THE LATE ROOSTER

For more than four years I’ve wanted to write about the first LP I bought.

Over a year ago I finally squeezed out a first draft. Didn’t really like it and the file sat there on the desktop staring dolefully back at me whenever I glanced around for blogging inspiration.

The second version stripped back some of the waffle weighing down v1.0, but remained stilted and somehow inauthentic. How, after so much music and memoir writing could I not manage to extract something living out of this life-changing experience? My first ever album!

Perhaps the problem was, it was a bigger story than I’d thought and I just wasn’t acknowledging that. So version three created sections—numbered in suitably pretentious roman numerals—to define the essential themes.

I

Existential Theme 1

The first album I bought was entitled Death Walks Behind You. Being now in middle life, the theme of mortality and its guaranteed endpoint are no laughing matter. On some days, truth be told, it scares the willies out of me. I’m the eldest remaining member of my family of origin; no-one stands between me and the grave. The then/now—life/death arc must be conveyed, regardless of whether it puts everyone off in the first paragraph.

II

Existential Theme 2

The setting for my introduction to the music of Atomic Rooster was Rod Amberton’s bedroom. Although this heavy rock haven has been honoured previously, it seemed important to pick up on the friendship theme for this story. Connection vs Isolation and all that.

Could I somehow link this piece to the previous Black Sabbath post (the ‘heavy’ link) or another memoir story such as the one on the eclipse of the sun hinting at loneliness? Would this convey the theme? Frowny stuff.

 

III

The next section expanded the connection-isolation idea using illustrative Death Walks Behind You song lyrics.

My whole world is so alone

My whole world is so alone

Couldn’t see you’re only me 

Nobody else to blame

My whole world is gone away

[Nobody else]

Been around, stuck around far too long

Run away, hide away, I was wrong

[Sleeping for years]

Seven lonely streets, walking all alone

Never needing no one, always on my own

Since I left the world to live my own way

People I don’t see, no one’s in my day

[7 Streets]

Lock the door, switch the light

You’ll be so afraid tonight.

Hide away from the bad

Count the nine lives that you had.

Start to scream, shout for help,

There is no-one by your side

To forget what is done;

Seems so hard to carry on.

[Death walks behind you]

Cheerful, isn’t it?

IV

Some as yet to be created (but exceedingly clever) device linking the lyrics and the two philosophical themes to the writer. Even this single sentence is so ponderous it implodes under its own weight.

An alternate fourth section re-introduced Bentleigh Sewing and Records as the shop where the album was purchased second-hand. As there is another story centred on this odd retail establishment, the idea of setting the scene was quite powerful, even though one of the key protagonists, proprietor Jim McManus, must have taken the dust to dust trip long ago.

V

Something on the music, about now? What about opening with the revelation I recently purchased a fancy US re-issue to accompany my original Australian pressing. As photos of coloured vinyl are guaranteed to lift the mood, this might be a good strategy. Assuming, of course, anyone is still awake by this stage.

VI

When I found out how many versions of the album were released, I felt obligated to include that train-spotterly information just as I now feel compelled to share it.

The UK original was by B&C records, the German release was on Phillips, the Japanese got Stateside while US fans had Elektra. Fontana in France, Phonodor in Israel, while Australian record buyers scored their copies on Interfusion. Repertoire and Akarma have both re-issued it and my ‘Limited Edition’ is on Purple Pyramid. Ten and counting. Oh, and the 2004 CD is on Castle.

When I win the lottery I’ll seek them all out in their countries of origin.

VII

Given Vinyl Connection’s love of album art—and particularly covers utilising ‘fine art’—the cover is begging for some context and celebration. After all, William Blake—poet, painter, printmaker—is the Romantic era dude.

The image, Blake’s Nebuchadnezzar, is as riveting as it is disturbing. The Old Testament Babylonian King, driven mad through his own hubris, is de-evolving into an animal. His beard is long and matted, skin disfigured, fingers grown into talons. How disquieting that his eyes—terrified and appalled—suggest he knows what is happening yet is powerless to halt the descent into bestiality.

For those who might find this something of a downer, you’ll be relieved to hear that old Neb’s insanity was a temporary thing. After some quality psychotherapy, he resumed a normal 5th century BC kingly life.*

 

After three versions and three thousand words, I came to my senses and realised it was all simply a long-winded way of saying how important and precious the second Atomic Rooster album is to me. And really, that’s all the context needed.

Still, there was a quiver of anxiety as I approached this particular spin of Death Walks Behind You. What if listening with outward pointing ears revealed that I no longer liked the album? Maybe the personal significance of this ‘Genesis’ record would totally obscure any examination of musical merit. Could entering the world of long-playing records and the embedded rite of passage have cast such a patina of dark sanctity over this heavy prog icon it must inevitably descend through the brackish waters of disappointment to ultimately settle in the oozing mud of disappointment? Would it, I wondered, still ROCK?

Find out next post.

* Blake graphic borrowed and adapted from an unknown US religious group unable to spell Neb’s name correctly

33 comments

  1. I’ve never heard this album although I recall being very intrigued by the cover art when I first saw it back in ’71 and of course Tomorrow Night was a big hit in the UK and still stands as one of the better singles in what was a fairly good year for singles (I think)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. More on the album’s actual music in a couple of days!

      Like

  2. Haha love the screen background. Hello, fellow Mac user!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was awesome. Writing about your experience and about the album while writing about how you wondered how to write about it! You sneaky one, you!

    Love the Blake artwork. Been a while since I dove into his work… now I’m feeling the itch… As for Atomic Rooster, it’s a new one on me. I’m looking forward to the next post!

    Nice first record!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A periodic dive into William’s World is very worthwhile, isn’t it? Enjoy that!
      And hope you enjoy Part 2 of Rooster 2 too!

