One day at the turn of the millennium this amazing psychedelia enthusiast, Thomas, calls us out of the blue, wanting to re-release an old (1972) mono album of ours (All On the First Day) into the collectors' market. That reminded us that nothing cast into the ether ever totally disappears. It made us think about our back catalogue too - so here, in “Retrospect”, is a small piece of it.
The tracks are some of our personal favourites, though objectivity went out of the window a way back. Sorry trainspotters - they're not in chronological order. In fact, opening confessional Ageing Hippies (1992) more or less sets out our present stall. Pretty Saro (1983) is an Appalachian mountain ballad learned by osmosis via a thousand folk clubs. Eleusis (1990) says that if punch-drunk fighters are set up as great examples to us all, our value systems must really be upside-down. Zero Sum Game (1991) is our retrospective on the 80s - in summary, good bloody riddance. Contains dog noises and extracts from "Studio Sound", antidotes for earnestness overload.
A vivid dream, just post-Lockerbie, is recorded rather precisely in Suspended in Time (1995). It still scares the hell out me when I listen to it. It prompted Simon to ask "Have you ever thought of writing songs about love?" Plain Jane (1986) might fall into that category - I just can't remember who it was about or what my beef was. Probably just cobbled together as a sadistic ruse to force Simon into falsetto.
On the other hand I know exactly where Where Life Runs Thin (1993) comes from, huge empty spaces in the heart of the USA, bleak but with an indefinable lure. How can I justify the random lashing-out against humanity that is Throw Down a Line (1979)? Well, you have to remember that it was the late 70s and some of us were feeling a bit, y'know, punky. And yes, I know it quotes Tom Paxton in the first line and garbles Dylan (Thomas) in the chorus.
Cinquefoil and Tormentil (1986) is about longing to return - I have gradually learned that such longing should be kept unfulfilled. Suicidal 19th Century Scottish geologists with crises of faith are hardly normal rock-song subject matter, but no apologies from Hugh Miller's Gun (1991) anyway. Intensive Care (1990) - strip away the piled-on medical metaphors and you're left with one message, this guy was bad news and believe me, I know. In Tons Tons Macoutes (1977) I had just read The Comedians and John had just built his first decent mixer with the result you hear. Worker's Playtime (1986) - yep, it's a protest song. Well, we were in the middle of the Reagan/Thatcher-blighted 80s, when even Dylan (Bob) was saying "capitalism is above the law". That leaves Forever and Ever (1973). It always sounds like doctoral dissertation set to music to me, but the band like it, and more importantly it takes us back to where we started, a bunch of friends with a mono tape recorder in pokey Fulham and Muswell Hill flats.