First uploaded (to Sound Cloud): 31st August 2015

Images from my past, with captionsLike those for other projects I have worked on, the lyrics for this one were written over a long period, including a couple from 2009, though most were from 2011-12. That is, it was mostly written while I was recording "Mortality" and "That's odd". In personal terms, this puts these lyrics between Oona and Ellen. Some of them convey something of how I was feeling at the time.

The idea of the project was to collect together some memories and moments from my life. It wasn't quite to be a musical autobiography, but there were shades of that about it. This made it the most personal collection I had yet worked on. It included quite a lot of memories from childhood, as well as a certain number relating to lowlights of the years-long search for a life companion.

Unusually, the first track I worked on, in May 2014, was an instrumental. I did this deliberately, because I wanted it to have a chance to shape the project before a lot of songs with guitar loops had been done. I was still thinking at that point that it might come out with an orchestral hue. As it turned out, some of it did come out that way, but there was a lot of guitar in it.

This was the first project I had worked on that included my own guitar playing. I had been trying to learn the guitar for over a year, and I have to report ruefully that I found it a fearful struggle. Accomplished guitarists may make it look easy, but it takes continual practise sustained over years to get to that level. One guitarist told me: "I can tell you how to play as well as me: practise every day for about six hours, and after forty years you'll be as good as me." After a moment he corrected himself: "Well... not quite as good... but something like it." With computer software the reality was that I only needed to be able to play one chord for two bars to have something usable, as the computer can transpose one chord into a different one and loop short recordings. The guitar recordings I made for this project were frequently heavily edited and cleaned up, and not infrequently had extensive effects applied to them. Making a nylon-string classical guitar (which this was) sound like an electric was quite achievable. Later, I was given a fairly expensive Taylor steel-string acoustic as a present, but that doesn't feature at all in this project.

Recording sessions (that is, of vocals) started at the beginning of June 2014 with the classical-influenced "Sodding horses". There were guitar-only recording sessions in late June and early August. "Was that it?" (which as a vocalist I had been waiting more than eight years for) was recorded on 10th August. Towards the end of the recording sessions, the mood turned somewhat sombre with tracks like "You know" (a fairly direct description of the death of my father, recorded on 31st August) and "I'm done" (28th September). The last recording of new material for the project was the mock folk song "Queer as folk" (12th October). There was one more recording session a week later, but it was a re-record of one track and backing vocals for a different one.

Orchestration of instrumentals continued during the rest of October, and apparently somewhat sporadically through November and the first half of December. I was still making frantic efforts to learn the guitar, and this did prolong editing, which appears to have started at the end of 2014 and finished in July 2015. The upload to Sound Cloud wasn't until the end of August. The whole project therefore took around 15-16 months (longer than "Abstracts"). By the end of it, I was satisfied with it as a body of work, although it wasn't at all what I had been expecting when I started. There were shades of Abstracts-style experimentation in some of it, especially in some of the instrumentals, but there was also material that stylistically wasn't especially different from previous projects. This has meant that it doesn't have the unity and sense of one-ness that "Beach sounds" for example had - it's almost more of a chocolate box. If you don't like one, try another.

Anticipation - Although usually I leave the instrumentals until the end, this was the first track in the collection that I worked on. As I have done previously, I was trying to make the opening sound like the beginning of a piece of classical music - a symphony perhaps - and in some ways this is one of the most ambitious instrumental pieces I have yet written. It was trying to draw on a rather larger instrumental canvas than I usually use. Although it did improve during editing, and came out as a creditable effort, I have written more convincing instrumentals (including "Let it go" which we will come to presently). The reason for the title was that the last track was going to be "Reminiscence", thus bookending the collection (which I've done before with other projects), but it didn't work out that way.
Orchestrated 9th-18th May 2014
Edited 30th December 2014, 10th, 13th, 14th March 2015, 15th June 2015.
This doesn't contain any audio loops at all.

