Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Hatfield and the North
Let's Eat (Real Soon)/ Fitter Stoke Has A Bath


Released 1974 on Virgin
Reviewed by Dave W, 09/04/2001ce


This wonderful record encompasses all that is special and unique about the so-called 'Canterbury Scene'. The Hatfields' only sojourn into short play was one of Virgin's first 45s and, in this punter's humble opinion, never bettered since by anything else on the label. 'Let's Eat' is a jaunty, major keyed song of the utmost apparent simplicity until you try to work out how to play it; like prime Mozart its complexity is masked by its immediacy. Richard Sinclair sings a whimsical lyric expounding the joys of calorie intake (which would be more credible were he not the thinnest dude ever to pluck a bass string) via more than a hint of double-entendre; in the song he becomes the food to be eaten, mirrored a year later by Robert Wyatt's bacon persona in 'Soup Song'. Listen to the way the fab organ solo fades into the key-changed final verse with a stunning decending counterpoint melody which itself could have made a great song. But it's the flip, 'Fitter Stoke has A Bath' (like many Hatfield and Caravan titles, presumably an anagram, although I've never worked it out) that really hits home. The first part of the song is a 'life on the road' commentary sung to a tune which has no verse and no chorus, just a meandering sequence of notes with another cracking counter-melody, this time on guitar. Following a charming sequence where Sinclair confesses that tea at home eclipses the excesses of touring, the song enters another dimension. The Northettes emerge into the mix with harmonically perfect three part vocal chords, and the lyrics devolve into childlike word association ('Bong, Billy Bang, Desperate Dan, Frying Pan'), but, dammit, the tune is just perfect. The tempo then doubles its speed and you're treated to a wordless, almost falsetto, Sinclair vocal around a melody that incorporates joy and sadness in equal measure, and a real toe-tapper to boot. End with a searing Phil Miller guitar solo over an impossible time signature and you've one of the most intricate and original tracks ever to grace seven inches. And yet, and yet...it's so bloody catchy! An original of this beauty should set you back no more than a fiver; alternatively, check out both 'Let's Eat' and 'Fitter Stoke' as extra tracks on the CD reissue of theHatfields' eponymous first album.


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