Saturday, September 28, 2013

Wishful Thinking's Hiroshima Album Music From Heaven And Hell And A Classic Waiting To Be DIscovered

Two of the things I thank God (or whoever I believe in) that I wasn't alive to be a part of were the mass slaughters of World War 1 and World War 2 especially the latter with the horrendous advent/use of the Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima and the brutal destruction/bombing of Dresden. Both wars didn't need to have been fought, but we never seem to learn as I can't think of one war in history I would call "A Good War." Hiroshima was a nightmarish thing and a totally cowardly sick thing to do and that's coming from somebody who has NO SYMPATHY for the Japanese in the war otherwise. Brutality meets brutality it's the same old "Eye For An Eye" rubbish that we have today. So it goes on that thousands die and as an after effect thousands more die in some stupid war about as outmoded as the whole idea of any kind of "Crusade."
     What a downer note to begin a blog on!!!!! However, with a record as brilliant yet as unremittingly depressing as some of Hiroshima by Wishful Thinking from Birmingham is that's to be expected. Mind you, not all of this record is horrific it's just 3 songs that delve into the death and destruction themes, but what people say about Wishful Thinking's 1971 masterpiece I do find horrific. I don't know why this album is hated by so many people at least online where you'll find almost no positive writings on it and only scathing trashings of it. A real shame as Wishful Thinking deserve a whole lot more praise and respect and this album is undoubtedly a masterpiece.
     Back in the 1960s around 1965 or so Wishful Thinking were founded in Birmingham, but already by the time of their not anywhere as good (and typically higher thought of!) first album Live Vol. 1 there had been line up changes which found the band fronted by New Zealand native Kevin Scott who possessed a remarkably clear and beautiful voice. Wishful Thinking would like any good band grow and change with the times, but they never wrote any of their own material to my knowledge. In 1969 The Move who were at that time one of England's top bands were going through a weird phase where Carl Wayne was polarized against the rest of the band and they recorded two softer than usual songs by a budding songwriter named Dave Morgan. The two songs were "This Time Tomorrow" (Wishful Thinking do this song on Hiroshima and are much more suited to it than the hard rock band par excellance The Move) and "Something" both of which were really good songs that didn't fit The Move. Of course the inevitable would happen and they would sack Carl Wayne who went onto a mostly cabaret circuit solo career and that also was inevitable.
       Dave Morgan got together enough songs for two albums- a solo outing released also in the US by Ampex that was simply titled Morgan and Wishful Thinking's Hiroshima which remarkably also saw a US release on Ampex in a way inferior cover with pretty lame sound quality to boot. Both in the US (Not surprising) and Britain (What drug were people on to pass this band up!!?) the album sunk without trace and their only huge success was the massive charting of the title track in Germany- a country still trying to come to grips with the war.
     Wishful Thinking by 1971 comprised Kevin Scott (lead vocals), Jimmy Page lookalike John Franklin (lead guitar, vocals), Tony Collier (Bass, vocals), and Brian Allen (drums, vocals) with Franklin the musical genius in the band. There's a lot to dig into here and the sound is very reminiscent of The Bee Gees at their most downcast meets some heavy moves of everything from The Sweet to The Koobas to The Move to King Crimson in the brilliant mellotron passages. There's some songs on here that are among the best tracks ever recorded and over half this album is totally brilliant. 
    Dave Morgan's songwriting tends towards the moody and intellectual, but also he can get suicide-victim-to-be (I hope he wasn't really) depressing with two real standouts for down and destroyed. "Hiroshima" isn't one of them despite all the ingredients needed to be one. Kevin Scott's sweet and soaring vocals actually together with the mellotron and John Franklin's mellow guitar combine with Move like thick heavy bass and King Crimson style atmospheric drumming for a song too epic and well meaning to have you sobbing with the record on. It's "Ever Since I Can Remember" that is the first sign of a truly disturbed person in the songwriting department where the lyric is about a tree that will outlive mankind and how everything has to die eventually. Its a beautiful melody and song in The Bee Gees vein, but the lyrics are merciless in their bitter sentiments. As much as I love the melodic structure and the vocal harmonies and as much as I love the song if I listened to it too much I think I'd be in a seriously dismal state of mind for a few months. "Ever Since I Can Remember" doesn't stray from the solid quality melodic pop psych of the majority of the songs on the album, but "1984" is another matter all together. Take Van Der Graaf Generator at their scariest, Syd era Floyd gone into a paranoid drug induced nightmare, and Black Sabbath's creepiest moments throughout their entire career and you have "1984." This is pretty hard to listen to. The vocals are really frightening as are the horrific images in the lyrics and melodic sense is thrown down the loo. I'd rather not listen to this track even though musically its pretty good for creepy psychedelic stuff and I'd rather not listen to "Ever Since I Can Remember" sometimes because I'm not often in the mood to think about losing everything I love and then my own life. Who would be!?
