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P.A.C.

OConnor

MUSIC IN AMERICA : WEEK 6

The gentle visitors The Incredible String Band

The
Incredible
String Band
made
fleeting
appearances
in the US at
the Fillmore
East, at
Woodstock,
and with
their
pantomime
, and
they still
have a
following in
the US.
The core of
the
Incredible
String Band
consisted of
Robin
Williamson
(right) and
Mike Heron,
both
guitarists
and
songwriters
of great ability. Williamson seemed to be able to play just about any instrument like a
virtuoso, but was a tremendous solo guitarist, one of a select group of Scottish masters
that included Bert Jansch, Davy Graham and Dick Gaughan, all of whom knew each
other and shared songs and experiences in mid-1960s Edinburgh and Glasgow. The ISB
as they became known were augmented by their girlfriends and then by an experimental
dance group known as Stone Monkey. As they added members, became less folky, gave
up drugs and gained spiritual control, they seemed to lose their spiritual freedom, but
they certainly continued to gain fans and move audiences until their break-up in 1973,
largely due to differences between Heron and Williamson. They reunited in the 1990s,
sounding enthusiastic but safe. There is still a version of the Incredible String Band
playing small concerts, but Williamson left around 2002 to continue his solo career.
Finally, the DVD Be Glad, for the Song has No Ending catches the Incredible String
Band at the height of their early fame in the summer of 1968, at an old farm house,
Penwern, in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in the studio, in concert performances and in an
interesting fable: The Pirate and the Crystal Ball.

19. OCTOBER SONG by ROBIN WILLIAMSON (1966) LISTEN


Ill sing you this October song,
Oh, there is no song before it.
The words and tune are none of my own,
for my joys and sorrows bore it.
Beside the sea
The brambly briars in the still of evening,
Birds fly out behind the sun,
and with them Ill leavng.
The fallen leaves that jewel the ground,
They know the art of dying,
And leave with joy their glad gold hearts,
In the scarlet shadows lying.
When hunger calls my footsteps home,
The morning follows after,
I swim the seas within my mind,
And the pine-trees laugh green laughter.
I used to search for happiness,
And I used to follow pleasure,
But I found a door behind my mind,
And thats the greatest treasure.
For rulers like to lay down laws,
And rebels like to break them,
And the poor priests like to walk in chains,
And God likes to forsake the.
I met a man whose name was Time,
And he said, I must be going,
But just how long that was,
I have no way of knowing.
Sometimes I want to murder time,
Sometimes when my hearts aching,
But mostly I just stroll along,
The path that he is taking.

20. Mike Heron ~ THE HEDGEHOGS SONG (1967)

LISTEN

Im not the kind to complain


That I never had a girl to love.
Many a fine girl I tried hard to
know,
But I think I never tried enough.
Sitting one day by myself,
And Im thinking, What could be
wrong?
When this funny little hedgehog
comes running up to me,
And it starts up to sing me this
song.
Oh, you know all the words, and you sung all the notes,
But you never quite learned the song, she sang.
I can tell by the sadness in your eyes,
That you never quite learned the song.
Every day when the sun goes down,
And the evening is so very still,
Many a fine girl Ive held in my arms,
And I hope theres many more that I will,
But just when everything is going fine,
And absolutely nothing is wrong,
This funny little hedgehogs always around
And every time he wants to sing me this song.
Oh, you know all the words, and you sung all the notes,
But you never quite learned the song, she sang.
I can tell by the sadness in your eyes,
That you never quite learned the song.
One day when the moon was full I thought I might settle down,
Found myself a pretty little girl,
And I stopped all my running around;
But just when the preacher come along,
And hes just gonna pop on the ring,
This funny little hedgehog comes running down the aisle,
And I dont have to tell you what he did sing.
Oh, you know all the words, and you sung all the notes,

But you never quite learned the song, she sang.


I can tell by the sadness in your eyes,
That you never quite learned the song.
Im not the kind to complain
That I never had a girl to love;
Many fine girls Ive tried hard to know,
But I think I never tried enough.
But now Ill be looking all my days,
And it isnt just me I got to please,
Theres this funny little hedgehog
Whos always around,
And the only words he ever sings to me are these.
Oh, you know all the words and you sung all the notes,
But you never quite learned the song, she sang.
I can tell by the sadness in your eyes,
That you never quite learned the song.
DIRECTOR PETER NEAL went into this project without
a plan or a script, and allowed the music and the
ISB to speak for themselves in the 80 minute
documentary. The film includes concert footage
with only Robin and Mike performing and the
results are worthwhile (see Robin Williamson play
harmonica and tin whistle simultaneously on
`Mercy I cry city). Theres also a poetry reading,
and songs filmed in the studio with two other key
band members, Rose and Licorice. Theres an
interview section, and, strangest of all, a fable
created for the film with homemade costumes and
props: The pirate and the crystal ball. The film
features the ISB and the dance troupe Stone
Monkey, with performances by Malcolm le Maistre
and one Rakis (as the Pirate King), both of whom danced in the ISBs financially
disastrous masterpiece, the pantomime U. In an interview, Peter Neal talks about
why he likes the String Band and his approach to their music and wonders why they
were not more commercially successful at the time, given that their music has
endured well. This film was made in the late 1960s, and suffers from the woolly
dreaminess of the times, but it may provide a clearer sense of these musicians and
their work than a more carefully focused documentary might have done.

Be Glad for the Song has no Ending: The Incredible String Band (1970) DVD