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Tales of Nektar daze

Nektar Journey to the Centre of the Eye1971 The Journey Daze!
Untold Stories by Mick Brockett

Part Two brings us into the "What the eyes see, the ears hear" evolutionary phase of Nektar.

Upon returning from Boston in mid 1970 "The Opera" (as we called it) was well under construction, yet very few tapes survived from rehearsals or soundchecks during that first year of Nektar. Naturally other pieces evolved during our transition to progressive space–rock, which was making sense to everyone now, as one by one, pieces were added to the initial stand alone opener titled Robot 13.

In early 1970 the live Nektar repertoire was filled with original (and cover) songs that embraced both of the early sides of Nektar, however this baby was a direct result of seed planting from a visual aspect, and it involved ALL five of us!. Once I was immersed in existing Nektar music, the light show gave us a substantial edge on the German club circuits. My Floyd/festival experiences, as well as the music I brought on vinyl, gave everyone differing inspirations to put many audio/visual ideas into musical stories.

The original idea of a space–opera began in Fuerth in the summer of '69 when Fantasia and Prophecy first played "Odyssey" together during that memorable week. When Nektar was formed six months later, that idea was taken all the way to an ambitious epic album length piece played in movements, each movement being a different visual/musical episode within a story that was being written about a look inside ones self for peace from the outside. Yes… we WERE all twenty-something hippies, and we wanted to do (what little we could) to help save the planet during the Viet-Nam and Cold wars!!

In the spring of 1970, after our move to Seeheim, we all went to see 2001, A Space Oddysey (in German), so I think that was the actual trigger. It was then that Roye put the base melody together for "Robot 13", beginning a brain-storming year! "Robot 13" was enough inspiration to press on with the project, so with a very abstract idea of where we were heading, we tried it out on some live audiences as a stand alone song, and they LOVED it.

Back in our cellar in Seeheim, the piece immediately received an ever longer introductory "launch" (Prelude). The raucous rocket stages as our Astronaut was thrusted out of harms way from the catastrophic nuclear holocaust exploding (red liquids upon a slide of Earth)) below. Up through Earth's atmosphere above the stratosphere and into weightless tranquility, where the lone astronaut SAW what was happening below whilst his "robot" (Hal?) communicated with him. The inner thoughts of our astronaut were the emotional lyrics sung by Roye. OK, ... he was up there!

Now we needed a song as a complete audio/visual contrast to follow.... (and now for something completely different... something soothing)... Enter Taff, with what began as a tinkling of his Hammond B3 for the tranquil "meeting" of the ship and an alien "saucer" at the perigee with the moon... (this WAS 1970, and all of these visual items I actually had "in stock" from my presentations of Floyd's "Saucerful of Secrets"). The result was a beautiful piece I titled "Countenance" at the outset.... but again we halted rehearsal sessions to go back on the road. We may never be "privileged" with a link FROM Roye's official site, but it is interesting to note that Taff's "Countenance" was totally deleted from the official JttCotE version over there so listen to our clip of Countenance.

Meanwhile, for story continuity, once Robot 13 was renamed Astronauts Nightmare, the basic musical ideas for Dream Nebula (where our abducted A-man was heading) were already coming together down in the Seeheim cellar.

In 1970, we also went to see Karl-Heinz Stockhausen play in Darmstadt. His influence had put fresh ideas for the journey from "perigee to Dream Nebula section" into play at this crucial point, thus a new "in-between" area following Countenance developed very quickly down in the cellar to create a "time and distance" segment. "The Nine lifeless daughters of the Sun" were what our astronaut witnessed as he left our solar system in the alien ship, then "Warp Oversight" was the time warp jump to hyperspace before his destination in the already written Dream Nebula... where I wanted side one to end, right after the first stanza of that Dream introduction... (thus, the second stanza would begin side two the same way side one ended, as it IS played twice anyway).

IMO, The Dream Nebula is among the finest of Nektar compositions.... especially for the visuals. Very contrasting, hard/soft sections and the lyrics of oceans and heavens related to the two abstract unexplored domains that were perfect canvasses for my (at that time) liquid / slide light show.