       With two forgivable mistakes the other 9 tracks on this album are astonishing and as perfect as perfect can be. Wishful Thinking prove themselves to be formidable musicians and Kevin Scott sings confidently on top of the harmonies with a solid clear voice that really hits the spot. There's a load of mellotron/synth effects on this album with no credits shown for keyboards strangely, but John Franklin's sharp and clever guitar is what really makes you sit up and take notice. Just listen to his backwards tape Beatles Revolver era solo in "She Belongs To The Night" with the driving rhythms and strong vocals- this is a great song!
      I do not agree with the stupid reviews which call this a weak pop record and I know a whole lot more than most people seem to know about music so I get the final say which I know sounds very arrogant, but I do have the advantage of not having a tin ear! There's a lot of up in the mix rocking guitars and also lyrics which even during the mistakes sound like Dave Morgan was a very sympathetic and intelligent person. He obviously cared a whole lot about people and I get the impression that he was probably a Clifford T. Ward like genius who never got a chance. The big difference is that Clifford was a solo artist and he also didn't write in the rock idiom. Clifford T. Ward is not even a reference here musically, but since I've mentioned him I will state firmly that he is the most underrated tragic genius in the World and this Dave Morgan guy's take on things would have made Clifford proud if he heard him at the time. Clifford T. Ward never really got much of a chance, but he loved music to the point that he kept his cult following and wrote, sang, and recorded till he finally succumbed to his horrible prolonged MS which took his life in 2001 after 15 years. I believe that Dave Morgan didn't have the kind of strong will that Roy Wood and Clifford T. Ward had without even knowing him, but the problem here is also what makes this album so great- it's a very Mod influenced underground progressive pop psych album at a time when most of the songs in the charts sounded far removed from the 60s. Wishful Thinking didn't stand a chance and they never had any chart success in England or the States. That's a real shame.
    I've played this album enough times to have my favourites and the best song on the whole album is "The United States Of Europe '79" which I'll go right out and call the best kind of pop psych in the world with rocking guitars, strong vocals, precise harmonies, and a crisp tight post Beatles and Move sound. If you love the early Bee Gees then this album should be a close runner up to The World Of Oz for you although what album is as good as The World Of Oz except for the few like Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera which surpass it!? The World Of Oz also came from Birmingham, but even they did better in a commercial sense than Wishful Thinking largely because they could write their own material. Wishful Thinking found the perfect writer in Dave Morgan and "The United States Of Europe '79" proves just how good the two could be together especially when they opted for rocking it up. "Mary Goodbye" is a great putdown song that does more than just put girls down. It jumps right out at you with complex mood/time changes and great vocals. "She Belongs To The Night" sounds like a potential second Open Mind record with strong vocals and brilliant guitar. I don't see what there is to complain about for over half the album, well over half of it. I would go right out and say that the UK B&C original press with the creepy, striking cover photo of the band beneath a red sky is an essential record to have in your collection.
     In the early 1970s and in the 1960s even more so anything and everything was possible. There were some really bad things that happened, but I would love to go back then, back to England before Maggie Thatcher began its long drawn out destruction and Reagan did the same to America. Whether we are soldiers or musicians or just the people who make up the backbone of our nations we all want the same two things everywhere- a healthy good long duration to our life and peace. That's the best way to end this entry. I don't think I need to say anything more.

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