Originally titled A Touch Of Sunburn and later, Two Greens Make A Blues this electronic Blues experiment was one of the most original and charismatic albums of the 80s. Featuring guitarists Peter Green, Mick Green, Gypie Mayo and Ed Deane, this reissue includes two bonus tracks with remastered sound and insightful liner notes.
History is written in broad but shallow strokes. The Devil is in the detail, they say whoever 'they' may be. Take music, for instance. Only a handful of names from any musical trend are remembered, because they were the ones that pleased the most people during their time and, if they're lucky, for years thereafter. Thousands of aspiring buskers and symphonists struggled to find anyone to listen to their tortured ramblings and died with the words 'neglected genius' faltering on their lips. And good riddance to 'em, I say.
Bring up the subject of British Blues (NB: now's the time to check out Hoochie Coochie Men, A History Of UK Blues and R&B, 1955-2001, IGOBX 2501) and the usual suspects line up for inspection, But for every Yardbird, Animal, Pretty Thing, Bluesbreaker or Rolling Stone, a thousand harmonica and/or guitar-toting lemmings rushed over the cliff, convinced fame was just over the horizon if they could only tread water until they reached it.
Let's wave them on their way, the suckers, as they paddle towards the setting sun, lost forever in a golden glow of ambition and failure. There go Erky Grant & The Earwigs, Van Dyke & The Bambi's, Felder's Orioles, The Toggery Five, The Boston Dexters and The Boston Crabs (tempting, but...no), Pat Wayne & The Beachcombers, Phil Ryan & The Crescents, The Shades Of Blue and The Sons Of Fred (who MUST have had Spike Milligan as their mentor).
The winners, decked out in their gaudy finery, strutted their time on the stages of the world. Their efforts joined the broad stream of popular music that flowed into the future; they lost themselves in Psychedelia, Heavy Rock, Glamrock, Cock Rock. Pubrock, Punk Rock, Hip Hop, Garage, Grunge, Acid House, Drum'n'Bass, VH-1 and MTV. The stream flows ever on, with the occasional back eddy and whitewater rapid. But sometimes, the most exotic flowers bloom in brackish backwaters, undocumented and unloved. And this is the tale of one of them.
In 1986 an album emerged on Red Lightnin', the brainchild - well, child, anyway - of Peter Shertser. Apart from his diligently pursued maverick status in the music business, Peter had played a minor but memorable role in the formation of the English Underground of the Sixties. He'd been a founder member of The Firm, a self-aggrandising rabble of 'sometime mods who'd become proto-hippies' from Ilford and Goodmayes who were into 'music and drugs and posturing', as far as former IT-office boy Chris Rowley was concerned. His gang included Ian Sippen, Dave 'Boss' Goodman, Malcolm 'Schnauzer' Chiswick and Lawrence Silver. They formed a strutting thug-Dada geek chorus that loudly gatecrashed whatever 'happenings' they got wind of, bringing their unique melange of mock-threat and timely flight to the party.
"We used to enjoy a bit of wrecking," Shertser told Jonathon Green, "It was clever wrecking, not just valdalism. We'd cement a Hoover to a bath. Very Magritte influenced, Man Ray, all that kind of thing, thinking about Bunuel films. You had it all in and that's how it came out. We were mental." A modest poseur, then. Don't believe all you've heard, even the yobs were intellectuals back in the Sixties. IT-founder Barry Miles wasn't overimpressed: "There was this so-called street gang called The Firm: Peter Shertser and people. His stories were hilarious: 'I got in late last night, went up to my room and I was playing some Blues record. My father came in and he objected so I was forced to knock him over...'"
Music appreciation was an important part of The Firm's raison d'etre. "Rhythm & Blues and Blues music was the start of it all," Shertser declaimed, "There was Blues and Country and everything else was a fusion." When they weren't burning down clubs like The Speakeasy or spiking John Peel's drinks, The Firm indulged in a little light bootlegging: "After we started our own label, we got offered bootlegs...the original tapes and the quality was very good and so artistically there was no reason not to do it." Some time later, the pressing plant owner arrived on Ian Sippen's doorstep, accompanied by a pair of muscle-bound bookends. On being questioned about the legality of the records that were being pressed, Shertser's circumlocutions carried no weight with said owner, who was forthright in his offer of a remedy. "I want a grand. Now! Otherwise you're going in the grinding machine." The logic of his proposition was inescapable, the proverbial suitcase materialised and a transaction duly took place.
From such acorns great empires grow - how could it be otherwise for Red Lightnin'? The catalogue grew but the attitude that had made The Firm such a fabled tribe never quite left the premises. A certain piratical air hung over proceedings that saw a certain, formally-unissued version of Little Willie John's 'Leave My Kitten Alone' by a well-known British beat group, their name associated with the genus Coleoptera, appearing unheralded on one particular compilation. Releases proliferated but after a while some of the fun must have gone out of it, for Red Lightnin' called a halt to their releases and let it be known that licensing deals would be looked upon favourably. Squire Shertser, as the Norfolk peasantry had come to regard him, was scrupulously fair, doing exclusive deals. Every time. Zero Mostel would have been proud - and offered him 110% of 'Springtime For Hitler'.
