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Colosseum & Mogul Thrash interview with James Litherland


Another day, another interview here at It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine. We have a real treat for you today as James Litherland has agreed to be our hostage while we ask him a couple of questions. James really needs no introduction; guitarist and vocalist for progressive jazz-rock band Colosseum since the band’s beginnings until Valentyne Suite, he appeared on Supershow, a music film made in 1969, where Colosseum played “Debut” and “Those About to Die” from their first album. He then went on to form Mogul Thrash - the main focus of this interview - featuring, among others, the exceptional talents of bass player John Wetton, later of King Crimson and Asia fame. 

We’re really delighted to have you with us James and thank you for agreeing to answer our questions. 
I’d like to take you back to your teenage years; did you grow up in a very musical household? Which bands turned you on to music and made you want to learn the guitar?

I was listening to music from a very early age. My mother and father both loved music and had a record player and would play songs like “20 Tiny Fingers, 20 Tiny Toes” and “Close The Door They’re Coming Through The Window”, that kind of thing and my dad used to whistle around the house. When I was about 2 or 3 my mum would leave me with a friend (child minder) while she went out to work and her husband (Les) ran a Kazoo band and the girls in the family would dress in white shirts, short flaired dresses and white plimsoles and shake these cardboard tubes with paper “tassles” and they were the “Ra Ra Girls”, they would play and parade at the Oldham town carnival during bank holidays (a very English tradition) and they would rehearse in the kitchen. I would watch while waiting for my mum to pick me up after she finished work. Not long after, my “Uncle Les” formed a harmonica gang and had an act very like “The Three Monarchs” and the “Morton Frazer Harmonica Gang”. His son Brian was in the band and I still see him. The format was a Lead harmonica player, rhythm (chords) section and a bass, all harmonicas, and there was a dwarf who was always jumping up to try to get to the microphone and they would ignore him or slap him down, (part of the act a la Morton Frazer) however, when he finally made the mic, of course he was a great player. I used to sit and watch the rehearsals and one day, Uncle Les gave me a Hohner Chromatic on which the slide button had broken off. So that was my first instrument at about 5 yrs old. A little later my mum bought me a cardboard clarinet and I went to the Oldham Music College and asked for lessons but they turned me away because it wasn’t a proper clarinet. Not long after I asked for a guitar for Christmas, which I got when I was 8. By this time I’d heard Lonnie Donegan doing “Rock Island Line (Leadbelly) and “Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley” which was the first tune I learned to play (only the melody) It’s important to understand that at this point I’d never seen anybody actually play a guitar.
I got bored with playing tunes quite quickly and the guitar sat in a corner for a couple of years. Then one day I was watching the television (quite a new thing as my parents had only recently hired one yes, HIRED, in those days nobody could afford to buy one) and I saw a play with someone sitting on some stairs playing CHORDS and I thought “Wow I want to do that” so I went to the the local music shop and bought a book on how to play guitar (Play In A Day by Bert Weedon, which I still have) and the next day I was playing 2 or 3 chords and writing songs.

What early bands did you play in prior to joining Colosseum and could you detail how you ended up getting involved with Jon Hiseman’s outfit?

I played my acc guitar and sang all the time and the next Christmas my mum and dad knew someone who was selling an Electric guitar (a Broadway) and they bought it for me, along with a Fal amp. I’ll never forget that Christmas, I played the whole day until late evening, I loved it. Soon I got to know some other people who played and began to play with them. The first real band was called “The R & B Sect” and we played “Baby Please Don’t Go” (before “Them”)  “ Too Much Monkey Business” and other R & B numbers and started doing Gigs (Weddings etc.) I was 11 by then. Next I joined a band who were quite big locally. They were called “The Puzzle” and it was because I went to school with one of them and we got on both musically and as friends. 


He is called Steve Bolton and has since played with “Atomic Rooster”, “Paul Young” and I think he played with “The Who” at one point after Keith Moon and John Entwistle died. We are still friends.
We were playing Soul numbers (Stax etc.) and were playing Wilson Picket, Lee Dorsey etc. The line up was 2 Guitars,Sax, Bass and Drums and I was playing lead guitar and Steve on rhythm. We did a lot of gigs and came to London to make a demo, which is when I first fell in love with London.
Next, again at school, I met a guy who sang in a band and their lead guitarist was brilliant. They had just lost their rhythm guitarist and asked me to join and, seeing it as a further opportunity to improve, I jumped at the chance. They were called “The Go Go” and did lots of Motown stuff and we (as did “The Puzzle’) sang harmony as well. We did lots of gigs.


A while later Hendrix came out and we did some of his songs (Purple Haze, Stone free etc) as the guitarist could play anything. We rehearsed at the singer’s house (Jack) in the basement. He was quite a genius and could fix the amps, the van, anything that needed fixing and he went on to become a nuclear scientist.
Next I formed a blues band (The Ghobi Dessert Canoe Club) and by this time I had been going to clubs (and playing at them) in Manchester and was seeing people like Howling Wolf, T Bone Walker, Buddy Guy, Sonny Boy Wiliamson etc Also John Mayall, Steam Packet, Cyril Davis etc. I also, very importantly, had seen The Graham Bond Organisation with Dick Heckstall-Smith and was very impressed.
By this time I was working in a normal day job and was doing gigs at night.
One day there was an accident at work and I was half an inch from getting very badly hurt. The guy I was helping WAS hurt very badly. It was the fault of the managers / directors of the company and they blamed us. I was extremely angry and it showed. They harassed me for 2 weeks during which my anger grew to such an extent that I just walked out and knew that I never, ever, wanted to do another “proper” job. I walked straight into the newsagents across the road and bought a Melody Maker music paper and looked in the ads at the back. I saw the ad for Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum featuring Dick Heckstall-Smith. I didn’t know of Jon but I’d seen Dick and thought it would be great to audition as, even if I didn’t get the job I would have learned a lot and played with some top musicians. With the only money I had I immediately phoned the number on the advert.
One week later I was living in London and was a professional musician working as a member of Colosseum. I never did another “proper” Job.

Could you share any great memories you have of your time gigging and playing with Colosseum? Any funny stories or near-disasters on stage, that sort of thing!

About a week after joining Colosseum I was asked to play, with Jon, on a track that was being produced by Mike Hugg from Manfred Mann. I was really excited as, only one week before, I had been working in a job in Manchester and here I was doing a session (paid) for a guy off the television. After a few hours, whilst listening to the playback in the studio, I began to get a pain in my stomach, I’d had it before a couple of times but thought nothing of it. This time however it started to get really bad and I was sitting on the floor against the wall writhing in agony.
Jon was not happy with what he saw and drove me to the hospital. I was diagnosed with appendicitis and, although not life threatening at that time, it needed to be sorted out and so I was booked in for an operation to have my appendix removed. The debut gig for the band was in Scarborough in a few weeks time and I was given 2 weeks in which to have the operation and recover in time for the gig. I had the operation in London and got the train to Manchester where I stayed for a week and then got the train to Scarborough to do the gig. The wound from the operation had not really healed by this time, I still had stitches in and the cut was exactly where my trousers went round my waist so I had to stuff loads of cotton wool down my trousers to stop the waistband rubbing on my wound. My biggest fear was that I would burst the wound open as I was singing. However everything turned out well and the gig was a great success to a very packed room and critical acclaim. “The Show Must Go On”.

Do you remember how you got signed to the Fontana label to record Colosseum’s first album, Those Who Are About To Die Salute You? What memories do you have of those recording sessions?



