Saturday, December 26, 2015

68. Alan Hull - Pipedream

Here I am, smoking from a pipe, looking helpless and unable to control my own addiction.  This will go on long after the candle burned, just as Elton John wrote of Marilyn Monroe in Candle
in the Wind. This is "explained" in the "treachery of images" on another version of the original image at left after the whole thing was flipped.

A version of (Rene Magritte's) The Key to Dreams appeared on the front cover of John Berger's Ways of Seeing (1972). According to Berger, it demonstrates that there is an "always present gap
between words and seeing". This is the message that countless conceptual artists have taken from Magritte's work. Yet it is far from clear this is what Magritte meant. The main inference we
can draw is that dreams are meaningless, a random sequence of unfettered images and words to which there is no key. We can interpret This Is Not a Pipe in a similar way, for pipe tobacco is
an addictive, perception-altering drug that inspires reverie.

The Treachery of Images, Rene Magritte, Oil on Canvas (1928-9). Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

That is very much how the pipe is treated in The Philosopher's Lamp (1936), a grotesque self-portrait in which Magritte's nose is distended like an elephant's trunk and flops down into the
bowl of the pipe he is smoking, as if to suggest the depths of his own addiction. He looks at us sidelong, sadly, well aware how pathetic and impotent he looks. A worm-like candle  burns
limply on a console table before him.  Unlike the surrealists, Magritte is a reluctant dreamer. He wants to stay wide awake and in control. He wants reality and reason to prevail, and for
affinities to be found between objects: he was an admirer of Goethe's novel Elective Affinities. A yearning for simple truths lies at the heart of his prosaic, deliberate painting style. The
creative tension in his work stems from his chronic inability to keep a lid on himself and the world. James Hall

The Philosopher's Lamp, Rene Magritte Oil on Canvass (1936). Private Collection.

The Philosopher's Lamp is on the cover of Pipedream by Alan Hull.

Album produced by Mickey Sweeny & Alan Hull. Charisma (UK), Elektra (US) 1973.

With half of Lindisfarne having scampered  off to form Jack The Lad,  Alan Hull's first solo venture,  recorded with cohorts Ray Jackson and Kenny Craddock,  was first released in 1973.
Reissued to mark the tenth  anniversary of Hull's death,  Pipedream is by far his most  self-assured work:  the playing and  production being less folk-driven than  on Lindisfarne's classic
early albums.  Most of the tracks deal with real-life situations, around themes that  permeated much of Hull's writing over the years -booze, relationships, politics - and this gives them
an earthy colour.  "Breakfast", a morning-after tale of waking up with your mistress, kicks off the album with an energetic humour. The similarly comic "Country Gentleman's Wife" was
inspired by the posh housewives he met back in the 60s, as he cleaned windows in one of Newcastle's richer quarters. The story, he once explained, is one that could have happened, but

Hull was a conscious voice for the underdog and the working man and woman. "Money Game" and "Song For A Windmill" are paradigmatic of his peculiarly northern English take on the
protest song:  caustic fables of mill owners and brass in pocket. "Drug Song", which became a staple in Hull's live set until his death in 1995, was one of his personal favourites and one
he considered (rightly) to be among his best. Although Hull admitted that it was written under the influence, it's neither pro nor anti drugs. The beautifully cracked and broken "I Hate
To See You Cry", which closed the original album, is now followed by some B-sides and tracks from a 1974 BBC session. "Dan The Plan" and "One More Bottle Of Wine" both surfaced on
Hull's second solo set, Squire. After Pipedream, Hull never again articulated such pathos and passion. Ron Webb

(A) Breakfast - Justanothersadsong - Money Game - STD 0632 - United States of Mind - Country Gentleman's Wife

(B) Numbers (Travelling Band) - For the Bairns - Drug Song - Song for a Windmill - Blue Murder - I Hate to See You Cry

"Drug Song" music and images from Barnestoneworth Town on YouTube.