The single slowly moving nebula slide itself was created using BLACK printing ink with one drop of disinfectant, which instantly created a clear halo when the second glass slide squashed it... The colors were created using my customized filters... which were stained glass colors between large glass plates that could be moved around out of focus and in front of the liquid slide. This was my "bass" pedal projector (#5) during other songs... as it was foot controlled. There is a photograph of "the nebula" on the inner sleeve of "Sound Like This" along with a scene from Astronauts Nightmare on the back cover.

Anyway... the Dream Nebula was a seed brought to life by Roye, Mo, Ron and Taff, and had it not been for Karl-Heinz, may have directly followed "Countenance" on side one... however the added electronic instrumental interludes allowed descriptive titles and the screens to create a longer journey with the newly discovered world of sounds that everyone was able to produce live with their instruments ... with the Dream Nebula still remaining our first destination. OK... we're there... now what?

The early Dream (live) was less dynamic than later renditions, but it was almost intact musically, just begging for some strings (with the Mellotrons we utilized). The mind works in strange ways.... as did all of ours in 1970... as our thoughts were converted into music, with lyrics steering the audience inside the astronauts head via Mo, myself and Roye who collaborated with Ron and Taff on the next sections, the portals into the mind, which become our variation on that Kubrick movie with a Moody Blues influence.

An older song "Roundabout" was converted by Mo for use as the first portal, then others followed... each "door" having a similar guitar segue.... "Days and nights" came second, still a part of "It's all in the Mind", then another segue and instrumental break before the last door (segue) leads to the destruction of the senses OR the burning of his eyes..... as our astronaut (dammit, let me give him the name "Stig"*... lol) no longer needed his eyes to see! This was as far as we'd progressed at this point... so Roye, rather than jam into the unknown, continued into "Good-day" to end the live sets with a song "known" to our audiences. Thus that ended "the Opera" as far as it was written in November 1970, when we tried it out on our favorite audience.... Darmstadt!

BTW, Good-day was even considered for the album conclusion (as it was still unreleased)... but as it was a very prolific period for Nektar, Good-day remained unnecessary within "Journey" once we returned to our cellar sessions in Seeheim. (* I'm a huge "Top Gear" fan... thus, in 2009, as our astronaut has had no name for 39 years, I am hereby naming him "Stig"). OK... This Nektar story is finally moving from 1970 into 1971 .... when our LIVE repertoire still contained all the Boston/Sounds songs, assorted jams, cover songs and the Opera "so far".

We had been playing in German clubs (with cellar sessions in between) for a further four months, making the opera licks tighter, improved harmonies (when the monitors were right), and the "Opera" now had a title... "Journey to the Centre of the I"... as well as a different ending.

By March 1971, this piece had advanced in many subtle ways....
Notable points:— More confident effects usage by everyone during our longer "prelude" (launch), Mo's bass lines became more intricate during "Astronauts Nightmare", and (compared to 1970) Taff and Ron filled in more areas with permanent (rather than ad-lib) notes. "Countenance" had accentuated the original counter melody played by Mo, then "Nine Lifeless Daughters of the Sun" had transcended into a real "song" (which the initial 9 notes became), including some vocal "murmuring" (reminiscent of "never, never never" leading to a mini drum solo crescendo) to take Stig into his "warp oversight". which also contained a wider range of "live" effects from everyone. Taff had found more keys to play with, plus Mo's "blips" actually descend his bass frets, rather than staying on the same note. There was also a more prominent bass "heartbeat" under Roye's violin guitar and echo effects.... all in anticipation of Stig's sudden entry into the glorious Dream Nebula, and although we had written a conclusion to our space opera, we were still not playing the final recorded version, as the studio was still 3 months away. (If the original downloaded music clips could be played here, this would make so much more sense).

