Gateway to the Ether 7 ~ Bobby Lee
Bobby Lee connects with the heady corners of his record collection in this freewheeling, consciousness-expanding mix.
Raised in a hippy era soup of 60s music documentaries and unreined access to his parents’ record collection, English DJ and musician Bobby Lee would go on to embrace Americana, psychedelic and shoegaze. Tune in to this exclusive soul-affirming mixtape for when the world gets too heavy.
Heads Lifestyle: Hey Bobby, where are you now?
Bobby Lee: Lost in the Ozone. Sheffield, UK.
HL: What do you do with your time?
BL: I’m a father, husband, musician, dusty fingered DJ, promoter (Heretics’ Folk Club), graphic designer, occasional writer and art technician.
HL: Do you get high when listening to music?
BL: I guess my answer is slightly different to your State-side brothers and sisters. Weed is still illegal over here—potentially being upgraded to Class A, the same as heroin, by our shit-show of a government—so let’s just say it’s been known.
HL: Describe a typical music-weed session?
BL: I don’t smoke cigarettes so rolling joints with tobacco just gets me buzzed off the nicotine—not what I’m looking for. The quality of the grass over here is pretty mixed so I find a vaporizer works for me. (I’d love gummies to be available in the UK as I feel a bit of a dweeb vaping.)
Deep listening sessions are a rare treat for me these days, but I’ve got my stereo set up in the lounge, with most of my records within arm’s reach and an easy chair for near horizontal enjoyment. During more casual listening, I’m prone to flipping records halfway through a song, but when I’m settling in for the evening, it’s a start to finish situation. One of the reasons I love DJing so much is that it allows for a solid stretch of uninterrupted listening and thinking about music. During the first UK lockdown, I was making mixtapes for friends, which was a way I found to get my DJing fix, stay connected to people and spend time with some of the neglected corners of my record collection.
HL: What is your earliest memory of connecting the dots between music and cannabis?
BL: I remember asking my mum when I was a young teenager if she’d ever smoked weed. (Despite his waist-length hair and Zappa LPs, my Dad was more of a few pints of mild and football on a Saturday afternoon man.) She told me “only once” (which I’m sure is a lie…) at a party with the band Lindisfarne. Go find a picture or video of Lindisfarne. Those lads knew their way around a Rizla. She insisted on calling it “wacky baccy” which, even at 12 or 13, made me cringe so hard my knees buckled.
My parents were exactly the right age for the hippy boom, and I lapped up their occasional reminiscences about those times. Watching The Stones In The Park (1969) or Behind The Music-type documentaries about Carole King, Joni Mitchell or Woodstock with them always elicited a few nuggets about their pasts, and awkward seat shuffling when the joints got passed in the film.
I was given relatively free rein with my parents’ modest record collection (Byrds, Edgar Broughton, Santana, Songs In The Key of Life, Let It Bleed, a fuckload of England Dan and John Ford Coley, an entirely incongruous copy of Hatful of Hollow…). I was always drawn to the loose, freewheeling, consciousness-expanding sounds that I found there.
A beautiful spiralling melody and simple wordless vocal coalesce into an overwhelming nebula of sound. Total sensory overload. And I always enjoy when jazz players lose themselves in echo and delay.
Lonnie Liston Smith
Another heady zoner, sitting midway between spiritual jazz and jazz funk. I love feeling entirely enveloped by this; the deep groove and free floating electric piano melodies, with waves of tabla and saxophone carrying me out into the cosmic ocean. I’m not religious and I don’t know music theory, so songs like this feel as close to that unknowable, ineffable, universal oneness/OM/Brahman/great spirit as I’m ever likely to get.
Yuba Source Part 1
For years I’ve been chasing the dragon of music that hits like Brightblack Morning Light’s debut and Date Palms are as close as I’ve come. They share those tectonic chord changes and organic desert drone with BML but with a touch of Earth’s western gothic ambience.
Mellower-than-thou, impossible to pigeonhole, West Coast groover. One of my most played songs over the last decade. This invariably gets an airing at every party, DJ set, BBQ, road trip and long drive home. I love Jonathan Wilson’s version too, but I’m sticking to the original here.
The Sun Comes Up A Purple Diamond
I was a Hiss Golden Messenger and Steve Gunn fan before this record came out, but the syrupy JJ Cale worship and dubbed out folk funk really connected. I’d be lying if I said its minimal drum machine and heavily phased guitar slo-mo choogle hadn’t been an influence on my own music. A real head-nodder for the heads.
Sunburned Hand of The Man
Too much so-called “psychedelic” music is just too busy, too cluttered, too interested in showing off its own musical chops to really lose itself in a solid groove. Flex sounds like The Happy Monday if they swapped the crack for mushrooms and really leaned into a Guru Guru thing. Props to SHotM for still turning out balearic-psych-synth-chuggers like this more than 20 years in.
Push Thru The Veil
Sounding like all your favourite German/Swedish/Nigerian/Japanese underground heroes of yore jamming at Black Ark. Expertly toasted 21st century Kosmiche. This was my gateway into the world of Herbcraft/Matt LaJoie/ML Wah/Starbirthed/Flower Room. I try to keep up with all of Matt’s releases but he’s so prolific. I’m sure I’ll be discovering hidden gems of his for decades to come.