I wasn’t involved in any of the business decisions. I was happy to have got the job and basically did as I was asked. Jon was the leader and he had everything sorted out with Gerry Bron, the manager, before I ever came on the scene. I arrived at the studio at the time I was told, and went with the flow until we finished for the day. I was really happy to be in that situation and felt very lucky. I had recorded in studios a few times before but never at this level and to realize that this was my job was just fantastic. One thing that I do remember very well is that we changed studios 3 or 4 times because Jon was not happy with the drum sounds and so a lot of the tracks were recorded 3 or 4 times in different studios.



Valentyne Suite is undoubtably Colosseum’s most well-known album and is widely considered the band’s magnum opus. “Elegy” and “Butty’s Blues” are both your compositions; could you tell us about each of those songs and a bit about each of the other tracks on the LP? What were some of your favourite moments recording that album?

Although I had been involved in writing on “Those About To Die” by the time it came to the second album I was finding my feet much more and was writing much more and was getting more confident as I was having my songs accepted.
“Butty’s Blues” was really just a 12 bar “Butty” being the nickname that Colosseum had given me (It is what they call a sandwich in Manchester). The best part of that song, and I feel the reason for it’s success, was Neil Ardley’s arrangement which was really superb. It was fantastic hearing my song given that treatment. Interestingly I have never played Butty’s Blues since the day I left Colosseum, I wouldn’t even know the words unless I listened to the album again.
“Elegy” however was a completely different situation and I felt that it stood on it’s own merit as a song, no matter what the arrangement, in fact, when I play live even now, if it’s an acoustic gig I play it on an acoustic guitar.
It came about one night, I was now completely in the Writing “Zone” and thought of stuff continually. I woke up one morning at about 4.00 am and had the whole thing in my head. I got up, wrote down the words, played the chords on my guitar which was by the bed and went back to sleep. It must have taken less than 5 minutes. The rest, as they say, is history.



You played many festivals and concerts with Colosseum - too many to list, I’m sure! If you could only pick a couple of memorable gigs, which would you choose?

I’ll never forget the first gig in Scarborough as it was my very first professional gig.
Other than that, a few gigs really stick in my mind.
The Supershow was very special, it was full of people that I’d looked up to not long before I was in that position. Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles, Buddy Guy, Roland Kirk to name just a few of the greats that were there that day.
Another gig we did was the Bath Festival, which was the first time I’d ever done a gig where there were people as far as the eye could see (I think about 50,000).

© Al Bye
But THE most memorable gig without a doubt was when we played at the Filmore West in San Francisco (It may be of interest to your readers that this was at the exact time that Woodstock was happening and we were booked to play The Filmore and then The Whiskey A Go-Go in L.A. Had we been on the East coast at that time we would have been on Woodstock. Of course no one knew then how big that was going to turn out).
The Filmore was featured on albums like “The Rock Machine Turns You On” etc which were huge influences on me, Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield etc so just to be there was fantastic. We played there for 3 nights and were bottom of the bill to The Youngbloods, and a band called CTA (Chicago Transit Authority, later to change there name to Chicago) and I thought they were just fantastic.
By this time I was really into writing and SONGS and I felt that Colosseum were mostly not on the same wavelength. They were much more into solo’s and that kind of thing and I was beginning to feel that Jon especially was not “laying down the groove” enough. I was beginning to struggle with the feel of the material we were doing. When I stopped playing rhythm (to do a solo) I felt that the rhythm section fell apart and although it was very “clever” I was beginning not to feel it any more.
Seeing Chicago play was like lifting the curtain on all the things I was feeling.
They had a great Singer playing great songs but they were “jazzy” in a very “rocky” way. I knew at that moment that the feelings that had been creeping up on me for a while were totally valid and this put substance to them. I knew now why I had been feeling the way I was.
Another thing they did that I’d never seen before was that they had small amps and were miking everything up, which meant the Brass could hear themselves and because they had a guy on the desk, the balance out front was fantastic. Most guitarists at that point (me included) had Stacks taller than themselves pumping out so much volume that the balance on stage (and off) was terrible.

Why did you end up leaving Colosseum and could you tell us how Mogul Thrash came together? I understand you’d formed James Litherland’s Brotherhood and that with the addition of John Wetton, the band changed its name to “Mogul Thrash”. How did John Wetton come on board?



Just before we left for the States I found out by accident that everybody in the band was getting more money than I was and although I certainly wasn’t there for the bread I felt insulted and hurt. I was, after all, doing three jobs, writing, singing and playing and I certainly felt that I was pulling my weight. I think my attitude changed at that point and it must have come across. After the Fillmore and a few problems we had on the tour it was probably apparent that things were changing and me not being known for my diplomacy, I probably didn’t do myself any favours.
On the next tour of Europe I was asked to leave. Although I was a bit shell shocked, I also felt that I hadn’t been treated particularly well and so I thought it was opening the door to my next project and I made my mind up to form a band. The best band that put into perspective what I needed I had recently seen in San Francisco and that’s what I wanted.
I had done some sessions with Mike Rosen on the “Jade” album and he played trumpet as well as guitar. I met Malcolm Duncan via Pete Brown, a good friend of Dick’s and he knew Roger Ball from Scotland. I’d heard of a drummer and bass player playing with a guy called Jess Conrad (sorry John) who was a bit of a musical joke albeit very likeable. So we went to see them and asked them to join. It was John Wetton  and Ed Bicknell. It wasn’t long before it was apparent that Ed was not going to work out. Although we all liked him, his drumming wasn’t up to it.
I had to tell him he had to go but he was great about it, he totally understood. I think I did him a massive favour as he went on to manage Dire Straights and to the best of my knowledge still manages Mark Knopfler.
At this point we had signed to a management company and it was then that we found Bill Harrison for the drumming position. He came to an audition and all the other drummers thought I was looking for a budding Jon Hiseman. Bill sat down on someone else’s kit (his was coming from Germany where he’d been gigging with Glass Menagerie) and as soon as he’d tuned it to his liking started playing a (Loud) groove. Everybody in the band looked at each other and John and I jumped up and started jamming. There was no need to discuss anything, he was IN.
It was a while after that we changed the name to Mogul Thrash.



Who came up with the name “Mogul Thrash”?

There was a TV programme that everybody used to watch on a Saturday night called the Michael Miles Show and he had on it a game called the “Yes No Interlude” where he would ask contestants questions very quickly, and they would have to answer without using either Yes or No. If they did, a man standing next to them would hit a gong and the contestant was out.
The late great Spike Milligan had his own show and it was hilarious and the band would watch it every week without fail, sometimes we would be in tears of laughter.
He did a sketch of the Michael Miles Show wearing a false nose and called him Mogul Thrash.
We loved it and the rest as they say………..

The band debuted with a single “Sleeping In The Kitchen”, followed by a full-length, self-titled album on RCA in 1971. What can you remember about the recording of that album and what gear did you use personally?



The album actually came out first (which is why it isn’t on it). ‘Sleeping In The Kitchen’ was written by myself and Pete Brown and came out really as a taster for the next album which obviously didn’t happen.
Recording the album was a very happy time and was produced by Brian Auger who was also managed by our manager. He was a very genuine and good man and an excellent musician who really let us have our head. We all got along very well and had a great time.
I used a Les Paul Junior, which I’m looking at as I write this, and a Vox AC 30 amp.
John used a Fender Precision and a 50 watt bass amp that was made by his friend in Bournemouth.
My most vivid memory is of Eddie Offord, the engineer, doing an edit on the 16 track tape.
We’d been really having a party in the studio all day and he was pretty gone and he took the 2 inch tape into a small room with a razor blade. We looked in and there he was, glassy eyed, tape all round his ankles and little bits of16 track tape everywhere, we were horrified. A few minutes later he came into the studio, put the tape on the mutitrack machine and pressed play…..PERFECT. We gave him a standing ovation.


