First uploaded (to Sound Cloud) 6th April 2014

Various definitiions of Out of character, on a colourful
        backgroundThe lyrics for this project were written over a long period. Several dated from the epic year of 2009 (in which I'd written some 53 altogether). The basic idea of the collection was on the drawing board for some time - it was to be my version of The Enigma Variations. It would be a series of pieces about people I knew, without identifying them, as per Elgar (1898-99). The problem was that this was always too limiting. Partly I wasn't convinced there were enough people I would want to write about; partly I was worried that the lyrics would come out twee or gooey or embarrassing; partly I wasn't sure enigma songs would work as I would have to not let on who it was. Elgar wasn't using lyrics. This was enough to leave the project on the back burner.

Somewhere I think early in 2012 I realised that if I broadened the concept to include fictional characters or characters I knew of but didn't know personally that then it would work. Lyric writing which had been sporadic speeded up, and continued during the recording sessions, which started with Gordy baby in mid-April 2013 and continued fairly steadily until the final session The stuff of dreams nearly five months later in early September. Orchestration of instrumentals followed until Epilogue was completed towards the end of October.

Somewhere towards the end of the recording sessions I started to get dissatisfied with the general approach. I was still pursuing the same riff-oriented, headworm-type music that I had been doing on That's odd. Comments coming from fans suggested that I was succeeding. The problem was that I was writing chord sequences that I liked, but that they were being largely steamrollered by audio loops that stripped all the subtlety out of them. I started to think that maybe next time around I should use fewer loops and more software instruments, although I realised that this approach would take longer.

Months of editing followed the completion of orchestration. At least one of my fans thought that I was making too much of it, but after a determined effort in January and February 2014, it wasn't until early March that I was finally happy with the results. By this time, as I pointed out, I had spent longer on the project than the Beatles had spent recording Revolver.

The project became the first to be uploaded to Sound Cloud in early April, and also the first for which AIFs were released to the general public. This should mean that the files accessible from this page are the highest sound quality of any pieces I have uploaded to date.

Prologue - being an instrumental, this was written late on, after all the songs. As you may have noticed I like the idea of bookending these collections (such as Creation and The end of creation). I have thought for a while about doing an overture, but strictly speaking those consist of bits of the music in the rest of it glued together, which is sufficiently intimidating that I haven't attempted it. Instead you got a prologue (especially as in Shakespeare's day the Prologue was a character who came on at the beginning) and an epilogue. It was largely based on a software piano loop, transposed to different chords and played around with a bit.
Orchestrated 4th-10th October 2013
Edited 25th December 2013, 22nd January 2014, 14th February 2014

The stuff of dreams - this is about an adventure hero. Not Jason Bourne, but that kind of person. I was thinking one day that I'd never be asked to do the music for one of the films about him, when I realised that there was nothing stopping me doing it, as long as I didn't mind it not appearing in a film. I'll leave you to guess who it is. I am aware that at around five minutes it is rather long. I suspect that the film producers would have insisted on it being cut. It might have been accepted as it was for the closing credits, especially given the spoken backing vocal at the end.
Lyric written: 13-14th August 2013
Orchestrated 17th August -7th September 2013
Vocals recorded 8th September 2013 (this isn't logged as a recording session, but from the date on the file it must have been then)
Edited 28th November 2013, 1st December 2013, 30th January 2014, 9th & 14th February 2014

Hardy - this was glued together from guitar loops. There isn't even a chord sequence as such. It wasn't particularly clever or profound - it was almost just playtime. I did have some issues with the middle 8 during editing, but they got sorted. I spent a lot of time going through the guitars to make them sound right, not just on this one but through the whole project.
Orchestrated 21st-26th September 2013
Edited 6th December 2013, 9th January 2014, 3rd February 2014

Smokey River - this (purely fictional) character is aging and has drunk probably a bit too much whisky than was good for him. He goes up and down some nameless river, drinking in bar rooms and earning a bit of money (I'll leave you to decide how). He's almost surprised he's still here. He has a guitar and now and again he'll strum a bit and sing a bit, and if you use your imagination this is him playing along with some other musicians and singing about his life.
Lyric written 4th January 2011
Orchestrated 16th-18th April 2013
Vocals recorded 20th April 2013
Edited 4th, 5th, 16th January 2014, 8th, 15th February 2014

