Sunday, 4 December 2011

SILVERY PODCAST FIVE Christmas Disco

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Not another Christmas collection? Well, this is a very personal one - and in a bumper two parts! Some Christmas favs and some songs that through total fluke I now associate with Christmas. I must be the only person on the planet who makes a point of listening to 'Homophobic Asshole' at this most magical time of the year, but luckily (and at a push) some even have a Christmassy theme like those that mention Saints or Toys. Like I say, it's a personal collection that I've attempted to compile almost every year previously, be it on cassette or Spotify, so this continues a long line of curious compilations trying to make sense of it all. I'm sure it's not the last either. Some omission, but hey, I'll have another crack next year. No talking on this one either, so it is EVEN MORE special. P.S. Make a point of listening to the Billy McKenzie tune on part two and dig out Bowie on 'Extras'. Curious. Anyway, have a nice Christmas and happy New Year and SILVERY will see you in 2012 with some new tunes. XX

Part One:
COLEEN NOLAN / JASON DONOVAN - Iceland Advert
WIZZARD - I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day
DANNY KAYE - Inchworm
ADORABLE - I'll Be Your Saint
JONA LEWIE - Stop The Cavalry
SENSELESS THINGS - Homophobic Asshole
WEDDING PRESENT - Step Into Christmas
REM - Toys In The Attic
STEREOLAB - Jenny Ondioline
PULP - David's Last Summer
OASIS - Columbia
CROSBY / BOWIE - Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy
GREG LAKE - I Believe In Father Christmas
PINK FLOYD - Merry Christmas Song




Part Two:
ST. ETIENNE / TIM BURGESS - I Was Born On Christmas Day
RUSSELL GARCIA - London 1900 / Filby's Theme
SMASHING PUMPKINS - Rocket
SIMON & GARFUNKEL - For Emily Where Ever I May Find Her
CHICKEN SHED - I Am In Love With The World
GENEVA - Strung Out On You
THE WAITRESSES - Christmas Wrapping
SPARKS - Number One Song In Heaven
BO SELECTA - Proper Crimbo
BILLY MCKENZIE - When The World Was Young
ANDREA BOCELLI - White Christmas
BAND AID - Do They Know It's Christmas
SLADE - Merry Christmas Everyone



 
Serving suggestions: On the Christmas card run to the old neighbourhood, putting up the tree again after some indoor football went wrong, Christmas morning in the kitchen etc etc.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Christmas Podcast Bonus Features

The idea behind the Christmas Podcast seemed to go down well, so I thought I'd add an addition part - the tracks that didn't make the original cut. More tunes that somehow have attached them to my festive cheer, and I'll stick it just below the original post so it's like when they add bonus material to reissued CDs. Chronologically this kind of sits alongside the previous two parts. Liking lists, it's been a huge effort to not spell out every single memory connected to each song (that can be for next Christmas) but highlights include driving around the snowy hometown listening to REM, the Christmas I spent listening to The Smiths with nothing but a red lightbulb for company, those freezing treks across London wondering what the fuck Mr Bungle thought they were doing, and getting lost in the woods listening to Gary Glitter on the way home from the pub in the early hours of Christmas morning. Very Christmassy. Have a good one, chums XX

The Holly & The Ivy - Westminster Cathedral Choir
Superman - REM
Half A Person - The Smiths
Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel
Dead Giveaway - Geneva
I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus - Gap Kids
Amateur Hour - Sparks
Pink Cigarette - Mr Bungle
Hewlett's Daughter - Grandaddy
Walking In The Air - Aled Jones
You Belong To Me - Gary Glitter
Merry Christmas (War Is Over) - John & Yoko

The Christmas morning I awoke to find an AT-AT beside my bed

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

SILVERY PODCAST Volume Four

A special podcast this one. For me, anyway. It all started sat in our old lounge listening to Queen's Greatest Hits on fucking huge headphonesstaring at their miserable faces on the cover. Some 25 years later Queen are up there with Lego, train sets and our long dead dog as symbols of happy times. I cannot believe this week marks 20 years since Freddie Mercury bought the farm. I'd recommend you remember the 20th anniversary of his death by sticking on that first Greatest Hits album (you've got it - you know you've got it), but if there is a little piece of your heart that still needs some more Farrokh Bulsara in it, I'd be honoured if you gave this a spin. Certainly not a greatest hits, but some favorites from the VAST Queen back catalogue. Even some unreleased rarities any discerning Queen fan should own. Not quite HIFI, but certainly interesting. I fucking love Queen. Always have, and even with a less than satisfactory 40th Anniversary reissue programme complete, always will. You silly geese. XX

Mustapha (From 'Jazz', 1978)
Interlude (Including Carnival Midway - as heard on 'Brighton Rock', 1974)
Ogre Battle
The Fairy Feller's Masterstroke
Nevermore (All from 'Queen II', 1974)
Goin' Back (Larry Lurex, 1973)
Interlude (Including Killer Queen instrumental, 1974)
My Fairy King (Valencia 'Queen Tribute', 2003 - Originally on 'Queen', 1973)
I Can Hear Music (Larry Lurex, 1973)
The Great Pretender (Freddie Mercury solo single 1987)
Interlude (Including It's A Hard Life, 1984)
Polar Bear (circa 1972)
Silver Salmon (circa 1972)
Hangman (Live, 1976)
Interlude (Including Play The Game - Baby Mix, originally on 'The Game' 1980)
Let Me Entertain You (From 'Live Killers', 1979)
Rock It (Prime Jive) (From 'The Game', 1980)
We Are The Champions (Oktoberfest Band)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

FA CUP

Not being your normal football fans... Actually, that needs repeating. NOT BEING YOUR NORMAL FOOTBALL FANS, but doing a good line in cosy nostalgia, SILVERY are proud to
publish the OFFICAL check list for that most British of wintery pastimes - a frosty Sunday morning sat in front of the TV to watch the early rounds of the FA Cup. There's really something magical about these matches, beamed live from some small non league ground as the unknown local heroes leave their day jobs as carpenters and plumbers to take on the might of some fabled professional club. Like Norwich, or Wigan. Sometime you'll even be lucky enough to witness millionaire playboys like Chelsea or Man U play so badly on the poorly maintained local pitch that they get systematically taken apart and crash out. The headlines write themselves when the winning goal is scored by a taxi driver or a butcher. So what to look out for? What can YOU spot at these disheartening yet somehow wondrous games? 1) The camera will zoom in on some local boys who are watching the match from up a tree, just tall enough to look over the pie shop in the ground.
2) They will be responsible for returning the ball from the street outside after some fat old local defender clears the danger (and the stand) in an over the top manner.
3) The local club always has the middle aged remnants of a player you remember from your 1988 Panini sticker annual. He will play amazingly.
4) 9 times out of 10 that player will have actually won the FA Cup with the big club they are playing against today. He'll get a big cheer from his old fans, but with break the legs of whatever Italian firebrand they have playing in his old position. 
5) The big club will have a player who started playing for the non league club. Or his parents are still supporters of the minnows. Cue the local rags running the story of a family at war. But it's all in good spirits.
6) Recently, the non league clubs seem to always have one full time player - usually a very confused American international who thought he was coming to England to play for a slightly larger club than the Hursley Town Jelly Moulds.
7) Adverts for local timber merchants are always excellent - and seemingly left over from the late 70s.
8) The ground being much smaller than those at normally televised matches, you can work out almost every voice in the crowd - the only time in the year you'll clearly hear post watershed foul language on a sunday morning's TV. Apart from CBBCs.
9) There is no need to zoom in on that topless fat man.
10) The camera will zoom in to someones living room who are watching the match on their TV.

I'll do some more after a quick cuppa. And a quick look at Time Team on the other side to see if it's that one in Shoreditch Park.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

SILVERY PODCAST Volume Three

Now the clocks have changed what better way to spend the dark evenings than at a cosy Science Lab Disco? Selected for a combination of reasons. Bizarrely, most were first heard in shops and bought on the spot (hello Mr Bungle, hello Battles, hello Thrones), others were found after years of research into tunes heard played on the TV (seriously - that turned out to be Moby on the X Files? FFS) But generally, these tunes have funny keyboard solos. And that's all that counts. As we prepare for the SUPER SPECIAL SILVERY CHRISTMAS PODCAST (expected nearer Christmas - we're not Marks N Sparks) this should keep SILVERY PODCAST fans with a more open mind happy. PODCASTETTES? PODCASSETTES? Yes, PODCASSETTES it is then. And as a special treat, there is no talking.

