Sunday 2nd July 2006 -- 11:00 am
THE TOKYO CAPER: PART THREE.
As previously mentioned, our trip to Japan was dominated by an intense schedule of meetings, mostly connected with Emi's family obligations and with her friends. Her diary was crammed with appointments throughout each day and we hardly had a moment to ourselves. These meetings were sometimes difficult for me as, due to my small grasp of Japanese, I couldn't really join in the various conversations and so had to politely sit there smiling, offering an occasional "Domo Arigato" when someone would re-fill my beer glass. I did, however, appreciate that this was a rare and important opportunity for Emi to meet up with her old friends and I felt content to just sit on the side-lines and allow her as much time and space as she needed to talk with them. She bought a mobile 'phone as soon as we got to Tokyo, (at under 20 pounds it was actually cheaper than renting one,) and within a few hours had set up a network of connections. We were deluged with invitations, so much so that we couldn't fit them all in to our 12 day schedule so some meetings had to be politely declined.
Of course, one of the most important reasons for our trip was for Emi to see her mother and two brothers. She hadn't seen them for three years, the last time being when her father died. Emi's mother is in her eighties now and looks frail although her health is reasonable at the moment. She was, naturally, extremely pleased to see Emi. Emi's family have always been very good to me and they all made me feel very welcome.
Food and eating plays a central role in Japanese family and social life so there was lots of sitting around tables sampling various delicacies and much uttering of the word 'Oishi', which means 'delicious.' I do enjoy a lot of Japanese food but there are a few things that don't particularly appeal to me. These tend to be things of the glutinous variety, certain sweet things and, whilst I'm a firm lover of seafood, I'm not a fan of the eel-like fish that are sometimes served up and which Emi adores. Not because of their flavour, but because of the tiny bones one must encounter whilst eating them. Good wine tends to be very expensive in Japan and cheap wine is, to western tastes at least, almost unpalatable so I contented myself with Japanese beer which was very clean and refreshing, particularly with all the heat and humidity that we encountered.
Every day required us to do a fair amount of walking and also to take train rides on the busy Tokyo local railways and subway systems. At rush hour, these trains are crammed full of commuters. It's amazing how many people are compacted into each carriage, squashed up together like sardines in a tin. It can be a little disturbing to the unwary 'gaijin' such as myself. I'm sure that, in this country, such intense overcrowding would break all safety regulations but no-one seems to think anything of it over there. There's even uniformed, white gloved platform staff who help push people through the doors, squeezing as many of them into the trains as possible. This makes for some rather intimate physical encounters between the passengers. For a still red-blooded male like myself, it can provide one with a pleasant few minutes of travel if one is lucky enough to be crushed up against an attractive Japanese lady or two. (And yes, I really should feel guilty about admitting that!) Less so if it happens to be a halitosis stricken Japanese businessman bearing down upon you.
But my, oh, my...aren't the girls out there skinny? It's kind of worrying. Many give the appearance of being virtually anorexic. There seems to be a widespread obsession with being super-thin. I get the impression that this is connected more to fashion's dictates than anything else. One of the first things I noticed upon returning to the U.K. was that women here have dangerous curves and full breasts. Of course, these variations and sexual preferences are cultural inheritances as much as anything else, 'though it seems that many Japanese men hanker after a more 'meaty' physicality and fantasise about western women quite a lot. But then, we English men often find the Japanese female face and form beguiling, so maybe it's our perception of 'difference as exotic' that makes the grass appear greener on the other side of the fence. Oh dear, I fear I'm beginning to sound like a stereotypical, old-school, un-reconstructed, politically incorrect male here, (or one of those cartoon randy old-goats of the Leslie Phillips variety...) Perhaps I should change the subject!
Not all of our time in Tokyo was given over to Emi's busy schedule. I was allowed a couple of indulgences of my own. One of these was to accept an invitation to visit the Terada guitar factory in Nagoya, which is a two hour train ride from Tokyo on the super-fast Shinkansen train. We were met at Nagoya station by one of the factory's executive staff, Mr. 'Chet' Nakagawa who turned out to be a lovely guy. Chet treat us to lunch at a small restaurant that served one of Emi's favourite Japanese dishes, 'Unagi', (The eel-like fish I mentioned earlier.) She was very pleased to have an opportunity to eat this. I ate some very good Sahshimi, (raw fish), washed down with Japanese beer. Chet then drove us to the guitar factory.
The Terada factory makes guitars for Gretsch, (which is how I came by my invitation), but they also build guitars for D'Angelico, D'Aquisto and several other companies. They seem to specialise in building archtop style guitars. It began as a family business in 1915 when the company made violins and it is still a family run business today.
The tour of the factory that we were given was fascinating. I'd expected something very high-tech and modern but was surprised to find a series of quite modest, semi-dilapidated buildings that looked as if they were at least 50 years old. Each building dealt with different stages of a guitar's construction, from stacked piles of raw wood to beautifully finished, shiny instruments. The craftsmen building them are mostly young guys, all with university degrees in guitar-making. Everyone who works there is a guitar player too and they take a tremendous pride in the high quality instruments that they create. I was impressed by the obsessive attention to detail and obvious care that went into each guitar.
I also was introduced to Mr.Terada who runs the factory. Terada-San was very gracious and told me a little of the company's history. He also let me in on some new work the factory is planning to undertake but that's to be kept under my hat.
Unfortunately, I didn't take any still photo's of the work being done there but I did manage to shoot some camcorder footage which I hope to incorporate into a little documentary video about my Japanese trip which, all being well, I'll screen at this year's Nelsonica Convention.
After the factory visit, Mr. Chet Nakagawa became our tour guide and generously took us to see the impressive Nagoya Castle which looked like something from the animated film, 'Spirited Away.' He kindly took a photo of Emi and I standing in front of the castle, (which I've attached to this diary entry). Afterwards, he drove us back to Nagoya station for our two hour trip back to Tokyo on the bullet train. We invited him to look us up if he should visit England in the future. We'd be very happy to put him up and show him the beauty of Yorkshire's moors and coastline. A very nice, warm man.
Another guitar related event on our busy schedule was my interview and photo session for 'Player Magazine.' As mentioned in an earlier diary entry, I wasn't expecting anything more than a brief interview and therefore hadn't prepared clothes for a photo' session but, as the magazine said they wanted to create a six-page feature about me and my guitar collection, it seemed churlish to complain.
The photo session and interview was held in a professional photographic studio in Tokyo. No-one complained when I kept my dark glasses on, so I was reasonably happy. Actually, from what I've seen of the polaroid roughs, taken as the shoot was being set up, the end results shouldn't be too bad at all. But I genuinely do dislike being photographed these days. I much prefer being behind the camera, rather than in front of it.
Another enjoyable part of our trip was the evening when we had dinner with my good friend Nick James and his wife Yoko. Nick has, astonishingly, been living in Tokyo for 17 years now. He originally hails from Selby in Yorkshire, which is where we first met. He was a young guy trying to get into the music industry at that time, his main interest being in studio engineering. But Nick is also a fine musician who plays keyboards and, in recent years, some guitar too. He owns a beautiful Martin acoustic which I envy.
Nick and I have worked together in the past, most notably on my old Cocteau Records single 'Life In Your Hands'. Nick engineered that and played piano on it too.These days he's in demand in Tokyo as a producer and composer as well as an engineer and has created musical scores for films and tv there. His wife Yoko is a talented singer and they have a very comprehensive home studio set-up that makes my own equipment seem quite minimal and humble.
