on life, music etc beyond mainstream



We sat in Cafe Beckmann, in Dortmund, and one guy in our class had always been looking for strange, leftfield music. We all loved the Beatles or Stones, and my No.1-band were The Kinks, but this guy, P.S., came up with early Charles Lloyd, with Caravan and Soft Machine. One afternoon he gave me his copy of Soft Machine’s THIRD, and this was the beginning of a long-time relationship with Robert Wyatt’s music. All four sides of that double album were killers, but Robert Wyatt’s MOON IN JUNE overwhelmed me with its surreal beauty and his singing. I don’t know how often I had heared it during my late teenager years, but I think I belonged to the Top Ten or Twenty of German MOON IN JUNE-listeners.

Years later I stood in DIE SCHALLPLATTE, a record shop in Dortmund. The man in the shop (that was very small but seemed to contain the best music of the world) looked like Jimi Hendrix, and the woman was so much older than I was then, and sometimes I dreamed of her fucking me all day and all of the night. She was no. 10 of my masturbation charts. Both knew a lot about music, there I bought my first ECM album which must have been SART or RUTA AND DAITYA – and now there stood a guy in the corner. I knew him only a little bit, but I knew he was a music freak of highest order. So I approached him from the side and saw that white-grey album in his hands, ROCK BOTTOM. – He fell out of a window, he said to me, but now he’s back. Immediately I took another copy, had to wait much too long for the bus, ran home with that album in my hand, and put it on the record-player. I was stunned.

From that year on I always got a new Robert Wyatt-album as soon as it appeared in the shops. Often there were long breaks between his solo albums, but it was always worth waiting. The next album nevertheless was released quite fast after ROCK BOTTOM, and it was called RUTH IS STRANGER THAN RICHARD. By that time I had a little cassette record player with batteries, and on my holiday with U.U. in the Bretagne it was nearly the only music we heared in the car, the other one was HOTEL HELLO with Gary Burton and Steve Swallow. Musically spoken, these were days of wine and roses and Camembert and baguettes, but we were young, not really in love, the sex was so la la, and even when we returned via Paris, we couldn’t live up to the cliche of „the city for lovers“: the only real magic of those days was looking at the sea for hours, swimming at rocky coasts, sitting quietly in a famous little parc in Paris, and listening to Robert’s and Gary’s music.

This entry was posted on Mittwoch, 3. Dezember 2014 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Now I remember: le jardin du Luxembourg

  2. Lajla nizinski:

    „Oh quiet days in Clichy“ still like that song from Country Joe Mc Donald …

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Don’t know this song. Just look for it. This road story was more quiet than Clichy, Henry Miller-wise:)

  4. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard has tended to exist in the immense shadow of its immediate predecessor Rock Bottom; a less linear album although this is clearly spelt out in the title – the original vinyl issue was divided into Side Richard and Side Ruth. Though it does not hang together as „coherently“ as Rock Bottom, that wasn’t really the point; it is more of an impromptu mixtape of the music which was inspiring the Wyatt of 1975 – much of it is instrumental and jazz-directed while the vocal pieces divide up evenly into the „Muddy Mouth/Mouse“ triptych which runs like the clearest and dankest of streams intermittently through Side Ruth and two songs which respectively see Wyatt singing from the point of view of an ingredient in a bowl of soup and a football. Aside from that there is also an amiable run through Mongezi Feza’s classic tune „Sonia“ – recorded when Feza had less than a year to live, and his pocket trumpet sounds as heartbreakingly vibrant as ever – and the inevitable, if belated, pop song conversion of Charlie Haden’s „Song For Che“ elevated into the holy by Laurie Allen’s raging free drums throughout. Nonetheless it is sad to see that many commenters still don’t get the record – the irony of prog-rock websites criticising the record for insufficient prog content may well be a barometer of how low standards have sunk in recent times.

    „Team Spirit,“ though, is the clear pick; Wyatt as football, cheerily/quietly but angrily debating the merits of being kicked about by his would-be kickers, with the obvious larger sociopolitical metaphors – „Beating shit out of me takes the hell out of you“ – and the less obvious smaller interpersonal ones („I’ll be stuck here forever unless you come over and kick me, Hardy“), Wyatt brilliantly moving from downbeat braggard („I’ll beat the lot/I’ll take the cake“) to knowingly subversive suitor („Be masterful, be my hero“) to rhetorical challenger („I mean, if this is only a question of toughness…“).

    The music is furiously phased post-jazz jazz, Bill MacCormick patiently flanging away on bass, Allen’s drums maintaining near-Moholoesque intensity, the saxophones of Gary Windo and George Khan solemnly hissing in the background – and also one Brian Eno, credited with „direct inject anti-jazz ray gun“ which in this instance seems to consist of delayed processing of individual phrases or beats combined with his characteristic post-Roxy pocket synth as about-to-be-stirred beehive.

    Eno’s presence (as wild card Premier League forward?) becomes snarlingly apparent in the long instrumental break; he is discreet behind Windo’s fairly conventional tenor solo (including a brief medieval roundelay deviation) but filters and flutters into overt action as Khan’s tenor growls and honks its way into the picture; as Khan hits the Pharaoh Sanders overblowing button, Eno unleashes a million queen bees from his briefcase and turns the solo into a neutron explosion, abruptly reducing the intensity again as Khan returns to the tune and Wyatt’s voice (and deadpan piano) re-enter the frame. Finally Windo, Khan and Eno are left to trade Cool School phrases in asymmetrical Terry Riley tandems as Allen’s kit is phased and flanged so heavily it practically turns into a drum machine. There remains little doubt that Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard aimed perfectly and scored its desired modest goals.

    marcello carlin

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