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Recording ‘British Ballads’ version 1
I’ll skip the bit where, having had some of the ‘budget’ or ‘allowance’ for B.B. put into my bank A/c the day before, I had the debit card stolen and the A/C cleared.
I’ll skip the bit where on waking to find this so on Saturday, I had to make sad eyed calls to try and borrow enough cash from whomever to even move outside the front door.
(Somehow travel cards are now £5.20)
No, I really shall. Because once I determined that this tragedy would not go further than a few days and not disrupt the recording…it made little difference.
In part, big part, thanks to Julian Simmons, the producer, fronting cash for expenses.
(Piano tuner, drum kit hire, cab for Drum kit etc).
And to Paul L at Ryko.
But still. Oye.
As I sat on the couch of the East London studio reading a Sean Penn biography, I duly noted that someone getting ripped off usually makes little indentation in his or her life as a whole.
What would it warrant? Half a page at most?
Studios make me crazy. I’ve recorded in beautifully expensive ones and cheap and nasty attics and they make me restless.
Writing the song is the conception, maybe? I.e. The FUN part. And recording is the labour of birth.
But this is a nice studio, as a physical place, although I am no longer accustomed to bright overhead lighting.
We have nowt but lamps in or house and it kills my temples to be in places that don’t.
Details like this, tiny details can make such a big difference.
The room I was staying in, courtesy of Bryan and Julian had only overhead lighting. I sort of fantasized that I was in a cell, as I read. The room being big enough for a bed and some small furniture.
Luckily, a kind of vortex for silence though. Apart from the crying lonely Dog every morning and the cockerel.
(I seem to be haunted by the sound of lost animals lately, whenever I go away, some sad mewling beastie either lulls me to a fitful gnashing sleep or accompanies my awaking, still gnashing, fitful and sweating from dreams of Jake Shillingford, a book of Robert crumb interviews in my fist).
In the cluttered, homely TV-less living room, I change the radio to Radio 4, set up speakers, play Miles davis, drink beer and watch the street market below.
Afternoon comes and Bryan Mills awakes.
Bryan is one funny motherfucker and one of the few living who can make me lose myself in laughter.
I think we started alone, Julian and I…putting down chord charts and tempos. As I rarely play a song once I’ve demod it, and many of the demos were up to two years old, I couldn’t remember some of the chord changes. This was befuddling and exciting.
It was a Sunday or maybe a Saturday when Paul Cook, Bryan Mills and Anthony Reynolds ‘jammed’ the songs.
I wanted an angular, downtown ’81, Tuxedo moon, white bread boy paste funk feel for ‘Girls with glasses’.
After a little chivas, beer and other stimulants, we started a staccato groove that if I hadn’t been so wired, would have made me laugh out loud.
Which is good.
Who said that ‘Taste is the enemy of Art’?
I have in mind this will be my last record. And being ‘tasteful’ bores me. I want to explore and be frightened and embarrassed in the process, if need be.
So I pretend I can play James brown funk guitar while Paul and Bryan play something that sounds like it could have come from Prince’s ‘Lovesexy’ sessions.
It’s dark outside, and the window affords a wonderful view of London’s broken teeth skyline.
I feel like I’m in a THE THE video and I’m playing with a great Rhythm section and am in the moment.
This first London Sunday, I am supposed to be Djing, for the launch of issue 0 of ‘The mind’s construction’.
I have a satchel full of 20 vinyl 7 inches, enough to get me through the hour set.
Bowie, Aznavour, Japan, Sammy Davis Jnr, gunpowder ingredients for a, err, white-hot set.
All of us leave to meet James from Nemo in a pub opposite The Strongroom bar.
I am beyond befuddled now, happily so and craving cigs and more Scotch.
Though the mention of my old band, next to my name on the flyer, makes me a little apprehensive as to what old faces may be there.
Well, there were a few faces attached to people that make me uncomfortable, but I have my beard, booze, scarf, drugs and beautiful distressed leather kangol cap as protection. I drew the line at shades.
I meet James Cook of Nemo (http://nemointernational.com)
But I am feeling vague and unfocussed and I find it hard to connect outside of ‘My Studio crew’, (as James names Julian, Paul and bry)… Come my ‘DJ Spot’, I’m told the record decks aren’t working.
Ho hum. I meet Neil Scott, the chap who has organized this night and who is the editor the magazine thing…Nicely proportioned chap who handles me well in my distressed leather state, but it was all a bit of a pea-souper, to be honest.
I am skint, due to having my A/C cleared by pickpocketing crack whores a few days earlier, and getting booze is an issue. Somehow a Large Scotch is present in my hand and yet…it seems the faces at these places…are different but never change…from the faces say, at ‘Smashing’ 10 years ago…
the same charity shop suit Mob and peroxide…the high hopes and ideals with a grey shade past nothing-no work-at the core. Planets with largely Gas centres.
I’m vaguely aware that this is something to do with the recent deaths in my life, of accepting realities, pining for Royalties, of finally recognizing the latent heroism in enduring. That is, of becoming older, if not old.
Although I’m sometimes haunted by the notion that perhaps I never was young enough to get married or have children.
Anyhoo. Two ‘fans’ from Croydon introduce themselves and are kindly bright and affable.
More JD. More people talking. Paul Cook wants to leave-Julian, Bryan, James already have.
Paul says; ‘I have nothing to say to these people’.
Sooner than it seems, I am lost in the surrounding financial district, desperately searching for a love of life in the beige brickwork of empty office buildings, neon lit and porno.
A kindly security guard escorts me to Liverpool Street bus station and I endure a horrific bus ride, full of throbbing synapses and screaming babies-back to Chalk farm.
Next day, the balm of music.
‘I know you know’ pulses sadly like Tim Hardin’s finest…’Country girl’ is dark and menacing like a Giant Scorpion across cum- drenched egyptian sheets..…’(You get me) to my mind on Time’ Rocks silly, Dukes of Stratosphere strained through electric prunes.
A pleasure it is to be reacquainted with Will Foster, who I haven’t seen since a CATPOWER gig in..2001?
He looks beautiful sat on the couch in the sunshine, cig in hand.
And his playing, on the upright, is lyrical and moving to me, taking me by surprise, tugging at iron cords in my chest and all that...
Interesting to work with the same people again a few years down the line.
To hear how their ‘chops’ have improved, so.
Same of Paul Cook, whose drumming has come on 10 fold, the ability matching the passion.
A day of red wine and singing ‘A quiet life’ (will this song make the album)? Through Marlboro smoke.
The rest of the week is a blur. It just seems unimportant to remember, these days.
So little seems important to me.
You’d think the result of this would be a mellow yellow Tony. But no, I’m as tense as ever. The feeling of panic as I approach the tube ticket machines…’Where is it! Which pocket is my ticket in! Fuck it!”
And, after being robbed, the constant anxiety over where my wallet is. The keys to the house I’m staying in. my hat. Jesus, such paraphernalia.
That I could walk the London streets barefoot, beard flowing, a filthy arty scarf my only clothes.
Give it time, son.
So, anyhoo. The back is broken on these tunes, this, my final debut.
In February I’ll return. We’ll edit tempos; add guitar, percussion and some such strings.
Will I miss this process…
It’s hard to remember this far in the past.
Is this a job?
It’s work, that’s for sure.
On putting down the guide vocals I heard a sob in my voice. A footfall from exhaustion.
Good. About time.
I have knackered through the clumsy mannerisms of my previous singing. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
A swift ‘beautypower’ act at Euston and then i’m at home on a overheated Virgin train again,
Heading for another kind of Home, all green.