Fresh Garbage – Spirit
…look beneath your lids some morning, see those things you didn’t quite consume
the world’s a can for your fresh garbage…
The first time I heard this song was in Simon Korner’s bedroom. We’d met at a party out of town in Cooksbridge somewhere (in a village hall I think) and walked back to Lewes together getting to know each other like 15-year-olds do, in the middle of the night, probably bonding on absent fathers, but Simon remembers the conversation better than I. Simon didn’t really talk about his father to be fair, but when was it ? I’m saying it was the 4th form and the spring of 1972. Not long after that something went wrong at home in Hailsham and Mum went into Amberstone Hospital for another stay. I had already stayed with Pete Smurthwaite twice, once at 11 and once, for 9 months at 13. And I’d spent a month at Simon Lester’s house in Chiddingly when Mum had an abortion in early 1972. Don’t quote me on the dates !
This time my Dad clearly arranged with Shirley Korner that I would be billeted with Simon’s family in King Henry’s Road, above Landport Estate in Lewes. I guess it was my choice ? Simon’s dad Asher had died the year before. Shirley Korner, Simon’s mother, was a kind, intelligent, sweet-natured no-nonsense social worker now left looking after four children : Deborah the eldest, Simon, my age, Joseph two years below, then Jessica. At the same time that they took me in, they also housed Maria, a single mum and her daughter Melba. Maria & Melba had been ejected from Uganda by dictator Idi Amin in the great purge of Indians from that country, most of whom came to the UK. ‘Ugandan Asians’ they were called. Two of them were now in Shirley Korner’s house. Melba had a thin right leg, the result of polio as a child, but she was a stunning gentle beauty. Younger than me by one year, I felt sorry for her, being evicted from her home like that, and having the polio leg. We flirted, chatted, and walked to school together occasionally, but after I sang Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me There?” to her one evening in my bedroom, the affair was off.
It was a happy house in my experience. There must have been a huge bombshell crater where their dad was, but I hadn’t known him, and they were all so talkative and enthusiastic about everything, I loved staying there. They were jewish, but it was never acted upon either religiously or in diet or indeed politics. We gathered around the vast kitchen table for tea/dinner, passing food around, drinking juice and tea, Shirley Korner clucking over us all with patient forbearance and amused chuckles. They all answered back in a relaxed way, there was no tension, no atmosphere, indeed no mental illness that I could detect. It was a lovely big Victorian house, I guess I was in the former servants quarters on the top floor. Simon’s bedroom had a drum kit erected on the floor, and was thus massively cool. Perhaps this was Andrew Ranken’s – Deborah’s boyfriend, later to join the Pogues. I was sitting at this drum kit when Mathew Ford offered me a joint to smoke and I hit at it with the drumstick. But soon I was puffing. I’d been smoking cigarettes since I was about 12. Roll-ups sometimes, but mainly Number 6. Learned to do a reasonable beat with the kit too, but drumming never interested me that much for some reason. Simon played bass guitar. We only played together once, at my wedding.
Simon was impressive because he didn’t go with the flow. He was super-bright but also cool, had good clothes and haircut and a witty sense of humour. I liked him a lot. Clearly I still do because we’ve been friends since that moment. There’s too much to say about ‘Simon and I’ in one post, but I will just add this – about a year later when we all started getting serious girlfriends, Simon was going out with the official sexiest girl in the school, Kerry Day. She had previously been out with boys in the years above us, and was without question a real catch. Simon told me that one day he had painted her naked body, it had taken about three hours, then they’d had sex. This was, and still is, impossibly cool….
Simon’s taste in music was very specific, and he would visibly sneer at bands he thought weren’t cool. Didn’t we all at that age ? Maybe… He sold me an LP he didn’t like by Van Der Graaf Generator for 50p, and I loved it. Still love Peter Hammill’s voice. Deborah Korner being a year older also had boyfriends older than her, so there was a clearly groovy conveyor belt of music from people like Pete Davies and Pete Thomas (later to join Elvis Costello on drums) down to me. I should relate that it wasn’t all about ‘cool’ as Simon’s early and faithful adoption of Elton John would prove, and my own favouring of Ooh Wakka Doo Wakka Day by Gilbert O’ Sullivan. In fact I don’t think Simon was a big fan of Roxy Music’s first LP that summer. The charts though were magnificent – The O’Jays, T. Rex, Colin Blunstone, Rod Stewart, The Stylistics, Johnny Nash and Hurricane Smith and more.
Thinking about Simon’s music now, Spirit stand head and shoulders above the rest, in particular the first LP ‘Spirit’ from 1967 and the 4th LP, the magnificent “12 Dreams Of Dr Sardonicus” from 1970. I would carry Spirit with me into my University years, and find kindred spirits and fans there. Simon also favoured Hendrix, The Doors and Cream, and actually owned Jack Bruce’s first solo LP Songs For A Tailor. But I never really got into Cream or Jack Bruce. Spirit I have held dear to my heart for many years.
Spirit were a California band par excellence. Their first incarnation, which this track is from, was as a jazz-rock outfit I suppose, all the songs on the first LP are really interesting. Shades of Harry Nilsson, Steely Dan years before they were formed, hard to categorise. Randy California was the guitarist, (who’d played with Hendrix), and his uncle Ed Cassidy was the bald drummer who was at least 20 years older than the rest of the band, and versed in jazz. Jay Ferguson was the other key member and singer, alongside John Locke on keys and Mark Andes on bass. Their first four LPs are an exceptional run of music.
It is also worth noting how prescient the lyrics to this particular song were. California was always a little further ahead. A note on my version of the lyrics : I forever thought the first line was “girl – she calls me” (actually “fresh garbage”), and the next line was “look beneath your lids a moment” when he’s actually singing “look beneath your lids some morning”. Enjoy!
Marvellous footage of original line-up live on French TV ! :