You decided to rework a song you had penned for Colosseum’s Valentyne Suite - “Elegy” - a personal favourite of mine. Could you comment on this and any or all of the other tracks off the Mogul Thrash album (anything that comes to mind, be it how each song was built up or any interesting bit of information).

I was happy that Colosseum had recorded Elegy but by now I looked at it in a very different way and felt that although the song was strong, it certainly didn’t reflect the way I had heard it when I wrote it and by now I was much more confident in my direction.
I felt that it would be done justice with Mogul Thrash and I wanted to put the record straight.
As for other tracks I think that generally we were moving in the right direction and we were all now getting involved in the writing process and songs and the feel were far more prominent. Johns voice was coming through and he and I had a good vocal blend. He too was gaining in confidence and started coming up with some really good stuff (e.g. St Peter).

The band did some sessions at the BBC in 1971, the tracks from which can be found on a recent CD reissue. Among them, “Fuzzbox”, “Conscience” and “I Can’t Live Without You” are not from the LP or single. Would I be right in thinking the last is another number you
used to perform with Colosseum? Were these tracks to feature on a subsequent album, had there been one?

I can’t in all honesty remember those songs and I was actually reminded of them when someone recently sent me a link to something on Youtube.
I don’t remember re doing “Can’t Live Without You” but when I heard the other 2 songs I vaguely recalled them and we were probably going to record them for the next album had they been approved but that was the time when things started falling apart and so were a bit of a blur.
See “the reasons for Mogul Thrash disbanding” for a more in depth analysis.

Can you recall some of the venues Mogul Thrash played at and again, our readers would love to hear any great stories from ‘on the road’!



We were sent by our management to play in a club in Palermo, Sicily, for a week or so, to warm the band up before we did any gigs in England. At that time they had never seen anyone with long hair and we all had really long hair. Everywhere we went we would be followed by dozens of children and as we passed a barbers shop an old guy with a beard came running out to see, one side of his face was shaved and the other side had a full white beard and he had the towel still round his neck, it was like a cartoon. The day after we arrived we had to go and meet the guy who had booked us at the Palermo Travel Agency, he was called Joe Napoli and he was from Chicago, I think that should just about tell everything. Because we couldn’t get around even to eat, we were transferred to a house near the beach. Mike Rosen was Jewish and was 6 feet 6 inches (about 2 metres) tall with a black beard and long black hair. Anyone having seen the MT album cover will know. We went swimming one day and when Mike came out of the sea the beach cleared, they thought it was the 2nd coming.
We were then sent to do some gigs in Italy and we did a club in Milan for a week. We should have gone onto another city but the people who had brought us out thought we were much too loud and so we were thrown out without getting paid.
We set off for home with very little money. We had 2 vans, one for the gear and one for the people (it was a six piece band most of whom were over 6 ft tall). On the way, as we were going over the Alps into Germany, the people van broke down. We called the ADAC to see if we could get sorted out but it was late on Thursday evening and, as it was the beginning of the holiday, they couldn’t help until the next Tuesday morning. As we had no money the thought of 4 or 5 days sleeping in a van with no food was very unappealing so although some were prepared to do it, I said I was going to hitch hike back to London. At that point they all had second thoughts and so we took out two seatbelts, tied them together and towed the van on the seatbelts all the way back to London. As the seatbelts kept snapping, by the time we got home it was about 1 metre long and full of knots.
My favourite gig of the time was the Roundhouse in London which we played at a number of times on Sunday afternoons. We were very popular there and the sound was really good so we usually played very well.


What were the reasons behind Mogul Thrash disbanding?

When we were looking for a record company we auditioned for Atlantic Records. Nesuhi Ertegun (Ahmet’s brother, who owned Atlantic) came to London to listen to us at a pub in Kings Cross. He loved it, and we really liked him a lot and, as he had recorded John Coltrane, the brass section got on great with him. He wanted us and we wanted him. Atlantic was a great company who really got behind their artists and we were very excited.
He offered us a fantastic deal and we were thrilled. Then when we had a meeting with our manager, she told us that she had turned him down, we couldn’t believe it .It was the best company in the world and she turned it down. She signed us to RCA who turned out to be a complete disaster.
The big radio show at that time was on Sunday evenings on Radio Luxenburg. The DJ was David “Kid” Jenson and his show consisted of a “Chart” that was made up from requests from all over Europe. Over a few weeks Mogul Thrash was No 3 in the charts, everybody wanted it.
Unfortunately RCA had not distributed the album into the shops and nobody could buy it. It was a catastrophe. We were extremely annoyed at having been put in that ridiculous position by our management. Then we got wind of a few things going on behind the scenes and people in the band wanted to leave the manager, who, up to this point, had done a good job. So we left, she sued us for the money that she had put in and eventually lost. However, meanwhile, as we were looking for new management other things happened.
Both the vans broke down in the middle of the longest Ford strike in history and we couldn’t get parts and therefore couldn’t do gigs and so were broke. At that point Malcolm and Roger wanted to work with Alan Gorrie from Forever More, a  band in the same management company, and good friends of us all. Alan was a great singer,  writer and bass player and they asked me to go with them. I didn’t feel that I wanted to go in that direction, and felt that the type of stuff they wanted to play had no room for my kind of approach to the guitar, and so I said no. They became The Average White Band and although I think they’re great, I don’t regret that decision. Meanwhile John had been asked to join King Crimson and I had met a bass player and drummer that really excited me.
They were Bill Smith from Manchester on bass and Theadore Thunder, a 17 year old American drummer, both sang well and so we formed a 3 piece where we all sang. It was a great band, we called it Million.

Could you say a couple of words about the albums Bandit (1976) and Everything Stops for Tea (1972), by Bandit and Long John Baldry respectively and on which you played?

Million played some gigs with The Faces and, although I didn’t know it at the time, Rod Stewart and Elton John, who were very good friends of John Baldry wanted to put him back on the “blues map” John had lost his way by singing “Mexico” and “Let The Heartaches Begin” but his thing was the blues, and I have to say he was fantastic. We were asked to join and we did the “Everything Stops For Tea” album, produced by Rod Stewart, and quite a few gigs.


It all came to a halt when John’s boyfriend got jealous of Theadore who, although wasn’t gay to the best of my knowledge, was sometimes mistaken for being so. John’s boyfriend started rows and fights with Theodore so we left. Long John Baldry was a really good guy and an absolutely brilliant singer and it was a shame but it was time to move on.
Myself, Bill and Theodore then added Dave Rose on keyboard and did an American and European Tour with Dick Heckstall-Smith playing his “Pirates Dream” concept, supporting Deep Purple.
After that the same line up joined Leo Sayer and did his “Just A Boy” album and toured with him, both America and Europe.
Then I met Cliff Williams. He was the bass player with a band called “Home” with Laurie Wisefield (who has since been with Wishbone Ash and Tina Turner). I became good friends with Cliff and thought it would be good one day to work together.
I got a call one day, out of the blue, from a girl I knew in San Francisco, asking would I be interested in playing with her band doing the Bay Area. I jumped at the chance and flew over and had a great time for about a year. I played with some great people, Gaylord Birch (Pointer Sisters) Greg Erico and Bobby Vega (Sly And The Family Stone) Billy Roberts (writer of Hey Joe) just loads of good players. Then just as I was ready to come home I got a call from Cliff. He wanted me to join Bandit. It seemed perfect so I came home to London and joined them. Their drummer wasn’t happening for me and so I suggested Graham Broad. I’d played with him some time before in Dave Rose’s band. They loved him and he joined.




