Friday, 17 June 2011

Jake Holmes - The Above Ground Sound (1967)

Some day's when the rain is pouring down, the feelings of emptiness fill the soul, the sadness of other people's ways hurt you and cause you pain, there seems to be no-one else on the planet who seems to understand what is going down in the dark recesses inside your head. However there are, on these strange and desperate days the odd album which seems to fit that very moment and seems to alleviate the pain and make things a little less worse than it is.... I guess you can call these albums 'Rainy Day Albums'.

Today after being asked if I liked Led Zeppelin, it got me thinking about the musician I am writing about in today's blog-post; Jake Holmes. 

Jake Holmes is a really cool singer-songwriter who came from the Greenwich Village Folk scene during the mid to late 60s.

In response to the question of if I liked Led Zeppelin, I did answer NO!!! I have never understood Led Zeppelin and what they were about and I think what they did was all too grandiose, over-the-top and up its own arse for my own liking, plus I feel their songs have no real emotional basis and don't impress  me at all aside from the fact that they may be good from a technical standpoint. I also hold a huge disdain towards Led Zeppelin purely as they stole 'Dazed and Confused' from the aforementioned Jake Holmes and claimed it to be their own??? they didn't originally give Holmes any credit and took the song and claimed it was written by them.... For that alone I kind of hate them, how low can you get?? 

Jake Holmes released two LP's during the 60s, 'The Above Ground Sound' (1967) and 'A Letter to Katherine December' (1968) both of which at the time received no critical or public acclaim, in fact both albums were totally ignored and faded into obscurity as soon as they were released, which I guess is why philistines like Jimmy Page took songs from it and claimed it as his own.

Jake Holmes' song-writing greatly influences me, I guess how it does so, is because his songs are very personal to him and his life.

Jake Holmes also suffered with depression, I can relate to this, as I do too, Holmes' mental state can be heard throughout in the lyrics and feel within his songs on both of his albums, I really enjoy that fragility and tenderness in Jake Holmes, it is most apparent on his debut long-player, his second long-player is similar to Syd Barrett's albums in that it makes for difficult listening as you are actually hearing the soul of a man, breaking down slightly.

I can really relate to his mind-set and can understand where he is/was coming from, often I find that my best friends come from my record and book collection (sad hey?) , Jake Holmes is one of those friends who seems to be kindred to me and who only comes to hang out with me every so often when my mind and soul need his songs and words, I have found, it always seems to be raining when we meet each other??

There is a lot of pain in 'The Above Ground Sound' album, you can hear it all throughout... there is a lot of pain inside of me also and I guess this album helps me through a great deal of things, especially on day's like this when the sky is grey and the rain falls heavy to the ground.

'The Above Ground Sound' has ten great songs each with their own individual personalities, of these ten, one is the infamous 'Dazed and Confused'.

The LP sleeve has a real cool picture of Holmes, plus a bunch of fantastic and personal liner notes for each of the songs (I will put a few examples below in italics under the songs I choose to play)

I will now post a few videos/clips of songs which I really dig from the album and a short explanation why I like the songs.

LONELY  - "Explaining the lyric is fairly simple. When you spend time at anything you can grow to like it. People must have something to hold on to and if there is nothing, they hold on to nothing...."

The liner notes above pretty much say it all about this song.... I guess when I first heard this song, my mind flipped-out, mainly because the music is so mad, it is the sound of confusion in music, it is anger, it is frustration, it is sadness and it makes real sense to me, then to top it off you get a really killer lyric to end the song "I have a friend his name is lonely, he's always by my side, he borrows all my confidence and steals all my pride!!!"..... no other lyric can express manic depression as well as that, especially when it is sung by Jake Holmes in the most gut wrenching and venomous of manners.

 She Belonged To Me - "Almost everybody has owned a car they shouldn't have sold. A Ford '49, '53 Chevy, '55 Plymouth an occasional Crosley... I had a girl like that once."

This track is possibly the most upbeat track on the album, I really like it for it's cleverness, I like the fact the title is written in the past tense 'She BELONGED to me', it's rare for a song of this nature to be like that, I think it's pretty cool and a smart idea. I think I understand what Holmes is on about in this song, when you get a 'special' girl come into your life, you become spellbound, I guess this song is a magical ode to such girl's from the point of view from guy's like me and Jake Holmes.... I don't even know if that makes sense???? 

I also like the humour used in the lyricism throughout the song especially at the end.

Genuine Imitation Life - "I don't like talking about this song. It's an accident that took a long time to write. I wish I didn't feel that way about life"

This track is a magical piece of beatnik styled folk music, I love the pure poetry in this song, it's wonderful, the first time I listened to this song I cried, because it made so much sense to me, this track is a pioneering protest song against all the things in society I hate and despise. Jake Holmes puts to music one of the hardest things to complain about in this world and that is people and their faults. It's an amazing song... Listen out halfway through for the chord change which will make you feel very funny inside.... check out the venom sung in the lyric "People worship crosses, fingers crossed behind their back"... GENIUS.

Dazed and Confused - "This song is a combination of colors, a place I understand but cannot stay too long in. I get empty. I like it most because it makes sense by being unreasonable"

This is the song that Led Zeppelin had the cheek to claim as their own.... this version, the original is more raw and schizophrenic and that is why I much prefer this than the Wayne's World styled mockery which was the Led Zeppelin version.

Signs of Age - "Policeman, athletes and schoolteachers are all supposed to be older than me... they're not. Suddenly I'm not a child, I won't trade what I've got though"

This song is quite fantastic, I guess Jake Holmes was the same age as me when he wrote this, twenty-five and he is asking the same questions and having the same doubts... I think it is one of the few songs ever written which openly questions that weird age of the mid-twenties in such an honest way... it's kinda cool and a fitting ending to both the album and this blog post.

Enjoy the rain if you can?

Paul Messis

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