Let's go for a drink - I don't think this song is about any one blind date; it's more how a string of unproductive ones felt. I probably didn't have a huge number, it just felt like that at the time due to the essential similarity of them. What came across from a string of women that I met was how they would go on at length about themselves, and would have absolutely no interest at all in me. It did feel like turning on the radio and listening to a broadcast (the Reith lectures perhaps), and I've tried to convey some of that here. The spoken outro is a fairly close parody of what one of these women did actually say. She made a couple of what I presumed were jokes, which she evidently thought were funny. I can't honestly remember now what they were. Noticing that I hadn't been amused, she then seized on this as damning evidence of how I was Not On The Same Wavelength, and therefore Not Suitable.
Lyric written 12th November 2011
Orchestrated 5th-9th August 2014
Vocals recorded 17th August 2014
Edited 20th February 2015, 14th March 2015, 15th May 2015.
Guitar loops: eight of me, plus two pre-recorded commercial ones.

Carolling (or, good old Dad) - I've written about how my father hated Christmas before, and I returned to this theme here. This time it is about one specific instance (which I often reminded him of later) in which he honestly, really did shout at some carol singers to clear off. I don't think, now, that I actually did see them while they were being shouted at, as I'm almost sure I remember seeing him get up from a chair and storm off from the front room towards the door. At that point I must have been behind him, so I couldn't have seen them, though I can well imagine their white, shocked faces as the blood drained out of them. The lyric is exaggerated, but the spoken outro is close to what he actually said and to how he said it. "Right, that's it" would have been almost to himself as he got up. "Back again, are you" is a deliberate attempt by me to explain (to the listener) why he was shouting. In case you're wondering, he actually did grow up in a house with one room upstairs, one room downstairs and newspaper in the outside toilet which they shared with another house. It was only quite recently that I found out that the house was actually an apartment round the back of a pub that a relative of his owned at the time. This would have been during the war and shortly afterwards (he was born in 1937).
Lyric written 10th September 2012, while in Croatia, though as usual hacked around somewhat while being added to orchestration.
Orchestrated 16th-21st June 2014
Vocals recorded 22nd June 2014.
Edited 21st, 22nd January 2015; 15th March 2015; 15th, 27th May 2015; 12th July 2015.
Guitar loops: one of me. I make it 13 pre-recorded commercial ones.

The company song - I had one comment in response to this, when it was first posted on NOM, that someone was going to use it as their mobile phone ring tone. It was an enraged response to a briefing. More generally what it is conveying is a frustration at the contrast between the official word on what is happening, and what is visible at the front line. At one point it was explained to me that what I was seeing was only a small part of a much larger picture, and that it was perfectly possible that the rest of it was somewhat more harmonious that what I saw at the time. Incidentally you'll notice the contrast between what the barmy (and fictional) American manager says around two thirds of the way through, and what he says at the end. You may be wondering what changed in between... the answer of course is the market climate, which became more difficult. The cardboard bricks however were all too real (I saw the photograph).
Lyric written 27th November 2009, though as usual hacked around a fair amount when it was added to the vocal guide.
Orchestrated 9th-19th July 2014
Vocals recorded 27th July 2014, after lunch. Ellen was having a nap for most of the session, which finished shortly after 5pm.
Edited 11th February 2015, 15th March 2015, 29th May 2015.
Guitar loops: nine pre-recorded commercial ones.

Queer as folk - this is a reconstruction of a folk evening that I went to during a cruise of the river Douro in Portugal. (You'll notice my throwaway comment via the compère that it "bored the pants off some cruise passengers".) I was deliberately being sarcastic in the way I orchestrated it, hence the somewhat lumpen, almost insulting, way the chords are bashed out, and the somewhat bald, almost shouted, arrangement and delivery of the lyrics. After a time I became uncomfortable that I had overdone it, and that it had come out too bald, so I added an acordion. I do have a recording somewhere of what the real band actually sounded like, though I didn't use any of it - this song is entirely my own work - though I did borrow the wording of a comment from the real compère that "the next one is a little bit funny" (it wasn't). In case you're wondering, yes they did try and get at least one member of the audience to dance with them. I was right at the back, half hidden behind a pillar or something, so I was quite safe.
Lyric written 7th August 2011 (during Douro cruise - Portugal)
Orchestrated 2nd and 7th October 2014. I got the whole lot in two sessions.
Vocals recorded 12th October 2014
Edited 28th February 2015, 31st March, 1st April, 2nd April, 29th May
Guitar loops: one pre-recorded commercial one.

