Laurie Mayer “Black Lining” 2006

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.

Book of Shame 2019

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.

Got a beatin’ heart…a heart that’s beatin’ me in…

Madonna “Ray of Light” 1997

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 Holiday obviously), 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.

Arnold Turboust “Arnold Turboust” 2016

Ten days after the triumphant release date I’m happy to report, in a non-boastful way of course, that the reaction so far has been a unanimous thumbs-up. I recommend checking out Arnold’s Facebook page for a roundup of the press and TV commentary. Scroll down aways and you’ll see a photo of me and Arnold in our white-shirted 80s guise, working on his first solo album Let’s Go à Goa.

Here’s the full video clip of first single Souffler N’est Pas Jouer. Also check out a very nice fan clip of the beautiful ballad Que La Fête Commence.

Arnold Turboust preview 2016

Word is getting out. More people are starting to know what my readers (being in the know) already know: the new album from Arnold Turboust is an important milestone in French musical history. That may sound grandiose and bombastic, but it’s seemingly how things are done in this anno rabidus, so who am I to buck the trend.

Here’s a teaser for the first single Souffler N’est Pas Jouer with an excerpt from the amazing video, or moving photograph to be more accurate.

Arnold Turboust 2016

Very happy to announce that a release date has been set for Arnold Turboust, the self-titled masterwork from my old friend, who I find to be one of the most original composers ever to hail from Normandy, or anywhere in the world for that matter. Watch this space for more news.

Meanwhile, this blog will soon return to the riot-torn Los Angeles of 1992, to pick up the picaresque tale. À bientôt.

The Lines “hull down” 1982-3

It’s here! 33 years after recording, 11 years after the edit was done, with the excellent help of Dan Selzer at Acute Records and our friends at Carpark Records, we have finally marshaled the resources to release The Lines’ album #3. Ladies and Gentlemen, for your entertainment and delight, we present hull down. Here is the lowdown, for those who wish it.

After the completion of  Ultramarine in April of 1982 the chickens came home to roost, financially speaking. Label boss Steve Brown had managed to keep the plates spinning for a while but now they were crashing down. We no longer had our Aberdeen Road squat to rehearse in. Nick was busy with Fad Gadget. Mick went to Thailand, Jo went to Turkey.

Nothing happened for a while. In June me and Jo started the tracks Raffle and Haberdasher at his Old Street flat, and also the first Flat Feet version at the earliest incarnation of Guerilla Studio, in the anarchist squat on Harrow Road. When Mick got back from Thailand we demoed Single Engine Duster and Archway at his place. When Guerilla went 8-track and moved to Maida Vale they offered me a job as engineer, an event which brings us back to the beginning of this blog.

Having access to down time at the studio meant that these demos could now make the transition to 8-track tape, aided by the burgeoning synth arsenal of the super-evolving band Torch Song. Finally, we were in complete control of our sound.

Thus the sessions which make up hull down proceeded through the winter of ’82 and the spring and summer of ’83. We discovered the modern disease of endless choice; with no studio deadlines, we could tweak and redo and then tweak some more. Later in 1983 the studio was upgraded to 24 track and down time became more scarce. We had some good-sounding rough mixes on cassette tape but nothing was finished, and so it remained.

In 1987 there was an attempt to complete an instrumental version of the album for Miles Copeland’s No Speak label, through which William Orbit’s excellent Strange Cargo series was launched. However they weren’t very into what they heard. Material like Haberdasher was a bit too ambient and repetitive for their particular brief. So again, it wasn’t finished. A few elements of the 8-track masters were sampled, which aided in the ultimate construction of hull down.

In 2004, having completed the premastering for the Memory Span and Flood Bank compilations, I dug out the original cassettes from 1983 and flew them into Pro Tools. I made an interesting discovery: in certain cases, by blending the earliest, often improvised demo with the later, almost-finished backing track, I could find some kind of completion for ideas that had seemed hopelessly open-ended. Flat Feet, Raffle, Archway and Haberdasher contain such mixes.

Thus was The Lines’ third album finally finished. Here’s a run-down:

Flat Feet was originally demoed on the 4-track machine in Torch Song’s earliest studio on Harrow Road. What you can hear is that earliest version running concurrently with a backing track recorded in the 8-track studio. Nick’s jazzy drums really took this one to another level.

Single Engine Duster was demoed at Mick Linehan’s place in Archway but what you can hear on this one is a vocal version from late ’82 followed by a coda made from an ’83 remix, when trombone and Linn Drum were added. The trombone was sampled from the multitrack during the ’87 sessions, which allowed me to add it to the ’82 mix. Unusually, Mick is playing both bass and guitar on this track.

Nicky Boy’s Groove came from the purchase by Mr Cash, as soon as he could get it, of a Roland TB-303 Bass Line. Within minutes of unboxing he’d programmed this catchy riff. When recording it he had a play with the filter, and we all agreed that it was an odd but great sounding filter.

Zoko Am3 is a live jam, a staple of our rather rare gigs of the time. It’s actually the last of this set to be recorded, in the summer of 1983. My part is a kind of duet with a Watkins Copicat.  The harpsichord at the beginning is a remnant of some ancient 60s session already on the tape, which was recycled from a dumpster left in front of the old Advision Studios on Gosfield Street.

Where In The World is almost live, it was thrown down in an improvised manner to test out the tape machine and desk connections, and to demonstrate the fab new Roland gear, including an 808 drum machine and an SVC-350 vocoder.

Raffle is from Jo’s place on Haberdasher Street, where he had a cool setup with a Tensai rhythm machine/ recorder, an Electro Harmonics Electric Mistress flanger and a Watkins Copycat tape delay. We used this setup to do the demos for Raffle and HaberdasherRaffle was expanded in the studio with sequencers and gated rhythms.

Archway came from a demo made in the attic of some friends of Mick, who had a Hammond organ up there. The original demo is here blended with Nick’s vibraphones and percussion recorded later.

Haberdasher is the nearest thing here to a remix, as I had sampled some bass parts and Roland Juno 60 arpeggiations into my Akai during the 1987 sessions. The remixed section sits between the two earliest demos from June 2nd 1982.

So there it is, dearest readers. Buy it, then tell your friends and relatives, and all of theirs as well, to buy it too. Or else just listen to it and tell me what you think.

Baby Ford “Beach Bump” 1989

I mentioned previously that Rhythm King didn’t release much Acid House, but to be fair they did release arguably the most successful UK version of the genre in the form of Baby Ford’s Oochy Coochie. Peter Ford was also a more than respectable white soul singer, as evidenced by this summer stomper, co-produced with Jeremy Healy, with Laurie Mayer, Lorita Grahame and Sonique on backing vocals, and programmer R.Salt’s Roland Jupiter 8 abundantly featured. Also check out the excellent Wigan on the B side.