That meeting of beautiful and cursed | Culture

That meeting of beautiful and cursed | Culture


There are discs that look like shooting stars: they stand out briefly and disappear before we can appraise them, fit them into any possible canon. It happened with June 1, 1974,a live conceived by Island Records, recorded on that date at the London Rainbow Theater and published a month later. It was well received but faded after the punk earthquake. Oblivion must have been general; is now reissued on a Barcelona label, Elemental Music.

It should be recognized that it is a rare artifact. Theoretically, it meant the reappearance in the United Kingdom of the donjuán of sound of Canterbury, Kevin Ayers (1944-2013), after one of his long vacations in the south of France. The role of telonera fell to Nico (1938-1988), another lover of the Mediterranean sun. In turn, Nico called his partner from Velvet Underground, John Cale. Who decided to invite the fashionable brainiac, Brian Eno Two former Ayers partners also signed up: Mike Oldfield, already put into orbit by Tubular Bells, and Robert Wyatt, drummer in Soft Machine, tetraplegic since his accident in 1973.

Actually, we owe the album to Richard Williams. Featured music journalist in Melody Maker (and, later, sports in The Guardian), in 1973 he was hired as a scout on Island. Without much fortune: their signings did not sell and the company reserved its resources for Bob Marley. As the director, Chris Blackwell, preferred the warmth of Jamaica to the rigors of London, Williams took advantage of his absence to record the Show of the Rainbow and give a push to their artists

Williams was old enough to remember the time of the revues, Exciting tours where half a dozen groups played their hits, nothing more. The drawback: their artists were cult figures, without real hits. Only Oldfield had entered the lists. And, like Wyatt, he recorded for the competition, Virgin Records. Another issue was whether the headliner was on the job. Ayers embodied a golden bohemia that yearned to work the least and enjoy the most. He made an effort to assemble an effective band, with the flowing guitar of Ollie Halsall (1949-1992) in the foreground. But he forgot that vulgar saying of the pot: the night before the concert, he wound up with Cynthia Wells, wife of John Cale. Accidents of free love, they will tell me, although it was not the first time that the angelic Ayers gave those surprises to his friends.

Cover of the album 'June, 1, 1974'.
Cover of the album 'June, 1, 1974'.

The resulting tension is palpable in the agonizing interpretation of Cale. Eno showed that he did not have the size of a vocalist, although he did organize a maelstrom of abrasive sounds. Nico is represented by his lugubrious version of The End, of Jim Morrison (could be worse: he also sang a Nazi hymn). Oblivious to so many turbulences, Ayers shines in his five radiant themes, finely wrapped by Halsall and, in wave blues, by an Oldfield that seems to invoke the sublime Peter Green of Albatross.We did not know but it would be a high point in his career: the following year, he would attempt the assault on pop stardom with the support of Elton John. He did not sneak

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