Don't Blame Yourself :The Videos:
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If you’ve seen us live over the past year you may well have heard this story and, depending on the occasion, you would have been part of a crowd which laughed heartily along or alternatively listened to the tumbleweed blowing through the venue once I’d finished. It’s the way I tell ’em I guess but here goes:
Imagine it’s the run up to Christmas and you are in London’s busy West End. Regent Street to be exact and you are there Christmas shopping with your wife and daughter in a wide variety of clothes shops. These shops have an extensive range of clothes and nick nacks, each of which the female contingent of the family firmly believe requires detailed examination, debate as to the relative merits, and trying on. It takes many, many, many, many hours and is a fantastic, life affirming experience.
In fact a study of men and women shopping together https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/out-the-darkness/201402/why-men-dont-shopping-and-most-women-do has found that it takes men 26 minutes to reach terminal boredom levels, that half of all such trips end in arguments, which is probably why 45% of men refuse point blank to ever go shopping with their wives.
We were well past the 26 minute mark and signs of stress were showing on my face when, on a little detour into Soho’s Kingly Street, while I stood outside an establishment called “Brandy Melville” (which claims the mouth watering prospect of being a “Hip retailer selling trendy fashions & accessories aimed at young women”) I spotted a pub with a large sign shouting: “Live Premier League Football”. I stared at it wistfully, imagining the delights of a cold pint while watching “Liverpool vs Manchester United” and working out which I wanted to lose the most.
“Oh go on then”, said a voice at my shoulder. Not for the first or last time the wife had read my mind. Perhaps I’m hopelessly transparent but it’s uncanny how women do that.
So in I went, ordered a tangy pint of Beavertown’s Neck Oil (try it -delicious. From the brewery set up by Robert Plant’s nephew, not that it has anything to do with anything) and perched myself at the bar, eyes fixed on the screen, having decided I like the Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, and since they are also my brother’s team, that is who I would root for.
“It could all end next week you know?”, said a voice to my left. I hadn’t noticed but a man, mid fifties, bit of a stranger to any bars of soap he kept at home, long hair, and worn clothes, had positioned himself next to me and was avoiding the barman’s eye.
“Football or the whole world?”, I enquired, being a stickler for fine detail. “The whole world”, he replied, “could all go up in smoke when you look at who’s in charge. Nutters the lot of them”. He did tell me his name but, as you’ll learn from the song which is the point of this narrative, I’ve forgotten it.
“Yes indeed”, I concurred, “There are enough shifty, self centered, lying, bastards in charge of enough countries for the whole thing to go pop next week”.
My concurrence gave Mr Memorable a bit of a start, clearly not being used to people agreeing with him, and a certain look of optimism appeared as a glint in his eye. “And you can’t take it with you, you know” he ventured, building on the theme.
“No. That is true. When the end comes, rich and poor alike will be left with not a penny to their name in whatever afterlife turns out to be real”, I agreed.
“You might as well buy me a pint then” was his conclusion as we stood there, eye to eye, with me contemplating how the conversation had accelerated from nought to financial demand in less than 15 seconds.
But hey, it was nearly Christmas, it was cold outside, the man didn’t appear to have a drink problem (apart from not having one) and clearly wasn’t wasting money on life’s luxuries so, what the hell. “Try this. It’s brewed by Robert Plant’s nephew” I said passing a freshly bought pint. “Not that it has anything to do with anything”.
As I was contemplating the episode the following day and realising that, like I do with nearly everybody in the world, I had forgotten my fleeting companion’s name, the line came into my head: “I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget What’s his Name” which made me chuckle. I was also pretty sure I was onto a good thing as the episode was a variation on a theme dear to my heart, encapsulated in Ecclesiastes 8:15 I’ve since discovered: “So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun” And there I was, having no idea I was living my life by religious principles. It’s a theme you’ll find in “C’est La Vie” for instance although the detail of this episode is closer to, Isiah 22:13 which says “Eat, Drink and be Merry for tomorrow we die”. My friend, Jim the Vicar would be proud of me (and there’s a story for another day of the man of the cloth I first met in a bar in Spain, pint in each hand and cigarette in his mouth).
