nicholas (nick) hamnett
I do like to collect the Art that is vinyl! Even better when it's hand made with so much care and dedication, and, when it's limited. I'm loving this biker-gang album.Even (and against my usual judgement) the patriotically titled "This Land of Freedom."
There's a lot I truly love about America, but like much of the rest of the world, I do sometimes find a full-on US Patriotic Song a tad offensive. If not for the gushing sentimentality, then for the presumption that the US somehow invented democracy and are its only shining example.I hope Americans will forgive me for that observation, non the less, it is how many folk out here in the wide world see it.
When I was in the States, it did feel like you could barely breathe, or sit on a blade of grass in a city, without being moved on by the cops - kids at Disney Land included. NO Jaywalking. NO sitting on the grass. NO setting up a little fire or barbecue; and definately NO drinking in parks, nor on the streets neither - and certainly NOT without a brown bag to cover up a bottle of what we all know we all like to drink anyway! - and all that, you can happily do in my neck of the European woods, and people call you by your proper name to boot.
The cops who moved my Euro-pals and I along, would insist on calling me "Sherlock" when nomenclatures like "Kojak" or "Columbo" or even "Bad Lieutenant" didn't even enter my head! I suppose, therefore, blasting down the vast freeway there, on a chopper, or a Harley D; sun on your back, your beard blowing in a cooling wind - does seem a lot like freedom. Just don't get off!
"This Land of Freedom" is a very cool song though, and has a catchy keyboard riff, which is so indie sounding, it evokes memories the of The Coral's "In The Morning," which number it predates by nearly two decades. A Patriotic song, yes, but its sentiments are very much those of a counter-culture, and I do love my counter
-cultures.This probably explains the sixties garage-band vibe that generally infuses this album - and certainly nobody can have spent more time in a garage than the Warren Winters!
This patriot talk puts me in mind of a fondly remembered Geordie director mate, who on hearing the line: "This is OUR Independence Day!!" during the climax of the film of the same name, abrubtly got up from his seat, shouted "Oh, f**k off!" at the screen, and promptly left the cinema.I did similar on watching "Titanic" - it was either that, or throw up.
The track "Prove My Love" has more than a smattering of the Johnny Cash about it (there's another tick!) and "Crossbar Hotel," too, is pleasantly reminiscent of "Please Judge" and "Goodbye Sweet Dreams" on the brilliant "True Love Cast Out All Evil" by Roky Erikson with Okkervil River. One of the most poignant and under- appreciated albums of the last few years.
As for "Through The Years" - that is a stormer of a song for anyone with regrets.You just can't argue with the brutal honesty of a standout line like: "Your love for me made you so damned depressed!" A
sentiment that has its funky soul equivalent on an album by Mark IV: "You're that misery I need to bring back that joy that I miss."
This isn't the Camp Coffee of Americana Mumford & Sons would have you sipping at. It's no ersatz fake.This is the genuine Full Roast Bean. And I do like to slake my folk-rock thirst on albums by people who have actually lived it. "It" being that life outside of the box; or of their comfortable bedrooms, at the very least. And "it" may also include such as: not having one decent pair of shoes to your name, or the struggle to put bread on the table, or to even eat at all - never mind rise above your humble origins to actually achieve anything. In my opionion, if you've never done any of that, you've had it too easy.
It's just one reason I can't stomach coddled twelve year
olds like First Aid Kit, singing about the "tragedies" of a "hard" life via Townes Van Zandt! The Warren Winter's Band were a little more "earthy" than that, I think.The kind of people who knew the price of a cheese sandwich, and whose greased-up hands may even have stolen one (and more besides) in desperate times.That's fitting to the tenor of the album, anyway, so I will think so.
I've never had a motor bike.I've never even had a car.Weird, I know. But my life has been so peripatetic I'd have only had to sell those chunks of metal moving on again, and I was never rich enough to keep replacing such costly objects as I did many times over with less expensive possessions.(I do know I made at least one Bosnian refugee neighbour in Germany very happy when I left him a huge TV and a set of dumbbells. And there's that Irish guy in London with my books!)
My encounters with biker culture have been few. The time I was running like crazy across a field, one dark night of the countryside, springs to mind.A passing biker-gang had spotted my friends and I, ambling innocently along the roadside, and decided to turn their bikes around to go rough up this unexpected prey.
Panting breathlessly, we legged it over the marrows, and hid low for what seemed an eternity. Eventually the bike lamps searching out across the field did fade and we were free to go home unmolested.
The other memorable one
was the tough Elvis-
adoring friend of my teens having his head smashed in by a biker swinging a belt buckle - slip a belt off your waiste: a handy weapon of choice for biker and rocker alike!
Apparently, this mountain of a bike man thought my friend had insulted "The King" (he was, quite literally, a huge fan himself) and so he came down on my friend, with the fury of his buckle and the words: "What did tha' say abaat Elvis?!" Not quite Samuel L Jackson delivering
retribution, I agree. But no less effective.My
pal, himself, always did have "The Will To Fight," but I can tell you, he picked the wrong fight that time.
For a few years of my youth I was a fan of the Speedway.
Every Thursday, my mates and I would go to the local stadium to watch our high flying team, The Tigers challenge for the cup.We never paid.Rather, we'd pull each other up and over the 10 foot high perimeter wall, then scurry through the scrub of the surrounding field and slip in; unnoticed, under a giant advertising hoarding.We'd spend our entrance fee on B & H, or Black Cat No 9 cigarettes, then head off to the riders' enclosure to get high on those intoxicating fumes - the buzz of the bike engines, mixed with the smell of the ciggy smoke and coffee.It
was a better way to spend an evening than breaking into cars, or fighting amongst ourselves.I can still name most of that team now (Reg Wilson, Dougie Wyer...where are you now?).They were, you might say, our biker-gang heroes back then.
Speedway aside, If I did ever glance through a biker mag - at the dentist's maybe - I'd have been less impressed by the bikes, than by the politically incorrect
"biker women" laying provocatively across the handlebars. Not that I haven't wanted a bike at one time or another, just as I used to dream of the fancy sports car I'd be driving when I finally "made it." But I am steady enough now, on two legs, and thoughts of this, my contribution to cleaner- greener air, do console me.
Though the album was laid down in the early 80's, it has much more of the previous two decades about it, and that, in my book, is a definate plus.It's salty, it's world-weary, it's tough and tender as biker's own leather; and it is worth ever penny (or nickel, as you prefer) and that's coming from someone who learnt to count the hard way.My
advice is to go full throttle down the digital highway to Bandcamp and pick this beauty up before it's too late.
The name, Edward
Winterhalder ("Warren Winter") meant nothing to me before I spotted this album.Unless he had starred in "Easy Rider" with Fonda and Nicholson, or made an appearance in that gritty little cult book "Chopper" (maybe he did?) - read in my later school years - I wouldn't have known the first thing about him.
Now that I do know who Winterhalder is - a folk-rock singer, fronting a band of ready outlaws who can play a bit; a man who knows a bit about bikes! I'm hoping, if I have to move on again, I can take his "Crossbar Hotel" with me.My
best buy in months, and it's a keeper, which is just great for this...I almost said, "Patriot!"