When Nick and Yoko were married, back in the early 1990's, I was proud to be asked to act as Nick's best man. They married in England at Brayton Church on the edge of Selby. My after dinner speech was pathetic, I developed food poisoning at the after-reception party and ended up in a bit of a state, but it was still a memorable day and the only time I've ever worn the traditional full tie and tails regalia. I seem to recall that I looked rather smart, quite the gentleman toff in fact.
Anyway, on this latest visit to Japan, Nick and Yoko took us to a little Italian restaurant where it was good to enjoy a meal without requiring the public display of my rudimentary chopstick technique. (Actually, Japanese people always seem to compliment me on my use of chopsticks so maybe I'm not quite as clumsy as I think I am. Either that or they're just being typically polite.) Of course, I once lived in Tokyo for almost 12 months so it was a matter of 'chopsticks or starve.' Well...I soon got the hang of it.
Another evening was taken up by a re-union party of Emi's old workmates. When I first went to live with Emi in Tokyo, she was in charge of Kenneth Turner's flower shop. Kenneth Turner is a renowned English Floral Designer who is highly respected in Japan. The flower company that Emi used to work for, (Floral Vision), was chosen by Kenneth Turner to manage the Japanese branch of his business and Emi was chosen to run his shop for him. I was always impressed by Emi's efficiency and professionalism when I dropped into the Kenneth Turner shop, close to Tokyo Tower. Her staff showed an obvious respect to her and Kenneth himself thought highly of her. Her floral designs were regularly featured in interior design magazines in Japan and I'm pleased that she's kept a number of these magazines for her archives. But it's been several years since the company staff have been together in one place, many of them moving off to start their own flower businesses or going into teaching. On this latest trip though, a special party was arranged to honour Emi's visit to Tokyo and I found myself the only westerner amongst eleven Japanese girls and two Japanese males.
There was much warm humour and, (unsurprisingly), lots of good food and drink. Once again, I found myself disadvantaged by my lack of conversational Japanese but everyone was extremely good to me and it proved to be less of an ordeal than I'd expected. What I love about these situations is that Emi is able to converse naturally in her native tongue. She seems quite different from her U.K. persona, when she has to carefully consider how to translate her thoughts into English. Even though she's made great progress since coming here to live with me as my wife, she still feels that she lacks confidence in speaking English and is often hesitant or uneasy about the matter. We understand each other in ways that only two people who love each other can so the technical side of any language problem is not such a big deal for us. But in Japan, Emi's steady, considered speech changes to rapid fire, energetic conversation, filled with laughter and sparks. I get a real pleasure from seeing her freed from the constraints of the English language.
On another occasion, we had lunch with a different set of Emi's friends, one of whom, Gan-chan, turned out to be a collector of vintage Japanese toys. When I spoke to him about my fascination with an early 1950's Japanese cartoon character called 'Atom' (or, as he is sometimes known, 'Astroboy') he immediately left the table, hopped on his pushbike and cycled off in the direction of his home. Ten minutes later, he returned with two gifts for me from his private collection. One was a vintage plastic figure of the Astroboy/Atom character, the other was a now ten-year-old reproduction of an almost two-foot high statuette of the same character. I couldn't believe he was giving me these things as they're quite rare and therefore, I presume, quite valuable. I'm very pleased to have them on display here in my home. I'll try to take a photograph of the big one for the diary pages soon.
There's still more to tell but it will have to wait until the next diary entry. Once again, exhaustion is taking its toll and I'm losing concentration. The heat here today hasn't helped much either, nor the running around getting Emi's car repaired, serviced and M.O.T.'d.
My car's turn tomorrow. So...later.
The Photographs attached to this diary entry are:-
1. Buddha Head at a Kamakura Temple.
2. Bill and Emi at Nagoya Castle.
3. A Kamakura Temple Carp.
Friday 7th July 2006 -- 7:00 pm
THE TOKYO CAPER: PART FOUR.
One of the duties/perils inherent in any trip to Japan is the buying of gifts to bring back for family and friends. This time, because of the crowded nature of our schedule, there was only a little time available for shopping, 'though I managed to grab some extra time whilst Emi dealt with other matters. I put in a lot of walking...hard work, due to the humidity. Nevertheless I managed to grab quite a few things to take home as gifts.
The problem with Tokyo is that the city is virtually one giant department store and there's so much on offer. Seeking out things that are suitable for a wide range of friends, not 'over the top' expensive things but sensible ones, practical for packing into suitcases is not an easy task.
It's all about context. The shops in Tokyo are so beautifully designed, carefully lit and laid out that even the most mundane goods take on the glamour of jewels.Things that, in the U.K, you would normally pass by thinking them frivolous or slight, become super-stylish objects of desire. The background music in these shops is equally evocative and sleek. No Brit-pop lads with lagers, monkey legs and '70's guitar re-treads here, just spare, minimal, ambient backdrops. Clear notes hanging in the air like chimes from heaven, subtle beat manipulations, all discreet, knowing, swish, elegant, elite. The carefully sculpted sounds add to the sense of exquisiteness in the stores. In some ways, it's style taken to extremes, artificial, phoney, far too obviously studied and mannered. But it does the trick. Some of the things we bought, when we got them home, looked far less impressive in the cynical light of a Yorkshire living room.
Of course, there are less sophisticated shopping areas. There are back streets around Harajuku that cater to a very young generation of Tokyo shoppers. Here the music is a Japanese interpretation of rap or reggae. Sometimes hilarious in its misappropriation of those particular genres. The street fashion is often a meaningless mix of styles, no coherence, no awareness of the negative effect that certain combinations of clothes have on the wearer's body. There's one very odd, (though tackily interesting), trend that I noticed. I saw several girls dressed in what I can only describe as 'Kate Greenaway' chic... ('though it's far from 'chic' in reality). These girls look like something from a vintage English nursery rhyme, 'Little Bo Peep' perhaps, all layered lace, bibs and pinafores and mop hats tied under the chin with pink ribbons. When encountering them in the street, it is as if the cast of an English pantomime has left the theatre in full costume. In some ways, it's quite perverse. There's a knowing hint of fetishism in the eyes of the wearers. It's like an inverse 'Goth' look. For all its super-tweeness, there's something dark and sinister about it. But 10 out of 10 for bravery.
Japan is full of these surprises and contradictions. For someone such as myself, a person with an interest in trash culture, fine art and the blurred boundary in between, walking down the street for an hour or two can cause one to re-think the world.
Whilst we were in Japan, I deliberately severed all connection with the western hemisphere. (Apart from a couple of 'phone calls to my mother.) At the same time, I was wondering what would await me on my return. I knew that there was a long list of projects requiring my attention. These days, being a cottage industry type of chap, music is only one of my pre-occupations. As regular readers of this diary know, my work doesn't stop there. I personally oversee every aspect of what I create. It's very hard work and often deeply frustrating, but its the path I've chosen so I shouldn't complain too loudly. Not so much a control freak but more of a 'vision freak.' I suppose, ultimately, I'm the only person who knows what my work is about. I spend a lot of time trying to explain it to others in the hope of some fortunate connection or other.
I DID try not to worry about the project list in the U.K. But my thoughts strayed across the oceans to England and the next few months busy schedule. (And beyond.) I've commented on it before, but it is often quite a struggle. Earning a living from my music, and earning the right to make more albums, is a precarious thing. My age, my personal musical preferences, my refusal to deal with the industry on its own terms, all these things, well...they often work against me. Still, I continue to try it on. To bang my head against that old brick wall. Maybe it's a habit.
