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IN THIS COLLECTION of new and old
recordings we have broken with tradition a little. I offered my editor and
producer Helen a lot more recent material than usual. It was mainly
instrumental. Listeners who are visitors to my website will be familiar now with
the experimental piano writing on which I began to concentrate after a cycling
accident in 1991. Much of this work has led me into many open-ended orchestration
But I have not lost focus. Nor have I lost creative energy. I write as much
or more music than I ever did. Without a 'commission' from The Who (or for my own solo career) I simply write less songs. Those songs
I have written lately I want to keep unpublished for a while in case I do record
again with The Who or solo.
So the recent instrumental tracks are peppered mainly with various song demos
from the fertile days when I had to write songs for The Who AND myself. At one
time I had two parallel contracts requiring me to produce songs, record them,
perform in videos, do pre-publicity, tour, do radio promotion for 8 albums over
a 5 to 7 year period, and be husband and father and a loyal friend to various
mates. It wasn't possible for me (I have no idea how Phil Collins managed it).
Some of the song selections here are from the period when I collapsed under the
strain - and it is clear that even then I was still enjoying writing and
recording. I had several studios, plenty of money, lots of support. I lived a
good and wild life and had plenty of sinister subject matter.
I have often said that in the first 10 years of my writing career I needed to
find characters in The Who's audience or to create fictional characters - to use
as subjects for my song writing. I couldn't find what I needed in myself. From
1978 onwards I had no time to look at the characters around me, no time to
create new ones, I became the central character in my own dark (but amusing)
rock opera. The songs included here are mainly taken from that era. Many of them
didn't serve The Who or my solo career very well. But they serve here very well.
I occupy myself today almost entirely with musico-dramatic writing. I still
feel there is new ground to cover, and I don't mind being accused of attempting
to progress pop music, a form that resists progression; in essence it often
seems hat pop cannot be progressed without corruption of its very bone
structure. That is the challenge for me and always has been. So, much of the
instrumental music here was inspired by plays, poems or prose I might have been
working on at the time. That is not to say there is a story behind each piece,
but where there is some context I have provided it in the detailed track notes.
I hope this collection works for you. It is not a journey through my history.
It is not a selection of my finest moments. It is who I am today, and what I do.
It is all I do. There is - as I write - nothing more. Well there is plenty more
of course, but it is not different to what you have before you now. It is enough
- for now.
CAN YOU SEE THE REAL ME This was recorded in Spring 1973 at my home studio in London on a 3M
8-Track machine using Dolby A systems to reduce hiss. The tabla sound was cooked
up on my ARP2600 synthesizer.
What is a bit of a give away here is the verse about 'rock and roll' doing
'me an evil wrong'. The subject is meant to be Jimmy of course, or one of his
facets, and this line belongs to the Godfather who is yet to be introduced into
The Who's version of the song was terrific, like everything we did on
Quadrophenia, but this demo has its own style. I played everything on this.
DIRTY WATER Recorded on cassette in my country house. December 1979.
I was living alone at the time. I spent a lot of time at my big kitchen
table, looking at the River Thames flowing by outside my windows. I used to
knock out little songs like this, or short stories that I later published in
Horse's Neck. I know the finished demo of this was included on Scoop, but I
really like this little fragment. It shows exactly how I work up my material.
This was the first version I recorded, making it up as I went along. The next
step was what appears on Scoop. That was a demo done at AIR studios in London,
but no finished version of the song was completed.
COMMONWEALTH BOYS This was an experiment for White City Recorded 14 December
1984. When I was in the studio at the time I would often have Bill Price do me a
rough mix of a backing track done in the studio. Instead of taking it away to listen to on normal cassette, I had him mix it down to two tracks
of a 4 track
Portastudio cassette machine. This allowed me to try out different vocals, refine
lyrics, and even practice guitar solos prior to overdub sessions What you have
here is a mix of a portastudio cassette.
This experiment didn't really fit the story. The backing track was developed further and became 'Come To Mama' on the finished White City album.
City was an ambitious project for me. I wrote a film script with the
editorial assistance of Claire Bland (who appears briefly in a pub scene in the
film. My manager Bill Curbishley liked it and encouraged me to write songs
inspired by the script. SYNOPSIS 1: A violent young man ends up in a
wheelchair after a drunken car crash. He descends into anger and self-pity after
driving away his wife with acts of violence. She takes up a job in a woman's
refuge on the multi-racial While City estate on which they live. The young man
has a friend who takes him to various local pub gigs. At one of these gigs he
attempts to perform, wearing a daft transvestite's outfit and
a lot of make-up. He starts well, but booze gets the better of him. He has a terrible row with his mother who runs
the pub. In the middle of the row he suddenly remembers some childhood trauma involving his mother and rushes to consult his
estranged wife who is training some young swimmers at the local swimming baths.