We were signed to Arista, by Clive Davis, on the same day that he signed Whitney Houston.
We had the business set up, and we toured and did the Bandit Album. We also did a European tour with Alexis Korner. We played as the support act and then came on as his band. He was another great guy. I loved his singing and he was a pleasure to work with.
We had a fantastic record deal and a fantastic publishing deal.
However the album was a nightmare and the politics became unbearable, so many bad things went on.
Eventually we did The Old Gray Whistle Test  (another nightmare) and the following day a meeting was called and Cliff and I parted company with Bandit. The lawsuits went on for 20 years, fortunately I wasn’t involved in any of that.
Cliff Williams was asked to join AC/DC and is still with them to this day. Graham plays with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings and Roger Waters. Danny McIntosh is with Kate Bush.

You still play and tour today, with your most recent album, Real Men Cry, being all-acoustic. Could you tell us more?

After Bandit I’d seriously had enough of bands and decided to make a living playing music without all the managers / lawyers / record companies etc as up to that point I had never made any money. I did sessions and gigs, independently so I went off the radar but I’ve always loved playing and have always been playing. I was also at the forefront of home recording technology and as soon as serious recording quality became affordable I jumped on it and have never recorded any of my stuff in a commercial recording environment since. I’ve had a studio at home for over 20 years. When I brought out 4th Estate (named before the book by Jeffrey Archer) I formed a great band but could not get the gigs to pay for it and I felt that if it didn’t pay for itself I wasn’t going to do it. I’m definitely not going to do the “Pay To Play” thing, I’m not a “bread head” but there is a limit, so the next album I did was all acoustic which
a)           Showcased the songs as there is nowhere to hide on acoustic guitar, if the song doesn’t work that’s tough.
b)           I could work without a band when necessary and still make a living.
 I have done quite a few gigs with Tony Reeves of Colosseum recently, and did The Edinburgh Jazz And Blues Festival amongst other things, so I like to keep active musically.



I’d like to finish off by thanking you again for granting us this interview and ask you what your thoughts are on Mogul Thrash looking back all those years? What would you like to say to all the Mogul Thrash fans out there?

It’s been very interesting looking back as it’s not something I usually do, I’ve usually got something going to concentrate on. Looking back on Mogul Thrash now, there are some great memories, we had some great times and made some music that I’m really proud to have been involved with. One great buzz is that one of my son’s favourite tracks of all time  is “What’s This I Hear” My son has turned out to be a great and innovative musician in his own right. I turned down a lot of opportunities because I wasn’t prepared to compromise on certain things. One thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t have everything but I’ve had most of the things that mean a lot to me.
To all the Mogul Thrash fans out there I’d like to say a big thank you and I’m sorry there wasn’t more.




















Interview made by Sébastien Métens / 2012
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com / 2012

Interview with Patrick Lundborg of Lysergia.com, author of the Acid Archives (2010) and Psychedelia (2012)


Interview:

You are releasing a brand new book entitled "Psychedelia-An Ancient Culture, A Modern Way Of Life" and as far as we understand, this is something entirely different than "Acid Archive"?


Yes, the ”Psychedelia” book is a new and different work. It deals with a much wider field than the Acid Archives book, which was basically a guide-book for fans of old underground music. There are several chapters about music in the new book as well, but it’s in the context of a bigger frame of reference, which is what I call psychedelic culture, or Psychedelia. The Acid Archives dealt with American rock music from the 1960s-70s, but the Psychedelia book deals with music that ranges from Berlioz in the 19th century to the latest ‘psybient’ electronica from England and France. All of it psychedelic,in one way or other!

Your book is a research on so called "psychedelic culture". What is the current state of this so called culture today in your opinion?


In the 20th century we began what I call ‘the short cycle’ of Psychedelia which began with peyote and mescaline experiments in the 1890s-1920s, then really took off with Hofmann’s discovery of LSD. The short cycle reached a peak in terms ofpopular attention in the late 1960s, then went into a quiet mode during the 1970s and 80s, and then it was revitalized in the early 1990s, with Terence McKenna replacing Tim Leary, and drugs like DMT, ayahuasca and psilocybin replacing LSD. Although ‘60s Psychedelia has been given much more attention, I believe the 1990s scene is just as important. The situation today is that the hedonistic spirit of the 1990s is very much alive, especially here in Europe, but it’s underground and deliberately low-profile. My book opens with the observation that more people are taking psychedelic drugs today than any other time – and that includes the psychedelic ‘60s. In short, Psychedelia is alive and well, and people involved have understood to keep outsiders at a distance. Today, you can go and see a movie like Avatar, parts of which are completely drenched in psychedelic ideas – there was even an ayahuasca drug ritual in that movie, though it was left out of the final cut. The commercially biggest movie of all time looks like it was made by someone who has been smoking DMT for several years – that’s good proof that psychedelic culture not only lives,but may in fact be expanding. I certainly believe so.


You are discussing the whole history of "psychedelic culture", that spans over 3500 years. Would you like to tell us some essential milestones in this culture, that happened before year 1966 when this whole music related explosion happened.

The LSD-influenced rock music of the ‘60s that everyone loves is only a minor turn in the road of Psychedelia. Psychedelic culture has been a permanent undercurrent in Western society since ancient times. This is what I call ‘the long cycle’ of Psychedelia. Psychedelic culture is built upon two fundamental pillars: the direct, personal experience of a higher world, and a celebration of our everyday existence in light of this experience. Both these elements go directly against the dogmas and hierarchies of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. During certain times this alternative culture rises to the surface and becomes influential on society at large, which is what happened in ancient Greece at the time of the Great Mystery rites in Eleusis, where thousands of people gathered each year to drink a psychedelic  brew (an organic variant of LSD) and spend an extraordinary night of visions and emotional bonding – kind of like an early Acid Test! 


All the famous philosophers and even Roman emperors took part in this ritual, which had a profound influence on the Greek-Roman culture that our Western world is built on. Another high-point for this alternative culture was the Italian Renaissance, where the heritages of Athens and Rome were rediscovered, and for a century or so this heritage raised more interest than the familiar Christian dogmas. Later in history one can identify singular individuals with an obvious relevance to Psychedelia, such as William Blake and his mentor-opponent Emanuel Swedenborg. In the early 20th century, psychedelic drugs entered Western society again, and this began ‘the short cycle’ that I describe above. The long cycle of Psychedelia will continue as long as mankind exists, while the future and duration of the short cycle currently going on is something for each modern psychedelicist to consider.


If "Acid Archives" is about underground, overlooked, forgotten and undiscovered rock music, then your new book is talking more into details regarding the consumption of hallucinogens and stuff related; such as what kind of impact had it on people from the bands? What do you think is the main difference if readers would ask you, what is it about in a few words?


Psychedelic rock music is important as it is a highly visible and much-loved window for psychedelic culture. At the same time, the 1960s were an extremely eventful and complex period even without the psychedelic drugs,and it is important to separate what was ‘60s zeitgeist,and what was a direct expression of psychedelic influences. In the book there are several chapters that look into how psychedelic rock music arose in the mid-‘60s and expanded and lingered well into the late 1970s, and how this related to society at large, particularly in places like San Francisco and London. From the viewpoint of Psychedelia, the main topic is not the bands themselves as much as what they tell us about the effects of psychedelic drugs on creativity and ideas. In this context, the most vital bands are those that were genuinely inspired by LSD from the beginning, rather than as some trendy fad. In the early days of psychedelic rock music, the two bands that were most profoundly and wholeheartedly devoted to the psychedelic experience were the 13th Floor Elevators and the Grateful Dead. Both these bands were born out of psychedelic trips,and continued to use the psychedelic experience as a beacon for their work. Other bands,like the Beatles and the Jefferson Airplane, did not originate from LSD experiences, but they managed to take this influence and combine it with their natural style in a great, meaningful way. Yet other groups didn’t really understand LSD or the serious psychedelic lifestyle, but gave it a shot with the music anyway,and as the book points out, some of these ‘60s “fakedelia” groups created highly enjoyable music too, simply because the atmosphere was loaded with psychedelic vibes. Later on, with the 1970s ‘private press’ and krautrock scenes,  the psychedelic  bands tended to be serious and genuine, because there was no ‘trend’ to capitalize on. Anyone who made LSD-inspired music in 1975 did it because he believed in it. And of course, the psychedelic ambient and trippy chillout music that has become popular in the 2000s via groups like Shpongle and Entheogenic comes from true psychedelic inspiration, just like the Elevators and the Dead.

