A post that includes some Christmassy tracks that I haven’t seen featured elsewhere this year. A Christmas post was something I hadn’t imagined doing although as Half Man Half Biscuit once sang, ‘It’s Cliched to be Cynical at Christmas’.
First up some Vashti Bunyan, an artist not universally loved by bloggers but someone I adore.
Whatever your thoughts on her music, it would be hard to deny that Vashti has an interesting backstory. Emerging as a singer in the swinging ’60s, she signed to stable of smitten Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham and released a couple of pop nuggets, Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind (penned by Mick and Keef) and Train Song, which she co-wrote.
As Oldham put it in the second volume of his memoirs, 2Stoned: ‘Alas, Vashti was viewed as an auburn Marianne Faithfull spin-off, which more than dented the trail I had hoped to blaze for her.’
A new set of songs were written as she made her way very slowly by horse and cart from her home in London to a commune in Skye and these tracks were later recorded by Joe Boyd just before he worked his magic on Nick Drake’s Bryter Later. Like the previous singles, nobody paid much attention to Just Another Diamond Day, although the LP did very slowly earn cult status, eventually being re-issued in 2000, when it rightly received plaudits across the board from critics.
I first saw Vashti play at Belle and Sebastian’s Tramway Day in 2005, by which time she had made her return to making music, releasing a brilliant second album, Lookaftering, thirty five years after her first. Bit of a gap on the CV you might say but Vashti has never been one to follow a predictable path.
On the day I was told that this was her first ever Scottish show, even though she had been living here for decades – until her artistic rebirth, she hadn’t even picked up a guitar since the commercial failure of Just Another Diamond Day years except to teach her oldest son to play.
Vashti, it would have to be admitted, is not one of the most naturally self confident performers I have ever clapped my eyes on and she cut a rather vulnerable presence throughout the show – If I had known her, I’d have invited her to join me in Heraghty’s for a snifter beforehand to help quell the nerves.
Those nerves and the fragility of her voice – Maggie Bell she ain’t – made her performance all the more compelling and her set was one of the most delightful shows I have seen so far this century.
This is Twice As Much & Vashti with The Coldest Night Of The Year:
In 2Stoned, Andrew Loog Oldham also compared Vashti to Françoise Hardy, an artist I have to admit I knew little about until she sang on a version of To the End on one of Blur’s Country House CD releases – which was far superior to Country House and, come to think of it, Roll With It too, meaning that of all the tracks released during the so-called Battle of Britpop, the best was sung partly by a French woman.
Since then I have learned more about Françoise, mostly from the Blow Up Doll website that specialises in groovy yé-yé gals. If you’re interested in that kind of thing just google Blow Up Doll and hope for the best, or alternatively, click here.
From her 1970 album, Alone, this is Song of Winter:
The Dennis Wilson of 1977 was a very different one to the Dennis Wilson of Little Saint Nick and The Man With All the Toys. Famously Dennis was the only Beach Boy that actually surfed and by the mid 1960s he’d become the poster boy for Californian sun, sea and excessive sex.
What followed though included a quickly regretted association with Charles Manson, divorce, increasingly reckless behaviour and way too much booze and drugs.
With hindsight, Dennis’s scorching rasp here seems to reflect the many regrets in his life and maybe even some self-loathing and desperation too. If you’d heard him singing this on Christmas morning, you’d dread to think how he might be feeling by night-time.
Recorded at the tail end of November 1977 at The Beach Boys’ Brother studios although the track never saw the light of day till many years later, this is The Beach Boys with Dennis on vocal duties with his song Morning Christmas:
If you don’t already know Dennis Wilson’s magnificent solo album Pacific Ocean Blue then I’d advise you to seek it out. I’ll write about it in more detail in 2017.