The writing and performing of Popular Songs for one’s own enjoyment or in pursuit of a career as a singer/songwriter is an activity that can be enjoyed (whilst others may suffer!) by people without any musical training whatsoever. Some of the most original and successful artistes in the genre have never received a music lesson in their lives!
The history and development of the form and its changing styles is well documented and makes for really interesting reading. The source is traceable back to the French troubadours of the 11th century, but it is since the “popular music explosion” that followed the Second World War, that the dissemination of the art has become a global phenomenon. It has produced an unending stream of contrasting musical styles with performers generating fame and considerable fortunes for themselves and, of course, for their publishers too!
Whatever choice of music we favour and prefer to listen to – be it live or on record – is simply a matter of choice; the options are many and so widely diverse.
In my case – having, as a music student in the 60’s, discovered and become embroiled in the great American Song Book – I was excited by the writing and performances of the emergent, fresh new breed of both American and British performers who, clearly, were not frightened of their best ideas.
I came to admire greatly the singer songwriters of the early 60‘s i.e. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jim Webb, etc. but, having spent most of my career as an arranger and orchestrator working on other people’s music, the likelihood of me ever joining them in their craft – rather than embroidering or adding another dimension to it – always seemed to be that one step too far.
I see now that, in retrospect, my problem was merely one of just starting and then getting on with it – but I had first to cross that dreaded Rubicon of self belief.
However, back in the day when, at the beginning of my professional career, I was asked to work (one after the other) with Roy Orbison, Bert Jansch, Gerry Rafferty and Ian Anderson. Four, highly gifted singer/songwriters if ever there were. It was through working on their songs (and the varied experiences I shared with them) that allowed me an insight into the esoteric, select and rarefied atmosphere in which they functioned.
During that period a seed was planted which, of late, has at last flowered and today is embodied in the content of this collection of original songs.
Of the four writers mentioned above, the one I came to work with most closely was, of course, Ian Anderson.
I’ve admired Ian’s work since we first met in 1968 (when I wrote the brass and reeds score for Move on Alone) – a track featured on This Was, Jethro Tull’s debut album.
My admiration (together with a deep and growing respect for his creative gifts and prodigious output) grew over the years in which I worked on his songs.
Similarly, I was to become aware of his respect for my part and input in the scheme of things, and recall (whilst we were recording the music for the aborted film project War Child) his astonishment and immediate outburst of praise when, standing near to the rostrum in the studio, he heard for the first time my treatment of the War Child Theme for Symphony Orchestra.
His remarks to me in that moment were clearly heartfelt and his response was endorsed most generously by awarding to me 50% of the writing credit of that piece: as valuable too, was his recommendation that I should spend more time writing original words and music. Say no more!
All of that seems (and is) a long time ago now, and over the twelve or so years I worked with him, there are far too many favourites to enumerate, but A Christmas Song, Reasons for Waiting, all of Minstrel in the Gallery, the purple period of Songs from the Wood and Heavy Horses, Moths etc. (I could go on!) are right up there at the top. You’ll find that there is more than an occasional (and not so blurred, either) fingerprint of the Jethro Tull style on several of the songs in this, my debut album!
Through Darkened Glass (the title song of the album) is nothing more (or less) than a surrealistic allegory and not at all unlike a dream sequence, bordering on a nightmare: a riddle for the listener to resolve within the ambit of their critical thinking.
It is dedicated to the memory of my father and to John Glascock (bass guitarist with Jethro Tull !975 -79) both of whom passed away in a short period of each other, and both in unfortunate, extenuating circumstances.
Within the lyric you’ll find clear, unashamed, references to the work of TS Eliot and Thomas Grey, together with the sum of my own life experiences (stated peroratively) in the last two verses:
or the meaning of this play
Those men and bits of paper
just like dust have blown away.
They can cling to their sad story
of what wealth and power gave:
but they’ll find the paths of glory
lead but to the grave.
12th January 2018