Would you like to take us on this process that happened while you were writing this book. It's like 20 years of work. How did it all began and did you travel or how did you find out more about "psychedelic" culture.


I mention this in the foreword to the book. Basically the book took 20 years to prepare, and 2 years to write. I began assembling information about psychedelic culture in the late 1980s – reading books, saving newspaper clippings, talking to people I met. For a long while I just did this without being sure why. It seemed important somehow, but I couldn’t say why. Then back in 2010, after the 2nd edition of the Acid Archives had been printed and finished, I got an idea for the “Psychedelia” book, which is described in the foreword. I began writing, and once I had begun, I couldn’t stop! A major key to the whole thing is the idea to turn everything upside down, and instead of seeing psychedelic music as a sub-genre in rock music, I decided to treat psychedelic music as part of a long-running psychedelic culture, and then see what came out with this new approach. Then I did the same thing with movies, visual art, religious cults, etc. I believe no one has written about Psychedelia in this way before. In addition to my research and private archives, I interviewed some psychedelic veterans, like Michael Bowen who arranged the Human Be-In, and other guys who were experts on the history of LSD, or the hippie communes of the 1970s, and so on. I spent a couple of days designing a structural outline for the whole book, and after that the text grew chapter by chapter as everything seemed to fall into place.


These days we have a nice return of the music, that was kind of lost for awhile. Plenty of labels and magazines are very interested in the psych bands from the late 60's, early 70's and there is a new wave of bands, that are taking this sounds and starting their own psychedelic bands. We have so called "hipster" subculture, we have "psytrance" heads and we have some other subcultures. What is your opinion on this "new" subcultures that are emerging these days?

I’m perhaps getting too old to truly understand all the new youth sub-cultures, although I find it interesting and try to stay with the times. Professionally though, I’m only really interested in those sub-cultures that are involved with psychedelic drugs, because they are carrying the torch of Psychedelia into the 2010s and 2020s. Here I see two different trends; one are the hardcore drug experimenters, people whose main interest are the chemicals and their effects. These are the people who try all the new ‘research chemicals’ or what used to be called ‘designer drugs’ back in the 1980s-90s. The psychedelic underground keeps producing new molecular variants on the classic psychedelic drugs, like new types of LSD or psilocybin, and there is this subculture in Europe and the US of young people who try these drugs in the search for new and weird experiences. The other subculture is the one related to the electronic dance music, and it’s basically the old rave explosion of the 1990s that is still happening, in a more specialized form. There are these massive gatherings around Europe where 1000s of young “psy” fans gather, take mushrooms , LSD and ecstasy, and dance to the various forms of psychedelic electronica, ranging from the uptempo Goa trance to the slower, chillout psybient style like Shpongle and such. The old rave/Goa trip is alive, but it’s less talked about today. And of course, this drug-inspired, hedonistic culture is a perfect example of the long-running celebration of life that is a vital backbone to the Psychedelia book. You can draw a line from the Greek hallucinogen rituals at the great templein Eleusis around 500 BC up to the Acid Tests and Be-Ins of the ‘60s, and onwards to the all-night dances of the 1990s-2000s. Over and over, it is the same phenomena of a shared celebration of each individual’s psychedelic freedom, in different times and places.


When you are talking about Goa Trance I always have a feeling, you don't link this directly to the psychedelic music.  Psych rock is music, that is interesting from a totally different aspects (artistic, background etc.), but Goa trance is not a big thing in my opinion as far as the artistic approach goes. Do you agree, that Goa trance is directly made to be listened with hallucinogens or do you think it is also interesting as music itself?

If you mean that the Goa/PsyTrance music  is made by anonymous producers mainly for people to dance to while on psychedelic drugs, I think you’re absolutely right. That is how it came to be created in the first place, as a development from the less hedonistic and more dystopian Euro-techno. I have a chapter in the Psychedelia book where I trace the new electronic dance music from Detroit 1985 up to 2012, and how it relates to psychedelic drugs. I’m too old to go dancing all-night on some beach in the Greek islands, but I can still enjoy some of the Goa/PsyTrance stuff at home. There’s a vast difference in quality, and some of it is pretty awful, but the best vintage stuff like Hallucinogen, The Infinity Project, Man Without Name etc I think is very good and trippy music. However, I must admit that I’m not as much into the Goa style as I was when it first appeared around 1994. It hasn’t aged perfectly well, and these days I rather listen to the Psybient music, which to me is the ultimate example of psychedelic music for the 2000s. When they realized they could lower the tempo to “rock” beats, these talented electronica guys like Simon Posford began making music that is as perfectly psychedelic as the best late ‘60s stuff. The only difference is that it’s mostly electronic, with some acoustic/analog overlays, but that’s fine with me—I’ve always been a great Kraftwerk fan. I recommend any psych fan to check out the most recent Shpongle album and see what they make of it.

What do you think the future will bring as far as music goes? Will this psych revival explode even more?


Psychedelic culture will always survive, as it has for 1000s of years. Wherever there are people who use powerful psycho-active drugs which give visionary experiences, there will be Psychedelia. As for psychedelic music, I don’t think there will be any major wave of psychedelic rock more than what we’re seeing today. The 1965-72 psychedelia is one of the classic sub-genres of rock, it’s like a golden age that people return to and don’t really hope to surpass, somewhat like the Viennese period in classical music, or the 1950s/early 60s in jazz. So I believe that rock music will keep on feeding from that incredibly exciting period, but it’s hard to see it being taken further. Within electronic music however, I see possibilities that there may be much to discover and create still –the idea of the “soundtrack for the movie in your mind” is almost limitless, and what may be needed is the arrival of a few truly brilliantly creative people who can take psybient electronica as far as the best classical music, like Stravinsky or Bartok. So the brightest future I believe lies in the intersection of psychedelic drugs, musical creativity, and chill-out electronica.


Whats currently on your turntable and what are you reading, Patrick?


My 5 most recently played albums are: Leonard Cohen “Greatest Hits” – the old ‘70s sampler with the beige cover –really the only Cohen album anyone needs. He was very influential and in small portions he is quite impressive. Byrds “Younger Than Yesterday” – UK stereo original. I’m writing an article that compares mono vs stereo for a bunch of classic psych LPs, and so I bought this and got the UK pressing to put a second angle on it. The old ‘60s vinyl sound is outstanding, much better than the crap CD reissues that CBS used to make. Crème Soda “Tricky Zingers” – I have a ‘ghetto blaster’ in the kitchen with a timer setting,so that it begins to play music every morning about 10 minutes before the alarm rings. This way I am basically awakened by music, and it needs to be a record that doesn’t annoy, but sounds fine in the morning. Crème Soda works pretty well, but nothing has challenged These Trails in the ‘good morning’ genre so far!  Further on, Trad Gras & Stenar “Live at Gardet”, a beautiful 2-LP set released by my good friends at Subliminal Sounds with previously unreleased 1970 live tapes from this highly rated drone/krautrock band from here in Stockholm. Finally, Solar Fields “Leaving Home”, a modern psybient/downbeat masterpiece from a guy in Gothenburg who is a major name on the electronica scene—it’s like an whole album’s worth of Kraftwerk’s old headtrip “Spacelab”. As for reading, I’m currently going through Gordon Wasson’s classic work “Soma”, in which he seeks to prove that the old Indian-Vedic religion was built on ritual drug consumtion of the fly agaric mushroom. A friend of mine challenged the whole idea,so I felt I had to check up on Wasson again, as I give him support in my Psychedelia book!


