The Story Behind the Song Part 1: The Man on the Desk

Do you ever have times where you feel you pass through life with your eyes shut? Do you ever feel you make subconscious assumptions about people, underestimating them due to the setting in which you meet them? Well, I know I do.

As little boys we used to play little boy games. Often it was football where the rebels would all pretend to be George Best, tearing down the wing with their shirts out. No thought then of what George was up to in his spare time with Miss World. The good boys, shirts tucked neatly into their shorts, would pretended to be Bobby Charlton with his bald head and rocket shot.

On other days we would be motor bike racers pedalling furiously on our bicycles round the pavements where we lived, three abreast with no concern for little old ladies on their way back from the shops with pull along baskets.

Or we played soldiers and often some of those soldiers were Gurkhas. We picked the Gurkhas because they were the meanest, hardest, most dangerous soldiers in the history of soldiers.

The Gurkhas come from Nepal. The Victorians called them a martial race and the head of the army in India once said: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying he is either lying or he is a Gurkha”. Their own motto is: “Better to die than be a coward”.

They carry large knives called Kukris and, although they are now said mainly to be used for cooking, the legend was that once removed from its sheath the Kukri had to taste blood. During the two world wars 43,000 Gurkhas were killed. To put that in context there were only a maximum of 112,000 of them at any time. They number a few thousand now but every year 28,000 young Nepalese men apply to join. Only 200 pass the test.

There is a 100 km long annual race in England which takes place over hills called the South Downs. The fastest time ever recorded by a Brit is over 12 hours. The Gurkhas, who come from the high Himalaya mountains and so consider these hills as almost flat terrain, regularly enter the race and always come in under eight.

A Gurkha once applied to join the regular British army and went on the basic training assessment course. He broke his leg but still finished top ahead of everyone else.

You get the picture? We are talking hard, fearless men. That’s why the Queen has two of them as her personal bodyguard. It’s said that when they fight, they fight for their families for whom there is the tightest of bonds. That fact is relevant to my story as you will see.

So, many years later and no longer a boy, I would pass through the doors of a shiny, smart office in the heart of London’s Soho. The centre of media land in a country which punches way above its weight in that field. And I would pass into a world kept going by the efforts of immigrants. In general, the local population doesn’t want to clean those offices early in the morning or stay up all night keeping them safe, not least because the wages for those jobs would make it hard to live and bring a family up in London if they did.

If I was early or late I would pass a smiling man on the reception desk. “Hello sir. How are you today?”, he would say, this nice man with a smile, obviously Asian but not Chinese, Indian or Thai. I would usually have some preoccupation, replying “OK, thank you”, and smiling back before passing on with not a thought for him. He was just a nice man with a smile, not particularly interesting and not worth me stopping to find out more about him and his world.

Then one evening he wasn’t there.

An earthquake had ripped Nepal asunder. The devastation was terrible, many were dead and many more were trapped alive in one of the poorest regions of the world under the rubble of whole towns and villages which no longer existed. Getting machinery through mud tracks over the worlds highest mountains where the air is so thin it saps your strength in minutes was impossible. You had to be born there to help and our man was once a Gurkha. Yes, the nice, smiling man was a trained killer, capable of snapping my neck if he felt so inclined and now he was in Nepal using his training, skill and resourcefulness, with whatever tools were to hand, to rescue his family from the catastrophe they were the victims of.

_82597613_bastantapur_getty_omar_havana

And he did rescue them.

Then he returned to London where he continues to greet everyone coming into the building with a nice smile, and a cheery hello, a positive influence on a world which takes him for granted and knows nothing about him.

So what do I know about people? Perhaps in London there are just too many to be interested in. I’m reminded of that scene in Crocodile Dundee where the man from the outback walks down a New York street on his first day saying “G’day” to everyone. You just can’t do it. But at the same time, I know I should pay a little more attention and live a little less in my bubble.

What’s more, the nice, smiling man gave me a song. You can listen to it here.

So what would I have been able to do if I had been in this man’s position and my family had been trapped beneath a mountain of rubble in need of being rescued? Sing them a song?

“The Man on the Desk” is taken from our third album, Bombs Away. To listen to the whole record please follow this link HERE

Duncan Reid and the Big Heads send out Disgraceful Spam email

If you have been foolish enough to give us your email address over the past few years this email will have popped up in your inbox already. For everyone else I hope it gives you a chuckle

 7600 COVER_RGB

     We’ve Got a New Album Out!

We’ll make no bones about this email. It is disgusting spam whose only aim is to relieve you of your hard earned cash. Therefore we’ll keep it short.

