Can Week – Day 1: Alan Warner on Tago Mago

To celebrate the upcoming release of our 101st 33 1/3 on Tago Mago by Alan Warner, we bring you the first installment of Can week! Here’s Alan talking a bit about himself, the book, the album, and the correct pronunciation of  Tago Mago.

I am a Scottish novelist, hypochondriac and nervous flyer. I revert to fine wines as often as possible but can’t afford them, though I could send you a list. I saw a UFO last week and a shooting star last night. There’s a difference.

This is a little book that I have written: Tago Mago is pronounced, slowly and in a deep voice: TAAAAGOOOOMAHGOOOOOO. It’s about the album of that name by the German rock band CAN, who had an American singer then a Japanese one, between 1969 and 1973. Then they had no singer at all, which Black Sabbath should have tried. They split up in 1979 but the individual members go on or went on making good, often great music.

Tago Mago, which was recorded in late 1970, is a remarkable album. They were a sort of mad jazz rock band with two unique singers; jazz-like, in the fact that they spontaneously played and recorded what they played in their home studio, located in a German castle, but much more than that, they edited and produced their albums very brilliantly–if simply.

The book is more about me as a 15-year-old discovering all sorts of albums and music, all at the same time, about the world opening up and my heart widening to the wonder of that big world out there. I come from a very small village in the Scottish highlands and thus, everything seemed very exotic and strange to me as a teenager–the music of Can being one of the strangest things, yet it was love at first listen and it still is. It is a very personal book that I hope doesn’t scare off any other CAN fanatics. It’s not so much a note by note analysis of the album, full of clever intellectual responses, but more an attempt to be utterly honest about how I came to the album and how it has been a presence in my whole life.

When I became a novelist in the 1990s, my first novel Morvern Callar was made into a movie and I sought out Can to use music from their past albums in the film. I also used solo music from their bass player Holger Czukay whom I dedicated that novel to. This happened and I became friendly with many of the Can members who were my teenage Gods. They have proved God-like still in so many ways. Full of wrath and mercy and very very great musicians! And they have a healthy sense of humour.

Thanks and take care of yourselves.

– Alan Warner

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