She is planning a special event to raise funds for the Refuge.
At the pool the
young man comes across a rock star - myself- who had gone out with his wife
before they were married. I have offered to perform at the fund-raiser. My
obsession at the time is with South Africa and The curse of Apartheid. At every
chance I get I engage people (possibly bore them?) with the issues there,
attempting to alert people who really don't need to be reminded to the fact that racism
is everywhere. During the rehearsals I find myself attracted to my old girl
friend and there seems to be a chance we might reunite.
The young man, believing
himself to be on the brink of redemption with his wife, is infuriated by me and
storms out of the baths. Later that night, while I am on stage performing, he
arrives, dressed absurdly somehow managing to walk, and to my chagrin convinces his
wife to go back to him.
I sulkily leave town, back on the road, hopeful I can find
love and help Mandela to rescue Soweto.
Richard Lowenstein, the director of the
film found my script 'pretentious' (That word crops up so often in my creative life) and simplified the story greatly. He made a really good film even
ran out of my money before he'd quite finished. But I still think the songs from
White City work better if you imagine the young hero is disabled, and drunk....
THEME O15 This 'variation in G' was composed sometime before I logged this
take (with about 30 others)
on 1 June 1987, therefore it was probably recorded in March of '87. I had recently taken
delivery of a large Synclavier synthesizer.
The harmonica sound is actually produced on the FM side of the Synclavier.
One of the first things I did on my new Synclavier at this time was conduct
a series of exercises round the 'Siege' canon 1 composed on sheet music
before while I was working on the demos for White City. I had hoped to
complete a symphonic piece based on the canon, but really such a task was - and
still is - out of my scope. But I produced a large number of simple variations.
One of the most harmonically satisfying for me is the one that serves as the
middle eight for Ask Yourself which appears on Another Scoop.
MARTY ROBBINS Recorded on a very weary cassette machine in June 1984. My
mastering engineer Jon Astley wanted to clean this up a lot more, but I refused.
I LIKE IT THE WAY IT IS Jon Astley thought he could hear wow and flutter on
this but it is actually the action of an Antares autotune device I
used to try to tidy up the vocal.
This orchestral piece was one of a group already featured on Another Scoop, and is
the only one
not released. The others were 'Brooklyn Kids', 'Praying The Game' etc. Ted Astley
arranged the orchestra which was recorded in 1978 by Glyn Johns at the incredible and wonderful Olympic Studios before Richard Branson
brought it and turned it into a Japanese airport waiting room with microphones.
It is hard for me to listen to this song today. I could not attempt a new
vocal on it, which is why I used the autotune gadget.
Essentially it a about my inability to stop drinking during the mid-seventies.
My drinking sprees were increasingly leading me into situations humiliating to
me and hurtful to my wife. In those days I could use will power to
stop drinking for really long periods. (Eventually, between 1982 and 1993 I managed an eleven
year stretch 'clean and dry'). I think when I drank on the road I became deeply
and foolishly romantic, probably driven by loneliness. But it saw me crashing around
having occasional sexual affairs that I found impossible to justify.
The lyric here is
portentous. 'I'm going to change my life,' I sing. 'I promise this'. I go on
with a warning:
'..... the only trouble is, I think I like it the way it is.' A sadly
prophetic song that I have
suppressed for many
years. Now it is clear that the music is more important than the proprieties of
those involved, and I very rarely write material of this strength and honesty
THEME 016 Another 'Siege' variation logged on 1st June 1987. This one is identical to
Theme 015, but a different 'harmonica' performance.
NO WAY OUT ( However Much I Booze) Recorded in 1975 by Dick Hayes at my
Goring studio (the big one in the barn where I mixed Quadrophenia). Phil Chen played
bass and brought his friends the brothers Andrew (drums) and Phillip Bailey (keyboards)
along. They were a joy to play with.
I hauled out the16 track master reel and remixed it for this collection. I
may have compressed it a bit too much, but I am a compression junkie. If a
decent vintage compressor
appears on the Pro Audio section at www.ebay.com
I have to bid, I have no choice. Who fans will recognize this is a song from the
Who album Who By Numbers.