Eventually, we had to pack and prepare to leave Japan. It was hard, particularly for Emi, to say goodbye to her mother and brothers, but, if truth were told, we were not sorry to leave Tokyo itself. Yorkshire and it's beautiful moors and coastline beckoned us and promised us a spiritual sense of space denied to us in our temporary hole in Shibuya. Quality of life, I guess. At least Emi and I are able to recognise the difference and appreciate our luck at being able to access those places and spaces within our Yorkshire habitat. Beyond price, really.
The journey back was longer than the outward one. I drowned myself in alcohol again. After a seemingly endless flight we arrived in Holland. The hours that we then spent at Amsterdam's Schipol airport were hyper-boring. We holed up in a cafe called 'Sandwich Island.' It was dreadful. The staff were hopeless, got conversion rates wrong, short changed us, served up poor food. Then, as we sat at a table finishing our meal, two rats ran across the cafe's floor and between our legs. And all this in a shiny, chrome, steel and glass airport that prides itself on its modernity. We were not impressed.
Eventually, Emi and I boarded our transfer flight to England and soon found ourselves flying over the coastline of Yorkshire, just above Spurn Point on the Humber estuary. Spurn Point is one of those special places for me. A place I've visited since childhood. It's magical and romantic, sand dunes, sea grass, shells, wild birds and an old lighthouse. It reminds me of my father and three or four romantic relationships from my haphazard past. To see it from the air, particularly after two weeks in Tokyo, was a wonderful 'welcome home' treat. I watched the Humber estuary twist and flow into the river proper, saw the city of Hull and the elegant Humber bridge pass by below me, and then, in what seemed like a few scant minutes, the pilot announced our descent into Leeds-Bradford airport.
There is only one place in the world I'm reluctant to leave when I fly abroad, and that is the South Coast of France. Villefranche-Sur-Mer and it's environs is the only place where I would be happy to stay, to settle, if, by some miracle, I could afford a home there. Anywhere else on this planet, no matter how interesting or entertaining, I can generally leave behind without a single tear. But, the Cote D' Azur aside, Yorkshire claims something of my soul and I have no qualms in surrendering to its charms.
Our neighbour Steve was waiting for us at the airport. A good and true friend. We were both pleased to see him.
I was by now, of course, inebriated in a haphazardly loquacious fashion. Part articulate, part incoherent. Babbling like an idiot but pleased to be home. Steve put up with this obviously over-tired tirade and drove us quickly and safely home.
A stack of bills awaited us and a house that smelled damp and un-lived in. Our neighbours, Jim and Claire, had kindly watered the plants for us and kept their eye on things. Suitcases were opened, clothes assigned to the washing machine and gifts checked for breakages. In a very short space of time, it felt as if we'd only been away for a day or two. then the jet-lag. Several nights of sudden awakening, bedside lamps being switched on and reading glasses donned.
Now it feels as if all this happened months ago. A vague memory, a dream. But, that's life.
Now... the usual stresses have returned. I'm inundated with emails. There's a 'to do' list that freaks me out every time I think about it.
I've been to visit my brother's grave in Wakefield cemetery, laid fresh flowers. Oh, dear...how I miss him, want to see him, hug him. I dreamt about him again. (Last night was the third or fourth time since he passed away.) I visited my mother last weekend but not yet found time to see Elliot, ('though we met in the street just over a week ago). Elle is due to visit from London soon so maybe then. I have gifts from Japan for them both.
I managed to get both Emi's car and mine through the M.O.T., (though not without expense). I've photographed almost my entire guitar collection for Player magazine, (with the generous help of Jon Wallinger and Paul Gilby). A three day job in total.
Had dinner out at a brand new restaurant in town, (with Paul), 'though it was a restaurant that was suffering from teething problems. (Wrong food arrived, etc, etc.) Spoke with Dean Campbell about the next stage of my signature guitar and am looking forward to seeing what may turn out to be the final design soon. Dean called me 'Gretsch boy.' (He'd read my diary.) Well, maybe I'm just a guitar-whore and he's jealous...;-) All I can say is that it's a good job it's guitars and not women, otherwise I'd really be in trouble!
Today I posted a CDR of photos of my guitar collection and home studio to Player magazine in Tokyo, arranged emails of a couple of extra photos for their forthcoming feature on my work, (including a Martin Bostock portrait).
I also spoke to Opium Arts about the go-ahead on my deal to licence my 'Getting The Holy Ghost Across' album for re-issue later in the year. (First official release of the album on CD.) Various details discussed regarding distribution, review copies, release dates, etc.
I now need to speak with my graphic art buddy Dave Graham about various things, including a new design for the 'Holy Ghost' album's re-packaging.
Spoke with my good friend John Spence about mixing the Be Bop live tracks for the EMI RECORDS box set...studio time pencilled in for next week. Will I remember what I wanted to do with this material? It seems unlikely...I listened to it months ago and made mental notes. All lost in fog now. (I also need to talk to John about booking some time at Fairview to remaster 'Holy Ghost,' and SOON too as I need finished copies of the album to put to the media for review by the start of September.)
Today I took delivery of a lovely little Greco L-10P archtop jazz guitar that I bought in Tokyo. (Can't wait to use this on something. In fact, more than anything right now, I'd like to start work on a new album but...there's no time available. And I have such a lovely list of titles to inspire me at the moment.)
I also need to do more preparatory work for this year's Nelsonica convention, make a start on the 'Ghosts Etched On Glass' film, attempt the 'Romance Of Sustain volume 2' album, work on the 'Arcadian Salon' convention album, create some drawings for the convention, and several more things that I either can't recall or am recklessly trying to avoid. 'Neptune's Galaxy' is due for official release soon too...maybe next week although no-one should attempt to order it until the official announcement is posted on the site. The Dreamsville/Sound-On-Sound store can't deal with pre-orders due to the nature of the computer system used but, once the album is in stock, there will be no problems and people can order at will. It's a superbly apt album for this time of year and will compliment a relaxing day in the garden or by the sea. It also has the power to transform a cold autumn-winter night into something more balmy and paradisiacal.
Despite the work pressures, I've managed to write a few diary entries, answer several emails, (but still more to deal with), looked through some household bills, (but not paid any yet), made another couple of trips to the supermarket for domestic supplies and am duty bound to help Emiko with a freelance flower job tomorrow. There is, as diary readers may have noticed, nothing 'nine-to-five' about my life. Only one week returned from Japan and I'm even more exhausted than before I went there. It's a kind of endurance test. Why do I do it? Because I have no choice. The luxury of leisurely contemplation is denied me. It's simply all action, compulsion. Nervous energy, empty mind. Orgasmic Zen.
Now I will open the case of my little Greco guitar and play some blues in the heat of my tiny recording room. Summer hums in the dark outside my window.
The photographs attached to this diary entry are:-
1. Tokyo train.
2. Shibuya Scene.
3. Bill Nelson Signature Model Campbell Transitone guitar prototype.
Tuesday 11th July 2006 -- 9:00 pm
Tokyo has now faded into the mist of memory and I've picked up my workload with a vengeance. It's been almost non-stop since returning home. It seems as if something new appears on the horizon every day.
The latest development concerns a deal with Sony Records to license my 1980's 'Getting The Holy Ghost Across' album from them. The terms of the deal, which will allow me to re-issue the album on my own Sonoluxe label, have finally been agreed. When the album surfaces it will be the very first time that it will have been officially available on cd. I'm looking at late October as a possible release date.
Of course, I have to pay Sony a cash advance and a percentage of the album's sales as part of the deal, (ironic, as it's my own damn music and it's normally the artist who gets an advance), but those are the terms Sony have laid out. I must comply if I'm to be allowed to re-issue it. (And even then, it's for a limited time only.) Sony do not seem to have any interest in releasing it themselves though.
