Hightown Pirates….Dry and High.
Doghouse studios Lower Shiplake;
Oxfordshire England July 2016.
Day One; Wake 6am!
Still got bad throat; Yogi tea lemon honey.
Walk to the river listening to The Jams tales from the riverbank.
Stevie G impressions on the 5 a side pitch.
The sound of laughter
Barry brings the good/bad jokes.
Tesco for supplies, lady on the checkout asks me
“What are you doing this weekend?”
Good question, to which the only answer I can give her is,
“Living the dream luv, living the dream.”
Mike the mechanic/Mark the engine driver.
Teaser of ‘If spring don’t’ with Lilly and PN on camera by the river;
FB seems to like it..Nick Drake/Traffic/Tull?
Having that, although none of the songs on the album (so far) sound anything like that, it’s a bit like asking someone to come for a walk and a nice chat up a quiet lane in summertime then letting them know you’re intentions may not be all that honourable, sort of haha
Start recording 2.30 pm.
Bass (Rickenbacker) Fender Bassman.
Guitar Strat deluxe/MesaboogieF50.
- Perfect strangers.
Bass Harmony H25.
- Last Chance Saloon.
Bass ’66 Fender Mustang.
- Throwing Stones.
Guitar Epiphone SG
Bass Harmony ’62
- Two for Joy
Bass Harmony ’62.
We set off to meet Dr. Williams the keyboard player, due to arrive from France, he’s not where he was supposed to be, when he was supposed to be. He’s in Luton, or at least he was, we find him in a car park in High Wycombe. (of course we do.) despite the fact he doesn’t own a phone.
Tele Dave also gets lost but arrives to complete our motley crew.
My voice is still not working properly but seems to have responded well to non-singing singing of guide vocals.
“Oh to be in England in summertime”
The sun sets, the magic feels strong, there is laughter as I go to bed as there was when I woke up.
7.30am…three recovering addicts spend an hour sitting by the side of the river, bathed in early morning sunshine, there is not a ripple on the water, only the vibrations of the music we continue to create back in the studio.
Quick trip to the village shop, (they don’t sell the morning star)..bacon sarnies fruit coffee and more laughter. Then we begin with
- Chasing Rainbows (Tabitha’s Song).
Guitar Danelectro 12 string.
Dr.Williams demos some keys…I start crying it’s so beautiful as is Ms Langtree’s flute part. Joy and more joy. Get the song in a couple of takes, we move on.
- Don’t say anything.
Guitar back to Strat.
Get it first take, an accident becomes the ‘right’ intro…love it when that happens. Then we get it second take, the magic is strong. Why wouldn’t it be?
- Just for Today.
Couple of drop-ins, nailed in two takes.
Break for lunch.
Super juice all round..
Saturday afternoon…Dave gone home to feed the goldfish, Toshie on her way down with more vibes, a 335 and Fender Twin.
Slight improvement in my voice, all will be well…when it’s meant to be.
Spoke with H, she’s coming to visit for the day tomorrow, I’ll get the gin in.
- East London Morning.
Nailed in 1 take.
So now, Toshie arrives and meanwhile…
- A million Reasons….ah, the greatest ‘break-up’ song of all time?
We get it in 2 takes, of course we do.
So, on the first full day of recording we have laid down all the drums bass and 1st guitar parts, something we initially thought might take 2 days…it’s like all we need to do is close our eyes and be guided..
I guess from my own personal belief system, that makes perfect sense, It’s just one of many important things I often forget.
Quick trip to the outside world (Tesco) for supplies (bbq etc.) I’ve decided I don’t like the outside world and really don’t want to have to leave HQ again this week unless absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile Matty gets to work on his overdubs, a happy and noisy walk in the park for him and our engine driver as they plug in various pedals etc. We begin to add shades to our picture. The heartbeat continues to grow stronger. Hard for me to recall ever feeling so content, very much looking forward to the arrival of Ms Tucker and her clan tomorrow. I do wish Tabitha could come sooner than next Wednesday though. The crew start the bbq as Matty and Mark continue to do weird and wonderful things with his guitar, the sonic dream team in full effect, Everywhere I see smiles and smiles and smiles oh yeah.
Dave returns from feeding his fish. His moment is coming as Matty finishes his work.
Chasing Rainbows. No words…speechless you’ll see what I mean soon enough.
Matty’s work is done, 9pm Saturday, Dave gets plugged in and picks up his ’52 Telecaster. He’s here cos we’ve played together for years in SBD’s and he knows his rocknroll. Bring it on Dave.
And yeah, he does. First two tracks down, if I was a teenager I’d go buy some drugs, round up my friends and go for a big night out while listening to these songs and singing them at the top of my voice. As it is, I’ll settle for a group hug, camomile tea and bask in the glory of another massive team effort form all of us here at Hightown Heights. The beast is alive and it’s gonna get you.