Fry's Turkish delight - this (again fictional) character is a child who is the subject of some interest from social services. Her family is fairly dysfunctional and she has learned to adapt to lots of arguments and various people coming and going as being her sort of normal. While the professionals argue about what they should be doing, time is passing and she will be left as the product of what all this has done to her. Although Ellen is a social worker, to my knowledge she's never had a case of a father from Turkey and a mother from Mali. She even read the lyric just to make sure, and confirmed that I have indeed purely made it up. Some of the child's experiences have been borrowed from what I heard about someone else's early life before I even knew Ellen existed.
Lyric written 24th April 2013
Orchestrated 1st-12th May 2013
Vocals recorded 12th May 2013
Edited 9th December 2013, 9th, 15th February 2014

Gordy baby - this was written about Gordon Brown, at the time Prime Minister of Great Britain. It then appeared unlikely that he would be re-elected, and after a somewhat indecisive election a while later he duly resigned. I did think that the moment for this one had somewhat passed, but this collection about characters meant that it would suddenly work again. By the time I orchestrated and recorded it, Brown was gone. The comment at the end about bigots referred to an incident during the campaign. There was also a throw-away reference to Africa, which Brown apparently had a keen interest in.
Lyric written 30th November 2009
Orchestrated 11th-13th April 2013
Vocals recorded 14th April 2013
Edited 21st, 24th December 2013, 26th, 30th January 2014, 9th, 15th February 2014

Minor character - an instrumental, so called because there were a lot of minor chords in it. I liked it and thought it was one of my better instrumentals. It was the sort of thing I was thinking by then that I should be doing more of.
Orchestrated 11th-21st September 2013
Edited 2nd December 2013, 19th January 2014

Firm understanding - this nearly didn't get on at all. I was going to use Billy no mates, and even started work on it, but I felt that it was too lightweight and that I wanted something meatier with more teeth, which I therefore sat down to write. It came out as a dark tale of organised crime ('the firm' is a slang phrase indicating a gang of criminals). You could say it is an extremely rare example of a lyric that was written to order. It's another of my world music / indiepop / Indiany type songs (of which I've now done quite a number).
Lyric written 10th August 2013
Orchestrated 7th-15th August 2013 (i.e. I was initially orchestrating Billy no mates)
Vocals recorded 16th August 2013 (unusually, this was an evening session while Ellen was at a meal out)
Edited 26th November 2013, 9th February 2014

Pebbles in a jar - this started with a dream. In the dream I was listening to BBC radio 4 (a somewhat august speech based channel) when it was abruptly interrupted by a continuity announcer saying, "The BBC Welsh Service will follow on this frequency" (which I don't think it in fact ever does). Transmission then switched to an outside broadcase venue, by the sounds of it a concert hall or possibly a church hall, where an announcer was introducing something (in Welsh). I gathered that it was a song. His voice as he introduced it strongly conveyed the impression that he thought it was the most earth-shattering event in the entire history of civilisation, although oddly the song (despite being in Welsh) seemed to have an English title - "Pebbles in a jar." An aging Neil Diamond type character then started singing and playing this song on a guitar. It sounded like a fairly miserable dirge, and I was just thinking "Well I don't like this very much" when I woke up. I was so struck by it that the first thing I did was to write the title in my notebook. It did appear very clear that it was indeed a song title, so what I had to do was work backwards to the sort of lyric that would have that title. I could only see one way of making it work. It's completely made up, though the character had to have thoughts and feelings and it was easier to borrow them. As a result, it ended up being unintentionally revealing, as it describes what having a string of revolving door relationships feels like.
Lyric written 18th February 2012
Orchestrated 21st-25th April 2013
Vocals recorded 27th April 2013
Edited 9th, 18th December 2013, 15th January 2014, 8th, 20th February 2014, 9th March 2014

Exit one tree - this was obviously Norman Smith influenced, and probably would not have happened without Praise you. The tree in question was a large willow tree in my back garden. It was dwarfing not just my house but the several surrounding houses, and one tree surgeon commented that it was "just getting established as a mature tree". It was just too big and there were no two ways about it - the tree would have to go. It did, and I took some pictures to record this for posterity. Later the pictures were put together into a slide show which needed a musical soundtrack.  I had to lengthen it to accomodate more pictures, but I never really liked it at the longer length, and did a lot of surgery later which shortened it again. I also did a lot of work on the vocal which as you will have noticed was glued together from vocal loops.
In theory an instrumental, although it does include vocals that came as prerecorded loops.
Orchestrated 7th-11th April 2013
Edited 8th, 19th December 2013, 24th January 2014, 4th, 20th, 21st, 24th February 2014, 9th March 2014

