christopher james

Poems and prattle

Tag: music

Double acts

So what’s your favourite double act? Is it Morecambe and Wise, Watson and Holmes, Palin and Cleese, Fry and Laurie, Vic and Bob, French and Saunders or Frost and Pegg? Personally, I always liked Smith and Jones myself. Anyway, here’s a little tribute to them all! Plus a nice picture of my son and I up a tree.

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Rainy Days

singin-in-the-rain-10

What do you do when it’s raining? For me it was always the perfect excuse to stay inside, watch old black and white films, read a book, drink wine, sing songs. Bliss. Here’s my new song that tries to capture all of that. It’s not quite Singin’ in the Rain, but then you’ve heard that one before, haven’t you?

Introducing the superhero ukulele

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a superhero ukulele. Of course it is! And if you click on the picture, you’ll hear my new song about superheroes. You won’t believe your ears!

Superhero ukulele

Bob Dylan on the Isle of Wight

31 August 1969

A bearded phantom,
he does not come for the festival,
but to walk with the island’s ghosts:
King Stuf, Tennyson, Victoria
in her counting house. Like a farmer
in Sunday best, or a chalk man,
he arrives on the isle in white.

He sits with Swinburne
in the Olde Look Out Tower Tea Room
and trades couplets over Darjeeling.
In the ruins of a villa he compares scars
with Vespagian the Roman.
He tries his hand at the lyre,
and sinks old world wine.

In Osborne House, he plays
Albert’s ghost in the billiard room
and flicks ash into the porcelain vase
given by the Tsar. From the top
of the Beledere Tower he can hear
himself singing love songs to Liz Taylor
as the moon rises over Woodside Bay.

 

Bob Isle of Wight

Joking apart – Boo Hewerdine live at Haverhill Arts Centre

Boo Hewerdine tells a joke. In facts he tells plenty tonight (and sings one) along with a shed-load of music industry anecdotes at Haverhill Arts Centre – on the first stop on his My Name in the Brackets tour. He reveals that he took ‘between 11am and 12 noon off’ between the end of his tour with Eddie Reader and the start of his new solo outing. As one of the hardest working song writing and touring troubadours, Boo’s work ethic is beyond question.

Boo

Boo is an imposing presence. His fabulous support act, Icelandic songstress Hafdis Huld, stands a clear two feet below the mike set up for Boo and she is equally glowing about his talent – singing beautifully on their beguiling, Icelandic fairy tale ‘Wolf’ from her latest solo album, which she co-wrote with Boo. Her own songs, especially Queen Bee and Lucky are sublime.

The idea behind the latest tour is showcasing some of the songs Boo wrote for others, along with new work. These include the Eddie Reader hits ‘Dragonflies’ (they go nuts for this one in Ireland) and most famously ‘The Patience of Angels’, which is still a powerfully affecting tale of a struggling young mother and sung with urgency this evening (although possibly to get it out of the way?). The Girl Who Fell in Love with the Moon is a lovely, lilting classic, given sensitive treatment and added poignancy by the fact that co-writer Jacob Eriksen recently passed away.

His reading of My Last Cigarette, penned for K.D. Lang is masterful, showcasing his pure vocals and impressive range. He is no three chord trickster on the guitar either; his jazz chords look like a spider doing the splits and the descending chords progressions add an engaging counterpoint to his classic melodies. It’s old fashioned song-writing that sounds perfectly contemporary.

Boo’s shtick is that life has been vaguely disappointing and perhaps a little unlucky. For example, The Bible’s (Boo’s 80s outfit) big song ‘Graceland’ was released on the same day as Paul Simon’s Graceland. His trousers nearly fall down while playing live on Wogan. A meeting with Elvis Costello leads to an altercation over a cheese sandwich. His laconic, dead pan delivery is perfectly suited to these hilarious misadventures.

The song ‘Joke’ and all time classic ‘Honey Be Good’ are filled with punkish energy, perhaps propelled by talk of Mr Costello and the Sex Pistols. ‘Bible Papers’ meanwhile (nothing to do with his old band) is a lament for the Tommies who rolled their fags in the trenches with the thin pages of a Bible, made all the more impressive by rhyming ‘Deuteronomy’ with ‘they’re out to get me.’ It’s riveting stuff.

The evening is given an added edge by the fact that Boo has never performed some of the new songs live, which leads to an amusing false start and even the appearance of a crib sheet – but they are as muscular and perfectly crafted as the old; ‘Snowglobe’ is a neat trick and the nostalgic and slightly accusative ‘Amazing Robot’ is a wonder – especially with its refrain ‘Spin me, spin me, spin me.’ Heard on record, it gives the eerie impression that the CD is talking – like the bottle in Alice in Wonderland that says ‘Drink Me.’

Perhaps Boo deserved to be massive, playing stadiums and ten straight sold out nights at the O2. But then we wouldn’t have nights like this, at Haverhill Arts Centre, with candlelight flickering from the tables, humour, humility and magical song-writing bringing cheer to the rainy streets of provincial England. There’s nothing funny about that.

Spring in Catalonia

My wife and I had a beautiful honeymoon in Barcelona, visiting Gaudi’s astounding cathedral, the Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia; running up to the Olympic Stadium, getting burnt on the beach, getting burnt on the open top bus and getting lost on the Metro. I started thinking about it again when I reading George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

Orwell

Fortunately we were there in happier circumstances than George, but it’s a wonderful book none the less.  My tune is in DADGAD all you guitar players.

Catalonia

Polly’s Tune

What can a dad give to his daughter – apart from money, books, clothes, iPads, love and attention? In this case, I can give her a tune of her own, which I composed this morning on the guitar in the open tuning BGDGAD.

Polly's Tune

 

Starling Wonder

I wrote a poem about a long lost Beatles album and had to think of names for the songs; there were things like The Party At The Centre Of the Earth and Carnaby Streetlights. There was also one called Starling Wonder which might have sounded like this. The tuning is BGDGAD with a capo on the fifth fret.

starling murmurations taken at RSPB Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk. @RSPB

 

The Hunter

I’ve been listening to lots of Andy McKee, the American acoustic guitar genius and particularly his new song, The Reason. Check him out, as well as Thomas Leeb’s inspiring acoustic version of Comfortably Numb. And once you’ve done that, you can listen to my new acoustic composition: The Hunter, inspired by Artemis, the Hellenic goddess of the hunt and the wild. The legend goes that she shot her lover Orion with an arrow by accident. No health and safety officers in those days you see, folks.

The Hunter image

Out On The Fells

Each year my friend Winston and I go backpacking  and disappear into the hills with an OS map, supplies of crisps and cola bottles, a tent and lots of old stories. A couple of years ago, we were in the Peak District, and crossed a moor like the surface of the moon. An old tractor tyre was the only man-made thing we saw, as if it had dropped from space. When we arrived in Buxton it was like splash landing back on Earth. Another year we were up near Ullswater and climbed high above the lake feeling like we were the only people left on the planet. This is a new composition in the open tuning DAGDCE inspired by those open landscapes.

Thumbnail

If you liked this one, you might also like the other three originals I’ve posted: Martha’s Song, Billy’s Jig and Far Away Friend. Enjoy!