World's Most Jealous Girl, Behind The Scenes
We actually got a song finished in NZ Music Month! Just over two weeks from starting to posting it on-line with an accompanying video. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
Every year we mean to do something for Music Month, and every year we don't quite get round to it. This year was going to be different – the plan was to record, mix, master, make a video and release a song, all in May. I love it when a plan comes together!
“World's Most Jealous Girl” is the most recent song I've written, the idea stemming from an old Mance Lipscomb tune (though I doubt Mance would recognise what's happened to it!).
Our musical compadre John Michaelz, who's living up in Whangarei at the moment and rehearsing a new band there - curse my useless memory, I can't remember their name - was in town staying with me. He had a verse and chorus for a new tune and I had the first verse of “World's Most Jealous Girl”. Over an afternoon we finished them both.
John and I have a chemistry that makes writing together very productive. I have no idea why, but I've never found anyone else who I can write with easily. We've been doing it now for over 20 years and every Kokomo album has co-writes as do John's CDs.
The first crack at recording didn't pan out. Violent thunderstorms and wind and rain lashed the Bay. The Boatshed is a pretty sturdy studio but it's not entirely soundproof on days like that so we postponed. Background rain didn't seem like the sort of sound effect we needed.
In case anyone's interested in our recording approach, this is how we did it this time.
The whole band played the song live in the studio while we recorded just the drums. Then I put on a guide vocal and everyone else played, one by one, over the drum part – upright bass first then acoustic guitar and electric rhythm guitar, then trumpet and harp and, finally, lead guitar. That was Saturday.
On Sunday Nigel and I went back in and I recorded my full vocals (and harmonies) and we mixed it. Then, as we've taken to doing, we ran it by Beano to see if he had any extra percussion ideas to increase the dynamics. Sure enough, he added some tambourine, a shaker and cowbell (everything goes better with more cowbell!). At that session Colin took studio photos of various “crucifixion” poses for the video and CD.
Then it was off across town to the Colourfield in Welcome Bay where Tim Julian (currently mixing the new Brilleaux album) kindly dropped everything to do his usual excellent mastering job. Meantime we'd supplied an image of Colin's to Grant and asked him to make a “lyric video”. That's basically where you have a still picture and the lyrics scroll by, the simplest and quickest form of video.
Of course we should have thought ahead about giving such a task to an artist... Grant really went to town. That was the final ten days of our two week turnaround. But – damn! - it was worth it. Grant created a little magic - I laughed out loud first time. Then at the beginning of this week we had CDs pressed, covers printed, and they were sent out to (hopefully) friendly radio stations around the country. Meanwhile Colin looked after the on-line launch, social media and other essentials.
Damn fine! It's a satisfying feeling. Tonight I'm going to watch the video and crack open a fine bottle of something red from Te Mata. If you're reading this, I hope you like the song. Play it to your friends, play it to your mother, play it to your kids. Send it round the world.
PS Why not click HERE to see the Vid and Download the song
It's always a good time to Rediscover the Old Blues. We're just coming up to a slightly quiet patch for Kokomo: aside from a couple of private functions we're not doing anything public until March 22nd (at the Omokoroa Boat Club, just north of Tauranga).
Which means that aside from dealing with the management side with Colin – setting up gigs/promoting/planning/trying to retrieve money owed from festivals/etc – none of which is the most fun in the world, I've got a bit of free time on my hands.
Which is ideal. I've got books piling up that I want to read, mozzarella cheese to make, and a stack of movies I've been waiting to watch. But, as tends to happen, I got distracted by music. The books and movies will have to wait because I've been taking the chance to learn a few songs by old Texas bluesman Mance Lipscomb.
How it came about was that Mike Garner, who played at Papamoa with us last week and guested at the Christmas show, came round for lunch on Saturday (yum cha with homemade dumplings if you're curious) so we could try and hatch plans about doing a show together. We're still planning...
So we got stuck into watching a documentary about Mance Lipscomb. The late great documentarian Les Blank made a great hour-long film about him called “A Well-Spent Life” (he also mead a wonderful film about Lightnin' Hopkins). They've both just been released on blu-ray by Criterion in the States and I'm fortunate enough to have obtained a blu-ray player that will play American blu-rays.
What a fantastic film! Mance Lipscomb's life spanned most of the twentieth century and he spent it all as a share-cropper in Mississippi. To watch him and listen to him talk is to become immersed in the culture that he came from. And the music! Mance was one of the defining Texas guitarists and was a great fingerpicker with a driving thumb style. He played “knife guitar” (slide guitar using the side of a picket knife as the slide) and knew 1000 songs.