My father's boat - some time in 1875 (according to the version of the story that I saw) a songwriter called Henry Clay Work (then already well known as a writer of American civil war songs) stayed in an inn near the border between Yorkshire and County Durham. He happened to ask the staff about a long case clock that wasn't running, and the rest of course is history. I remembered the resulting song very well, as I used to be in a brass band at primary school, and this was one of the pieces that it played. It had a rather maudlin lyric, and I think it was probably the first piece of music that moved me to tears. It was decades later by the time I idly tried searching for it on line, to find that quite a number of artists had recorded it, and by the standards of the time it had been a huge hit. The extent to which it had crossed the globe was almost uncanny. There was evidently something about it that had worked. I got interested in what it was, and saw that it could be reduced to a formula: the clock had almost human characteristics attributed to it. It had been animated; Work had breathed some sort of life into it. The clock became the way that the narrator remembered, not the clock itself, but his grandfather who had been the owner of it. I decided to use the same formula, and after some thought settled on my father's Mirror dinghy, which had indeed given him much enjoyment. For the record, the grandfather in the song appears to have been quite fictitious, and Work was evidently not remembering his own grandfather.
Lyric written 18th April 2012
Orchestrated 11th-21st September 2013
Vocals recorded 28th June 2014 (the day after the last day managing incidents at Sevenoaks). Re-recorded 19th October as I had not been happy with the technical quality of the first recording. I did some more noise reduction after that before I was happy. This version of it now includes three part harmonies in places.
Edited 3rd April 2015, 29th May 2015.
Guitar loops: six pre-recorded commercial ones.

Ashes (Powell River) - strictly speaking, this was not actually part of the project, though it did appear to fit with it. While in Canada with Ellen, I had attended a family gathering at which the ashes of one of her relatives were scattered (at Duck Lake). Cameras came out, pictures were taken, and some time later at her request I put together a slide show of the event. The slides being silent clearly required some sort of musical accompaniment, reasonably melodic but not intrusive or attention-grabbing. I didn't think terribly hard about this. I knew exactly how long it had to be (as I'd already put the pictures together), so I used some guitar and a chord sequence. It didn't take very long. I had enough experience to be able to knock out this sort of thing without really trying very hard, though it was later polished a bit compared to the version that was used on the film sequence.
Orchestrated 12th and 14th October 2014 (I got the whole lot in two sessions).
Edited 7th March 2015, 3rd April 2015, 29th May 2015, 12th July 2015.
Guitar loops: one of me. Two pre-recorded commercial ones.

Drift - this instrumental, more experimental than orchestral, was brutally savaged by a fan when first uploaded, so it got a drastic reworking and came out much better. I still felt eventually when the whole project was put together that it could probably have stood being half a minute shorter.
Orchestrated 16th-26th November 2014
Edited 6th March 2015, 4th April 2015.
No audio loops. There is guitar, but it's orchestrated (synthesised).

Round and round - I resisted the temptation to make this a waltz or to try and put literal waltzing sounds into it. Clearly an expression of frustration at the repeating cycle of being in and out of various relationships, it gives some insight into how I was feeling just before communications with Ellen started. I had earlier thrown a sideways light on this sort of theme in "Pebbles in a jar".
Lyric written 15th September 2012, at Cambridge University botanical gardens, nine days before the first contact with Ellen.
Orchestrated 17th-24th September 2014
Vocals recorded 5th October 2014. Whispered backing vocals recorded 19th October.
Edited 28th February 2015, 5th April 2015, 29th May 2015, 11th June 2015, 12th July 2015.
Guitar loops: one of me. Eight pre-recorded commercial ones (including one bass).

