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Book Review: For King and Country

by Lang Reid

Another Ian Quartermaine book this week (published March 2004 IQ Inc, ISBN 974-88460-2-4) following his Sleepless in Bangkok revision last year.

This novel is set in the middle to late 1700’s and revolves around the lives (and fates) of a couple of young English lads who go to sea in those romantic times of seafaring heroes that are the staple history fare for all British youngsters.

Sir Walter Raleigh, Rear Admiral Horatio Nelson, Captain James Cook and Sir Francis Drake, names that will invoke memories of movies with the hero before the mast and countless happy and smiling Jack Tars breaking out the sails. Ah yes, those were the days.

Author Quartermaine takes a different tack, if you’ll excuse the pun. The book is written from the viewpoint of the Jack Tars and shows another side of life before the mast. In fact, the back cover says it all, where it outlines Quartermaine’s view that most of the books based on history have shown the plight of Africans who were taken from their land and sold into slavery, but have ignored the fact that bondage, serfdom and being ‘press ganged’ into virtual slavery happened for the Caucasians as well.

The book begins with straight confrontation of the reader, as Quartermaine describes a poor wretch being ‘flogged around the fleet’. Punishment by flogging with the cat o’ nine tails, with five dozen lashes administered on every ship in the harbour. With 20 or so ships at anchor, this represented a very slow, very painful and long drawn out death.

It was also a social event, described in the second short chapter, where officer’s wives in their finest crinolines watched and sipped wine and the ordinary seamen took wagers on how many ships the unfortunate would visit before he succumbed. Barbarism at its predatory best, and one to which Quartermaine gives the reader no quarter either.

In the 76 chapters (yes, 76 short ones in a 230 page book) you see how the sailors are finally beaten into submission and accept their (sorry) lot in life, and even begin to have some semblance of normalcy in it all - wives, families and slowly accrue wealth. Interestingly, the ship’s pursers (like quartermasters or purchasing officers) always seem to do well, and graft and corruption was more than evident in those days too. Battle scenes are well thought out, and the ‘factual’ writing makes it ‘reality’ much better than many movies I have seen.

For anyone who has wondered how the current spate of atrocities could happen in Iraq, a brief perusal of this book will give the answer. Mankind is probably the most brutal animal on the planet, and has got to be the top of the food chain through it. I take heart in the aphorism that just because we are at the top of the food chain, doesn’t mean that we can’t be eaten! A very powerful book, and very well written. Coming from a long line of seafarers, I am not ashamed to say it brought a tear to my eye.

Available at better bookstores, RRP 350 baht.

Mott's CD Reviews: “Spooky Tooth” - Spooky Two

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

‘Spooky Tooth’. What a marvelous name for a progressive rock band from the late sixties. Pity they could not have been a bit more original with the name of their second album. ‘Spooky Two’ smacks far too much of ‘Chicago 17’, but that is a small quibble when the standard of the musicianship and songwriting on this album is truly masterful.

Four members of ‘Spooky Tooth’, Luther Grosvener, Mike Kellie, Greg Ridley, and Mike Harrison, had been playing together for several years in the area of Carlisle, England, since 1963. First as ‘The VIP’s’ they numbered Keith Emerson in their ranks, and then as ‘Art’, who released one magical, Guy Stevens produced album called ‘Supernatural Fairy Tales’. (Recently this album has been released again on CD and is well worth a listen.) Then with a stroke of genius it was decided to add singer/songwriter/keyboardist/American Gary Wright to the ranks, and ‘Art’ changed their moniker to ‘Spooky Tooth’.

After a year on the road, gigging almost every night on both sides of the Atlantic, and having built up a strong live following, the road toughened and much tighter ‘Spooky Tooth’ went back into the studio to record their magnum opus ‘Spooky Two’ (1969). With Jimmy Miller in the producer role, the unavailable Glyn Johns was replaced by Andrew Johns in the engineer’s seat. (Andrew Johns was later to work on all the early ‘Led Zeppelin albums’.) The resulting eight songs were to be more influential on the world of rock music than anybody at the time would have dared imagine. Apart from the cover ‘Evil Woman’, Gary Wright again had a hand in writing all the songs; everyone a classic of its time.

