In the studio today with a thousand guitars, arpeggios galore, blending Telecasters with Stratocasters and Rickenbacker 12 strings with capos up the neck making chiming, cascading, sparkling runs. Vox AC 30s, Fender Champ, chugging rhythms and chord sprangs. What is a sprang you may ask? It’s when you spread the chord out with the pick across the strings. This is one of Ahad’s catchiest songs and the guitars need to live up to it. It’s a fascinating process building songs with the guitars, counter-rhythms, counter-melodies and parts that intertwine with the vocals without getting in their way, unobtrusive and essential. Dynamic builds, subtle moments, thoughtful verses and exploding choruses, it’s how we make records.
Outside in the other world where we hunt for food in structures with bricks and glass, I walked from the studio alert, suitably dressed for the weather and ready for anything. The first shot was successful and I secured a hot Cornish pasty in a yellow paper bag from the bakery. I slipped it into my back pocket and walked outside into the sunlight, ready for the next location, the greengrocers, wondering if I would be able to bag broccoli and some French beans. The streets were crowded and I got caught behind some slow tourists but managed to slip by them and enter into the land of fresh vegetables. Inside the choices were enormous but I knew what I wanted and where they were. I was soon standing in a queue of masked strangers, men, women, short and tall, some were carrying baskets full of various fruits and vegetables, others just one item. It was a Saturday so three people were serving and I soon found myself confirming the success of my hunt. It was then, on continuing outside, that I realised that I had crossed an invisible time zone. When I had entered into the shop it was summer but when I came out only a few minutes later it was winter. It was cold and raining, a biting wind and the streets were less populated, people were huddled in doorways. I ran through the rain down across the main road into the carpark behind the Acorn Theatre, past the hair salon and down through Parade Passage until I came to the studio running up the steps and through the green door into safety and warmth. Luckily in the studio time stands still.
I had a break to watch the Community Shield between Liverpool and Arsenal, it was 1-1 and Arsenal won on penalties with 7-year-old Rhian Brewster missing one and handing Arsenal the victory. He must be so depressed right now but footballers have to learn to get back up and fight on and if they get really depressed they could always go online and look at their bank balance.
Olivia’s vegan Dr. Martens arrived today and now she’s the tallest girl in Middle Earth. The Hobbits were already looking up at her and now with that extra two inches, they can barely see her face as her head disappears into the clouds. She has to be careful not to walk on old ladies and small children, babies are particularly vulnerable as the footpaths cower with her every stride. Interestingly cats know that she won’t step on them – because they’re cats.
French today was a little tricky, it’s the order of words. There is, of course, different ways of saying things in different languages but once you have recognised that you then have to get the words in the right order and it’s not always so obvious, it’s just practice, banging it into your head. Today was day 86 and I find myself 5th in the ‘Amethyst League’ on Duolingo, if I have a good day tomorrow I could find myself promoted!
Last but not least today, and before I get into listening to the songs that Salim, Tyler and Jerome have sent me, I have to put some more of these records away that are scattered across the archive floor, so we can use our feet and Olivia can wear her vegan Docs without fear of destroying a musical masterpiece. Monday I will be catching up on the music.
Music today, as in music that is going to be a soundtrack to putting records away, could be one of the CDs I bought today at a charity store in between summer and winter. Yes, that seems like a good idea, then I don’t have to worry about banging into the stereo as I’m moving things around and turning records over and not losing the cover in the upheaval.
So I’m going to start with Hurry Up We’re Dreaming (2011) by M83, French dream poppers. They hail from Antibes on the Côte D’Azur where you will find beaches and Jazz and little guitar orientated Rock music. You’d probably be hard-pressed to come up with 10 great French guitar bands generally but that’s what we do, they do what they do and this is an example. They are actually one man, Anthony Gonzalez, with guests and this is their 7th album. I have seen them live once in America where he now seems to be based. The album was nominated for a Grammy and like Daft Punk, French Electronic music is very very hip. Discussing the sound and process of creating this album, Gonzalez says it was “written like a soundtrack to an imaginary movie with different ambiences, different atmospheres, different tempos.”
I also picked up an Island remasters CD of John Martyn’s classic album Solid Air from 1973. This was his sixth album in a period when he was at his best. To say he went off the deep end later in his life is something of an understatement. He was a mad drinker and his death at 60 in 2009 was a tragic loss of a fantastic artist. If you don’t know his records you might want to start here and then as I do with artists I like, move backwards and forwards and find the classic records they made in the middle. Folky, jazzy, bluesy, take your pick. I saw him live once in Stockholm. It was a freezing night and he was playing in a place difficult to get to outside town. I got off the bus and walked a bit, saw a building and thought can this really be the place? There was nobody around. I found the door, got inside and it was packed with people and John Martyn was amazing. He played acoustic and electric, a Gibson SG using an Echoplex tape echo. Investigate!
The Best Of Keane, I don’t know. I like Tom Chaplin’s pure voice but I find myself drifting when I listen to them and when I see them I wonder if they speak to each other? Why do I have that impression? Also, they are piano-heavy and I guess it’s Tim Rice-Oxley’s musical baby (drummer Richard Hughes is also a co-writer) but I think they’d be better if they dared to use the guitar, it might de-yuppie-fy them a bit. Jesse Quin officially joined in 2011 as guitarist and bass player. They’re a bit safe, what’s he singing about? Is it personal or radio-friendly? But they certainly have catchy melodies and I like that about them, although it gets samey. It was the same issue with Ben Folds Five, it was all about the piano and even though the singing is strong, the songs are catchy and there’s craftsmanship in the songwriting, I feel like they could probably sell some Audis and their audience could afford one. All their albums have reached No. 1 in the UK except their last one which reached No. 2. Chaplin is a golfer, nothing wrong with that but the music is skilfully safe, like golf.
Last of the CDs I picked up and played tonight was a double CD of ‘The Essential Simon & Garfunkel’ which is also catchy, with great singing and radio-friendly songs, opening with The Sound Of Silence and even though there’s some dodgy timing, it’s another high level of deep. I’m not going to spend all night writing about Paul Simon’s skills as a songwriter and his and Art Garfunkel’s voices, as I mentioned the other day about The Beatles, there’s a lot to read about these famous people online and I’m not sure I really need me to add to it. So, just think of this as a reminder to listen to them.
“Song” Of The Day is John Martyn at Rockpalast, Germany, 1978 – the full concert: