I wrote my first song when I was about seventeen, fifty years ago. It was called Gardens and Steve recorded it on a borrowed Revox reel-to-reel in his mother’s wool shop in Heysham Village. We recorded another song I had written called Morning Into….. We took the tape along to a local studio in Hest Bank called, I think, De Lane Lea, and asked them to make a 7″ single from the two songs. They did, but maybe because we played it too soon, or because the quality of the materials wasn’t too good, it soon got very scratchy and almost unlistenable. Anyway, for anyone who is interested, here it is.
And here’s the B-side (as we used to call them, back in the day).
I didn’t write anything else for years after this, mainly because I had no confidence in either my songwriting, my singing or my guitar playing. Thinking about it now I did write a couple of things while I was drinking and living in the caravan at Meadowfield (and I must write something about Meadowfield at some point. It was a very unusual caravan site!). I remember writing a song called It’s in the Wires, a sort of paranoid view of the world, unsurprisingly considering my state at the time. I think I wrote a couple of other things but I can’t remember what they are now – with all the alcohol related brain damage it’s a wonder I can remember yesterday!
I carried on playing and trying to sing, but just at home, and eventually, for some reason, I was asked to join a local band, AKA-Bats, as rhythm guitarist. I don’t remember why they asked me, I don’t even know how they knew I could play, but anyway ask me they did.
They were a mainly R&B type band with a female singer, Viv, a male singer, Tommy, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and drums. They were very good at what they did but it wasn’t really the sort of music I wanted to play. I played a few gigs with them – Redwell, Lancaster Football Club, Kulturshock at the University, and then I was asked one night in the pub (it was probably the Ring o’ Bells where I spent many an evening), if I was interested in joining a new band which was just forming, playing mainly post-punk material. So I left AKA-Bats and joined Dilettante, and we rehearsed for months in what is now the Whale Tail, played one gig at the Greaves Hotel, then fell apart, mainly because of my drinking. If you’re interested I have written more about Dilettante here.
I didn’t write any more songs until after I got sober and started working for Steve over in Blackburn. Steve was always keen on recording and eventually installed an 8-track studio at Hollin Bridge Mill where the workshop was. At around the same time, the late 80s, I decided to have a go at recording myself and bought a little 4-track cassette recorder, a Fostex, and a cheap digital keyboard.
I recorded a few songs on this, including one about the studio, and about Steve with the reference to The Cellar and Dr. Who Machines (he used to have a mic set up in the cellar which would make your voice sound like a Dalek, I was very impressed), called Mr. Engineer, which I tried to make a bit Beatlish (there’s hubris for you!). See what you think.
Anyway, we spent many happy hours in the studio, often when we were meant to be working, and I wrote and recorded a number of songs there, the strangest of which was Insurance Men which is, like my first song, fairly paranoid. Apart from that I haven’t a clue what it’s about. Enjoy if you dare!
I also wrote a song about Half Moon Bay, the area of Morecambe Bay which can be seen from my childhood home and where I spent many days as a child. They’ve built two nuclear power stations near there now, so the whole feel of the place has changed for the worse. The song is vaguely about these changes.
The studio is long gone, and I do most of my recording now on a PC, originally with windows and Reaper (a great programme), but now on Linux (which I love) and either Reaper or Ardour. This version of Half Moon Bay was recorded on Reaper
For the last few years the main songs I’ve been recording have been for Steves’ animated TV children’s programme Limestone Wood, plus the odd song here and there. Two I am particularly fond of are Beautiful People, based on lyrics given to me by Steve, and The Beloved Wives of Eric Fretwell, based on the plaque Steve saw on the promenade at Grange, where he lives.
Who could resist a title like that!
Anyway, here are the two songs.
The Beloved Wives of Eric Fretwell
By the way, this was recorded with the band I used to be part of, Moon Road.