COLLINGS Recorded on 21st December 2000 and offered free on my website as an mp3.
Helen included it
here and I am glad because I am especially proud of it; I wanted you to hear it
at a higher sample rate. It was recorded in mono to my Synclavier hard disk
system at 48khz in my present home studio control room using a Neumann U87 mike.
You can hear a single skip edit in there (which I did deliberately to mark where
I had removed a large chunk of clumsy mistakes).
The guitar is a special, but quite recent, Collings made in Austin, Texas.
It actually played this little piece itself I feel. I used a tuning here that is
quite new to me. Reading recently about Bert Jansch one of the guitar heroes of
my youth I saw reference to 'DADGAD': a tuning that allows unskilled folk
players to knock out three chord trick using a single finger. I tuned the lowest
A down to G, and DGDGAD is the result. A very useful tuning I find.
PARVARDIGAR (German version) When I recorded
the Parvardigar prayer on 31
August 1971 for the album Who Came First, some one suggested I should do
versions in several languages. An Austrian follower of Meher Baba, Hilde Halpern, did the translation, working literally
from my own free adaptation of Meher
Baba's Universal Prayer. There was no official release of the result. I mixed a
backing track from the 8 track English language master down to stereo without the
vocals, then bounced it onto a fresh real of 8 track tape and added the new German vocals. The quality was not great. When I came to this album I decided to
rebuild the master, combining the original backing track with the German vocals on
a hard disk so that all the parts would be of the highest possible quality. This
was a complicated job. One variation on the first is that this new one combines
some backing vocals in both German and English languages creating a lingual
SEA & SAND A demo for Quadrophenia this was recorded onto 8 track at my home
studio in Twickenham on 1 November 1972.The vocal is compressed using a technique
I developed when recording the ThunderclapNewman band for their first album
Hollywood Dream. The mike goes through a channel, quite heavily EQ'd. Then it is
heavily compressed and then returned through another channel using exactly
the same EQ settings. The second EQ pass has the effect of upsetting any level
control action in the compressor, but it makes an interesting noise. It's great on
bass drum, creating a huge sound from quite a small drum.
When writing Quadrophenia I was inspired by the acquisition of a splendid
new Bosendorfer 7'4" grand piano which I still have today. It was squeezed into
the tiny room I used then, but it sounded extraordinary, still does. This demo
demonstrates how well my songs for the story work (harmonically speaking)
without any of the frills I started to add when we recorded the songs with the
971104 ARPEGGIO PIANO This piece was
recorded to DAT tape at my home in London on 4th November 1997. When I first
moved into the house in London in which I now live I chose the tiniest room (an
ante-room off the main living room) and set up a Kurzweil MIDIboard 88 note
heavy action keyboard on which to practice and compose. Built into it are a wide
number of arpeggio 'algorithms'. I used the keyboard everyday for about a year.
recording to DAT tape or cassette. When Helen Wilkins started in compile this
collection I completed some of these pieces by editing them on Synclavier and
orchestrating 2 the result on the computer.
THEME 019 Another variation on the
Siege canon. The notes in my log for this say; SIEGE written variation in Eb.
Chart 'Theme 014'. (B substituted for Bb in opening chords for some reason).
Trombones, then oboe/flute/pipes take up a folk refrain over lush strings. This
was recorded entirely within the Synclavier sequencer with a mixture of sampled
and FM voices.
The working title for this variation was 'Siege-Scottish'.
I AM AFRAID This was a demo attempted on
banjo. 11th December1990. Recorded to cassette I think.
I like this version of the song. It must have bean one of the very first
demos I roughed out for Psychoderelict. To begin with I was not working on
a musical play I was writing songs for a conventional solo album, which - I had
bean warned by my manager and record label - had to be a 'real' rock record. At
the same time I was writing a novel called Ray High and the Glass Household.
Part of This book was complete enough to send a first draft to my editor
The two projects became predictably entangled and my CD play
released in1993 was the result. Halfway through I was sacked by EMI who had bought my UK label
Virgin to get hold of The Rolling Stones and a few others.
I signed to East West, who were associated with my US label Atlantic. They gave
me much greater creative scope. The birth of my son Joseph, then only two months
old, inspired the future phobia I refer to in this song.
