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You Know What You Could Be: Tuning Into the 1960s

Written by Mike Heron and Andrew Greig

This is rather an unusual book. It is not a biography of the Incredible String Band nor does it have the detail of the BeGlad Compendium. The book is divided into two clear sections which may seem like there is no strong connection but they work very well together and reflect the title "you know what you could be". Mike Heron's autobiographical first part of the book covers his life up to the early years of the Incredible String Band. Andrew Greig's section takes the view of a fan who forms a band and looks emulate his heroes - you know what you could be.

Mike Heron's story is fascinating. He had a "regular" upbringing and was groomed for an office job, ending up briefly as an accountant. However, he had developed an interest in rock & roll and later in folk music so playing the guitar around the Edinburgh clubs was a stronger draw than auditing a client's books away from home and in an often hostile environment. When he ditched accountancy he moved in with Michelle, a French divorcee. Beatnik Heron becomes a regular on the folk circuit. There was a developing folk scene and soon Mike was playing regularly and met up with fellow musicians Clive Palmer and Robin Williamson. The book explores the early days of the String Band, meeting Joe Boyd and travelling to London to record the first album. However, Clive and Robin left for Afghanistan and Morocco respectively and, when the LP was released Mike was the only member of the band remaining. Consequently, he handled all the press enquiries from a phone box! Mike was left somewhat in the lurch but then Robin returned with lots of unusual instruments and things changed. That, of course, is the next part of the story.

Andrew Greig's story is almost a mirror. The Incredible String Band were highly influential with musicians such as Robert Plant, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones noting their importance. However, their influence was much wider and many young fans were encouraged to pick up their guitars and have a go. Enter the near-legendary Fate & ferret. Greig and friend picked up instruments, played String Band songs, wrote their own songs and played some gigs. They even met up with one of Joe Boyd's team at a String Band gig. This led to them making their way to London hitching a ride in a fish lorry, ending up in the Witchseason office. Joe Boyd was underwhelmed with their demo tape. Greig's story is one of ambition and perseverance over commercial success, crossing paths with Heron from time to time until they became friends later. Many musicians will find that the stories and anecdotes resonate.

This is an easy and very enjoyable read. Many will hope that Mike is able to follow it with a full autobiography but they depend on how accurate his memory is after many years!

Published 6 April 2017

River Run

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