A Tribute To Michael Head's The Magical World Of The Strands

Why Michael Head's 'journey through a heroin habit' is an album you need to own...
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Why Michael Head's 'journey through a heroin habit' is an album you need to own...

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So there I am sat at home one Saturday morning in 1985 and the chart show comes on the telly.

After all the popular chart stuff has been on they always play some indie/alternative bands. This for me is always the exciting bit, but can also be very disappointing at the same time. This Saturday was different because the video that came on was “Jean’s Not Happening” by a Liverpool band called The Pale Fountains. I quickly fumbled for the remote for the video recorder and threw a tape in and pressed “Record”

I managed to miss most of it but seeing these cool looking guys with vintage leather jackets and “high and tight” haircuts made me instantly want to change my image even though deep down I knew I would never look that cool.

That day Michael Head & co entered my life and would never leave as his music has become an obsession. Yes he became a heroin addict, yes he leaves huge spaces between releasing his music and yet despite these small hindrances he always comes up with the most beautiful, poignant music that any songwriter has written.

I managed to miss most of it but seeing these cool looking guys with vintage leather jackets and “high and tight” haircuts made me instantly want to change my image even though deep down I knew I would never look that cool.

Lads love him, why? Maybe it’s because he comes across as very humble but he has still got that scally side to him which makes you think that maybe you could end up doing this, just like punk used to make people feel like they could achieve something purely because The Sex Pistols could.

Ok, so I am 17 years old when I first hear the “Palies” and then I read that Morrissey loves the record cover for Jean’s Not Happening and I realise I am on to something here.

The album that this single came from was called “From across the kitchen table”. As I got older I realised Mick’s obsession with Arthur Lee and Love and this is very evident throughout the album.

I then go out and buy Forever Changes and Da Capo because of this. But then the inevitable happens and the band split. Eventually he re emerges with his new band that he has formed with his brother John who was also in the Pale Fountains. They name the band Shack. They release an album and some singles but nobody seems bothered and they split up. Then Mick develops a habit and writes a bunch of songs that are the most atmospheric and mesmerizing pieces I have ever heard in my life.

I know Mick isn’t the first lead singer to have had his problems with drugs and why am I not writing about all these other artists? Well maybe that’s because Mick was never seen draped over supermodels on a night out in some up yer arse nightclub. He was too busy scoring drugs in Liverpool and making this beautiful album.

The album he releases is called “The Magical World of The Strands”. He releases under the name of Michael Head Introducing the Strands. The album feels like a personal journey through his heroin habit but told in a way that you always feel like he is going to get through it and get better. On one of the tracks “X Hits the spot” he is asking us, the listener, where all his furniture has gone because he can’t remember flogging it for his next hit. John Head, Mick’s brother sings on one track, the eerie “Loaded Man”. You get the impression that it’s a plea to his big brother, or it’s a younger brother telling his brother to stop and have a look at himself. “I regret every day, what I done, didn’t do, what I’d say”. Mick then comes up with “Hocken’s Hey” with its upbeat lyrics, chiming guitars and dare I say it, banjo to restore the mood to one of triumph and making the listener believe that Mick’s got this drug shit totally under control and there’s no need to worry about him. Music as any music lover will know creates/explains emotions that touch us all differently but I dare anyone not to be moved by this album as it is truly a triumph over adversity. I know Mick isn’t the first lead singer to have had his problems with drugs and why am I not writing about all these other artists? Well maybe that’s because Mick was never seen draped over supermodels on a night out in some up yer arse nightclub. He was too busy scoring drugs in Liverpool and making this beautiful album.

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