MAXIMS FOR LUNCH Recorded 2nd September 1983 on Tascam 4 track cassette
portastudio. The bass is produced by a Prophet 10 synthesizer. The drum box is a
A play on words; I might have bean a little too smart for my shirt. Maxims
(as the 'truth' or 'principle') doubling as the name of a famous French
restaurant. In this song the scene is set: two lovers meat for lunch and throw
clever ideas around, get drunk, then - presumably - belch and fall asleep.
Nothing much else seems to happen.
WISTFUL Recorded directly to Technics portable DAT using a SONY stereo mike in
The Cube home studio1991. I planned to use this piece of guitar as an incidental
underscore for some dialogue in Psychoderelict. The hero Ray High. is playing the
guitar while reflecting the joys of not touring. It was set aside with a lot of
other stuff when I elected to release a single CD.
EMINENCE FRONT Recorded in Aug Sept 1995 in The Cube
home studio. I had a
single stereo mike setup, and recorded this in a single past. But I was using my
Yamaha piano that sends MIDI. This was sent to a KORG Rhythm 'accompanist'. This
provided the cocktail bar drums bass and acoustic guitar part in the mid-back-
I was preparing at this time for a solo appearance at The Paramount
Madison Square Garden in New York as part of a benefit by and for Paul Simon and
his charity The Children's Health Fund on Sept 10 1995. Agreeing to appear, I
picked up a guitar and realised that since the middle1992 I had probably spent
more time home playing piano than guitar (I was recovering from a serious wrist
accident and keyboard practice was more useful physiotherapy). So it seamed to me I
should play piano in public for the first time. On this occasion the Wynton
Marsalis orchestra, some of the best jazz musicians on the planet, were in
attendance. I was nervous. But I did well. This demo was to help me get idea of
how I might sound on the night.
LONELY WORDS A half-completed studio recording was made in February 1985 onto
32 track digital tape by Bill Pace at my large Oceanic studio in Twickenham. On
these sessions Rabbit (John Bundrick) played Hammond, Clem Burke played drums,
Phil Chen played bass. I played guitar. Later two sub masters were created, one to
half-inch analogue 16 track, another to 4 track cassette Portastudio. I recorded
some new 'Bender' guitars on the 16 track and a demo lead vocal on the Portastudio.
To create this mix I decided not to go back to the digital master, but to combine the
two sub masters.
1 The original script I wrote is now partly lost I'm afraid. But I may
my website what I have salvaged. 2 The term used in the movie industry is 'Synthestration'.
Not one of my favourite new words.
PRELUDE 970519 This was recorded on my
birthday 1997, the location was 'The Cube', my home studio from 1985-1997. I had
in there a six-foot Yamaha Conservatory Grand piano that was equipped with a
MIDI send. So many of the pieces I recorded to cassette or DAT tape in that
period had pseudo-orchestral sounds mixed in with the piano. The piano part was
later tightly edited by me (early in 2001) and I then added synthesised strings
This piano 'prelude' was intended to evoke serenity, calm, and ultimately-
in a very short space of time-readi-ness to sleep. Soft is intentionally soporific
and light. Occasionally, for a month at most, I would try to record at least one
piece every day as part of what I called my 'Daily Project'. This idea was
inspired by my reading of THE ARTIST'S WAY, and the course work I did on the
12-week programme of creative stimulation the authors recommend. If I didn't
record any music I might instead try to write a short essay or poem of some kind.
IRON MAN RECITATIVE This was recorded around October 1993 on the studio Synclavier I still use for the majority of my composing work. With a
one can record a MIDI keyboard track and live vocal tracks at the same time. I
could work in short sections and then edit them together later on. (This is something modern sequencing
software manages easily today). I read from the first
two or three pages of Ted Hughes's book of THE IRON MAN and simply made the chords
and melody up as I went along. The string sounds are synthetic of course, mainly
from the Denny Jaeger library for Synclavier. Around this time the studio I was
using was a converted Dutch barge called 'Grand Crue'. It had once carried live eels) which I thought was amusing because my company is called 'Eel Pie').
The mixing desk was an old Neve which was later sold and is now somewhere in the
USA. The barge is still berthed out-side my large studio in Twickenham, and is
used at the moment by my old mate Ian Broudie of The Lightning Seeds. (Ian was
the guitar player of The Original Mirrors who-with The Clash - were my favourite
group during the '80s.