Sodding horses - the original idea of this was to have a belly-ache about a past blind date, in the style of an Italian opera aria. Believe it or not, I actually researched this one by listening to a real Italian opera aria, and was struck by how basic the orchestration of it actually was (presumably because it was trying to focus on the vocalist). After a time I started to get a sneaky feeling that I had overdone it with the basic orchestration, so it has come out a shade more orchestral than an actual opera aria would have been. The effects in the middle eight were a late edit; to be honest I didn't think the original middle eight vocals sounded right. With the effects, they sounded much better. In case you're wondering, yes this really was based on a real blind date, in which the woman went on and on and on about horses and the huge role they played in her life, and made it clear that anyone who was not all that into horses was a complete non starter. I was fairly incredulous even at the time, though in personal terms I was sufficiently lacking in confidence that I felt that the only question with dates was whether they wanted me, not the other way round.
Lyric written 9th September 2011
Orchestrated 19th-28th May 2014
Vocals recorded 1st June 2014
Edited 7th, 15th January 2015; 5th April 2015.
No audio loops or guitar.

Do it better - nothing mysterious about the title - it was an attempt to 'do it better', by which I meant that I was trying to avoid chuntering out the same old same old (which I could very easily have done without much effort). I was trying to push myself beyond my comfort level. I've thought before that I should be trying to do, not what I can do, but what I can't do (if you understand me). It's fine, I have no problem with it, though you can argue that it is actually (by my standards) a fairly conventional piece (listen to the piano in it) with flashy bits added to it. Some people might think that it would have been better to have left the flashy bits off and used conventional strings instead, but that would have felt too much like a path I had trodden many times before.
Orchestrated 3rd October-26th November 2014 (although my records of this process appear to be incomplete)
Edited 8th March 2015, 7th April 2015, 11th June 2015.
Guitar loops: one of me. Two pre-recorded commercial ones.

Nearly - though most of my lyrics have been written quickly, typically between about half an hour and an hour, there have been a handful that I took much more trouble over, and this was one of them. I was staying at a hotel at the time (this was months before Ellen). There wasn't anything in particular to do that evening, so I decided to spend it writing a lyric. I thought of one school I had been to, and wrote down everything could remember that came to mind about it. When I had quite a bit of this, I then proceeded to pick out which bits I was going to use and knock them into a lyric. This did take quite a bit of time. Whether it made the lyric better, I leave for you to judge. There's quite a bit of very descriptive stuff in it, though I have a feeling it's too long and could have done with one verse fewer. I should also add that this song might  not have happened had it not been for "Baggy trousers" by Madness (which apparently had a very similar genesis).
Lyric written 29th April 2012, at Falfield Best Western Hotel (near Bristol)
Orchestrated 22nd-28th July 2014
Vocals recorded 2nd August 2014. It was a wander down memory lane, and I got a bit emotional when I heard the finished song.
Edited 16th February 2015, 11th June 2015, 12th July 2015.
Guitar loops: six pre-recorded commercial ones (including one mandolin).

Riot act - this is based on a conversation with an ex, as it happens on a beach, though I have reversed it. The narrator is actually the ex, talking to me, including the spoken bit at the end. When I recorded it, I did spit the lyric out with some venom, which was probably delayed annoyance. Ex seemed very insistent that there was no fault at all with anything she did, and that everything I'd ever said was wrong or of no value, even down to how I cooked oven chips.
Lyric written 10th September 2011
Orchestrated 2nd-6th July 2014
Vocals recorded 20th July 2014, the day after Ellen's barbecue. I started very late, approaching what would have been lunchtime, and finished at about 4pm.
Edited 17th April 2015, 13th June 2015.
Guitar loops: one of me. Eight pre-recorded commercial ones.

Security briefing - In this lyric, we are told that we are just about to receive top secret information. However, we never actually get it, because the person who is to impart it is too concerned with putting everyone in their place and doesn't actually get around to telling us anything. I'm tempted to say that if Basil Fawlty had been alive now, he'd be a security consultant.
Lyric written 20th-21st March 2014
Orchestrated 23rd-28th August 2014
Vocals recorded 21st September 2014, between about 2pm and 4pm, as usual while Ellen was typing downstairs. The intial edit was a nightmare and it was nearly 6pm by the time I wrapped.
Edited 24th February 2015, 17th April 2015
Guitar loops: three of me. Five pre-recorded commercial ones.