As the author of the book, did you experiment a lot with hallucinogens? I found it really hard to get the stuff (LSD) in "modern society" with the emerge of so many cheap ecstasies, trips etc. What's your opinion about it?


As described in a recent issue of Shindig magazine, there was a lively psychedelic scene here in Stockholm in the late 1980s-early 90s,which I was part of. The whole thing revolved around the psychedelic artist collective known as the Lumber Island Acid Crew (“Lumber Island” is a code name for Stockholm), which consisted of 15-20 young, creative people who were dropping LSD and working in music, literature, art. It was a bit like Ken Kesey & the Merry Pranksters, except 25 years later. So being part of this group,which still sort of exists, was very important for me,both as a creative liberation, and also to break away from the unexciting suburban climate I had grown up in. In the mid-1990s I got a serious “white collar” job as a project manager, got married and had two children, and so the psychedelic adventures were put on hold for a while, although I continued with the record collecting and writing. Now in recent years I’ve been able to get back into Psychedelia again, but these days it’s more about psilocybian mushrooms and ayahuasca (yagé) than Hofmann’s old potion. I hear some people say it’s hard to find lysergics right now, probably because there isn’t any active undeground lab going, but this comes and goes. However, people could simply switch to shrooms or ayahuasca, which are just as powerful or even more powerful,and actually more or less legal in many European countries.


Where can we purchase the book?

Distribution is handled by Subliminal Sounds, who have a good global network due to their success with artists like Dungen. We’re also trying to break into the traditional book market with “Psychedelia”, not just the underground and music-related stores, but ordinary bookshops. Those familiar with the Acid Archives will be able to buy “Psychedelia” from the same places, and it should also be findable via ebay.com and amazon.com. Those who can’t find a copy after Googling can drop a line to Subliminal Sounds, but basically the book is printed in a fairly large run and should be easy to find.


As far as it goes with new bands, what do you recommend to check out?

My knowledge of modern rock music is very sporadic and random – I often wait 5-10 years before checking a band or genre out, because I want all the hype to disappear before listening to them. So recently I’ve been checking out things like Tool, Kyuss, Queens Of The Stoneage etc that were really hot 10 years ago. As for what is going on right now, I know the electronica scene well, but in rock music I can’t tell you what 2012 bands are good until it’s 2022! As for psychedelic electronica I recommend checking out Shpongle, Tripswitch, Slack Baba, Solar Fields, Entheogenic, the Ultimae label, and several more like that.


What besides music occupies your life, Patrick?

The last two years have been all about the “Psychedelia” book, which has eaten up all my time except for when hanging out with my two young sons. Now that the book is finished I can get back to things that have been neglected a long time, like watching movies – I am a major fan of American 1970s movies and try to see everything that exists, even the most obscure ones. My sons and I are fans of international football, so we watch a lot of that, and also play FIFA 12 on the Wii console—we also play a lot of Mario Kart! One thing that I will pick up shortly is my record dealing business,which has been put on hold for more than a year. I have a web-shop/auction-site called “Renaissance Fair” where I offer rare psychedelic records and literature. It’s a lot of fun, but also requires a lot of work,even for a small-scale dealer like me. Finally, a major interest that I was happy to work into the Psychedelia book is classic modernist poetry like T S Eliot and Ezra Pound—I discovered this dazzling literature when I was 15-16 and it’s been a steady companion ever since. 

Any future plans after the book gets released?


We’re going to put a lot of work and weight behind  the “Psychedelia” book. I try to do something new with each book I publish,and the goal here is to reach outside the usual psych fan/collector circle, and get people from other backgrounds interested. So I expect to continue with this for several months. After that, I’m eager to get the “Renaissance Fair” website going again, and I also have a few magazine articles and reissue liner notes ready to work on. The major question is what my next book will be, and at this point I have no idea. I’d like to do something that is very visual and graphic-oriented, and maybe recycle lots of rare stuff from my psychedelic archives, but I haven’t found the precise idea yet.


You should share something psychedelic with the readers of It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine for the end of our interview...

A funny psychedelic story which never made it into the “Psychedelia” book concerns the time when Timothy Leary and his colleague Richard Alpert were flying down to Mexico where they were going to set up a psychedelic “summer camp” at a resort hotel in 1963. Alpert had a pilot license and the two fearless acidheads rented a small plane and flew it all the way from Boston down across the Mexican border, although Alpert had only just gotten his license. So it was a bumpy flight, and at one point a glass bottle of liquid Sandoz LSD that they had in their baggage broke, and the lysergic fluid ran out all over a white suit that Alpert had hit the bottle inside. It was lot of acid, and they had no other source, so for several months, Leary, Alpert and the other Harvard guys would get high by cutting small pieces of cloth from this white suit, which they chewed and swallowed. Too bad there are no photos or footage of that…



















Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2012
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2012

Rags to Rags: The Lost Tale of Detroit’s Sugar Man aka Sixto Rodriguez


Writing isn't necessarily an option for me. In this case, it is a matter of bounden duty. To find something remarkable and make no remark is to completely defy human constitution. This is my remark. It must be as complete and thorough as can be managed so that you might understand its importance. It concerns a particular era in time and a man of that time, both of which I am very passionate for many reasons. But most importantly, it concerns us all as human beings living, breathing, and sharing this planet as well as the responsibility we hold for one another.
               It was the early 1960’s and America was in an uproar; steeped in communist terror and the threat of nuclear war abroad, while facing racial tensions and the fight of equality-for-all at home (1). The common folk found their voice in 1962 with a freewheeling young man and his meek guitar. Bob Dylan’s vociferant voice and observant eye took The Song further than could possibly have been imagined. It sparked a movement that swept the nation into a realization that they were free to let their voices be heard and change things for the better or lie on the tracks and die trying (2).
               Yet somewhere, with all the focus on war, politics, and equality the people seemed to lose sight of themselves, and a deeper problem was brewing. Their own standard of living; the measures of their so-called virtuous way of life was being lost to the excesses that their great rise above reprieve had worked to relieve them from. The great urban centers of America were sinking more and more into drug ridden, promiscuous slums and the great Folk voices from which the people had relied on were already on a slow decline. It was becoming a Dorian Gray (3) scenario—this grotesque thing was growing with a false sense of beauty and grandeur; a malformity that no politician or march can change, only self-recognition and action on an individual basis (4).
In 2006 I was working a record shop in Beaverton, Oregon. I was sorting rubbish vinyl from the gems; all the Barbra Streisands and Jimmy Buffetts from the Beatles and so on. My co-worker walked through the front door and approached me with his CD player and eager anticipation written on his face. He knew and appreciated my hunger for precious artifacts and he was full of them. His headphones were buzzing with fresh new sounds as he handed them to me. I pulled them over my ears and what I heard sonically sculpted my renascence. Now, if I may digress; working in a record shop was an intimidating concept because I was presented with so much music it was positively dizzying. I was expected to know my stuff. If I confused Howlin’ Wolf with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, I was absolutely done for. But this was different from all of that—here was something truly imperative and utterly essential for any so-called "music aficionado". “What is this…Who is this?” I stuttered. “Where did it come from!?” I stammered and stumbled. My words were gushing out as he shushed me sharply and whispered, “Just listen”:

Garbage ain't collected, women ain't protected.
Politicians using, people they've been abusing.
The mafia's getting bigger, like pollution in the river,
And you tell me that this is where it's at.

