Letter From England. The Three Bears
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. Once upon a time, there were 3 little bears. Mummy bear, daddy bear, and Marky Lemon bear.
Yeah right. My father always drew a division between freedom, and licence. I can (still, just) say all sorts of things in this blog. (We still, just, have something approaching freedom of speech). One day I will throw all caution to the wind, and tell the true extraordinary and unbelievable truth about the life I have lived; until them I'm afraid the good reader will merely have to make do with the occasional soupcan of revelation, the odd h'ourderve of good spelling, and the occasional fragment of true heartspun disclosure.
It has been said, that its good to be lost in the wood. But, as my previous blogs make clear, the wood I go to is not necessarily one in which to get lost, found, or anything else. Infact you could emerge from it with your world view upside down, your psyche in tatters, and your backside ripped to shreds.
Last week I bemoaned an unsuccessful recording, predicting a better result from a re recording this week. The new recording IS better, a lot better. It is acoustic guitar based, with Farfisa organ, bass, and electric guitar overdubs. I have made it much more experimental, like England's Dreaming Spires, and it feels fresh and is working. Its a bit Beggars Banquet, only done by The Monkees. Yet its very folky. It wont be coming out for a good while, however we are producing LP 2. I would like to do an EP actually, of some of the songs not on EDS but which are already recorded. We'll see.
The Love Affair
This week I have been chatting with Steve Ellis, he of Love Affair. Talking about the black influence on vocals, thankyou Steve for the encouragement. Steve has known his share of bad times, but keeps pressing forward and has a great recent LP available. His singing is a direct influence upon my decision to keep going down an r&b/soul influenced path vocally, which I have been doing since I finished EDS. After all, Steve made great 60s pop records with an R&B vocal, a soul vocal. That's the way I want to go. And, if you don't sing from your true soul, its a pretence anyway.
In last weeks blog there was a link to Sharon Tandy's magical 'Hold On' 45. I'm looking forward to owning a 45 of that. Once, I made a list of my favourite 45s, just this orgiastically glorious list of these fantastic 45s. Since then, that list would have expanded to include a good many northern soul records, but I am terrible with taking note of who the records are by. I just love them to bits, playing them over and over without taking enough notice of who the artists are (I have a lot of compilation CDs, alas not original records, ie vinyl). It would be a lot cooler to have the vinyl, but it costs a fortune and the CDs at least have made large quantities of this great music available cheaply. It is just a treasure trove, and it helps me sing better as I sing to these songs in the car.
I would like to talk to you more about my favourite pop 45s, more about the list of favourite ones I compiled before northern soul came into my life. With these, I own original copies of most of them. Guess what decade most of them come from. The 1950's? No. The 1970s? No, the 1960s is the decade from which most of my favourite 45s come. And, I will tell you about some of the ones which have really made me wet my pants, starting with....Manfred Mann singing Semi Detached Suburban Mr James. Fontana 45. They look cool those, I love the whole appearance of the vinyl, the aged blue label, the smell, the tactile experience of this disposable item, which I would never discard. This piece of low art, which fascinates me more than a Botticelli (now now, don't be rude). Yes, Semi Detached suburban Mr James is an absolutely fantastic pop record. So you finally named the day...oh it is just so great. I think I am right in saying this is one of Shel's. It is a record with a lovely medium tempo '4/4' rhythm, which kicks quite hard yet is funky. This is something I really like, in fact most of my favourite records over the years have been medium tempo with a groove. Ie Telegram Sam (more later) and Brown sugar (more later). These are the ones I have played literally thousands of times. Itr was uncanny to realise they were all the same tempo and feel - but you will not be surprised to learn this is precisely the tempo and feel on Village Green Machine records. I have it in my musical DNA. Anyway, Semi Detached was a mid period hit single for Manfred Mann, who a while previously had shed lead vocalist Paul Jones, and who seemed at this stage to be straining at the leash to maintain the success they had achieved with Paul. Manfred Mann were at the epicentre of swinging '60's British pop, and delivered this pop masterpiece during pop's greatest year. I once interviewed The Manfreds, and Tom Mcguiness told me Ray Davies was jealous of his guitar, the one he played on 'Semi' which was a Dobro. Ray of course got one eventually as evidenced on Lola and others. This guitar along with Hammond organ defined The Manfreds mid 60s sound. I think it begins with the wonderful Mike Vickers playing, as Brian Jones did, an instrument outside the usual rock & roll palette- is it a flute on 'Semi Detached', I think so. But the thing is, when the groove kicks in. It just has a great sexy feel. Mike D'Abo provides a gritty emotive vocal, and often overlooked and always underrated genius Mike Hugg is on drums on this one, providing that filthy, fat sexy backbeat. It is either Jack Bruce or Klaus Voorman on bass. the song itself is a marvel-I hope my songs are as good as that, I must admit I don't know who wrote the song but it is a fantastic song. Those melodies! And all of this with Shel's production and that '66 vibe and sound. No wonder it is one of my very favourites. And here lies much of the influence on Village Green Machine- it is sixties pop, overlooked by the hipsters, which contains that magic wonder for me. I went for a drink with Mike D'abo once and will talk about that in a future blog.
Has it been worth my sacrificing so much for music- yes actually. There is a price to be payed for everything. I've never had any money, and believe me, I still haven't. Which isn't ok. But, I do what I love, and so thats the deal. I obviously would appreciate it if you would buy my music. England's Dreaming Spires is a record Paolo Hewitt likes, Rob Bailey likes it. A few people in the know really like it. Its not an ordinary record, it is worth your money. If you haven't got any, I wont be offended if you rip a copy off. If you can afford to buy one, please do. I'm not going anywhere. there's another LP on the way. Cheers! When we can afford to, I want to put Village Green on vinyl,