I thought I’d have fun with the lyrics by collating metaphors for that conversation with Mr Memorable about, not being on the point of kicking the bucket (a marvellous metaphor in itself relating to the utensil hung men would inadvertently kick once the hangman had dropped the lever), but in that period just before. So we have “The fat lady’s ready to sing” and it’ll be over after she does, “the ref is playing extra time” or time added on as it is far less efficiently now known for no good reason, the period just before the end of a game of football which the referee adds on to make up for time lost when players are injured and the game is held up while they receive treatment. And “Is this the final chorus or still the middle 8” I ask meaning are we in the middle of the song or near the end. “For all we know Nelson’s asked for one last kiss” which is what the English naval Captain requested of his male friend Hardy just before he died from a gunshot wound.
And the most obscure: “Meg and Tom have finally met” which is where the headline photo of this blog makes it’s entrance. In the film “Sleepless in Seatle” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleepless_in_Seattle Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan spend the whole film narrowly missing each other. Minutes before the end they finally meet, fall in love and film is over.
This is a song we had already played umpteen times live before recording it and you can tell from the great guitar and drum work. A song which gets us bouncing and smiling mid set. I thoroughly recommend you give it a listen, either here if you have Spotify:
Here on Bandcamp if you want to download it: https://duncanreidandthebigheads.bandcamp.com/track/for-all-we-know
or here via those thieving cheapskates at YouTube (although it helps not to skip the ad) if you’ve no other option:
Hope you enjoy it. I do.
Believe it or not we have never been interviewed all together at the same time. But Evan “Funk” Davies, Wednesday night presenter on Jersey City’s WFMU (https://wfmu.org/), one of the world’s quirkiest FM radio stations with a reach over most of New York City and well into the heart of New Jersey, took this challenge on by Zoom for his June 3 2020 show.
You can hear the full, professional radio broadcast with songs from Don’t Blame Yourself cut into the interview and a very early broadcast of Nick’s new project, The Middlenight Men, and their “BA Baby” here:
For the raw video footage, where we start by waiting for Sophie to arrive (Welcome to our world 😆) and eventually allow Evan to start interviewing us, have a look here:
Back in 2018, as occasionally happens, I was feeling a little sorry for myself. Maybe it was after we’d driven 12 hours from Lyon to Liege through the snow and I had to go on stage with the sniffles. Or maybe a festival promoter had ignored an email which always feels a little like a punch in the stomach (luckily that happens less and less now!).
Or maybe I was thinking: “I’m really not very good at this and should just give up”. Ridiculous I know as any fool can see that’s not the case, but it does happen!
And then Dave Bundy, who claimed to edit the local paper in Lincoln, Nebraska, wherever the hell that is, dropped me an email to say:
Gotta tell you how much your music resonates with me. I can’t stop playing it. Tunes about growing up with regrets, tunes about growing up without regrets. Great characters. Love Not the Kind of Guy. All the rockers rock. Just Because You’re Paranoid was so funny I woke my wife up to listen to it, and she wasn’t even mad.
So here’s a little back story about why great music matters so much to me. Thirteen years ago, just as my twins were born, I beat Stage 4 colon cancer. Last fall I was diagnosed with a new, inoperable and rare cancer. Bile duct cancer. I’m being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. So I do a ton of driving. And I listen to a ton of excellent power pop on the road. Your music is my cancer soundtrack. And either I beat it again or I die trying. And I won’t feel bad either way. I got 13 bonus years with my family. But when I’m not feeling as fearless or philosophical great music like yours lifts me up. I probably owe you as much as I’ve paid for three weeks of radiation and 18 chemo treatments. I’ve got great insurance, so that’s one less worry. But the music has its healing power, too. Thanks, Duncan.
I mean, what the hell was I doing feeling sorry for myself? And, crickey, here’s a guy with a fight on his hands telling me my music was keeping him going. That’s worth carrying on for.
That message was the start of a great friendship with someone I’ve never met. We’ve exchanged emails since on a regular basis. I’ve lived with Dave through more visits to the hospital in Minnesota, always with an air of trepidation in advance and thankfully so far with the beast of cancer kept in abbeyance, grumbling and complaining, but kept firmly in it’s place, as much by an indomnitable positive attitude as by medical science.
Dave’s back in that hospital at the moment and I’m very much looking forward to the next email which I hope will confirm that everything is as it has been.
