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Extended Analysis

Ron Geesin: Biting The Hand (BBC Radio Broadcasts 1969 - 1975)

By Published: June 13, 2008
Ron Geesin
Biting The Hand (BBC Radio Broadcasts 1969 - 1975)
hux records

Even in the state of cultural flux that was Britain in the late 1960s, multi-instrumentalist Ron Geesin must have stood out. The BBC radio sessions which make up much of this double-CD go a long way to showing why. Geesin could have been defined by what he was not as much as anything else, so essentially it's no surprise that he comes across as a Scottish Gus Cannon with an interest in tape manipulation and 'found sounds'

It's also clear that the BBC didn't know what to do with him at the same time as it exercised its public service broadcasting remit in putting him on the air. Thus, here Geesin first turns up on a long gone program called Country Meets Folk from 1968 doing "Blues Turned A Bit Green," played on 6-string banjo and red petrol can. It's already clear here that he's moving beyond the folk music boom and into territory of his own, not least in terms of the petrol can.

This is even more obvious by the time we get to "Devised Now" from a Night Ride program later in the same year, where Geesin proves himself to be a pianist like no other, unless of course the notion of Cecil Taylor with a sense of humour and a penchant for high-pitched vocal interjections is a viable one. From the same session, "A Piece For Harmonium" cunningly turns out to be a piece for piano and voice, with Taylor coming to mind again, not least in Geesin's rolling left hand figures.

He plays to a live audience again on "A Piece Of Brown Paper" and succeeds in provoking some bemused noises from them as if he was one of those people whom no counter-cultural remit would ever encompass.

The more time passed the more Geesin became something of a BBC institution, and rightly so. The three parts of "Agitation In Anticipation Of Offspring," understandably parts W, X and Y in turn and recorded for Top Gear in 1969, find him broadening his sonic palette by using the piano as a percussion instrument and making use of a tape recorded inside a London bus. This is arguably where things come together best, with Geesin's world establishing itself outside of known parameters.

He goes on to fill that world in on "A Cymbal And Much Electronics" from 1971. By this time Geesin's self-confessed dexterity with the tools was yielding results that would probably have had the earnest folkies he was kind of baiting just a few years before running for cover, although "Got Ma Black Vest On" from the same session proves he still got some pleasure out of baiting.

The program If It's Wednesday was a perhaps ill-advised attempt at harnessing Geesin's singularity alongside that of the likes of singer and bandleader Viv Stanshall, and "Chrisfarce" is a damn sight more than another slight at the materialism of Christmas. The banjo's out again, and Geesin's way with words is as much his as it is anywhere here.

"Geesin's 6/8th's" finds him in the company of the late DJ John Peel, first encountered on the first disc, and just like before the music has to be dealt with on its own terms. As elsewhere Geesin makes no concessions to anything, but that's only because he's unable to. Being an amiable chap he also does it with a smile on his face.

Tracks: CD1: Blues Turned A Bit Green; Pretty Little Faces; Off The Left Cuff; Yesterday's Sheep; Very Nostalgic Piece; Devised Now; A Piece For Harmonium; John Peel's Introduction; Wind Of Life; Railway Sleepers; Whirls Of Brain; Rampage For Radio; A Piece Of Brown Paper; The First Piece; Plywood Cover For Voice; John's Title; Out Of Your Tune + Virtuoso Piece For Piano; Mr. Tape Machine, Speak To Your Heads; I Wonder Why. CD2: Ron's Notebook; No.8 Scalpel Incision Foxtrot; Agitation In Anticipation Of Offspring, Part W; Agitation In Anticipation Of Offspring, Part X; Agitation In Anticipation Of Offspring, Part Y; Duet For One-String Banjo And Water Cistern; A Cymbal And Much Electronics; Got Ma Black Vest On; Which Way Out?; Thank You; Two Feet And A Mouth; Aside From Lands Afar; Story; Chrisfarce; From Sevenoaks To Charing Cross; Geesin's 6/8th's; Conversations And Improvisations.

Personnel: Ron Geesin: voice, 6-string, 4-string, 1-string, detuned, multi-tracked and "eastern" banjos, red petrol can, piano (plucked, beaten and played), percussion, ring-modulated and multi-tracked percussion, celeste, mouth, cymbals, tape delay system, tape inside London bus, harpsichord, water cistern, VCS3 synthesizer, synthesizer bass, tape loop, tape loop of train on rails, mandoline, drum.

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