This section is all about how the really bad things that happen in life are probably all just part of the plot ~ and not to worry...
It is a story of conquest, against daft odds...
The girl that is singing on the recorded track here was 14 years old when she recorded this at my flat by the harbour in Aberaeron, West Wales U.K. in 2000 (ish). She was the neice of a chum, a sheep farmer called Geraint, who I met soon after my move to Wales in 1998. She sang this traditional Welsh arrangement to the accompaniment of her piano-playing vocal tutor in headphones. Then I overdubbed the backing track. Her tutor's timing was immaculate; not to the exact midi-clock metronome, obviously ~ but very bleedin' close. So it was a doddle to add the backing instruments but the drum flourishes mostly had to be played manually on the little QY20 calculator-style buttons, although I believe that some parts of the drum track were sequenced for brief periods of synchronicity. Apologies to Brian May, as ever (and sorry about the low-grade mp3)...
Just for the record, I traced the authorship to the song and gained permission (in 2000), to distribute the work with due appropriation to the owner of the copyright. She was the elderly granddaughter (how would you prounce that in Welsh with two 'd's in the middle of the word? Dunno) ~ of the actual writer and composer and gave her absolute blessing. That contact information is now long lost in the vaults of what used to be my memory. The girl (whose name also escapes me), had no interest in singing as a career and left Wales to be with her Patagonian roots straight after this recording was mixed. If you know these people, tell them they are hereby recognised as the artists involved and please tell me who they are.
But I have to say that my move to Wales was the best thing "by a long chalk" (Milton Jones & just about ever since the Big Bang), that has happened to me. Having left my previous incarnation as a severely depressed, reasonably well-paid but extraordinarily frustrated individual in Kent, where my life had acquired some pretty awesome skidmarks, I found myself in a country of welcoming and sincerely warm people (definitely for the most part, in any old way).
But, by the right of the impaler to enjoy the agony of others over breakfast: - that (above), is the first time in 60 years that I have begun a paragraph with the word 'But'. Dreadful abuse of privilege, if you ask me. But, (maybe habit-forming language warping detected just here); whilst the English language is a fabulously expressive tool, the Welsh is actually prettier, when set to its natural poetic rhythm. Properly performed, traditional Welsh song is unsurpassable and a joy to be around. Bagpipes are pretty cool too but that's another story... (told elsewhere)
After my move to Wales, the people of the town where I settled took me to their hearts immediately and, whereas down in the "good old" Garden of England, where if I had walked into my local pub with a guitar and started singing Beatles' songs, I would have been told "F*** off, big-head!", this Welsh lot seemed a lot more reasonable altogether. Fabulous fun were the late night lock-ins in local pubs, where I regularly broke a genuine sweat, singing and playing my quite extensive repertoire of mostly 60's hit songs (but which directory admittedly bore some somewhat surprisingly large holes, according to most people), mixed with a smattering of The Goons and 30's jazz classics. 'My Generation', on acoustic guitar, goes down a storm, I can tell you.
Admittedly, being falsely diagnosed with terminal cancer less than a year after my relocation to Wales had its disadvantages, the advantages of living (finally!) by the sea, vastly outnumbered the intense sense of relief I felt that I had, at last, come home. Not everything in the garden had always been quite so rosy, though - and there follows a tale of hope and utter destruction and if you can bear it, read on...
~ on second thoughts, I wouldn't bother.
Well, what can I say? This was utter sh*te. Would that cover it? Anyway, it was a really bad situation. A very bad situation indeed, in fact: - a stinker.
I mean, it wasn't at all pleasant nor even slightly good except in some of the tiniest possible ways and it certainly wasn't anything like what I had been led to expect it would be... see, that word "expect" - is a high-function word, like "God" or "Nyoink!" (as it is spelled in my book)...
"String" is another...