You see, .... The conclusion that was supposed to follow "Burn out my Eyes" had not been rehearsed enough, thus that final section would have been ripe for a train wreck live! We'd actually been working on some different ideas that had led to yet another, totally different, abstract visual concept instead... Oceans! ...and although the Opera ending was important, we could still end it with Good-day while jamming in the Ocean.

As far as we were concerned, the Opera was already 45 minutes long (perfect vinyl length), so that secondary project was already well under way in May 1971, when we already had enough original material for at least three new albums! The early LIVE versions of "Void of vision" were almost funky, with the raspy voice of Taff singing the first verse then Mo the second, until the beginning of the end... as the great shining eye, suspended in space WAS our astronaut, Stig!... "The pupil of the eye". ...yet another double entendre, as he became a "student" of the eye, and by looking deep inside himself with his mind, he suggests we ALL do the same to prevent what he saw at the beginning of the Opera... the world coming to an end! ....thus the slight return ... and the other bookend for our piece... "Death of the Mind". .... Thus the "Space-opera" was finally completed... two years since its seed was planted in the summer of '69, and a year after the actual GROUP conception in April of 1970!

The ground tracks (Guitar, Bass, Keys and drums) were recorded in June 1971 as one continuous 45 minute piece, then in August 1971 we returned to Dieter Dierks studio in Stommeln (near Koeln) to add the vocals and overdubs. First we first had to find some room on that 8-track studio tape before the final mix down to the master tape... after bundling various items onto other tracks, we created a twelve foot long chart in timed increments for each of the eight tracks. We spread it across the mixing console, and slowly dragged it in front of Dieter so that he didn't tap into the wrong tracks at the wrong time, ...thus it was mixed down to the master for pressing.... in one shot! However, due to the total length, the vinyl , 8-track and cassette versions all needed to be cut in half before release.... but where? This was "our baby", our firstborn.. so we were naturally very proud of it!

Musically.. the "opera" was a passionate undertaking that had evolved during 1970 as Nektar changed musical direction towards the new, very progressive, "Light & Sound Theatre" concept. Maybe if the "Boston" songs HAD been heard by critics FIRST, our transition may have been as easy to follow as it was for our huge live German audiences. I still believe our "first release" was misinterpreted, underestimated and thereby later dismissed by some critics... possibly because the "Dream Nebula" could never be fully appreciated from any recorded version (except that SACD) and could only be heard and seen uncut at our live performances!

BTW, FYI, There IS a "Nektar star" within the star registry.... waaaaaay out there! One more note.. ('scuse the pun)... Another part I played ON the album (other than tambourine) was to change the speed on that 8-track for the "final note" of JttCotE.

As we covered the progression of Journey to the Centre of the "I", it became tighter, a little faster, with extra inflections in places, all experimental of course... to see what worked on our live audiences. Ron added some nice new "fills" during the end of "Dream"... then Mo's mind went round like a roundabout, just as our astronaut (Stig) experienced in that first portal. The next instrumental interlude became more aggressive up to the second portal, where the very serene "Where is the day etc." gives the contrasting effect needed as Stig's sight fades away and his mind absorbs images at the third portal... "Very soon there's gonna come a day etc." is where some "new" stuff was added. The Taff/Roye note swaps section returned to take off into a B3 solo spot and then the guitar counter solo picks up where the early versions faded away to "Good-day" ......all the way to a climax and that final door AND the sustained note, before continuing into "Now the sense that stops me going blind" explains what happened to Stig! Then the fun began, as the next LIVE part was from mid 1971, with a barely recognizable plodding rendition of the final steps taken to end this piece! Yet this "Journey" month didn't quite end here.... we'd played numerous versions without the actual studio type ending. This was an easy path taken once we decided on a "slight return" of the opening song as a bookend... which became the Death of the Mind".. so the "plodding section was made more melodic and a segue created to take us back to a slightly reworded final Astronauts Nightmare verse... and the rest, as they say, is history!

The preceding notes were edited from stories during APRIL 2009 when they were accompanied by many downloads on the member forum.. where the original threads still reside. Mick.© 2009


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