Saturday, May 12, 2007

"Back in the 1960s"

Once upon a time, in what was later dubbed the Magic Summer, I discovered the Incredible String Band. I was visiting my father, who was teaching English at Colorado State University at Fort Collins. I had gone with my stepbrother Paul to visit his far-out friend Josh. He seemed a pretty normal 15-year-old, but he had (or claimed to have) dropped acid so many thimes that he once had to take a second dose to get out of what he called Cartoonland. Nobody did any drugs that day, but Josh mentioned he had an album by the Incredible String Band. It was "The 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion," and it had one of the most psychedelic album covers I have ever seen. (The group itself did not seem to be into the drug culture, though.)

The ISB (named for the Incredible Folk Club in Glasgow) was an eclectic group. It had various members, but Robin Williamson and Mike Heron were the mainstays. They sang blues, folk, calypso, gospel, Chinese-inspired music, and even a piece reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan ("The Minotaur's Song") . From the first track, "Chinese White," with its refrain, "Oh, will your magic Christmas tree be shining/Gently, all around, " to the final "Back in the 1960s," I had fallen in love with the band. My favorite was "Painting Box, with its chorus:

For somewhere in my mind there is a painting box,
I have every colour there it's true.
Just lately when I look inside my painting box,
I seem to pick the colours of you.

Thanks to the marvels of YouTube, we can hear the ISB singing "Painting Box," along with "The Half Remarkable Question." The clip was recorded from the Julie Felix TV show in 1968 . Felix, a British folksinger, joins Mike Heron and Robin Williamson in singing " Painting Box." The film isn't in sync with the sound, but it's still wonderful. Felix is simply delightful as a host (all-right, I've got a thing for dark-haired, brown-eyed women, but she'd be delightful even if she were a blonde). YouTube also has snippets of the documentary about the band, "Be Glad for the Song Has No Ending."

One caution: the ISB is a group most people either love or loathe. The dark-haired, brown-eyed woman I married can't stand them. We've agreed to disagree.


Patry Francis said...

I loved the ISB! Thanks for reminding me...

Patry Francis said...

p.s. Happy mom's day to the dark haired, brown-eyed woman...

steve said...

Many thanks, Patry. I'll pass the word on to Kathleen.

Sustenance Scout said...

Just stopping by to hello and of course Patry's here too so it's an official party. :) Always nice to catch up on your posts, Steve! Can't say I ever heard of the ISB but if you and Patry recommend them then they're definitely worth checking out. I always learn something new when I visit here! K.

robin andrea said...

Thanks for reminding me of the ISB. I haven't thought of them in years. Of course, once I was over at Youtube, I remembered to look for John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. Nice to remember Pentangle too.

gerry rosser said...

"I mixed stones and water
To see what it would do
The water it got stony
And the stones got watery too."

I loved that old album. Very soft spot for "First Girl I Loved." Judi Collins later did a (gender-modified) version which was good, largely due to Steve Stills's guitar work).

"Hedgehog Song" was great too. "You learned all the words and you sung all the notes, but you never quite learned the song." (I may have misquoted this slightly)

steve said...

Karen--Thanks for visiting. I need to catch up on your posts--they're always enlightening.

Robin--Glad to see you liked the ISB. I somehow missed Bert Jassch, though I liked the Pentangle version of "Once I had a Sweetheart." At least I think it was Pentangle.

Gerry--"So I mixed my feet with water/Just to see what could be seen./And the water it got dirty/And the feet they got quite clean." I liked the Hedgehog Song, too--one of Mike Heron's calypso numbers. "First Girl I Loved" was one I had to grow into--years after I broke up with the first girl I loved.