This is not the original cover, but my version of it. I was fascinated by this record from the beginning – and the cover played a big part in that. Now such a record cover is subject to copyright, so I improvised and used one of my pictures to replace the original.
At the cutting edge of time
It was autumn, and it was 1969, and I was on the train from Leverkusen to Kiel. I had studied law in Bonn for two semesters with moderate success. I began to suspect that there had been a misunderstanding about the subject and its goals right from the start. Today I would describe it like this: It is not about the absolute demand for justice, but about the law as a guarantor for peaceful coexistence, about the reflection and practice of a set of rules that evolves with the people and struggles to find solutions and make decisions that are in principle acceptable to both sides when the different interests of individuals or organisations clash. Only, it was not yet so clear to me at that time, and I had the hope in my luggage that I could press the reset button at another place, at another university, and at a second attempt to find happiness with my choice of study. So I was in good spirits. It was the beginning of October, the sun was shining during the whole trip, and behind Hamburg it became very relaxed in the compartments. In Lübeck the last passengers had left my compartment, I was alone and had plenty of room. My eyes fell on my luggage and I could calmly realize that everything was still there. I put my feet up, picked up my notepad and wrote down some lines that came to my mind.
Above me the old suitcase, with the textiles, the bedclothes, the towels and other stuff made strange, almost squeaking noises. In its large belly lay evenly distributed and padded a few cutlery, plates and cups, as well as some kitchen utensils, like a can opener and quite tricky, some glasses from the INGRID collection, which was considered chic at that time, and which I had received for Christmas one year before. Next to it was my sports bag with my sports equipment and a few books, among them the “Schicksalsbuch” (I’ll come back to this at another time) “Keiner Weiß Mehr” by Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, a big shopping bag with my records and last but not least my dual record player, whose speakers were designed to fit on the record player as a lid at the same time, thus making it a whole. The body was equipped with a handle, so it could be carried quite well. Arrived in Kiel I shouldered and grabbed my belongings and left the station. When I stepped out onto the station forecourt it seemed to smell of sea and harbour and some screeching seagulls did the rest to put me in an almost euphoric state of expectation. Although I had landed in a foreign country, it seemed to me that I was exactly where I wanted to go.
My rented room in a larger apartment building on the Sophienblatt, as I had noted, was only about 800 meters away from the train station and I set off. The previous tenant, also a student, wanted to expect me in the room at this time and we wanted to go to the landlord and take care of the formalities, a middleman from Lüneburg had arranged this for me.
The luggage made me understand for the first time what a Passion Path is. But also that it is possible to accept a path of suffering when it is moving towards a goal. Surprisingly, I did not have the feeling of being particularly noticed by the other passers-by, even after I had already started to sweat a lot. I set foot after foot, and discovered a predisposition to the Stoic in me. When I reached my destination, I noticed that my room was on the third floor. It was really only one room, but it had direct access to the hallway, with the toilet half a floor higher and also accessible from the staircase.
The whole staircase seemed to be powdered with white dust, obviously construction was going on here, but otherwise it seemed solid. Arriving at the room I knocked briefly and tried to enter, but the door was locked. I repeated the process, knocked a little more energetically, but the door did not open. That’s a good start, I thought. Then I heard a noise behind the door. Was there a cat, or was there…? I put my ear to the door and then I heard it, at first indefinable human sounds and an even rhythmic groaning and squeaking of the bed frame. It was 1969, and there were obviously two people on the cutting edge of time. Well, I needed some patience, but the situation was not hopeless. So I sat down on the stairs and waited for the end of the siesta. That came relatively soon, the key was turned in the lock, the door opened and I was allowed to enter.
