Video Fridays: The Search For “Presence of the Lord”

blind-faith
Blind Faith

The strangest thing happened to me last night.

A fragment of a song that I hadn’t listened to in years popped into my head in the early evening, a very small fragment, a simple descending chord progression…

C  F/C  Em/B  Dm/A  C

…that opens the song and repeats as a kind of theme throughout.

The strange thing: I knew exactly what song this fragment was from — Presence of the Lord, by Blind Faith — I’d heard it many, many times and have loved it, I’d known all of the lyrics, all of the particulars of the arrangement — the gorgeous, pining vocals and Hammond B-3 organ of Steve Winwood, the swirling guitar work of Eric Clapton, the expressive drums of Ginger Baker that threatened to deliver thunder like Thor at any moment, and the steady bass of Ric Grech — but as this fragment popped into my head, inexplicably, I could not conjure up anything else from the song, and…

…it nearly drove me crazy!!!

Part of the problem stems from the fact that this fragment — these few descending chords — is a common musical element used in many songs, and every time I tried to pry the rest of Presence of the Lord from some mysterious, dimly-lit place in my brain, I stumbled upon other songs, but not the one I was looking for.

Despite my best efforts, I could not find the opening lyrics — “I have finally found a way to live, just like I never could before…” — perhaps because the lyric describes the finding of something, the exact opposite of what was happening to me.

I did have a memory that there was a dramatic instrumental bridge in the song, with a corresponding tempo change, but I couldn’t quite make it out.

I thought if I could only recall one other fragment — a slice of that bridge, a snippet of melody from a verse or chorus, some riff or phrase from Clapton’s epic solo — then I could follow it like a breadcrumb left behind by Hansel and find my way back home (Blind Faith fans will know that the pun here is intended) to the rest of the song.

But no, I could find nothing, and it tortured me.

At 2:00 AM, I awoke for some reason and immediately heard the presence of the Presence of the Lord, and my brain set to work straight away, continuing the search for the rest of the song, consequently preventing me from falling back to sleep for nearly two hours … on a work night!

Finally, over breakfast, I gave up, opened YouTube on my iPhone, searched for the song, found it, played it, and put myself out of my misery.

And, oh what a song to relieve misery!

I chose to listen to the version of Presence from the 1969 Concert in Hyde Park (video below), because, though I am by no means a religious man, if the Lord does happen to be real, his/hers/its presence is most certainly revealed in the tone of Eric Clapton’s Fender Telecaster guitar in that performance.

Interestingly, Presence of the Lord, and this experience I had with it, are symbolic — in a number of ways — of the meteoric history of Blind Faith, centered around the theme of brevity:

  • I could only remember a simple 5-chord instrumental sequence from a 4:5o-long song.
  • Trying to remember the song left me with too little sleep.
  • The song only has, essentially, one verse and one chorus, repeated three times respectively.
  • Blind Faith formed, recorded their one and only album which went to the top of the charts, toured Europe and the U.S., and disbanded … ALL between January and October of 1969.
  • The eponymous album contained only 6 songs, for a total running time of 42:12, average in those days, but all you have to do is subtract one song, the 15:20-long cut titled Do What You Like, and what remains would be an EP by today’s standards.
  • The very fact that Blind Faith had so few songs on their album was a contributing factor to their demise. Eric Clapton had quit his previous band, Cream, because he was tired of playing their songs and the baggage that came with being in that band, and yet, when Blind Faith toured, since there were so few Blind Faith songs, the band filled out their concerts with songs by Cream and Steve Winwood’s former band, Traffic. By the end of their U.S. tour, Clapton had had enough and moved on.
  • The first rehearsals of what would become Blind Faith, with Winwood, and Clapton & Ginger Baker, both from Cream, occurred just 9 weeks after Cream disbanded, despite Clapton’s promise to Cream bassist Jack Bruce that if any of the three members played again together all three would be involved.
  • The version of Presence in the video below, was performed before their album was even released, and Clapton was very unhappy with the concert, feeling that the band had not had enough time to rehearse.

So, ironically, all this talk of brevity and it’s taken me this long to get to what put the “video” in this installment of Video Fridays.

