It has been a while and we’ve been very quiet haven’t we? So quiet in fact that people have been worried. “Every one here is asking if you’re alright or if you’ve broken up” messaged my friend Jock from a North Sea oil rig. Sorry to put the willies up you Jock and hope you didn’t fall overboard with concern. The simple truth is we’ve just adjusted to life in the clink.
In fact activity is stirring even though we are in different countries. For those of you not from these parts, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in fact different countries. Following Brexit they will possibly become completely independent of each other in time but, even now, they have their own governments and those governments are having a competition as to who can lock up their citizens sooner, for longer and most tightly. Even the real foreigners are joining in and shutting us out as those bumbling around in charge, lurch from one decision to another, and discover new ways to cancel Christmas at the last minute.
However, if we are allowed out of our houses and, in Karen’s case, Wales next month we are planning an exciting collaboration which will be something a little different, a little new and a little old. Keep ’em peeled.
In the meantime I am extremely happy to report that I have been writing. This is a bigger deal than it might outwardly seem. You see, by the time Don’t Blame Yourself (Listen Here) came out I don’t think I’d written a song for the 2 years it took to make that record. Maybe it was a feeling of having done what I wanted after four, I must say, superb albums. Maybe it was a bit of exhaustion after eight years of recording, touring and earning a living, exhilarating as that whirlwind was. Maybe it was just an old dog getting burnt out from keeping up with three young puppies, but I just didn’t have it in me.
When the lockdown hit last April I wrote “Can I Go Out Now Please” but that was more about making the video diary and having fun with all of you who were excitedly taken with the songwriting process I was delighted to share (Catch up here if you missed it)
Then, as you will know if you’ve been paying attention, I buggered off to France for 3 magical months with the family (plus pug) where I had nothing to do but relax (well, I worked a bit but why let the facts spoil a good story). Every now and then a pang of guilt would hit. “I really should be writing some songs”, I thought. But then the internal reply would come back quickly: “Nah. Can’t be arsed”. Again, those of you not ignoring me will know that almost as soon as I arrived back home for winter, a combination of Tom Robinson and that meglomaniac nutter who’s been the most powerful man in the world these last few years inspired a song called “Just Try to be Kind” (See Here)
It seems the combination of nothing to do, sun and not going out worked to rekindle the creative juices. I’m up to eight songs now, and all of them are complete and utter masterpieces. For me, that is writing faster than a speeding bullet. Nearly all eight are rockers but the non raucous one (and wait till you hear “Funaggedon Time” for a tale of abandoned, rocket fuelled, glam rock debauchery) was inspired by a collaboration with a new droog from the other side of the world.
I was honoured to take part in a video tribute to my friend Tomy Mamushka (Available here for all the laggards), a fine collaboration by a bunch of old lags sometimes called legends by the non rude. But the man who caught my eye in the piece was Alex Musatov, a young Russian who moved to Buenos Aires at about the same time the Big Heads started.
I was knocked out by the energy and beauty of Alex’ playing and promptly checked him out on that snooper of the modern world: Google. There I discovered a real musician just about as far away musically from me as you can get, which you can verify on his Bandcamp page (Here). This is no peddlar of 3 minute power pop punk songs with silly but rather witty lyrics, who covers up a lack of training by jumping around a lot in a gharish suit. This is someone who has had to study long and hard while maintaining that essential element of all music: soul. Just sit back and admire the skill and beauty of this, one of the few clips I can find of Alex live, where Russia meets South America:
“This could be really interesting I thought” as I set about writing something to tempt Alex to collaborate with me. I had an idea for a piano song and turned on my computer’s violin and cello sounds to put down a rudimentary string arrangement I could give Alex to get him started.
Lyrically the song had an interesting journey. It is called “Going So Well”. The plan was it would chronical in a witty way the travails of this year about to end, and contrast them ironically with a chorus repeating the idea that everything is going swimmingly. Everyone would say, “He’s a deep one that Duncan Reid with his finger on the zeitgeist and an informed insight into the modern condition”. However a story then came out of goodness knows where, of a guy who gets caught after a session on the rum, indulging in hanky panky in the storeroom with his boss’s secretary, Daisy, leading to him being promptly sacked. Oh well, it’s a lot funnier than the original idea, especially as he goes on to lose money gambling where I mangage to rhyme “horses” with “tortoises” which is perhaps second only to rhyming “maracas” with “Caracas” as my finest literary achievement. I can’t tell you how many days it had me chuckling (bear with me, I haven’t been out much).
I’m delighted to say that, after this catalogue of disasters, the song has a happy ending as our protagonist gets his job back and marries Daisy. Now there’s deep for you!
So, by the wonders of modern technology, off I emailed my raw material to Alex from the winter depths of London to the steamy heat of a Buenos Aires summer, and back came umpteen violin tracks of sheer genius. Alex persuaded me to replace my rather basic and fake computer cello with the real thing recorded by his friend Mauro Turone (on Facebook here). Alex was so right as Mauro brings a wonderful tangoish sensibilty to the song, way, way better than anything I could do with my stubby fingers on a keyboard. Real musicians -you can’t beat them and I urge all of my musician friends: if you need strings please get in touch with Alex and Mauro.
So to whet your appetite here is the end of the song. I must emphasise: this is a demo. The strings will appear on the final recording but here they are “dry”. They have absolutely no eq, reverb or other studio effects and they will eventually sound far, far bigger and better. My rather mechanical computer drums will be replaced by Karen, which will bring a bigger, more interesting human element and the bass will be rerecorded. The vocals will probably be the same but, again, the reverb, delay and eq will be better and something called compression always helps, which isn’t here. Overall, though, I’m sure you’ll agree with me: it’s already bloody damned good and well on it’s way to being one of the greatest 3 minutes 49 seconds of all time.