      Like

  4. I love the Death Walks Behind You lyrics! Based on this alone I have a feeling I’d like Atomic Rooster. I also like Blake’s Neb artwork. The gorgeous vinyl is a bonus.

    A band with this kind of depth is sure to hold up during your re-listening, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you made some new discoveries. Fingers crossed! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, that orange slab does qualify as gorgeous. Slightly odd contrast with the rather doomy feel of the album, but maybe they were hoping for a citrus lift!

      Hope you’ll be able to join me in a few days for ‘the music’.

      Cheers Danica.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe the orange signifies something apocalyptic… fire, destruction….

        I shall tune in. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The cover threw me, I had the US Elektra robot rooster cover – recognized the back cover tho’. Vincent Crane Hammond master went on to contribute heavily on Arthur Brown’s Ceazy World of debut. Kudos again for your writing style – engaging. Lookin’ forward to the follow-up post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks OOi. Yes, Vincent was on Arthur Brown’s 1968 debut, co-writing many of the songs.

      I think this might be the cover you are familiar with? (It was thoughtfully included in the Purple Pyramid re-issue as an inner sleeve, no doubt to assist with US recognition!).

      Like

  6. Dead Walks Behind You – Classic art on the cover: William Blake’s interpretation of the biblical king Nebuchadnezzar, who loses his throne and his mind in the madness of his mind, is deeply tragic and disturbing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Find out next installment …
    Hook set firmly by your fine writing. @#£&!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Could not wait for your review; YouTube obliged this a.m. Reminded me of Jethro Tull and some of the Aussie bands that I heard in the 70’s. A fine opening number to bounce around to on a coldish Melbourne morning. My movement overcame any darkness in the lyrics and gave Z a laugh to wake up to.

      Like

      1. Most impressive. Did you ever submit an essay before the due date? 😉

        Like

  8. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Reblogged this on William Pearse | pinklightsabre and commented:
    More delicious writing from Bruce, at the awkward ‘5-way’ of prog rock, middle-age, memoir, album art, and hubris.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    That’s just right up my alley. Sorry for you, I think, we had to meet in this alley because I’m not to be trusted. Fucking A-right, as we used to say, in the States. Fucking A-right matey! Bill

    Like

    1. Best feedback ever. Thanks.

      Do you know, a ‘5-way’ could be a pentagram?
      Strange things up that alley, dude.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Have to check it out seeing it was your first LP. Also I’ll be tuning (you know I’ll tune in anyway) in to find out about the music on your next take. ELP was CB”s first and he liked it and still does. Hows that for quick review.

    (ps Have you read the ‘So What ‘ bio on Miles?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A paragon of economy. Could start a new trend: The dozen word review. 🙂

      Have read numerous articles (and endless cover notes!) on Miles, but not that bio. Recommended?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “A paragon of economy”. I like that. Bob Geldof was a music critic for a while and would drop one word reviews. You have me on the edge of my seat waiting for the sounds of ‘Rooster’

        (Yes on the bio)

        Like

  11. Bruce you’ve inspired me to buy a lottery ticket today – seeking out the different pressings in their country of origin is a wonderful way to spend the winnings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really ‘preciate that Geoff. I’m sure there are suitable emporia in your neck of the woods where I can search… and buy you a beer as well. Cheers.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A great preamble, Bruce. I completely relate to the difficulties writing that holds so much importance… I’ve been trying, and failing, for a while.

    Anyhoo, I don’t know anything about this one, so I’m looking forward to reading all about the music.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Indeed, J, it is a preamble that is actually longer than the feature to follow!

      I’m kinda glad I’m not the only one who struggles writing about favourite or “important” albums. Shall we form a club?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds like the kinda club I could join. Shall we get some badges?

        Liked by 2 people

  13. Wunderbar Bruce!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I have avoided Atomic Rooster for years, the name was just too silly. I am now deep in this album admittedly streaming but now I need the record.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mwah-ha-ha!!! Chalk up another convert, Igor!

      Like

  15. […] A lengthy preamble to this album review can be found here. […]

    Like

  16. Given the LP’s title, I guess it’s fitting that the hirsute (ah, the 70s!) trio of band members appear to be sitting in a cemetery. I wasn’t at all familiar with this group, so you’ve made yet another introduction. Finally catching up on things, and the review of this album will be next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a clear thematic and stylistic through line on this one that may not be subtle, but is certainly consistent!

      Like

  17. Yes, it absolutely is cheerful stuff!! This album makes me exceptionally happy every time and is probably among my most played. I believe you are the sole person across my half-century-plus with whom I’ve managed any kind of Death Walks Behind You personal fellow travelership. I lent it to a friend once who was curious, but he gave it back to me as “too blues-based,” whatever that means.

    I won’t give in to my inner narcissist and force an unsolicited post of my own into your comment section, but will note that I blindly picked my “rocket rooster” cover Canadian edition LP from a thrift store bin in the late 70s and have absolutely loved this masterpiece in solitary ever since. Finally got the Nebuchadnezzar cover when I picked it up on CD about 10 years ago.

    I’d read full-bloat, err, I mean full-blown standalone posts based on each of your VII sections above hungrily. Don’t be shy! (And, thanks to you, I’ve had that same background on my computer screen for months!)

    Like

    1. The Fellowship of the Rooster.

      Or perhaps

      The Brotherhood of Those Behind Whom Death Walks.

      Either way, you write the arrangement of the theme song (“Vug”, of course. I’ll learn drums for the occasion if you’d consider me as the ringer in the VotF family band) and i’ll design the costumes (none-more-black, natch).

      PS. WRITE YOUR DWBY POST. NOW!

      Like

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