Enjoy the music, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Jeff Tweedy & Stephen Colbert

tweedy-colbertAfter my depressing post this morning, I thought I’d lighten things up, WAY up, with this sweet clip from last night’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for this week’s Video Fridays installment.

I’ve been a HUGE fan of Jeff Tweedy, since his days in Uncle Tupelo, through his over 20 years in Wilco, and through his various side projects, which I’ve mentioned in multiple posts over the years here at Fish & Bicycles, and one of the many things that I like about him is that his soft, vulnerable side has been a major recurring element in his music, making him and his music eminently relatable.

Even though these are two grown men in this video clip, I couldn’t help thinking back to when I used to read stories and sing to my son, now 18-years old, at bedtime.

Having an 18-year old is a grieving process, their time living at home with you is winding down, nest departure is inevitable and nearing day by day. We may want them to stay until it’s two grown men doing bedtime together, but that’s just not the way the world works.

Happy Weekend, everyone.

Video Fridays: R.I.P. Paul Kantner

Airplane's Paul Kantner At Altamont

Wow, January’s been one helluva month for deaths of musicians and entertainers that I’ve admired, so much so that I haven’t been able to keep up and post my reactions.

I managed to mark the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, but then came Glenn Frey of the The Eagles (not someone I was a big fan of, but a ubiquitous figure who inspired a lot of people to listen to and make music); the lovable actor Abe Vigoda (this time, for sure), cuz face it, who didn’t love him as Fish?; and now, sadly…

Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane/Starship fame.

Kanter, and Jefferson Airplane more generally, were — along with other favorites of mine, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and others — part of the extraordinary late 1960s San Francisco music scene, a scene that produced music of incredibly raw, wild, psychedelic power, thoroughly reflective of the explosive counterculture of the period.

Kanter was an archetypal rhythm guitarist, eschewing the spotlight that lead guitar players naturally attract in favor of playing an essential supportive role. Indeed he, along with a handful of other players, were my inspiration for becoming a rhythm guitarist myself.

One of the first vinyl LP records that I ever owned was the 1970 compilation, with its wonderfully ironic title, The Worst of the Jefferson Airplane, given to me in the mid 1970s by a cousin determined to rescue me from Top 40 music.

Though I listened to the album when I got it, the rescue ended up taking a few years. Eventually, after revisiting the record several years later, it was obvious just how fantastic the music was and how much better it was, by magnitudes, in comparison to most of what was popular at that time.

So, thanks, Paul Kantner, for all of the amazing music, for inspiring me as a musician, and for singing about revolution, still relevant to me today, as the candidate I’m supporting for President of the United States is calling for a non-violent political revolution.

Video Fridays: David Bowie

david-bowieSince I learned of David Bowie‘s passing earlier this week, besides writing an obituary post for him, I’ve been, naturally, listening to a lot of his music.

I started with and keep coming back to his last album, Blackstar, released just a few days before he died.

After my first time through the album, an admittedly less than focused listen, I didn’t quite know what to make of it, or whether or not I liked it much.

Some music, when I first hear it, I love it instantly, but some, arguably the best music, demands that you listen more closely, repeatedly, so as to unlock its secrets.

Now, having given Blackstar the time it deserves, I can honestly say that it is extraordinary; alternately haunting and beautiful and mostly both at the same time, especially when you consider that Bowie was dying when he made it and is gone now.

Additionally, songs like ‘Tis A Pity She’s A Whore and Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) bring to mind Bowie’s edgier side, replete with raw, uncensored scenes from the darker corners of life.

Since it came out, I’d heard about the following selection for this week’s Video Fridays installment, the video for the Blackstar track Lazarus, I heard it was rather creepy, but I was hesitant to watch it, because I tend to avoid creepy things.

Anyway, now I have watched it, and it has shaken me, as of course it was intended to, as of course it should. And yet, it’s achingly moving and beautiful.

It is classic Bowie. Brave and unique.

Video Fridays: Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real, Keeping It Real

lukas-nelsonWillie Nelson‘s son, Lukas, and his band, Promise Of The Real, have been popping up on my music radar off and on for a few years.