So that led me to learning a few. I think I've got his version of “Spoonful” sussed and “Sugar Babe” is coming along. And I've started a couple more. I don't know if there's much that is more satisfying in this world than nailing an old blues tune.
Look him up on YouTube – there are a whole pile of songs posted, and the Les Blank documentaries are probably out there somewhere on the internet, legally or not, now they've been officially released.
Yeah. Check out Manny. Your life will be richer for it.
It's never a bad time to celebrate local artisans and that's what I want to do today.
I seem to have been popping out to Omokoroa Beach on regular basis recently, playing at the Boat Club with the Andrew London Trio and putting up posters for various events.
That's how I ended up in the op-shop that makes up part of the Omokoroa Beach shopping centre, the little group of half a dozen shops next to the library. And it was while I was having a a chat with one of the op-shop's friendly volunteers that I spotted their shelf of jam...
...most of which were homemade, by – if I can correctly decipher the hand-written label - A Jacobs.
Now I don't know A Jacobs but whoever she (or conceivably he) is – you rock!
This was not yer ordinary jams. The jars' contents were groovily flavoured with interesting fruit and generously spiked with various alcohols. I grabbed a jar of “Fresh Nectarine tempered with Pink Plum & … bremoly”
Fresh nectarine! Tempered with Pink plum! Could it get any better? (I'm a sucker for anything that says “nectarine”)
Though I have no idea what “bremoly” might be. It could be a misprint. It could be that the handwriting is so extravagant that I simply can't read it and it says “brandy”. Actually, I'm sure that's the case, but it does really look like “bremoly', just check out the picture (I know the jar's empty; I just couldn't stop eating.)
And to Ms (or possibly Mr) A Jacobs I just want to say – whoever you are I salute you. You make FANTASTIC jam!!! I'm going back for more.
Watch out for it friends, this is jam that could rule the world.
With the heavy fist of New Zealand censorship coming down on bluesman Darren Watson for having the nerve to poke fun at our "squeeky clean" prime minister (Darren has now been threatened with prosecution if he even puts his new song on iTunes) we urge everyone to go to http://vimeo.com/102441715 and listen to "Planet Key" before this entire country becomes a police state. Then share it with as many people as possible.
I don't care if you think the sun shines out of John Key's ass (though I kinda pity you if you do) but the idea that a musician should have his work banned and be legally threatened for nothing more than producing a (very good) satirical song is disgusting. I would hope shocks most New Zealanders who cling onto the quaint notion that there is something resembling freedom of speech in this country.
Seriously, this is something everyone should be worried about - a song criticizing the government has been banned from radio and television, because... it's criticising the government and might influence people. All I can suggest is listen to it, watch the video, share it with everyone you can. This censorship cannot stand.
(P.S. Darren just emailed to say "It's gone legal unfortunately. So if we lose we may have to raise some funds in a hurry." Disgraceful. Don't raise your head above the barricades in New Zealand. What a pathetic joke of a "free" country.)
And Johnny Winter was one of the greats, a proud continuation of a Texas blues tradition that stretches through Lightnin' Hopkins and Freddie King with a thousand more in between.
Johnny learnt from many of them, played with everyone from Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix to Muddy Waters, and was one of the most inventive, supple and exciting guitarists you could ever hope to hear, whether on electric or acoustic.
And, if anything, I'm surprised he lasted so long, given inherent health problems and - more importantly - the prodigious amounts of alcohol he used to consume. As younger musicians we used to marvel at stories of Johnny's intake. Thankfully I only briefly tried to imitate it.
I first came across him on his sixties recordings, long epic jams on Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" and others. Then there were the three brilliant albums with Muddy in the late seventies, Hard Again, I’m Ready, and King Bee, the student helping the master regain his mojo. And then there were his superb later albums (on Alligator?) - Third Degree, Guitarslinger and another I can't remember now. I copied a lot of guitar licks from those. Brilliant stuff.
Astonishingly he was still going, planning to tour again even if he needed to sit down to play these days. I hear there's a new album ready. Sad to miss one more career renaissance...
I hate writing about people who were my heroes who've just died. It does nothing but depress me. But sometimes you've gotta offer a swoop of the cowboy hat and say thanks.
They really broke the mold with Johnny - we won't see his like again.
As of this latest website update (July 2018) it is clear that Derek is completely failing in his attempt to write a regular diary/blog/whatever. Everything here is currently really old but he's promised again to have another crack at it. Expect something sometime soon... probably...