Thursday, July 22, 2010

Donkey Horsey

Being in an unsigned band means that you actually have a great number of freedoms. Chief among these of course is the freedom not to have to spend interminable hours on tour buses, in recording studio lounges, or in a series of hotel suites being gently probed by Jude Rogers. As it were. One of the concurrent freedoms, however, is that you very rarely run the risk of your loyal fan base turning on you with some sort of backlash should you decide to go, as we like to call it in Songs from The Blue House, off-roading. At gigs this can involve unlikely cover versions (some of which a large proportion of the rest of the band have occasionally actually heard of) being introduced into the set at opportune moments – shortly after a member of the audience has shouted the title at us, say – but it occurs to us that in our extended period of recuperation between arduous recording engagements we have actually built up quite a nice catalogue of what one might refer to as ‘unreleased’ songs. Since the night shortly after the release of our album ‘Tree’ when we decided to preview a selection of carefully unrehearsed and barely-completed songs on an acoustic showcase night we have gently been feeding new material into the set and letting it find its feet, ground itself and quietly get on with the business of incorporating itself into the family. At a recent rehearsal we found ourselves contemplating yet another raft of new songs and since most of our audiences tend to be unaware of our extensive reasonably priced and beautifully packaged back catalogue anyway, we resolved to do a whole gig of the new material, brooking no argument as to whether we should “do some old” or not. As I say, hardly a move likely to strike up a correspondence in some of the worldlier blogs on the Net, but a small strike for self-validation in our artistic progress for us, nonetheless. This notion does, of course, have the precedential seal of approval – no less an august figure than Neil Young tried it on tour when the album we now know as Tonight’s The Night was but merely a gibbous glow in its creator’s eye (you may have heard the hoary old rock anecdote regarding the audience’s restlessness at being presented with an entirely unfamiliar set and their relief when Young announced that he was going to play something they’d all heard before, at which point he repeated his opening number, Tonight’s The Night. Then again he was already at the stage where his support band was The Eagles, and I still think we’re part way off that kind of action just yet) and no less a revered figure than Richard Thompson recently decided that since everyone likes his live stuff anyway he may as well eschew the whole studio process altogether and simply record his album on the road, as it were. And where would we be without Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty, parts of which were literally recorded on the road (you can hear the tour bus moving up through the gears on one song)? Well, faint heart never won fair Grammy, so we thought we’d give it a go ourselves. Oh, and we thought we might get a drummer while we're at it.

originally posted at

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Some days, you eat the bear...

 When I was a mere stripling of a lad, fresh out of short trousers and recently upgraded from a tennis racket to a cricket bat, the better with which to mime along to Status Quo records, we had an informal air guitar club which used to convene on odd occasions in various front rooms in order to play AC/DC's Highway to Hell LP while we assiduously acted out the individual recorded parts, each taking our assigned roles very seriously indeed. 

I usually took the role of Angus Young, and our Bon Scott did some marvellous work on our behalf - occasionally becoming bare-chested in his pursuit of bringing authenticity to the character. As it turned out, while I was aiming at fuflfilling my destiny as a rock god, he had ambitions in a very different arena, and his professed goal in life was to become a farmer. 

Last weekend I was part of a reconvention of a band called The Star Club and performed onstage at Ipswich Music Day in front of some of the 36,000 people who reportedly passed in front of the seven stages in operation that day. Afterward I was asked to pose for photographs, congratulated on our performance, had a bottled water readily available in our tented dressing room and a personally allocated backstage artists-only portaloo. 

When I went to get my shopping at Sainsbury's this afternoon I stopped by one of their billboard posters showing one of the the farmers from whom they source their organic potatoes. "That guy looks familiar" I thought. 

And there he was, thankfully not stripped to the waist and brandishing a torch with which to opine on the merits or otherwise of Rosie, but suitably wax-jacketed, and still twinkling-eyed and handsome. To be fair, he looks like he's done slightly better at achieving his ambition than I have done of mine - by now he was supposed to be running my estate for me - but seriously, it looks like everyone's kicked a goal.