From The Desk Of Wesley Stace: Manzanera’s “Diamond Head” And “801 Live”

WesleyStaceLogoIt’s difficult to imagine anyone left on the face of the planet (already familiar with the man’s work, that is) who isn’t aware that singer/songwriter John Wesley Harding and critically acclaimed novelist Wesley Stace are one and the same. Henceforth, he has announced that he will record under the name Wesley Stace, and hopefully never again be asked why he assumed the name of a 1967 Bob Dylan album, misspelling and all. “It’s like what happens at the end of a Spider-Man or a Batman movie,” says Stace. “When the superhero reveals his true identity to his girlfriend.” “Girlfriend” may be the operative word on Stace’s new album, Self-Titled (Yep Roc), in which a 47-year-old man, now comfortably married and living in Philadelphia, reflects back over the loves of his younger life. Stace will be guest editing all week. Read our new feature on him.


Stace: I saw the Roxy Music reunion a few (perhaps many) years ago and was surprised to find Manzanera the leader of the band. He was amazing; he looked amazing. I had bought Diamond Head, his first solo record, years before, but only because Robert Wyatt (I am a Wyatt completist) handled the lead vocals on “Frontera,” the first song. I never really got past that first track, which is shameful, but also awesome because there was that same LP casually waiting for me a few months ago, when I needed something new and thought of Manzanera.

And it’s great: Eno singing a fantastic song called “Miss Shapiro” (of which, check out the comment at the YouTube page, which is enlightening), a couple of stellar instrumentals, a beautiful little pop song about Manzanera’s being Peruvian in Britain (and it’s very difficult to tell who’s singing what if you don’t look at the credits). And then it turns out that another album I also had on LP, and I can’t quite remember why, is the accompanying (more or less) live album: 801 Live, with Eno playing an even better version of “Miss Shapiro,” which segues into a wonderful cover of “You Really Got Me.” (And that’s not the only classic-rock cover on the live record: “Tomorrow Never Knows” is recast as “TNK” in the important “second song” spot.)

Great music leads you down the chain: Diamond Head reminded me of Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports, another record by the non-lead-member of a much bigger band who had the juice to make a solo record and the nous to use fantastic people to help him out on vocals and songwriting, in order to make the best album possible. Robert Wyatt also sings a few on that one, much of which is arranged by Carla Bley. And the 801 Live record, with so many great players on it, reminds me of the Ayers/Cale/Nico/Eno live record, June 1 1974. Eno sings “Baby’s On Fire” on both records—it must have been his go-to-song; his “Goodnight Irene.” Mike Oldfield plays guitar on June 1 1974 (as does Ollie Halsall from Patto) and Robert Wyatt plays the drums.

All roads lead to Robert!