Sometimes, you just have to ask the hard question. The really hard question. If you had to pick out one recorded National Health song to be your proclaimed favourite, which one would it be?
To make it all nice and organized, I’ve created a helpful poll with the tracklists of their studio albums and the archive release Missing Pieces. There you can place your vote and you’re even allowed to re-vote and change your mind should it be necessary in the future.
There are so many good songs to choose from, The Bryden Two-Step (For Amphibians), The Collapso, Portrait of a Shrinking Man, Binoculars, Agrippa, Brujo, Clocks and Clouds .. But my vote now will go to the first National Health song I ever heard and still can’t get tired of, the epic Tenemos Roads, the band’s longest piece and opener to their debut album. The band sounds great and I just can’t get enough of Amanda Parsons voice .. and it’s a Dave Stewart composition and, when it comes to composing music, he’s the man.
Jimmy Hastings (brother of Pye) may be one of the most underrated musicians from the Canterbury scene. He was an “unofficial member” of several of our favourite bands – Caravan, Soft Machine, Hatfield and the North, National Health – often credited, but generally not an official member. Although he’s contributed saxophone and clarinet, it is the wonderful addition of his flute which I personally enjoy the most. I just love the sound of the flute and Jimmy’s phrasing is always wonderful. What beautiful melodies!
So, I thought it’s time to celebrate this wonderful musician and so I would like to ask all you Canterbury fans out there. What is your favourite Jimmy Hastings recorded solo performance?
Today is the birthday of Dirk Campbell and Dave Stewart who were both born on Dec. 30th, 1950, which means they are both 61 today.
Not only do they share birthdays. Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of the Canterbury scene will likely be aware that the two played together back in the days (when Dirk was known as Mont), creating the rock band Uriel together with Steve Hillage sometime after the three met in the City of London School, 1966. Uriel later turned into the formidable Egg which released 3 albums. Dirk and Dave also collaborated in early National Health. Since those days, they seem to have had continuing friendship and respect for eachother. I’ve read more than once Dave call Dirk a genius at composition and I’m sure I’ve also read an interview with Dirk where he claimed that Dave’s playing was the best thing about Egg.
Those days are more distant past now than ever (literally speaking), but the two are still musically active, if not collaborating at the moment. Dirk’s latest is an ambitious album called Music from a Walled Garden, released in 2009, a follow up to his Music from a Round Tower from 1996. Dave Stewart is still making sweet music with Barbara Gaskin with their latest release being the album Green and Blue, also from 2009. Both have also made music for television.
Today is the day to celebrate them both, so please share your favorite music/stories/whatever you like!
Although I have a feeling Mont has distanced himself more and more from his days in Egg, I hope he wouldn’t mind so much me celebrating his and Dave’s birthday with Egg’s “A Visit to Newport Hospital”, the opener track to the album The Polite Force. I thought it fitting as it’s quite brilliant and composition is credited to them both.
The Northettes were a vocal trio made up of Amanda Parsons, Barbara Gaskin and Ann Rosenthal. Although they are most famous for contributing to Hatfield and the North’s two studio albums, the first released in January 1974, the girls had sung together in 1971/72 in Dave Stewart & Chris Cutler led Ottawa Music Company which, sadly, left no recorded legacy. Between the Hatfields two albums, they also sang on Egg’s 1974 album The Civil Surface. Amanda also sang with the band Gilgamesh and, after the Hatfields broke up, went on to sing with the earlier line-ups of National Health and also appeared in Bruford while Barbara Gaskin (after coming back to England after a long trip to Asia) also sang in various musical projects like Red Roll On, Bruford and National Health.
The sound of The Northettes has been described as heavenly and angelic; voices that can lift the spirit and soothe the soul. Their harmonies certainly added new dimension to the music of the Hatfields. Their singing on top of the jazz-tinged progressive rock that the band played was unlike anything ever recorded before and still sounds fresh and unique today. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of hearing them, here’s Lobster in Cleavage Probe from Hatfield and the North’s debut, courtesty of Grooveshark.
Fans of the Northettes may wonder; what happened to them? Where are they now? Many will be familiar with Barbara Gaskin’s musical and romantic partnership with Dave Stewart which has lasted to this day, but the fates of Amanda Parsons and Ann Rosenthal are a bit more mysterious. In an interview with Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin on Progressive Ears, Dave was able to shed some light on the mystery.
PE:Whatever became of the other Northettes?
DS: After leaving National Health Amanda got a job in television and is now married with two grown-up children – she isn’t actively involved in music as far as I know. Ann Rosenthal sent us a nice message recently containing this update: “I live in rural Shropshire, work as a Business Analyst, keep chickens, am both a qualified gardener and management consultant (confused?) and am passionate about hill walking and climbing mountains. Love Annie.”