I also have to pay the costs of transferring the original tapes to the digital domain from the analogue masters.Then I will re-master the tracks at Fairview and create, (with the assistance of my pal David Graham), a brand new visual package for the album.
I also need to write some new sleeve notes, setting the album in its historical context. Then, once all that is done, the album and its artwork can be manufactured.
Putting all this together isn't cheap, in fact the whole process is much more expensive than usual. If I rely on website sales alone, I may well lose money on it. The amount of albums I sell via the site is so small that, if my usual album sales figures were applied to 'Getting The Holy Ghost Across', it simply wouldn't be worth doing. The production/licensing costs add too much to the equation. However, if I can sell some copies of the album, through a distributer, to record shops, I may be in with a chance. (Or at least, hopefully, break even.)
The album really needs to come to the attention of those people who are unaware of my Dreamsville site or who may be newcomers to my music. So...the distribution route is being looked into at the moment, as is the possibility of getting review copies to various magazines. It's all a bit of a financial gamble. Let's hope that the regular fan requests for this album to be re-issued are followed up by firm orders.
One of the problems of being an independent artist is that it is impossible not to have to deal with these things. Music is the starting point but the process doesn't stop there. There are so many other things to consider and to work on. It's extremely time consuming and often frustrating. But perhaps that's the price of artistic freedom.
I've also been debating the title of the re-issue. It's original title in the U.K. was 'Getting The Holy Ghost Across' but this was changed for the U.S.A. release. The package design was changed too. CBS Records, (since bought out by Sony), who originally released the album, were concerned that several right-wing Christian fundamentalist-owned record stores in the U.S. wouldn't stock the album due to it's 'controversial' title and mystical-alchemic-occult art work. It seemed that there was a paranoia about anything that might smack of 'magick'.
So, in America, the album was re-titled: 'On A Blue Wing' and an entirely different package was designed, one that could not possibly cause any offence to anyone. (Except the artist, of course. I was not particularly pleased about it at the time.)
But with the re-issue, I really want to re-think the packaging, bring it up to date. I intend to reproduce both the U.K. and U.S. front cover art on the inside of the jewel box insert, just for the sake of the album's history, but I do want to try and create something to set the re-issue apart from the original.
The 'Holy Ghost' title is quite restricting in some ways... 'On A Blue Wing' is much more flexible in terms of visual interpretation. On the other hand, the 'Holy Ghost' title was my original title for the project, back in the '80's.
However, I am no longer involved with the various occult orders that I belonged to back then and, whilst my personal experiences within them were appropriate for my development at the time, that particular path has, in recent years, become overgrown with weeds and I feel less comfortable signposting it for others. But one can't re-write one's own history. (Unless one happens to be a mega pop star with an appetite for fame and fortune outweighing one's integrity. And there are plenty of those around without me adding to the myths.)
But it's up in the air at the moment. My starting point is the original title and I'll only revert to the secondary title if the first one doesn't inspire a suitable visual style. I've already searched through my old alchemical books for something that might work, but in a 'lower key' than the original art. I want it to be somewhat more subdued and enigmatic. It's needed quickly though, if the deadline for press/media copies is to be met.
The songs on the album are less 'occult' than they might seem, once the listener has the key to their true inspiration. They are, in the main, about my first romantic encounter with Emiko, long before I was in a position to marry her. We had an intense but brief relationship the year before I started work on the album. Because the situation wasn't yet right for us to stay together, there was a lot of tears and heartache. The music reflects that, particularly the song, 'Because Of You.'
In many ways, it's a typical '80's album in style, all post-modernist funk, some tracks veering towards a hard, jazzy blues. The late Dick Morrisey plays sax on the album, as does my much missed brother Ian. Some great bass playing from Ian Denby too. But it is, for me, perhaps the one album of mine that declares the era of its creation. It is unmistakably a product of those Linn Drum driven '80's.
Studio time at Fairview has, (yesterday), been confirmed for next week, but in connection with an entirely different re-issue project. This is to mix the unreleased live concert Be Bop Deluxe tracks for the forthcoming EMI Records Be Bop Deluxe complete recordings box set. I start work on this project on Monday. I can't say it's something I'm particularly excited about, (regular diary readers will know how, er, 'amoral' I am about dealing with old material beyond a certain point,) but...better that I personally mix it, rather than a complete stranger to the band's history.
Nevertheless, I'm very much looking forward to spending a few days with my friend John Spence who will be working with me on the mixes. John transforms even the dullest task into a pleasure. His engineering skills are second to none so I'm certain that the tracks will sound fabulous when the two of us are done with them.
Enough of all this 're-issue' stuff...it makes me feel so pathetically old.
But...There's NEW music afoot! Much more satisfying...
I heard, an hour or so ago, that stocks of 'Neptune's Galaxy' have finally arrived at the Dreamsville Department Store and are available for ordering with immediate dispatch. I've limited this one to 500 copies. If the demand is there, I may press up more, but 'Sailor Bill' has still not yet sold out so I'm being cautious.
I'm glad that 'Neptune's Galaxy' has become available before the summer expires though...it's a perfect complement to an afternoon on the beach, or a picnic on the clifftops. Or even a barbecue by the garden pond. In winter, a bath with aromatherapy oils whilst listening will provide the listener with an equally blissful experience. Is this a soft hard-sell? Maybe I should've been a salesman...(But maybe not.) As I've mentioned before, the album is a companion piece to 'The Alchemical Adventures Of Sailor Bill' but it sails on a purely instrumental, drifting, ambient tide. It's a mellow, relaxed seascape of an album and sits comfortably alongside my 'Dreamland To Starboard' and 'Crimsworth' projects with a hint of 'Rosewood' thrown in.
Another recently completed album, 'Return To Jazz Of Lights' is waiting in the wings for it's own debut...but NOT until autumn. This is a vocal-based album and quite different to 'Neptune's Galaxy'...Its release is definitely being held back for a few months, 'though it's champing at the bit.
I now really feel the urge to start something new, as noted in a previous diary entry, but there are several other projects clamouring for my attention. I have no idea why there is so much music in the air and why my internal antennae seems so eager to beam it down. I seem to exist in a permanent monsoon of sound. It's always stormy weather, but of the most beautiful, ravishing kind. The view from my window is of lightning dancing over hills and valleys, illuminating tiny details normally invisible to the naked eye. Lovely.
I received confirmation today, via email, that the CDR containing photographs of my musical instrument collection and my studio arrived safely at the headquarters of 'Player Magazine' in Tokyo. The magazine also confirmed that my photo's were of good enough quality to be used in the article they are planning for an autumn issue. The magazine's visual standards are high so it's a relief to know that everything has worked out o.k. I couldn't have faced another attempt at photographing everything again, it took me so long to do it the first time.
It hasn't all been work though. On Sunday, Emi and I drove out to Nunnington Hall, a National Trust property with 15th century rooms. It isn't too far from Helmsley, north of York. The weather was good too.
Our visit wasn't purely to see the lovely old house but to also take in the exhibition of photographs of Bob Dylan that were on display in the house's upper rooms. It was a very good exhibition. I would have dearly loved to purchase a print for myself but they were too expensive for me, averaging about 900 pounds but the more expensive ones nearer three thousand pounds. I still adore Bob Dylan. First found his music when I was at art school in the '60's. He's a hero of mine.
