Well maybe not all, but a couple of mentions I’ve enjoyed recently. The first is from the gig in Liverpool where I opened for Bennett Wilson Poole a couple of weeks ago (go and see them, listen and enjoy. Superb band breathing new life in to the Byrdsian jangle) and you can read it here. There’s a couple of videos of me playing that night to be found on my Facebook music page.

Here’s the second; when you fly as far under the radar as I feel I do, then inclusion in any Top Ten is fantastic, but Top Ten songs about Liverpool?!! Quite honestly, I’m chuffed to bits. Can you guess the song? All is revealed in this article by Jamie Bowman for Get Into This.

Edit: while I’m at it here’s an interview for Liverpooletc from this time last year.

I’m back in Liverpool with a band in tow, for a festival gig on 26th August and on Saturday 13th October I’m playing solo again at 81 Renshaw Street. I’ll have more news on these soon.

Quick post to say I’m playing the wonderful 81 Renshaw Street, Liverpool venue on Friday. I’m opening for the superb Bennet Wilson Poole who fans of Americana/Byrds/Petty will absolutely love.

Im on at 9 pm for 40 minutes and I’m doing all guitar songs going from Old 16 Tambourines songs right up to the here and just about now.

Admission is £10, more details from the promoters, Heavens Gate, Facebook events page here

It’s hard to remember a time when there weren’t acoustic guitar slingers on every street corner en route to the back rooms of pubs around the country to play their bedroom classics at open mics and sessions, but at the time I recorded the songs on this collection, it was difficult for the budding James Taylor or Joni Mitchel. I didn’t regard myself as an acoustic singer-songwriter, these were songs waiting for a band to fill in the blanks.

I’ve been asked a few times why I haven’t recorded a stripped back acoustic record and it’s because I don’t regard myself as your James Taylor type – for one thing I don’t have the guitar or piano chops and also I enjoy the camaraderie of the band type collective. My songs are usually written with one eye on how they’ll sound with bigger arrangements.

These songs were recorded sometime late 1990’s or early 2000, I can’t remember. They were done one afternoon at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios in, if memory serves, the 16 track facility they had there. Mike Hunter recorded it and I do remember him coming to my house to listen to what songs I had beforehand. He was very encouraging as I’ve always been a nervous player in studios. He set me up in the middle of the live room with a load of microphones around me like I was in a little den. I know some photos were taken during the session by my friend Spike and if you’ve seen the pictures of Dylan at the Isle of White festival, that was the kind of way it looked. Kind of.

In the 3 hours or so I believe we were there, we rattled through 1 or 2 takes of each song and in the time left went back and did some very basic overdubs. Comrade Martyn Campbell helped, along with providing some wine to keep the whistle wet. Mike mixed on the fly and we left with everything done. The CD I found had a photocopied cover, very basic, and I used it to hustle gigs and pretty useful it proved to be. Three of the songs I re-recorded later for the It Just Is album. The lovely rediscovery for me are the songs I Surrendered and Lucia, songs I really would like to record again at some point.

This collection is free to listen to and/or download over at Bandcamp and I hope you enjoy them.

 

The Sunny One

I think this is my favourite of the many songs I’ve written with Brian Chin Smithers. For years Brian and I got together once a week to write songs and we must have written, though a lot were never finished, a couple of hundred.

My recollection is that it was usually a Wednesday but it happened whenever we got together with a guitar or keyboard up until the time he moved to Brighton. In the years since, on the all too few rare occasions we meet up, we still write songs and he’s the only person I’ve ever successfully, consistently written with. I have demos of many of them recorded on to a wonderful 8 track Tascam 688 for which I have Dominic Walker to thank.

The song, though it doesn’t sound like it was, in my mind at least, inspired by Bob Marley’s High Tide or Low Tide and I remember we rediscovered our idea for it after not coming up with something we liked and so went back to sketches recorded on cassette at some earlier time. We finished it pretty quickly once we had found it. The lyrics are about Mother Nature the closest thing I have to a religion.

Brian was in Brighton by the time I recorded it but I had a midi file of his keyboard parts and lovely Mike Hunter sampled Mansun’s mellotron for me. Love the sound of it.

I recorded my vocal at 10 in the morning at Andy Wilson‘s Hype studio and it was my attempt to sound like Smokey Robinson! Doesn’t quite get there… Martyn Campbell was boss with his ideas for the song, Lizzie Nunnery popped in to sing some bvs and Tony McGuigan played them drums.

Get me out of here I need to feel the wind blow
And change this atmosphere and make my blood flow
Walk out to nature
Feel the rain that’s why she made it.

Chorus
She was wired to the sun
She lit up everyone
When she called a king would run
Coz she’s the sunny one

The past grows longer still the future shortens so
We find that time can kill but also helps us grow
Dive in to nature
Smell the flowers that’s why she made them

Chorus

So get me out of here I need to feel the wind blow
And change this atmosphere and make my blood flow
Step out to nature
Be the world that’s how she made it
That’s why she made it.

Chorus

The thing I like doing more than anything is reading, I can waste, if that’s the word, days with my head in a book. I wrote a song about authors and writing, the
real life and the imagined one. The song can be listened to below after the lyrics and I love the bass clarinet in it. A guy named Dave Roberts (no relation) who lived in Chester came along and played it. I’m not sure how we got him, a friend of a friend, he was great.

I’d demo’d this song at home but it was re-recorded at Hype studios and I used Martyn Campbellmob’s big Gretch acoustic guitar on it. Lovely big sound, fat neck but very playable.

