Monday, 24 January 2011

Hampstead Heath, the what?

Today was our first day in the recording studio for the Metro project. I found myself feeling pretty nervous about it for some reason. I'm sure this had a fair amount to do with the lone magpie which as good as landed on my shoulder as we were walking towards Highgate Tube this morning. Ridiculous, I know, for a man to be a card carrying atheist, whilst being as superstitious as a Norfolk farmer!.

I needn't have worried. We were recording drums and bass, and it was a fantastically relaxed session with two extraordinary musicians, namely drummer Jack Pollitt and bassist, Phil Murford, who I’d not worked with before. Jack was just wonderful when it came to 1980s-style "splashy" fills. It’s not often that a drummer makes you laugh, just by being spot on! Phil is a veteran of West End orchestras, which is perfect for my writing, which is nothing if not theatrical.

Joy of joys, and because I’ve referenced five – count them – five ABBA songs in the music, we were able to sit around for half an hour, listening to tracks by the Super-Swedes, trying to get a feel for their style of playing, and the extraordinarily way they recorded their musicians. We also listened to some Bucks Fizz – curiously renowned on the session circuit for having some of the most bizarre and complicated drumming patterns in pop. Take a listen to this if you don’t believe me.  And if you can't bear the song and just want to hear the crazy drumming, listen from about 2’40” to the end and imagine the horror of being asked to re-create the sound of dustbins rolling down a hill for a live gig!

I’m also told that the bass line to Making Your Mind Up is nigh on impossible to sight read! A bizarre and truly unnecessary factoid.

Keen readers of this blog will remember that I drove to Hampstead two nights ago to deliver a copy of Hampstead Heath: The Musical to a bloke who wanted to play it as part of a lecture series. I had an email from him today to say that he’d received the DVD safely, but that – having watched it – he no longer thought it would work for his talk. His reasoning - get this - was because he didn’t realise the film was a musical! Now, I don’t want to get too sarcastic here, but why on earth did he not assume that a film called Hampstead Heath: The Musical... would be a musical? What is wrong with this man? What kind of ironic, post-modern haze is he living in? Apparently, he was told it was a documentary! I can just hear that conversation now; “you’ve really got to see this film by Benjamin Till. It’s a documentary about Hampstead Heath. It would be perfect for your lecture series. It’s called Hampstead Heath: The Musical, but don’t worry, it’s not a musical, it’s a hard-hitting documentary which looks at the sleazier side of the heath! Tap-dancers on crack, that sort of thing. Don’t bother to watch it on you tube before you ask him to send it to you. He’s got nothing better to do than drive across London in the middle of the night with a tumble drier sticking out the back of his car...”

I conclude the first part of this blog with a call to arms. Those of you who enjoyed A Symphony for Yorkshire, will remember the wonderful band who performed in the back of a pick up truck in that beautiful early morning light at Spurn Point. The band are called Circus Envy, and their superb new single, Regret, is out today. Go buy it now! You certainly won't regret it!

January 24th 1661, and Pepys’ grand party wasn’t nearly as grand as I’d assumed it was going to be. It was more of a dinner party with the two Sir Williams and their families rattling around in Pepys’ newly refurbished house. The diary doesn't give any mention of what was served up on the menu, or what they did to entertain themselves. We're merely informed that the do had cost him a whopping 5l, that it was very merry, and that it was only slightly marred by his chimney, which smoked. It couldn’t have spoilt things too much, however, for in the evening, all the guests returned for supper, and talked late into the night.

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