Thursday, February 28, 2013

Es tan evidente como la nariz en la cara

The Theotrio spent a very pleasant evening’s rehearsal this week working through some new material that we intend to debut at this year’s Helstock – the annual gathering convened in order to celebrate each passing year of The Fragrant and Charming La Mulley, at which we gather solemnly together to drink delicious Brewers Gold, play music at each other, and occasionally ceremonially throw a donkey from the toppermost of a nearby mediaeval fastness.

As we played the things over we tweaked and smoothed bits and bobs as they stood out - a verse here, a bridge there, a stray passing chord thither – using the vernacular of the musician who’s done a lot of listening and is keen to conform to the accepted scruples and standards of the form. “Make it a bit Crosby* here”, “I’m going to do the descending Gregson at the start” and “It’s like ‘Forever’ all over again” were all shorthand phrases employed in the interests of brevity of clarification. You’d probably wait for a very long time for this particular congregation to produce our Trout Mask Replica, and we’d need to borrow an awfully large number of typewriters beforehand.

At one point I suggested that we counterpoint a middle eight with what we refer to as 'A Mike Mills BV' – that is, while Helen was singing the main melody, Mr Wendell and I would entertain a counterpoint theme involving some different words behind it. He then suggested that we do it as a round (think Freres Jacques or London’s Burning**) rather than in unison, and so the creative process tumbled on.

We found and filleted a handy phrase from elsewhere in the song and ran through it a couple of times to see how it sat. Helen looked unhappy.
“While I’m singing a line that ends with '…face', you can’t be singing '…knows'”.
“Why not?” I asked.
"Isn't it obvious?" she replied.

*Just for clarification, here I mean David, not Bing.  
**The children’s nursery rhyme, not that one by The Clash.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Return of Theodore.

It’s been a standing joke between me and whichever beat combo he’s just left that Mr Wendell - the artist formerly known as The Singer (see blogs passim) - is terribly good at starting bands, but not so capable at actually being in them. I think generally it’s the hours you have to put in, although having said that, very many of the actual minutes have been a joy in themselves. He once left my group Gods Kitchen after missing a rehearsal because he’d rather go kart racing, for example, but to be honest the worst thing you could accuse him of is being slightly ahead of the curve, in that these days I think we all would.
Nevertheless, we’re at it again. After last year’s excursion into West Coast territory with Dawes-inspired electric combo Theodore, we’ve decided to carry on the experiment and diversify into the acoustic arena in a similar fashion to that as would be experienced by a newly-signed electric combo whose record company can’t afford the Travelodge bills for the whole outfit and so have sent the two guitarists out on a promo tour of radio stations instead.
Thus, after many years’ delicate shuffling around the subject Mr Wendell can finally relax into the role of David Crosby and I can once again fully unleash my inner Neil Young (I don’t need much of an excuse really, the injudicious dropping of a hat is usually enough to set me off). Students of West Coast musicology will probably note that this is not a combination that has previously met with unalloyed success, however we do not necessarily see this as a barrier to exploring the possibilities offered by such a pairing, given our prior attempts to capitalise on the musical chemistry which has brought together such titans as John and George, Don and Kootch, Dave Dee and Tich, Brian and Michael, and Willson-Piper, Keppel and Betty* both on stage and in the studio. 

We’ve written some new songs, we’ve raided our back catalogue for suitable items for refurbishment, and most importantly we’ve invited some eye candy along for the ride on vocals and made sure that our first gig is at her birthday party. It’s not an original trick – in fact it’s exactly the same principle that we used for our first live performance around this time last year, but as the old saw says – if it ain’t broke, it’s clearly never been owned by a drummer**

I fondly recall the first time Mr Wendell and I sat in a room discussing our possible future musical direction - me hunched over a record player trying to decide which Peter Gabriel track would be most likely to entice him into a lifetime of collaborative musical experiments and him sat in an armchair, trying to keep his dinner down. To this day he’s still never heard the other three and a half sides of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and I know that for a fact. In contrast, when we got together last week, rather than try to drop the stylus down on the right song on the album and grab an acoustic guitar in order to be able to start playing along before the track kicked in I processed an electric guitar sound through some modelling software on an iPad and read the lyrics to a cover version we were thinking of doing off his phone. How times have changed. What a long strange trip it’s been. Whatever happened to the west?

And so, just before we return to the electric arena with the full band, we will take a moment to expose ourselves willingly to the lingering scrutiny afforded by the two acoustic set up, brave the slingbats and arrows*** of outrageous fortune and grasp the opportunity to perform minor key reflections on our own mortality and morality. Or, as we say in the mournful singer-songwriter world, Carpe Dm.    


*note to sub-ed – please check some of these sources.   

**Hello subs – me again. One more thing – this may be a mis-quotation. Pls check Oxford Dikker of Quotaggers to verify.     

***Again, this one might need looking up online.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Over-familiarity Breeds Contempt.

Warning - contains language.

It had all begun so well. Through the resolutely non- intrapersonal network Twitter – you may be dimly aware of it through such Daily Mail headlines as “What *insert name of celebrity here* Tweeted Yesterday!” – I’ve been interacting with some people I would never generally have come into social contact with during what I’d consider to be the normal run of things. After I posted a blog about her tour manager, Gretchen Peters and her charming partner @barelywashed followed me for a while (I’m guessing until the relentless barrage of 140-character messages about how cute my son is got on top of her), a random joke about a guitar-based version of The X-Factor rolled Toto’s @stevelukather into the fold – he’s genuinely engaging – and only last night the very man who wrote Michael Jackson’s Thriller - @rodtemperton ‘followed’ me back, which was nice, because I used to live in Cleethorpes too.
Generally though, as anyone has used the popular social media platform will know, Twitter is used for exchanging #hashtag jokes, posting pictures of your dinner, forwarding links to @rockingvicar, bitching about television you’re not enjoying but are watching anyway, occasionally butting in on the conversations that celebrities are having among themselves (and being ignored in the same way as you would be if you did it in the pub) and, of course, posting 140- character missives on how cute your three year-old is being. You can tell the people who are in a similar boat to you because their tweets about cBeebies all tend to appear at around the same time as yours.

Occasionally, of course, you can get the comportments dreadfully wrong. Genius comedy writer David Quantick* was clearly watching something on the television and wrote “Fuck off, Quirky” on Twitter. Beings as how my online moniker is Skirky - which sounds a bit similar - I replied quickly with “Calm down, Qu’unty”. I know – oh my aching sides - do you see what I did there? Even to the point of popping the apostrophe in the middle? I had an immediate response – one of the people who does follow me (the erstwhile presenter of Lloyd Cole Knew My Father and The Rough Guide, and TV script fixer-upper extraordinaire is not in this category - I imagine he’s got much better things to do with his time) ‘favourited’ the tweet. “Good” I thought, “At least someone got that, then”.

I checked in with one of my regular online Forum haunts this morning over coffee to see that as well as the regular public badinage - mostly about the Folk Awards and this year’s Cropredy line up - I had a personal message. “Is that you fighting with Quantick over on Twitter, Shane?” it read. Uh oh. So I checked. There it was “@Quantick : Hi. Go Fuck Yourself”.

Ah. Should I do my ‘Grumpy old man’ joke here? Too much?        

*For those of you unaware of David Quantick’s work, his wiki entry is here;

It’s a lot more extensive than mine.