‘Planet for $ale’ Suite
IOL CD 0237
IOL CD 0237
Music composed produced by Mazlyn Jones. Re-mix collaborations Steve Hillage System 777, Banco de Gaia, Guy Evans, John Acock and Keith Halden. Featuring Guy Evans of Van Der Graaf Generator, Carla Vallett, Steve Jolliffe, Phil Beer, Margaret Phillips and Bliss. Original art Pete Loveday. Graphics Andy Medley.
In 1998 radio producer Dr Keith Halden, winner of two ‘Sony Radio Awards’ created a powerful visual montage based on the words of the NMJ song ‘Planet for $ale’ for BBC 2 TV Scotland. Over the next seven years ‘Planet for $ale’ became a full length album and a project. Artist friends from other music genres got involved and created re-mixes from the original NMJ recordings and samples.
The lyrics are a series of questions, “Planet for $ale in need of renovation, who’ll give us a dollar for a dead old globe” and “Why are the rich so bloody greedy, Why are governments so corrupt right to the core?”, and answers, “It needs a change of thinking, if we’re to go on living, bringing up our children on this planet green and blue, yes it needs a change of living, to keep the garden beautiful, we’re only the caretakers, and we’re only passing through”.
NMJ once worked with the great apes for Gerald Durrell at Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. Gerald Durrell and John Muir ‘the first ecologist’ are quoted in the album sleeve notes.
“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with the other stars, all singing and shining as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty” John Muir 1879 from ‘Travels in Alaska’.
“The world is as delicate and as complicated as a spider’s web and like a spider’s web if you touch one thread you send shudders running through all the other threads that make up the web. But we’re not just touching the web, we’re tearing great holes in it; we’re waging a sort of biological war on the world around us”. Gerald Durrell 1972 www.durrell.org
NMJ says “I compare the way animals behave with the way we humans behave both in relationship to this life-nurturing planet and to each other and draw my conclusions from there. I worked part-time at Dudley Zoo observing the behaviour of the people watching the animals in the zoo. Later I worked at the Jersey Trust where Durrell’s ethics impressed me. I learned to hate enclosures physical and mental. I realised the human animal does not know how to live on this planet and now we have undeniable proof of human impact on the planets life support system”.
“It took a lot of commitment to get to the finished Planet for $ale album with many giving their time freely. Without them the album and this web site would not exist so I want to make that energy input work to help others. Let’s have the truth on the table and really see the roots of environmental damage. As John Lennon said “all I want is the truth, just give me some truth”’ As spin was invented by bowlers we have to learn to bat better.”
“My first encounter with the music of Nigel Mazlyn Jones harks back to the glory days of vinyl when the likes of Roy Harper, John Martyn, and that other great but often overlooked British guitarist Gordon Giltrap vied for a spot on the turntable.
NMJ (as he was known) cut a rugged cavalier figure pointing at the raging ocean in a defiant yet vulnerable manner, guitar slung over one shoulder on the cover of his first album, the acoustic driven masterpiece that is Ship to Shore. A true genius with the 12 string guitar he wove a magical sometimes frantic spell on the epic title track and for over 12 mins NMJ pleads for guidance so we can survive the raging seas and keep the ship from destruction. Relief follows as the song drifts off onto dry land with a trippy coda conjured from the mighty Echoplex effects unit.
Two more albums followed Ship, the brooding Sentinel and the more upbeat and rock driven Breaking Cover featuring the percussive talents of Van der Graaf Generator drummer, Guy Evans. These albums were hard to find, but once acquired the same message was always there that we are continually destroying the very world beneath our feet.
NMJ was not a worrier of the pop charts and lived mostly on the road playing the festivals and the clubs throughout Europe often touring with the likes of Judy Tzuke, Camel, Renaissance and English AOR rockers Barclay James Harvest. Strange bed fellows but great exposure none the less, and my first exposure to the live NMJ. He played a solo acoustic set hunched over his guitar with a rack of effects at his side and among the pieces he played Ship to Shore stood out and held many of the ageing rockers mesmerized.
Over thirty years later and NMJ has released many fine albums and is still trying to make us aware of our planets gradual but increasingly obvious decline. He is based in the beautiful Cornish countryside not far from the battered coastline where the waves once tried to sweep him away.
On ’Planet for $ale’ gone for now are the 12 string guitars and folk tinged melodies and instead a series of pulsing mixes and remixes by musicians old and new based on a simple but potent verse.
The album opens with a simple vocal over a clay pot rhythm. “Who’ll give us a dollar for a dead old globe?” a good question and while you think of the answer the first of the sequencer heavy mixes kicks off and leads the album on a winding pulsating journey with NMJ’s vocal dropping in and out to keep the message in the front of your mind.
On the System 7 remix legendary guitar guru Steve Hillage drops you right in the middle of the dance tent at Glastonbury and NMJ repeats “Keep the Garden Beautiful”.
Banco De Gaia, percussive and dark with “Breathe a Little Life” and then the Guy Evans/ Mazlyn Jones mix is as expected drum heavy as Evans whips up a storm at the kit while NMJ threatens with some dark growling guitar lines. Its one of the albums most effective pieces.
Another highlight is the NMJ /Keith Halden mix “Doctor’s Orders”. On this almost 10 min epic some seriously heavy electric guitar is unleashed amid a stop start rhythm which benefits from being played at full volume and is quite startling in its power.
The NMJ/John Acock mix “Only Passing Through” slows things right down with the help of some mellow piano courtesy of Margaret Phillips, before a rare but forceful appearance from the infamous 12 string.
In stark contrast the album ends as it began with the plaintive message of the title track and only a clay pot for accompaniment, NMJ sends out the warning one final time, well at least until you play it again.
Planet For Sale is not a happy album, its not meant to be. What it does is deliver a vital message in a number of musical styles which should appeal to wider audiences than the average protest songs would. It needs to be heard and spread across the generations. It should be played at the Eden Project on a Summer’s night in NMJ’s home county of Cornwall, amongst the mini ecosystems it is warning us we will one day lose.
As I write this from the snow-covered wastes of Ontario with a heavy minus reading on the gauge, all seems normal. But there was no snow at Christmas this year, the waters of Georgian Bay which is part of the mighty Lake Huron are not frozen as they should be, the snow has now come with a vengeance but will be gone in a couple of months and the effects of global warming are all too obvious from my window. ”It’s a dead old globe”.
Paul Russell, Feb 2007.
Paul Russell is a music writer and rock genre archivist. He published the complete guide to the Gabriel years and Genesis live shows ‘GENESIS – A LIVE GUIDE 1969-1974 Play Me My Song’ and researched and compiled retrospective albums for Genesis, Yes, Van Der Graaf Generator and other seminal bands.