So 2011 is almost done and what a strange year it’s been in some ways for yours truly – mostly in a musical sense! Having to leave the ultimate tribute band (Dressed To Kill natch), helping out 2 others and now, as the year draws to a close I’m finally getting the chance to be at my most musically creative – namely, to record my own album of original material.
It’s been a long time coming, this idea – over a decade actually. Back in 1998 and free of commitment to any original act such as the ones I’d been with over the previous 10 years, I recorded a demo of 4 original songs as the drummer, guitarist, bassist, keyboard player and singer – aided and abetted by the fabulous Ron Rogers (T’Pau guitarist songwriter and one time squeeze of Carol Decker) as producer and engineer.
The intention was to obtain some kind of songwriting/publishing deal with these demos and I spent the next few months mailing these songs to all and sundry – once I’d done the traditional ‘struggling musician’ trick of mailing the songs to myself and not opening the jiffy bag in an effort to date my recordings were someone to attempt to pass my ideas off as their own (does that really work legally?).
My radio career had only just begun at this point, but as so often in life things happen when you’re making plans, and my new job at BRMB/XTRA AM became of increasing importance (it was bringing in the sheckles to pay the mortgage, after all) and any grand designs of a second wave of demo sending dissipated over the summer – the first batch of tapes had received only a lukewarm response from those companies I’d contacted.
I was really pleased with the results myself, and my friends along with my musical peers were similarly impressed with what they heard, but it was only ever going to be heard by these select few people and not reach a wider audience (this was pre MySpace, Facebook et al after all!!) I thought briefly about fronting a band as singer/guitarist playing my own tunes, but Dave Grohl had beaten me to the punch by about 3 years on that one. Bastard
And so it’s only now that I’m revisiting a part of my life that’s given me so much pleasure and really giving it a go - and I can’t wait to get recording. Most songs are from the ‘vaults’ i.e. songs from my old original groups that I think need to be heard, they’re that good, plus songs I’ve written in the intervening years that I’m sifting through now for quality control. As with the ’98 demos, I intend to do pretty much everything myself musically speaking – however I may get someone else to do the lead vocals…just to give it that little bit of extra sparkle. Updates here as and when during 2012 as it all comes together.
I played my last 2011 gig in the company of my Dizzy Lizzy chums at Katie Fitzgerald’s pub in Stourbridge. I’ve depped on drums from time to time with the Dizzies over the last decade or so, and it’s always an enjoyable night for me. Brian Downey was one of my first drumming heroes and it’s a great challenge every time to try and replicate the ‘swing’ feel he gave to Lizzy’s great catalogue of tunes. He was also a fearsome double-bass drum player as heard on Sha-La-La off Live & Dangerous – the lads asked me to play that one and I was only too happy to oblige.
A Facebook friend and fellow drummer Ed Taylor had been in touch prior to the gig asking whether I’d like to try a new monitoring gizmo for my bass drum. Traditionally, getting a decent bass drum sound in your personal monitor mix is both a utopian vision and an unrealistic aim – rarely do you get the requisite thud in your ear to allow you to play with the right ‘feel’, especially at rock music gigs.
Ed brought along a new kind of drum stool known as the ‘Bum Chum’ which, to cut a long and technical story short, connects to the mic that goes in your bass drum and sends a signal to the stool that you sit on, so that you ‘feel’ the bass drum sound going through your solar plexus - a bit like the technology on Playstation controllers when they shudder to replicate driving over rough terrain or an explosion in a war game.
It was bloody brilliant anyway. Every single strike of the bass drum could be felt – even the little grace notes we sometimes play that normally get ‘gated’ out of a drum monitor mix. Because I was playing RIGHT next to a bass stack in a tiny venue, undernormal circumstances no drum monitor on Earth could’ve given me any sort of level I could work with – but with this Bum Chum thing wired up, the gig was a total delight and I honestly felt I played tighter and with a better groove than for some time.
Trouble is, this gizmo sets you back £1200 – although there’s a ‘budget’ version coming out it seems. Time to save up – thanks to Ed for the night’s loan. It’s possibly the most exciting development in live drumming for 20 years.
Give your arse a decent workout as well to be fair.
Meantime the European adventure ended on another night of ‘glorious failure’ for Blues – good grief we’ve had our fair share of those nights. It’s been an honour and a privilege to have called each of the 6 group games we’ve had; either as commentator for UEFA.com in 5 cases, or for talkSPORT on Matchday 6 against Maribor, where Redmond sparkled, Zigic lumbered, Rooney stooped to conquer and a 1-0 win proved ultimately to not be enough for qualification as Brugge & Braga drew 1 apiece to see them both through instead.
I’m told that game wasn’t quite Austria/West Germany 1982 – there weren’t hoards of Bluenoses pressed up against the railings in Bruges weeping hysterically and waving copious amounts of cash as the Belgians & Portuguese did some kind of non-agression pact thing. I tell you, the Belgians have definitely got better at winning things since the It’s A Knockout days – typical.
So many memorable moments; the atmosphere on Matchday 1 at Stans prior to kick off; Wade Elliot’s winner past old chocolate wrists Handanovic in Maribor; Doyle’s dodgy moment in the same game; THAT Chris Wood strike beyond stoppage time in Brugge; the extraordinary stadium at The Quarry in Braga; even the roar around Stans when it cane through that 10-man Braga had equalised in Bruges. Moments to cherish, one and all – and think of this; a Championship side with a turnover of 47 players post-relegation, winning 10 points in a group containing last year’s beaten finalists and a Belgian side who – until they met us – had never lost to an English team in Europe. That’s some feat isn’t it? Almost Herculean in my book.
And yet of course, the national written press would rather concentrate on Spurs’ abject failure to get through a group that such an expensively assembled squad should have strolled through than credit Blues’ achievement in getting approximately 10 points more than they all thought we’d get. But we’ve never been fashionable have we? Guess that’s why we’re so good at the siege mentality sometimes. Not quite ‘no-one likes us & we don’t care’ – it’s more ‘no-one knows us and we just have to get on with it’ A tad clunky I know – as long as the ignorant types don’t take too much notice of our young talent. Ridgewell, Zigic and even Beausejour are gonna have to go surely for reasons of cashflow – but let’s keep Redmond, Butland, Jervis, Hubbins, Asante a secret shall we? I mean, nobody actually reads this blog do they?
Anyway, have a great Christmas folks - thanks for reading these little blog type things. See you in 2012