Early in 19921 contacted the Youth team at The Young Vic theatre in London, to
ask whether they would help me put up a children's version of my complete opera
The Iron Man. When we came to work on it the first problem was that it was not
quite complete. In my own working script I had arranged for a Prologue to set the
scene for a woodland gathering of various animals-an Owl, Fox and others who
witness The Iron Man first rising from the sea. I had not yet written this Prologue when
I presented the songs to the Director David Thacker instead I
had recorded narration by the radio actor Fraser Kerr who read the actual text of
the necessary pages. David suggested that I prepare music to run underneath these
chunks of narration, and during an early creative meeting it occurred to both of
us that it might be possible to use Ted's prose as recitative. We thought I would
have to make many changes to the text to make it musically rhythmic. In fact when I first sat down to try it, I sang right the way
through the first few pages line by line without a break. Ted's prose - probably
because he was a poet-had musical rhythm that was perfect for an operatic
I felt I was a natural at this, and had discovered a new talent. Lovers
of my Scoop series will have become used to references to The 'Siege' Theme, a simple canonic bass fine which I later adopted as the leitmotiv for the Iron Man.
I also composed a number of experimental harmonic exercises around this canon,
which I will publish one day as part of a complete score and book for my own
small operatic version of The Iron Man. In the play what immediately follows is
the song Over The Top, sung by a phantom chorus of ghostly soldiers of whom The
Iron Man had once been an ancient ally. The Iron Man had been designed to fight
some now forgotten field of battle, but somehow programmed only to fight
alongside foot soldiers against machines built to destroy man. In this respect he
worked according to Azimov's Laws of Robotics.
TOUGH BOYS I recorded this onto a half-inch analogue 8-track Tascam tape
machine in 1979. I had no proper studio at home in London anymore and had put
together a temporary and transportable rig around this machine. Great sounding
machine usually, but in this case I was simply chucking down a very quick demo
of a strange sound I'd managed to cook up by combining a Roland guitar
synthesiser (which was polyphonic) with an ARP Avatar (which was monophonic). I
used the ARP on just the lowest string of my guitar, creating a rather erratic
bass line. The chord sustain noise is from the Roland, and you can also hear the
strings being strummed from a mike I put near them. In the studio (Wessex) when I
recorded the track properly I fed each output of the two synthesiser into a
separate amplifier, creating a monstrous and wobbly wall of sound.
This demo was all I had when I went into the studio to start working on Rough
Boys for the album Empty Glass. The lyric came together in the studio, a rant about the British punks (like
Sid Vicious) I had come across in recent years
who wore outfits I had come to know in New York as the apparel of 'rough' gays. Not
sure why or when the title changed.
DID YOU STEAL MY MONEY? This was recorded at my small upstairs studio in Soho
in 1980.At this time I ran two successful fully commercial recording studio
complexes. The building in Broadwick Street was also used by my book
publishing company, and as the base for The Face magazine for a while.
The room upstairs was equipped with a small Neve which is now in a San Francisco studio
used by Tom Waits. It was a 16 track recording. I think recorded onto an Otari MTR9O
without Dolby. The drum box is that True Great the Roland 808. I play the bass harmonica. In fact on this one I play everything, including a robust
part. The guitars are obviously influenced by Andy Summers whose work with Police
around that time was seminal I think. My engineer for this session was Chris
The true story behind this doesn't make anyone look good-especially me. It
is not the time to tell it.
CAN YOU REALLY DANCE? Bill Price recorded this at my Oceanic Studio on 28th
July 1988 on Mitsubishi 32 track digital. I then made several 'slave' reels on
Fostex16 track analogue machines for various other musicians to work on. Clem
Burke was on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, Rabbit on piano, me on electric
piano-Billy Nichols and his singers did the vocals. The members of KICK HORNS developed
this particular version of this song which is why it is so brass oriented. This
'second unit' project was engineered and mixed by Ashley Alexander.
During 19881 was recording a follow up album to WHITE CITY. Chris Thomas was
producing for an album that was intended to support a series of story videos that
I was planning that would have come out very much like that wonderful
movie STRICTLY BALLROOM had I the talent of its director Baz Lurhman. However, my
father died during the sessions and I had to let the idea go. There were a number
of tracks recorded at this time, ALL SHALL BE WELL and LONELY WORDS are worthy
of a mention. There is even another song from these sessions with the same title
which has a tango heat. The subtitle of this song was 'Real Word', and I used the
idea later in a different form as a song for Iron Man.