Clock off for the night at 11.30. The sound of happy laughing crew drifts out into the night, I think it’s time for bed at midnight, but suddenly get the urge to pick up my acoustic and dash into the studio. The chord sequence for ‘intro’ is suddenly morphed into a Nick Drake meets Syd Barrett, quintessentially English psychedelic songs, I grab Dr Williams and Rocknroll Dave, for keys and another acoustic guitar, Ms Lilly joins on flute and the song is delivered…ideas float about my dreamy head about what to write lyrically, it’ll come, there’s so much to write about isn’t there?
So I eventually get to bed at 2pm and drift off to the hysterical laughter of a very pissed/stoned Matty and Johnny whose work is more or less done for the week.
So, Day two.
”Music to kick your soul into the sky then let your heart catch it on the way back down”
Dave back at it, laying filthy lines over the grooves and riffs already down. Toshie also gets her chance to shine on Perfect Strangers, a song so far removed from where it was before, I bit like it’s writer you might say ha-ha. We move through the day, it’s almost seamless again turn on tune in and let it happen. Mark controls the desk; the music is guided by unseen forces way beyond my limited comprehension. We are rising; nice message from RB, then Beverly Hills arrives with Jessica and assorted kids adding to our crew. The laughter increases H also comes for the day. Without whom, none of this would be happening but man, its fucking happening. H Johnny and Dr Williams decamp to the pub shortly after the sun is past the yardarm, we don’t see them again until it’s somewhere on the port bow, I think it’s fair to say they’ve enjoyed their day off. Back in the control room the ’61 Les Paul is kicking our souls apart, after a few false starts on Million Reasons, Dave gets the hit and a song I’ve lived with for longer than it would be advisable, finds its true place. Aye, aye and thrice aye.
Dave’s work done, we bbq, chill return to the control room for playback of what we’ve got so far, H sits behind me with Beverly Hills, smiles as wide as the Mersey, I look round the room, to see the same expression on all present.
By the end of day three, those who can are all at least 3 sheets to the wind, those that can’t are probably even more so, I love being clean and sober. Johnny keeps everyone in absolute hysterics I’m literally crying as once again I retire for the night with the sound of unbridled joy ringing in my ears.
It’s a flute and keyboards kinda day, climatically and not surprisingly, also our task inside the studio today. (Why anything surprises me here is actually a surprise)
Lilly steps up and brings the melancholy vibes silky and almost erotically asphyxiating, it’s a beautiful thing to listen to. I also pull the bones of another new song from the sky, grab Matty and his son Joe and send them down to the river to work it out between them, they return 30 mins later job done, we sit together and film it, father, son and old friend…nice moment, it seems we are beginning work on the next album while here putting this one down. I also run off the lyrical ideas for our ‘thank you and goodnight’ hidden track.
“Beverly Hills arrives in her van, she’s my woman and I’m her man”
“Tamsin and Laurie sat without a care, his broken eye and her copper-red hair.”
“Father and son out on the lawn, table tennis from dusk ‘til dawn.”
“Helen and Johnny, go up the pub, he drank too much and threw up his guts.”
“Paulie came here to get clean, arrived so anxious but left serene.”
“Marky came to play the bass, man the desk, send us to space.”
“Lilly came to play her flute, doesn’t smoke ‘em but rolls good zoots.”
“Dr Williams brought the keys, gave his wisdom then returned to Nimes”
“Davey brought his old Les Paul, riffs like Keef and honest soul.”
“Tabitha came with her Uncle Andrew the final touch to our happy crew”
“Hightown Pirates summer ’16, they bring the treasure we live our dream.”
Meanwhile we continue to get the keyboard parts down in the studio, while various crew take to the river in BB’s rowing boat to much hilarity and some obvious lack of nautical prowess. Thankfully we’re much better musicians than sailors. (Don’t tell anyone, but we’re not actually pirates either)
I should also point out that the bbq salmon came from Tesco’s, not the Thames.
Such a relaxed vibe today, very welcomed by everyone, the laughter doesn’t slow down at any point though, Jessica has won everyone’s heart of course, she is never without someone to play ball with and has also been in the Thames several times for a swim. I’ve decided to get Paul and Dave out on the river tomorrow morning early for a mid-river NA meeting.
Favourite song today? All of them, same as yesterday and the day before. So excited to see Tabitha tomorrow night!!
Having said that, listening to Dr Williams playing the piano over Chasing Rainbows, while I’m sitting next to Dave…ahhhh, yet ANOTHER one of those moments
Sit and play acoustic guitar with Dave before bed, couple of new songs almost in the bag..
Still no sign of my ‘higher’ vocal chords though, somewhat worrying but hey, let’s see what the next 24 hours brings, I sleep like a baby and dream like a villain.