Duncan Reid and the Big Heads have a new album out called Bombs Away. Everyone who has heard it says it’s our best one yet including the critics who are going mad about it.

cropped-wordpress-banner.jpg

If you want to hear it you can go to Spotify or our Bandcamp site: https://duncanreidandthebigheads.bandcamp.com/album/bombs-away

If you want to buy it we would very much like you to email us at duncan@littlebighead.co.uk since we are greedy buggers and that way we don’t need to pay all the other thieves in this business like Amazon/Paypal/Apple etc. However, the album will be available from all those sources, as well as our Bandcamp page, and we will still be delighted if you chose to buy it that way.

Apologies for this unwarranted intrusion into your inbox. Actually, let’s not be two faced about this. We don’t actually give a damn as long as you pay us which we very much hope you will do.

Lots of love

Duncan Reid and the Big Heads

https://duncanreidandthebigheads.com/

It’s Here: Order Bombs Away

Our third album Bombs Away is released on 19 May. At that point it will be available for Streaming and download. Additionally CDs will be available worldwide on Amazon etc, and all the best record shops.

If, however, you would like to order a signed pre-release CD please email us at duncan@littlebighead.co.uk with your address.

Stop Press: The vinyls have now arrived as well so email for your signed copy!

Hands Up
Hand Up if you want one!

It’s Testifying Time!

The internet has been both good and bad. The bad? More than ever truth is a thing of the past. Newspapers were bad enough but social media is worse. It has been shown that false, made up stories are seen by five times as many people as true ones. Facebook and Twitter algorithms make sure we tend to see things we agree with. So the chances are we see false stories which reinforce our prejudices and make us more extreme in our views. It’s like the Daily Mail (a right wing UK rag) on steroids.

Today I saw a post that said John Lydon is worth $175 million and owns a chain of UK burger bars. The article had made up his worth and a quick trip to Google shows that the burger bars don’t exist. But a huge swathe of people now think that is true.

But on the plus side the internet has bought us its radio. Programmes put together by people who love music and which don’t play the same, narrow playlist of songs, targeted to maximise listener numbers in a narrow demographic in order to make the station efficient, and therefore more valuable to advertisers.

One such show is Danny Mac’s Testifying Time. Most night’s you’ll find Danny in his cab delivering the sensible citizens of Glasgow from bar to home. On Wednesdays you’ll find him on Village FM playing music he loves and interviews he plans a year in advance, plotting questions he can intercut with particular songs from an artist’s career.

The result is well thought out, expertly edited, and, the highest praise I can give, interesting.

It was an honour and delight to be the subject of one of Danny’s labour of loves. I hope you’ll honour him and have a listen here.

It’s Definitely not Grim Up North!

There are some heroes on this small island of ours. Fighters who keep the flame alive and give a platform to those of us who plow our furrow in the unfashionable and underloved arena of melodic, tuneful, punk rock, – heroes who enable weekends as fun-filled and fulfilling as the one just passed.

We’ve been guilty of ignoring the Northern end of Great Britain for a couple of years. Those Germans, Scandinavians, Spanish, Irish and even Americans are just so damn welcoming. And I don’t know what we’ve done to Rebellion but they never answer our emails. We started to put that right this week though.

So step forward  Mr Joe Maddox and his band The Breakdowns. We needed a stopover between London and Glasgow and up they came with our salvation. The Chameleon Arts Cafe: smack bang in the middle of Nottingham on a thursday night. Run by two very friendly fellas who are determined to enjoy their work and make sure their wares are up to scratch before offering them for sale. If you ask nicely they are also not backward in coming forward with the Jaegermeister post show.

Heated to a level just a few degrees below St Petersburg on Christmas eve, the Chameleon still has a warmth only the good people of Nottingham can engender. I lived in this town for a couple of years when I was helping to run Nottingham Forest FC (twice Champions of Europe!) and I love coming back to hear the dulcet tones of the local OAPs telling me: “You’re blocking the road and breaking the law”!  Well I was, but only because we had to stop somewhere in the car to telephone the venue which is hidden down an alley and up some stairs. A great crowd, a great thursday night and we were bloody good too.

mauroandsophie
Sophie and Mauro

And so to Glasgow. Last time we were there was a Saturday afternoon matinée. Bold idea and a good one. This time it would be a friday night proper, promoted once again by the charming Alex Mainy Main, a man of many entertaining opinions, as evidenced by his blog –“Itsaxxxxthing” (Warning: do not read if you like your point of view filtered by the Daily Mail, or are of a Trumpish disposition). He is also a general doer of good deeds for struggling musicians through his local collective The New Hellfire Club. The venue, Audio, is one of the best in the UK as were the two support bands, Media Whores and Heavy Drapes.