Somebody asked me if Will is Shakespeare but it’s not him.

If Auberon was quite lazy

Martin was up with the lark

One was a sponge one one was a shadow

How do we tell who is what?

Will’ loved his mum completely

But it made him scared of his art

Writing down words can sometimes be easy

But sometimes it shows who you are.

You are easily read your heart is an index

You write whatever’s been said and you know how it sounds best.

Sentences can be a ruling

A verdict passed on to the crowd

Commas like comas you sleep for a while

A full stop’s the end of the line

A full stop can last for all time.

So write me apart where I’m famous

Let me stand out from the crowd

Give me a voice that is wise and sublime

Give me a mother who’s proud

And a father who dresses too loud.

You do what you do.

I’m ‘enjoying’ the tv programmes commemorating the Bolshevik Revolution of 100 years ago as I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Russia and the Soviet Union. I tend to think of communist Russia as the experiment that never was; communism by name only, mafia tyranny in reality. It’s a complex history and a revolution betrayed, as they usually are. But for a brief instant there was hope.
We should thank the Soviet Union for keeping Western Europe relatively honest, as without it we’d never have got our NHS, Council Housing, Pension rights etc. The powers that be in our neck of the woods were terrified of an alternative economic/intellectual model appealing to the oiks. Now the Soviets are gone and the western capitalist is showing his true colours.
When I was a youth I wrote a song, ‘The Freezing Sea’ which was Trotsky singing to his estranged wife and in middle age I wrote ‘Ghosts Upon Dead Rivers’ about murdering lunatics like Uncle Joe Stalin. Happy days…


Robert Harris is a writer whose books I’ve enjoyed for years although I sometimes belittle him with faint praise; ‘he’s a great thriller writer’ that kind of thing. That said, he is a great thriller writer but he’s often so much more. Known predominantly perhaps for the excellent Fatherland, his rich body of work includes the Cicero trilogy – an absolute feast for lovers of Ancient Rome – and a thinly disguised portrait of an ego driven Tony Blair in The Ghost. I was a bit disappointed with his last, Conclave but his latest novel, Munich, is superb.  

The novel concerns Chamberlain and Hitler and the events leading up to the infamous ‘peace in our time’ proclamation by the now much derided British prime minister. Harris addresses the Munich agreement from a different angle than the usual appeasement one and the book reads like an argument for the PM as a force for good at a time the forces of evil and war where in the ascendancy, and it’s a convincing argument. The story is driven by the relationship between 2 civil servants, one English the other German, who knew each other from their days together at Oxford, and the role they play in the cauldron of late 1930s world affairs. The overriding message of the book seems to be that Chamberlain was, contrary to conventional historical opinion, no spineless fool and Churchill’s eventual success should not have come at the expense of Chamberlain’s reputation. To the victor the spoils, alas, is an ongoing tragedy throughout history but the greatest tragedy here is Chamberlain’s quest for peace failed and in retrospect was always doomed to failure. 

Nowadays, with Neo Nazis seemingly everywhere you look, it would take more than a peace of paper to get us to believe we had peace in our time, but only 20 years after the first great world war, people had to believe another could be averted. Chamberlain was certainly one of those and perhaps that’s the worst thing that can be said about him.
Highly recommended if you like thrillers, espionage and an intelligent reading of history.

Here’s a live video of This Is a Cold War (the song’s from the second Cold War EP) I recorded on my phone while practicing at Silver Lining Studios last week. I had my own practice room until recently so it was nice to spend a couple of hours going through songs old and new as I try to figure out the what, why and wherefore of my music life. I can thoroughly recommend SLS if you’re looking for a room(s). They have 3 of them, one of which has recording facilities and there’s a shop selling all the bits and bobs you might need. It’s a good place with good space and a friendly environment all round.

Anyway, here’s the video. Nothing flash just me and my keyboard.

Halloumi bake with roasted veg. 

I love cooking. I love cooking once I know what I’m doing. I love cooking with a glass of wine at the ready and some great music or radio programme playing. In a pathetic attempt to garner more eyeballs to my site I thought I’d share the occasional recipe via the blog. 

I’m getting ready to go on my hols and as much as I enjoy being elsewhere I love being at home. Cooking, drinking wine and listening to great stuff. But needs must so in celebration of great holidays I’m having a Mediterranean scran tonight. I’m a vegetarian for the most part and this is tasty as you can get : baked halloumi with roasted veg.

Ingredients, but you can use what you like really. Tomatoes, new potatoes, courgette, shallots, rosemary, thyme, chilli flakes and halloumi. There’s barely any cooking involved.

Chop the spuds in to smallish chunks and parboil them for 10 minutes or so and in the meantime heat the oven to gas mark 6 or 7. Cut the toms in half, I like the small vine ones, slice the courgette and the shallots, put them in a roasting tray with olive oil, salt and pepper, rosemary and thyme. When the spuds are done add them, fling everything together and part in the middle, like Moses and the Red Sea. Cut your halloumi in half, place the pieces on a big piece of kitchen foil, pour a bit of olive oil over them and sprinkle chilli flakes. Then do the foil up in to a parcel and place it in the roasting tin where you did your Old Testament miracle.

Bung in the oven for 30 minutes or so, stirring half way through. Eat. Go on holiday and relax.

Music by Lambchop https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/22-a-million/id1141107722

Recipe stolen from Nigel Slater but messed about with.