Woke up this morning with an ache in my head,
Splashed on my clothes as I spilled out of bed,
Opened the window to listen to the news,
But all I heard was the Establishment's Blues.

Gun sales are soaring, housewives find life boring,
Divorce the only answer, smoking causes cancer.
This system's gonna fall soon, to an angry young tune,
And that's a concrete cold fact.

The pope digs population, freedom from taxation.
Teeny Bops are up tight, drinking at a stoplight.
Miniskirt is flirting, I can't stop so I'm hurting.
Spinster sells her hopeless chest.

Adultery plays the kitchen, bigot cops non-fiction.
The little man gets shafted, sons and monies drafted.
Living by a time piece, new war in the far-east.
Can you pass the Rorschach test?

It's a hassle, it’s an educated guess.
Well, frankly I couldn't care less. (5)

Such an incredible amount was said in such a short span of time. My soul was set ablaze. Here was a man that spoke the words that the great musical minds of the time wouldn’t dare. George Harrison saw this very same decline in humanity but chose to distance himself from it all rather than speak his mind (6). I was lost at sea, dying of thirst; I couldn’t go on without answers. I demanded to know who this great Redeemer was. He responded with one very simple name that I wouldn’t soon forget.
               This prodigy was Rodriguez (7). He grew into the turbulent scenery of the sixties and witnessed the worst that his community, Detroit, Michigan had endured. His father was among the hard working lower-class, but he didn’t neglect to pass along his very intimate fondness for music. Rodriguez held an ecstatic love for the English language. With that, he acquired a strong, clear, independent mind with an ear for music, and true vision. He felt compelled to speak to the people and bring to light all the ugliness, but he needed a canvas by which to convey his words and ideas. He took up everything his father had imparted unto him and found the dim spotlight in 1970 with words that suited his manner of pity and contempt for the status quo in his city (8).
               What he produced was a twelve-track commentary on the state of the country; Cold Fact hit the shelves under the Sussex label. Everyone and everything of everyday life was sonically sculpted into the vinyl, exactly as he saw it. None were spared from his no-nonsense lyrical gunfire in pieces such as “This Is Not a Song, It's An Outburst (The Establishment Blues)” where shots echoed in every direction. The scathing “Rich Folks Hoax” displayed Rodriguez’s verbal breath of fire:

               The priest is preaching from a shallow grave,
               He counts his money, then he paints you saved.
               Talking to the young folks.
               Young folks share the same jokes,
               But they meet in older places.

               The sun is shining, as it's always done.
               Coffin dust is the fate of everyone.
               Talking 'bout the rich folks,
               The poor create the rich hoax,
               And only late breast-fed fools believe it.

               So don't tell me about your success,
               Nor your recipes for my happiness.
               Smoke in bed,
               I never could digest,
               Those illusions you claim to have going. (9)

He sought not to make friends or kiss anybody’s ass, but to open eyes and make a difference in the mentality of his beloved country. The rich, the poor, the middle-class; they all succumbed to the same sins and contributed to their inefficiencies.
               The words behind Cold Fact are like poetic daggers. Perhaps the deepest penetrating of all is the very first track, “Sugar Man”. Behind the narrative of a junky begging for his fix is a swirl of colorful psychedelic texture weaving through the song that makes it very alluring, almost like a lullaby. The use of panoramic stereo, which was very innovative for its time, is put to full use and creates dissonance with the subject. The lyrics create lustrous images, sculpting a mold for them to rest in but once viewed in hindsight, it warrants discomfort and the subject will want to pass it off as pure unsettling fiction. The song has a beautifully mellow composition; Rodriguez’s acoustic guitar crawls across the moog synthesizer, whipping around the head and whistling straight through the eardrums; the subject is rocked into a euphoric complacency. Reminiscent of the all-consuming addiction, it’s the cold fact of drug-use.


               Rodriguez borrowed none whatsoever from his Hispanic roots. Instead he waded into the psychedelic all-embracing folk-rock stylings of the sixties which were precisely what suited his delivery. With so much inspiration from musicians of that period stemming from psychedelic drugs, it would seem hypocritical if Rodriguez achieved this nearly perfect album under the influence of mind altering psychedelics. He maintained, however, that he had “never done hard drugs. [He] always preferred wine [him]self” (8). He didn’t owe any guitar melody or musical revelation to the ashes of a joint or the peak of an LSD trip.
His rapid fire rapping leaves the impression of a well-bred Bob Dylan crossed with the wild and spontaneous wordplay of a Nighthawks at the Diner (10) era Tom Waits. It all leaves a deep impression of the beat (11) spirit, not what so ever an impoverished Hispanic immigrant from the slums of Detroit. The real surprise though is the scope of his album considering it was his first real offering. The appreciation Rodriguez has for the art of a skillfully written, hard hitting folk song is obvious and yet, here are firm nods to both Jazz and Hard Rock, acoustic and electric guitar, horn sections, string arrangements and keyboards. Had this man been given more canvas, there is absolutely no telling what he could have done with it.
               Yet, as is the story with any musician in the budding of their career, Rodriguez walked away from Cold Fact with only lukewarm reception and moderate sales. He pushed on and recorded his second album, Coming From Reality in 1971 with an even broader scope but it failed to make a splash. The Sussex label folded in 1975 and Blue Goose Music in Australia bought the rights to his unsold albums. Slowly but surely, his songs began to gain radio airplay in Australia as well as various neighboring countries like New Zealand, Zimbabwe, and to a massive degree, South Africa where Cold Fact went platinum numerous times over. In light of this unexpected success, Rodriguez toured Australia but succumbed, again, to the hard times. His family needed him and he was in no place to leave them on their own. His music, however, continued to spread with furious pungency.
He unashamedly embraced a life of modesty in Detroit. When the time seemed right, he ran for a small public office position—only fitting for a man that wanted to make a legitimate difference in whatever small way he could. He gave it his best shot, but alas, politics are another game best left to the angry big-dogs (8).


Meanwhile, completely unbeknownst to him, his albums were gaining cult status in South Africa. The whole of Cold Fact had become the symbol of anti-apartheid revolution and as unspoken a part of anyone’s musical collection as Abbey Road and Bridge Over Troubled Water through illegal trading. He assumed a mortal shade of Christ—he was the people's promise of absolution. His words spoke to the masses with a matter-of-factness that was unheard of, and so upsetting to the status quo that they were outlawed, which made his music all-the-more enticing (12). “His working-class vitriol emerge[d] on ‘Rich Folks Hoax’ and ‘The Establishment Blues’ where he state[d] matter-of-factly that ‘The Mayor hides the crime rate, council woman hesitates’ and ‘little man gets shafted, sons and moneys drafted’” (13).
His two albums were released on CD for the first time in 1991 in South Africa and needless to say, they dominated the market. It wasn’t until 1998 that his daughter accidentally stumbled upon a website dedicated to her father that he had learned about any of his fame (his music now having gone five-times platinum in Australia). He had yet to see any profits or royalties from any of his music (14).
               The website his daughter stumbled upon was run by two South Africans that were hard and determined to separate fact from fiction. Rumor was floating around the Southern hemisphere that he’d committed suicide after the final show of his last tour in the seventies by lighting himself on fire before his fans, among other stranger tales. But “after several months chasing false leads, [Craig Bartholomew and Stephen Segerman] received a startled email from his daughter: ‘Do you really want to know about my father?’” (12). What followed from that point on was a whirlwind of shock and awe for Rodriguez. To find that his music had not only survived, but had been the inspiration behind radical positive social change for nearly four decades was more than he could have ever hoped for. He played his first-ever South African tour in 1998 for sold out stadiums and a documentary Dead Men Don't Tour: Rodriguez in South Africa was later assembled to document the epic scope of the event.
               Is the music still alive in Rodriguez, forty years later? While his untapped fame was wondrous, life as a musician is a ship he let sail long ago, but his love for it hadn’t dissipated one bit. His ultimate goal at this stage in his life was to live quietly and happily amongst his children and downtrodden Detroit brethren. “’My story [wasn't] a rags to riches story,’ Rodriguez [said], ‘it [was] rags to rags and I’m glad about that. Where other people [have lived] in an artificial world, I feel [I've lived] in the real world. And nothing beats reality’” (8). He hadn’t discounted the possibility of playing shows here and there, which is very fortunate for the world because Malik Bendjelloul hadn't given up hope that the world might recognize his significance. He had compiled forty-year’s worth of video and history for the world in his documentary Searching for Sugar Man released worldwide throughout 2012. It received rave reviews across the board and Rodriguez felt the tremors when he attended the Sundance film festival. He took to the stage after the screening and the crowd was in a fury.  "’You're one of the most beautiful songwriters I've ever heard, on par with Dylan,’ said a man [in the crowd], imploring him to play, as others around [him] shouted out, ‘No, better!’”. He couldn't ignore the demand any longer; it was time to play some music (15).