I love a big stage. Give us a Big Stage and we’ll show you how to use it! Sophie K Powers threw her best poses, thrashing away with no regard for life or limb,  a blur of hair, white Les Paul Junior and legs.

Mauro Venegas strutted his patch, a wild mixture of Mick Ronson and Steve Jones. Our own Jones (Karen) whacked away behind. How does someone so light hit those drums so damn hard?

And me? You know what I do when you give me a bit of space.

We were shit hot that night. It was worth the long drive just by itself.

audioglasgow
Audio Glasgow: Brilliant Venue

Afterwards we headed off to sample the bars of Sauchiehall Street. Glasgow late on a drunken Friday night? Well why not? You only die once.

Actually it wasn’t threatening at all. We arrived in an establishment full of young bearded fellows, quite clearly off their faces on MDMA, throwing karate poses to each other in time to modern music of indeterminate quality. The girls, clearly also floating in another dimension, were together enough to be pissed off at the lack of attention from the blokes who, despite their lack of terrestrial presence, seemed to be quite aware that they looked like a bunch of bearded Craig Revel Horwoods.

And then things got weirder. The besuited DJs played first “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath, then Whitney Huston, Dolly Parton, Sheena Easton and a whole host of guilty pleasures from the 70s and 80s. By this time the place was heaving with hipsters all getting off to music they probably wouldn’t be seen dead owning up to on Sunday morning.

We’d been joined by Guy Jardine, boss at Rebel in Print T Shirts (Check them out), a man who wouldn’t be seen dead on facebook (cough) and unmistakably: A PUNK! “This isn’t Punk” grumbled Guy, “Punk was invented to get rid of all this”! “Don’t be a silly sausage” I said. “Yes, come and have a dance” said Sophie. So off he sheepishly trotted to have a bop whereupon the DJ took Lionel Ritchie off and put on Billy Idol to save Guy’s blushes. Hospitable people these Scots.

And so to Middlesbrough, home to Stephen Harland and his Riverside Rebellion. Well at least there’s one Rebellion festival which will have us 😉

RIVERSIDE REBELLION 2016 with Fringe.jpg
Riverside Rebellion

And that is what you call a line up.

We were on at the perfect time: about 8 pm. But: we followed Church of Eon and Cyanide Pills. Watching them both I was thinking, “This is going to take some serious showing off to keep up with”. Church of Eon even had a portly local jump up in his ABBA pyjamas during their cover of Mama Mia.

abba-pyjamas
Man in ABBA Pyjamas

Cyanide Pills were simply magnificent: everything you want when Leeds meets Lager.

So we really did get up to some serious, world-class showing off. There weren’t the wide open spaces of Audio so we crashed into each other a lot, I couldn’t hear a word I was singing and the mike kept flying off its stand. But I think we pulled the largest crowd of the night and kept them there to our glorious finale.

On the way back to the hotel Mauro stopped to pick up a local delicacy: the Chicken Parma. He had a half sized one which was about 4 kilos of breaded, fried chicken covered in 3 litres of melted cheese and a bucket of fries. I share a hotel room with him and was worried (having seen Monty Python’s Meaning of Life).

Back in London the next day I discovered that the first band on in Nottingham, Bones Park Rider, had kindly sent me a recording of our set. In celebration of this deliriously wonderful jaunt we offer a 15 minute extract for download here. It’s completely free (subject to Bandcamp’s monthly limit) although you can pay a little if you want to.

London, Brighton, Sheffield, Grimsby, York and Nottingham again in the first quarter of next year do you say? I can’t wait.

Post Script (3 Jan 2017) Following this post a number of people contacted Rebellion to say we are great. Rebellion have contacted us and we have been offered a slot for this summer. I love you all!

 

 

It Was Another Age

On our first album, Little Big Head, there is a track, Rolling On, which contains my most autobiographical lyric to date. In three minutes odd it goes from childhood, through moving to London, falling into the punk scene, settling down, family and now.

For me, the most evocative part is the early verse dealing with my upbringing in Canterbury, a sleepy, provincial town in Kent. Sixty miles from London but part of a different universe altogether.

I grew up at the edge of town on the London Road Council estate. Uniform red brick houses, three small but adequate bedrooms, sporadic traffic, apple orchards out the back and the famous Canterbury Cathedral, founding place of Christianity in Britain, visible from everywhere.