As a longtime admirer of his dad, admittedly his pedigree is a considerable draw for me, but what has stood out every time I’ve come across some news and video clips of Lukas in action is that he is an outstanding artist in his own right, not simply going Country and following in his father’s footsteps, but embracing the electric guitar and heyday Rock & Roll of the late 1960s through the 1970s, and carving out his own path and sound.

Also, if you take some time to browse YouTube, you’ll find that he has impeccable taste in terms of the covers of other artists that he has done over time, paying respect and homage to his elders, to those who blazed the heyday Rock & Roll trail. (Another way Lukas honored his Rock & Roll forebears: this past year he took an extended break from working on his own music to record an album with Neil Young, called The Monsanto Years, and then toured as Neil’s backing band to support the album.)

Regrettably, due to the holidays and all that, it’s been nearly a month since my last Video Fridays installment, so let’s get 2016 started with two from Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real.

The first is his latest, the lead single and title track, Something Real, from what will be his 3rd studio LP, due out March 11th. It is a FANTASTIC early-to-mid 1970s-esque romp, a true promise that real Rock & Roll music is alive and well.

The second, a very tasteful and well-done cover of the Neil Young (mentioned above) classic Cowgirl In The Sand.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Guinea Pigs, Because Friday

WARNING_CUTE_PREHey folks, I’ve scoured the interwebs today looking for a video for today’s Video Fridays installment, and I couldn’t find anything better than this.

Ironically, it’s my shortest ever Video Fridays installment, but when you’ve got guinea pigs acting this painfully cute, you have to think of the consequences of this level of cuteness lasting more than 31 seconds.

Could anyone really withstand any more of this without rushing out and finding a guinea pig and taking one home?

And if that happens in numbers that I suspect it would, pet stores could very well find themselves completely wiped out of guinea pig inventory during holiday season.

So, here it is, 31 seconds of cuteness.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Mountaineering, Monty Python & My Son The Rock Climber

jclimbing2It’s been WAY too long since I wrote about My Son The Rock Climber!

That’s him six years ago, age 12, in the lede photo here, climbing on the wall we built for him in his bedroom. By the time this photo was taken, he’d been climbing for about six years, he’d joined a local youth climbing team six months earlier, and a year later he qualified for the national championships!

Well, while My Son The Rock Climber, now age 18, no longer competes, he still climbs and is AMAZING!!!, he works as a route setter at a local climbing gym, and when he climbs he looks like this:

J-SBC

In some ways, not much has changed. In other ways, EVERYTHING seems to have changed.

Anyway, last night he and I went together to the 10th Annual Reel Rock Film Festival, a collection of short films about rock climbing and mountaineering. It was inspiring for him, but it was terrifying for me.

See, while I’ve been super supportive of My Son The Rock Climber’s climbing for years, and while I know that the vast majority of climbers are hyper-safety-conscious, the Reel Rock films are chock full of some of the most intense, dangerous climbing you can imagine, and the thought of My Son The Rock Climber somewhere like, let’s say, 2,000 feet up the face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, fills me with anxiety and dread.

For now, he’s solely interested in the relatively safe form of climbing known as bouldering, consisting of difficult, technical routes typically no more than 20 feet high.

But last night he expressed an interest in ice climbing, a component of mountaineering, and the film that focused on mountaineering, A Line Across The Sky, the most terrifying of the evening, was about two climbers who climbed this:

fitz

That’s Fitz Roy in Patagonia, Argentina, and the two climbers were and thankfully still are Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold.

For Video Fridays, then, I thought I’d spread the terror around a bit by posting the trailer for A Line Across The Sky, encouraging you to seek out and see the whole film, which, beside being terrifying, is absolutely gorgeous to look at and an inspiring story of human dedication, perseverance, and achievement.

Following that, I’ll share what I turned to for relief from the anxiety at the thought of My Son The Climber ever doing anything remotely that dangerous.

At least one of the members of Monty Python had to have been a mountaineering enthusiast, because mountain climbing featured prominently in three different skits from their Flying Circus days, and the technical terms peppered throughout make it clear that they knew what they were talking about.

Here now, then, the serious and not-so-serious side of a very dangerous activity.

Happy Weekend, everyone!