I did spend a small amount of money though, (seven pounds), on a book in the shop in Nunnington Hall. It was a book about Christies' pop memorabilia auctions with photos of various items that have passed through the Christies' auction rooms over the years. The real reason I bought it was that it contained a picture of the first guitar I ever played, (not the ACTUAL guitar but an identical one). This was a plastic, toy instrument, made by a company called 'Selco' and had an Elvis Presley theme. It was originally bought, in the late '50's as a Christmas present for my brother Ian but he was a bit too young for it at the time and, fatefully, it ended up in my hands. It was made from brown and cream plastic and had a picture of Elvis Presley on the headstock. I figured out how to play the 'Third Man' theme on this guitar, then my dad taught me three or four banjo chords on it. And that was how I began a life-long love affair with the guitar.
I would dearly love to get my hands on one of those old Selco Elvis Presley toy guitars again. One really should be in my collection. It's where it all started for me and even seeing the photograph of it in the Christies' book flooded me with a deeply emotional nostalgia. Perhaps I should ask the Dreamsville site's citizens to keep an eye out for an example. There may be one out there somewhere, just waiting for me to claim it.
Driving back from Nunnington Hall, Emi and I stopped off at a hotel in Hovingham for a drink before heading home. All in all, it was another of those really nice days that we try to spend together at weekends. Emi is not just my wife, but my best friend and I treasure the times we share travelling around our beloved North Yorkshire. She's the perfect companion for me.
Last night provided us with another social occasion. Jane, a good friend of ours, celebrated her 50th birthday. She, her husband Mark, Emi and I, were all invited to the home of our mutual friends, Steve and Julia. Julia had prepared a really excellent dinner for us all. As usual, I ended up merrily mellow.
A 'phone call this evening to Dave regarding artwork. Some emails sent to various people, (including Dean Campbell regarding the actual written signature to go onto my signature guitar), but more still to write...and more work to deal with tomorrow. Tired now though...maybe enough for today?
The images attached to this diary entry are:-
1: A 'Neptune's Galaxy' advert.
2: A 1950's Selco Elvis Presley toy guitar, exactly the same as Bill's first ever guitar.
3: Bill's studio in an untidy, busy moment.
Friday 14th July 2006 -- 7:00 pm
Tomorrow is the 15th of July. Approximately 33 years ago, events transpired that gave birth to the song '15th Of July, (Invisibles)'.
This song was part of Be Bop Deluxe's live performances at the time, but the song was not included in the recording sessions that produced the band's first album 'Axe Victim.' The only evidence that the song ever actually existed, (apart from fading memory), is provided by Be Bop Deluxe's very first BBC radio one session on the late and much missed John Peel show. I don't think the band had even consolidated its deal with EMI Records at that time.
Thankfully, the BBC kept a recording of the show in its archives and the track was eventually immortalised on cd when it appeared, a few years ago now, on an album called 'Tramcar To Tomorrow', which focused on those long ago John Peel sessions.
Some fans may already know about that particular song's origins, how it sprang from a relationship that I had with a certain girl, a girl who inspired the song 'Teenage Archangel,' (Be Bop Deluxe's first, independently made single,) and who also inspired 'Love Is Swift Arrows,' amongst several other, later titles.
Be Bop Deluxe had a regular monthly gig at 'The Duke Of Cumberland' pub in North Ferriby, near Hull in the early 1970's. The band were young and naive and we met girls, as young bands do. I was married to my first wife, (Shirley), at the time and shouldn't really have been looking for romance... but I was. It hadn't turned out to be the ideal marriage, either for me or for Shirley. Not Shirley's fault at all really, just me and my usual saying 'yes' when I really meant 'no.' I'd plunged into it far too young and hardly knew what I was doing, 'though as a result, I have a wonderful, intelligent daughter that I couldn't live without. (Julia Tuesday Nelson.) It was, as the old cliche has it, 'just one of those things.' Nevertheless it has become a vital part of my history and an important, formative, invaluable experience.
In those days, I had a day job working for the West Riding County Council's 'Supplies Department,' a miserable enough job that offered no real future, other than a daily shuffling of papers from one desk tray to another until old age and retirement when I could look forward to a mantlepiece clock and a briefcase full of good wishes. I tolerated it as cheerfully as I could, along with the well meaning but relatively unambitious people I worked with.
No, let me be honest here, I hated the damn job, grateful as I was to have enough income to maintain my two-up, two-down, industrial-age terrace house, nestled just outside Wakefield's high security prison in an area known as Plumpton. (In fact, just across the road from the one-time site of Mariott's Buildings, my grandmother's house, where I was born.)
I felt like a man from Mars in that rank and file environment...and people treated me as if I WAS someone from another world. I was greeted with a mixture of suspicion, derision and thinly disguised prejudice. My liberal, non-conformist attitudes were seen as threatening by some of my fellow workers. I was an enigma or a curiosity to them. My enthusiasm for art and music was simply their confirmation that I was weird, oddball, maybe even slightly crazy. I did my best to live with it, believing, somewhere inside, that my instincts were right and that it was they who were odd, mutant, deviant almost, and that I had a much more healthy, broad and open attitude towards life.
My life and its daily grind were in some ways responsible for my dreams of an idealistic, romantic, creative lifestyle. Anything to escape. Under all the paper-filing, telephone-answering mundanity lurked the ecstatic, melancholy, heart of a poet.
Let's not be coy here, that is what I was and what I still am. (And always have been since the day I was born, despite my occassional protests and faux-modest denials.) I still believe that everyone is a poet, given the right situation, environment, opportunity to express themselves, or whatever. (And poetry, as I've said so often before, is not a 'form' but a quality.)
But...blah, blah, blah...easy to say or think this back then in my youth, with no evidence of very much at all. No visible track record, very few marks in the sand.
Not like now. Song after song after song, still yearning, searching, harvesting every last straw for the thatched roof of my own private cottage museum. The proof, for what it's worth, is there. 33 years worth of proof or more if needed. 58 this coming December actually, all taken into account. Undeniable then...A life devoted to it, whatever IT is.
But...yes, I was right, THAT is what I am, for better or for worse. Poet, artist, imagineer...How wonderful, how privileged, how highly UNLIKELY!
Regardless of good, bad or indifferent. I can't judge what it's worth and ultimately don't care. (Or do I?) But there's something there...an integrity of sorts. Maybe nothing more.
Around 33 years ago, on the 15th of July, Be Bop Deluxe's gig at 'The Duke Of Cumberland' was cancelled due to summer thunderstorms that caused an electricity cut in the North Ferriby area. The band had made friends with various locals since first playing there. Instead of jumping in our van and heading back to Wakefield, we were persuaded to spend the rest of the day with various locals. We were adored by our regular audience at the Duke and there was no shortage of offers to go and relax with them.
I'd fallen head over heels in love with a beautiful, intelligent, dark haired, half-jewish girl called Lisa. We'd met at one of the earliest of 'Duke' gigs. She was stunning and I was smitten. It was as if I'd been granted a miracle. I couldn't believe my luck. Why was she interested in me? An unhappy, married man from a working class background with nothing but a pocketful of dreams. Her family was wealthy, sophisticated, everything that I wasn't.
On that 15th of July, Lisa invited me to go with her in her car to her parent's house in Kirkella, an upper class village not far from North Ferriby. I worried about the fact that they did not know that I was married, 'though Lisa was aware of this from the start of our relationship and accepted it. She said not to worry and off we went to her home. The house was called 'West Acre' and was, by my standards at the time, almost a palace. Her parents were gracious and her home was large and luxurious. I recall it vividly, it made such an impression on me. Lisa cooked me lunch, Steak and chips, if I remember correctly. Her father proudly showed me his hi-fi system, built into an expensive antique cabinet and Lisa showed me her bedroom. She kept a photo of me pinned to a set of drawers next to her bed. The house was filled with expensive furniture and objects d'arte. Maybe I wouldn't be so impressed now, but then...I was stunned.