Guess who - this was indeed written about one specific real person, you could say an iconic figure who has had a long career and despite a colourful private life is highly respected. He hasn't however obviously exerted himself, and it is hard to escape the conclusion that he could have done a lot more with the abilities he was gifted with. He could write interesting lyrics when he felt that way inclined, and arguably what he really needed was a co-writer and collaborator to knock his ideas into shape, although one ex girlfriend was quoted as saying of him "He don't need nobody to do nothing." I was sorely tempted to do an impersonation of him, but in the end decided that I didn't want to do a bad song about a bad song. I will leave you to guess who it is, though I can think of three possibilities.
Lyric written around 22nd-27th July 2013
Orchestrated 31st July-4th August 2013
Vocals recorded 11th August 2013
Edited 24th November 2013, 24th January 2014, 8th February 2014

Fraulein Fi - there are two versions of what this song is about. I'd wanted to do a brass band song for some time, and that's what this one started out as. The original rough cut which you may have heard on NOM was brass right through. The guitars were added later so it's come out as a hybrid. My version is that in an indirect way it's about my dad, who for most of his life hated social get togethers. He did at least once have to go to Germany on business, and as a family we went to Germany and Austria several times on holiday. I imagined a beer festival, with the assembled German drinkers (possibly Bavarians) swinging their beer steins around, singing lustily and approximately in tune and getting top ups from buxom young ladies who would scold them good naturely for being overly interested in them. I found this an amusing thought as I knew dad would have hated being caught up in that. It would have been his idea of hell. I wondered what they would be signing about, and that's really what the lyric is - my (completely made up) idea of a Bavarian drinking song. Ellen on the other hand is convnced that it's actually about a previous girlfriend. "It's an ex three song," she says. In this version, in the first verse I am made an idiot of. In the middle I try to be adult and mature about it, before being made an idiot of again in the second verse. Matters then come to an abrupt halt as these things tend to do. I'll leave you to decide which version is right.
Lyric written 8th September 2012
Orchestrated 27th-30th June 2013
Vocals recorded 30th June 2013
Edited 31st October 2013, 1st, 3rd November 2013, 19th January 2014, 9th February 2014, 25th February 2014, 9th March 2014

The twitty song - another swipe at the music industry. I've had pot shots at music before, for example We've got lots of money (and you haven't). It is a deliberate parody, the punchline to which comes at the end. In case you're wondering the outro is largely aimed at the keyboard player of a very well known group who did make somewhat similar comments (I saw film of the interview).
Lyric written 29th-30th April 2009.
Edited 15th-19th June 2013
Vocals recorded 21st July 2013
Edited 7th November 2013, 3rd, 26th February 2014

Numpty of the year - this indirectly comes from Oona who liked this (Scottish) word and used it a fair amount. The character in it is entirely fictitious. My dad didn't win the Numpty of the Year award. In the song, the character is presented with this as a joke. We're left to presume that he is an Englishman living in Scotland, and doesn't know what a numpty actually is. The locals present the award to him as if it's a great compliment. He is dead chuffed, and they're killing themselves laughing because they know what it really means.
Lyric written 20th June 2009.
Orchestrated 22nd-30th May 2013
Vocals recorded 2nd June 2013
Edited 24th, 27th October 2013, 10th January 2014, 3rd, 26th February 2014

Drop dead - I believe this is loosely aimed at a character I encountered on holiday once, who was waxing lyrical about how a robin or a starling or something came and sat on his car window and sang along with some classical piece of music. Another woman there obviously thought he was fantastic and was lapping it all up. I didn't, and wasn't.
Lyric written 5th August 2011.
Orchestrated 7th-11th July 2013
Vocals recorded 14th July 2013
Edited 3rd November 2013, 10th, 27th February 2014

When you've got to go - triggered by a huge expenses scandal. MPs of all parties were embarassed by having some of their expenses claims published. This was met by a lot of public anger. The character in the song, who is completely fictitious, is an MP explaining at about that time why he is resigning over his expenses despite the fact that he doesn't believe he's done anything wrong. This was one of the oddest recording sessions I've ever done, as I wanted it to sound like the commons, so you can hear the reaction of the other MPs in the background, while the backing tries to convey the dignity and class of the surroundings. Needless to say I hugely enjoyed doing the spoken vocal at the end.
Lyric written 30th June 2009.
Orchestrated 16th-19th May 2013
Vocals recorded 19th May 2013
Edited 5th January 2014, 9th, 27th February 2014

