I co-wrote the opening instrumental piece, Fanfare For The Uncommon Worm, with Lorenzo during a jam session back in about 2012. At that time I was using my Roland kit, but by the time we began recording Memories of Water I had replaced that with the acoustic kit that features throughout the album. We used to jam at least once a week, sometimes twice, in the days when Sean Godfrey was still well enough to do so, and Lorenzo didn’t live 1,200 miles away. I miss those times very much: the creativity, spontaneity, humour, and relationships were made of those things that, possibly, only musicians can fully appreciate. The second part of the opening number, What Was And What Will Come continues with the same drum pattern though the song is Lorenzo’s creation.
Track two is one of my songs, Canterbury Kate. Many of my songs are autobiographical, and this song is a very accurate record of a few weeks of my life as an 18 year-old living away from home for the first time. The song names some of my regular Norwich haunts, but is set in Cambridge where I met, and fell in love with, Canterbury Kate. I’m not sure I ever knew her last name, but she was called Kate, she came from Canterbury, and she introduced me to many things, including some that do not appear in the song for reasons of decency. However, she did give me a green plastic cassette on which Caravan’s In The Land Of Grey And Pink was recorded, and I was an instant convert to that Canterbury sound. I wrote the song on my 12-string tuned to DAF#GAD, and I really enjoy playing it: the descending chordal riff feels lovely. I never intended the song to have drums because the 12-string holds the 6/8 time so well. I did have in mind a bass line, so I bought a bass guitar and learned to play that in about an hour because that’s the kind of thing I do when I’ve a mind to. I also bought an Electro-Harmonix mono bass synth and expression pedal, and expressed myself in lieu of Taurus Bass Pedals which remain on my wish list. Lorenzo and Jason have added so much to the song that I can be nothing other than amazed and grateful. Lorenzo’s guitars, harmonies, synth sounds, and general Lorenzoness enhance the song beyond my imagination. And Jason’s keyboard marvels compliment Lorenzo’s guitar work really well.
Track three, New England, is a great song, and Lorenzo’s solo is just superb. The song was recorded back in 1983 with the original line up of Lorenzo, Edward Percival, Sean Godfrey, and Dave Beckett. I always enjoyed the song so didn’t want to meddle with it on our recording of it, so I dug out my Sony Walkman and my cassette of the demo for the 2nd never-to-be-released Airbridge album, and reminded myself of Dave Beckett’s drum track. I can never replicate Dave’s work but I have been able to create a drum track that I am proud of.
Where Shadows was fun for me to create the drum track, and to have a play with the various reverb options within Logic.
Utter Nonsense makes me laugh. Lorenzo’s lyrical play is superb, and his varivocal embellishments are typical of many of the spontaneous Lorenzitudes that he emits throughout an evening’s entertaining conversation.
The Buddha Song (I’ve got one on my head!) is a song that I wrote in standard tuning on my Martin. I had been experimenting with plucking pairs of strings with alternating fingering, initially, just as an exercise in dexterity, but the opening descending riff emerged and I built upon that. This was another piece that was never intended to have drums or percussion, but since it is set in Japan, and one of my favourite memories of living there is the sound of cicadas, I allowed them to set the background rhythm which, purely by chance, counterpoints the guitar’s rhythm. The lyrics are entirely not mine. They are haiku (a Japanese form of poetry most often associated with Zen Buddhism, and that take a 5-7-5 syllable structure in their original Japanese) written in the 16th and 17th Centuries by, bar one, Zen monks. The exception is the delightfully erotic verse written by Lady Sute-Jo who was probably a member of the Shogun’s household. I immersed myself in Buddhism once-upon-a-time, and in Japan for an intense year living in a Shinshu temple. I came across the poems, first, in a Penguin anthology of Zen Poetry, but in 2020 was able to have some of the re-translated by my good friend Shio Ayama who also provided the original Japanese versions for the CD booklet. Structurally, the song is unusual in that is has no chorus, though the repeated break between verses could be considered a voiceless chorus. I play my Godin for the guitar parts, I also play 6-string bass through my Electro-Harmonix mono-synth, over Lorenzo’s fretless bass. Lorenzo adds some harmonies, and some guitar synth touches too.
Piggy With a Pen, and Black Skies are all Lorenzo and Jason apart from my drum tracks.
My final contribution to the album is In Memory of Three, another 12-string composition that was never intended to have drums on it. Who knows where song ideas come from, and the lyrics of this came pretty quickly after the drone of the guitar. The first person that I knew who died was in my class in 1973. He drowned trying to save his brother who had fallen into the local lake. His brother was pulled out alive by a nearby fisherman. In those days, other than an announcement, nothing was said about it. I remember his grave being marked by a plain wooden cross, and I also remember it decaying over the years. The whole thing remains a puzzle in my older mind, holding on to the puzzlement of my 10 year-old self. The second person in the song was a bright, vibrant, heavy-drinking Finn. I don’t think any of his friends knew how dark he was behind his social self. He jumped to his death from the tower block in the centre of our university campus. In memoriam, his college renamed the snooker room after him because he spent a lot of time enjoying time with friend there. Finally, there is a person I knew more as a mutual friend than close friend. He had a bulldog which would hurl itself at any visitor’s chest out of sheer exuberance rather than menace, though is could be difficult to believe that if new to the house. We would go and smoke in his den that he’d constructed in the hollow of a large tree in his garden. I lost touch with him and then discovered that he’d taken a shotgun to himself. As is so often the case with the suicides of young people in the pre-social media age, no one really knew what went on in the dark recesses of a young man’s mind. That’s all pretty depressing, but the song is not. At least, I don’t intend it to be. The refrain, ‘Spirit as thin as the wind’ means, to me, that the membrane between life and death is as thing as the wind, and we are never more than a breath away from death, or wonder, or pain, or delight, or any of everything in existence. Lorenzo added some real gems to my 12-string part. Jason, too, added keyboard treats among Lorenzo’s guitar parts. Lorenzo also adds a wonderful harmonica that seems to fit the whole breath of the song. I had originally intended the song to be more melancholic and felt that I had to add a slightly harsh electric guitar piece to stop it from sounding too nice: that would be confusing to my mind. I recorded the 12-string in one take. At the stroke of the final chord one of our cats, Lord Melchett, came into the kitchen through the catflap and miaowed a few times. I could have faded the guitar out to remove it, but that would have felt a bit rushed. Besides, Lorenzo loved Lord Melchett’s contribution, and so he stayed where he placed himself.
The final track, Middle East, has, as the rhythm track, my Crush drums with sticks and reeds, and my djembe – a lovely instrument given to me for my 50th birthday. I use two mics to record it. On the top is a Sure SM57, and peering up its bottom is a Sennheiser e902.