The Writing On The Wall
Buffalo (Version 1)
Doomy, droney, mellotron-heavy yet surprisingly funky madrigal from Scottish proto-metal nearly-rans. Sounds a little like Free after an argument in the van and too many Newcastle Browns the night before.
Hometown weirdo Ramases was an army PT instructor/gas fitter who, in a vision, was told he was the reincarnation of the 19th dynasty Egyptian king. This being the late 60s, he released several psych pop singles before a 1971 album on Vertigo backed by an embryonic 10cc. I used to live close to his suburban pharaonic home and he has become something of a talisman to those working on the fringes of Sheffield music. Life Child is a classic wah-driven, fuzzy prog-folk tune which would perfectly soundtrack reading Tolkein in a dimly lit bedroom, surrounded by velvet blacklight posters, thick with bong smoke.
Area Code 615
Devil Weed and Me
I love how Area Code 615 used the vocabulary of country music to make incredibly forward-thinking and often deeply odd music. Playing on Conway Twitty or Connie Smith sessions in the daytime (no shade on Conway or Connie, by the way) then turning out cuts like this in the evening? They’d clearly been listening to the Mothers of Invention and Led Zeppelin when they were writing this.
Me and Mr. Hohner
I have a real soft spot for “square” artists making desperate lurches for hip credibility and I don’t think many did it better than Bobby Darin with the bunch of LPs he made at the tail end of the 60s. I guess this is just a novelty Dylan/Townes-style talking blues song about longhairs getting a hard time from meathead cops, but it’s funky as hell and the production and arrangement are just perfect.
Backed up by Little Feat, Kathy Dalton (formerly of Daughters of Albion) lays down some slippery, spooky, sticky-icky swamp-funk which sounds right at home between voodoo era Dr. John and Cher’s 3614 Jackson Highway. I pick up every copy I see of this in the bargain bins to gift to friends.
Recently unearthed private press rural psychedelia with a too good to be true back story. (Recorded on a reel-to-reel in Roswell? Get outta here!) Elsewhere on the LP, Carl takes excursions down raga and guitar soli backroads but Turritella Flats is a fine slice of sunbaked instrumental folk rock just begging to be used on the soundtrack to some Edward Abbey adaptation.
The Ozark Mountain Daredevils
Some real punk-purist, snob-bothering soft southern rock here. My definition of balearic is perhaps a little broader than most, but this is A-grade golden hour dream music. I’m a real evangelist of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. For every AM radio staple or goofball hillbilly jam, there’s moments of total bliss like this tucked away. Pretty sure that’s a goddamn cor anglais in the mix too.
“Sitting in your mother’s garden, smoking Lebanese, beneath the privet hedge.” The sound of a stoned afternoon spent cloud watching in an English country garden after a gentle hike to Avebury or the Uffington White Horse. This is the dreamy summer precursor to Nick Drake’s autumnal melancholy.
Prayer to Aphrodite
Whilst I’m on a pastoral tip, this proto-new age flute’n’strings Windham Hill/Robert Kirby-like really hits the spot. I can’t help but imagine it as the theme from some heartbreaking 70s kids TV show about woodland creatures fighting a dastardly property developer with nothing but teeth and claws and a little earth magic. This was a big influence on a record my wife and I made together in a caravan on Anglesey.
Peace Begins Within
Early roots reggae cut with an otherworldly vocal and mantra-like chorus. Put on repeat when the world gets too heavy.
Down By The River
There’s no shortage of killer versions of Down By The River, but this is the one I’ve been turning to recently. With its super relaxed tempo, delicious phasing and gospel backing vocals, it’s looking towards the beach rather than Canada’s snow-clad peaks. Willie Lindo’s gnarly lead guitar is the real star here, though. Drifting between the fuzzed out licks of Neil’s original and some Frampton-esque talk-box action, it’s the lime in your margarita.
Space Movement Section 2
Adrian Sherwood is really letting loose here. Drifting free from his craft into endless space, his umbilical cable severed, eyes closed, fingers feeling the faders, navigating by touch. I’ve heard this record compared to The Grateful Dead, which is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but I’m sure Mickey would dig its drums and space.
Somewhat unfairly pinned as Krautrock, Between are closer to Oregon, Quintessence or Alice Coltrane than Neu or Can. Elements of jazz, classical, ambient and Pan-Asian traditions seep into the heady mix, which is far more enjoyable than that overly academic description suggests. Glorious repetition and ritualistic chants guide you through the six bardos.
Bobby Lee is a musician and DJ based in Sheffield, England, “standing at that interstellar crossroads between Americana, American primitive, psychedelic and shoegaze” (Petal Motel). His third album, Endless Skyways, is due spring 2023 via Tompkins Square. He has previously played in Brent Rademaker’s Country Rock/Power Pop group GospelbeacH.
You may also like:
Gateway to the Ether: Ethan Miller
Howlin' Rain sonic messenger Ethan Miller shares his definitive stoner playlist
Gateway to the Ether 2: Jason P Woodbury
Aquarium Drunkard's Jason Woodbury smokes a bowl and shares his ultimate stoner playlist
Gateway to the Ether 4: Brent Rademaker
Curation Record’s Brent Rademaker eats an edible and lets the gummies do the DJing