 1974.  During the Christmas weekend it reached it’s highest position of 149 where it stayed for a fortnight before slowly slipping down the charts. On 1st March 1975 it finally left the US 200, having dropped from position 185 the previous week after 13 weeks and that’s it – that’s all I have.

Cigarettes

We’ll take a walk through the tracks in a moment but before we do lets look at why the album was problematic from the start…

camel_pack

You see the band didn’t get their name from the humped, spitting creature that roams the deserts but from the cigarettes they smoked and there lies the problem because not everyone shared their love of the cancerous weed, particularly the American music industry.  The bands website has the full details but from a marketing point of view, cigarette endorsements, even in the 70s were a disaster. What was even worse was the iconic camel cigarette logo cover on the USA version of album had to be scrapped and replaced with this…

CamelMirageusa

 

…the USA cover is not very inspiring is it?

Let’s go through the tunes…

Album Review Side 1

Side one opens with Freefall (5mins 55sec) featuring Andy Latimers stunning guitar and some super fast drumming from Andy Ward. The lyrics and the vocals are a little tame in this track but it’s all backed up with an ensemble of rock/jazz guitar and organ work creating a genuinely bright and interesting start to the album. The quality of Latimers playing is a significant strength to the album either on flute or guitar. His skills were recognised at the prog rock music awards in 2014 when he was awarded for his lifetime achievement.

Up next is one of the highlights of prog rock Supertwister (3mins 20 sec)

This kicks off with Latimer on flute and an exciting percussion back drop with ground breaking use of bottles and aerosols providing the rhythm and ends with probably the greatest ending to a record in the world (I should have used a Carlsberg for this picture but we only had Tetley)

beer

We’re now into the last track, three part 9 mins 18sec of Nimrodel, Procession and The White Rider which all combine to form one song.  A slow intro leads onto church bells ringing and crowds cheering before leading to the JR Tolkien Lord of the Rings inspired “White Rider” , featuring echoing guitar solos similar or better than Dire Straits Mark Knopfler coupled with Peter Bardens mini moog, organ, and celeste . There’s even sections where the mini moog takes centre stage very similar to Mike Oldfields Tubular Bells and also sections where the Mellotron gets an airing. Don’t know what a Mellotron is? It’s the instrument used in the introduction of Beatles Strawberry Fields for Ever, Paul McCartney explains

Album Review Side 2

OK now flip it over to side 2 (for those listening on vinyl of course)

Earthrise (6mins 50secs) starts with some howling wind sound effects to set the scene and the mini moog is providing the “vocals” for an instrumental that just doesn’t need lyrics to tell the story. A real belter of a rock song for you to let your hair down to, Doug Ferguson laying a base with his bass (what else!)

and then track two side 2 is Lady Fantasy at a very healthy 12mins and 59 seconds long – not quite 13 minutes (which would be unlucky I guess) “Listen very carefully my words are about to unfold”

This is pure prog, all over the place, up and down, varied and magical with a large helping of full heavy metal mixed with elegant guitar, organ and Celeste solos. If you don’t know what a Celeste is then Elizabeth Burley of the London Philharmonia will explain. The track builds and builds before finally heading for a mellow “Dire Straits” finale.

Mirage is pure poetry so play it again and again, you’ll never get bored of listening to this album .

IMG_3438 IMG_3437 IMG_3434 IMG_3435

IMG_3436   IMG_3432

 

 

Discovering 60s Mono and Stereo Decca Releases

Discovering 60s Mono and Stereo Decca Releases

Decca

Have you ever noticed on some 1960s Decca LPs there is a hole at the back of the cover? If it looks like the example above by the Moody Blues then you have an album that has the wrong inner sleeve in it. This example has a plain white sleeve which isn’t the correct one.

As the caption next to the hole indicates, the hole allows the inner colour to show through so the sleeve should be either blue or red, depicting if the album is either Mono or Stereo, similar to this one…

decca blue

Here are a couple of Rolling Stones albums in stereo and mono , you can see the correct colour in the indicator hole…

Rolling Stones Decca Stereo

If you are a collector, you may already know that mono and stereo versions of some of these 1960s albums have different values so it’s important to check which version you have when assessing it’s value. It doesn’t always follow that mono ( which is often the earlier pressing) is worth more or that stereo is worth more.(which is likely to be the better sounding and possibly more desirable)

Decca Mono IMG_3419IMG_3418

Don’t forget to check the album you have in the sleeve is the correct album for the cover and the inner. The Tom Jones album above is a red mono version and the code is LK5032 rather than the stereo version which would have code number SKL5032.

