1971 - "The light that burns twice as bright burns only half as long"
Updated: Jun 14
I thought I’d give a bit of background to the songs on 1971. As I mentioned previously, I wrote them in the first few weeks of the lockdown when I had a bit more headspace than usual. It was nice to have time for a period of reflection and introspection and it was fun to record the series of acoustic covers shows that I streamed on facebook and YouTube. I had the opportunity to listen to some of my favorite records – many of which were released in 1971 (see my previous blog posts) – and these, in turn, influenced the songs I was writing. 1971 therefore seemed like an apt title for the LP, particularly as it was the year I was born.
I recorded the album using Logic Pro X because, although I wasn’t working, I was homeschooling the kids and I couldn’t start to record until they had gone to bed. This meant that I wasn’t able to use live drums and it also made it difficult to record using amps. The neighbours wouldn’t have been too impressed, either. Of course, I would have preferred to have recorded in a similar way as I had on Reel to Reel, i.e. in analogue on my Tascam four track. However, if I had done that, I would still be recording it now! The beauty of using Logic is that you can record very quickly.
The first track, ‘The Free Life’, is a cover of Alan Parker’s haunting analogue synth tune that was the theme to the 1970s ITV schools series “My World”. It brought back fond memories of being in my classroom in junior school. I was re-introduced to it by my school friend, Richard Kilbey – the ‘Vinyl Junkie’ in my song – on a compilation cassette he made for me of some of his favourite KPM library records tracks. There are a whole number of wonderful, evocative tunes like that on this mixtape.
‘You Got Me Thinking’ is a Hendrix influenced track that was fun to sing and record. I look forward to performing this with my band when it's possible to play live again.
‘Peter Green’ is my tribute to one of my all-time heroes. I was inspired to write the song after seeing clips of the tribute concert to Peter at the Royal Albert Hall in February on YouTube. It was so great to watch Jeremy stealing the show!
‘See How The Children Play’ was influenced by Donovan, particularly his 1971 LP HMS Donovan and the “For Little Ones” record of his 1967 two LP set, A Gift From A Flower To A Garden. Both of these records he wrote specifically with children in mind. I have been absolutely engrossed by his music for the last year or so and have been busily collecting as many of his records as I have been able to afford. I am now of the opinion that he is a criminally under-rated artist, up there with the very best songwriters this country has ever produced. You can hear the voices of my children and their cousins at the beginning and the end of the song.
‘Over and Over Again’ was demoed as a Marvin Gaye inspired RnB track in the vein of ‘Hitch Hike’. Somewhere in the process of refining and recording the song it morphed into a lost “Frantic Four” era Status Quo boogie. It might have had something to do with the fact that I used my new Francis Rossi replica Tele to play all the lead guitar on the LP.
The subject of the song is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.
‘Denied’ is not an autobiographical piece at all; at least, not in terms of the character portrayal. My life is good, I feel blessed to say, and I am grateful for everything I’ve got. I have suffered losses, like everyone, but I like to write songs where the lyrics are from the point of view of a character I’ve created. I think I've picked this up from listening to Richard Thompson.
Christina Rossetti’s elegaic poem, “Song”, provides the words to ‘Sing No Sad Songs For Me’. This was the one piece of music that I didn’t write this year. I had the melody for the chorus and verses in two separate songs I had written previously but hadn’t properly finished. When I read the poem I realised that the words fitted perfectly to these tunes. I had to warm my fingers up for ten minutes to be able to play the guitar part.
‘Whenever’ is a jangle pop song with strong Velvet Underground undercurrents. I tried to write something positive, uplifting and sunny for my wife while acknowledging that I’m sometimes not the easiest person to live with. (One person's 'OCD' is another person's "just being tidy", right?)
‘Jackpot’ is another one for the missus. I think she is beginning to realise that marrying an unsigned musician isn’t as romantic as it perhaps first sounded, particularly during a pandemic/recession. She feels a surgeon would have been a better choice.
‘Metanoia’ is taken from the gospel of John. You can’t really go far wrong with tabla, harmonium and acoustic guitars, in my view. The field recordings were made just over the road from where I live in Melksham, Wiltshire.
‘I Am Listening’ is about keeping an open mind and is dedicated to my favourite theologian: the Dude of Theology, Michael Hardin. I was very pleased with how easily this one came together when recording it.
‘Be Mine’ wasn’t going to make it onto the album originally but I re-listened to my demo just as I was wrapping up the sessions and concluded that it deserved a place.
‘Reputation’ is an apocalyptic psych-rock track about the madman across the water. I wrote this in April but couldn’t predict that it would become so topical after the murder of George Floyd on 25th May and Trump’s increasingly divisive rhetoric and behaviour:
“Well, roses are red and violets are blue
But there’s only one colour that means anything to you.”
I channelled “Love And Theft” era Dylan for this one. Again, the words are those of the ‘narrator’, not me.
‘Daisy Chain’, the final song on the LP, was written for my daughter.
Well, there you have it. 1971 contains the usual eclectic mix of musical styles that does me no good whatsoever when I try to promote my stuff to radio stations, labels or blogs. What kind of music is it? Er, well it’s a bit acoustic, a bit rock, a bit indie, sort of psych with folk overtones, with maybe a bit of 60s soul and a DIY aesthetic… However, I hope you will find something to enjoy. I aim to produce a CD version soon.
#BobDylan #StatusQuo #JimiHendrix #AlanParker #ChristinaRossetti #Donovan #PeterGreen #DIYmusic #MichaelHardin #TheVelvetUnderground #MarvinGaye #JeremySpencer #madmanacrossthewater #Trump #FrancisRossi #KPM #RichardThompson