|Ahh! String: - that simplest of machines! Take it from one who knows: - strings can be a great help in terms of good vibrations and they can also be put to good use when one is needing to find one's way out of, for example, a complex maze. But when the last one of your strings is lost, it can be a bit of a nuisance, can't it? Not having even the slightest clue how it might be best to proceed, is expensive. I hate that. Trouble is - getting the taste out of your mouth. I hate that too.|
|Let's imagine for a moment, that we are wielding our very last remaining piece of string, believing it to be our saviour. Let's also set the prize target fairly low too so we won't (how foolishly would we) "expect" that there is guaranteed not to be too much extreme pain having been involved up to the point where the scores were finally added up.? - and: -) !...|
|There was a dog in my life that actually mattered for about eleven years. My advice would be: - if you have money in your pocket and you are anxious to lose some and, at the same time, introduce a whole bunch of inconveniences into your life, followed by a deep pit of depression when it dies, go view an Old English Sheepdog puppy. You will buy it and you will be screwed. It will be a hugely influential love affair that will be most probably crushingly ended by the animal's death. They do that. They just up and die on you.|
|The joke turned sour after a while and because our cottage was on a rat-run for heavy lorries, we eventually tired of peeling the multiple cats' remains off the road surface outside. Never buy a property on a Sunday. It's probably not going to be always that quiet...|
|Beethoven was ubiquitous in my circle of rock'n'roll contacts and customers for my guitar tweaking and bashing service. It soon became the norm for them to prepare for our arrival at the studio, soundstage or publisher's office by arranging for there to be as large a cardboard box as possible to be present, solely for the pupose off seeing my "rhinocepig" tear it up into very small pieces. He went nearly everywhere with me and my box of tools. One time, I had a call-out to Shepperton film studios, where Status Quo were rehearsing. Some years later I was watching a T.V. film staged in a film set environment and witnessed myself and my "Bear" walk across the background as unknowing "extras".|
|The Old English Sheepdog is a deception incarnate; a true wolf in sheep's clothing. If a human child or baby would enter the room, he would be the ultimate defender, a fearsome guard to the death. Woe betide any mortal foolish enough to reach over the garden fence to stroke the cuddly wickle doggy, though. Life with no hands can't be much fun. Same trick with the car; Beethoven was fiercely territorial, quite rightly. He was also, by the time he was a few years old, very much in tune with perfect pitch, musically. He spent his entire life around planks with strings on being put into good temperament and knew when something was not right, harmonically.|
|It was not a good idea to play guitar insensitively or out of tune in his company. On one embarrassing occaision, I witnessed him forcibly removing a guitar from its owner by grasping the neck in his teeth and pulling it away from the suitably miffed player. Another time, he sprayed a particularly bad country band in my local pub with poop, an act which got him banned, permanently. Good boy.|
|As I said, they die, don't they. When "The Bear" finally went to the great kennel in the sky, I cried for six weeks. At the time I was working on a recording project, attempting to get "The Military Blues" (here a more recent attempt) done in 24 track at Pierre Tubbs' studio at Orpington in Kent. It wasn't working out at all and I was spending a huge amount of money on it not working. Several sessions into the project, I turned up to find a new and different engineer present, Alan Hyde, with whom I was to soon form a strong working relationship at his own studio. The mixing desk was digitally password "locked out" and we had to wait for Pierre to come in to get it unlocked.|
|I had decided to change direction and do something else i.e., stop burning money and start something new and fresh. Beethoven had died that week (1989) and while I had been waiting for the vet to come to put him down, after thankfully just a couple of days' suffering, I extemporised a little song with ukulele, to hopefully ease his discomfort. That song was "Eiffel The Giraffe" and as a tribute to Beethoven, I decided to record that instead.|
|Alan and I sat and chatted while awaiting the arrival of Pierre ("it's not a real piano, is it?") Tubbs. It had befallen Alan's lot to come up with some radio jingles for a night time "shock jock" presenter on Kent's most popular F.M. station at the time, Invicta Radio. When he heard my rendition of "Eiffel", Alan realised that I could be the guy to help him out with the delivery of the required radio jingles and we quickly set about writing and recording a huge catalogue of stuff for broacast.|
It was a tremendous buzz to be suddenly on the radio every night and the audience numbered in millions. The brief was to be as derogatory as possible to the D.J. without actually swearing. He was extremely popular on the air waves but "all that glisters is not gold", as it turned out. The jingles that Alan and I turned out during 1989 and 1990 were requested by listeners phoning in several times a night. This meant that I would automatically become a Provisional member of The Performing Rights Society, thus allowing me to accrue royalties through air play. The most popular jingle was, "Happy Wednesday".
Another big favourite with the listeners was "A Billiard Ball Shined" - a pastiche of a West Country traditional round song, learned whilst on holiday in Corwall and re-worked to describe the arsehole D.J., Caesar the bald 'Boogiman'. I only have low grade mp3s of these early radio works - but it's listenable nonsense.
The remit was to create purpose-built talk-over music but the slug did like my songwriting, so I had a free rein to saturate the air waves with all sorts of dross - and I did. Here's another example of the contrived, tongue-in-cheek post ironic (?) filth I came up with: - "Leafy Lane". It's the track that glitches, not your computer.
One of the best buzzes I ever experienced was when walking through a supermarket to have a young kid come skipping along the shelving aisle, singing one of my jingles at the top of his voice. He didn't know me (he could not have any reason to recognise my face anyway); all of my radio work has been as the anonymous voice known to millions.