1) Henry's Cat - JONATHAN HODGE
2) Golem II - The Bionic Vapour Boy - MR BUNGLE
3) Face Of The Planet - THE SUBS followed by the Goblin King
4) Drowning In Berlin - THE MOBILES
5) Atlas - BATTLES followed by Queen
6) You Could Easily Have Me - METRONOMY
7) The Serene Branson Song
8) My Weakness - MOBY
9) Once More - THE ORB
10) Obolus - THRONES
11) Blue Jeans - LADYTRON followed by Sparks

Serving suggestion: Winter work drinks, bunsen burner fun, fireworks party in space, on the bus back from a dumping.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Recording News

Hello, how are you? About time we had some SILVERY recording news isn't it? Yes. The story so far, like at the beginning of Star Wars:

SILVERY, Album III: 'A New Hope' 

The Imperial Senate sent mediocre indie bands into every venue in the Empire and times were tough for our little unsung hero pop stars.  At the request of a small pocket of loyal members of the Black & Silver Livery fan club, a brave band of musicians decided the time was right to start the fight back. It had been a while since 'Railway Architecture Struck Back' and the distant 'Thunderer & Excelsior Wars', so the Silvery rebels made their plans.

They started doing some bits and bobs in the summer just to get a few odds and ends out the way. Recording started in their small forest rehearsal room moon and also in Earth's Livingston Studios (REM, Bjork, Yazz) with Silvery dark tape lord, Darth Feazey (Yes, I'm mixing up the metaphors here..). You may have already heard the rather misleading rough mix of in-joke 'Shimmy Shimmy' which was a new tune they started doing live at the beginning of the year and briefly made available on Bandcamp - I think that will come out properly at some point. B side or something.

Indeed, I still think it's a summer indie disco smash. They recorded a couple of other things They'd been doing in concert (around Mos Eisley Starbase, presumably) like 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King' and the near legendary 'Horrors Shuffle'. The problem with 'Mountain King' is that every fucker had done a version of it. Ho hum, never stopped them before I guess. Tee hee. Anyway....

(Camera pans up to reveal a huge Indie Star Destroyer silently gliding towards the distant planet Rockunroll...)

So yeah. I think that's the b-sides sorted for the next batch of singles. This week however, work has begun on album 3 PROPER. As I write, the main chassis' have been glued together already on 5 songs in the new Silvery locomotive works (Shoreditch, just up the road from where the fabled 'Thunderer' sessions happened) with another 5 or 6 are expected to be ready by dinnertime on Friday. Of course, I've said that sort of thing before and things have gone a bit LOL. The plan is to continue working on them all over the next month or so, on and off, to see where they go. First reports are good. The exciting bit: Working titles of new tracks include 'You Answered Your Own Question' (think 'Riding Along On The Crest Of A Wave' meets King Crimson), 'The Ronald Opus' (Sparks playing 'Union City Blue') and 'Creature Of Comfort' (Scottish Funk). Being a somewhat nostalgic old sort, a couple of the other songs lined up to record include the previously thought forgotten SILVERY folklore classics 'Seasick' (Syd Barrett's own pocket 'This Is A Low') and 'Charge Of The Light Brigade' ('The Drowners' player backwards by XTC) which date WAY back to the earliest Silvery fumbling on the London stage. Those days under fire from bubble machines and wearing trumpets and flags or whatever it was we did at those gigs. Like the previous album, some old songs just seem to fit in with a body of material so out they pop from those dusty corridors of minidiscs and cassette demos. Yeah I know, business as usual.

Usually I just preferring to get on with it and emerge blinking into the light with a finished album but hey, it's 2011 now and I've got  phone which lets me sit and scribble this sort of thing. When I'm not playing Angry Birds on it that is. I wish it was the pigs being fired at the birds. They seem nicer. I think I tried to do some similar studio blogging ages ago when we were doing 'The Nishikado EP' but the predictive text thing was like "SAY WHAAAAT?" all the time. Stupid phones. Oh, another oddity is the ACTUAL SONG called 'Thunderer & Excelsior' (I love it when bands put album title tracks on different albums to the one with the same name - indeed, potentially, this new album could have the unissued title tracks to the previous two Silvery albums. Now that would be a super question for a pub quiz). As an aside, this is very much feeling like making a PROPER album - the previous ones with hindsight were a bit of an experiment. I mean, what the fuck is a mixing desk? Don't we just play? And what's that flashing red light?? This one is us actually thinking "Let's make an album". So using the laws of pop physics, it will sink without a trace. But I must say, what a fantastically fun thing to do.

So there we are really. Dunno when it will be out, but we seem to release an album every other first weekend of August. So get your HMV vouchers ready for 10 months from now. If HMV is still around. Which I doubt. You'll probably have to buy it in shoe shop or something. And no, we haven't gone all 'SOLE' MUSIC on you!!1!!111! Oh and the cover will have a picture of me in full Flashman finery. That's a Silvery guarantee. P.S. Live stuff: Dunno really. You know us. Although I'll say now, I CANNOT wait to play some of these new ones live. Might even not open with 'Horrors' this time around. Cheerio then. XX

Sunday, 2 October 2011

SILVERY PODCAST Volume Two

Baaaam! And then there were two. Still just checking the equipment works and still trying to get the temperamental cassette recorder to play. But it all sounds great to us. With the Shoreditch Park Oktoberfest going on all round him, James sits in his tin can on the hottest October day since TIME ITSELF BEGAN and plays another batch of favorite tunes - this time loosely based (MOON BASED!!1111) on Space. But a very SILVERY idea of space and space travel. One shared by 70's Lego and HG Wells. This then is SPACE DISCO.

'Terrahawks End Titles' - Richard Harvey
'Hang On To The Highway' - Bowie / Deep Purple
'Non Star' - Big White Stairs
'Sleep All Eyes Open' - Cardiacs
'Booths Dry Gin' - Barry Gray
'Far Out' (Beagle 2 extended version) - Blur
'She' - Swimmer
'Chile Farm Farney' - Sparks
'Dolly' - Suede
'Hey Leanne' - The Aliens
'Runaway' - Queen + Paul Rogers / Del Shannon
'Over At The Frankenstein Place' - Rocky Horror Picture Show OST
'Flying Saucer' - The Wedding Present
(With help from Richard Burton, Jeff Wayne and Serene Branson)

Serving suggestion: In space, inter dimensional travel, the number 11 bus.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

TWENTY TWELVE

I guess this is decent enough channel to write this on - indeed, I'm amazed that there has been no other badly thought out and even more badly spelled essays on the subject in the broadsheets. So I'll get all this out of my system so our pals at the Guardian can pinch it wholesale when the time is right in the new year. Kind of like when they lifted my extended spout on the leaking of 'Toy' that I rather foolishly wasted on a forum somewhere. I should have put that on here too. Warning: this is going to be terrible, so hold tight.

Anyway. Depending what your views are on English guitar rock, it seems pretty obvious that London 2012 is ripe for an AWESOME Euro '96 style Cool Britannia revival. Imagine the back slapping and flags and imagine the jollies. You can hear Shed Seven choosing the carpet to their new extensions paid for when 'Going For Gold' charts again. Cast are gearing up for a small tour to promote 'Walk Away' when it hits the top 20 due to its use over the closing titles of Grandstand after another member of Team GB totally cocks it up. Kasabian with be scaring children with their pointy shoes and smelly hair as they perform, I dunno, 'Spice Up Your Life' at the opening ceremony. Brian May will do 'We Are The Champions' with Dizzee Rascal on top of Lord Coe's pay cheque.

Sadly, the Cool Britannia celebrations will fart out a little trickle of nothingness. Those people who were students during those mid 90's halcyon days have kids of their own - sat there upstairs on the bus listening to something AWFUL and laughing at their dad's grizzed Oasis cut / Beckham Fin (with a bald bit at the back). They will pick up the free Cool Britannia Britpop CD with the Daily Mail and play it during a barbecue they have organised the afternoon of the 100 metre final. You get the picture. It will be a laboured (definitely a small 'l') squeeze of trapped wind. Actual bands don't exist anymore, and the Urban scene is too aggressive to produce a true all encompassing anthem, the pop princesses won't get the point. So irony of ironys, as well as being absolutely schooled on the field by the Americans, it will be our cousins from the US doing a song as sickly awful as that 'New York State Of Mind' abortion that will rule the airwaves in our moment of national triumph.

So what's this got to do with SILVERY? Nothing really, other than if it all goes to plan, album 3 should be out mid-Olympics. So do we seize the zeitgeist and put it out wrapped in a Union Jack and call it something like 'London Sport' or do I just sit tight and keep on message? I might start playing a Union Jack guitar. No, my real worry about all this is that in this Post Britpop world (check out Luke Haines' exceptional books for much more accurate scribbles) another massive celebration of the Oh So Ironic like the mid nineties were will be another massive hammer blow to the nation's IQ. Another generation pissing it all away, another 10 X-Factor Christmas Number Ones, school trips to see Jimmy Carr, grown men who choose to wear those gingham shirts with plain white cuffs & collars, more chancers starting their own high end burger joints with no real idea as to what makes a good burger, ladies getting kidney problem because they think vomiting in cabs will make them equal to that boxing fanatic bloke they fancy in the office. Computer games. We're all buggered. And that's official.

Actually, 'London Sport' is an excellent name for an album.

