this is to accompany HOLYGROUND : THE WORKS CD VOLUME 5

released through KISSING SPELL LIMITED January 2001

the contents of this page includes opinion, memories and recollections
which may not be completely accurate : the opinions
expressed are not necessarily those of Holyground

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to buy the GAGALACTYCA CD click here

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cover art
track by track : Light Years Away
track by track : Thundermother
other CDs in the series

words to songs



GAGALACTYCA is a sister album to Astral Navigations. Lightyears Away has pretty much the same line-up, though with less from Brian Wilson and Brian Calvert who had both left the country. Four songs were destined for Astral Navigations when it was to be called Windows Of Limited Time : Save The Big Jam Roll, The People Show and Woman In My Life.  Aren't You Glad You Stayed? was intended to open the album, which is why it is heard at the end of A - Austr.

shirl, slyv & jan, esme & jumping jack flash, cath & linda, anne, fuckface the eagle, super judy, sonja, arkle, norfolk jim, mitchell deaver, gifford and andrew, 'goth' caxton, jim alexander, dave wood, pete duce, kevin young, mal gill & cass yard angels
'shirl' is Shirley Levon; 'slyv' was Dave Wood's partner; 'jan' is married to Chris Coombs, and 'anne' is Kevin Young's wife. Esme was Mike and Shirley's cat, (as was Jumping Jack Flash), and her purr lives on at the start of the THUNDERMOTHER tracks. Cath and Linda were usually to be found hanging around the studio or Mike's flat. They can be seen in the video of the making of ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS too. 'Mitchell Deaver' is Mike and Shirley's electric fire.
act    akt, v.i. to perform, to produce an effect n, the very process of doing something. [L. actus, action]
argala    ar'ge-la, n. Indian stork: symbol of birth [Hindi, hargila]
gag    gag, (slang), n. a made-up story, lie, hoax : actor's joke
gaga    ga'ga, adj. crazed : not having all your chairs at home [colloq.]
Gagalactyca    ga'ga-lak'tik-a, n. legendary rock album, Holyground label 1971,sister album to Astral Navigations [cf.]
gala    ga'le, n. showday : a festival : an event [Fr. gala, show]
galactic   ge-lak'tic, adj. pertaining to or obtained from milk, pertaining to a galaxy [Gr. gala, milk]
galaxy    ga-lek-si, n. the Milky Way, a luminous band of heavenly stars : a splendid assemblage [Gr. galaxias, milk]
gargle    ga'gul, v. t. (slang) to sing, to warble
la  la, interj.  lo! see! ah ! behold! indeed! [cf. lo]
lac, lakh    lac, n. the number 100 000 [Hindi]
lactic    lac-tik, adj. pertaining to milk [L. lactis, milk]
Largactyl    la-gak'til, n. the tranquillising drug chlorpromazine [see "The Largactylytes", from IT magazine 1968-70]
tic, tick  tic, n. a mark signifying correctness : credit : a nervous movement [Egyptian, right on!]
Tyche  ti'ke, n. (from Greek myth) Goddess of Fortune. -n. tychism ty'chism, n. theory of chance [see Kurt Vonnegut, cf.]
Tycho  ti-ko, n. lunar crater : named after Tycho Brahe, (1546-1601), site of first encounter with alien life (April 19th 2025)
tyke  tike, n. (colloq.) a Yorkshire-man                
reproduced from the Proxima Centauri Dictionary of Everything, © 2036


Originally there was no group name on ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS for the songs on side one of the vinyl LP. The two sides of the record were however given titles : "Light Years Away" and "Heavyside Layer". Gradually the mix of musicians and composers on side one became known as LIGHTYEARS AWAY, so this name was used for the group on GAGALACTYCA.
tales of Smoke Farm
written by Mike Levon - Chris Coombs

Chris Coombs  Crumar Multiman keyboard, guitar, vocals
Mike Levon  sfx, whispers, drums
Steve Channing  lead guitar, guitar, vocals
Pete Taylor  bass, Multiman piano

The Multiman keyboard was borrowed from Gifford Rolfe of the group Skybird. Steve Channing was connected to the JUMBLE LANE crowd who were recording their LP in late 1970, early 1971.

Steve Channing

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The tape effects are of Shirley Levon wearing high heels and walking past the microphone, and slamming the door.