VARIATIONS ON DIRTY JOBS. This was recorded on piano on 7th November 1997 and completed in February 2001. I
fully orchestrated it earlier this year. Although
the chords are similar to Dirty Jobs from Quadrophenia it is an entirely original
composition. It is intended to demonstrate the kind of tonal effect I could
achieve should I develop a lull orchestral version of Quadrophenia. The piano was
recorded on a Kurzweil sequencer and later 'quantized' to a DAT machine. I
then copied the DAT to my Synclavier hard-disk system and tightened it up,
then added the orchestral parts using all synthetic sounds.
The opening cascade of the piece is written in 7/8 time. It intentionally
created a chaotic but processional sound. Later it becomes more conventional, but
the piano arpeggios in the middle are difficult to play if you don't happen to use my particular 'three fingers on
the right one finger on the left' two-hand technique. All though the piano sounds as
though a computer has produced it,
in fact all that has happened to my free part that it has been 'quantized'. That means any out
of time notes have been brought back into time, it gives it a real concert-pianist feel, but
it's partly a bluff. It is, by the way, only the
middle part that is 'quantized'.
ALL LOVERS ARE DERANGED (Pete's version). I recorded this in January 1983 at
my Soho studio. Russell Webb (ex-bass player of The Skids) engineered. It was
taken to 24 track 30 ips no Dolby. I played all the parts. The drums were
programmed on a Linn Drum, the bass was a hybrid Fender/Gibson given me by John Entwistle. The
electric piano is a bit special because it is produced by a Yamaha GS-1 (now very
Another lyric based on a true story. Two people attempt to conduct a love
affair over the telephone, from different sides of an ocean. Not to be recommended. Dave Gilmour set the same lyric to his own music for his 1984 album
ELEPHANTS This was taken directly to a Tascam cassette portastudio. August
1984. It is a really good example of the fiery and bizarre Hammond-like sounds you
can get out of synthesizers if you (like me) know what you're doing. The keyboard
here was the incredible Prophet 10, introduced some time in1977 I think.
Essentially two Prophet 5 keyboards ganged together, the double layer of related
sounds created the most extraordinary movement and harmonic complexity. It you
are a keyboard player and you see one of these for sale at under $5,000-buy
it. It will tale you to a piece of heaven reserved for Hammond players who have
taken to much acid. It is also very easy to programme your own sounds. The 10 had
a simple step sequencer built into the lower keyboard. It is the sequencer creating
the relentless blues pattern over which I played some stock Ray Charles organ
tricks. You can read some details about the Prophet 10 on www.synthmuseum.com.
WIRED TO THE MOON (Part 2) More piano in my London home studio
recorded 12th January 1997. I added the strings and the vocal line early in 2001.
I have experienced a number of strange attacks in recent years that I call
'dream attacks'. I fall into a state in which I remember dozens of recent dreams.
In fact they start to rerun like several movies, but all at once. The first time
this happened I wrote a piece called Wired To The Moon which is available on my
website as a free mp3.This piece is an epilogue to the first.
HOW CAN YOU DO IT ALONE? This was put together in a variety
of locations while I was gathering songs for the first Warner Brothers Who album, recorded after
Keith Moon's death. That turned out to be Face Dances. It began with a Yamaha E70
organ backing track which I recorded through eight separate outputs and then
re-routed through various echo delays, dubbing in Reggae style. It is that
process that creates the bubbling sound, but also all the interesting percussion
'scattering' sounds over the real drums which were added by Kenney Jones at AIR
studios in London one night. The strange bass lilt was created by using the organ's
internal drum-box on some quite conventional latin setting, but starting the bar
halfway through. The organ track was made at my largest studio, Oceanic in
Twickenham. In my studio in Soho I did a real bass guitar part, some handclaps
and backing vocals then took the master reel to Burbank where Mo Ostin (chairman
of WB) had arranged for me to use a small room in Amigo studios in North
Hollywood. Them I added a jazzy guitar or two and mixed it. My 'secret' handclap sound can
be heard here. Take a figure of eight microphone and place it with one side of the
capsule facing a window or mirror. The other side must face a relatively empty
room, it doesn't have to be an echoey room though. Place yourself between the mike
and the mirror, turn the mike up until it distorts a little and clap. Depending on
how far away from the glass is the mike, and how distorted it is, you will sound
like a small, tight group of very funky handclappers.