Much like the 1970s were split into those trapped into thinking it was the end of the 60s and those who knew it was the start of the 80s, the time between the 1996 and 2012 has all been the Noughties. Indeed, we'll still be in the Noughties until the 2020s. 2012 is a good looking year though, aesthetically. Like Ziggy in 1972, like Blur in 1994. It's a good looking number (I LOVE the way LONDON 2012 looks written in that London Underground Johnson font). I'd like to be in a young band in 2012, tearing it up with a holy trinity of classic debut singles. I think it SHOULD be a proper year zero (It wouldn't be a Quaire Fellow entry without metaphors getting muddled). The only thing missing is the new blood - someone with an idea that is either such a well aimed shot at nostalgia (RIP Viva Brother), or something so totally fresh (Errrm... Haddaway?). Luckily though, those with the facilities to make a strike on the zeitgist are too thick to realise. Sure there will be another Shed Seven Best Of. But there will be no great Britpop piss up like we used to have back in the day with bunting and suits and sailors kissing girls in the street. There won't be any going over the top in the trenches of Camden and Kentish Town battling the Crusties and the Grungers. There will be no more fallen Britpop Tommies. There will be no corner of Islington dedicated to those lost in the First Britpop Wars. There will be no Kula Shaker. No Echobelly. Menswear will not be plugging in on the roof of the World's End as the Olympic torch relay goes past. No. That's a terrible idea. And yes, I know that Ziggy and Blur were on their 3rd or 4th attempt when their aesthetically pleasing year zeros came around.

It's a toss up between 'London Sport' and 'North Sea Hijack'. I like that film.

God, the internet has fucked it all up (oh Christ, he can't stop. Ed.) Remember writing letters? Remember Ceefax? God, even The Libertines made it OK to dress like The Levellers (they had a good looking launch year too - 2002). All the good that was done by the time Suede went shit (1995) has been undone by over zealous development and progress. There will just be the same old idiots trying to do their same old idiotic shit. Topshop mannequins in trilby's playing some Scottish funk upstairs in the OBL, the smart ones are just sat there staring through narrowed eyes cursing the fact that they never went to Art School like they should have - never pursued their ambitions instead of being on that weird autopilot that you don't even realise you're on until you hit 25. Dads being loaded, Richard Hamilton taking some scissors to an Argos catalogue, teachers who find it inspiring that another generation of students think it is original having a video of a lady dancing wearing a pig mask. In the same way the scene that ate itself ruined music until 2020, those wonderfully terrible Young British Artist totally cocked up the art scene. I'm not an expert, but people painting pictures and piling up junk until they do a piece with a funny enough punchline that Heat invite them to the launch of a shoe shop doth not an artist make.

By virtue of the fact you're reading this, you're on side. You're a smart one. Prepare for your close up in 'I Remember 2012' and tell them that Post-Silvery London was truly shit.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

SILVERY PODCAST Volume One

SAY WHAT? Yes, a quick run through our favourite tunes of the day, loosely themed around getting on down in the projected SILVERY affiliated club 'ENGLISH DISCO', or 'ACTION FORCE' (haven't decided the name yet). For this pilot episode, James drinks Fosters and uses a Fisher Price microphone (red) throughout. The minidisc player was on the blink, but the tape deck was ok. ENJOY! (If you can pinpoint the exact moment James starts talking with an American drawl, do write in)

Featuring:
'Stick Together' SPECIAL NEEDS
'Don't You Ail, Flash The Sea To Steam' SPRATLEY'S JAPS
'Ropes & Sails' SILVERY
'Remember Me' THE WURZELS
'So So Happy Making' HATCHAM SOCIAL
'Pretty Please Me' (Demo) THE QUICK
'The Laughing Gnome' (Soundalike Version) HOT HITS
'Our Boys' (Demo) JET
'Coming Soon' (Alternate Take) QUEEN
'Who We Are' DAVID DEVANT & HIS SPIRIT WIFE
'Get On The Carousel' ABBA

Serving suggestion: In your MP3 player on the way back from work, in the bath, chilling, in the garden, out and about with friends. Be sure to buy the records you like.

 

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Spell With A Shell

At the close of 2010 SILVERY contributed a track to the two disc 'The Leader Of The Starry Skies' - an album of covers of songs by Cardiacs to raise funds for their main man Tim Smith who is quite ill at the moment. I thought I should write something here about it. My first exposure to the band was when I first heard 'Manhoo' on the Marc Radcliffe show on Radio 1 in May / June 1996 and loved it straight away - in keeping with my tastes of the day, it could've been the Spiders From Mars doing a Blur song. I remember I scribbled down Cardiacs - 'Yarhoo' on my homework as I misheard the title (Radcliffe was a great source for finding new bands pre-internet - I still fondly listen to Big White Stairs via finding them the same way).

Shortly after that, I accidentally heard them on the same show playing a live session. I recall one song being about a dog called Sparky or something? A couple of weeks later I picked up a copy of the 'Manhoo' single (pictured is the follow up 'Odd Even', featuring Timmy's face) in my local record shop and played it to death. I had a bizarre flashback. I was sure my older brother had a CD by Cardiacs (I had previously exhausted his collection in failed attempts to get into Bauhaus, Babes In Toyland and The Pixies - what can I say, Blur hadn't got good yet) - and sure enough he did. 'The Seaside' from 1984. Crumbs, that's like 12 years old? I put it on and the sound was totally at odds with the bouncy, glammed up, dare I say Britpop of 'Manhoo' - but I persevered (in between stopping 'Jibber & Twitch' on the CD thinking that the phone was ringing). I later learned that my brother used to play 'R.E.S.' to me when I was very little because I found it funny. I cobbled together a tape of the collected 12 tracks I now owned in order of preference. That accompanied me on holiday to Spain that summer. I made a point of getting into them after that - first up was the album that 'Manhoo' and 'Dog-Like Sparky' (oh Dog-LIKE Sparky) were taken from - 'Sing To God'. A double album. Takes a deep breath. Needless to say it became the soundtrack to the rest of my 1996 and 1997. I have fond memories of 'Billion' twinkling through my head as I woke up in a pile of leaves in South Kensington once. I went to see them for the first time after that with my brother acting as counsel and explaining what the fuck was going on. Our trip to The Joiner's Arms in Southampton is remembered in Adrian Bell's commendably ultra-mad Cardiacs book 'Aylesbury Bolton Wolverhampton Hove'
The album 'Leader Of The Starry Skies' is tremendous. Mainly featuring Cardiacs family bands, but also contributions from the likes of Ultrasound, The Magic Numbers, and XTC's Andy Partridge, most seem to settle on strangely countrified, reflective readings of the songs, but my favorites are Panixphere fucking demolishing 'To Go Off & Things' and Local Girls wobbly and muscular 'Odd Even'. My contribution was 'Spell With A Shell' from the 1999 album 'Guns' - an overlooked gem that I favoured for it's simplicity (predictable gist: it isn't simple). The video was made during downtime on the set of 1902's Le Voyage Dans La Lune, directed by Georges Méliès. The juxtaposition of the man in the moon looking down and the child looking into the pot containing the little beetle he's found blah blah blah.

As I write this I'm also reminded of Tiny from Ultrasound giving me a ring to double check the words on the quiet bit of their contribution 'Big Ship'. Our mutual recordist Kev told them that I'd know, and sure enough I drank up, rushed home and pulled my vinyl out and compared the two original Cardiacs studio versions with the lyric sheet. I don't know what they were on about. That I became a Cardiacs go-to-guy is testament enough to my love of this band, and I hope my wishes for Tim Smith to heal and for him to know he is loved are heard.

Another little memory - bizarrely on Mark Radcliffe's former co-host Marc Riley's 6Music show, some 12 years after that first airing of 'Manhoo': Cardiacs are in session and play a version of their super unreleased song 'Sparkly Silvery Sky'. Unfortunately it would be in the very same room a couple of months later we dedicate a live 'Action Force' to Tim's recovery.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

DAVID 2004 - 2006 (Or thereabouts)


Next in the ongoing (and slow off the mark) SILVERY 10 Year Celebrations: a contribution from a pivotal Silvery. Young David Williams - electric bass and trusty confi-dandy:

2004: THE CALL UP ~ My tour of duty with Silvery began with a text: "COME TO BACKSTREET AT 3PM. THEN WE CAN BE QUEEN."
James, the Task Commander, had given me a demo CD a week or two earlier with 6 songs on, along with a baffling sheet of chord progressions and a clunky bass guitar, which sounded a bit stout and looked as though it was made in the 1840s. It was spring 2004. I'd been in London about 6 months and hadn't worked out what I wanted to do with it. James and I met working in a bookshop and bonded over the grim slog and the absurdity of it all, and the mind-wrecking loop of useless film soundtracks the bosses insisted on putting on, all day, every day.

Those first demos, recorded as a 3-piece (Orman, Pull, and a drummer called Giuseppe), were good enough to win over this sceptic. I'd tuned out of guitar pop bands at some point around the turn of the century when I became old enough to see the UK indie scene for the haircut competition it always had been.

