My Favourite Song Intros

I was sitting around the other evening (I can do that with the TV relegated to some dusty corner of an upstairs room), when I suddenly remembered the first time I heard ‘Pretty Thing’ by Bo Diddley. It must have been in about 1963 as that was when it was released in the UK. He was performing the song on TV with his oblong Gretsch guitar.

Bo-Diddley

I was very excited, especially by the intro, which I still think is one of the greats. Anyway, as result of this reminiscing I thought it might be fun to do a post, or maybe more, on my favourite song intros of all time. So here goes.By the way, these aren’t in any order except as I think of them.First in the list, of course, is:

Pretty Thing – Bo Diddley.

I love the way he uses tremolo to get that pulsating effect and how it then goes into the characteristic bo diddley beat before the vocal comes in.

Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles

Again, a song I first heard on TV. This was on Juke Box Jury in 1967. It was actually released on my 18th birthday. Again I was blown away and the intro is still mysterious and evocative. It’s a mellotron playing a flute sound but as it plays loops of tape with the sound recorded on them it doesn’t really sound that much like a flute.

Steve used to have a mellotron in the studio, a white one. But they are difficult to keep tuned and we didn’t really do anything with it.

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A Mellotron

Shot by Both Sides – Magazine

I remember buying the single, around the same time as ‘Orgasm Addict’ by Buzzcocks. I think the intro is just thrilling.

So that’s three to be going on with. I’ve got plenty more and I’ll no doubt put some more in a future post. In the meantime, what are your favourites? I’m sure they’ll be different to mine. I love to know what music turns people on. No doubt some of the songs you love I will never have heard, just as you might not have heard some of mine.

Take care.

Addiction – Some questions (part 1)

At the beginning of my first post on addiction which you can read here, I posed some questions about addiction that I want to start to answer, tentatively. Why tentatively? Because addiction, it seems to me, is a complex and subtle beast  about which there are many conflicting theories and opinions.

I am also aware that, when one writes about something  based on one’s own experience, it is incredibly easy to be too categorical, to say “that’s the way things are”, rather than, “that’s  how it seemed to me”. I’ll try to avoid that, first by clearly indicating when I’m writing about my own experiences and what they mean to me and also, without I hope making the whole thing too ‘heavy’ (there’s an early 70s word), mention some of the various theories about addiction which either support or contradict my views. I’ll put links to these as I go on so you can, if you wish, read them in more detail. Continue reading

Addiction – What it means to me (part 3)

You can see from my two previous posts on addiction that I wasn’t exactly the most confident, relaxed and honest person around when I was younger, even before I got into active addiction.

My extreme self-consciousness and shyness meant that the best thing to do would be to have kept a low profile, not drawing attention to myself in any way. So what did I do? I grew my hair long (that is long for the mid-sixties, which was anything below collar length) and, by the time I was 18, I was going around in purple or orange satin shirts, red trousers, and a woman’s fur coat, all of this topped off with a flat cap, just the outfit to make you feel invisible! I wish I had a photo of me in this getup, perhaps Steve has one in his vast collection.

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Me and Steve on Sandylands Promenade, 1967, with satin shirt and red trousers (honest) but without fur coat and flat cap. I think that’s my Hagstrom 12 string next to me

It’s as though I wanted to be invisible but at the same time I craved attention. Just one of the contradictions which go into making a personality; and I believe I’m not alone in this, I think we all have all sorts of contradictions working away beneath the surface affecting our attitudes, beliefs and the way we interact with the rest of the world.

So what has this got to do with addiction? I’m not sure but I do know that, although I was very shy in interpersonal relations, I loved performing and alcohol in particular helped me to release that side of my personality. It also helped me to be less shy and more relaxed around other people, especially girls, who at the same time attracted me and also scared me to death. Continue reading

Addiction – What it means to me (part 2)

In my last post I started writing about my own addiction and what personality traits I felt had contributed towards my becoming an addict. I wrote about greed, avoidance of problems, instant gratification and laziness. I’ve been thinking about this and there are a few more which seem relevant:

  • Self obsession – this manifested in a number of ways of which extreme self-consciousness is the most obvious. I was always hyper-aware of what people thought of me and how people saw me – my ears stuck out, my hair was too fine – and, as a result of this, I developed a real phobia about people watching me doing things, particularly things involving using my hands. It started when I was about 16 and working in Heysham Village Co-op (long gone) at a time when, after serving a customer, you had to write out a little slip of paper showing what they had spent which they saved up to earn dividend (at that time 9d – about 4p in the pound). One day I became very self-conscious about a customer watching me do this and my hands began to shake. I made an excuse and went in the back of the shop to write the slip. This led to a long period where I tried to avoid situations where someone could watch me doing something with my hands – eating and drinking in cafes, writing etc. It was then that I discovered that drinking alcohol would reduce these difficulties. A couple of years later I was on the dole and had to sign on regularly at Morecambe unemployment office where, of course, I had to sign my name. Somehow I realised that if I bought a quarter bottle of vodka (and some mints) before signing on and drank it in one of the shelters on Morecambe prom, I could then go and sign on without any problem. Of course this is also an example of finding ways to avoid dealing with a problem, something which, in the end, leads to more and more problems.

