Friday, June 22, 2012

Being for the benefit of Mr. McCartney

I love an international football championship, I do. They are like misty watercoloured milestones for me - not necessarily who won the things, but where I was at key moments, who I was with, and what we were doing. When David Platt scored the equaliser against Belgium at Italia 90, for example, I was in the bar  at The George Robey hoping that This Side of Summer wouldn't finish before the game was up so that I and the rest of the coach party who'd come down from Ipswich wouldn't feel like we'd let the guys down by not seeing the gig.

Gareth Southgate's penalty miss meant we had to go and start The Star Club gig at The Earl Roberts (bear in mind that the game had already gone to extra time, so to say we were a bit on the drag may be understating somewhat) whereas the 1991 5-1 drubbing of Germany in the World Cup qualifiers meant that we did that night's show with an extra spring in our step amid a rarely-equalled atmosphere of  bonhomie. I think even the bride got into it that night.
1996, and Stuart Pearce's redemptive penalty against Spain however, was the year that my band gods kitchen (no capitals, no apostrophe) recorded a five track demo called North of Nowhere at Gemini Studios under the watchful eye of engineer & de facto producer Pat Gruber and under the generous patronage of bass player Gibbon, who stumped up for the cost of the sessions in a fit of unaccountable enthusiasm. Stephen Dean played his Pete Thomas drum kit, Steve 'Kilbey' Mears played guitar and sang backing vocals. There's no whammy bar on that guitar at the end there by the way - it's all neck bend.

 It's a simple song structurally, which means that it has resurfaced at times when (say) you need something a bit lively to encore with and you are able to shout the chords in short order at your accompanists and then get on with having a bit of a bounce at the front without having to do that thing where you hold up your guitar in what looks like a triumphal Springsteen-esque pose, whereas you are in reality just making sure the bass player can see what root notes you're playing on the chords. 

On occasion it has been employed in exactly this capacity by Songs from The Blue House possessing as it does both of those vital qualities of having an easily pick-upable singalong chorus (SftBH chanteuse The Fragrant and Charming Helen Mulley is responsible for an early revision of one of the lyrics from "...sadness' hell" to "...Sadler's Wells") and, perhaps more importantly in a band which prominently features a banjo and a fiddle player, being in the key of G. This may not mean much to you or me, but believe me, it makes a world of difference to them

 I was reminded of the song last week when Sir Paul McCartney celebrated what I understand to be his 70th birthday by dusting off his Hofner bass, bucking up a few young tyros and performing a few old hits for The Queen, a large crowd, and an impressively sized television audience all at the same time. The middle eight* of  North of Nowhere refers directly to Sir Paul, and was prompted in part by a documentary I'd watched wherein he seemed to be playing a whole bunch of those silly love songs he's so famous for curating - checking the dates I'd guess it was probably around the time of the release of Off The Ground (go on, name the singles from that album without recourse to wikipedia) - and I felt moved to comment on his output, believing that he was past his best in terms of putting forth a performance. Of course back then he would have only been in his early fifties so it was an easy mistake to make. Umm, sorry Macca.

As yet Sir Paul has not felt it necessary to comment on how he feels my contribution to the world of music has panned out. There's still time.