Here are examples of values affected by stereo and mono versions …

Let it Bleed , Stones mono value £400 stereo £150

On the Threshold of a dream , Moody Blues mono value £30 stereo £20

My brief, but memorable 8 track moment

It was 1971 and I was just 8 years old. Myself and my school friends had just the radio to listen to if we wanted to hear any modern music because we didn’t have a record player of our own. Of course we could use our parents record players but the only records they had were 78s so the tunes were mainly rock and roll or classical. I remember listening to Ravels Bolero, Bill Hayley’s Rock around the clock and the entire collection of Elvis but what I really wanted to listen to was Slade, Sweet and T Rex. It was the Reilly’s who lived across the road who came to our rescue for in their garage they had a Triumph Dolomite …

36uFAKnl

…and inside it had an 8 track player.

dolomite

…were we played all Mr Reilly’s 8 tracks

pile of 8 tracks

…and we lived happily ever after

…until the car battery went flat

…oops!

 

Get it in the van

Get it in the van

This post is all about getting your vinyl to market. Yes quite literally! If you think this means uploading pictures of LPs to ebay or discogs then this isn’t for you. This is about hard graft . If that hasn’t put you off then read on…

As soon as the week starts I’m already looking at the weather forecast. Thinking , what’s it going to be like this Thursday? You see there’s nothing worse than packing the van in the morning and waking up to find it’s pouring down with rain.  So quite often I’ll fill the van a day early. In the winter when the dark mornings make it even trickier, I’ll always have the van full by the end of Wednesday afternoon.

So is there a knack to packing the van or is it just “pile it in” ? Are you kidding?

Not only do I pack records, which have to be  handled rather carefully (as a box full is flipping ‘eavey and 20 boxes is flipping twenty times as heavy) but I also sell turntables so they have to be carefully packed for the long journey over Exmoor (the A399) to South Molton. On the way to market I pass a 1 in 3 hill (33% incline to anyone reading this in Europe) and follow the windy road alongside the River Bray so it’s quite a test for my packing skills. As well as the turntables I’m selling there’s also the turntable, amp and speakers for me to play my tunes on. There’s the record cleaning machine to carefully pack plus a rather snazzy light display in the shape of a quaver (or is that a semi tone? or crotchet ? help me someone !). Like the one Frazer has in this picture below…

turntables, amp, speakers and signs are some of the electrical items transported in the van

 

So you see it all needs carefully packing and there’s a number of things that I do to help me along the way…

I don’t stack things high and if you’re looking to take stuff to market you would be well advised, if you have room, to spread out all your stuff in the bottom of the van and don’t try to get it up to the roof . Watch your back too ! Avoid leaning into the van to pick up heavy boxes, instead push or pull them into position. That’s hell of a lot easier if you have the van plywood lined as it makes it easy to slide stuff in and out. I use a trolley to get the gear from and to the van (or should that be to and fro) and when taking everything out the van , I make sure the stall is ready so I can place all the boxes, equipment and records in the correct place on the stall. That means getting the table cloths out first to cover the tressles when I get to market so I don’t empty the van of boxes and then have to pick the boxes up again later. It really is a pain if you’ve not planned the move and have to move the same thing twice! So think hard, save your back and plan ahead.

When it comes to looking after your records you obviously need to put them in some good solid strong plastic boxes, similar to these below. Don’t carry records around in bags – get them boxed up and if you buy records, then make sure you take an empty box with you so you can protect any you buy when you come home. If you do have a helper then don’t forget to leave the passenger seat free, in fact get in the habit of always leaving the seat empty. You never know when you’ll buy a bumper pile of records and have no where to put them or more likely, the wife rings and wants you to bring back a loaf of bread, pint of milk and six bags of compost.

arriving at the market

Also don’t forget the five things you’re most likely to forget – your phone, table cloths, plenty of change (for parking meter) and extension lead and the most important thing that every trader needs – your hat !

Me with Customer.

