HOW HAPPY I AM
by Norman Warwick
The Incredible String Band evoke love and devotion to all those who fall under their spell. Their world is not ours, but a land of mythical creatures and fey beings.
They did so for me as a young teenager whilst I was going out with a grammar school girl and definitely punching above my weight. I took her to see my first live concert, by the ISB, at the Free Trade Hall In Manchester. This girl, who later would play Albatoss on the piano, was as mesmerised as I was just watching the band members strolling across the stage and nonchalantly picking up any old instrument they came to and playing it. The sounds were irresistible but the constantly changing tempos denied any pretence of being pop music.
I had heard the name of the band uttered in grown up tones by two of the bigger boys I played football with at the time. Roger Holland and Clive Lancaster were both excellent centre halves who spoke in posh and educated tones and everything I overheard them talking about in the changing rooms sounded somehow strange and exotic. So it was that this Incredible String Band and the dj they kept on about, John Peel who was championing them (whatever that meant) all sounded just the sort of stuff a fifteen year old grammar school prefect. might enjoy,…and she certainly did.
I don´t know whether, fifty years later, she remembers that gig as fondly as I do, (the fact we got slightly hit by a car as we dashed for our last bus home might have coloured her views. Even though she reviewed the gig breathlessly to her parents when I got her home they were sio appalled I had not looked after her properly that only a coiuple of weeks later the romance was over.
My romance with The Incredible String Band would last a lifetime, however. It was sustained because I endeded up working with and becoming friends with a guy called Dave Espin, who bought every track, take, and bootleg and illegally taped every radio and tv programme they ever appeared on, and followed them to almost every Uk gig they ever played on and he took me along to most of them.
Sadly, by the time the time The incredible String Band was making a free to invited fans recording of highlights to celebrate a significant anniversary (and reforming in-form in part to do so) Dave and I had each moved to new companies and to new habitats, but he had maintained his links and likes with the bnd more tightly than had I. Dave got an invite to these recording sessions and I did not. Dave got his name on the back of the subsequent CD cover. I did not.
Sadly Dave died a couple of years ago, and I don´t think he would have been aware that today´s choice of book for our bigger bookshelf was even in the pipeline.
This book looks at all their recorded output from the first album which saw the turning point from the mix of old time American music and Scottish dance tunes to the first steps in songwriting, through albums which still maintain a legendary reputation, 5000 Spirits and Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter. It looks at their increasingly eclectic instrumentation and fantastical songwriting. There is a fresh look at the slightly lesser known albums that followed and the later version of the band that moved steadily towards the rock mainstream before imploding in 1974. There is also a look at the albums that appeared when the band briefly reformed in the 21st century and a run through the best of the posthumous live albums and compilations of unreleased material. The band went from major success to cult status, and then via mockery in the punk period to finally becoming a highly respected band, whose albums still sell steadily to this day. This book will follow that journey and examine every stop on the way.
David Espin would have looked this book and would have so enjoy challenging established facts and chuckling at anecdotes he had probably heard from band members many times.
It is a book David Espin would have approved of and I can offer no higher praise than that.
Title The Incredible String Band
Author Tim Moon
Publish Date September 24, 2021
dimensions 5.94 X 8.29 X 0.41 inches | 0.44 pounds
Tim Moon was born in 1953 in the village of Shelf, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Music was around the house in the form of LPs of musicals and Frank Sinatra, and then one day his father brought home an acoustic guitar, spurred on by the British skiffle boom. Tim was mesmerised and his interest was aroused again by the emergence of The Beatles and acquired his own guitar. Tim has written for various music publications and presents a couple of folk based radio programmes. He gigs, acts and is otherwise happily retired in his seaside home in Filey, North Yorkshire, UK.
I think back to the first and last of the Incredible String Band Concerts I saw, which bookended another thirty or so i would guess. That first onw, if memory serves, had a girl singer called Liquorice and a cane twirling Gene Kelly like Malcolm le Maistre, and the final one found a gang of still impish, if largely immobile musicians who could make magic out of nothing at all.
Dave would have picked all the holes in that paragraph above and would chide me for refusing to commit anything to memory, and for my refusal to prefer to rely on the mysteries of memory rather than a filing cabinet.
They remain the most impressive band (in all their guises) the most impressive band i have ever seen or heard.
Oh how happy I am (to nick the title of my favourite of their songs) to think a new gneration might tap into them and find that same,… well, what it was.