               He scheduled a very comprehensive tour for a then-seventy year old man. With the tour came plenty of media coverage including 20/20, an American primetime expose program (16). Shows were selling out quickly—it seemed that all of a sudden, everyone wanted a taste of “The Sugar Man”, but could he handle all of this at once? I was soon to find out.
               An experience I never fathomed possible was on the brink. Rodriguez scheduled a stop in Portland, Oregon. This man who I placed so far above the "legends" was playing a modest venue in my native Pacific northwest. It didn't end there. Before the October show, he surprised us all with an incredibly humble gesture—a private acoustic set at Music Millennium. It was there that the sheer scope of his newfound fame was revealed. It started as a modest line of five—grew to twenty—soon the line wrapped around two corners of the building. Every single person was there for one man—every single person utterly shocked by the turnout, as if their precious secret was a secret no-more. Nobody was surprised more than I. Six years ago this would doubtlessly have been an extremely slight turnout...or so I figured. Perhaps the world was more in tune than I gave it credit for. Most intriguing was the vast assortment of people; upper-class, middle-class, lower-class, punks, hippies, metal-heads, hipsters, jocks, grandmothers and grandfathers—it was baffling. There was an understanding shared by everyone there. This was special.
As the hour struck three the crowd filed in; a very tight fit. After what seemed like another half-hour of restlessness and suffocation, the lights dimmed and there he was; like a reincarnation of The Man in Black (17), he slowly shuffled through the valley of cd, shaking hands and graciously thanking his fans. His long and sable-black hair masked what wasn't already hidden by his impenetrable sunglasses. He was a walking silhouette; the crooked shadow of a man; a leader of the people.
               He grabbed the small hand of a child and led him up a flight of stairs to the studio, his father followed suit with a smile. They were given the VIP treatment that all giddy youngsters longed for. If I were any less rational, I would have been jealous but this event in itself was a gift that not many artists would trouble themselves with. He grabbed his guitar and tuned it quietly. His hand was worn, cracked and crinkled, looking as if it had lifted a thousand cinder blocks while it strummed chords that were familiar to everyone—these quiet reverberations brought the building to its knees with anticipation. He grinned nervously and began his set. It was here that any doubts lingering in my mind about his abilities were turned to dust. The music is still very much within him and it is every bit as poignant today as it was forty years ago, if not more so. We need his words and his music, now more than ever.
Society walks a ceaseless line bordering on self-destruction; therefore it is in a constant need of recalibration and reconsideration. Artistic expression is our most invaluable tool in self-reflection and some of the world’s greatest minds hold an affinity to the arts, so it is there that mankind would naturally look to for direction. Rodriguez harkens from a cold but factual place that nobody can turn away from. He comes from reality and he hopes to help everybody live there more soundly and rationally.



















Annotated Bibliography

1. A detailed account of the trials and tribulations of the sixties decade.
"The Turbulent Sixties." The Turbulent Sixties. Pearson, 1995-2010. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

2. A detailed history of the importance of the Folk Revival.
Ruehl, Kim. "All About the Folk Revival." History of the Folk Revival. About.com, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

3. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a novel written by Oscar Wilde. It details a young man, Dorian Gray, that is admired for his beauty. He sells his soul by which terms, he will remain forever young while a portrait of himself ages with the passing of years. He pursues a life of debauchery and with each sin, the portrait grows more grotesque.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Modern Library, 1992. Print.

4. A detailed account of the sixties drug culture.
Karatoprak, Emre. "All about the Sixties: Psychedelic Pop Culture of the 60's / Sex, Drugs and Rock'n Roll." All about the Sixties: Psychedelic Pop Culture of the 60's / Sex, Drugs and Rock'n Roll. Blogspot, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

5. “This Is Not A Song, It's An Outburst (The Establishment Blues)”
Rodriguez, Sixto, perf. "This Is Not A Song, It's An Outburst (The Establishment Blues)."Cold Fact. Rodriguez. Sussex, 1970. Vinyl recording.

6. George Harrison was disenchanted by his fans and followers in San Francisco and from there on distanced himself from drug culture and began a period of self-improvement.
The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco: Chronicle, 2000. Print.

7. Rodriguez was named Sixto being the sixth child in the family.
"Sixto Rodriguez - Searching For Sugar Man." Voices of East Anglia. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

8. An interview with Sixto Rodriguez detailing his life and music.
Delingpole, James. "Sixto Rodriguez interview: The Rock 'n' Roll Lord Lucan." The Telegraph 11Aug. 2009. 23 Nov. 2012 .

9. “Rich Folks Hoax”
Rodriguez, Sixto, perf. "Rich Folks Hoax." Cold Fact. Rodriguez. Sussex, 1970. Vinyl recording.

10. Nighthawks at the Diner is one of Tom Waits’ first albums, comprised of mellow jazz and spoken-word vocals concerning inner-city life, booze and heartache.
Waits, Tom. Nighthawks at the Diner. Elektra/Asylum, 1975. Vinyl recording.

11. The Beat generation was primarily concerned with fighting social conformity and embracing the impoverished with poetry. They are said to be the pioneers of hallucinogens as a writing tool.
"A Brief Guide to the Beat Poets." Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, 1997. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. .

12. An article focused on Rodriguez’s legend and supposed “return from the dead”.
Petridis, Alexis. "The singer who came back from the dead." The Guardian. 06 Oct. 2005. Guardian News and Media. 25 Nov. 2012 .

13. Rodriguez’ homepage and central hub for interviews and reviews.
Bond, Andrew. "SugarMan.org." SugarMan.org - All the Facts. Sixto Rodriguez, Apr. 1998. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

14. An in-depth overview of Rodriguez’s success in South Africa and other countries.
Rubin, Mike. "Singer-Songwriter Rodriguez on New Documentary About His Secret Success." Rollingstone.com. Rolling Stone Magazine, 26 July 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

15. A recount of the Sundance Film Festival and the massive success behind the Searching for Sugar Man screening.
Yuan, Jada. "Sundance: The Electrifying Search for Sugar Man." Vulture.com. 21 Jan. 2012. 25 May 2012 .

16. ABC News’ interview and recount of Rodriguez and his story.
Morales, Ed. "The Story of Rodriguez, the Greatest Mexican American Rock Legend You Never Heard of." ABC News. ABC News Network, 26 July 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

17. The Man in Black was one of the late Johnny Cash’s pseudonyms.
Graham, Billy. "Johnny Cash Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. .

Article made by Hunter Gatherer/2012
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