The most popular of all our jingles was a pastiche version of "Mozart's Rondo La Turk" which turned out as "Aerial Head". This quickly became the show's flagship tune and it began the show every night for many months until "On The Air Now" took over. This was written whilst out walking my next dog, Marvin, an Airedale Terrier who was apparently (as far as I could tell) born without a brain but loveable anyway. Although, on second thoughts, a brain is probably required for paranoia to be a real thing.
|One piece of work which turned out to be er, mildly problematic, was "Space Monkey", born of the D.J.'s catch phrase when dissing off telephone callers. "Get off you Space Monkey" was the tone of the abuse; he was well known for cutting people off, especially if they disagreed with him. "Mildly arrogant" doesn't quite cover the point. He requested that we produce a jingle using that phrase and "Space Monkey" was the resulting "air" (here the original short version).|
|It proved so popular that the decision was made to extend it to three minutes, thus creating what was to be a "charity single" 45r.p.m. vinyl disc. And that's where it all started to fall apart rather badly. I can't remember all of the details (and I don't really want to) but there were claims made that the D.J. presenter had maybe not been entirely honest with the integrity or interpretation of the word "charity". This resulted in a court case and worst of all as far as I was concerned was the televised screening of the record label plainly bearing my name on it as composer.|
|It was all pretty ugly for everyone and I really felt for Alan having been involved with the whole thing. If only my dog hadn't died...|
|If you are a song or jingle writer, you may not know that it isn't possible to forbid any broadcast service permission to play your stuff. You can say those words to the intended recipient's ears but it doesn't hold any weight legally. But the bad feeling surrounding a situation like that is infectious and nobody gets an easy ride. Mud is mud but not particularly glorious. The D.J. lost his job and it all fell sideways across a large bowl of custard. When the Ignoble and very ignorant Caesar met his Ides, it may not have been for the first time and it certainly wasn't going to be the last. People will talk, you know!|
It still surprises me just how quickly one can become blasť about suddenly "being on the radio" every night but I can confidently report that when it all stops, there's a very nasty feeling of withdrawal. What it must be like to have been a "Pop Star" and then not, must be pretty bad so for that reason, I'm glad it never happened for me. Alan Hyde is a really clever producer and recording engineer and we worked together at lightning pace, producing sometimes several jingles in a session. Often these were written over a burger at the lunch break we usually took, ready to be recorded the same afternoon. The final catalogue of stuff exceeded 100 pieces but probably the most requested piece of silliness was "Happy Wednesday!" - short and sweet.
Later, in 1999, I forged this re-imcarnation of "On The Air, Now" as something of a celebration at having arrived at Wales-On-Sea. This was on a Fostex DMT8.
|By 1995 I was doing very nicely, thankyou, running a very busy workshop allied with J.B.'s Music Store in Tunbridge Wells, where the guitar service work was a seemingly endless stream. Six other shops across Kent also received my "travelling doctor" attentions and I was an extremely busy bunnie, to the point that I needed to pay casual labour, for carrying stuff back and forth, packing and unpacking with a bit of sweeping up thrown in. My mortgage was paid off and my wife was earning well too so we were genuine "Dinkies" (dual income- no kids).|
|Yes, things were going swimmingly - but there were rapids and a huge fall looming. In January of 1995, Caesar phoned me. On offer was a "licence to print money" (s.i.c., or in this case more like sick). He obviously had a very clever agent because he'd somehow got another gig in radio. This time, an American media consortium had bought outright the third floor of No. 76 Oxford Street, London and installed a new radio station which was to be called Talk Radio U.K. (later to morph into Talk Sport). They'd obviously spent millions on it.|
|Talk Radio had been a common format in the U.S.A. for many years but had never been tried in England before. The Oxford Street operation was a state-of-the-art, high-tech installation ready to run into "The Digital Age" but to begin with was only allocated a Medium Wave slot on the air waves. But it had a national footprint. The owners had employed the services of several well known broadcasting names, like Jeremy Beadle, Tommy Boyd, Scott Chisholm and Anna Raeburn. Caesar had been given the usual night time "shock jock" slot and needed jingles.|
|The Talk Radio episode was a huge crossroads in my life and although I am very happy now, it qualifies as the Experience From Hell and holds a truly nightmarish log-bag of memories.|
|Through my association with J.B.'s Music Store I had been intoduced to Graham McCarthy, a prolific poet, known to all as "Mac". Mac could talk the talk and had a lot of "street" about him, being a motor trader, mechanic and the secretary of a gun club in Dartford, Kent. He sported a heavily customised Volkswagen Camper van he'd fitted with a Porche racing engine. You get the picture. And physically he had the demeanour to convince you that Mac was someone you really would not want as an enemy. Someone you might well trust as a minder, though. So my next move was to approach him about the possibility of working together to produce a set of jingles.|
