HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Mott’s CD review

Book Review:The Closers

by Lang Reid

I make no apologies for this week’s book review. “Poetic Gems, selected from the works of William McGonagall” was first printed in 1890, long before the advent of the ISBN numbering system. My personal copy is from the seventh impression struck in 1954 and was handed down by my father, so has sentimental value as well as literary merit.

William McGonagall, self-styled Poet and Tragedian, has carved his own niche in the literary world’s hall of infamy, as perhaps the world’s worst poet. Readers of McGonagall’s works have cringed at the verses but yet have helped them endure for more than 100 years.

McGonagall was the son of an itinerant Irish cotton weaver and describes 18 months of schooling before he joined his penniless parents in the cotton weaving workforce.

Initially he considered himself a thespian, and applied for the position of actor, to play Macbeth at a local theatre. After hearing him, the promoter of the theatre said that if McGonagall paid him one pound he would be allowed to tread the boards. On hearing this, his workmates in the cotton weaving game all clubbed together and paid the pound demanded and filled the theatre to hear his rendition. His delusions of grandeur had their beginnings there.

In the autobiography at the front of the book, McGonagall describes hearing the voices telling him to write poetry, and he very factually describes the euphoria that people with bipolar problems exhibit. He also claims that his poetry was “composed under the divine inspiration”.

Even the most brief examination of McGonagall’s divinely inspired poetry shows irregular scansion and an all-embracing need to find a rhyme, by the end of the line. (Or should that have been “rhyne by the end of the line”?)

In a McGonagallian retrospect, the Scotland Magazine was moved to record, “McGonagall is often mocked today for writing so many poems relating to contemporary disasters and battles, but such commemorative verse was very much a feature of Victorian literature. McGonagall merely did it worse than everyone else. Tennyson’s epic Charge of the Light Brigade was really just McGonagall with a competent rhyme scheme and effective scansion!”

Indeed, in his awful way, McGonagall in the 80 poems in his “Poetic Gems” did describe both historical and current events of the day, with items covering the battles of Bannockburn and Flodden Field. However, it is in his relating of the events of the day where he comes into his forte, in my opinion. Take for example the Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay which begins:

“Beautiful Railway Bridge of the silvery Tay!
With your numerous arches and pillars in so grand array,
And your central girders, which seem to the eye,
To be almost towering to the sky.”
Unfortunately the bridge collapsed in a storm but was rebuilt. McGonagall celebrated the

event in his poetic best:
“Beautiful new railway bridge of the Silvery Tay,
With your strong brick piers and buttresses in so grand array,
And your thirteen central girders, which seem to my eye,
Strong enough all windy storms to defy.”
Yes, there will never be another like William McGonagall!

Mott's CD Reviews: Yes

Close To The Edge Stars fell off the edge

mott the dog

In 1968 five like minded souls put the band Yes together , and in 1969 they released their first self titled album, listening to that album today still sends out a positive vibe of a genuine group trying to establish their mark , a joy to behold . The following year a follow up album was released  Time and a Word,( 1970) , by which time fractions were beginning to open up within the ranks of the band  as the battle for leadership started , by the time the album was released the lead guitarist , and star of the live shows Peter Banks had not only been unceremoniously dumped from the band , and replaced by the far more manageable Steve Howe, but also Banks guitar parts had been remixed so low in the mix as to be almost inaudible . One more album was released in the shape of the pompously titled “ The Yes Album”(1971) after which another band member keyboard player Tony Kaye,was thrown out as the others were laying a beady eye over new keyboard sensation Rick Wakeman,who was hastily lured away from his job with the Strawbs. At this stage is the band still Yes? as they have already lost the two leading musical instruments in the band. Another album was released “Fragile”( 1971) the tile perhaps referring to the bands individual ego’s ,whilst the album amounted to two band compositions ( Both of which are Progressive/Rock paint by numbers affairs ) and a selection of solo efforts by each individual  member of the band which in itself when listened to shows the different directions that each member wanted to go in , and they are quite definitely not the same , Bill Bruford obviously wanted to go on and become recognized as one of the world’s leading drummers , a feat he was  to achieve when he headed out on his own after jumping from the Yes Airship ( That’s hot air) after the next album, the one under review , which we will soon get to , Chris Squire clearly wanted to play the bass for “ The Who” as a lead instrument as his hero John Entwistle did, Rick Wakeman was blatantly using the band to turn himself into a keyboard superstar and launch his solo career , to sponsor his hobby , drinking copious amounts of alcohol , and wearing capes that even Batman would be embarrassed by, Steve Howe had set off on a course where he wanted to be able to play the guitar half as well as his predecessor, an achievement he would even come close too, whilst lead singer Jon Anderson was moving himself closer and closer to the edge of Lah-Lah land .

 Then this incantation of Yes entered the studio to record another album , one of the few times this lot went into the studio for consecutive albums with the same line-up.

 The results are laughable , “ Close To The Edge ( 1972),at the time it was either proclaimed as a masterpiece or pretentious rubbish, listening to it today , even calling it pretentious slop is one of the nicest things you can say about it . Upon arrival in the studio it was quite clearly decided that if they wanted to stake their claim in the progressive rock field they had better come up with a song of epic proportions , well it’s long , the first track on this collection ( Mercifully there are only three although they are all excruciatingly long ) took up the whole first side of the vinyl edition , and sounds like a mixed bag of idea’s , bits of this and bits of that, all thrown in , and held  together, by Steve Howe’s feeble twiddling on the six string,  this can actually been done to good effect by a more talented musician , (Try Peter Banks solo album “ Instinct’’ where he twiddles away for sixty minutes without losing his audiences attention, once and there are no vocals on the album at all to distract you) , Chris Squire plays as many bass notes as he can squeeze in no matter what the rest of the band are doing , Bill Bruford is quite clearly baffled by what is going on ,probably the reason he left half way through the tour to promote this album that followed , Rick Wakeman plays the odd keyboard flourish which almost yell at you to wait for his upcoming solo album , whilst singer Jon Anderson has stumbled one step closer to the edge, when he sings the opening verse.

“A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace,

And rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace ,

And achieve it all with music that came quickly from afar,

Then taste the fruit of man recording losing all against the hour”

I mean I ask you what does any of that mean ? Try and come out with that gobbledygook, as your opening gambit whilst sitting round Nova Table , you would be carried out in a very straight jacket .

Somewhere out there there is still a bunch of musicians going around playing, under the Yes banner, ( Every so often Rick Wakeman rejoins the band when he needs to top up his beer token rations ) for whoever will listen to them , I could tell you who is still in the band , who has left, who has left and re-joined , the name of their 35th album etc , but who really cares ? Music that was made in the Seventies that quite honestly should of stayed there. Close to the edge it is, before they went into the studio I wish someone had pushed them over it .Listening to the album today the production is so weak you wonder whether there was any in the first place. The early seventies is responsible for some fine music , this is not it.

Nice inside Roger Dean cover though, at least you get something to put on the wall. 

Culprits on this album
 Jon Anderson,/ Unnecessarily twee and high vocals.
Steve Howe,/ Covering Peter Banks Guitar work , badly.
Rick Wakeman,/ Keyboards and solo promotion.
Chris Squire,/ Bass guitar.
Bill Bruford,/ Desperately drumming from the back and looking forward to being in King

 Lengthy long songs
 Close to the Edge.18 mins 50 secs long.
And You and I. 10 mins 9 secs long.
Siberian Khatru.8 mins 57 secs long.

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]