Butchery_Lane,_Canterbury_-_geograph.org.uk_-_826811
Canterbury Cathedral looming over everything

 

Solidly working class but safe. No one was rich but no one was really poor. And from the rose-tinted perspective of many decades later, the sun, of course, always shone.

London Road Estate
The London Road Estate with sun “always” shining.

The best aspect of growing up there was that, by and large, we were free. A motley gang of 7,8,9, and 10 year olds always playing football in the street. If traffic came by, the ball would be picked up and, once the car passed, the endless game would carry on.

I say “always playing football” but that’s not quite true. There was always time for other escapades.

As July and August approached the apples in the orchards would ripen and it was time for the farmers to be on maximum guard as the “scrumping” season approached. Packs of German Shepherd dogs were bought in to patrol the crops and save them from the gangs of urchins who saw it as a badge of honour to strip the trees of their bounty of ripe red fruit. The farmers themselves would patrol with shot guns ready to fire at any tree infested with monkey like boys who were busy helping themselves to everything they could grab.

The operation was military in its precision. Small boys were sent ahead to reconnoitre for dogs and guns. If the coast was clear a Game of Thrones like charge of older, bigger, better climbers descended and the harvest began. Sometimes the dogs would hear us without the small boys seeing them, and a mad dash ensued with hounds after their quarry and shotgun blasts going off behind.

Usually though, all passed peacefully  and a procession of scamps would be seen wending their way back through the estate, jumpers bulging bulbously with their illicit bounty. Mothers would wait at the door to give each and everyone a clip round the ear for being “naughty”, but apple pie was always on for “pudding” at “tea time”. Nothing was wasted.

Or there were the bike trips. “Where are you going?” our mother would ask as bikes were wheeled past the back door. “Just down the road” was the reply. But in fact an expedition was planned to Whitstable, 10 miles away and the nearest coast. The route would involve 20 or so imps often cycling down a dual carriageway to get to the sea. Swimming would  follow, then drying off on the way back. No food was packed so we’d knock on the door of complete strangers and ask for a sandwich. An ordinary day dodging high-speed traffic, risking not just drowning but, from the viewpoint of this modern, paranoid age, abduction also.

“Where have you been?”, was the question on our return. “Nowhere”, was the reply.

I could go on with tales of organised shoplifting in the toy shops of Canterbury high street. The aim was to get one over on the security guards who knew exactly what we were there for, but never caught us. Often the booty was thrown away as it wasn’t really the point. Or playing chicken on the electrified main rail line from Dover to London. Raids to let the bicycle tyres down of kids from other streets. “Knock out ginger”, easy pickings fishing in local fish farms, fake dog turds left on the steps of Canterbury Cathedral to shock the tourists, breaking my little finger the one and only time I hit a boy who had just hit my little brother………. you get the picture: a childhood of adventure and “We were all in clover”.

But “time rolled on”, I turned eleven, and for complicated, domestic reasons I was torn from the family home and sent to a middle class world where I needed to mend my ways and hide my roots, else people would think less of me if they knew where I came from. But that’s a story for another song.

So what has bought on this orgy of nostalgic reminiscing?

Well on 23 July we play in Deal, a hop and a skip from Canterbury, in that delightful seaside town, remote enough to be saved from the weekend home buying Londoners that Whitstable has been prey to, but lively enough to enjoy a thriving live music scene. It’s also now my brother’s home and we appear at The Lighthouse, his local and a boozer I wanted to play the minute I walked in.

All sorts of family will be there and, if you want to join us at this free gig, the details are here.

So, in celebration of this rare and momentous return to Kent, may I urge you to give “Rolling On” a listen, either in pure, unsullied audio perfection here or with added audio-visual splendour here.

Thank you for your indulgence and company on this fond meander down memory lane.

In Praise of Bandcamp

Here’s a few tips and info I’ve learned for new bands who want to get their music out there. It’s also hopefully interesting for those who like to know how these things work.

If you don’t have a record company to look after you, and these days if you aren’t a karaoke solo singer that’ll be nearly everyone, you have to make and distribute your own music. It’s quite easy to have worldwide digital distribution on ITunes, Amazon, Spotify and Apple Music etc. You just need an aggregator.

We use AWAL which stands for Artists Without A Label. They are owned by the large, relative newcomer, Kobalt. You upload your music and artwork to the account you create on their site and, voila, everyone can download or stream your music worldwide. (The depressing thing is you’ll find your music will also appear on loads of sites which steal it and offer it cheap without paying, but that’s another subject and not AWAL’s fault).