In a virtual and vicarious way I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know his much loved family: a wife like mine who’s a wizard in the garden, a daughter who has overcome her own health hurdles to go to college, and teenage boys who are a danger if not quite to society then to Dave’s car, which is exactly what boys should be in Nebraska.
Now, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and here was a story worthy of a song. A man driving miles on a regular basis for his hospital tests, making the most of life each and every day, fortified by the music he listens to on the way. Epic stuff and what’s more, true.
I recorded a demo and sent it to Dave asking that he keep it to himelf. It’s fair to say he was excited and I have a suspicion that a good part of Lincoln, Nebraska may have heard it ,which is OK as it was a good demo.
When we came to the actual master recording though things were difficult. I wasn’t happy with the guitar sound and what I knew to be a really good song, a cross between E=MC2 by B.A.D:
and one of my favourite songs ever, Goldfrapp’s Happiness:
wasn’t sounding like a good song at all. In fact Sophie said at the time she thought it was the weakest one we had recorded for the album.
But things changed in an instant one afternoon during the mixing, when I was agonising over the state of play with co-producer Sean Genocky, trying to rescue the damn thing. We tried a really over the top, growling beast of a bass synthesiser to underpin the bass line in the second part of the verses and chorus when Boom!: Suddenly the song leapt out of the speakers with the power I knew it had been hiding and the bass notes of the synthesizer had an effect on the guitar which made it sound chiming as opposed to annoying.
Dave had arrived! And it was Dave Bundy I felt most happy for. The song would make the cut and I knew he’d be really pleased.
It wasn’t long before the proof of that pleasure arrived in the form of notoriety in Nebraska. Dave wrote a story for the Newspaper he edits which I reproduce here:
My interaction with the Bundy family has spread after I received a lovely email from 75 year old Daveda Bundy who thanked me for the song about her son. I received another from her with no message which she told me to ignore because she’s “old as dirt and often hits the wrong buttons”. Dave tells me it takes Daveda hours to go shopping because she is on first name terms with all the shopworkers and knows their children’s birthdays. A significant part of Nebraska has apparently now heard of the song written about her son even though the sum total of Daveda’s prior rock music knowledge consisted of thinking Pearl Jam were called Toe Jam.
So all that’s left is for me to ask you to have a listen to the song I wrote about the most positive, life affirming man I hope one day to meet, who picked me up when I was feeling down and is one of the gifts this extraordinary life continues to give me.
Here it is on YouTube:
Or Bandcamp here:
Check this out. Great work from Stephen Schnee of Sacramento, California’s BEACH BLANKET FORT BINGO who used me for his first Video Podcast. Stephen has clearly given “Don’t Blame Yourself” a close listen and asked some interesting questions:
This month (April 2020) the lockdown came. As corona virus stalked the land movement was restricted and mass gatherings forbidden in every country bar Sweden. With a new album out in May all the tours and festivals we had worked hard to string together over the rest of the year fell apart one by one.
Initially lethargy and despair set in. With not even any sport on the TV, apart from the Belarus Football Premier League, which started getting unprececdented viewing figures, I started spending way too much time watching Netflix (Better Call Saul and Ozark if you are interested).
Then I thought: “This won’t do. I’m going to write a song”. Noticing that a good many musicians were broadcasting from home, playing an acoustic guitar on the sofa, I thought: “I’ll do something different. I’ll keep a video diary as I write the song explaining what and how I’m doing it”.
It proved one of the most popular things I have done. So much so that people clamoured (well, ……… a person clamoured) to download the song.
So, here are all the stages. From a blank piece of paper, through starting the demo with drums and guitar, writing the lyrics, recording the lead vocal, adding the bass and embellishing with overdubs, keyboards, harmonies and Backing Vocals. A journey through to a finished demo which you can download here: https://duncanreidandthebigheads.bandcamp.com/
Enjoy the ride!
At the height of Lockdown Duncan & Sophie spoke on Zoom with Vive Le Rock’s (https://vivelerock.net/) Paula Frost about life, the Big Heads and “Don’t Blame Yourself”. Including clips from “Don’t Blame Yourself” here it is:
Don’t forget: Pre Order “Don’t Blame Yourself” here: https://duncanreidandthebigheads.com/pre-order-our-4th-album-dont-blame-yourself/