But where were we? Oh, yes...in 1986 an album emerged on Red Lightnin', entitled A Touch Of Sunburn, credited to a 'group' identified as The Enemy Within, whose personnel included Peter Green, Mick Green, Ed Deane, Gypie Mayo, Gary Peters, Lawrence Garman and The Raven. But when it appeared on CD a couple of years later it had mysteriously mutated into Two Greens Make A Blues, with the greatest billing prominence given to Peter Green, he formally of Fleetwood Mac, and Mick Green, ditto The Pirates. Two photo's were displayed on the sleeve, one of Peter Green taken almost two decades before (in which he resembled Inigo Montoya, the character played by Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride); unfortunately the other snap, doubtless intended to depict Mick Green, was in fact of Frank Farley, the drumming Pirate! On the back of the tray the other protagonists were depicted in a series of stark-eyed, grim-faced mug shots which wouldn't have looked out of place in The Usual Suspects. Not a pretty bunch.
The group (not that it ever really existed) had been assembled by 'The Raven', otherwise known to his mother and his students (for he was a college lecturer) as Laurie Gane. Way back when, Gane had been in Metropolis Blues, playing guitar and harmonica. He'd also been in The Cobras and an early 80s incarnation of The Yardbirds.
His musical adventures had allowed him to build a small studio in the basement of his home near Twickenham, where he gradually began to dabble in new technology. There, he summoned up the shade of Joe Meek and set about building a number of tracks with a view to creating an album that he could sell to the highest bidder - well, anyone really (enter Squire Shertser!).
Casting around for recruits, he gave his friend Gypie Mayo a ring. Mayo had also briefly been a Cobra and much else besides. He'd been in White Mule, Halcyon, 747, and Concrete Mick before joining a four-piece called Alias. Then in 1977 he'd got a visa to go to Canvey Island, to replace the suddenly-departed Wilko Johnson in Dr. Feelgood, a job he held for four years and six albums, among them Private Practice, A Case Of The Shakes and On The Job. He'd become 'Gypie' when Lee Brilleaux observed, "You've always got something wrong with you, you've always got the gyp." Appropriately enough, as he played himself into the band, Gypie took to wearing a black waistcoat over a black and white-striped shirt, very much the Pirate. NME-scribe Nick Kent described him as "a nice, dog-eared bully boy."
By the spring of 1982 Mayo had left the Feelgoods and wandered into The Cobras for a while, before rejoining John B. Sparks and The Big Figure in the Loan Sharks. But that was just one of the things he was into when he got the call from The Raven and agreed to trek over to Twickers: "Laurie asked me to overdub some guitar parts on a number of experimental tracks he'd been working on, and I went down there one afternoon and did 'em," he recalls. "it was only a tiny studio, not very high-tech, but it was in his house, Which was great. Then he asked if I had any ideas, anything I'd been working on, and I played him a few riffs. Laurie had a few ideas for songs, himself - some half-finished lyrics - and we worked on 'em for a couple of hours, and that was it. I just laid down some very basic guitar and bass parts, and he said he'd try and do something with 'em. The next time I heard 'em, they'd become three of the songs on that album, 'Rock & Roll Feeling', 'Camel's Eye Blues' and 'Nietzche's Ass'."
Ed Deane, veteran of The Woods Band, Skid Row, Bees Make Honey, Juice On The Loose and the Dave Kelly Band was recruited in similar fashion. As he recalls, "Although 'The Enemy Within' was supposed to be a real band, the only other person I met on that album was Laurie. He told me much the same as Gypie, that he wanted to try and make an electronic Blues album, experimenting with new technology. It sounded like a really great idea...the only electro music we'd heard at that time was Pop, groups like the Human League, and it seemed like a good idea to try and apply it to The Blues. I went in and played a guitar synth over a couple of backing tracks - I'd never actually played one before. Laurie was lecturing at the Royal College of Art or somewhere at that time, and didn't want people to know what he was up to, so he'd hidden behind the name 'The Raven'. When, after the album came out, people started phoning? up and asking about the band, he had to say things like, 'I'm afriad The Raven's not in at the moment...can I take a message?'"
Both Peter Green and Mick Green became similarly involved - although, Peter's slide playing on 'Chinese White Boy' excepted, the extent and the nature of the various guitarists' involvement is largely undocumented (Deane shares a composer credit for 'End Zone' but apart from Mayo's co-writing credits, few other clues exist - even the original liner notes were decidedly wooly). Mind you, 1986 probably wasn't a good year for Peter Green: following a long period of inactivity he'd recently emerged from the debacle of the band Kolors, and at that time seemed to be fair game for anyone who wanted his name on an album. It seems he'd recently taken to calling around to Laurie's house/studio some afternoons for a cup of tea, and was eventually persuaded to participate in the project - albeit with reservations (initially, he'd merely played bass).