But that first demo CD was so confident, so well defined and so _singular_. It rocked foremost - I knew it would be a hoot to play live. Camp, but deadly serious, delivered with a frantic, shrill energy, and with a visual aesthetic to match. Songs referencing the ghostly imprint of bygone London, fortean phenomena, stinging rebukes to lazy people and wasted potential. Many of the songs were already there - apart from the odd arrangemental tweak, all they really gained in the intervening years was muscle. Each had a little trick, and an unpredictably memorable tune. They were detailed little worlds unto themselves - "perfect, but miniature". They already sounded like a manifesto. There was Squadron Leader, with placeholder lyrics. An instrumental Devil in the Detail. The Nod, and A Penny Dreadful pretty much fully formed. A scrappy take of A Man Has Disappeared in the Sky, and best of all, a white-hot version That Which Is/That Which Is Not. The whole thing was worked out. (I think this is testiment to my one fingered keyboard playing. Still available for hire - The Quaire Fellow)

The deal was that it was James's band. His songs, he was the director. I could write my parts but he could tell me to change them if they weren't what he was looking for. Fine by me - I had a guitar duo called Little Hands Clapping to serve as an outlet for my own compositions. It was a bit like joining the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I was signed up to what James had in mind and willing to work at making the band sound as exciting as it could be.

At my first rehearsal the band complimented my cherry red DMs and showed me Star of the Sea and an embyonic, verse/chorus arrangement of The Nishikado. James gave me a fine bandsman's jacket to wear and told me off for playing too funky.

Giuseppe was a fantastically loose, noisy drummer - you had to watch out in rehearsals because he was prone to breaking his sticks and you'd have to dodge flying splinters. He had a hyperactive style - he could only be counted on not to play a simple, steady beat, and to speed up, slow down, and break up the rhythm mid-bar. With two fuzzed out guitars, the sound could get messy, so I took on a sort of Noel Redding role, keeping it solid and simple at the centre as all hell broke loose around me.

The set took shape. James showed me Murder Holes. Later we invented a dance craze to go with it, and a year or two later treated Brighton to a furious display of "murderholing" at the Pav Tav in Brighton, after we played the Freebutt. Explaining the song's unorthodox structure, he revealed IT'S ALL SHAPES. And it was. All the songs were. They had an internal logic mapped out on the fretboard. I learned Sparks and Fire off a tape with older demos and live versions, and wrote a sexy new bass part, which James let me record for the second album. The first time me and Giuseppe played Ropes and Sails (which always, always went with S&F), we were instructed to play as though on a deck of a ship, looking out over a bay. So that's what we aimed for.

My first public act as a member of Silvery was to emerge from a cupboard which served as a dressing room in the Hope and Anchor. My second was to clatter into a mic stand as I mounted the six-inch high stage. Over the next two years I carved out a niche for myself as "the clumsy one". Accidentally unplugging my instrument was a speciality, though I also did a mean line in tripping over cables and whacking my mic with the head of my guitar. Once I got carried away tossing flowers into the audience at the Bull and Gate and pelted a big bunch directly into a girl's face. Topping it all, on my last-ever gig in front of 1800 people at Koko, I executed a geometrically perfect scissor kick before slipping on a slick of bubble machine fluid and ending up on my arse in a tangle of limbs and guitars with James.

The Nishikado could have that effect. At that first gig Guiseppe came in a beat late, turning the entire first verse inside out. James had talked me into providing backing vocals ("I just need a bit of noise behind me") but I'd never sung live before, didn't have much of a voice and struggled to co-ordinate singing one rhythm and playing another, unless I was just thunking along on the root notes. Which, most of the time, I was. I was suffering from a throat infection and lost control of my voice - though the minidisc recording revealed that trying to follow James's part I'd actually nailed a perfect fifth in the chorus. Never managed that again.

That summer, I discovered the power of the oom-pah bassline. Tried it first in the chorus of Devil in the Detail. James and I fell about laughing, so that sealed it - it was definitely in. I put that in as many songs as I could manage, and it helped nail the marching band, fairground feel we knew the band needed.

Then Simon joined. By the end of the first rehearsal it was difficult to believe he hadn't been in the band all along. He was instantly integral to the Silvery sound with his plinky-plonky piano parts, off-beat organ vamping, and, a little bit later, swirling War of the Worlds FX.

The five piece Silvery didn't last long - two or three gigs I believe. After a promisingly loose, electric showing at the Dublin Castle in August, that October (I think?) we played a bizarre gig in a reverberant hangar of a venue supporting David Devant. We were well drilled by this point, and played a pretty safe 2004 style set, made memorable by the novelty of playing in a space big enough to have useable monitors, and thus being able to hear ourselves properly. I remember a distinct lack of energy - partly nerves, probably, and partly because the place was just about empty when we went on, filling up with puzzled thirtysomethings over the course of our performance.

Then, with zero fanfare, Giuseppe went back to Italy. The band played a final, confrontationally ramshackle drummerless gig to a rammed Hope and Anchor, with a set dominated by untested songs (Charge of the Light Brigade, Will Self, 1994). Cues were missed. Middle-aged people danced. James roamed the audience with his inaudible acoustic guitar. Islington scratched its head. Howard decided he'd had enough. We all felt a little bit silly and had a word with ourselves about what to do next. For the remainder of 2004 there wasn't really a Silvery, so much as a little handful of us that wanted to have a band.

2005-06: OVER THE TOP ~ "Let's do 1994 again", said James. "That one's got 'HOPE' written all over it".
Stinking Backstreet Studios, winter 2004-05. Repairing the band was proving to be harder than just slotting one component into the space left by another. Alex, our new drummer, was very tight from the get-go, but at those first practices he was a little... tidy. It took a little while before he acquired the fluidity and frankly Popeye-muscled oomph you hear on the albums. We'd lost that power and weight a band gets when it's been rehearsing and gigging regularly for months. And with guitarist Howard gone too, the jaw-clenching racket of the '04 lineup had been greatly diminished.

But rebuilding from the chassis up presented opportunities, too. For one thing, James could bring in all the songs Howard hadn't liked very much, which broadened the set nicely. 1994 sounded great straight away, always punchy, crisp and with a cheeky swing. Orders came in too, and we worked up full band arrangements of Will Self and Quaire Fellow. Those two came to be dominated by Simon's inventive keyboard tones - running his organ through a multi FX and distortion pedal for extra edge.

I bought a fuzz box for the bass too, which enabled me to take over the the intros to Squadron Leader and Devil in the Detail, and kick the noise levels up during bits like the freak-out section in Sparks and Fire. The best example of that is the live cut of Seven Seas of Rhye - I might as well have been riding a motorbike around the stage. Loved it.

With James handling more lead guitar duties with wonky aplomb, and Alex growing in confidence by the week, the band was gigging by the end of January. I'm amazed now at how far we moved, from basically a standing start, in the first six months of that year. We cut about half a dozen demos in February, laying down the drums and guide bass on James's trusty four-track in Backstreet. Then we reconvened at the studio where Simon worked to overdub everything else over the course of a Sunday afternoon, giddy on free sweets. The songs came over better than in the fog of live performance, but overall the results were disappointing - more like working models, lacking the tightness and thrill we were looking for. Still, the version of That Which Is (swamped in fuzz bass) won Silvery's first airplay, from Steve Lamacq shortly after I left the band. There was an early take of Foreign Exchange, with a shorter outro. The version of Will Self saw the first appearance of the "Silvery monks", the droning bass baritone choir who still can be glimpsed hovering in the background of modern-day Silvery recordings.

We practiced every week, no excuses, and played one proper gig every month, with flowers and uniforms and everything, which we would make an effort to get people along to. Between those we'd slot in midweek support slots at rubbish venues to try out new songs, revive old ones, or just experiment with the setlist. It toughened us up. No-one on any bill we ever appeared on could match us for sheer rabid eyes-on-stalks energy. I'd feel physically bruised going into work the next morning.

It was easy to lose control - to get swept away in our own whirlwind. Or, just take the stage too drunk to get the details right, especially if we were playing towards the end of the evening. "A Silvery gig should be like a well-drilled performance of HMS Pinafore," James said. "But it can end up sounding like the Muppet Show". Keeping the bass tight wasn't a problem, because Alex's snare and kick work was endlessly interesting to lock into and play off against. But all the chaos and adrenalin, and the scrappy PAs, made it really hard to do justice to the ensemble vocal sound we were aiming for. I always regretted that. Hated singing badly in front of people I knew. I'd dread the chorus of Revolving, because I couldn't reach the notes James sang (a lot of the songs were devilishly high), and could never find the right pitch if I tried to go a fifth or a third below.

