Saturday, January 26, 2008

"I wrote some new songs,I thought I'd play 'em. I didn't know what else to do with them"

We have been writing songs at The Blue House (hence the catchy name of the band) collectively and individually - some scraps of riffage and chordwork, and bouncing lyrics and tone poems back and forth across the ether and Our Glorious Leader has even got as far as committing some of them to hard drive. Some of them have been composed during car journeys with the demos on the CD player ("How did people write lyrics before cars were invented?" muses The Fragrant and Charming La Mulley, our resident chanteuse. "They wrote them in tandem with each other" I reply pithily). Some of them are quite good - I'm particulary impressed with the work OGL has undertaken in wrangling one particular set of mine onto a tune by guest piano-botherer TT, a reflection on a trip I took to New York - everybody should have a New York song I reckon - I think it is lyrically sourced in a melange of The Eagles' "Whatever Happened To Saturday Night" and Boo Hewerdine's "World's End", TT reckons it reminds him of Ralph McTell. Hmmmm... So when we are contacted by our friends at The High Barn in Great Bardfield with the offer of a half hour acoustic set in three days time it seems obvious in SftBH terms that we should use the occasion to road test the new material, notwithstanding the fact that High Barn Records are also our label and we have an album to promote. Faint heart never won Radio Two airplay and all that.
We gather in the control room at the studio adjacent to the venue, Me, La Mulley and TT and look expectantly at the rather shaky figure of OGL. He was up until half three finishing off the vocal on one of our more recent creations and is currently a bit short on sleep, food and, by most reckoning, vital life signs. He's also pretty much the only one that can remember how the songs go all the way through, and we're on in two hours. What could be simpler? We work on our parts together, TT manfully arpreggiating at the piano, me capo'd at the second fret to make things easier because they all seem to be in E and La Mulley nervously adding some harmonies to things that seemed so much easier to sing along with in the car. It's all coming together, mind, and we smile affably at the other acts as they pass the control room window being shepherded to the stage by our friend and sound engineer Simon, who isn't entirely convinced by the claim that we don't actually know any of the stuff that we're due to play, at least until the fourth time he's performed this operation and his cheery thumbs ups have turned to slightly worried frowns - he was there for the soundcheck, or 'first run through' as we called it. Finally we decide that there's no more to be gained from further repetiton and retire to the venue's bar for refreshing Brewers Gold and brave-face-on-it smiles, not least at our record company boss, who can't quite believe it either.
Showtime for the indiscreet, and standing on the stage OGL confesses himself to be "shitting it", which is not entirely reassuring for either us or the audience, who are similarly not relaxed by my joke involving mishearing my wife saying she wished I had "..an amazing pianist", still, it's the one thing I actually have rehearsed in the short time between hearing about the gig and doing it, and so I'm determined to use it, as it were. And so off we go. It's a wonderful thing when the synchronicity 'tween audience and performer(s) seems to be just right. We introduce a song by explaining that OGL and TT are both fans of The Who, although of different albums, and so we are going to perform a song which creates the bridge between Quadrophenia and Who's Next , and do you know, it very nearly does, even given that neither of those albums is necessarily noted for featuring a bodhran-style hammering on an acoustic guitar (open-tuned to 'C' for the occasion) or an unnecessarily Neil Young-style backing vocal, both courtesy of yrs truly - the lyric for the BV is only six words long, and I still had to write it down... The default solo in Falling, a standard run up and down the scale (imagine George Harrison on an off day) followed by some ambitious finger-tapping which had TT in hysterics a few minutes ago actually works in context, and by the time we get to the last song in the set we're pretty confident that we're about to have pulled it off, and so we hammer on. There has been a discussion in the car on the way to the gig about what the lyrics to this last one are actually about, and La Mulley has been surprised to find that OGL has stumbled upon the real heart and soul of the song lurking soft and hidden, unsuspected beneath the still waters of the typewritten word. I won't tell you what it's about - you may, one day, have the opportunity to work a meaning out for yourself, and in the best traditions of songs that do things, it'll make it's home in whatever dark drawer of your mind that it chooses to, but for us it is still new, it's still finding it's way and as the climax of the song comes shooting through the veins of the chords our singer is briefly overcome, and the words tumble out in a torrent of raw emotion, like a crystal moment of grief and pain and loss, and a bewildered hatred of things that he just can't understand. Well, that's the way I heard it. You can't buy it, its not for sale.

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