Piano tuner summoned to sort out the old Johanna, due at 2pm leaving Dr Williams time to add Wurlitzer, and moog stuff. Spend a precious bit of his.n.hers time down by the river with Beverly Hills, the various members of the crew ease themselves into the day, a beautiful English summers day my voice still not where it needs to be, so keep reminding myself, if we don’t get the result here, we can do them at Marks studio. Patience Simon, patience, you’ve waited all your life for this, don’t snatch at it now. Uncle Andrew has managed to get Tabitha here by 5.30 today, so excited to see her and Ruth is also going to pop over as she’s just dropped nephew no1 at Heathrow for a job interview, it’s a family affair today for sure. We aim to finish keys, record acoustic guitars and maybe, just maybe get me singing tonight. Let’s see how we do.
Start on my acoustic guitar parts Ruthie and Paris arrive, as does the piano tuner! Get first two acoustic tracks nailed pronto. Admittedly I did write them but it still seems a bit unreal, all good.
Gully calls to say he’s coming over, another strand to this tale.
Thankfully I’m kept busy putting down my acoustic guitar tracks rather than clock-watching as I wait for Tabitha to arrive. Just finish the final one and step outside to be greeted by the sound of her laughter as she races up the track and throws her arms around me, I am complete. Uncle Andrew has driven her and JG over from London, we play him a couple of songs then he has to leave. He’s one of the kindest people in the world!
We have also shot a little iPhone teaser video today and will finish the percussion tonight leaving tomorrow to do last keyboard parts and then, all being well (my throat) we start the vocals. HP HQ still full of happy noises everywhere. As dusk falls the bbq is fired up again, 15 for dinner tonight I think ha-ha
Dave departs back to London, hoping to return Friday for a bit of BV’s maybe.
Kicks off with 8.10am meeting of NA in the boathouse, ME PN and JG, quick row on the river with Tabitha to retrieve Jessica’s ball, a very chilled first half of the day Mark busying doing computer stuff I have no clue about so all and sundry chill, sunshine arrives mid-morning.
Work out wonderful BV’s to Chasing and Million, with Dr Williams Laurie and Tamsin, ready to try and put over whatever voice I’ve got today, much anticipation form many about possible trip in Baz’s speedboat. I’m taking JG and PN to Hambledon AA at 6.15, see RB then back here to try vocals. No idea how that’s gonna sound, whatever happens is whatever happens, if my voice works fab, if not, need big rest then do them at Marks next week. We get to the AA meeting, the ‘fella doing the chair seems pretty content with his life lol. Back at HQ, the remaining crew are, once again jovial and a joy to be around, although most of them are at the pub eating when we get back. There is a sense that this part of the adventure is drawing to a close. I manage a vocal for ‘Last chance Saloon’ but again my voice is not repaired, so it gets a raspy 60 fags a day vibe, not necessarily what the song requires, despite its lyrical content. It’s clear my throat is far from where I’d like it to be, will try again tomorrow. Tabitha exhausted in the most wonderful way, her being here is a joy beyond all joys for me as she plays happily all day with Bev etc. A few of us repair to the riverside way after dark to soak up the ambience I sit beneath the ‘swing’ tree strumming my guitar while some of those most important to me dangle their toes in the river if I could think of another word for magic, I’d use it now, enchanted maybe? It feels that way for sure. I sleep the sleep of a happy man, my ever-expanding version of the 3 little pigs the last thing Tabitha (and Bev) hear as we all drift off.
As it has been since we got here, the ‘state’ of my vocal chords is the first thing I think about, then stop thinking about, it is what it is..coffee, walk to the river, bit of brekkie then out in the boat with T, B JG and Jessica, captured nicely on iPhone film. Agenda for today, try and sing after lunch, say fond fare-you-wells to Matty, Bev and Winters, attempt chasing rainbows to then allow for BV’s, it doesn’t happen, ok, I surrender, it isn’t gonna happen here, not this week anyway, so be it, I’m gonna enjoy what we have achieved, and wow..yeah, wow.
It’s quiet, just 3 of us here now, Me Marky and Dr Williams, Marky does his pro-tools stuff, our precious cargo saved, then saved again on hard-drives, the studio is taken apart, well the bits that Mark brought with him obvs, last few guitars/bass put away, tidying up done, it’s got a medieval summer feel outside, grey and moody clouds, we decamp to the Baskerville with Barry for the last supper, on me, it’s the very least I can do.
Fed and watered nicely, we retire back for the final night at Doghouse, were I not utterly convinced we’ll be back here again sooner or (not-so) later, I’d probably make more of an effort to suck up the ever-present vibes, but HP, we will be back, of course we will. I sleep, well, of course I do.
See ya next time.