AWAL will also try to make sure that, if someone uploads one of your songs to YouTube, an advert runs and you get something at least. YouTube is a problem at the moment. (It’s owned by Google who believe they own the internet. Actually they do own the internet because governments allow them to own over 90% of internet search advertising which means they are a monopoly and richer than the rest of the world put together. Again, that’s another subject). YouTube pays out far less than the pennies others like Spotify pay so please bear that in mind when you rip a track by an artist to post on YouTube without their permission. (I’m not talking about clips you film at gigs btw. They only help spread the word IMHO).

AWAL works very well. They do the job they say they will for 15% of what you earn and a transfer appears in your bank account every month along with a very clear and interesting statement of where the money was earned.

If there’s one drawback it’s that you don’t have any influence over how things appear on the various platforms. For instance on Spotify if you listen to “Little Big Head” by “Duncan Reid”, there’s nothing to show that there’s an associated album, “The Difficult Second Album” by “Duncan Reid and the Big Heads”.

The other drawback is that while AWAL take 15% of what they receive, Apple, for instance, also take 30% of what they receive before paying AWAL, so you end up with just over half of what people pay.

If you want to offer LPs and CDs on Amazon the costs are also high.

For unsigned bands there is an alternative where you sell downloads, CDs, LPs and merch direct to fans. It’s called Bandcamp. You set up your shop yourself making sure fans get the highest quality downloads (yes there is a big difference in sound quality between a download based on a so called WAV file and one based on an inferior MP3). You can give tracks away for free, set a price or ask people to pay what they want.You can make sure fans also get lyrics and song notes with their downloads and add photos and bonus tracks.

And Bandcamp just make the one charge of 15% for downloads and 10% on physical items, so you get the majority of the money.

I’m sure there are other sites for bands to do this but this is the one I know and if you are searching to buy stuff from an unsigned band you have discovered I would urge you to check Bandcamp first. Every little helps.

If you are interested, our Bandcamp shop is here

They’ve Got it All -A Lost Treasure from Little Big Head

Children. Life changing aren’t they. When they’re young they think you are great. You know everything and, within reason and perhaps after a bit of coercion, they do what you say.

We’re all genetically modified to find them absorbing and would do anything to keep them safe and happy. As Billy Conolly said: “Kids are like farts. My own don’t smell bad at all”.

And then come the teenage years and you know nothing. “What do you mean?” said my 14 year old daughter, “of course I’ll be alright if go down to Camden till 3 am” and I was the fool for not letting her. But they have to do that. It’s part of the process of making you let go and accepting they’re growing up and will soon be gone. (For thoughts on a similar subject listen to “Long Long Gone” on the “Difficult 2nd Album”)

But for all the trials and tribulations, when you’ve got kids you really do have it all.

I wrote a song on the subject and recorded it for “Little Big Head”. It didn’t make the album so I gave it to a charity which supports Michael Sobell House, a Hospice for the terminally ill. They included it on the fund raising CD “A Tribute to Paul Fox”. Paul was guitarist in The Ruts and was helped by MSH before he sadly succumbed to cancer. I’m happy to say the CD, which features TV Smith, UK Subs, Chelsea, The Urban Voodoo Machine and many more, sold well and is worth checking out.

You can hear “They’ve Got it All” on Soundcloud and, if you are quick enough and get there before their free allocation runs out, download it as well.

Listen to “They’ve Got it All” here and download for free if you are quick enough

My Budding Radio Career

If you haven’t caught up with it yet check out our Mixcloud page here which includes my  first radio DJ job today on Soho Radio filling in for the legendary Gary Crowley.

Many thanks to the equally legendary producer to John Peel, Danny Baker, Joe Strummer and all: Jim Lahat who guided me through it.

SohoRadioBanner

Scandinavians: probably the most generous fans in the world

Last summer our delightful Norwegian agent, Harry Steen, turned up to our London show with three kilos of salmon and four jars of caviar. It was a charming gift, albeit constituting a somewhat unconventional package to carry around at a gig.Thankfully he brought the fish in a cool bag so I managed to get it home without it starting to hum our tunes.

Wild Norwegian salmon. What a treat.

Stockholm last week managed to surpass that. My total haul for the gig was as follows:

1 hand painted portrait freshly arrived from Finland,
2 bottles of liquorice firewater,
2 bars of dark chocolate, and …….

the icing on the cake ……….

2 jars of peanut butter.

MeJuhaPortrait
Hand Painted Portrait by the effervescant Juha Rindall from Finland

 

Aren’t people wonderful?

Rock and Roll: it beats shopping and still provides the essentials of life.

Check out some steaming footage of C’est la Vie from Stockholm here

Our version of that Boys classic Soda Pressing here

Thinking

Jeepster

Long Long Gone