|Our first meet with all the presenters carried a huge tingle factor about it. We were told quite specifically that we would be earning £48 per airplay at that point and we'd be given the opportunity to create all of the presenters' jingles for them, in whatever style or taste they would choose. We were flying at that news; really genuinely happy and excited that we were going on national radio on a regular basis.|
|So we set to work. Our arrangement was that I would provide all of the musical input, Mac would pay for studio time and together we would write the lyrics. Musically, I was flying high at the time and had got extremely practised at sequencing MIDI. Since acquiring a Yamaha QY20 sequencer in 1993 I had been getting my teeth securely stuck into MIDI programming language, spending all my time when not "banging nails in planks" composing a half hour orchestral work by the name of "The St. George Suite". "Overture" was the first piece and "Destiny Dance" was the final movement and describes St. George's climb to the mountainous dragon's lair and the fight to the death. It ends with a victory jig which I had learned upon a visit to Ireland and adapted in electronic form. The longest movement was "Advice From The Wizard".|
|Yamaha were so pleased with this work that they bought CDs for their sales force to demonstrate the versatility of the machine.|
|One of the first jobs was to comply with Caesar's specific request to re-do the "Rondo La Turk" Mozart pastiche that I had done at Invicta F.M., the original "Aerial Head". Mac and I sat and approached the task with gusto. Mac was such a fast thinker and talker - and he spoke the language of the "Lads"; my big problem was getting him to stop for a breath so that I could write down the verbal torrent that issued from his most agile gob. How we ever came up with the title, "Rats Nut Paste", isn't really such a mystery as it might at first seem. We had the same brief as I'd had before: - "to relentlessly put the slug down" (from this point on I shall refer to the D.J. presenter as "The Slug" - or maybe that shouldn't have capitals letters).|
|As you will hear, this is a bit of a tongue-twister. We just tried to think of the most disgusting tribute to the slug (yes, it is better in all lower case) and we came up with "Bald Head Polish". Mac (that's him speaking the final line) just spat the title out within seconds of sitting down to write and rather as the unlikely term, "Volespoiler" is of the Scrabble moment we all crave, to just take a break from crying all the time. But "Rats Nut Paste" was fiendishly difficult to get right. Clarity is obviously an issue with A.M. radio and the E.Q. in the mix of this track was a headache actually taking some weeks to clobber. It's still as silly now as it was then and as unlistenable filth tends to go, it holds its own on in there.|
|Other stuff like "Sarfend" was easy; I'd got two main character "voice pallettes" in my armoury, a kind of cloned Chas'n'Dave and our friendly Northern George Formby pastiche chappie. Then there was my "normal" voice (suppressed laughter).|
|The pressure got to a peak when we were asked to "do it live" on air. We made up (extemporised) some jingles to order as phoned in by listeners. This only happened once, thankfully and the problem was soon to both multiply hugely and at the same time go away entirely.|
|The pressure to deliver was immense but during the hot days of May and June, Oxford Street seemed a welcoming place for a while. I was actually involved with the birth of a new national radio station and that was exactly what I wanted to be doing. Talk Radio launched and there was I again, on the air every night to a national audience - and supposedly getting paid huge sums of money for doing it. The weeks rolled on and we were getting 10-15 airplays every night, 6 nights a week. Over an 18 week period, those £48 per airplay royalties were mounting up. Do the math(s). I did it once...|
|The horrible truth dawned at Easter. We had joined BASCA (The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Artists) and I was already a "Full Member" of The Performing Rights Society (P.R.S.) through my previous broadcast work. Every play of our jingles was logged by the newly installed broadcast controlling computer so there could be no discrepancy over airplay frequencies. But no, it wasn't anywhere on paper. Bright, eh? No, not really bright at all. You are allowed to laugh. That's it; enough! It turns out at that point that the slug had been commissioning work from us without a budget. Worse, The Performing Rights Society told us that because Talk Radio were a non-music station, their annual allowance for royaties was £5,000 in total. Mmmm...|
|My Royalty statement showed a total payment of just £42 and Mac wasn't even a member by the time it all went sproinnng...|
|He was seriously out of pocket on the recording costs and we'd agreed to settle his bill first out of our supposed payments. But the grim truth was that there was no money. Somebody had been telling huge ginormous porkies. Galaxy sized lies. Spaghetti and industrial-sized wind tunnel fan - with issues, I think spring to mind immediately. "Jingle Star"|
|It was a dismal affair; we had both effectively left our day-jobs which were hard won and mid-career going pretty good, thanks but in June of 1995 overnight the whole jingle thing went off like Hiroshima. It had been an 18 week run of much sweated and very expensive productivity and in both our cases a total screw-up - and for me, starting again as a guitar set up service technician smacked of 20 years good customer relations down the toilet: - impossible to do. Everybody had gone elsewhere for guitar service and I effectively had no business, except for just a few loyal customers. Quite a drop from being on the radio every night... and quite upsetting and annoying. Not good? Not good...|
|bugger bugger bugger bugger!!!|
Excerpt from the book: - "String" by Steven R. M. Acworth copyright 2006.
Alternative title: - "Guitars to The Stars" & "The other side of the Screwdriver"