Tuesday 20th December 2005 -- 7:00 pm
Such a long time since the last diary entry. Why? Well...partly an insane Christmas preparation schedule and partly the November tour dates. Five concerts in all...Not the 15 to 20 that were originally rumoured. A real disappointment that it ended up being so few after all the effort I put into preparing new material and video for the shows. (I'll draw a discreet veil over the reason for this.) Nevertheless, it was far from disastrous, despite a gremlin-infested first date.
Here's my take on the tour, for what it's worth: The concerts I enjoyed the most (and thought musically the best), were the Bilston Robin 2 concert followed by the Manchester Life Cafe event. Enthusiastic and warm audiences at both, particularly at The Robin 2. And, surprise, surprise...more females in the audience than I'd seen for a while. Thank heavens that a set comprised of mainly instrumental guitar pieces had enough of a hint of, (ahem), the 'erotic,' to attract at least a few attractive ladies to say "hello" afterwards. As much as I enjoy talking to male fans about guitars and so on, female input is most welcome!
Leeds and Liverpool tied for second place but London, I have to admit, was something of a struggle. It also was the first date of the tour but really should have been left until last. So many technical problems on stage that first night. A monitor system that sounded like it was infested with insects, a pa system without enough headroom, effects pedals that didn't work and a cock-up over projection screen hire. Plus a very nervous Bill Nelson, still trying to get to grips with the new set and the malfunctioning equipment.
One good thing about the London show, though, was the contribution made by Theo Travis, whom I'd met for the first time at Harold Budd's concert at the Brighton Dome earlier this year. Theo played fabulously, completely unfazed by the monitoring problems. I'm glad that there was someone up there with me who actually knew what he was doing. I did end up feeling quite depressed about that particular concert though. Really wished I'd not agreed to make it the first date on the tour.
Just as the tour came to a close, I was finally starting to relax and get the measure of things, playing much better and getting to use more suitable, better quality pa systems. Given more concerts, I suspect that it would have gone from strength to strength. Unfortunately, after concert five, it was time to pack the gear away for at least another year.
Video projection duties on these shows were shared by Paul Gilby and also superfan Ian Clarke who, gallantly and efficiently, stepped in at the last minute to take over the shows that Paul wasn't able to do. When I perform these solo concerts, the video back drops are an essential part of the presentation. Psychologically, they help me to feel that I'm not entirely alone up there. (I like to think that I'm not the only point of visual focus for the audience.) Plus, of course, the videos provide a suitable counterpoint to the music, each piece being created to reflect the content of the songs.
I do get stressed out about playing live without a band though. The solo concerts put a lot of pressure on one person playing alone for just over a couple of hours, especially as I'm not the most natural of performers...It's always a bit of an ordeal for me. One of these days, I'll retire back to the studio environment, as I did in the mid-'80s, and leave the live thing alone.
The new thing about these concerts however, was the inclusion of some vocal pieces, something that I'd previously only felt comfortable performing within a band situation. But singing and playing guitar to backing tracks wasn't quite as traumatic as I'd expected. In fact, from what members of the audience told me afterwards, it seemed to provide a surprisingly workable solution and it is certainly something I'd consider including again in future solo shows.
Already though, those November concerts are fading into memory. Other projects are already occupying my time and more are hovering on the horizon. I've been trying to read through the as yet unpublished 'Music In Dreamland' book, written by Paul Sutton-Reeves. Just before the tour began, I received a proof of the book (in email form), for me to read through. I'm told by the author that approximately 30,000 words may have been trimmed by the publisher from the original text, so it is important that we check for continuity errors as well as factual ones.
Because of the tour and other duties, time has only now become available to work through the book. Nevertheless, I'm finding that, because of Christmas, I'm not as readily available as I'd like to be. I have spotted various things that might be corrected, (as has Paul), but there's a certain amount of pressure on us both to get the book corrected and out there...particularly as it has languished in the publisher's office for over a year since the author completed it. As of writing this diary entry, I haven't had available time to deal with it for several days. In fact, I've really only scratched the surface. I'm hoping that there will be more time after Christmas to give it proper attention. I would really like to do whatever I can to check any factual errors or misunderstandings but I expect that a certain amount of compromise will be necessary. Other projects looming on the horizon:
1: I have to mix the Be Bop Deluxe 'Decca Audition' tapes for release as an album.
2: Negotiations are underway for me to produce another recording by the Russian band 'Nautilus Pompilius' who are now known as 'Jupiter.' This may happen in February.
