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Bridget St John

Songs For The Gentle Man

Trading Places

Released: 17th July 2020

LP£18.99Out of Stock

Classic folk psych album from 1971.

When Monorail opened one of my hopes was that it would have the good organisation of an excellent public library. This is a kind of bedrock that enables all the more exciting work that you hope to have going on - finding great music, putting colleagues and customers on to it and supporting and sparking odd, other things that will add something to the community you have in and around your shop. What I’d forgotten was that in a limited space like ours, in terms of floor and office capacity, the organisational part is problematic. This means even if you have a good system after a while it just isn’t possible to stock everything that’s interesting or somehow relevant. It can almost become a battleground to make sure that certain things are always there.

Things fall away, you always need to make space for new music to come along. That’s so important. But what it creates is a sense of transience that I’ve come to realise is actually an important part of music. It was here but now it isn’t. It doesn’t mean it isn’t good, this music we used to give space to, it just means it’s not its time any more. This is almost like a slow fade around the margins - if you think of what you listen to now it will be a bit different from what you were listening to ten years ago, a mixture of constants, returnees and new things. It’s a changing window. At the moment I cannot imagine that I would ever forget that I like listening to To Rococo Rot and Tenniscoats, Andrew Wasylyk and Laurence Vanay, Molly Nilsson and Movietone. And then there are records that I don’t remember buying, that I don’t really remember what they sound like.

I very much remember buying my first Bridget St John record and how it made me feel. Rescued from a rare records pile of records we were expecting to sell eventually, and which I’d look through from time to time, I had an immediate feeling that it was in that place on that particular day because I was going to buy it. “Thank you for…"… Dandelion / Polydor, gatefold, vinyl ex, cover more like a vg+ but still looking good. It was the record that I bought that year that I enjoyed most, got deepest into, played the most. It’s strange I didn’t already have any of her records, I remember John Peel still playing the occasional track in the late 70s and 80s which I liked and might have bought if it had been put in front of me. I was only really a scorched earth punk for a season or two. In more recent times I must have narrowly missed her play at a Chickfactor event as she became part of their community like The Pastels.

For me, Bridget St John’s music has really particular colours to it - it’s golds and greens and rich reds and browns. It’s like walking into a forest on the most beautiful autumn day. It always feels like nature and that’s why I’ve come to associate it with it always being there - even when her records were hard to find. Songs For The Gentle Man, originally released in 1971 is a very good place to start - it’s a free-flowing collection of normal magical songs that move easily from one to the next, in places almost floating on top of Ron Geesin’s odd, open production. I think he’s a genius actually but I also think his interventions are only so successful because everything that Bridget St John is doing has real purpose - her guitar playing is fabulous, she’s got tunes, and her vocals (which I first thought somewhere between Nick Drake and Nico - still do) are aways completely interesting - you find yourself leaning into them because you want to hear her story.

In a super short time Bridget St John moved through the tail end of the 1960s, being a key part of a counter culture that included John Martyn, Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt, John Peel, David Bowie into what feels like a clear space with not too much around. One minute she was eating an ice lolly on the cover of Time Out, the next a sort of timeless icon. She’s someone who would drift out of view rather than do something that doesn’t have a truth. Her songs were all along spiritual but everyday, grounded, earthy, real. On Songs For The Gentle Man everything is here in its short 36 minutes 15 seconds; hope, regret, love, sex, breakup. It’s got a lightness of touch and a luminosity that never diminishes. It’s perfect because it isn’t perfect, as strong and resilient as you need. It’s a permanent place.

SP / Monorail

The English singer and guitarist Bridget St John was introduced to the bourgeoning London folk scene by guitarist John Martyn, her rich and unusually deep voice being highly distinctive. BBC Radio disc jockey John Peel became one of her greatest champions, and when Peel formed the Dandelion label in 1969 with former Elektra record plugger Clive Selwood, the original intention was to issue St John’s music. Following debut album Ask Me No Questions, which featured Martyn on a few tracks, the 1971 follow-up Songs For The Gentle Man was produced by Ron Geesin, who supplied a more orchestrated arrangement with woodwinds; the album also features a cover of Donovan’s “The Pebble And The Man.”

A1 A Day A Way
A2 City-Crazy
A3 Early Morning Song
A4 Back To Stay
A5 Seagull-Sunday
A6 If You'd Been There
B1 Song For The Laird Of Connaught Hall - Part 2
B2 Making Losing Better
B3 The Lady And The Gentle Man
B4 Downderry Daze
B5 The Pebble And The Man
B6 It Seems Very Strange