Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"What's the difference between a BAFTA and an Oscar?"

"Nine points, if you're on a triple word score..."

I have a very good book at home by Elizabeth Cohen called 'The House on Beartown Road' which I took a shine to and bought solely on the basis of a good review I read in one of the Saturday supplements. Essentially it's the memoir of a woman who, rather than move her father into a care home upon the onset of his Alzheimer's, moves him in to live with her. Over the course of the book she describes the intertwining relationships between herself, her ailing father, her new daughter and her husband, who gives up half way through and goes to live with his mistress. It's a bit of a tearjerker on occasion, if I'm being honest.
I live round the corner from Ipswich Cemetery and on Mothering Sunday the queue for parking goes on for miles - my lovely wife Hannah was moved to comment once as we drove past that "The graveyard's always full on Mother's Day", and so when I came to write the lyrics to what had previously been an instrumental known simply as "Doobedobedo", that became the verbatim first line as I switched Elizabeth Cohen's scenario round so that it presupposed that there was a man who had made the opposite decision (i.e. entrusted his mother to the care of a supervised facility) and upon her death is to be found reflecting on the choices he has made. This isn't based on real life by the way. My Mother is currently in rude health and quite able to decide where she's going to live for herself. I did visit her mother, my grandmother, once in a retirement home where she was slowly but surely (and extremely contentedly) slipping away from us. "Did you bring this table?" she asked over tea and biscuits. In her mind she was twenty-eight again, and in love with a handsome young officer from the RAF who could crack walnuts with his fists. 'Grandpa', we called him.

When Songs from The Blue House recorded the song for our album ‘Tree’ I remember hauling my friend Wendell's enormously weighty Fender Twin amplifier all the way to Great Bardfield in order to record an authentic tremelo-heavy riff in the intro, before we ended up recreating the sound with some technology. Still, I think it enjoyed the day out. Given the contrary nature of our recording technique at the time we had also put everything down to a click track (right up until the point that we were enjoying ourselves toward the end of the song and started playing so loudly that we couldn’t hear it any more) and so it fell to our drummer du jour, Mr. Paul Read, to try and match up his fills to the slightly wavering time signature we had bequeathed him, well after the event. Then we made him go in and sing a backing vocal to it, and then we got our mate Kilbey in to sing a further harmony to that. Then, because we had a banjo, pedal steel and fiddle all soloing over the end section we had to decide what was going to stay and what was going to be muted. We ended up keeping the pedal steel at the end, which proved to have first-rate repercussions

Some time after the release of the album we received an email from Our Beloved Record Company stating that they had received an enquiry from one of their media partners in Los Angeles asking if they could use an excerpt from Beartown Road in a film that they had been tasked with licensing the music for;
Scene: Jack meets Lauren for the first time at the local diner, Hopps.
Usage: One (1) Background Vocal Use, :45
it said.
Suzie-at-the-office wasn’t sure how the deal worked precisely, but we were assured that there would be a small sum of money for the writers (Me and James) and that “…hopefully” we’d gain a great advantage from the exposure once the film was released. In the small print was the proviso that once sales of the video/DVD reached 50,000 units the deal would be renegotiated. We gladly granted our permission. The evening paper interviewed us in my local and, in the way of regional news photographers everywhere, pictured us holding a pen and paper in order to signify that we were writers. We forwarded the press on to the movie’s producers, and asked politely if they could send us a copy of the film.

They didn’t. Eventually James sought one out on Amazon and bought it, incurring in the process more expense than we’d actually seen from licensing the rights to the song. He made it through about fifteen minutes of it I think, before lending it to me one evening so that I could play RomCom bingo with the plot and characters and take a screencap of our name in the closing credits. Having been primed to listen out for us in the scene where Jack meets Lauren for the first time at the local diner, I made sure I was paying extra attention. Sure enough, there in the background, as if playing on a local country music radio station, was Nick Zala’s solo from the end of our song. The third time I rewound and played the scene I was pretty sure that was definitely it.

Here's us playing Beartown Road at a gig at High Barn, captured for posterity by our friend Keith Farnish -

...and here's the actual movie whose closing credits bear my name -

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