The Code In The Artwork
The following is the code in the artwork to my 1971 album ‘Stormcock’. Some of you may find that this is too long, in which case, you shouldn’t trouble yourselves with it. Just let it pass. For the rest, I would like to welcome you here to hopefully enjoy one of my interpretations of the past-future that’s been with me for some considerable time now. In my own opinion, the album has lost none of its original potency, but I must leave that to be judged by yourselves and others. This is the definitive statement on it. There will not be another.
I doubt I will ever return to any of the matters treated below in the same way, by way of song. There won’t be any need to. The rest of my song-writing life will likely be spent in more poetic reflection. In some ways, this album, together with much of my recorded self, has dominated my life to an extent that has been, ok, natural, because of the way I’m built and have built myself, and the way that it’s therefore become natural for me to view the world, but that particular stylus perhaps needs to be traded for a new lamp. My response to the world isn’t going to change, but my representation of it is likely to require slightly different expressions and intentions to surface. Good luck everyone.
By the time I was 4 I’d become a judge. My general behaviour was loose and wild, mainly because I was learning to test all the limits. I’d started to write when I was 3. The reason I remember this is that on my first day in kindergarten, our teacher was trying to get the kids to write ABC with chalk on our little slates. I already knew ABC, so I decided that I’d be different and roll up some plasticine and stick it onto the slate in the shape of the letters. All that got me was a smack. So the history of roy begins with a smack on his first day at school. He was consequently forced into making a premature judgement.
A review of Stormcock appeared in Rock’nReel Magazine some months ago. Someone said that it was good, so it slid under the radar for a couple of months. When I eventually got the time to check it, I discovered that in some ways it resembled the rubbish that used to be written about me when I was regularly in the charts, and almost always by people who “Couldn’t really be bothered”. It was typically a lazy and condescending review, which in the end tried to award the album three stars due solely to the participation of other people involved on it. Without addressing the real meanings of what the lyric was really saying in the context of when it was written. Bad form. The fact that doesn’t escape me is that this can be described as representative of ‘the majority mind’. And always was. A logical and genuine question that always follows this is, “Is the majority mind right?” This can be answered in a couple of ways.
One, ‘the majority mind’ will in any case be the one that carries us through to our destiny, regardless of ethic, morality or fate. It can obviously be inferred therefore that the ‘majority mind’ is the consistent denominator in human affaires, and from there it can easily be argued that the ‘majority mind’ is the only possible direction for humanity.
Or 2. How difficult is it to alter the established direction of the ‘majority mind’, given that it was first suggested, for instance, that child labour be abolished more than 200 years ago?
The essay below is based on a combination of what I was thinking when I wrote the ‘Stormcock’ album, which was released in early 1971, and my thoughts about it over four decades later.
The conditions in which the thoughts for the inspirations occurred are largely the same in 2008. Certainly my state of mind, and particularly with regard to the subject matter, has only altered in that the experiences that garnered these compositions has been further reinforced. This piece is all about the kinds of ‘state of mind’ I had long before the album was thought about, that were automatically being built into a progression of prosodic statements I was committing to vinyl. Mental attitudes to the same kinds of questions I still find myself asking today, decades later. I find that very little has changed over the years since 1969 and that I still regard the content of the album as being wholly relevant to the 21st Century.
The subjects of the album; the human species, it’s state, it’s church and it’s law have changed very little in the intervening years. I still regard the church, the state and a lot of it’s laws as fundamental enemies of the species. In most instances the state has inevitably become even more systemized than it was at the time, and those systems have now really come into their own as mazes of monolithic obstacles to coherence. For the last few thousand years, the state has always been a necessarily speculative projection of what it might take to keep ourselves in some kind of order, but it’s never actually been accurate enough in either it’s aims or it’s collective means to accomplish the kind of order that has any hope of satisfying the progressive requirements of it’s citizenry. Order, however, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For some of us, the state, it’s proclivities, religions, leaders, messages, and intent are all. For others among us it now represents little more than a gigantic cipher of failed intention. An incredible morass of truncated ‘fast food’ wisdoms doled out to billions of Orwellian proles by thousands of con-masters. At best, a stuttering host of temporary solutions to obvious and permanent problems of community. Bandages for heart disease.
Part 2. The Last 150,000 years
(The evolution of some of the reasons behind the songs)
Stormcock came into being during a time of great social and cultural upheaval, in a society that was rapidly changing. 1960 was only 15 years after the end of the greatest conflict in human history. Culturally, things had changed dramatically in those few years after the end of The Second World War. Elvis, Donegan and the Beat Poets had arrived in the mid 50s. The sparks of a new counter culture. Less than a decade after that people like me were singing songs with social agendas questioning the latest world order.
Actually, this was already traditional behaviour. In the previous few centuries commentary had been growing. The gradual spread of a quest for rights and enfranchisement for all ranks had slowly become an integral feature of Western human society. In the English speaking world, the on-going fusions of musical traditions such as 16th to 19th Century British and Irish folk music, 19th Century British Music Hall, American folk music, and early 20th Century Black folk, jazz and blues from the southern states of the USA were all prominent contributors to social awareness, and, in no small consequence, to political progress. What separated these earlier traditions from the 60s revolution was that the 60s revolution was international, or seemed so at the time. In many ways it was easy to imagine that it was the first real international cultural revolution. There have been a lot of revolutions; Neolithic, Industrial, French, Russian etc., and yes, people had been exchanging ideas internationally for millennia, but a cultural movement in arts, if not in science, involving masses of the populations of 50 countries and more was unprecedented. Anyone on earth who wore jeans or grew their hair was involved.
In 1965 I was labeled as ‘contemporary folk’ and summarily dismissed by the dismissive among both the ‘trad’ and the contemporary sets of folk fans. I did nothing to discourage the myth that I was a confrontational, abrasive, and stoned clown. Why would I? If I’d said, “It’s not true!” I’d have been lying. My friends knew a different person than that though.. and I wasn’t bothered about anything else. Funny times. Hackles and bristling invective from the old folkies. Actually, there’s nothing much you can do about it once the press have ‘invented’ you. You can feed it, which comes out as column inches, but you have problems when you think you’ve given one kind of an interview, but they’re sure you gave another.
Part 1. A Few Good Reasons
(Including technical stuff)
I’ve had it in my mind to present a new edition of Stormcock to the world for some years now. It seemed a shame that one of my best-loved albums was hanging around as an inferior to its original 12-inch forebear. I’ve spent a long time thinking about it, and how I should go about re-kindling its bright light in my canon. The release of this new edition marks the fruition of those thoughts.
There are a few good reasons for an update and re-release. The first is that the cd packaging has never remotely been able to capture what was possible with the original album art. Secondly, the transfer of what was a very dynamic record on vinyl to a cd with a 44.1 sample rate format just didn’t seem to come across properly.
Another good reason is that there’s been a lot of interest in this record in recent years. It has never lost its place in the music pantheon, and as time goes on it seems to be gaining in stature. It’s become wholly appropriate that it should have the kind of new presentation we have now given it. In digitally re-mastering it I’ve attempted to take off some of the distortional effects and digital noise brought over by the transfer from tape/vinyl to cd. Apart from that very little has happened to it. I now believe it to be an altogether better audio experience.