Mangled Tapes – Songs about girls

Of course the album title is a joke. But it’s also semi-serious. Throughout my musical ‘career’ the majority of the songs I wrote were about the opposite sex and how much I fancied X or didn’t fancy Y or thought Z was a slapper. I didn’t really do songs about anyone other than myself and whoever was around me at the time. I originally had the plan to do an album called “Songs about girls” in the summer of 1991 and indeed wrote half a dozen songs then which were recorded within the “Our little secret” tape from Sept 91 (twenty one songs recorded in two days) but circumstances meant that never happened and one ‘girl’ ended up getting five songs and therefore an EP for herself which was the “What happens next” EP.

But I digress. There are two big differences between the ’92 recordings of “Candlelight Ecstasy Romance” and the ’94 recordings here – and when Soundcloud sorts itself out there will be the full “Presence and proximity” EP from earlier in 94 too. The first difference is that I was recording them in my own house in Newport – I bought and moved into my own house in January 94. It was a terraced two bedroom newbuild and of course the second bedroom became my music room – hifi in one corner, vinyl in cabinet under hifi, cds in racks in the other corner, and all my keyboards and guitars and portastudio and effects pedals taking over the rest of the room. So now I had a permanent set up for recording. The second change was the purchase of a Yamaha PSR210 keyboard. It’s pretty antiquated now – it’s still in use in our spare room – but at the time it was wonderful, 100 sounds including a full drumkit spread across the five octave keyboard. No more sampling drum beats into an old Casio SK5. I would build up rhythm tracks one step at a time, manually tapping out hihats and bass drums and whatever, which is why it can be a bit random sometimes. Now my recordings almost sounded professional, except for the lack of reverb or echo or compression of any kind. Indeed when I was transferring these recordings from tape to computer a few years ago I was tempted to put a little reverb on them – and it sounded bloody marvellous on “St Magdalen’s Day” – but decided to stay faithful to the original sounds.

So there’s the context. Like I said, there is another EP which was issued in April 94 and two songs from it – a rerecording of “Million words” and “Monday will never be the same” – are on my Soundcloud page. There is another file which Soundcloud is struggling with, a thirteen minute medley of three songs, and once that’s sorted I’ll write about that too.

So let’s get started.

Falling Away

Written – April 94 : Recorded – April 94

Ah yes, if you’re going to look ugly you might as well look disgustingly ugly. I’m tempremental, and susceptible to changes in my environment. And if someone changes their hairstyle then I don’t really appreciate it that much. This was the case here. Someone I liked a bit at the time suddenly changed their hair, pulling it back, wearing glasses and in my mind looking like a librarian. Such little things mean a lot, as has been seen in previous blog posts – how dare you change? The song title came from a documentary I saw about women who had “fallen away” from God and I liked the phrase. The music was meant to be like a Northern Soul stomper but listening to it now there seems to be a big Husker Du influence – the organ is like “Sorry sometimes” and the two voices ‘soaring off’ towards the end was meant to be like “New day rising”. There’s lots of open strings jangling on this, the verse chords don’t really exist – you just move two fingers up and down the fretboard and let the other strings ring out. But there’s a passion, I’m clearly pissed off by ‘the librarian’ and actually I was annoyed at her.

This song would be played regularly by my band The Cloud Minders during their early days and featured a rather stunning Neil Young style guitar solo at the end, not played by me I should add. Oh, and I didn’t sing it either.

Unproven

Written May 1994 : Recorded May 1994

This song features quite possibly the oddest chord sequences I ever came up with. I couldn’t even tell you what they were. It’s program 12 on the Yamaha, auto accompaniment and all, with some additional keyboard parts and overdubs and sounds quite lovely actually.

Except for the lyrics. There was this colleague working in the Stats Office who I was crushing on – she had a sort of stern formal beauty – and she worked in the department which wrote to new businesses to gain information about them. This was called Proving and a new business that was not tested yet was – you guessed it – unproven. So one day after delivering some proving forms to her I plucked up an enormous amount of courage and asked her out. She quietly and shyly declined and I returned to my desk, licked my wounds and wrote this song. I had also decided that if she did reject me I’d buy “Failure” by The Posies in Diverse Records on the way home – I’d read a review in a fanzine 3 years before and it seemed like the kind of heartbroken lovelorn record that might comfort me. And that was my introduction to the Posies but that’s another tale in itself.