Mike recalls : "I wrote the song about the great times I remember going down to Moodies pub on Bread Street and calling in at a house on St. John's Square. A nurse called Sonia lived there with her mother, and I was playing Dylan's BLONDE ON BLONDE daily".

Pete Taylor says : "I've only the the vaguest memory of recording Pretty Anne - Mike says I played the claves, but I've absolutely no recollection of this.  In contrast I can remember playing the the bass on Big Jam Roll as though it were yesterday - and I still wake up in a cold sweat.  At the time I was playing guitar in a sort of jazz / cabaret group - pretty relaxed, take off the odd verse and chorus while the pianist played etc.  Then by chance I bumped into Chris who asked if I still had my bass.  Phrases like 'simple song. . . . . no problem to you . . . . . . buy you a pint (I'm still waiting, Coombs!)  . . . . OK for this weekend,” were exchanged.

So I turned up with my beat-up old bass to find that I was to share a track with Steve, playing the lead guitar part.  It soon became evident that Steve had the bobby's job: play a couple of licks and then rest for a few bars while I had to plod on through the entire song without pause, hesitation or bum note.  Now, this doesn't sound unreasonable for someone who considers himself to be a musician, and indeed it isn't - for the normal upbeat 3 minute song that we all love and cherish.  But the Jam Roll was, well, B I G,  B  I  G,  B   I   G.   Eight minutes twenty nine seconds big.  I'm not sure I'd ever played for eight minutes twenty nine seconds without a break, let alone without playing a bummer.  Add to this that every time I played a bummer (usually 7 and a half minutes into the song) everything had to stop and Steve had to play, from the beginning, all his finely crafted (but cissy!) lead parts yet again, and again and . . . ..

When drowning your entire life is supposed to flash before you in an instant.  The Big Jam Roll recording was a sort of inverse drowning.  If the first seven minutes twenty nine seconds seemed to last a long time then the final minute was on a geological scale - the whole of creation had time to form, divide and multiply

'OK you're seven and a half minutes in . . . .nearly the end . . . . . no bummers . . . stay relaxed . . . . .STAY  RELAXED . . . . .Oh God, my minds gone blank . . . . .what comes next . . . . . . if only my left hand weren't gripped by cramp . . . . . get a grip . . . . no relax . . . . .  shit . . . . . sorry, Steve.”

Steve, ever gracious, never complained.  Thanks, mate, I still remember your kindness.  And the Big Jam Roll.  Well, in the clear light of day I remember it with great fondness.

But sometimes in the hills on starlit nights I look up to the heavens and contemplate the great questions of life:  how did it all start? what are we doing here?  is there life after death? and if there is, will it be like a great celestial recording studio where I get to play the first seven and a half minutes of an eight and a half minute song before playing a bummer and having to start again?  and if I do go to a recording studio afterlife, will I be in heaven? or . . . . .?"

Pete Taylor

click to enlarge

Chris Coombs
Chris Coombs  vocals, guitar, harmonium
Ted Hepworth  drums   Biff Byford  flute
Yvonne Carrodus  vocals
Mike Levon  tape fx, percussion
Originally the song was meant to go from the 5/4 ending you can just hear, to 7/4 then to 9/4 and so on. The plan was to have saxes on it, possibly from John Perfect's jazz band from Bretton. John was a college tutor, and had already recorded with Holyground on A to Austr.  Biff Byford was another of the Bretton students associated with JUMBLE LANE. He and Chris became friends and Chris used him on several songs.

Yvonne Carrodus was Chris' first wife, although when this track was recorded she was not yet married to him. She appears on the cover of A TO AUSTR with her sister, Gail, and Gail's friend, Denise.

Chris Coombs

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and I ain't got no coat, yeah

Chris Coombs
Chris Coombs  vocals, tambourine, claps
Bill Nelson  guitars     Liam Arthurs  bass

Chris arrived one night and uttered the immortal words 'I'm cold, tired, hungry & ain't got no coat”. Quick as a flash, Mike offered: 'What a good line,” and the rest is history.