The singing was the only aspect that we didn't really drill. Rehearsals were four hours long. The volume in those brick-walled railway arch rooms was nauseating. But the practice allowed us to learn little tricks and embellishments to give the gigs a greater sense of occasion. In the first gig with Alex, during the outro to Devil, the band dropped out abruptly as Simon played a few bars of Hava Negilah in a carousel organ style, before we all crashed back in, in unison. Orders grew its familiar fanfare intro and triumphant conclusion. Sparks and Fire gained a poignant music box prelude. Murder Holes was prefaced by an oom-pah instrumental version of the theme to Screen Test. We'd also throw in Mancini's Baby Elephant Walk, and fooled around with some songs from the Bugsy Malone soundtrack. The Animals are Vanishing, Action Force, and Revolving all became staples in during the first part of the year. Later on we added Warship Class, and toyed with Identity.

I assumed a sort of Sergeant Wilson role, to James's Captain Mainwaring. I tended to know the new songs first, from bedroom practices with James, especially when he stayed at my house for a few months. I remember running through Murder Holes for the first time with Alex while James went out to make a phone call, and helped explain Warship Class with its tricky time signatures, pauses and key changes. James and I both had jobs that enabled us to goof off and email constantly during the day, so we often talked about bringing in new things, or tweaking old things, or plotted setlists and talked about what worked and what didn't at the last show.

We recorded a second batch of demos in June - finally doing justice to Devil, and laying down representative (but not much more) versions of Murder Holes, Revolving, Action Force and Animals are Vanishing. It sounded pretty good, more controlled than the "Scooby and Shaggy being chased around a big top in a hurricane" live shows. But we were better than those versions within weeks. We blew that session by trying to do too much. Recording and mixing in the same day was always going to be a recipe for madness - especially when two members of your band are employed in the recording business. And, we hedged our bets, rather than concentrating our efforts on getting the essential stuff right. Single take versions of Penny Dreadful, The Nod and Foreign Exchange got finished off at the studio where Alex worked. Later on we remixed Action Force, with a pitch-shifted chipmunk voice on top of the chorus to lighten the overall tone. That ended up being my part, live. I could do three sorts of singing: unison, snotty call and response, or helium squeals.

The "showcase" gigs got bigger and better - we played a packed, steamy Buffalo Bar (supporting Devant, again) two days after the July 7 bombings - for a band so plugged into the spirit of London it felt like an important time to be out and about and kicking ass. Next was the Metro Club on Oxford Street, then the Purple Turtle in Camden, and the Marquee on Leicester Square. Those performances were fierce. Later, when I saw 2008 era Silvery with Joe on bass, I was jealous of how good they sounded - way beyond when I had been in the band - particularly the harmonies, while Joe's playing glued everything together much better than mine had. The set was almost identical to 2005-06, and the mature band gave a much clearer account of itself, and was much more likely to win over more first-time listeners. But it didn't have the everything-to-prove, nowt-to-lose ferocity we had 2005-06.

Rumours got out that we were in possession of a tape of **** ******* and **** **** having sex. It was a very 2005 rumour. They were a couple for a bit. While ******* was a rock star. Back when he was thin and everything. Anyway it went round ********* fan forums, then got picked up by the celeb gossip circular Popbitch. Given the profoundly unsavoury characters surrounding ******* at the time it put us in an awkward position. But there were upsides to having our every move watched by a load of desperate crackhead gangsters. Within a couple of weeks we were being offered gigs at Koko. We did two, either side of Christmas 2005. The first was an opening slot, and went rather well. The second was one off headlining, and was bloody mental. Before we went on, we did a little show at Tommy Flynn's, just up the road. Alex pattered on a snare, Simon played on a toy keyboard, and me and James sang. It remains a mystery how we got out alive.

I can't explain the thrill of the curtain going up, bobbing people spread out in front of me, and a theatre of balconies stacked on balconies up into the gods. Feedback, abstract organ noises, and Alex throwing himself into the marching drum intro to Orders. Most of the kids hadn't heard us before - and they went nutso anyway. In the writhing crush down the front, a couple of girls in stripey top shouted "we love you". They seemed very, very young. The gig rattled by in a blur, but by this point in the year we weren't playing bad shows - we couldn't miss, I guess, not when we were that juiced. Backstage was depressing - a lot of seedy, coked up old bastards and vacant Topshop kids.

Koko stood out because of the scale of the thing, but in truth, with every gig feeling increasingly crucial, we developed a standard "best of" set, and as a result the shows across the back of 2005 and into early 2006 became much of a muchness. Dragging the same material around London for another year while we got signed, and then for another two off the back of an album seemed a rather humdrum prospect. Bigger-time managers and promoters came along to see us and hang out, and they were repulsive. I didn't much fancy the prospect of a becoming a face around the London rock scene - and it was clear we would have to do exactly that if we were going to get noticed more. Nambucca, on the Holloway Road, was buzzing, but I never had a night there that didn't leave me feeling sad, lonely and bored.

I just preferred a night in at home with the missus. It became obvious that Silvery was destined for bigger things which I didn't much like the look of - "I understood the reasons but the system gave me Horrors". I didn't want to hold anyone back - so between some quietish midweek gigs in early 2006, and with a distinct sense of anticlimax, I quit. I might have been in good company as an ex-Silvery, but it was depressing to think I'd become like the people who are treated with such contempt in Murder Holes, or Orders, or The Nod, trading in excitement and romance for a more certain, ordered life. Silvery powered ahead without me. In summer 2006 they filmed a video to Devil in the Detail with the recording we'd made a year earlier, that summed up everything that was fun about the band.

The band had "HOPE" written all over it. Amid another bassist hiccup that autumn, I came back for three gigs on a strictly temporary basis, to keep the momentum up. It was all fun, no pressure, and culminated in one final hurrah headlining Koko. We hired matching suits - I got a pillbox hat (pictured) - and blew the roof off the place. At the end, during a celebratory coda to You Give A Little Love, we dropped hundreds of multicoloured balloons into the crowd. It was a beautiful moment, and a proper way to bow out. But it was time for another, stronger component to slot into my place. The band would become tighter, grander and more successful after I left - but I think it's fair to say that a little part of the reason Silvery made it to that point was because years earlier, the four of us had built up one hell of a head of steam.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

THUNDERER & EXCELSIOR - Song By Song

Like the 'Railway Architecture' discussion here, this would've worked nicely as an audio documentary with lots of demo snippets etc. but who has the time? Maybe I will do that one day. Perhaps picture me saying all this sat at a mixing desk in a darkened studio. Anyway, 2008's CLASSIC debut album. Song by song. Go! EDIT: I had a listen to this the other day and it's not half bad I tell you. Might give it another spin tonight too.

Horrors The first thing to say about this song is that the chorus, due to a mix up with the 4-track machine in 2004, is the chorus of 'The Squadron Leader' played backwards. The verse riffs are excellent and live became my 'Hang Onto Yourself' as the favoured gig opener. I remember wanting it to be more '96 Tears' or Sparks 'I Wish I Looked A Little Better' but as I recall no one knew those songs. It came out much better anyway. The album version is the original recording that we did way ahead of the album sessions proper, it naturally became our first single coupled with 'Orders' as the first two songs we finished. I always liked that pairing as it was like all life is in those two words - 'Horrors' and 'Orders'. A cracking debut coupling. I actually remember where I was stood on Goswell Road the moment I first sang the chorus in my head. Then ran to work singing it so I didn't forget it. A great award winning animated video by Mr Dirty Earthworm too.

Devil In The Detail
Single number 2, and an early live favourite - even back when it was just called 'Devils' and was yet to gain the chorus hook. That was happy accident while I added keyboard to a half finished demo - a newsreader said the phrase while I still had the melody fresh in my head and WALLOP! the classic Silvery track. Extended somewhat with a key change at the end and a delicious guitar solo added, it had a long gestation period. Although you'll see it was still fully formed by the 2005 demo you can hear on that bad / fun video of us at the funfair on Youtube which was made a year later. Backed with 'The Squadron Leader' as our first bonafide non album B-side (we stopped doing them as it has become clear people don't actually listen to B-sides these days - hence two 14 track albums) the coupling outdid 'Horrors' in the Indie Chart and cracked the Top 20. Another good video too, but unfortunately led to a still ongoing phobia of video making.

Action Force Single number 3, and due to some creative tracklisting by the label, track number three on the album, 'Action Force' again dated back to 2002 or thereabouts, but with the guitar playing the piano part. Infact as the songs became more vaudeville, getting a keyboard player climbed higher and higher up the 'to do' list. I made a decent video too, collecting clips of old diesel locomotives, giving rise to my idea that any future Silvery DVD release will be called 'British Transport Films'. No idea if this charted as the label decided to withdraw the vinyl pressing so it didn't qualify. FFS. Before 'You Give A Little Love' and 'Two Halves Of The Same Boy', our biggest radio hit to date. Clue: repeat the chorus a lot and add handclaps. We did two BBC session versions of this (Radio 1 and 6Music) mainly to make use of the huge pianos that the BBC always had on hand.

