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Baker's Dozen

Grit In One’s Third Eye: Robyn Hitchcock’s Baker’s Dozen
Julian Marszalek , February 11th, 2013 11:14

English songwriter and frontman of The Soft Boys, The Venus Three and The Egyptians, Robyn Hitchcock leads Julian Marszalek through his most played LPs

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Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?
Jimi Hendrix got going on the strength of three hit singles. He had a terrific reputation very early on and he was one of the first musician’s musicians. All The Beatles, The Animals, Eric Clapton and everybody else came down to marvel at Jimi Hendrix and get jealous. They all felt threatened by him he was so good. But he was a friendly chap and they befriended him but he obviously raised the bar.

Album culture hadn’t quite taken off yet and he was launched as a pop act to be sold to 12-year-olds. I guess I was 14 when ‘Hey Joe’ came out but they worked as pop records and you could see what footage there was of him performing and of course he was amazing on Top Of The Pops. ‘Are You Experienced’ is one of the most exciting tracks ever recorded. I love that backwards drum and the way Hendrix used backwards guitar. The Beatles and The Byrds had been using it but Jimi Hendrix was absolutely masterful at that. His backwards solos were just to die for! Or to die with, or to die of!

And ‘Third Rock From The Sun’, it’s like ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ where he had bits that stretched out, so on your pop LP you could get kind of “well, here’s the freak-out everybody! This is where it goes off!” and then you get the tracks when Chas Chandler said "right! You’ve had three-and-a-half minutes. That’ll do!”

The Beatles never really lost it because of McCartney who always plumped for pop over rock and the others resented it but he kept them, to some extent, straight. You know, not just doing these endless liquid jams that John and George and Yoko would’ve gone off into. Pop became very uncool in ’67 when John Peel kicked in. He really didn’t play anything out of the charts. It was like the Eloi and the Moorlocks in The Time Machine but I’m not quite sure which is which, really!

But pop then began to be seen as something very superficial, like McCartney’s songs, and rock was the “serious shit, man”. Rock was the people who began to take themselves seriously. They were the people who took Dylan to heart.

Before ’67 you couldn’t launch yourself with an LP, it had to be with a single; you had to be a pop act. Groups like The Action or Zoot Money’s Dantelian’s Chariot and all those sort of people, if you didn’t get into the Top 20 then you weren’t visible. And then after that, for people like Fairport Convention or The Grateful Dead or the people that John Peel played, an LP was enough. Singles were then for squares. Led Zeppelin didn’t release a single and they launched as an albums band and they couldn’t have happened before they started in ’68.

What’s great is that this is all historic now and we’re now sat in smoke-free pub in Camden wracking our brains about what order this all happened in!

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Feb 11, 2013 6:35pm

Excellent reading. Give this man his own spot on Quietus!

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Barthold Pelzer
Feb 11, 2013 6:35pm

One could moan: Yeah, a lot of predictable entries, few surprises (apart possibly from The Kinks are Village Green Preservation Society missing). But then there is this delightful and genuinely surprising last choice. And profound and entertaining musings about each and every entry, which make this an excellent and read. Thanks for presenting ever so enlightening music journalism.

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Feb 11, 2013 6:49pm

Funny isn't it? He selects the same bunch of records that a whole host of other aged musicians have chosen but I don't feel like groaning out load. Why? Because he has really really engaged with these and has some wonderful insightful comments to make. So thanks Robyn, this has been the best Dozen for a long long time.

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Feb 11, 2013 8:50pm

White people suck, especially the Beatles and fucking Bowie. Some people should never be allowed NEAR Captain Beefheart and it seems Robyn is one. (Oh yeah, Robyn made half a good album thirty years ago, I should be 'thankful'?)

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Post-Punk Monk
Feb 11, 2013 8:53pm

I have to say that this was engrossing reading! Could it be that it's time for Robyn to start writing a career sideline? As soon as I read this I looked to see if he had written any books that I might have missed! Anyone who can me care about the like of The Doors or The Beatles is an alchemist of words!
For further rumination on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®

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Feb 11, 2013 9:49pm

What a great read! Robyn's enthusiasm is totally infectious, & it's patently obvious that he's still a rabid listener to, & lover of, music. He always comes across as a stand-up gent who knows his shit &, consequently, I could listen to him ramble on for hours...

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peluche brutale
Feb 11, 2013 10:54pm

No revelations but, as others said, quite an engrossing read. it's good to share such a personal, passionate and well listened through selection of some of the best music of the last century. perhaps he should be invited to write more on the quietus about his mate peter buck, which seem to make him so proud.

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chris church
Feb 11, 2013 11:58pm

Robyn is just wonderful. Was listening to Ole Tarantula earlier. As said already nothing too surprising (Avalon excepted?) but his summation and insights are worth anyone's time Thanks for this!

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Feb 12, 2013 1:56am

In reply to :

Bitter, party of one...

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Fielding Melish
Feb 12, 2013 6:11am

In reply to :

Sparkling insight. I'm so glad you thought to write in!

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James McKeown
Feb 12, 2013 11:21am

What an absolute joy to read. At the first scan through, I thought some of the choices were a bit obvious, on further reading I understood a whole new level of explaination and tangents - which is a classic Hitchcock trait! I'm a massive fan of Robyn and his work. I would love to see him do a spoken word tour, just sharing anecdotes and stories of his life. Clean Steve Fabulous.

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Wayne Champagne
Feb 12, 2013 12:13pm

An absolute joy. Fresh and enlightening perspectives on well worn themes.

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Feb 12, 2013 9:54pm

A thundering good read! Since I’ll soon be taking to the trees too, I’d weave all of these into my nest.
I remember reading a top ten list by Robyn about 30 years ago. As I recall, a lot of the same stuff was on it. A few there that didn’t make this list: Martin Carthy’s “Shearwater,” Nic Drake’s “Pink Moon,” and Kinks “Village Green….” were there as I recall, though my memory of that essay is a little dim. I don’t think “Avalon” had been recorded yet though.
I ‘m interested to read of RH’s preference for a post Cale VU. To my mind, his ideas was what made their music interesting. His solo lp “Paris 1919” is singular in the same way that RH’s “I Often Dream of Trains” is: sparse, vaguely familiar but distinctly original.

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Rob Curry
Feb 13, 2013 3:56am

Very nice! This is one of the most engaging of the Baker's Dozen articles. I am not familiar with his music, but I am going to remedy that situation. And if any of it is half as witty as this piece, I shall be in for a treat.

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Orthodox Caveman
Jun 21, 2013 5:33pm

In reply to :

Troll detected!

Robyn is awesome. Like many others have said, he doesn't have particularly original choices, but his rationale for each choice and his way of communicating his ideas about music, life, and history are engrossing. This is one of my favorite Baker's Dozen entries.

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