Choristers v guitarists - an instrumental, as the title says really just pitching choirs and guitars (both of which I'd used before) together. Whenever I think of the instrumentals in this collection for some reason I always forget this one. I remember working on it late one night. it got twiddled a bit during editing, including the mix between the two. I'll leave you to decide who won.
Orchestrated 28th September - 2nd October 2013
Edited 24th December 2013, 19th January 2014, 10th February 2014, 2nd March 2014

I wouldn't know - I like this one a lot. Ellen and I were in Brussels for my birthday. There was a jazz festival just finishing, and I remember seeing a stage with a large picture of a trumpeter going round and round. Somewhere near the stage, not part of the festival, was a female guitar player. She was some distance away and facing the other way. I got an impression but couldn't hear any words, which might not even have been in English. I imagined her as a sort of Joan Byez / Joni Mitchell / Joan Armatrading type character. I wondered idly what she might have been singing about, and this entirely made up lyric was the result. In the song, she's annoyed at some chap who is spouting a lot of politics at her that bores her stiff. What she wants is for him to drop all that so she can get to know him as a person, as she might even like him that way. You need to use your imagination here.
Lyric written 24th-28th May 2013
Orchestrated 22nd-27th July 2013
Vocals recorded 3rd August 2013
Edited 6th November 2013, 10th February 2014, 2nd March 2014

Lord - this is a spoof gospel song. Before anyone takes it too seriously I have to draw attention to the backing vocals which contain such gems as "Jesus makes my tea" and "Jesus does for me" (i.e. cleans his house and does other household chores). You'll also notice various unlikely activities that Jesus gets up to in the outro such as (when his road is being repaired) being "right there at the asphalt machine". The main part of the lyric describes the singer as having narrowly escaped death a number of times, almost as if his Lord has been trying to kill him off. I can almost picture God looking at him still alive and muttering "Damn, Damn, Damn." It's not going to change anyone's mind about religion. Although you'll gather I do have views on this the song is really a bit of fun. It obviously must have been Charlie Rich influenced as I wrote it immediately after hearing Behind closed doors... but I don't understand how that album led to this song (suggestions?).
Lyric written 21st April 2012
Orchestrated 10th-15th June 2013
Vocals recorded 16th June 2013
Edited 31st October 2013, 26th January 2014, 8th February 2014, 2nd March 2014

Ain't it always - this is an oddity. Another completely made up song, the character in it is clearly very different from me. He's a hard boiled cynic who is aware that he's used women uncaringly for years. I was going to have him miserable in his advancing years as a result of that, but that felt mean, so I thought, "Let's give him a happy ending."
Lyric written 19th May 2012
Orchestrated 19th-24th June 2013
Vocals recorded 25th June 2013
Edited 20th November 2013, 15th January 2014, 6th February 2014, 3rd, 5th March 2014

Cotton fields - loosely based on the novel A painted house, by John Grisham. Brilliantly written, this novel described a childhood spent cotton farming. I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't read it, but I did get the feeling all the way through that there was going to be a punchline, that something was going to happen. Apparently the novel was semi autobiographical. In the song, a very successful entrepreneur (a household name) is waxing lyrical about one of this favourite themes - his famously humble origins, and how much they taught him. It becomes clearer and clearer as the song goes on that he learned little or nothing in the cotton fields, and in fact barely remembers them. The book makes clear just what a hard life it was, especially the actual harvesting of the cotton. I did have a look much later but couldn't find any real entrepreneur who made a fortune after spending his childhood in the cotton fields. Unless you count Grisham himself, the nearest might be someone like Richard Arkwright. The sort of character I had in mind would be someone like Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, or Donald Trump, or Alan (Lord) Sugar (who was famously a barrow boy at the beginning of his career). I'll leave you to decide who you think it might be about.
Lyric written 31st May 2010
Orchestrated 3rd-9th June 2013
Vocals recorded 9th June 2013
Edited 27th October 2013, 24th January 2014, 8th February 2014, 7th, 8th March 2014

Epilogue - this is the other half of the bookend (with Prologue). This is arguably better than Prologue, although that by my standards is different in the way it's written, whereas the path this one takes is (at any rate by me) fairly well trodden. The early part of it as it was initially sounded fine, but it was too much like other things I'd done before, so I scrapped a whole section of it and redid it from scratch. I wanted it to sound more thematic and to lead more smoothly into the later section. I'm very proud now of how it's turned out. I've done a lot of good instrumentals, so it can be a case of "follow that" but in this case I believe I have managed it.
Orchestrated 11th-22nd October 2013
Edited 29th December 2013, 23rd January 2014

Lyrics written: 2009 (4), 2010 (1), 2011 (2), 2012 (4), 2013 (5). The other six are instrumentals.