The bedclothes had already been rolled into a bundle, my connection man shook my hand and introduced himself as Gerald, while his lover stood in front of the sink with the mirror and brushed her hair. She left the apartment a short time later, gave the room and us a fleeting smile with a quick glance back and had disappeared, only the first steps on the way down still reached our ears. The remaining steps were absorbed by the noises coming up from the busy street. Apparently the front door behind me had only half closed when I came in. My counterpart, it seemed, was satisfied with himself and turned to me with a kind of benevolence. His eyes were streaking over me and my belongings and he said: Oh, you brought your LPs. There are quite a few. Well, over forty of them already, I replied, now a little proud on my part. May I, he asked, and approached my bag, which I had left at the large desk, one of the few pieces of furniture in the room. I knew this charm, which could emanate from a pile of records, and granted him generous access. He took the pile to the chair on which he had been sitting and began to inspect record after record. It quickly became clear that my choice required a certain respect from him. Jimi Hendrix, Procol Harum, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues, yes Nights In White Satin was great, we immediately agreed, The Kinks were there too, and then he discovered them, the new record by Fleetwood Mac. Then Play On. It was the last one I bought before I left. I’d heard it a couple of times before. I liked it. I really liked it the more I heard it. Let’s take a listen, he asked cautiously. My record player was ready to go in no time and we heard the first sounds of “Coming Your Way”, the two chords of the two electric guitars involved, one on the left side, the other on the right side, the rolling Tom Tom beats that fall into the chords and the guitars, who introduce the melodic motive of the song and immediately start to go their own ways, embrace each other and separate again … Have you ever had a joint … Next time I’ll bring a piece of shit … It was the year 1969. it was autumn, we were listening to Fleetwood Mac and we were obviously on top of the world.
After that we did the thing with my lease, and he showed me the way to the city centre, we entered the biggest record store in Kiel, as he explained to me when we stepped in, and saw an employee taking a stack of new LPs out of a box. It was Led Zeppelin II. Shortly after that the LP ran over the shop’s equipment, I knew and loved the first Led Zeppelin. But what I heard there confused me. So many sound effects, so many breaks and tempo changes. It took me three days to decide, then I bought it. I had come to study, but almost every day there was new music to discover. It was autumn 1969, my present shone in bright colours, but my future lay in the fog of unimaginability. I was on top of the world.
About the Record
It was the time when everything seemed possible and many things became possible. The band Fleetwood Mac had become the figurehead of the British blues boom of the late sixties with their first two albums. Many consider their first LP with the successful title photo, which soon earned the actually untitled LP the nickname “Dog & Dustbin” in fan circles, to be the best English blues record anyway. Fleetwood Mac had played in an authentic style, influenced by the two guitarists Jeremy Spencer, who adored Elmore James and skillfully but unoriginally emulated his slide guitar playing, and by the actual bandleader Peter Green, who emulated Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and B.B. and Freddie King, among others. The debut was followed by a good but largely formulaic rerun of the first release. It contained so well no recognizable hints to what should follow with the third LP. But the psychedelic drugs also reached the blues scene and especially Peter Green started to look for new musical shores. The blues remained his fuel, but he ignored his established formats. First hints were given by the singles of the band. With “Albatros”, an instrumental title, the musical concept slowed down, a third guitarist joined the band with Danny Kirwan, who favoured a dreamlike, floating variation of the blues and seemed to be a catalyst for Peter Green, whose playing celebrated the biggest differences in dynamics, but whose sound was rather plaintive and angry. This triumvirate then set about recording a new longplayer during the months that this line-up has lasted. The next single, “Man Of The World”, puts the brakes on even more, to sing about sadness and resignation in sumptuous sounds. The resulting longplayer, “Then Play On” (1969), continues this exploration, from folk-like transparent acoustics to steaming jam sessions in which guitarists alternate to improvisational climaxes, from stylistically confident, yet inspired recourse to classical blues variants and what will soon be called rock only. What emerges from the first listening is a WOW album, a masterpiece, which in this remastered version is finally released in the historically correct form, because originally the hit single “Oh Well”, released at the same time, had not been integrated into the original title sequence. Therefore it appears on this CD consequently in an appendix, nowadays called bonus tracks. Here also still the successful single “The Green Manalishi” with its B-side appears. All in all a music-historically epochal song collection, and finally one of the best LPs of all times in an appropriate correct version.
PS. If you want to get a deep insight into this creative upheaval of the band, you can do so by listening to the two double cds “The Vaudeville Years 1968-1970” and “Showbiz Blues 1968-1970”, which are unfortunately out of print and only appear now and then on the usual sales platforms. Here you can find many unreleased songs or unknown versions of well-known titles, as well as demos and live recordings in different quality. A special praise deserves the generous editing practice, which takes the liberty of reproducing the whole process of a jam. It documents the first still searching notes, the emergence of the rhythm, the increase of the drive, the soloists’ flights of fancy and their sometimes soft landing, sometimes the final phase of the jam, staggering into the end in a weakened state. The hotspot are the two Madge sessions, which appeared on the later LP only as excerpts and are reproduced here in full length, a glimpse into electric guitar heaven.