Kevin says: I started in this racket (the “music business”) playing in bars to punk audiences in 1984, Reagan era. I was seriously underage, as were all the guys in the band, but no one seemed to care. The punk scene forged alliances and connections which did not lead to financial success but did make for a colorful life and interesting friends.
The songs and riffs on “Watch Your Head” are what enabled me, in my 30’s, to form a serious band. Watch Your Head was composed at the nadir of the Bush II period (2001-7), when I couldn’t get anyone to understand what I was doing. Was it Rock, was it Alt, was it Grunge? These were the serious, endlessly nuanced questions of the day. Watch Your Head came out during the twilight of the mainstream music business, which enabled me to get local publicity and gigs, which meant meeting good musicians and “heavy friends”, and a feller could actually sell songs on iTunes in those days.
On the tenth anniversary of this record, I’d like to remember the spirit that drove me back then. Sure, it was all about recruiting the musicians who would later become the Swigs, who went on to make “Let it Come Down” (2010) and “Johnson Family Values” (2011), and enable me to actually bring the music to the only audience I care about, the general public. I’m forever grateful to the musicians who believed in me, but I needed the material on Watch Your Head to make it happen. I recorded the double CD with the same attitude I bring to all my records:
Imagine it’s not 2007, or 2017. Reflect, if possible, on the situations you’ve lived through. For example, “Lucy Stoner Stroll” is a vivid memory of a spectacular night in Key West; “Poison the Well” is my imagining the state of mind of a drug-addled stripper as she sums up her life. The people and places are “all blurred to me”, and many are no longer with us, but live on in my memory and personal experience. More often than not, the characters in Watch Your Head are forgotten casualties of the social fabric of the United States.
But at the end of the day, I don’t want to wallow in misery. I want to bring people up, not down, and try to have a rare thing in the modern world, intelligent “fun”.
I’m interested in real people from all walks of life, like the frustrated guy who spoke the truth on shortwave at the end of Watch Your Head. And I still love playing live the most. My YouTube channel contains glimpses of what can happen when you get The Swigs on a stage with an enthusiastic audience. The performers blur into the spectators, and the audience starts “playing the band.” That’s what we call (literally) “magic”. “Magic” is why I continue to persue live performance as the ultimate social leveler. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your social status is, when you get on a stage and bear your soul to strangers.
I remember being uptight before the Swigs played to a club full of rowdy, inebriated bikers. I was uptight right until we started playing, and I realized that all these bad-assed dudes wanted was to have a dance with their wives and girlfriends. They wanted to have fun, and on a good day the Swigs try to provide a venue for that.
I want to offer interested listeners some Patreon exclusives, like my first album “Reise ins Licht” (1999), which was recorded on the cheap in Los Angeles and Stockholm, and never released. Also, the Watch Your Head double CD is a beautiful package, with a booklet and inner artwork by the incomparable Lucy Stoner. Furthermore, the Swigs “Johnson Family Values” is an actual analog record, which means it was mastered for vinyl and can only be heard properly on a turntable. In the 60’s-80’s, having the physical product your hands was crucial to the listening experience. The Swigs Patreon page will offer this experience at bargain-basement prices.
Recommendation by The Saker: Life can be funny at times, in fact, life often is. I had been exchanging emails with one of my readers and one day he sent me a small package including a CD and Vinyl album of his music. That was an amazing day for me, the day I truly discovered Kevin Anderson.
I had known Kevin, kind of, through a few email exchanges and through an op-ed he wrote for The Duran. I knew that Kevin was a sharp and very nice person, but little did I know that he was an amazing musician and composer. But as soon as I began listening to his music I was blown away. Kevin sent me the record he recorded with his band, The Swigs, entitled “Johnson Family Values”. It was very good. But it was his solo-recorded double-CD entitled “Watch Your Head” which really blew me away.
Yes, you read that right – Watch Your Head is a solo masterpiece: Kevin wrote and performs all the songs and what you get is a sense of the amazing emotional palette of an extremely talented artist.