It was raining, though warm. Some of Lisa's friends called around to see her and we all sat in a lounge in the front of the house. I could see the lane, outside the front garden's perimeter, with its line of green trees and an old fashioned lampost a few yards or so away. It reminded me of an illustration in an old children's book from my childhood, sort of '30's or '40's upper class, 'proper' English society. I'd grown up on a council house estate and this was magic to me. I felt out of place, 'though I was desperately glad to be sitting next to Lisa, who I adored.
One of Lisa's friends commented on how bad the weather was, with the rain and everything. Lisa just smiled, squeezed my hand and said, "It couldn't be better..." And that was the exact moment that the song, '15th Of July, (Invisibles)' sprang into being. Perhaps it was the painfullness of our situation that was 'invisible.' Only she and I knew that I was married, her friends and parents being unaware of it at the time. The song's lyrics start like this: 'It rained all day across the world, and turned the dark trees deeper green...' It goes on to portray the house, Lisa's friends and quotes her comment...and plainly states my yearning for her. For all its innocence and naivety, it's one of the purest, most heartfelt love songs I've ever written. And it's 33 years old tomorrow.
I received CDR masters of the 'Holy Ghost' and 'Spangled Moment' recordings from Sony today. When I played them back, I was shocked. I haven't listened to these recordings for many years, (apart from the song 'Contemplation' which I had to reference for the band tour of 2004). My first impression was that I'd dearly love to get my hands on the original 24 track tapes and completely remix them, get rid of that terribly dated 1980's crashing reverb snare drum sound. Too much reverb overall in fact...and not enough bass. It all sounds very brittle and insubstantial.
William's Study (Diary Of A Hyperdreamer)
Ironic that the majority of it was recorded on what was then considered to be state-of-the-art early digital equipment. My current home studio mixes are infinitely superior. But it would be too expensive and time consuming to remix the album, so I will have to content myself with simply re-mastering it. Try to add some weight to the overall sound. Good songs, on the whole though. Better than I'd remembered. If only I could remix them to bring out the vocals more.The vocals are really quite good, 'though at the time I tended towards the opposite opinion, making them subsidiary to the instrumental mix. More fool me. If I could do it all again, (mix the tracks that is), I'd make the entire thing much dryer, more focussed, more vocal centred...and feature the bass guitar of Ian Denby more, AND my late brother's saxophone and clarinet too. One thing I CAN do, and WILL do, is re-think the track listing, especially as I am now able to integrate the 8 song, 'Living For The Spangled Moment' mini-album into the project. The running order would definitely benefit from the years of experience granted to me since the original album's release. I need to bring the entire project into the 21st Century, at least in its presentation.
Next week I'm in Fairview, mixing the EMI Be Bop Box Set live tapes, so I'll have to put Holy Ghost on ice for a short while. But it needs to be worked on very soon if I'm to keep things on schedule. So busy.
Work on my Campbell signature model guitar goes on apace. I got photo's of the naked, carved mahogany body last night. I also emailed Dean Campbell regarding some cosmetic details and gave him a title for the red paint colour that will be used. I've called it 'Rocketship Red.' There will be 'atom' style fret position markers at the 12th fret too. The model will be known as a 'Nelsonic Transitone.' Looking forward to seeing the final version. I need to approve it before production starts.
'Neptune's Galaxy' finally going out the door of the Dreamsville Department Store. People already posting their response to the album on the website forum. I think that the music is low-key but beautiful. Gentle tides and drifting clouds. Perfect for a summer afternoon. Perfect for dreaming.
Now it's the weekend. But no rest...I need to think about the revised 'Holy Ghost' running order. AND new artwork. The weather is so nice outside my window.
The images accompanying this diary entry are:-
1. An early photo' of Bill Nelson and Be Bop Deluxe taken around the same time that they first played at 'The Duke Of Cumberland' pub.
2. Bill Nelson in the '80's around the time of the 'Getting The Holy Ghost Across' album.
3. Dutch and Justin, luthiers at Campbell American Guitars with the mahogany body of Bill Nelson's 'Nelsonic Transitone' guitar. A work in progress.
Monday 17th July 2006 -- 10:00 pm
Today was the first day of work at Fairview Studios, mixing the previously unreleased Be Bop Deluxe live recordings. John Spence and I managed to get one track completed and in the can. ('Swansong,' originally a track from the 'Futurama' album but, for the first time ever, now presented in its live performance state.)
It feels a little strange, working on these 1970's live recordings after such a long time. The mixing process dictates that the individual components of the recording are listened to in great detail, each instrument or voice isolated from the others whilst sound is adjusted and a proper relationship between the parts established.
Listening to Simon Fox's drums without the rest of the instruments took me back to those days in Abbey Road Studios, or to Villa St. George in Juan Les Pins, near Antibes, in the South Of France, when John Leckie and myself would spend hours trying to get the drum sound together, microphones moved from one position to another on each drum, equalisation tweaked until a 'good' drum sound was arrived at. Thud, whack, bang!
Listening to the drum parts on 'Swansong' today reminded me how complex some of our arrangements were. The songs were much more puzzle-like than I would accept today. My current songwriting is leaner, more focussed, less inclined to show-off.
But I was young back then and had the hapless energy and naivety that youth inevitably entails. I'm not favouring one approach over another here, just noting that sensibilities shift with age and experience, for everyone. We have little choice in the matter, (unless we are complete fakes).
There was a problem with the recording of the first opening verse of 'Swansong.' Microphone / monitor feedback ruined almost every line of that particular verse...it screeched, squealed and howled in a very unpleasant way, right through it, burying the vocals, and there was nothing that John nor I could do to get rid of it. The more we listened to it, the more unpleasant and ugly it became. In the end, we decided to copy the final verse of the song and paste it in place of the first one. This may be seen as technical trickery by some purists, but it is infinitely preferable to listening to several bars of high pitched microphonic feedback at a level that would induce migraine in most listeners. Maybe on the first two plays, it might be accepted as part of the scenario...but it would soon have everyone's teeth on edge and their hand reaching for the skip button on their CD player. So...with a little digital sleight-of-hand, the offensive verse has been banished and a more palatable one substituted.
A particular treat for me was being able to listen to Charlie Tumahai's voice in isolation. He was a very good vocalist and had been the lead singer in bands previous to Be Bop Deluxe, (and in bands afterwards, I think).
Charlie sadly passed away several years ago which is why there will never be a re-formed Be Bop Deluxe. Even if Simon, Andy and myself unexpectedly felt the urge to get together again, it simply wouldn't be the same without the happy fountain that was Mr.Tumahai. And that 'if' is a fairly big one, for I can't imagine that Andy would be in the least interested in such a thing. As for me, well...I was fortunate enough to get my retro-band fix in 2004 with the Be Bop and Beyond tour. I'd love to assemble a band again but it would have to be one that could play a lot of new material created specifically for it. Even if it did dip into my song-writing treasure chest for some 'vintage' material here and there. But, as my friends all know, despite my somewhat, sometimes, nostalgic tendencies, when it comes to music, I just love the smell of fresh paint.
Anyway...back to Fairview tomorrow to continue working on the live track mixes. 'Forbidden Lovers' and 'Terminal Street' up next.
