Humming a happy tune in my head the other day as I do sometimes (it helps block out the voices) I found myself segueing effortlessly betwixt SftBH’s Not That Kind of Girl (originally from the album Too) and a tune by my old chum Tony James Shevlin entitled Would I Lie? What they have in common, beyond the key of E, a shuffly boogie back beat and an extraordinarily catchy hook each is that they deal with the thorny subject of embarking upon intrapersonal relationships. In short, they’re both about trying to pull.My input on the former was that I made up the words and music out of my own head and then sent a version of it to The Fragrant and Charming Helen Mulley for approval and re-drafting as she was clearly going to have to take responsibility for delivering the polemic in song and since the phrase check your privilege hadn’t been invented at the time I thought it best to cede final edit on the lyric. She responded to by adding a whole extra verse just in case there remained any misunderstanding regarding the intent and also took out the line about being given “a damned good thrashing” which seemed fair enough, Portman Road seemingly being enough in the media spotlight at the time.
The revisions clarified our point, and we proceeded to rehearse, record and gig our new song whereupon it became one of our most popular numbers (a recent review of the live album mentioned it glowingly) to the point where when we were raising money through Kickstarter in order to cover the costs of pressing, dressing and posting the CD someone had requested that we video a unique version of it dedicated to them, which is why I’d ended up back in a studio with Shev in the first place, he being the director entrusted with recording the event for post-editry.
“Well” I thought to myself “There’s no point just wondering about it” and so I asked both Helen and Shev whether they’d consider getting together in order to see whether we could make a call-and-response combined version of the two songs and maybe go out and sing it at people if it went well, a suggestion which they both regarded with commendable equanimity, which is how we found ourselves working through an acoustic mash-up in Tony’s music room trying to ensure that no-one got the definitive last word and attempting to keep a lid on the raw smouldering intertextuality steaming up the windows.Then, of course, we had to run through another couple of songs (that thing where a musician rocks up at the venue, bounds on stage, rips through one number to the enthusiastic screams of the audience and then disappears into the night with an inappropriately dressed girl on the back of his motorcycle happens remarkably rarely outside of the movie Purple Rain and besides there were three if us, so we’d need a sidecar at least if we were going to try to pull it off) so we chose Elephant, which Helen and I had played at last year’s Helstock (with Mr Wendell) and which I fondly like to imagine is the sort of thing The Indigo Girls might have released if they’d been produced by Clive Gregson. I also picked out one of my Shevlin favourites from the olden days of Suffolk Songwriters’ (he used to play to me, I used to play to him…) to complete the small-but-perfectly-formed set.
In response he started playing something that I was sure I recognised and that my hands seemed to be able to form the chords to through some sort of auto-folk memory. I even managed some harmonies on the chorus. “Where do I know that from?” I wondered aloud at its conclusion. “You remember” he replied “We played it once…at a party…in 1998”.