Archive for the ‘singing’ Category

Changing Tune

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Occasionally (today) I get a running order for a show I have submitted material to and I am happy to report my get-rich-incredibly-slowly scheme is taking effect. I really want to spend what time I can spare on shows writing topical sketches but they are always calling for songs as a matter of priority so that’s what tends to get the bulk of my effort.

The thing is, as possibly Elton John and maybe Kiki Dee once sang, ‘I got the music in me’, having spent much of childhood sitting under a small grand piano watching my Dad’s feet operating the pedals and putting the brakes on poor old Beethoven.

If I force myself to recall, the only real form of entertainment, after weak teacher baiting during some dark school years, was changing the words to the hymns at mass from things like ‘Oh God, our help in ages past’ to ‘Oh God, Oh help, don’t make this last’. The problem was always how to avoid being caught sniggering by the slightly Nazi order of brethren who ran the place, but I now consider it was a pretty good grounding in the sweet (and I would argue, God-ordained, or we may as well all give up now) art of parody.

To me it seems a perfectly natural thing anyone can do but perhaps not. Can you hear alternative lyrics to well known songs? When G W Bush was in office I heard the Beach Boys singing Barbara Ann and thought, ‘That sounds a lot like ‘bomb Iran”. A quick scribble later and the thing almost wrote itself and was sold.

I suppose it is an advantage to have visited a theatre at least once in your life to get a feel of what is and what is not possible on a stage but do give it a go if only so that I can crack on with them there sketches.



March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

A few years ago, on my first ever trip to the USA to visit my bro in Brooklyn, I made a point of seeking out some ‘real deal’ gospel music as I’m a big fan of its raw energy and not least, the Message underpinning that energy.  Also, for reasons I don’t fully understand but possibly to do with various personal struggles, I feel a certain empathy with what’s generally referred to as “black history”.  Being from a middle class rural English background that might seem a bit odd to some but meh, as my kids say.

2008 ish. It’s a sunny March Sunday morning in the ubiquitously brown-painted Brooklyn streets, freezing cold and I’m jet-lagged, looking for a place to experience church USA-style.  I ask an old lady outside the Brown (obviously) Memorial Baptist Church what time their service is and it’s in half an hour.  Did I want to come on in Sir?  Sir. Wow! That’s new.

We go inside an architectural classic with upper balcony and the bespectacled Lily tells me I’m welcome and asks where I’m from. All the while the place is starting to fill up with these beautifully, fearsomely, immaculately turned-out women in crimped, feathered hats and smiling guys in suits and glinting cufflinks.

Fifteen minutes later there are a few hundred or so souls in the place and it’s surely only a matter of seconds before Whoopi Goldberg comes in to sit behind me.  Here, suddenly, is one drawn-looking Anglo-Saxon among a sea of colour, being welcomed by all those around as though I’m just another guy, which … I am. But this is the USA anyway and nobody here has that British reserve, reserved specially for “the outsider” do they?

There is a tradition in most churches, to acknowledge visitors, so it is a little strange to be asked to “Stand up if y’all a visitor here today, we all wanna welcome you to God’s house”.  I oblige in a pathetic attempt to not be noticed too much. I mean, isn’t it a little bit obvious as I am the only white face in here?  And then a realisation.  God, seriously!  This country really is still segregated isn’t it?  In London there would be at least a few other white or other ethnic faces.  I hope this is a one-off Sunday but suspect not.

Then, oh Glory! The music strikes up.  I swear, I’ve never seen a keyboard player before who was actually as wide as the keyboard and whose giant, fat hands are as nimble as those of a seamstress.  In the past I’ve devoured ‘The Color Purple’, Alex Haley’s ‘Roots’, Mississippi Burning and anything to do with injustice.  Now, I’m tired, far from home, hearing my favourite music and being reminded of a special time being sung to in full Dolby surround sound by an exuberant crowd in Rwanda.  Where, oh where did you get a chord sequence like that from people?  One more button gets pressed and I will end up looking very daft indeed attempting something I’ve never done in my life – dancing.  (I’ve always maintained that I’m more than capable of making an idiot of myself;  I just don’t feel compelled to do it to music.)

The preaching begins; slowly and deliberately structured, by a sober and wise man. But you just know that tone is going to rise to a crescendo of Hallelujahs and sure enough, ten minutes in as he is yelling, “I want someone to say Amen-uh and walk down the red carpet with me-yuh. Who’s gonna walk down the red carpet with me-yuh?”  Lily turns round to me to smile proudly saying, “That’s my pastor… he wants someone to walk down the red carpet with him”.

“I know!” I nod enthusiastically.

Fast forward to 2012 and a boy called Trayvon is, on the face of it, murdered for being black. It happens too often everywhere.  Chances are if you are reading this, you’re not likely to be a gun-wielding, racist vigilante, but in case you are… whatever your skin tone, you were never designed to handle a gun so you probably won’t be able to handle the consequences of using one.  It has to stop.  If you want to protect your community, start singing.  Dance if you want. I’ll even join you if it means saving a life!

Christmas Angel charity single

October 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Okay, I admit it, I like this song.  Mainly because I wrote it but also because it’s probably going to be as annoying as Slade and Wizzard every year from now judging by the response so far,  but it will be raising funds for clean water projects.  So please buy it all ye post-modern closet cheese-lovers.

Only 79p to help stop some kid being raped when going to fetch water from the local stagnant pond?  And in return I get an irritating-because-I’m-an-atheist-though-actually-damn-you-likeable song?   Yep.

Thank you. Merry C…an’t say it yet.

Buy on iTunes

Buy on Amazon mp3

And we’re back

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Okay, time to crank up the word thing again.  I’ve been a busy boy writing this year’s no. 1 Christmas hit single, specially created to drive people insane. We’re recording it this coming Saturday and boy, I’ll be glad when it’s ‘in the can’!

There are so many stories attached to it. It started a few years back when I heard someone on radio say, “If you manage to write a Christmas hit single, you’re made for life” and I thought “Yeah, I can do that and I’ve no pension so why not?”  Wrote the thing, liked it, teenage kids hated it … so it must be good!  Others thought so too and the upshot is, we’re going to do it as a charity fundraiser.

I hadn’t appreciated though, that just writing a song is not enough. I’d assumed I’d play it to someone and they’d do all the rest. How wrong I was. Birthing involves parenting, I now realise.

” Does the solo need to be swung or straight?”

“At bar forty-eight, is that supposed to be an A flat?”

“I don’t know, maybe, I can’t notate music… I only made it up … it’s just what the computer printed off.. why is everyone asking me questions I can’t answer?  Waaah!”

It’s a beautiful contrast to the world of writing that people want to run with what you put in front of them.  It’ll be even more beautiful if it does raise some money for clean water in developing countries too.  I can only think as far as getting a decent take done on Saturday but…