Mick Green and Frank Farley had successfully reunited The Pirates in the mid-70s, but they'd called a halt in 1983. By the mid-80s The Pirates were once again on 'hold', and Mick was in between gigs. His input on the project was pretty much the same as that of messrs Deane and Mayo: "I'd recorded a solo album - 'Pain Killer', for Magnum - at Laurie's studio, and he'd engineered it. It was a nice little studio ... I did a Pirates' album there later: 'Still Shakin''. I also did a few gigs with Laurie around that time ... we even talked about putting a band together. He played me some backing tracks he'd been working on, and asked if I'd overdub some guitar parts...I probably just thought they were demo's. I've no idea which tracks I played on - they didn't have titles at that stage! And I never saw the finished album until years later, when Roger Dopson showed me that 'orrible-looking CD with Farley on the cover!!" Mick's reticence apart, Ed Deane recalls that Green's is the featured guitar on 'End Zone', alongside Ed's guitar synth playing.
The record itself? Well, to be brutally honest, although undoubtedly a valiant effort, it sounds experimental. Few songs have proper drum tracks and several tracks have no real tempo. The Raven clearly has some sort of complex about his voice and raids the FX box to make himself sound sinister or mechanistic. Sometimes he wants to be Dr. John, at others he desperately attempts to emulate Captain Beefheart's taliped terpsichore. But Ed Deane puts another spin on The Raven's eccentric vocal delivery: "Those vocals sound weird because Laurie probbaly didn't rekon himself any great shakes as a singer...it was all part and parcel of the electronic experiment."
In closing, Ed recalls: "The title for that first vinyl issue - 'A Touch Of Sunburn' - was a line taken from 'Nietzche's Ass'. The sleeve showed a wolf in a leather coat, grinning and smoking a fag. It was quite well-reviewed at the time for what it was, an experimental album, and it went down really well in Europe, in places like Germany. But I was really disappointed when the CD came out - the one with the hard-sell cover where they called it 'Two Greens Make A Blues', with those pictures of Peter and Mick on the front - because that wasn't what the album had been about. Of course, at that time I didn't know that picture wasn't Mick!"
Yes, whatever you make of this project (and its two bonus tracks), there can be no real doubt that in its Two Greens Make A Blues incarnation, it came housed in what was very probably the worst, most misleading album sleeve of all time!
Jonathon Green 'Day's In The Life - Voices from the English Underground 1961-1971 (Minerva, 1989)
Tony Moon 'Down By The Jetty - The Dr. Feelgood Story' (Northdown, 1997)
A big thanks also to Ed Deane, Gypie Mayo and Mick Green
Original Album Liner Notes:
Taking Blues into a new dimension. The Enemy Within represents NOW, in the same vein that Jimi Hendrix explored new galaxies that Blues could reach during the 60s. This is Modern Music, mixing traditional formats, musicians and machines, but still retaining all the rawness and feel of the Blues idiom.
The material is best described as an unique hybrid of Captain Beefheart (who, incidentally, instigated this recording!), Howlin' Wolf and Ry Cooder, yet at the same time sounding tangential to them all - a living example of true blue new waves. One listen, and you will agree!
Here are a few short lines on the participants:-
From 'Metropolis Blues' - later The Yardbirds' to The Cobras' and the present day - this man, who shall remain anonymous but is better known as Laurie G. still needs to play music, in between stints as a senior lecturer at the Royal College Of Art. A meeting with Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) awoke him from his musical slumbers, resulting in this disc. The Raven knows how to read and write, but is saving Hegel for his (unlikely) retirement.
His classic Rock & Roll guitar sounds as fresh today as it ever did with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates. The Rockashakes and many other 60s bands. Pure blood pumping innocence. Radiation sickness can be cured. Mick would like to add that 100% mortgages (non-status) can be arranged.
The Blues and slide playing of Ed Deane has covered the spectrum from Arthur Crudup and Fred McDowell to Alexis Korner, Graham Parker and Juice On The Loose. As a left-handed Blues player and a right-handed classical player, he really encompasses the field.
Best known for his work with Joe Brown and later Dr Feelgood (their only hit single, 'Milk And Alcohol'). Gypie Mayo's aggressively clear-cut Rock guitar is heard on 'Camel's Eye Blues', 'Nietzche's Ass' and 'Rock & Roll Feeling',
When B.B. King was asked whom he most admired among British guitar players, he replied "Peter Green!" Peter is a long way from John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, etc. today; his appearances are rare, but the style and inspiration are still there.
A truly post-modern player. From The Blues to Schoenberg and Lol Coxhill, Gary is a musical ironist and master of many styles. Hear him on 'Four Minute Melody' and 'Post Modern Blues'.
Instrumentation used by the aforementioned musicians: Stratocasters; Telecasters; Precision Bass; Dobro; Kalimba; Harmonica' CX5; TR 707; Oberheim; DX; Bodhran; Alto Saxophone; SCI six-track; GR 300.
(P) 1986, 1997 (C) 2002 The copyright in these sound recordings is owned by Sanctuary Records Group Ltd.
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