No-one can recall for sure who played the bass drum on this track - it might have been Mike. And we guess that Liam played bass. Another JUMBLE LANE escapee, Liam was quite often around Holyground's studio. Below is a picture of him with Chris Coombs and Ted Hepworth in the studio, (left to right : Chris Coombs, playing the harmonium with his back to the camera; Ted Hepworth on drums; Liam Arthurs on bass; Cath Wood right at the back; and Mike Levon).

click to enlarge

Mike Levon - Chris Coombs
Chris Coombs  electric guitar, el condor pipes, vocals
Phil Harmonic  keyboards, bass, wahs

When Chris decided not to release 'King John's Christmas', Mike wrote these words - based on part of the King Arthur theme of A to Austr.  NOTE - this sentence is a correction from the booklet where what was printed does not make sense!

The tune is from one of a series of songs written by Chris with Biff Byford's help in the winter of 1970/1971. The original words are from A A Milne's poems in NOW WE ARE SIX, and permission to release the track has not so far been forthcoming. Both songs, (KING JOHN'S CHRISTMAS and THE FRIEND), featured Bill Nelson. Never one to let a good tune lie, Mike wrote an extension to the King Arthur theme from A to Austr.

Phil Harmonic was a whiz on the Multiman - he plays different rhythms with each hand, and the bass line with his feet. The whole song was recorded with only one 'bounce' so Chris could add the pipes.

Mike Levon - Brian Calvert
Chris Coombs  vocals, guitar, Crumar Multiman
Brian Calvert  guitar  Ted Hepworth  drums
Brian Wilson  bass, swinging cat guitar
The backing for this song was completed before ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS was finished, and can be heard on the run-out grooves of that LP. Brian Calvert hadn't left for Australia at that time so he wrote the tune to Mike's words, and played the acoustic guitar.
Likewise Brian Wilson was still around - he left to live in the Bahamas shortly after this. The lineup is therefore the old A TO AUSTR group, with Chris singing rather than Brian.

click to enlarge images

Brian Wilson >  Ted Hepworth  > and Brian Calvert  > 

The swinging cat guitar was a joint effort between Mike and Brian Wilson - using echo and sustain they produced an unearthly sound which has recently been reinvented on an album by U2. The Multiman part was added later when Chris had the use of it for a day to record the other tracks.


NOTE - this heading ended up in the wrong place in the booklet. FEBRUARY (IN MY BABY'S SOUL), PRETTY ANNE, and MAINLINE WOMAN BLUES are the only additional tracks on this CD, that is, tracks which weren't on the original vinyl release. THUNDERMOTHER's COME ON HOME was on the vinyl LP in a shortened form; the full version is on this CD.

Chris Coombs
Chris Coombs  vocal, acoustic guitar, lead guitar, finger snaps
Pete Taylor  bass, backing spoken vocal

A kind of folk-jazz track, not quite the sort of song usually found on "Astral" or "Gaga"!

Pete was also at Bretton, in the year before Mike. Mike in turn was in the year before Shirley Bayly who he later married, and Shirley was in the year before Chris Coombs came! I hope you followed that!

This song shares its rhythm  and some of its structure with the more famous KING OF THE ROAD. As far as we know it's the only time Pete has been on vocals! The bass Pete used for these recordings is one he built himself.

Anne Bauducel, later to marry Mike's brother and become Anne Young, was the other figure on the cover with Mike.

Shirley Levon, Anne Bauducel, and Mike

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Pretty Anne
Mike Levon - Chris Coombs

original version
Chris Coombs  vocals, organ, slide guitar, cicadas
Mike Levon  claps, whispers     Pete Taylor  bass, claps

later mix with following additions
Chris Coombs  tambourine, finger cymbal, vocals
Mike Levon  cardboard boxes
Steve Channing  lead guitars, vocals
Pete Taylor  claves,  Logan String Chorale

the remaining Arthur song from "A to Austr", influenced by Pete's journeys to India and Afghanistan, and later by Chris visiting
Turkey. At that point Mike had been as far east as Skegness.

Pete Taylor's passport photo!

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A major part for Mike in this song: whispering the part after the chorus. The 'cicadas' are in fact a whole pile of tambourines and maracas which Mike thrust into Chris's hands and said "Try shaking them in time and see what we get . . . "

The second version boasts cardboard box drums, a new finger cymbal Chris bought just for this track, and Pete hitting two pieces of wood together which Mike had collected and which sort of sound like claves, not that Pete has any recollection of playing them!