Not the best time of year to be stuck in a windowless studio all day though. It's been blisteringly hot out in the sunshine today. More heatwave to come too, apparently.
Yesterday, (Sunday), I decided to make the most of the weather before confining myself to the studio control room for the rest of the week. I bundled Emi into the car and we set off for the East Coast of Yorkshire, driving to Bridlington and then up the coast to Sewerby, then to Flamborough Head, then Filey, Scarborough, then past Robin Hood's Bay and on to Whitby where we had dinner at our usual favourite seaside restaurant, 'The White Horse And Griffin.'
Unfortunately, the food wasn't quite up to the restaurant's usual standard, nor the service, I thought. Maybe this was because of the summer seasonal rush, or new staff? I really have no real idea. Still, it wasn't terrible either, so I'll give them another chance, next time we visit. I DID have a positive moment though, when I found a copy of the third part of John Betjeman's biography, written by Bevis Hillier. I'm a fan of the late Sir John B. and of Bevis Hillier's writing too. In fact, my son Elliot's full name is Elliot Walter Bevis Nelson. Walter after my father, Bevis after Bevis Hillier.
Visiting Flamborough Head was a treat. Incredibly, I haven't been there since the mid 1960's. I fondly remember reclining on the cliff's edge with my then girlfriend, Lynne Holiday, listening to my little red and white plastic transistor radio...It was playing the latest songs of the day, "When you go to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair..." ('San Francisco' by Scott McKenzie.) There was also a Frank Sinatra hit...either 'Send In The Clowns' or 'Strangers In The Night.' Plus some other half-straight, half-psychedelic pop from various artists trying to catch the wave that was beginning to break on these shores...the kind of music that turns up on those 'remember the 'sixties' compilation CDs these days. (Every supermarket has them.) It seems that my generation has, in recent years, become a prime target for that style of marketing.
But what excuse do I have? Damn it...I'm mixing material more than twenty-five years old! Give me strength! But on that warm summer day back in...1966 was it? (Yes, give or take a year.) Well, all seemed wonderful with the world. We youngsters had found our voice, our cause, our raison d'etre. An all-inclusive, arms-held-wide, big welcoming peaceful hug for everyone, regardless of age or background. We'd swallowed that SanFrancisco, West-Coast, peace and love ideology lock stock, barrel and flowers. We looked the part, we walked the part and talked it, ten to the dozen.
And the amazing thing is, we actually felt it. We thought we could bring it about, turn the world around, ring the changes. And in a positive, non-violent fashion, everyone included. So, where did all that hope and love vanish to? Look at the world outside our window now..see the horrific hatreds that poison our planet. Even on a basic, local level, its hard not to be aware of several generations of cynical, negative, heartless chancers, grasping, filching, fiddling while Rome burns. What have we lost? What have they missed?
Still, despite all that: Yesterday afternoon, a clear blue, BLUE sky stretching down to a blue, BLUE sea. A pure white lighthouse gleaming against all heaven. A skylark singing fit to bust somewhere so high in the blue beyond that I couldn't even see it, but, oh! How I could hear it!
White-capped waves lapping far below the yellow-white chalk cliffs, coarse grasses swaying in the sea breeze...Man, it just doesn't get much better or more blissful. I was gone, sent, away with the birds. I WAS that skylark, that little winged insect with bright red wings flitting from wild flower to wild flower. I was every one of those cricket-like bugs rubbing their legs together in some summer-fuelled mating song. I was so HERE and THERE and EVERYWHERE, so deeply in tune with it all you wouldn't believe. I had a ball simply looking and feeling. Wow! And I remembered Lynne and our youth and those times and that music and I was grateful to be alive and to have lived through those times. And AMEN to that then and AMEN to this now. Despite the terrors we endure, despite all that. Ain't life grand when you're in the mood for it to be so?
The images attached to this diary are:-
1. Bill Nelson at Flamborough Head, July 16, 2006.
2. Flamborough Head Lighthouse, July 16, 2006.
3. Flamborough Cliffs. July 16, 2006.
Saturday 29th July 2006 -- 8:20 pm
The heat goes on, externally, internally and weather-wise. Just returned home from an evening out with Emiko. A meal at Ceasar's restaurant, the best value for money Italian in town. Nothing too fussy, just down to earth cooking and warm, friendly staff who always recognise us and treat us well.
I generally try to put a little time aside for Emi at the weekends. She patiently puts up with me working long hours in my studio during the week, so, as much as possible, I give my my weekends over to her. I think I'll drive her out to Castle Howard tomorrow afternoon. It's not far from here and a late lunch at the Castle Howard cafe, followed by a gentle stroll around those magnificently landscaped grounds will be a nice treat for both of us. Especially under these big blue summer skies we're being blessed with right now. But, my, oh my, it has been so HOT!
The summer has baked our day to day lives without mercy these last few weeks...a heatwave that now seems to have stretched on forever. Nights have been sticky and interrupted by bouts of insomnia and perversely lusty dreams. Apparently these are a result of the sun shining on the pineal gland on the top of one's head. It's maybe why mediterranean men and women are so erotically charged. Well...I don't know about that but something's up in the land of nod.
My studio room has felt like a sauna lately. Or an oven set to 'roast.' Impossible to work during the day, at least from 12 noon until early evening. The sun beams down through my skylight window and fries everything to a crisp, me, the guitars, the mixing desk, my imagination and anything else that I need to make music. I can't open any windows for fear of annoying the neighbours. Haven't got air-conditioning so I either have to work stark naked or abandon recording completely until things cool down a little during the evening. The latter, these middle-aged days, is generally preferable I'm sorry to say!
I HAVE managed to finish mixing the Be Bop Deluxe live tracks for the forthcoming EMI RECORDS box set. These mixes were made at Fairview Studios, not far from the river Humber, rather than at the Abbey Road studios of the band's heyday, but the results are equal to anything from the past, if not better. My good friend and long-time recording engineer John Spence has helped me to bring about what I think will be universally accepted as an absolutely classic set of Be Bop performances, none of which have been previously available to the public. There's no doubt that fans of the band will be extremely excited when they hear these live recordings. The memories that came flooding back to me were poignant. Despite my reservations about this old material, there's nothing for me to be ashamed of. And what a band..! Listening to the individual parts in isolation brought home just how distinctive and sympathetic my three fellow musician's were.
'Swansong,' Forbidden Lovers', 'Terminal Street' and 'The Modern Music Suite' have all been mixed to bring out their naked beauty. They sound wonderful, even though the technical aspects of the performances are raw and bleeding. But I'm so glad that they've been preserved for posterity.
It's been incredibly moving for me to work on these rare recordings after all these years. Part of me was smiling, part of me was lamenting, but all of me was proud. It was also lovely to hear John Spence say that he was thrilled to become part of Be Bop Deluxe's legacy too. Our collaboration, (and John's experience and technical expertise,) has served the band's history well.
Since completing the Be Bop live mixes, John and I have been working on the remastering of the 'Getting The Holy Ghost Across' album, also at Fairview. I've added the 'Living For The Spangled Moment' mini-album to the disc too, (AND an obscure track called 'The Yo-Yo-Dyne').
Dave Graham and myself are still working on the repackaging of this album and have now found a suitable starting point to build the design around. Dave's close understanding of my visual style will, once again, contribute towards a highly appropriate layout. It will look quite beautiful when it is completed.
I decided to stick to original track-listings and running orders, partly because my currently hyper-busy schedule hasn't allowed me time to experiment with the hoped-for re-shuffle, but partly because a large number of fans have expressed their preference for the songs to be kept in their original sequence. So...new cover art, new improved mastering, extra tracks, but same running order.