Make no mistake; Watch Your Head is a complex, multi-layered and very diverse album. This is no elevator music or “easy listening”. In fact, I think that the album might appeal more to musicians than to your average listener. What is sure is that it was a commercial failure: it sold some, but it was never noticed by the big guys of the music industry. Don’t expect it on MTV or at some major music awards festival.
For one thing, Watch Your Head is not Rock, neither is it Jazz and definitely not Country. So what is it?
Well, here immediately zoom in on of one Watch Your Head’s qualities: it is absolutely unique and amazingly original. How can I best describe it?
It is “guitar-heavy” for sure. Kevin is a fantastic guitarist whose technique is excellent, he has a masterful control of acoustic and electric guitars and his compositions feature many different guitar sounds all beautifully blended into one almost dream-like guitar sound mix. I hate making comparisons because they are always superficial and unfair, but listening to Kevin Henderson guitarists such as myself will hear sounds of Larry Coryell on “Tributaries” or Jimmy Page on “Physical Graffiti” even though Watch Your Head is not acoustic Jazz or Hard Rock.
Then here is the Kevin’s beautiful singing which sounds almost English to me with, maybe, some overtones of the early Beatles or Pink Floyd’s early albums with Sid Barret. Kevin sings on about half of the songs, the rest are instrumentals (even that is quite unique). But don’t take my word for it; others have heard “Robyn Hitchcock, Andy Partridge, Jeff Beck, Sandy Bull, Steve Howe, Bill Nelson and Leo Kottke, among others”.
The truth is that it is impossible to “squeeze” Kevin and his music into some simple and clearly identifiable category: he is an absolutely original composer, a world-class interpreter and an overall extremely multi-faceted artist.
For a guitarist like me, it is Kevin’s guitar playing and composing which stands out the most. The variety of guitar sounds you will hear on his album reminds me of my favorite Jazz album ever, Philip Catherine’s amazing 1975 “Guitars” (most/all tracks available on YouTube). His solos mix all imaginable kind of scales, arpeggios and modes, from Celtic scales to bluesy notes to hard rock riffs playing on acoustic guitars. Absolutely amazing stuff!
No wonder it was a commercial failure – instead of trying to cater to some segment of the population carefully defined by marketing specialists Kevin clearly wrote that album for himself or, better, for whatever/whoever is the God of Guitar Music. This is a beautifully no-compromise recording which in our times of abject commercialization and total debasement of music is truly a gem to be loved and cherished for hours and hours and hours.
In a way, this album is ideal for the kind of people we find in the Saker community: free thinkers who dislike simplistic ideologies and categories, people a strong appreciation for honesty and courage, who cherish humanity and are deeply alienated by the empty materialism of the commercial world we all have to live in. Like most of us, Kevin is also a former “submarine in the desert” and much of his music reflects that. If I tell you that the last track on his album ends with the haunting reflections of an unknown ham radio operator recorded by Kevin during Hurricane Katrina will you be surprised? Coming at the end of this amazing album, this recording on the track “Not for Naught” takes on a strong moral and political meaning: we must resist to survive. And to do this, we must “watch our head”.
When I listen to this amazing album I decided to contact Kevin to ask him if he would be willing to make this album available for download. He has kindly agree to do so and you may listen on Soundcloud :
Watch Your Head (1)
Watch Your Head (2)
UPDATE: You can now also download the full album from archive.org. Just click here https://archive.org/details/KevinHenderson, then go to “DOWNLOAD OPTIONS” and chose one of the several download options (ogg format, torrent, playlist, mp3 file, all files into one zipped file or file by file download).
Please note that there are not stupid copyright schemes, no passwords or any other money extortion schemes here: Kevin is sharing his music with you freely with no strings attached. However, I also urge you to generously donate to Kevin to thank him for his beautiful music, his beautiful album and simply for being here and doing what he does. Frankly, I think that his music is priceless so, please, be especially generous and thank him for what he did. Won’t it feel great to know that, just like the kings and prices of past times, you can also be a generous sponsor of musical talent?
I personally hope that this album which was completely ignored by our obtuse and corrupt society will be a smashing hit in our community. Let “them” have “their” music and let us have ours :-)
I hope that you will all enjoy this absolutely superb album as much as I did.
Please let me know by sharing your reactions in the comments section.
Kind regards to all,