Catch

Written January 94 : Recorded February 94

This was my first recording with the new Yamaha keyboard so as such was an experiment to see what I could do with it. The song had been written the month before and somewhere on tape there’s a terrible version recorded with the Casio SK5, and it was that recording which persuaded me to buy the Yamaha. So this was the first time I’d layered all the new sounds available, and hit the hihat constantly for five minutes.

As for the song, it was written about the same person as “Unproven” – only this time in the hope that she might be amenable. Clearly I’d not asked her. It only struck me afterwards that the ascending chord sequence in the chorus was ripped off from “Down on my knees” by Bread. Still, it’s better than ripping off Bananarama or Right Said Fred – which I’d unconsciously done on my ’93 recordings. So a hopeful love song which goes all motorik at the end, because I didn’t know how to end it.

Love and occasional rain

Written May 94 : Recorded June 94

The first song on the album not to be really written about anyone in particular. Again this was an experiment – the concept was let’s try to make a Galaxie 500 song but with synthesisers pulsing. I think this is the first appearance on the album of my trusty old Roland SH3a monosynth, pulsing away throughout the song. The moody introduction was actually from another song – I had started a rerecording of “Open down one side”, a keynote song from December 88’s “No happy endings” album, but unless you knew that song intimately (and I would say there’s only two people besides me in that category) you probably wouldn’t recognise it. A song then that isn’t really about anything and is an exercise in sound. It works actually. Nice guitar solo if I may say so. On the other hand, putting the bass in the left channel is a seriously bad idea.

The easiest word

Written July 93 : Recorded June 94

If there was one song I would remove from “Songs about girls” it would be this song but historical accuracy means it must be here. The reasons for removing it are many. Firstly it’s another auto accompaniment special – program 17 I believe – and secondly it’s so totally a rip off of “Sugar Tax” era OMD that I should credit Andy McCluskey as co-author. But the worst reason of all is that the lyrics are horrible. I wrote it about someone who everyone fancied but I didn’t and it just sounds really uncomfortable and nasty. Quickly pass over this one.

Purity

Written July 91 : Recorded July 94

This was one of the twenty one “Our little secret” songs written during the prolific summer of 1991. It’s not really about anyone so is a fake “song about a girl” but sounds heartfelt. I love this song, it’s simple and quite melodic and it builds and then slows down. Yes, a favourite of mine. And yes it does owe a slight debt to the first two Ultra Vivid Scene albums, but I didn’t notice at the time.

Drowning in lavender

Written July 94 : Recorded July 94

The final two songs on the album feature the second big purchase of 1994 – a Korg MS20. It’s all over this song, the filtered noise, the ring modulation, it’s bloody fantastic. Sometimes I write and record something that is purely for me, I don’t care about the listener and just do as I please – and this song is that. It’s a second cousin to “Pillow fight” (which makes it annoying that Soundcloud hasn’t figured that one out yet) in that it’s more psychotic dreampop in the vein of Insides. Again the lyrics aren’t about anyone really but then I’m singing them through my distortion pedal so they are only semi-discernable anyway. Five minutes of repetition and noise – lovely!

St Magdalen’s Day

Written July 1994 : Recorded July 1994

“St Magdalen’s Day” is the 22nd July and on the 22nd July 1994 my female boss disbanded the programming team I had been with for almost two years, moved us all into a different room amongst people I didn’t know and possibly didn’t like, and she sodded off to take a promotion somewhere else. So I wrote this song about her and how I felt. It’s a pop song – that MS20 pulsing away with some pulse width modulation – and it builds and builds with more layers but underneath I was hurt and looking back I can see why – it was a change of routine, and for me that wasn’t going to go well – remember I was fifteen years away from my ASD diagnosis.

Still there was one upside to the move – I was now in the same room as the chap who looked like Neil Finn and probably if I hadn’t moved into that room he wouldn’t have heard “Songs about girls” and I would not have formed the Cloud Minders with him. So with the formation of that band my ‘solo’ career stopped. For those who’d like to hear The Cloud Minders there is a Reverbnation page with our studio recordings, and some recently discovered demos from 1998 should be on there soon.

So that was “Songs about girls” originally issued on tape in August 1994 to about twenty people amongst my friends and workmates. Thanks for listening, I appreciate anyone who’s taken the time to listen to these songs. They are old and dated, but it’s about time I put them out there. Again, thank you for spending the time with these songs.

Oh and there’ll be a normal blog update about something other than myself – it’s mainly about Factory Records – by the end of the week. Thanks for your patience.

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