In between bouts of heat exhaustion and indoor nudity, I've managed to make a start on the tracks which are to be included on this year's limited edition Nelsonica convention album, 'Arcadian Salon.' It now seems likely that there will be 10 or 11 pieces on the album, if I can stay on top of things during the next few heatwave-cursed days. There will be a couple of brand new numbers, all being well, plus some pieces that didn't make it to 'Return To Jazz Of Lights' because of time limitations. And two or three instrumentals, including 'Sound-On-Sound,' (the instrumental that I composed and recorded to celebrate Sound-On-Sound magazine's anniversary last year). It's shaping up to be an eclectic mix of music, as is usual with the convention recordings...another collector's piece and all the more controversial because of it.
I've been having a very nice, surprising guitar week (or two) lately. I won't go into details for fear of embarrassing a couple of 'super-fans' who have been incredibly helpful in helping me to acquire a new instrument or two but...well...A childhood dream of a flamingo pink Fender Stratocaster, (via a Rickenbacker 12-string), has come true, as has a 'full-circle' situation regarding a toy Elvis Presley guitar that once, long, long ago, was responsible for capturing my pre-teen imagination and putting my feet on the path to a lifelong career in music. I don't think I'm permitted to name names here but the people involved will know that it is they of whom I speak. All I can say is that I'm blown away, deeply grateful, totally amazed and sincerely moved by their generosity.
I'm blessed with some tremendously loyal and kind fans.They sometimes take on the role of theatrical 'angels' or art patrons. Their involvement often goes beyond basic 'fandom' and enters the realms (and ideals), of a long-ago Golden Age when aesthetically refined connoisseurs once helped artists to bring their work before a wider world. Or is that just me being romantic again? Nevertheless, these instances prove that that spirit of patronage and support is not dead, and that it IS possible to produce a music that does not need to bow down to the rigid limitations of the mainstream music industry. I'm eternally grateful that there are several special people, (some are fans, some are friends, some are business people), who help to create an atmosphere of freedom and creativity around me within which I'm able to achieve my life's work. Without their support and generosity, I'm lost.
I noticed, in the latest issue of Mojo Magazine, reference to two new albums (by other artists), themed around sea-going concepts.
One is called 'Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys' (odd spelling of the latter word?) This album is apparently co-produced by Johnny Depp, the well known Keith Richards impressionist.
The album actually features my Channel Light Vessel dreamboat Kate St. John, as well as the somewhat less erotically charged Bryan Ferry. It also features Sting, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Rufus Wainwright and various other pop-tastic media stars, the most interesting and worthy of which are David Thomas of Pere Ubu, Van Dyke Parks and Mary Margaret O'Hara.
The Mojo reviewer says that the album will "shiver your timbers in the most rewarding of ways..."
The other album is: 'Ocean: Songs For The Night Sea Journey' by Jennifer Cutting's Ocean Orchestra. The review says it employs synths and samples alongside accordions, pipes and strings. Well, well...looks like I've been rolling along on the crest of a wave but, of course, my 'Lighthouse Signal Mechanism Orchestra' came into that particular harbour almost a year ago now. Perhaps my ship is equipped with a more finely attuned compass. Oh, well...
But what a pity that 'The Alchemical Adventures Of Sailor Bill' didn't receive the media attention that the above two albums seem to be currently enjoying. I may be ahead of the wave but I'm under the radar, or so it seems.
Went to see my friend John Foxx last week...he was playing at 'Fibbers' in York. Haven't had chance to meet with him since we both took part in Harold Budd's 'farewell' concert at the Brighton Dome last year, 'though we've exchanged several emails since. John braved the heat of summer (and of Fibbers), to give a vibrant, almost 'electro-punk' show which delighted his audience. He got a great reception, not least from my neighbour and good friend Steve who has been a big fan of John's since the early Ultravox days. And I gained brownie points from introducing Steve to John after the show...
It was really good to see John enjoying himself and celebrating an energetic, 'roots' approach to performance. He and I still plan to get together, both with Harold and with each other.The only thing slowing us down is lack of time. One of these days though...
This coming week, I must seriously try to overcome the heat (and my exhaustion), and finish recording the 'Arcadian Salon' album.Then I must decide upon a track running order and master the album as soon as possible as there is no time available for me in Fairview Studio from the middle of August on. This thing HAS to be ready for the convention in early October. It's rushing up like a runaway express train, as usual.
More than ever, I'm way behind schedule. Haven't begun to make any inroads at all into the autobiographical film 'Ghosts Etched On Glass,' (an excerpt from which I'm supposed to present at Nelsonica 06 as a 'work in progress'). In fact, the list of jobs I have to tackle for the convention is becoming an increasingly scary and, maybe even impossible, task. How on earth can I get all this stuff together in the scant time remaining to me before the convention date? Yes, o.k...I ALWAYS panic but, it seems that each year I take on more and more work, projects that, despite all good intentions, are increasingly difficult to complete without tremendous effort and sacrifice. I guess the recent tasks I've had to undertake regarding re-issues and associated items have thrown the proverbial spanner into the works. I have to admit that my trip to Japan robbed me of two weeks working time also. But there's nothing left for me but to plough on, to do the best I can under the circumstances. No point in working myself up into a paranoid, desperate panic about it all. After all, I love it don't I? And it usually works out o.k...Doesn't it?
Well...too hot right now, even though it's late evening. Can't sit here typing. I'll continue this in a day or two when I'm less exhausted and there's more progress to report. And less sweat dripping onto my computer keyboard.
POST SCRIPT: SUNDAY 30th JULY 2006 -- 9 PM.
Went to Castle Howard with Emi as planned. Lunch was good, sitting in the grounds of the house, watching white fluffy clouds drift by in a high blue heaven. Apparently, Jools Holland and his pals played at Castle Howard on Friday, (I think), a big outdoor bash or something grand.
Emi and I are thinking of attending the annual classical 'Proms' concert at Castle Howard, in August. It's a picnic hamper / champers type of affair. Maybe even grander than Jools' big do.
We could dress up in our summer finery, get completely, joyously blathered, then slip away into the woods to frighten the peacocks. Pan chasing his favourite nymph through a sylvan glade, and that sort of thing. Libido a-go-go. Let's hope the weather holds up.
Last ever 'Top Of The Pops' on tv tonight. Caught the back end of the final show, (when I switched on the television during dinner). Tonight's special, farewell programme seemed to have been full of clips from across the ages. Don't know whether they showed anything from the time when pop music actually resembled pop ART, when it genuinely had something to say for itself. (Jimi Hendrix, Syd-era Floyd, etc, etc.) Whatever, the last five minutes of the programme illustrated perfectly why it has finally been axed by the BBC. Pop music has become irrelevant, hollow and dull and is, to all intents and purposes, dead.
I met Jimmy Saville once. (Be Bop Deluxe were on Top Of The Pops at the time, drooling over Pan's People backstage.) I also saw Jimmy standing at a bus stop across the road from the Music Ground guitar shop in Leeds, maybe only a year ago at most. Perhaps I was the only person in the street who noticed. He was nice enough to us when we were on Top Of The Pops. He may even have played our records on his radio shows.
Sooner or later though, we all come to resemble decrepit old age pensioners. No pop star remains unscathed. And thank goodness for that. Insufferable narcissists, the lot of 'em.
The images attached to this diary entry are:-
1. The fields near the Humber Bridge, Swanland Hill view, July 2006.
2. North Ferriby Foreshore, July 2006
3. An ad for 'Neptune's Galaxy.'