Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The story of Shone!

I am rather pleased to announce that Shone with the Sun has been nominated for the Stiles and Drewe Best New Song Award. Readers of this blog will possibly remember that the song Brass made the shortlist last year. It didn’t win, but it did receive a commendation. I trust it’s not always going to be a case of “always the bridesmaid and never the bride” but, even if it is, I’m rather proud that the same show has spawned two nominees.

I’m also rather proud to report that playwright Arnold Wesker is listed as an official writer on this particular song. He loved Shone with the Sun and actually played a demo of it on his Desert Island discs in Radio 4. The song was also sung by Rosie Archer at his memorial.

It was actually first written in 1998. Twenty whole years ago. We wrote it as an entry for Eurovision, but it was deemed “too classical” to make it to the final selection. Arnold’s original lyrics was called “Came with the Sun,” but I got into my head that this sounded a bit smutty, so suggested “shone” instead!

A year or so later, the song was picked up by a record label who wanted to explore the idea of Arnold and me being offered a publishing deal, but at the time, I secretly knew that we weren’t the right combination of writers to turn out convincing pop tunes. Arnold’s lyrics tended towards poetry and what I wrote was always too theatrical. Predictably, the deal fell through, and Shone languished on a bottom shelf, feeling a bit sorry, for itself for more than ten years.

I dusted it off again in 2010, under pretty awful circumstances when I lost a court case which was triggered by an unscrupulous choir mistress refusing to pay me for a set of songs I’d written. She claimed they were “unperformable” which was short hand for the fact that she didn’t have the skills to teach the songs to her choir. Sadly, the judge - who turned out to be an amateur drummer in a pub band - agreed with her. It was genuinely one of the bleakest days of my life, and, in order to pay my court fees, I was forced to organise a concert. It was a somewhat humbling experience.

When Arnold found out about the court ruling, he immediately sent me a cheque for £250, and, at the concert, we performed several of the songs I’d written with him, including Shone, which was sung with great beauty by Katina Kangaris, who’d done the original demo.

We also performed the whole of Four Colours, the work which that neurotic choir mistress had so blithely said was “unperformable.” Four Colours was subsequently released as a successful charity EP, and the song Yellow gets performed by choirs all over the place. It was even performed - by Ali Jiear - at our wedding. Unperformable? My arse!

When it came to writing the show Brass in 2014, I knew I wanted to include Shone. The song is about the death of a relationship, and therefore could easily have been about the death of a loved one, so I actually built the story of the show around the song, imagining the singer to be a woman who’d just lost her husband in action.

After writing the full show, I asked Nathan to have a play with the words of Shone, just to bring them into focus a little and make them specific to the character and the story I was telling. I then re-worked the song to give it more theatrical and dramatic bite. I didn’t want it to feel like a juke box show number, crow-barred into the piece.

And that is the story of Shone with the Sun. It’s funny how one song can trigger a life-time of memories, and I’m so relieved that it finally found its place. It’s still my best selling piece of sheet music on my website. I’m told it occasionally turns up at auditions for drama schools, which makes me very happy.

Arnold Wesker, of course, was nominated for countless awards as a playwright during his life time, but never as a lyricist, so I’m rather thrilled to have facilitated his first nomination in this respect. When it gets performed at the ceremony, I know he will be looking down at us, smiling proudly. To quote him on Desert Island Discs talking about the song, “I’ve included it because it reminds me that I had a talent...”

The other great song writing news, of course, is the fact that ABBA are back in the recording studio and that, by the end of the year, there will be two brand new songs by the band to enjoy. I find the news almost too exciting for words. First Kate Bush performed live for the first time since 1979. Then ELO went on tour. And now, the third part of the holy trinity arrives!

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