… and finally allow plenty of time to get to the market,

…unless of course there is always a massive queue of record buyers waiting with wads of tenners for you to arrive the moment you get to the market. In which case, put your foot down and drive like the wind,  there’s no time to lose!

 

Kinks Review

Kinks Review

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Ok so they are actually called the Kast off Kinks, but they are not a tribute band, they’re the Kinks! At the bottom of the blog is a link explaining the line up and which of the original Kinks are in the band now but at the Poltimore, Yarde Down (not far from Brayford, North Devon), who cares if they’re cast off?

It’s hard to believe it but the Poltimore arms, Yarde Down is one of the last pubs on the English mainland to still not be connected to mains electricity. So it’s particularly amazing that they chose to do a gig here, but what a brilliant event this turned out to be. This was the second year Steve and co had put on such an event and it turned out to be even better than last year. Of course the weather had a lot to do with it (it rained last year), coupled with a much larger covered section in front of the stage which greatly improved the atmosphere and a larger crowd.

I have to admit that I was rather late getting to the event so I missed all the fun in the afternoon and early evening. What was worse I missed the Flaming Rat Rods which was real blow as they are always great https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMJSy–G9qg

I did see Big Boy Bloater who was holding his own on the stage banging out some tunes on his guitar in front of a lively audience.

crowd

The Poltimore  had really got the organisation sussed. I am normally one for picking holes in events and thinking up ways to improve things but I was struggling here. Great parking, despite fairly heavy rain the day before the fields were pretty dry, entrance was neat and easy to find and well marshalled. Drinks were via tokens so I got six tokens for £20 which was 6 pints worth, again not bad price for a venue. There were toilets inside the pub and supplementing these were some porta loos. There was food on, but I gave that a wide birth and got straight into the cider – scrumpyesq – really nice stuff. OK so maybe there was one complaint – we need this event more than once a year !

posse

bar

When the band came on they played all their hits, Lola, Waterloo Sunset, Sunny After, Come Dancing, Dead End Street and You Really Got Me.

This was an excellent evening with a lovely crowd. Bring on 2016.

here’s a quote from kast off Kinks website

The Kast Off Kinks formed in 1994 to keep the music playing on, and it is what the name implies – the original line-up consisted of the band that played Lola (apart from Ray and Dave) – Avory, Dalton and Gosling – together In 2009, the line-up became the band that played Come Dancing – Avory, Gibbons and Rodford (respectively the Kinks’ longest-serving drummer, keyboard player and bassist) – still with Dave Clarke covering for the Davies brothers. Jim then became very busy playing with The Zombies and Argent, so John Dalton was persuaded out of retirement to stand in for him and now plays very regularly with The Kast Off Kinks .

Almost every other ex-Kink has guested with The Kast Off Kinks, including Ray Davies.

kinks

Never mind the censorship – here’s the Sex Pistols

Never mind the censorship – here’s the Sex Pistols

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I was just reading through this old copy of Music week the other day (like you do ) and came across this interesting article from 1977  regarding the display of the “obscene” Sex Pistols album “Never mind the bollocks ” in shop windows. It occurred that a Virgin shop in Nottingham was actually charged under the 1889 indecent advertising act and had an album confiscated by the police. I bet, at the time, Richard Branson was lapping this up, I mean you couldn’t buy that sort of publicity , could you? Certainly beats having to jump from planes, go round the world in balloons and into space in rockets to get a mention in the news!

What a load of Bollocks

nmtbtelegram[1]

To find out more https://www.acc.umu.se/~samhain/summerofhate/courtcase.html

I am a market trader

me

Welcome to Rascal Records

My name is Ripley Ripley and I am a Market Trader. The first rule of being a market trader in South Molton is: you always talk about being a market trader in South Molton. The second rule of being a market trader in South Molton is: you ALWAYS talk about being a market trader in South Molton.! Third rule is: When it’s 1 o’clock the markets over. Fourth rule: only two entrances to the market. Fifth rule: one record playing at a time . Sixth rule: No fighting between customers and traders, definitely no weapons. Seventh rule: Market goes on till 1pm (it’s a point worth repeating). And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at South Molton Pannier market – then you have to BUY SOMETHING.”

Please note – Smoking is not permitted in South Molton Market therefore Brad Pitt would not be allowed in as a trader or a customer (not sure but this may be the ninth rule )

Brad-Pitt-in-Fight-Club-001