A Frazer - D Rodgers
Dave Millen  guitars, vocals, bass   Jerusalem Smith  drums

A last minute telegram from Miffy (David John) : 'Try to obtain bass amp. See you tonight” . . . and another lost weekend . . .

Ginner and one member of the group Jerusalem Smith

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Ginner (Dave Millen) sings and plays all but drums on this, and would have played them too if he could! One of the few occasions when Mike would record five separate 'bounces' of the tape to get all Ginner's parts on - and the quality still holds up!
David John - Dave Millen
David John vocals, percussion     Dave Millen   guitars
Frank Newbould  bass, percussion
Fred Kelly  drums, percussion   Mike Levon  steel pipe
The steel pipe was a short length of scaffold tube picked up in the yard below the studio.

Thundermother all came from Preston and would travel over for a weekend at a time to record. Mike has started to try to piece together the history of Holyground. Some dates which are relevant to this CD are printed below:

February-March Early work on A to Austr as 'Chief Crazy Horse'

June first contact with Preston rock scene, met David John (Miffy) & 'Doug'.

early July Brian Calvert arrived.


February Mike wrote 'Aren't You Glad You Stayed?'

April-May in Preston to meet Thundermother

June  'A-Austr' completed

June Global Village concert in Thornes Park, Wakefield

August 'Cold Tired and Hungry' and 'That is What We Need' recorded

Autumn 'Astral Navigations' started.


January Thundermother recording : 'Rock Me Babe'

February Thundermother recording other tracks

April 1st 'A-Austr'  released

April 'Gagalactyca' tracks being recorded

June Thundermother live at Bretton Hall College

October recording 'Jumble Lane'


January recording Bill Nelson's 'Northern Dream'

May 15th 'Astral Navigations' released

July 'Jumble Lane' released

David John - Dave Millen - Frank Newbould

David John  vocals, percussion     Fred Kelly  drums, percussion
Frank Newbould  bass, guitars, vocals
Dave  Millen  guitars, vocals

This track was intended to go on ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS along with WOMAN (IN MY LIFE) until the track SOMEDAY was recorded. It was only supposed to be a five minute track but it over-ran and thus these two tracks were not included.
Dave Millen

Dave Millen  guitars, vocals   David John  percussion   Daz  bass

The acid guitars were recorded through an echo unit plugged into the mixer causing a severe distortion, patent Holyground!

This is a longer version than the version originally on GAGALACTYCA. Apart from some percussion and Daz on bass, its a Ginner solo effort, with the harsh acid guitars matching Ginner's hard edgy vocals.

Ginner (Dave Millen)

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David John - Dave Millen - Frank Newbould

David John  vocals, percussion      Fred Kelly  drums, percussion
Dave  Millen  guitars, vocal
Frank Newbould  bass, guitars, vocal

Mike woke up to the sounds of John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. This track, recorded straight after, had similar production touches. Dave Millen  was still getting over what Shirley Levon offered for breakfast - jelly :  'weirdest breakfast I ever ate”. . .


Mike with the mixing gear (around 1971)

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'Doug' guitar, vocal  Dave  Millen  lead guitar

Doug, or 'Duke', as he was better known had found Holyground in June 1968 when they were recording the early tracks for A TO AUSTR. Amongst the first recordings Mike made of anyone from Preston were acoustic blues with David John, (Miffy), and with Ginner. Duke and Ginner are heard here - no other tapes have survived; some were stolen during a break-in later on.

Like 'Astral Navigations' Gagalactyca was recorded in mono on one track of a two track Ferrograph tape machine. This was then copied to the other track adding more instruments or vocals, and back again adding more. It was usual to do this three, and occasionally up to five times. Mike used a mixer built by drummer Ted Hepworth, and had a grand total of six microphones. He also had a hand built compressor and a spring echo unit. The studio was twelve foot square, covered in polystyrene ceiling tiles, and the control room was a small landing outside, only seven foot by five.

In the photograph of Brian Calvert can be seen the Truvox tape recorder that Mike recorded NUMBER NINE BREAD STREET on. He was still using it during this period to make copies of tapes.

other Holyground records in 'The Works' series
released January 2001
not yet released
not yet released
scheduled for early 2003
released January 2001
scheduled for early 2003
scheduled for early 2003
scheduled for early 2003
not yet released
released 2002
released 2002
released February 2001

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