Who's the man - this is a fairly straight down the line guitar instrumental. The title was  due to my feeling fairly smug at having come up with it. It's basically from the same studios as "Hardy".
Orchestrated 29th October-2nd November 2014
Edited 7th March 2015, 17th April 2015, 13th June 2015.
Guitar loops: three of me. Six pre-recorded commercial ones.

Working up to it - another instrumental, but this time more orchestral. After I'd been working on it for a little while, I realised I had it in the wrong order and moved two of the sections round. After a while it started growing on me. It became one of my favourites of the collection. The punchline is at the end, hence the title. This was the last one to be orchestrated - after it was done, I was into the editing.
Orchestrated 1st-14th December 2014
Edited 8th March 2015; 20th, 22nd April 2015; 14th July 2015.
Guitar loops: one of me. Five pre-recorded comercial ones.

You know - this is a very straightforward song about my dad dying. As I did in "Riot act" I have reversed the perspective - I've written it as though I was him. This is about how it was, though only he could have said how accurately it reflects how he felt, and of course he's long gone.
Lyric written 8th October 2012 (at Lincoln)
Orchestrated 16th-18th August 2014
Vocals recorded 31st August 2014
Edited 23rd February 2015, 24th April
Guitar loops: six of me. Three pre-recorded commercial ones.

If I died - I wasn't sure about this one. At one point I remember thinking, "Am I sure I really want to do this?" I decided that in a collection of this sort I really couldn't miss it out, so it made the cut.
Lyric written 13th October 2013
Orchestrated 29th May - 5th June 2014
Vocals recorded 7th June 2014 (that session also included a fair amount of hacking around of the guitar, as well as adding the lyrics to the vocal guide).
Edited 17th June 2014; 24th, 27th April 2015; 13th June 2015.
Guitar loops: six of me, that's it, no other guitar.

Ashes 2 - like "Ashes (Powell River)", this isn't strictly part of the project. It was written for a different version of the same slide show. Since the running time was different, it needed a different-length piece of music, and it was easier to write a new piece than hack the existing one around. As I mentioned, I don't find this sort of thing difficult.
Orchestrated 16th and 20th October 2014 (I got the whole lot in two sessions)
Edited 7th March 2015, 26th April 2015, 25th June 2015.
Guitar loops: five pre-recorded commercial ones.

Moments - this is another lyric that I worked for a while on. I wrote down odd memories of holidays I had been on, and then worked them into a lyric. The way it is framed is quite fictitious however, because some of the holidays I was remembering in the lyric were after the Egypt holiday on which I was supposedly remembering them.
Lyric written 5th September 2012
Orchestrated 14th-16th August 2014
Vocals recorded 25th August 2014 (Bank Holiday Monday). The forecast had said it was to rain all day.
Edited 23rd February 2015, 26th April 2015, 1st July 2015.
Guitar loops: five of me, that's it, no other guitar.

X1 (or, enjoy the show) - I felt that my first ex should have a song. I thought that she deserved one, especially as I had referred to other ex's in other songs. I tried to capture what that relationship had felt like, and how it went wrong. At the end of it, I got to be an American entertainer, perhaps Elvis, albeit only for a few seconds. What I was trying to get at was the feeling at the end of that relationship that the curtain had come down, the show was over. It wasn't a good feeling then, though I've made light of it here. For a time this was going to be the last track on the CD, but again, it didn't work out that way. After more than nine years doing this, I was content to let the project go where it wanted to go rather than trying too hard to force it. This is another lyric that was written shortly before the first contact with Ellen, and it does shed a sideways light on the sort of frame of mind I was in at that time.
Lyric written 8th and 10th September 2012 (in Croatia) - about a fortnight before the first contact with Ellen.
Orchestrated 26th June - 1st July 2014
Edited 29th January 2015, 27th April 2015, 1st July 2015.
Guitar loops: six of me, that's it, no other guitar.

