Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Crazy Film Star Life.

I once played a wedding reception hosted on a set which had featured in a Harry Potter film. The candelabra made us feel like we were in an Echo and The Bunnymen video - all we were missing were the greatcoats. At one point, at the guests' request, we played Smoke On The Water. I had to whisper the lyrics to The Singer while The Bass Player simultaneously relayed the chords to me (let's face it, no-one really knows anything other than the intro riff in real life). After the gig we stole some lights from the set which we used for some time afterward for our regular pub gigs.
I'm just saying.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tub Thumping

And so once more to the darkling halls of the British Broadcasting Corporation, wherein Songs from The Blue House are to record a number of songs in our radio-friendly light East Angliacana style for broadcast on Radio Suffolk’s drive time programme. It is a credit to the organisation that in these straitened times they continue to invest as much time and resource in promulgating new and original music as they do, and it is probably more a reflection on us and our arbitrary approach to the unique way in which they are funded that on this occasion we have chosen to record a version of Judas Priest’s Breaking the Law.

Thematically, the song fits in with our repertoire of slightly peeved protest material (A Land of Make Believe and My Boy from the album IV on this occasion) and I for one have certainly always wondered if the signature intro riff wouldn’t have sounded better on flute and octave mandola in the first place. There are many reasons to look fondly on Judas Priest and Breaking the Law. For a start, the hilarious video is victim of one of the worst storyboards ever committed to paper (step forward, Julien Temple) secondly, singer Rob Halford persuaded an entire generation of NWOBHMers that spandex, leather, studs and a jaunty bikers’ cap were an acceptable look for regular casual wear, which is a hell of a trick in anyone’s book. Let us not forget also that in an age of such nom-de-guerres as Steve Zodiac, Biff Byford and Thunderstick the band sported a drummer called Les Binks. Look, when they got booked for Live Aid they decided to play a Fleetwood Mac cover. You didn’t get that with Kenny Loggins.
In a spooky high Priestesque quasi-coincidence we, also, have been involved in a back-masking controversy as the last time we came in to do a radio session we performed a still-nascent version of My Boy to which the shadowy figures whom affable studio engineer Dave Butcher refers to only as “the technical guys” applied a technique which reversed the word ‘pissing’ so as to make it appear unintelligible, or at least not quite as obvious as the one Chumbawumba got away with so blatantly and for so long. In response we suggest that on this occasion Our Glorious Leader James simply sing it backwards to begin with.

We try the song a couple of times and on the third run through everyone mostly gets their parts right, including a lovely sinuous bass run by Gibbon during the bridge part of the song which may help distract the good commuting folk of Ipswich from my "You don't know what it's like!" vocal interjection. We’re all relatively happy and lay down our various instruments. Butch appears through the snugly fitting studio (or, more accurately, fuse box and switch room) door. “It’s always a pleasure” he begins, before adding with perfect comic timing “…when you leave”.          

Songs from The Blue House's current album is available from 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

"Come on baby, let's kiss this thing goodbye..."

Through the prismatic filter of social networking I see that Our Glorious Leader has found a copy of the As Is Danish tour programme from 1989. “A tour programme!?” I hear you exclaim. Well, yes. We didn’t have the time (or money) to organise any t-shirts to claw in some badly-needed merch cash on the road, all the extant cassettes featured the previous line up, and we thought that if nothing else it might be a nice souvenir of the trip – mine, I believe, is still in a box of yellowing press clippings at my parents’ house. Anyone confused by the terms ‘cassettes’ and ‘press clippings’ had probably best step away from the blog now, as not a lot else of this will make sense.
The jaunt was extraordinarily enjoyable – there are some first hand recollections on James’s personal site here -  - not least because I was sleeping on his kitchen floor at the time and it was nice to get out and about a bit, even if I did end up sharing a dormitory with the rest of the band while he got the table tennis room to himself – the one with the double bass in it. I remember that we all shushed each other and listened to him writing a song called ‘Love Me’ through the wall. Bass player Ross wrote ‘Hey Therese’ and I had something else that we, ahem, put down onto side one of the second cassette from ‘Rolled Gold’, since it was the only recording medium we had to hand. Having sellotaped over the space where the recording tab would have been we plugged two microphones into a music centre deck and then simply pointed one at the guitar and one at the singer. It came out with lovely room reverb, and not too bad a stereo mix, as I recall. For years afterwards I would intersperse listening to the end of ‘Gimme Shelter’ with the start of ‘Where Two Seas Meet’, another of Ross’s on the road compositions.

The tour programme itself was a nifty little A5 booklet wherein James put together a guide to the towns we’d be playing (including a pre-tour warm up in Grimsby, reasoning that this was as close to Denmark as we could get without buying ferry tickets), I really can’t remember what I wrote, Ross did a great art-school essay about the Jim Morrison poster on his wall and Malcolm, as the drummer, contributed a wordsearch puzzle. There may also have been cartoons and we compiled the thing on a clunky old computer-cum-word processor in the Venue for Ipswich Campaign* office on the corner of Crown and High Street just in time to run some copies off before we left to catch the boat.
If things had turned out differently this’d be a time for alerting Christie’s, scouring eBay and possibly even occasioning a remastered boxed set just so we could include the entire live show from Aalborg, from which James once compiled a quite lengthy tape comprised entirely of my betwixt-song introductions. Even allowing for the generally excellent standard of English-speaking over there this was probably a bit much to be getting on with. As it is I shall probably take a look when I go over at the weekend and with the sagacity that age and experience brings we’ll chuckle to each other “Well, I wouldn’t have used that font…”

*We never did get that venue, by the way.