3: I would like to assemble a new guitar instrumental album based on the live pieces that I've incorporated into my solo shows this last two years and which have previously not been available. This means recording my solo guitar onto the various backing tracks and properly mixing everything to create a finished album of instrumentals. The album will include tracks such as 'Blackpool Pleasure Beach and The Road To Enlightenment,' 'Time Travel For Beginners,' 'Blue Amorini,' 'Sexy Buddha,' 'Electric Milk Cart Blues,' I Always Knew You would Find Me,' and 'A Telescope Full Of Stars' amongst others. They will become part of an album with the subtitle: 'Painting With Guitars, Volume 2.'
4: I intend to go through some of my '80's and '90's archive material and release an album of previously unheard music from those eras. There is a tremendous reserve of material from the past that would definitely be of interest to the committed listener.
5: I have already made a (very) slight inroad into what will eventually emerge as an autobiographic/poetic video about my life, told via images, dialogue and music. I hope to find enough time during this coming year to complete a larger section of it.
6: Nelsonica 06 requires planning. I'd like to take the current high standard a little higher this coming year. Research a new venue and add even more to the curriculum. I also need to create a new Nelsonica limited edition album for convention attendees. This one will most likely include the songs 'Snow Is Falling' and 'Ghost Show,' amongst others.
7: I'm burning to begin work on a brand new album. The bar has been raised by the 'Sailor Bill' project and the next step must be equally, if not more, important. This means working very carefully and abandoning anything that doesn't hit the target. A time consuming process. Right now, I'm favouring something a little more stripped down than the orchestral 'Sailor Bill,' BUT until I get to grips with the writing, it's hard to say which way things will go. Titles and mood are already falling into place though.
8: I need to consider what form any live concerts may take in 2006. I have some ambitious ideas but, whether they are practical or not will depend on the support I get from fans and business associates alike. One possibility is that they won't be in the form of a trek around the country's arts centres. I may attempt just two shows, one North, one South, but with a much more ambitious production than this year's concerts, and covering a great deal more musical ground than of late. Something really special is what I'm aiming at. It may be that I need to schedule this for '07 rather than '06, simply to get everything properly in place. But at my time of life, I can't afford to be cautious. Cocteau said that 'A young man should not make safe investments...' Well... I might add that an older man cannot afford to make safe investments! Time is of the essence as my youth is increasingly far behind me now.
Speaking of which, it was heart warming to receive so many good wishes from fans on my recent 57th birthday. Frightening to think that, in a mere three years, I will be sixty. However, in my age-addled head, I'm still a seventeen year old. (O.K...twenty three at a push!)
One really exciting bit of news is a connection that has been forged between myself and an American guitar designer by the name of Dean Campbell. I recently came across a Campbell 'Precix' guitar in Music Ground's store in Leeds and was knocked out by the instrument's sheer playability. It's a solid body guitar, hand made in New England, U.S.A. and is a very practical but high quality instrument. Dean Campbell's workshop is staffed by luthiers who have, in the past, worked for Guild guitars. I've had a Guild X500 archtop guitar since the '70's so I know just how skilled those people are. Dean and I have been in contact these last few weeks and he is building me a Precix model, tailored to my needs. The really exciting thing is that we are going to bat ideas back and forth about a brand new design that Dean has on the drawing board. He's asked for my input as to the ongoing development of the instrument and I'm thrilled to be able to add my thoughts to the project as it develops. The Precix model that I've been trying out, (and am keeping well within inspirational playing distance, an arm's reach from me as I type these words), has an action and response that really makes me want to play. It's one of those guitars that is difficult to put down, once picked up. I'm looking forward to using this instrument on my next set of recordings as it has a precision, resonance and clarity that is very special. For readers of this diary who are also guitarists, I recommend that you check out Dean's website at www.campbellamerican.com
Well, there is probably much more to write...but I really seem to have exhausted my reservoir of memory for this particular diary entry. Life has been a blur of late and every day rushes by without enough hours in it to fulfil my intentions. For now, this will have to suffice.
To all those who read these words, I wish you the HAPPIEST CHRISTMAS and a PEACEFUL AND HEALTHY 2006! May all your dreams come true... Thanks also to everyone who has given their time, their talent and their interest throughout 2005...Thank you so much for helping me to manifest my dreams. I'm eternally grateful and couldn't achieve any of this without you...At the start of 2005, there was a brand new website to design and construct. Then four new albums to create, plus the Nelsonica convention extravaganza and a solo concert tour. (And a few other bits and pieces.)
Let's see what next year brings. Cheers!!!