It seems neither Amanda or Ann continued their musical careers which makes me wonder if they’re aware of the way their musical contributions continue to touch the hearts and minds of people today, old fans and new. So, on the chance they might read this, I would like to say on behalf of myself, the site and the rest of the fans of Hatfield and the North whom I’m sure would agree with me when I write :
In 1978, founding member, keyboardist and composer Dave Stewart left the Canterbury supergroup National Health to play with Bruford. However, even though the skilled musicianship and experimental sounds of National Health found themselves in an increasingly hostile environment after the rise of punk, the band was invited to come and play on BBC’s TV Show Old Grey Whistle Test on January 9th 1979. Dave Stewart temporarily rejoined the band for this one-off show, the only televised performance in the band’s history.
The song they performed was Dave Stewart’s composition The Collapso from their brilliant second album Of Queues and Cures from 1978. Their performance did not go off without a hitch. A visibly drunk John Greaves has some trouble on bass which may also have been what causes Phil Miller to lose the melody on his guitar in one of the song’s more climactic moments, but even these problems are dwarfed by the awesomness of National Health playing one of their classics.
After watching this clip a few times, I noticed drummer Pip Pyle was wearing a long-sleeved white t-shirt with a parody Ford logo on it saying “Fraud”. Certainly, something like that should still exist and so I checked the internet and lo and behold, it certainly does. Not only did I find such a logo in an acceptable resolution, but the site I found it on, Ford Visteon – a Fight for Justice, is encouraging it’s use. In case any of you would like to head on over to cafepress.com or spreadshirt.com to make your own Pip Pyle Fraud T-Shirts, I’ve hotlinked here a version which has the white background trimmed away and replaced with transparency.
Today, it is 66 years ago since the late Elton Dean, esteemed english jazz musician, was born in Nottingham in 1945.
Elton Dean, most famous for playing the saxella and alto saxophone, got his first saxophone at the age of 18. A few years later, he was already a professional playing London clubs. In the later half of the 60s, Elton played with several bands including John Baldry’s band Bluesology which also included Reggie Dwight who would borrow names from Dean and Baldry to create his own stage name Elton John. He also joined the Keith Tippett Sixtet which played in various clubs and recorded two albums.
Elton Dean entered the Canterbury scene in 1969 when he joined the Soft Machine and brought his instantly recognizable style to the albums Third (1970), Fourth (1971) and 5 (1972). Dean then left the band to work on other projects like his solo material and his nine-piece band Ninesense, but would come back to the scene and play with acts like National Health, In Cahoots and supergroups/spinoff groups like Soft Heap, Soft Head, Soft Works, Soft Bounds and Soft Machine Legacy. Sadly, heart and liver problems resulted in several hospital stays during 2005 and an untimely death in February 2006 when Elton was 60 years old.
Although Dean lended his saxophone to highly compositional pieces such as National Health’s Portrait of a Shrinking Man, most know him for his brilliantly energetic and melodic improvisations. Today, we celebrate his birth and the genius of his music. So, write a comment and let us know what your favourite songs are!
The Canterbury Scene Album Club is a loosely organized album club where we listen to albums and then discuss them. Last week, we gave National Health’s debut from 1977 a listen and now the time’s ripe for discussion!
Dave Stewart is behind the bulk of the compositions on the album and the record also features his ex-Hatfield bandmates Phil Miller and Pip Pyle as well as northette Amanda Parsons. In addition, we get the brilliant keyboardist Alan Gowen composing and playing, lovely flute by Jimmy Hastings and bass lines from Neil Murray from Whitesnake fame.
Any fan of Hatfield and the North should check out National Health if they haven’t (and vice versa) – and when you have, join in on our discussion.
National Health is the eponymous debut album of Canterbury scene band National Health and was released in October 1977 on Affinity Records. The album features lengthy, complex instrumental compositions reminiscent of Hatfield and the North and is considered by many to be a classic album from the Canterbury scene.
The album was recorded in in London in March and April 1977. Studio engineers were Mike Dunne, Paul Northfield & Brian Gaylor. The producer was National Health and Mike Dunne.
[cc_full_width_col background_color=”f1f1f1″ shadow_color=”888888″ radius=”6″]All songs by National Health.
Tenemos roads (14:32)
Borogoves (Excerpt from part two) (4:12)
Borogoves (Part one) (6:29)
Dave Stewart, Alan Gowen
[cc_half_col_left background_color=”f1f1f1″ radius=”6″ shadow_color=”888888″]National Health