Let it go - an orchestral piano-based instrumental. There was one short linking section (for example, at around one minute two seconds) that sounds perfect now, but I did have trouble with it. It kept not sounding right, until inspiration struck and I realised how to do it. The intention of the title was to be a sort of philosophical acceptance. These, collected here in this project, are the memories I have of my past. I can accept them as they are, as they were, but at the same time let go of them, not be troubled by them any more. Dreamy, pretty, hypnotic as it slowly unwinds, this is me at my very best.
Orchestrated 11th-14th November 2014
Edited 8th March 2015, 27th April, 3rd July, 15th July
No audio loops - this is 100% synthesised.

I'm done - this, I was to learn, is a normal part of leaving a relationship. I used to think that it was just me, but it's not. Feeling that it's all over, a line has been drawn, must be drawn, and that nothing else will follow it - it's sincere and meant, as it was when I thought it; but it is normal, and usually it doesn't actually happen. At the time this was written, there was still a little over a year to go before the first contact with Ellen.
Lyric written 7th August 2011
Orchestrated 29th August - 4th September 2014
Vocals recorded 28th September 2014 (after getting back from a trip to Oxford)
Edited 26th, 27th February 2015; 30th April 2015; 2nd, 3rd May 2015; 3rd July 2015.
No audio loops. I did experiment with guitar in this one, but it all came out, apart from one guitar track which is muted (and hence inaudible).

Was that it? - as a vocalist, this was the one I'd been waiting for. I'd spent years wanting something hard edged that I could really get my teeth into, and this is it. It's basically an out and out rocker, and (though it may not sound that way when you listen to it) I was in fact belting it out pretty much full throttle. I had to use effects on the vocal to get the sound I wanted, and it took a bit of experimenting to get it. Lyrically this was an exasperated swipe at someone who was then a work colleague (and a determined conspiracy theorist). Most (if not all) of the views I attribute to him here, he did actually hold at the time, including on 9/11 which I seem to recall he often spoke about. I particularly remember him making dismissive comments about the VW Golf and VW Polo (for US readers, these are European cars), because it surprised me. If he'd said they were overpriced, that wouldn't have surprised me, but he was criticising them as cars. I can't honestly remember now whether he said that the former British heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper could have beaten Mike Tyson (who was from a much later era), though it is the sort of thing that he might have said. The spoken vocals were intended to be him, though I didn't realise until after I'd done them that (without thinking about it) I'd copied his voice and delivery. You may think that the views this character expresses are all correct - I'll leave that to you to decide. Right at the end, the character reports that George Bush had links with Bin Laden's family. In case you think that this is just too outlandish a view for a conspiracy theorist to have, I gather that the Washington Post reported that the private investment firm the Carlyle Group (which apparently had links with the Bush and Reagan administrations as well as with the Bin Laden family) met at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York, the day before 9/11. I did wonder whether this global conspiracy that this person kept going on about was actually a misunderstanding of the Carlyle Group. Musically, this song was based on a guitar loop. As soon as I heard it, I had one of those Eureka moments, and was sure I had to use it. The guitar flourish at the beginning was a later addition, and I had to play around with it for a while to get it to sound right.
Lyric written 23rd May 2009
Orchestrated 30th July - 4th August 2014
Vocals recorded 10th August 2014
Edited 19th February 2015, 3rd May 2015
Guitar loops: 3 of me. I make it 14 pre-recorded commercial ones.

What it was for - all the guitar in this track was mine, hence the title. This track would not have been possible had I not been learning the guitar. Since my intention for a while has been to use loops of me playing guitar, you could say that the ability to do this track was 'what it was for'. It did seem fairly obvious to me that nothing could come after this one - it had to be at the end - although it wasn't the last in the project that I worked on.
Orchestrated 23rd-29th October 2014
Edited 8th March 2015, 3rd May
Guitar loops: 3 two-bar loops, all performed by me.

Lyrics written: 2009 (2), 2011 (5), 2012 (7), 2013 (1), 2014 (1). The other nine are instrumentals.