Thursday, 21 July 2016

Mike Batt's 'Tarot Suite' - a bizarre 70's Tarot Find!

So my dears. As you know, I’m interested in what happens when tarot and music come together, and I have a bit of amazing synchronicity to share with you. A few weeks back, me, my boy Lukasz and my best friend Julia (who was visiting Scotland from Manchester) were doing the LGBT Pride march in Edinburgh across the City, enjoying some sunshine and queer empowerment (albeit with a dreadful hangover), and we somehow strolled right into a vinyl music fare directly after the march. Being Edinburgh, the beautiful summer turned to horrendous torrential rain within minutes, and we needed shelter. As always, I was desperate to buy some big old vinyl; I finally bought that Marianne Faithful record that’s been on my wishlist since 1997, and THIS big old tarot treat which I paid a fiver for, Tarot Suite by Mike Batt (1979, EPC). I had no idea who he was then and am still confused (although a quick Wikipedia peek reveals that he created The Wombles theme music. Respect!)....

(I don’t know who the creepy cover doll person is, but it makes a great Fool image - you can’t see in this light, but it’s got “The Fool’ written at the bottom of the card) : 

Let’s get the music bit out of the way. There’s elements of 70’s disco, prog rock and some songs would make a fitting soundtrack to an early 80’s car chase movie. You can hear The Wombles link for sure at times - I even recognise his voice from the theme tune! At it’s worst, it’s Meatloaf lost in Disneyland, pondering for his lady friend. It’s at its best in strange moments of musical experimentation, when it plays with synthy-stringy movie soundtrack styles and allows dramatic changes to occur in each song (Mike blended different card meanings/images into single songs, for example The Night of The Dead is influenced by The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil and The Tower cards. As you can imagine, there’s a lot going on in that song!). Despite my sarcasm here, I love this album’s tarot creativity. I am not a music journalist and my interest in sharing this find is in sharing its simple musical tarot goodness. I might not like the music itself, but I have a great respect for this album’s concept. A lot of work, imagination, creativity and inspiration has gone into this, and I love it for that. 

Mike set out to make an album inspired by the Major Arcana and to work the symbolism and images into songs. It’s the artwork and idea that I love the most, rather than the actual music (we did have a little post-Pride giggle at the music, but hey, I was once described as “an embarrassment to British music”, so who am I to critique?). It’s found a place in my vinyl collection, even if I will just pull it out and smile at the fabulous tarot artwork every now and then. The sleeve is like a mini tarot book, take a look : 

 Mike gives a heads up on the basic (generally understood) 'meanings' of the Major Arcana here, and it’s better than many Little White Books that accompany tarot decks....

I love this part of the sleeve, where Mike explains how he went about making the songs, and he introduced me to this beautiful looking Italian deck made by Gumppenberg (Milan) in 1820 (my deck wishlist is growing again). 

So, will I listen to this record a lot? Nope. But so what? It’s fascinating for me to discover who has been using tarot cards to make music over the years and how they are doing it, and this baby is a little gem.

The Tarot Cat is an underground, DIY, tarot-reading musician based in Scotland. I adore providing tarot readings for musicians, creatives, LGBT+ people and just about everyone who wants to look at something in a creative and interesting light! You can find out more about my approach to tarot or book a reading on my main website. More tarot-music findings are on the way (sign up for email updates in the top right of the page my chickens). Love Ste xx 

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