A Penny Dreadful
An effort to write a song that was actually a song rather than exercise in cut up lyrical snippets, instrumental hooks and exciting drums like much of the material was before it, 'A Penny Dreadful' is probably the most successful song on the album. I'm not too keen on the recording, mind. Although I like the 'Ziggy Stardust' production, my voice was shot by that point. A good band performance. I'd have to say I wanted to start writing like that do due to certain bands leaking loads of demo sessions. They just didn't care what state of undress the songs were seen in. Although frustrating, I found that quite inspiring. So sure enough, 'A Penny Dreadful' was finished when I knew I could play it all the way through on an acoustic guitar without wincing. I remember the chorus came complete with lyrics and all in one go. That happens sometimes. Like 'Orders' too, which is basically the same riff moved up a couple of strings. One trick, innit? Lyrically, it is directly related to some of my earliest songs that celebrate the art of letter writing. A lost art form.

Warship Class
Curiously, and bar the slow metamorphosis of 'Horrors', the newest song on the album. Part of a 4 song demo I made naming each tune after an extinct diesel locomotive class, it is explained here. The instrumentation was pretty much in place on the demo, but it's fair to say the drums made it unstoppable. Notable live performance: Bath Moles Club, braining myself on the low ceiling during a big jump in the middle. I collapsed to the floor and had a twitching eye for the rest of the week.

Star Of The Sea
I love this song, which maybe why I never found this recording satisfying. The long instrumental section was grafted on from an older almost identical song called 'Peachy', and the noise outro can be traced right back to my earliest musical experiments. Each musician read something that meant something to them, each divided up into the stages of man - childhood home, education, adult home. That kind of thing. Bassist Joe made the mistake of saying his complete home address, which bizarrely among the cacophony, was plainly audible in the mix. Took a couple of goes to hide that.

Revolving Sleepy Signs
Together with 'Foreign Exchange' the oldest thing on the record, dated right back in almost identical form to the late 90s. I guess that happens doesn't it? Bowie was using stuff he wrote at the age of 16 well into the 80s. Actually, if I think about it - the outro is even older, lifted from a 'Chiquitita' rewrite I did called 'Marriage'. Funny what this musical archeology digs up isn't it? The solo comes from another song of similar vintage called 'Never Ever'. That was a good song. I seem to remember the chords to 'Revolving' were the same as 'Ashes To Ashes'. I might need to check that though. One of the songs crying out for an organ on it to replace and expand on the similar original guitar line, I think the best keyboard performance on the album.

Orders A smashing little song, and a super original demo. Indeed, that sped up guitar bit at the start is taken directly from the demo. As things like 'Devil' were written imagining what the 4th Suede single would've sounded like if they hadn't got lazy, this was an exercise in Glam era Sparks. Of course, it ended up more like Blur doing 'Captain Of The Pinafore', but hey. I remember it was originally written using the city as a metaphor for the human body and an open letter to whoever was the celebrity junkie of the day. It changed quite a bit, but was better for it. To be honest, at this time I learnt a great lesson. Where previous demos had been made using the same methods, the writing came on leaps and bounds once I started adding bass, keyboards and sampled drums to the demo recordings. Unfortunately, that way it doesn't give other people much room to expand the arrangements.

1994
A love song to a year? Surely not? '1994' became the title track of the great unreleased Silvery musical (I should find the original tracklisting from that so I can reconstructed it with the finished songs from both albums). The drums on the demo were sampled from 'Talent Is An Asset' by Sparks (any song with a drum intro was fair game for looping on a minidisc for demonstration purposes) and the feel was trying to be like Swimmer's first single 'Boxes' (yes, from 1994). There was a similar song called 'I Am A Writer' that was good too, but this tune had a funnier guitar solo, hence became the one we did live. Radio top chap Steve Lamacq caught us off guard when he said it was his favourite off the album when we were convinced he liked 'Action Force'. I had to beg that this wasn't a single in 2009 when dickhead Blur got back together. We went for the very non-Britpop 'Nishikado' instead and missed out on a support slot. FFS.

The Nishikado
Like 'Devil', this has a long gestation and became arguably the best Silvery song to date. Performed for years in its original verse / chorus form - I pushed and pushed for it to go up and up and get longer and longer (a trick learnt from the great unreleased song 'A Man Has Disappeared In The Sky' AKA 'Waterframe'). Indeed, it was the last song recorded for the record sometime after the main sessions had finished as the arrangement just wouldn't settle. Should maybe have left it to the 2nd album, but I get the feeling it wouldn't have got recorded. Also like the 'Devil' chorus, this one was a happy coincidence as I was demoing it at home. I had the chorus melody but then playing Bamboozle on Teletext, one of the questions was 'Who invented Space Invaders?' I didn't have a clue, but me having to go back to the start resulted in a great chorus lyric of 'Toshihiro Nishikado'. It fit perfectly. An excellent keyboard sound, echoing the brilliant sound on Belle & Sebastian's 'Lazy Line Painter Jane' but that didn't stop me from leaving the recording session under a cloud. The video was OK - made for tuppence in my Shoreditch pad with my friend Nick helping in the edit. As it was my first attempt, it's worth noting that the nightvision thing wasn't supposed to be on. This did really well on some Dutch chart. Top 5 as i recall.

Ghosts
Almost identical to the demo, I decided this needed to be on the album as I wanted to see if people from the future would actually appear. There will be Silvery CDs on Earth far longer than me, so it was worth a shot. The lovely xylophone outro is actually the same scary / funny notes I made up for the outro of the original 'That Which Is' demo from 2002. Funny how these things get recycled. Originally shared the name '...Of Ghosts And Spirits Walking By Night' with another song but became plain old 'Ghosts' when we started doing it live and the setlist was never wide enough to fit the name on.

Foreign Exchange & The Drilling Machine
The absolute oldest thing on here bar the 'Revolving' outro. A trip to a Foreign Exchange immortalised in song, although a slow rewrite (on and off over 10 years) made it more Silvery, and the addition of the outro (originally entitled 'Battle Bridge', or sometimes 'On The Racket') made it the centrepiece to Silvery live in 2007 - 2008. A fantastic BBC version was performed live to the nation on 6Music which I think I prefer to the album cut. Was also renamed several times over the years - 'Hero Apollo Man' and 'The Lady Vanishes' spring to mind - but settled on the original name in a flash of nostalgia.

That Which Is / That Which Is Not
Frantic and compressed, this was a perennial favourite on demos - I think 2 previous almost identical versions were cut, and early live renditions had a second guitar doing the keyboard riff. We were even called 'fairground' before we added a keyboard, which is amazing when you think about it. The first Silvery song to have a video made for it WAY BACK, featuring rehearsal footage and badly edited UFO stuff off a TV documentary. It was nice. Not only the first Silvery song to be issued on CD, when Clash magazine issued it ahead of the album in Summer '08, but the first Silvery song to be played on Radio 1 when Lamacq played one of the early demo versions back in '06. Even at that point I didn't think that sort happened anymore.

Animals Are Vanishing
Started out as a pastiche of 'Scary Monsters' era Bowie, a swift timing change and hey presto, some classic Victorian circus glam. We played it in early form without the outro for a while, but then while reading a book about the lost rivers of London I set their names to Pink Floyd's 'Astronomy Domine' - replacing the stars names with the far more mysterious lost underground rivers. Hence it became the tale of real life Victorian explorer Jonathan Hollingshead who searched for the sources of these rivers. As the end got longer and longer in the studio, it became clear that he wasn't going to re-emerge into the light and could still be down there. The perfect ending. Then of course, it became impossible to do it justice live and only rarely got an airing - usually when enough Ex Silverys were in the room to add to the choir at the end.

But of course, there is an epilogue with the hidden track 'The Ship's Cat', inspired by me finding an old ship's compass on the beach at Netley when I was little. Mix that with vague memories of a Bagpuss episode and there we are. we actually did that live a few times, most notably supporting David Devant & His Spirit Wife at that big venue in the N1 centre in Islington. A good chance for everyone at the bar to go to another bar in another venue. Again, great organing underneath it, making it positively Tim Burton.

There we are then. I should imagine I'll keep updating this and changing it slightly - adding more links to stuff. I might even add some sound clips. All in all, a really great record I think. Over long perhaps, rushed in places, but a perfect artifact of an excellent line up. And that is a classic bit of cover artwork by Mr Dirty Earthworm. I keep being asked what the title means. Well, if you have a flick through Viz from August '04, you'll find the answer. Thanks for reading.

RAILWAY ARCHITECTURE - Song By Song

2010's second album. I was going to do this as a little audio documentary, including demos and live recordings playing in the background, but lets face it - I'd never have gotten around to it. At least this saves me doing one of those terrible acoustic gigs with 20 minutes of waffle between each song. No one wants that. The Kev mentioned is of course Kev Feazey, former 5th Silvery, now promoted to 2nd Silvery. See also the 'Thunderer & Excelsior' song by song HERE. EDIT: I had a listen to this the other day and it's not half bad I tell you. Might give it another spin tonight too.

