Friday, August 8, 2008

We Often Dream of Trains (Seriously, We Do)

Robyn Hitchcock - Live at Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA (7/28/88) Part 1
Robyn Hitchcock - Live at Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA (7/28/88) Part 2

Harry Rag, Harry Rag, Harry Rag - he's the man. Really. Not just a song lyric anymore. Harry's been the most consistently awesome DJ in Madison, Wisconsin for at least three thousand years. Or maybe thirty. If it weren't for Harry I'd probably still be wearing my Kiss Army patch and crying over their farewell tour. (You wouldn't believe how much excitement that caused here in the Cornbelt. It was the defining moment for a generation of skanky, unwashed, long-haired, balding, fat, skinny, 18-50 year old white males in faded concert t-shirts. Listening to them talk in the used record stores was revelatory. A sub-culture I didn't even know existed was revealed. I felt like a dirty Margaret Mead.)

What the hell was I writing about? Ah, Harry. Back in the very late 70s and first half of the 80s, every Saturday afternoon it was mandatory to tune in to Harry's show and hear the latest and the hottest in new and underground American and British music, filtered through Harry's impeccably honed earmachines, which had been trained by many years of listening to the best of 60s and 70s music, especially psychedelia. Harry could spot the real deal at 100 paces. He introduced me to everything that was hip and cool in music, including Robyn Hitchcock.

Of course, it was actually The Soft Boys then, but it was pretty obvious who the guy in charge was. I was a word junkie then, too, and Robyn was my Dylan. I shit thee not, he was that important to me. (You don't say someone is your "Dylan" and not mean it, man). I had other Dylans in the years to come - Westerberg, Mould, Boon, Stuart, Chesnutt, Gelb, Dylan and so on - but Robyn was my first. He took my Dylan-Cherry.

And like any first love, Robyn's been with me ever since, a constant part of my musical life. He's still making beautiful albums and I'm still buying them. My wife took some Robyn in the car with her just this week as she went off on a work trip. We bought the box set that came out last year of remastered 80s albums - you have to buy this, they sound wonderful! - and I've already pre-purchased the next box. But don't tell my wife; I'd hoped it would be out before her birthday, but that's tomorrow, so don't look like it. I hope she doesn't read this post.

Also, just moments ago, I bought us tickets to see Robyn perform I Often Dream of Trains at the Old School of Folk Music in Chicago in November. Don't look, but I think I've soiled myself. It's been my dream to take our son to see Robyn and it can't get better than this. Hope some of ya'll out there get a chance to see this show. It's pretty damn near sold out, though there are a handful of other show scheduled for the US.

Harry's still there, too, still enlightning (nod to Sun Ra) the cosmos. He alternates every second and third Friday night now from 8-11PM. Check Harry out!

And, of course, buy shit!

NOTE: I should change the name of this blog to the title of this post. We get 150 or so trains per day through our town. The night rings with their horns. Sometimes, if you are far enough away from the tracks, it's very mysterious and musical, especially if you have two or more going at once. The echoes are intense. But usually it just sucks.


Nazz Nomad said...

seen robyn many times... perhaps the most memorable was as the missus and i were traipsing around new mexico years and years ago and stumbled upon a show of his at a cafe in sante fe.
if syd barret stayed a titch more grounded, he woulda been robyn hitchcock.

have you seen his website:

gomonkeygo said...

Yeah, good website. I like to check in and see if the paintings have changed from time to time. I'm hoping someday to find some of the novels his father wrote. They're supposed to be pretty decent. But I've been looking for years with no success. Still, it gives me something to do.

We've seen Robyn three times only. Full show with the Egyptians, an in-store acoustic with same and a solo acoustic in a tiny club. I've got the band show but the sound is thin to say the least. I'll get it up eventually.

This show's good, even though there are technical problems - buzzes and feedback - and the last three or four songs of the original set are cut since this is a radio broadcast version. I've read that there is a pre-broadcast tape with all songs but not gotten it.

misha said...

Thank you so much for this robyn boot
and also for many more posts (really beautiful what you wrote on Vic Chesnutt, and I mean it). But what I was about to say is that Robyn, no doubt about it, is one of the sincerest, more meaningful musicians. Always loved his lyrics, always loved
his arpeggios (I'm an arpeggio-adddict kind of person, if such a thing exists), and I can't wait to listen to this.

Funny thing is the first time I saw
Robyn (I didn't know his music that
much back then) it was in a crappy place (in italy, where I live) with
only 20-30 people there and probably only me really listening. It was just him and his guitar and I just couldn't believe how ignorant people can be and how they could not see how amazing Robyn is.

gomonkeygo said...

Thanks for sharing that, misha, that was really nice. I like a good arpeggio, too, especially since I can't play one to save my life, but I think you got me beat.

I'm so looking forward to introducing my son to Robyn's music. He's heard him in the car and at home, but live is something else.

raindogzilla said...

"I see the men inside their shells
I see the men inside their shells
They go to prostitutes as well
Who never mind the way they smell
The prostitutes are paid for it."

I still remember Robyn and the Egyptians, on the squinty-eyed- Kevin-Seal-emceed 120 Minutes, doing the acappella "Uncorrected Personality Traits" in studio. I loved Kevin Seal, who was French Stewart before there was a French Stewart. A band I used to play in did a jugjugjug metal version of the above-quoted "I Watch the Cars"