Album of the Week: Diana Hubbard’s LifeTimes (1979)

“music you have felt but not heard” – “Rose Coloured Lights” single cover.

This is one of those “elephant in the room” albums – Diana is L. Ron Hubbard’s daughter. I discovered this album 3 or 4 years ago after reading Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear, a superb deep-dive on the scandolous history of Scientology. When, amongst detailing the Scientology clan’s bizarre adventure as a self-governing ship (literally) in the Mediterranean, it was mentioned that daughter Diana recorded a jazz album with legendary pianist and avowed Scientologist Chick Corea, my interest was piqued.

LifeTimes was released on the small Minneapolis label Waterhouse in 1979, who seem to have released mostly blues rock records, as well as a comedy album, Henny Youngman’s Take My Album, Please! (track #5: “What, No Jewish Jokes?”). The sheltered life of Scientology progeny Diana Hubbard, who went to music conservatory in London before studying Scientology and spending years on the group’s Mediterranean yacht, lends her music the feeling of an alien’s idea of classical or new age music. “Russian Roulette” (ominous track title, no?) is pretty, yet uneasy, with Hubbard’s piano playing sounding both sustained and clunky. The liner notes to LifteTimes contain penned notes describing each song, with this bizarre entry for “Russian Roulette”: “An arch-duke of Russia travelling [sic] across the plains of Siberia, came to a forest. He had known love, wealth, power, pain and the Napoleon Wars. He had done and experienced everything of his day. He plays Russian Roulette and dies in the forest.”

“Bewitched” features some bugged-out synthesizer work from the aforementioned Chick Corea, who just 10 years earlier played electric piano on Bitches Brew. In comparison, a contemporary review of LifeTimes by the Harvard Crimson called it “Dentists’ Office Jazz”. Like most muzak, LifeTimes is directionless and mostly uneventful. It even contains a vaguely-ethnic-sounding track called “Arabia”. But in its meandering sonatas it is strangely successful ambient music, and absolutely uncanny in the context of its creation.

Some may call it dreck, or just plain boring, but I genuinely enjoy this oddity of an album. To my knowledge Diana Hubbard has not released other music, and little is publicly known about her life. I’ll leave you with Hubbard’s handwritten description for the final track, “Midnight #3”: “A sea rippling quietly with the moon. The cliffs tower. Maybe you heard the sirens.”

Listen to LifeTimes here.

Album of the Week: Steve Hillage’s Rainbow Dome Musick (1979)

Yer tellin’ me you never heard of rainbow dome musick?? Well, big Steve Hillage was quite productive between the years of 1969-1979. At 17, he played lead guitar in Arzachel (previously Uriel, later known as Egg) and joined Gong shortly thereafter. By 1979 he had released 4 studio albums with Gong and 4 solo albums. Most of these fall in the psychedelic rock/Canterbury scene category, but Rainbow Dome Musick exists in its own ambient plane.

I found some info about the Rainbow Dome on this website, which includes the poster I repasted below. As you can see, the dome was advertised as part of the 3rd Festival for Mind Body + Spirit, which took place at London’s Olympia exhibition space/music venue in ’79. Billed as “The show about you & me”, the festival featured such new age-y attractions as astrology, “Earth mysteries”, and “sports”. Hillage and his wife, the musician Miquette Giraudy, made the music for the Rainbow Dome. I’m guessing this was some sort of psychedelic 3D art piece you could venture inside and space out in, like a Turrell space.

If you’re familiar with Mario Party 3, there’s some sparkly SFX that you hear for about 10 seconds when the players first enter a level (you can hear this at the 6:55 mark here). About 5 minutes into Rainbow Dome Musick, a very similar sequencer sound appears, creating the background for the rest of the track. Shit gets super gnarly about 12 minutes in when Hillage, gently at first, starts ripping on guitar. By 15 minutes in the music has become transcendent.

That’s “Garden of Paradise”, which takes up the A side. The other half is “Four Ever Rainbow”, which to me is somewhat evocative of Ashra’s New Age of Earth meditations. Less ecstatic than “Garden of Paradise”, but quite mellow. The guitar here is more rhythmic, and the synth sounds great.

I really like this comment on the above blog from one Julian Guffogg – “I went then – and met Steve Hillage in the dome!” It appears the event founder Graham Wilson commented as well.

Listen to Rainbow Dome Musick here.