A Deconstruction Of Roles
From the same batch of tunes written summer 2003 that made up most of both albums - in fact the only reason this one didn't get on the first album was because it shared so many similar elements with 'Star Of The Sea'. That said, during the recording of this (which was more of an experiment to try an recreate the original 4-track demo - something I'd never done before) it became a superior tune, developing a classic SKA feel. A mechanical Can Can I hope. Hence the first Silvery tune to have brass on, and a fluke of bad keyboard playing got it even jauntier. With two thirds of the album yet to do, this was slated as the opener straight away. Having the sound of a diesel locomotive starting up was a statement of intent, contradicting the UFO landing noises opening the debut album. I think the second Silvery song to actually have a proper guitar solo. Rules are there to be broken, man. You'll still hear this on in Topshop occasionally.

Identity
Like 'Murder Holes', this came into its own when it was recorded as part of 'The Nishikado EP' in 2009, and instantly became a favourite - much better than the live version we'd been doing every now and again for years. The only misgiving was that it was missing the 'Railway Architecture' intro I gave it during the albums sessions. Briefly retitled 'The Terence Stamp'. The sort of name that screams 'interesting song'. But then hastily reverted to the original dull name to satisfy everyone as at some point we'd have to play it to our dads. The third track done for the EP, 'The Public Purse' was given a superior remix and finished for the album but didn't make the cut sadly. Will need to revisit that one at somepoint. Indeed, when the second album was still being considered a stop gap release featuring all the previous non album material, even 'Devil In The Detail' B-Side 'The Squadron Leader' was given a 'Railway Architecture' remix. That one wasn't so good though. Done live in a BBC session and included on an Artrocker compilation CD, curiously becoming one of the widest travelled Silvery songs.

Two Halves Of The Same BoyMuch like the similar vintage 'Deconstruction Of Roles', this was an exercise in recreating the original demo - same no frills drums, same glam rock guitar bits. Lovely. However, as the 2010 BBC recording shows, it really didn't work live which is why we never recorded it earlier. So, naturally, the album version became playlisted by the BBC for 5 weeks and the amount of Last.FM plays tells it's own tale. A great little tune, but FFS. Lyrically, exploring the Lucifer Sam 'he's the left side' sort of thing, it could possibly be added to the list of Silvery songs that celebrate Silvery - in this case a more melodic 'Murder Holes'. Silvery - the band that celebrates itself.

The Naked & The DeadTo be bracketed along with 'Devil In The Detail' as a veteran of Silvery 2002. Mothballed for about 6 years and recorded roughly during the first album session which is where most of this recording comes from. Add a disco chorus for a bit of variation, and BANG - a good song, but absolutely terrible choice for first single off the album. Hence a passable BBC session version exists, preserving the 2010 line up of the band. In fact it was only because it had a video made for it that that it was a single. The one single I regret. The video by the same team behind the 'Horrors' clip was OK, but ruined by me being in it. Named after a line from Jacques Brel's 'Next' rather than the Norman Mailer book.

Will Self (or, 'The Man Who Wasn't There')Another song that might have made the first album, but left over for the second. And again, recorded roughly during those sessions, but dusted down and finished off a couple of years later. Testament to Kev's motto 'I don't delete anything'. Puzzled and hurt somewhat that no one wanted to finish their parts, the decision was taken to do it properly with woodwind and brass. That was a session and a half I tell you. Doesn't quite hit the heights it should, but a good attempt. Like a 40 yarder hitting the crossbar. Not about Will Self the chap (bit of a stupid name then?) but the development of machinery and a man who spends his whole time invented stuff as a young man and by the time he's an old man he is spending his whole time preserving those same pieces of machinery he made as a young man. Or something like that.

The Quaire FellowThis was given it's own blog entry here. An excusion into power pop that became something else entirely. The middle 8 is easily the best thing on the album, with some great fluting. Almost 'War Of The Worlds' shit.

The NodAs Adam said in the previous blog, when this came about it was considered the dawn of the new Silvery. Flight of melody and camp of everything else. The same message as 'Orders' (which, curiously, followed it on the 2003 demo reel) - a wake up call for lazybones everywhere, make something of yourself blah blah blah. And yes, I did realise almost straight away it was my subconscious telling me that. The development of the song can be traced back to various older demos - namely 'Adventure Band' and 'Footsoldier'. A great little song which we didn't even consider for the first album, but decided to record it as a fresh B side for the Action Force single (up there with Horrors / Orders as the best vinyl coupling Silvery ever did) the results were considered so good we made it the double A side as a preview for the second album which would've come out a few months later if it all went to plan. Which it didn't. Still ended up on the second album despite its age by virtue of the best bit of Radio play the band got - Radio 2's Mark Lamar playing it to Sparks and them being dumbfounded. Skillz.

Sparks & Fire
Another ancient tune, famous enough to give its name to our first website. Recorded along with Ropes & Sails as B-sides from the album sessions, I liked the results enough to keep them on the album. The drums were made to sound as artificial as possible to match the toy like feel we'd gone for on other tracks. There is a brief bit of a Thomas Hardy poem in the middle bit, and the song was reborn as a prayer to navvies and tunnel diggers rather than an exploration into the Hollow Earth as it was first written. Believe it or not, it used to lead (via 'Ropes & Sails') into 'In Insects' as a live medley musical. More about that later. The second verse was replaced by an instrumental passage very early on when I realised at one gig that it was utter shite and did a wonky guitar solo instead. That later developed into a brief passage to allow the band a chance to body pop. Badly.

Ropes & SailsSlightly older than 'Sparks & Fire', I prefer this part of the medley much more. The first Silvery instrumental (if you ignore the singing fragments) which I remember actually demoing the afternoon of the 9/11 attacks. That was fucking ages ago. I guess testament to the quality of material that came later. Very early on the two songs became 'segued' and stayed like that on the album.

An Account Of The Raising Of A Spirit
Not much more I can say about this. We had to stop adding things to it as it was getting too stupid. I mean, we're not a joke band. Oh. One of my favourite memories of doing this one is Kev asking 'What do you mean, TAP DANCERS??'. Lord knows what I'd suggested. Former Silvery Dave adds a super Uke part (we couldn't find an accordion) as he did to the album version of the Bugsy Malone cover. I think another song that was the result of a BBC London Robert Elms phone in.

The 'In Insects' JerkAnyway - this was another mothballed tune from 2002 ish and was the part in the Silvery Hollow Earth musical when the explorers (Victorian, or course) come across a race of industrious insects. In fact the explorers might have been Pirates. I can't remember. Like 'Sparks & Fire' it was quite easy to rewrite to fit the 'Railway Architecture' concept - something about the simplest things (insects) being like the most complicated things (machines). Something like that. Hence sonically the nadir of the Silvery mechanical clockwork thing. A hoedown that became a jerk. I like this one live, a much more satisfying 2 minutes that speeds up to ridiculous levels at the end. Again, another 'Railway Architecture' tune to have been debuted in a live BBC session.

The Murder Holes Are About YouOn the album by virtue of the excellent oompah chorus. The Murder Hole became a dance craze if you were in Silvery in 2005. A murder hole is actually part of a castles defence through which nasty things are dropped on the invading hoardes. Quite an angry song, somewhat watered down by the Medieval imagery. Always worked better slower -as it was designed- to let those oompah bits to really kick in, but of course also a lot of fun to rip through? A decent enough recording, but like the next song, good reason for it to be hidden at the end.

You Give A Little LoveI love doing this live, but never listen to this version. Recorded the same weekend as 'The Nod', Kev had his work cut out for him. Should've done 'Seasick' as the climax to the album instead but just ran out of time and patience. Obviously, having a million selling Christmas Number One on the album made commercial sense. Rolls eyes. 'Seasick' will have to wait until album 3.

Hook Woods
A toss up between this and a tune called 'The Round Tail' to finish the album. This won out primarily because it was the total opposite of the last song on the first album. A sad reflection rather than an apocalyptic Wagner-eque onslaught. Originally it had a little music box at the start - one of several things cut from the finished album which really really irked me. Still does. I'd like to have redone the original rough vocal to this, but we deemed it good enough to keep - I don't like that breathy sound. In keeping with Michael Stipe's decision not to explain song meanings, this is not for all the ladeez out there, but infact about my old dog who loved those woods.

So, In all, a bittersweet album for me. Better than the sum of its parts, but I'll always see it as an album that should be so much better than it is - not material wise, not performance wise, just as a whole. The more I think about it, the sadder it makes me when I recall being left so totally high and dry.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

OVER TO OUR 2002 CORRESPONDENT

Editor's note: Adam Barnes was an old school pal who was part of my bandular experiments through University and eventual Pete N Carl adventures in Islington as Britpop died around us. I say died, by this point it was positively putrid. Previous incarnations included some fantastic names - namely THEME and SCISSORS (more of them here soon) and few gigs. Infact no gigs. Little changes, innit? In fact, most of our lack-of-bassist-gig-cancelations would've been solved if we realised then that guitarist Barnes should switch to bass and be done with. So a couple of years of floundering and pissing about with very hard Scottish landlords leads us to...

