Thursday, February 02, 2012

"You! Book Sarm West for Tuesday...

...and get me The Ladybirds on the phone!"

Like me, I’m sure you’ve spent many an hour idly wondering how guest musicians end up on each other’s albums – what the process is by which the massive over-extended super-ego of fame is subsumed for long enough to make a meaningful contribution to another’s work, and how they then hold off from suing the recipients for withheld songwriting royalties for as long as most of them do. Most of the time, it’s as easy as just asking. There are a host of guests on the forthcoming Songs from The Blue House album whose session fees (to my knowledge) range from a huffer* and several pints of delicious Brewers Gold to some remedial maintenance work on a laptop (and several pints of Brewers Gold) - yes, Bellowhead fans, it is entirely possible that many of those songs from the bus updates you were enjoying during that last tour would have only been made possible through the diligent application of Our Glorious Leader’s technical knowledge and his ability to turn things off and then turn them on again.

Singers don’t generally mind popping in and donning the headphones of notoriety as long as they get a lift there and back, and in my experience as long as there’s a curry in it you’re pretty much guaranteed a pedal steel player’s best attention for the day. Where banjo players are concerned you mainly need to have the civility to hold off on the jokes for as long as they’re within earshot or they do tend to get quite defensive and you have to let them sit in the engineer’s big swivel chair and swing themselves around for a bit until they’ve forgotten whatever perceived slight they were cross about**. I once did some recording where I wanted an old colleague to contribute some backing vocals and, thanks to the online archive that is I was able to re-read our correspondence regarding the matter.

"My Drearest Rossquo,
The offer to contribute to what I'm confident will be a millstone in pop history is completely genuine. You should temper your excitement though, as I let you in on its chequered history so far...
Having decided that with the imminent retirement of Clive Davis from Arista it was unlikely that 'The new Whitney Houston' (as I had been billing myself) was going to be signed this side of the next millennium - yes, the next one - I wandered round to Gibbon's house one evening and recorded half a dozen songs that I'd made up out of my very own brain using an acoustical guitar and a voice out of my very own head.
The idea was that Gibbon would then take these and overlay some keyboards of such exquisite beauty that grown men would weep, and bass guitar parts such that women would in all likelihood offer us their first born to use as fridge ornaments (or as we preferred) upon hearing them. I started to get very excited. Then Gibbon decided to do it properly; and digitally. As it turned out, I had time to go back and redo a couple of songs, then record a couple more, then get married, go on honeymoon and have a lodger move in and then out of the house in the time it took Gib to do his bits. There were dark rumours of Cubase-sequencing-to-hard-drive-and-beat-realignment-download problems. There seemed to be an awful lot of manual reading going on. One night he stayed up til half past four in the morning sequencing a particularly bass part (and made himself quite ill the next day). Finally, some four months after the first deadline I had given he announced that we were ready to do some overdubs-hence Sunday's thrill of confusion/space cadet glow interface scenario.
This will involve a couple of guitar solos (one major, one minor - i.e. the same one only three frets up), Helen doing some flutework (it's a sort of decorative trellis used to disguise chimney sores) and some singing. Either come down for the day and lob constructive comments at the engineer (Gib should probably have connected his output port to his infile flange by about, ooh, Tuesday at the rate he's been working) or park yourself in the pub and we'll issue mobile phone calls when your specialised subject comes up. Don't ask me what it sounds like because I haven't heard anything since about March, and that was some rubbish keyboard drums we'd put in as a click track.
I'll put you down for some BVs, (no chance you've still got a mandolin I suppose - we've done a song that's crying out for it) and there'll be an acoustic kicking about in case you get inspired (bear in mind we've only got a day, so don't get too inspired) and it's all very laissez faire around the album (if you can hear it in your head, let's put it on the track). Plus, if you play on the album you can go and look yourself up on the website, which always impresses the ladies. Then when we've all got thoroughly pissed off at losing that vital middle eight due to bastard technology we can all go to the pub and play 'Mustang Sally' at the acoustic jam. There'll be a bass there, incidentally.
What time are you coming?
Love, Shane xx

His reply read;

All sounds fun to me, though I will have to go back on my previous musings that we "shan't work together again". I would be delighted to utterly destroy your hopes of producing anything sounding remotely usable, with backing vocals that once led a female Cornish Minstrel to dub them "interesting Jazz harmonies".
Yours in loud love, B.H. Emoth

Incidentally, you’ll be pleased to hear that the resulting CD was favourably reviewed locally, as the following testimonials attest;

Great songs from a well established local muso who's not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve - BBC Radio Suffolk's Stephen Foster writing in The Grapevine
One of the finest purveyors of wry, acerbic pop....Songs that are imbued with pathos and humour.....A gifted wordsmith with a wonderful turn of phrase....-East Anglian Daily Times
Will inspire those who have lost enthusiasm to pick up their forgotten instruments - Ipswich Evening Star
He's a great musician Dad, but he can't sing, can he ? - Emily Broadley
** It usually involves reference to a skip somewhere in the equation.


Jude said...

You do brighten my day Skirky dear xx

John Medd said...

The pint, not to mention the curry, is generally the musician's tender of choice. That said, I'm just about to work with a flautist; any suggestions? I'm thinking a couple of G&Ts and a bag of kettle chips.