Well, it’s all gone a bit Zager & Evans since my last post, hasn’t it…allow me to recommend the perfect soundtrack for a journey out of darkness. Laurie’s album, which I also had a lot to do with, was first released in 2006 after a long process of completion, then in 2012 we released a remastered version. A while back we were happy to see it featured on the excellently eclectic _O_P_I_U_M_H_U_M_ blog. Update: the album is now available in WAV form on Bandcamp, click here to download!
I hope everyone is keeping well and evading la peste. My esteemed English teacher of the late 60s/early 70s, Mr Graham Wilson, recently reminded me that Boccaccio’s Decameron was written during lockdown under a plague. Let’s hope that similar works of imagination will be one of the signifiers of our age.
I have known Peter Boyd Maclean since he was a lad in the late 70s, at that time living in the same Essex village (Wivenhoe) as The Lines’ official photographer Martin Mossop. Then he popped up in London in the mid 80s as part of the Duvet Brothers, the ground-breaking video production team that made the Torch Song Don’t Look Now video.
Around 2010 he made the hilarious and criminally overlooked film Lummox, in which he gradually intrudes on his own reality show about somebody else’s life. It’s a little hard to describe but if you get a chance to see it you definitely should.
Six years ago he came down to the final incarnation of the Guerilla Studio in Islington, ostensibly to film my drum robot, but he also had a song in his head, a tune in his heart. He strapped on a guitar and within about half an hour laid down a bunch of parts for the song Killing Pickle.
After that he began to take this music thing seriously, and he recruited crack musician (and Stoke Newington’s leading violin repair man) Gary Bridgewood. Gary’s wife Jo added her excellent vocal arrangements. They started sending me songs, which I would arrange and mix. Ultimately they got confident enough to do the whole thing themselves. When they added veteran percussionist Fergus Gerrand they became, to all intents and purposes, a pretty serious band.
Their finished album has been getting quite a lot of positive attention and you should check it out. It won’t be to everyone’s taste but Peter most definitely has a knack for matching clever lyrics with a catchy tune.
I mentioned this mix in an earlier post, and at the time thought it had never been released. Imagine my joy to find it at last on the 2004 compilation Anthems. It seems it was hiding all the time, masquerading as “Liewerk: The Kraftbach mix”. That’s cute, and I suppose if you look at it squinty-eyed it does seem a bit Kraftwerk-ish. I must say I find that just a tad disrespectful though, because this is very much a Daniel Miller mix, and arguably he is an even more pure electronic musician than the formerly flute-tootling Düsseldorfers.
I’m glad it was finally issued though. It was a landmark mix for me and I think it still sounds good.
Here’s an interesting project from a few years back, release number five of the FRKWYS project from Brooklyn label RVNG Intl. FRKWYS is a series dedicated to the idea of intergenerational collaboration; on this record the four “old hands” were Stuart Moxham, Alig Fodder, Stuart Argabright and myself, and the “youngsters” were this very cool and unique band. Thanks again to Dan Selzer for putting my name up for this.
Believe it or not, today marks the 40th anniversary of the recording of White Night, the debut single from my band The Lines, which I have written about a couple of times. I don’t know where all that time went, and so very quickly…I just looked around, and it was gone! A lesson for my younger readers.
Here’s another significant anniversary: although I have dated this entry according to the session date, as is my custom, we have just passed the 20th anniversary of the release of Madonna’s finest and best-selling album.
Back in early 1997 I was in London, during the last days of the Crouch End version of Guerilla Studio. It was a creative time. Some excellent Blur mixes were done, later included on the compilation Bustin’ and Dronin’. Mainly though, William Orbit was trying to finish an album called Strange Cargo 5. I thought the album sounded fantastic, but Warner Brothers somehow didn’t share the enthusiasm and a release date was not set.
When William heard that Madonna was looking for songs he sent the album to her. She loved it, used pretty much all of it…and so Strange Cargo 5 became Ray of Light.
Madonna was in superb voice at the time, having recently completed the quasi-operatic Evita. I’ll never forget first hearing her singing on Substitute For Love: the blend of her vocal and William’s instrumental style was truly a match made in heaven. Never that much of a fan (apart from Holidayobviously), Madonna really impressed me with the strength and depth of emotion she brought to these tracks.
I personally didn’t have much to do with the album, apart from cheerleading William and trying to help him keep his aging equipment operational. I seem to recall doing a glockenspiel part on To Have And Not To Hold. It didn’t earn me an album credit, but I got a platinum disc, and here it is.
I’m dedicating this post to the great Johnny Hallyday, who left us last week. We were lucky enough to catch him live here in Los Angeles a few years ago…an electrifying performance. He was truly one of the greats.
The track is an arrangement I did of the Purcell song for William Orbit. I think I like this best of all of his classical adaptations.