'SILVERY AND MY PART IN THEIR DOWNFALL' by Barnesy (Electric bass and quizical eyebrow 2001 - 2003)


Glam plus ska racket
Many stops remain awkward
Flyers did their job

(Silvery haiku)

And so the story begins…
In truth, I can’t remember the precise reason for joining Silvery. The band was pitched to me, and this was confirmed by the initial demo, as a primarily glam band with ska bits, a smattering of Sparks and heavy on the Victoriana imagery. Couple this with curious name, which wasn’t a plural noun as was the vogue at the time, and the foundations were shaky.

Add a 4 hour round trip to each rehearsal or gig into the bargain and the fact I didn’t own a bass or requisite amplifier and it makes no sense to this day. Still, these were lean times. The great bass player famine of 2001 had hit the capital hard and we all had a duty to do our bit.
I’d like to attribute it as a favour to a mate or something of that ilk. But even that somehow doesn’t go far enough.

So, I understood the concept of root notes, octaves and playing something irrelevant to the song and this proved to be more than sufficient for Silvery purposes. Turned out that my initial inauguration was to end with a gig to be broadcast on local radio. 8 songs, 2 weeks to learn ‘em and one rehearsal with 2 unknown quantities of band members I had never met. Things were looking up.

To be fair, the less said about my debut Silvery gig, the better. First on the bill and below a Coldplay (circa 2002) covers band. Debut gigs don’t come much worse. Christ alive. The gig was a right howler from my perspective. I think I bumbled through Revolving with dignity intact but that was all. Suffice to say, I never forgot to pack colour co ordinated shoes for a gig ever again. In my defence, the gig was a charitable one. Alas, we were not considered to qualify for any funding.

By rights, there should have endeth my tenure. But it did not. The reason for this remains a mystery to this day. Gigs followed thick and fast. An intense rehearsal regime of once a fortnight and at weekends ensued. This would surely have been too much for all but the hardiest of rock n roll marines.

Irregular rehearsals took place at Backstreet Studios in Holloway (don’t look for it, it’s not there now) on the basis that Orman had once heard a rumour that Suede used it and David Devant & his Spirit Wife had been confirmed as using it. Relatively inexpensive to use, an amusing guy on the front desk and an manly odour of mould, honest sweat and 1000 cigarettes per hour burning in each room sealed this as the Silvery HQ.

No gig was considered to be too small or unalluring. The darling of early manhood – the Camden toilet circuit was stormed and fell. The Bull & Gate. Check. Too much scholarly ink has been spilt on the whole flowers incident and I do not propose to repeat it here. Suffice to say we rocked like “a dog on a stick” England 5 Germany 1. Stick it to the Bosh only to return to the scene of the victory to face posters featuring Howard on stage.

The Hope & Anchor Islington. A gig worthy of recall. A coach load of Scousers had descended upon the big smoke for a day to celebrate a birthday and a gig at the H&A. These kindly merchants kindly donated their second billing to a much worthier cause only to turn out to be a second rate Robbie Williams tribute act (the cunts) whose musicianship and showmanship is charitably described as ill foundedly confident. The ghost of the early Jam had surely taken it’s queue to bugger off up the Postman for a quiet pint.

They left, we took the stage and they took the audience. We proceeded to win over the remaining bar staff with a storming drunken set included a never to be repeated back to back rendition of the mighty “Toads” One without keys and one with. Great gig, great photos. We were on our way. (I think you've confused two H&A gigs here Barnes - my birthday one with the Scousers was rammed - the first one supporting McFly was the empty one. Ed.)

The Dublin Castle Gig begins in my recall as any gig should. Crap sound check, token argument with sound guy, knowing sneers directed at other bands followed by a swift exit and pints at another pub down the road. This time out enabled frenzied set list writing, repetition of forgotten chord sequences and flyer distribution. Your basic format which can only be learned and perfected through hard graft. This is an art form , a ritual, akin to the Japanese tea ceremony. A thing of great beauty. The greatest oversized Victoriana flyer in the history of rock were proferred up to the great unwashed by Muzz on account of his being the handsomest silvery. Ice to the Eskimos? I do believe that we actually left the high street with more flyers than we started with. The obvious solution left flyers for the night gig evenly distributed between post boxes, pub tables from the high street to the Castle, forming an alluring Hanzel and Greteleseque trail right to the stage. Hearty promotional groundwork that remains unrewarded to this day. That went well then. Today, if you look closely, and have luck, maybe you will find one of the several. The discounted door price is unlikely to still be good, but Silvery are likely to be playing.

We returned to venue and argued with sound man again. A thin skinned gent who took exception to being told how to do his job. Surely this was his job? If not, he would be on stage or just fuck off right? Instructions on leaving the vox low in the mix were simple, lucidly explained and promptly ignored. An amateur error on his part, this was easily over come by Orman cranking the guitar amp slightly between after and during each song combined with standing farther away from the mic and whispering. Surprised we did over 10 minutes there.

Devils, soon to be lyricised and christened Devil in the Detail was debuted this night. No issue with such a cretinuos mix given the camp vocals. The chord progression, unlearnt by myself had been addressed with a chanting all the way down the high street and had cemented. Still got the recording of that. Tight as fucking arseholes mate. Deemed only fitting to close the set the RFTC influence was not entirely becoming or representative of the bands sound at this time. Still, the released version of it contains the bass line (i.e. bass notes) virtually undisturbed from this rendition but without the greatness of the bass on the ska bit. And what on earth is that key change about? That was never meant to be there. Actually, most of the songs from the official release debut record were in place in my day, in varying stages of completeness. And most of the second album. What we lacked in polish and keyboards was made up for with rawness and a lack of keyboards.

Songs appeared with an alarming regularity. Always fresh, never to be repeated (but often reworked) and not always working. The songs were fresh at this point which always helps. Ok so I could only make rehearsal once a fortnight but this was no issue. Rehearse the hell out of it on Sunday and it would be in the set the next Saturday night. No one listens to the bass anyhow. Salad days. A demo cd completed by Orman in the summer was presented - dubbed “Theme: The Musical” contained a batch of songs which would also make the cut for these records. The demo was produced over a 2 week period during the annual Orman summer holiday where he locked himself in a room with a 4 track tape machine. “The Nod” as I recall was worth the last 2 summers work alone at the time. “1994” and “Two Halves Of The Same Boy” also came from these sessions.

Most of the surviving recording from this time were simply done at Backstreet. There was one session at a recording studio, which is probably the reason we continued to do things ourselves.
The plan was simple. Record as many songs as possible as quickly and as cheaply as possible. I suspect that this theory gained credence as a knee jerk reaction to the infamous Hoxton incident of 1997 but that is another story. As an ethos, lo fidelity became us.

A studio in a non distinct seedy area of London (of which there are no shortage) was booked for an ambitious 4 hour slot on a week day evening. Much cheapness. £100 is the figure that springs to mind which in today’s money equates to about £100 give or take. As ever, my contribution/responsibility was to leave work early, jump on a train trust plank in tow and be prepared for the worst. Oh and chip in despite being mugged for the ever increasing train fare.
The mostly German sound engineering contingent seemed less interested in gaining valuable work experience than setting the studio record for the most bodies in the control room. This was not our concern, although their lack of English soon became just that.
The drums were set up in record time and the record button was pressed. We continued to play uninterrupted for the best part of the 4 hours.

The genius of this plan was in its simplicity. The money was spent, nay invested, in a none too lavish live ish recording, primarily to get a decent drum sound. Words and additional squelchy noises were to be added onto this via James' 4 track at his leisure. Simple in theory.
And we played a blinder. With no singing to put the band off, several versions of a few songs were committed to tape.

What had been forgotten in the excitement and became clear and the kit was being packed away and the fruits of the session played back through the monitors was that the intense compression remained in place rendering the sound not unlike a toy drum kit.

Never a band to be put off by such trivial adversity, the demo process went full steam ahead. Not a sterling success in terms of the outcome but more a process. That’s lo-fi innit?
I still have copies of a few of these kicking around today. The songs are solid, the production not so much. They do retain a certain charm and yet another reminder that in this life, you get what you pay for.

Personal faves from my tenure which have as yet to rear their heads was an instrumental surf/ska instrumental ditty called 'The Hollow Earth'. This had been rehearsed up but never played live with our line up. I suspect it was considered a through away ditty not worthy of further consideration but contained a kick ass ska bit and riff and the juxtaposed parts worked well together. (Yep - a cool song. Nostalgia Ed.) 'Uncatchables' is worthy of mention too. A stalwart of those early gigs, present and correction the first demo tape the song is a strong contender for best ending of all time. Album number 3 is being recorded whilst I write. You never know if any of these may make the cut yet.

If I learned anything from my time in Silvery, surely it was this: record everything. No matter how poorly played or recorded. And maybe make some contacts - that would have helped. Still, we knew better than that at the time. If we could have done anything different, it would have been parting with a few quid and getting a decent demo out. Scratch that, that was what it was all about. The lo-fi ethic. Not for want of any artistic statement so much as being tight for the sake of it. More photos would have been a good thing though...

That's quite enough of that. Back to the studio for sport.