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coathanger trail music

coathanger trail part 4

the 4 year hiatus in this on-going series is a result of the dilemma i had with dealing with the 2 songs written by andrew goodwin that were mentioned in my coathanger song. i had planned to try and create versions of them both. that is clues and belgrade ’88 which are referenced in the line

searching for clues
in belgrade

but when andrew tragically died in a fire back in september 2013 i lost the momentum. i wanted to carry on with the project but somehow i just couldn’t do it. i think the only way i could record those would be to do them sometime with mike mulholland and bernie martin we ought to do it maybe they’ve already done it without me i better ring mike sometime and see how he’s getting on.

meanwhile i’ve decided to leave out andrew’s songs and carry on with the next song in the trail which is referenced in the line

finding old gardens
old graveyards too

and this song is called culture and i wrote it i think in 1977. i just listened to the song on the whose last trickle album (track 11) and i think i prefer the new version which i’ve just done – the vocal doesn’t really sound too good on the 1978 recorded dry rib version. in mitigation as i’ve said before it was the first time i’d ever been in a recording studio. i’ll include the track too so you can see what i mean.

here’s the new version

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coathanger trail music songwriting

coathanger trail 3

The 3rd line of the song Coathanger is

the paintings are northern too

which is a reference to a song I wrote in 1977 or 1978 which was called Northern Painting. I gave the song that title as a reference to the few months I spent living in Manchester in late 1976 early 1977 where my best friends were Rod and Sheila Henderson and Rod was a painter – a northern painter. Apart from the title the words have no direct reference to any of Rod’s paintings or to anything that might have happened to me in Manchester during that time and the only link that I can possibly think of was that I was emphasising the use of colour and imagery in the lyric content. It’s a random anarchic jumble which I’m not ashamed of but I did try to tighten that sort of thing up in future songs. In the 2nd verse there’s a line

knew and was forgotten

which I decided to repeat 4 times – not that I couldn’t have thought up something different but because I thought the repetition would be amusing. I might shorten the repetition to 3 times in this recording.

The song was part of the early set we worked on with Dry Rib and its earlier incarnations but I’m not sure if we ever performed it. I think it was dropped before our 1st gig. When I realised that this was a song mentioned in Coathanger and that to complete the Coathanger Trail properly I was going to have to deal with this I saw that this was a problem. I hadn’t played the song since the late 70s. I had forgotten the music and I was not sure whether I had a recording. I thought I had an old recording of a rehearsal from 1977 which might possibly contain a dire version of the song. I looked all over but couldn’t find the cassette. I still had the lyrics and the morning after giving up on finding the cassette I took out the words and was prepared to write some new chords to go with them. I had a rough memory of how the chords to the verse went and lo and behold it just came together and I think pretty much that I managed to remember the song as it originally was.

It would have sounded very different had Dry Rib continued with it back then and recorded a version, but in the same way I couldn’t record one of the old songs now and make it sound like it did some 35 years ago. Well in theory I could but I’ve talked about this before and really to attempt to do so would be very, very bad for my creative psyche so that makes it impossible. Over the next couple of weeks I will be putting some of the songs from my new album up on this website but I have also been in conversation recently with Mike Mulholland and he is playing a bit of bass guitar again and for my next album which I will hopefully work on later this year I intend to do more of a rock thing and Mike may be involved in it which would be interesting.

Here’s the home recording I did of Northern Painting. Which completes the 3rd phase of the Coathanger Trail.

Northern Painting

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coathanger trail

Coathanger Trail 2

I don’t really care whether people think what I do is good or not. I know what I’ve done and that’s good enough for me.

This is the 2nd coathanger trail post and it covers the words in northern lands which is the 2nd line of the song.

This is the demo version of Alaska recorded in 1978. It’s a bit rough having come off an old cassette tape copy. It’s never been released. But I think it’s worth a listen. I prefer the vocals on the later ep version which is here. I’m pretty sure that this demo was recorded with an amp, maybe even my own Orange combo, more likely a Fender amp that the studio had, but the later version I think was a direct inject affair which I agreed to at the time because I didn’t know any better.

Basically the guitar is a bit more real. Photo above is how I looked playing that guitar. Actually that one was stolen from my car and the one I have now is different but from 1979 so is still vintage usa luckily.

The way Mike and Andrew play is also very real. That was a good band though unfortunately bound to implode.

I’m happy with my current band though. On Friday night that will be myself, Tom Ranby on saxophone (probably alto); Laura Lambell vocals; Rosalinda Moreno-Parra¬† vocals. Basically if we had done back in 1979 what we are doing now we would have been absolutely astronomic but sadly it doesn’t work that way.

Still there is a rich vein, a steady seam. I’ll put down my trumpet for now.

Here’s the demo version of Alaska

Categories
coathanger trail songwriting

coathanger trail part 1

In a recent post I wrote and presented a couple of versions of a song called Coathanger and through that was born a new category which is called Coathanger Trail in which I work my way through the songs that are referenced in that song. And first off we have Beagles Wag. A song that I never expected to play again after it was largely dropped from the Dry Rib set probably in 1979, but which I did perform earlier in the summer by popular request. The song has taken on a new life of its own. At the moment I’m reading the last volume of Christopher Isherwood’s diaries and there’s a lot about their (Chris and Don that is) trying to write a Frankenstein screenplay. I will say no more.

Well up above there is an archive handwritten version of the lyrics. This cannot be the original write-out of the words as it is too neat and stylised but it was not done too long after – I would say that the 3rd digit of the year has to be a 7.

Here is the track as recorded in 1978.

Beagles Wag

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coathanger trail insects music

coathanger

I noticed the other day that some nice person had put up a comment about a song of mine on Itunes which is called Coathanger. They say it would be a good song in an 80s Italian zombie film. I’ve just added a page to this blog with links to buying various songs of mine on Itunes including this one, which I’m linking to here. The song features myself on guitar and vocals, Paul Wigens on drums, Jeff Spencer on bass and I think the backing vocals are Jo Swan and Jeff.

Coathanger

Actually I prefer the demo version of the track which I recorded in October 2007 shortly after I’d written the song.

Here it is and below is what I wrote about it at the time.

But first – if you have any plans of making an Italian zombie film – please get in touch.

Coathanger Demo

I was working on the music for a possible song a few days ago and when I’d finished it and played around it with it a few times I realised that somehow I had gone back 30 years or so to about 1978 and written a Dry Rib song of that vintage. So then I had the idea to connect the words for the song with Dry Rib and make it in effect a song dedicated to the band.

There are a lot of obscure references to old songs and sometimes their lyrics. It’s a bit of a cryptic puzzle. It’s called Coathanger and I will explain that because I don’t think anyone else will know what that is about. In the early days of the band there was a song we did of mine which was called Cancer. The music was quite reasonable and the lyrics owed a lot to Vintage Violence/Paris 1919-era John Cale. For example,

And I, my heart, was with those gallant crewmen
As was the heart of every mother’s son
Yea and daughter too, I swear it, in the town

But right at the end of the song there was a repeated refrain :

And you aren’t anything other than a coathanger

It was probably that bit that led to the song being dropped so I think it is absolutely fitting now that I should resurrect its essence as a chorus and title.

The music put me in mind of Syd especially the instrumental link section between the end of the chorus and the start of the next verse, so I also put in a tribute to him with the snippets of my voice from a very old cassette tape of a rehearsal.

That’s the end of the bit from 2007 but I’d just like to add that the tribute to Syd Barrett in the other version of the song is the guitar solo at the end.