Think back (or imagine it). The 1950s. The war was
over. An idyllic time in many ways for a child
growing up in those times - safety, innocence,
a time of plenty - although perhaps not for our
parents at the time.
As Van "The Man" (Van Morrison, for those of
you not familiar with the nickname) says in his song "Wild
Children" (from 1973's: Hard Nose The Highway) even
then we were still the War Children - a little later
than 1945, perhaps, but nevertheless the same generation.
It's important because 15-20 years later, for many of
us, music became a way of life. The Beatles, The Rolling
Stones, The Kinks, The Who changed the way of life in
England and the United Kingdom (or Kinkdom - if you were
a Kinks fan - and I definitely was/am).
in the United States there a response to the "English
Invasion" by many groups of musicians.
For me, it was The Byrds that made that vital
connection. The first time that I heard Roger
(then Jim) McGuinn's intro to Bob Dylan's
"Mr Tambourine Man" for me the world changed
- instantly and irrevocably and without a shadow
of a doubt. I usually think of it as if it was The
Beatles that found the door but it was The Byrds
that kicked the door down and flew on to take us
on that wild trip "Eight Miles High". Then
I heard the heady mix of other groups like Love and
Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield and The Doors
who were all producing music that "broke on
through to the other side".
a while, back then, we really thought we could
change the world just with the music that would
reach everybody. In many ways it worked for a
while but the end results today are not what
we expected and certainly not what we hoped for.
Still, at least we tried; at least we felt the
wrongs of the world and did something - however
useless it may have turned out to be.
As the hopes and expectations of the 60's turned
into the 70's the music changed too. It became
more introverted, progressive, but just as exciting
as groups like Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and
Van der Graaf Generator took rock music onto
a another plane. While in the USA the rise of
the stadium groups brought it to a mass audience.
Then along came "punk" which burnt itself out
to leave a void that gets partially filled every so often
but has not really been full to overflowing since.
I hear you asking what this has to do with Annabel Lamb?
Well, plenty, because if you don't have just a little
understanding of the background, the history, how can
you hope to know the now, let alone the future?
When Annabel's first album appeared in the UK in 1983
- can it really be over 20 years ago? - it didn't contain
the song that was to become her (sadly - at least, to
date) only "hit". The Door's "Riders On
The Storm" was added later. The addition was understandable
from the record company's point of view but, to my mind,
it unbalances the album. Not that it detracts from the
music in any way - it just seems to me to be out of place.
On the radio it sounds great! Not that anybody plays
it these days - which is a shame.
But the song is a link back to the 60's and the history
of nearly twenty years before. It is also very rare for
any artist to take a song of such quality and to add
something to it. Of course, many artists take a song
and manage to do a reasonably competent cover version
but you often know instinctively that the original is
better. Very few artists seem to understand where such
a song was coming from, what it really meant, what the
ideals were that inspired it. Even without already knowing
the high quality of the self-penned songs on Once Bitten
you know that the singer on this cover of The Doors'
classic is an exception to the rule. Listen to the phrasing,
the passion, restrained as was Jim Morrison's, understated,
menacing - you want, no you need, to know the end of
the story - but you're not told! It would have been so
easy to over-do it, to add frills that were never needed
where the simplicity is the key.
Although Annabel may be classed as a "one hit wonder"
you only have to listen to the triumvirate of albums
that followed Once Bitten: The Flame, When Angels Travel
and Brides to know that the music was always more important
to the artist than the sales volume. Then there's the
(slightly) more recent Justice and Flow albums to add
to a body of work that merits this re-appraisal. Unfortunately,
many people will have missed out simply because they
think that if an artist doesn't have hits they must be
worthless. No doubt some artists are better than others
but if you are already part-way to buying this collection
then you must have some faith and understand that an
artist such as Annabel Lamb doesn't come by all that
regularly: this may be your only chance to hear why.
Burr, St. Albans, England. August, 2004