‘Spooky Tooth’ had so many strengths within the band, it is hard to name them all.

The groundbreaking lineup was in the classic rock format of two keyboard players (used to dramatic effect live with a bank of keyboards on each side of the stage surrounding the rest of the band), both of them in their own contrasting styles, and both having a couple of the best two voices of their decade. They were used to great effect almost as two separate instruments within the band.

On lead guitar there was a young Luther Grosvenor, probably the most underrated lead guitarist to ever come out of the British Isles. Merge this in with the bass playing skills of Mr. Thunder himself, Greg Ridley, and the drummer’s drummer Mike Kellie, and you have a very formidable lineup.

The one cover song, ‘Evil Woman’, was written by Larry Wies (Larry also wrote ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ and ‘Bend me Shape me’), which was already well known through its release by American blues and boogie giants ‘Canned Heat’. However, the ‘Heat’ never did anything like this with it, ‘Spooky’ turning it into a 9-minute epic of such intensity that it strains your speakers. It allows the band to really show off their musical abilities.

As in all ‘Spooky Tooth’ material, there are soaring vocals, great changes of pace, and the really dangerous sense of drama, but on ‘Evil Woman’ it is Luther Grosvenor, who for once gets his nose in front of his two keyboards associates. He truly takes the reigns, making the song his own, pulling out some of the most heavy and whacked out guitar licks ever put down on tape.

There is also the double whammy of ‘That was Only Yesterday’ and ‘Better By You, Better Than Me’, the latter of which was to be at the center of a long court case after heavy metal band ‘Judas Priest’ covered the song and got taken to court by the parents of a young man, who had committed suicide due to the songs lyrics. The case was finally thrown out of court. The song is a bit like Leonard Cohen’s version of heavy rock, but I think that was taking things a little too far.

‘Spooky Two’ is a must for any serious collector of rock music, not only for the songs, but for its place in history. The following year the ‘Spookies’ were to lose their minds and record an album with French musical impressionist Pierre Henry, which was very pretentiously called ‘Ceremony An Electronic Mass’. The cover has a picture of a man having a nail driven into his head by a hammer, which well describes the results. It was released to wide spread critical ridicule (quite rightly) and the only thing ‘Mass’ about it was the public’s disbelief.

Greg Ridley had been horrified by the idea in the first place, fleeing the ship before recording started, and joined up with Steve Marriott, Peter Frampton, and Jerry Shirley to form Humble Pie, who he stayed with throughout their Ten album career.

After the release of ‘Ceremony’ a disillusioned ‘Spooky Tooth’ split up. Luther Grosvenor went onto ‘Stealers Wheel’ and then hit the headlines recreated as Ariel Bender in Mott The Hoople. Gary Wright went onto an incredibly successful solo career as ‘The Dreamweaver’. Mike Harrison had a reasonably successful solo career. Actually he did rather well, but pales a little in comparisons to his former keyboard partner. And Mike Kellie went on to join Peter Frampton’s ‘Camel’, and then ‘The Only Ones’.

The magic of the original ‘Spooky Tooth’ was in all five people at the beginning, and no matter who or what they tried thereafter, they could never recreate the magic of those first two albums.

Luther Grosvenor - Guitars
Mike Harrison - Keyboards and Vocals
Gary Wright - Keyboards and Vocals
Greg Ridley - Bass
Mike Kellie - Drums


Waitin’ For The Wind
Feelin’ Bad
I’ve Got Enough Heartaches
Evil Woman
Lost In My Dream
That Was Only Yesterday
Better By Me, Better Than Me
Hangman Hang My Shell On A Tree

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