Continue reading

Addiction – What it means to me (part 1)

My name is Kevin and I am an addict. There! It’s said.

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Alright, it’s not the most up to date photo. But it is me. The interesting question is, was I an addict even then, before I had even heard of alcohol and drugs, never mind tried them? And am I an addict now, even though it is over 30 years since I had a drink of alcohol or chewed up a few valium (I used to chew them because I thought they might work faster)?

Are addicts born? Or made? Once an addict always an addict? Does addiction even exist, or is it just the excuse people make when they continue to take too much?

For the last 15 or so years (I’m retired now) I was a drug and alcohol trainer with the NHS, training nurses, doctors, teachers and others about drugs and alcohol – what they are, what they do, their relative harmfulness, how to tell if someone is using drugs, how to assess drug and alcohol use and what to do with people who have problems with them. I still do some work in this area but, as I am now in my late sixties, this has reduced over the last couple of years. But I still don’t have definitive answers to those questions. Does anybody? Continue reading

Enthusiasm(s)

I was thinking about what I do with my life and realised that it goes in phases, phases of enthusiasm for one thing and another.

At the moment it’s e-books. I love reading (a continuing enthusiasm which has never left me) and when I discovered e-readers it was like the answer to a prayer. Instead of carting around a book, usually in a coat pocket or a shoulder bag, I could take all the books I needed, or thought I needed, in a nice, neat little package, always ready to open at the page I was on. I won’t tell you how many e-books I have (it’s a lot!) and my enthusiasm at the moment is having all the ones I want to read on my Kobo Aura (love it!) and have them sorted into categories – fiction, non-fiction, science, sf, fantasy, music, films, literature etc. I use Calibre, a free ebook catalogue programme where I can sort them, categorise, download covers and lots of other nifty things. It’s my favourite computer programme (not an app, apps are for mobile phones) and an example to a lot of commercial software companies of how to write a programme that is elegant, useful and, all in all, a pleasure to use.

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Calibre – my favourite programme

Continue reading

2015 – Home Music Recording 3

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Recording a song

I’ve been working on a song for ‘Limestone Wood’ now that I’ve managed to get Ardour up and running properly.

Again, it’s based on lyrics Steve emailed me – I’ve got a whole bunch more to work on as and when. It’s been great fun. I’ve got everything set up more or less to my satisfaction, keyboard to my right, mic stand behind it (althought he mic stand is slipping quite a bit so I’ve ordered a new one from Amazon, one with a clamp so I can attach it to the edge of the desk Rode NT1000and swivel it around to where I want it). The main problem I have with mic stands is that the mic I use is quite heavy – it’s a Rode NT1000. It’s a great mic, responsive and clear but it weighs a ton. Ah well.

One problem I had with Ardour was using virtual instruments. With Windows programmes this is fine, they use VST instrument plugins and there are lots of them. Whereas in Linux the main formats are LAPSDA and LV2 and I struggled to find instruments that would give me what I wanted e.g. decent pianos, synths, basses and, last but not least, a useable mellotron (think the intro to Strawberry Fields Forever). Anyway, I finally came upon the Calf Fluidsynth which uses soundfonts and now, after doing quite a bit of trawling on the web, I’ve got most of what I need – and it’s all FREE!

So, here’s a copy of ‘Oh You are Clever, Mr. Braces’. I’ve done two versions, one which is explicit (no, the only explicit word in it is ‘poo’) and one where the word isn’t used. By the way, this is meant to be Mrs. Braces singing so the vocal will need to be redone to take that into account.

Oh you are clever Mr. Braces

Oh you are clever Mr. Braces 2

2015 – Home Music Recording 2

DSC00096I have managed to get Ardour 4 up and running now and, apart from crashes when I try to use certain plugins, it seems to be working fine. I’ve plugged my electric guitar in (this one’s a cheap copy of a Gibson Les Paul) and am putting it through a plugin called ‘Guitarix’, which has a great choice of amps, preamps, speaker cabinets and effects.

The problem I always face when starting to record is that I spend ages finding e.g. guitar tones, synth presets or suitable drum loops and not enough time trying to get something down on disc.

So, anyway, the first thing I’m going to have a go at is a song for Limestone Wood based on some lyrics Steve sent me. The title is ‘Man and Machine’ and is one of Braces songs about his lorry, the lorry which seems to be central to his life. I’ll post a copy when it’s finished.

To read Part One click here