I quite liked The Who's rendering of this song. Roger sang it really well. But
it is probably one of those songs that needed my acidic tone to work without awkwardness. Whichever version is
your favourite (and you may hate both of them)
it's good to be able to compare.
POEM DISTURBED Playing the piano in The Cube. Probably
some time in 1994. A
simple piece. The Yamaha MIDI on the piano is driving some quite low strings, and
a doubled synthesizer piano voice as well.
You can hear my phone ring. I knew who it was: my then girlfriend. These were
strange times for me.
SQUIRM SQUIRM Fylde guitar tuned DGDADE. Recorded some time in 1990 in The
Cube to DAT, then transferred to Synclavier Hard Disk, edited a little, and a
At last, a song with a happy inspiration. One day I was holding my new-born
son Joseph and singing him to sleep. It came into my mind that seen from high above
we humans must look just like insects, or worms. As he wriggled in my arms I
sang to him about the messages we all believe we get sometimes from above. At the
time I was gathering material for Psychoderelict, which was-among other things -
about the loneliness and collapse of a once famous and beloved rock star. The song
seemed to contain and reflect both the peace and safety of this child in my arms,
and the chaos and danger that surrounded us out there in the crazy world. The song
did not work in the final album but when my friend Ethan Silverman and the actor
Peter Gallagher did a workshop of Psychoderelict in New York in 1999, this song
was included. Peter sang it and it was deeply and profoundly moving.
OUTLIVE THE DINOSAUR Recorded at my worktable in The Cube on, a SONY cassette
machine on its last legs. 11th December 1990.
This was the very first musical pass I made at this draft lyric
for Psychoderelict. It is I think one of the smartest songs I've ever written.
My hero, a drunken rock-star is living alone in his glass mansion. He takes on all
the issues of ecology with a sense of duty and responsibility to our dying
planet. And yet he cannot move, cannot reach the outside world, cannot even write
a cheque. The word dinosaur was of course first used to describe ageing rock stars
with vicious irony and I use it here with vicious irony redoubled.
TERESA Recorded entirely in Amigo studios in North Hollywood the day after
Valentine's Day 1980. The song was written after I had been to see The Wall with
my friend Bill Minkin and the actress Theresa Russell who was about to merry the film
director Nic Roeg with whom I hoped to work on a new version of Lifehouse. I got
drunk as usual, but I had taken my first line of cocaine that very evening
before meeting her and decided I was in love. When I came to do the vocal on this the
following day I was really out of my mind with frustration and grief because she
didn't reciprocate. But as you can hear I was obviously enjoying myself. I respectfully changed the heroine's
name to 'Athena' and The Who got a medium hit.
MAN AND MACHINES The track was constructed entirely on a 'small' Synclavier I
used in my home studio in 1985. There are no real instruments at all. I did the
drum programming using a tiny Apple Mac running a programme called UPBEAT I
loved that little programme. It looked like a toy, but it was very powerful
because it allowed many levels of random variation in feel, dynamic and tone. It
was driving a Roland MT32 MIDI voice pack. The drums are only available as a
single layer, but as you can hear, they make a good noise. The percussion solo
was a series of about 40 two bar patterns set to vary in the most extreme way
the software allowed.
The use of sound effects over strings at the beginning is one of the most
beautiful sounds I have ever made I think. It seems to evoke a distant blacksmith's forge or something: a summer evening; buzzing
insects; calm. This song was
written for the voice of Lou Reed. Lou was interested to play the part of the
Man, but it didn't work out. John Lee Hooker made the part his own but couldn't
manage to do this particular song.
IT'S IN YA. Recorded live in rehearsal at Oceanic studios in Twickenham. June
1981. Rabbit on piano, Peter Hope-Evans on mouthorgan, Tony Butler on bass,
Mark Brzezecki on drums, Jody Linscott on congas. Me on Eric Clapton's old Fender
Stratocaster (sold for charity last year). Killer band. This is a typical rehearsal
tape made by Bobby Pridden from a sound board set up I prefer to use for track
work. I had the earphone mix set up right in the room with the musicians-like a
stage mix. Then the engineers in the box could concentrate on what went down on
tape. Bobby always got a really hot, heavily compressed sound that felt like you
were listening over a radio.
Not much to say about this song. A woman I vaguely knew sent me a letter
complaining I was getting self-indulgent (after the release of the Who Are You
album) and it later sparked this song about what makes the magic of rock 'n'
It isn't the musician -it's the listener.
And that, dear listener, is the end.
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