I have tickets to sell for a couple of talk shows in March so in mercenary manner I’m going to tell a story full of name dropping and revealing a 35 year old secret. In a risky strategy the secret will reveal that I am a bit of a twat but I hope people will forgive that and still come to one of the shows because I’ll be telling even juicer stories then:
This story dates back to 1985 and the recording of the 5th Tygers of Pan Tang album “The Wreckage”. The album was recorded in Johns Sykes’ studio in Blackpool with Phil Harding producing. Phil had been engineer on the previous album “The Cage”. I had written or co-written most of the songs and I played keyboards and bass on The Wreckage. Oddly the Tygers had folded after the huge success of their fourth album, The Cage (on which I had 3 songs including the hit single “Paris By Air”) So this was a new line-up. There were originals Jon Deverill and Brian Dick plus two new boys: Steve Lamb and Neil Shepherd both on guitar. The new bass player had the embarrassing situation of being sacked mid album which is how I came to play bass on The Wreckage.
Steve Lamb revealed to me only a few years ago that I was affectionately known as “the cantankerous old bastard” on those sessions. Old? I was 38 at the time. I recall when we retired to our Blackpool digs in the evenings the boys would lay down a bottle of whisky and say “go on Steve, tell us about the old days”.
One day we were preparing to record my song “Desert Of No Love” which I always refer to as one of my “L.A. Songs”. MCA Music, my publishers of the time had sent me to Los Angeles to work with some of their American writers. I worked particularly with Glen Ballard https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Ballard and Brok Walsh https://www.discogs.com/artist/201533-Brock-Walsh – I took their influences in writing and studio techniques and wove them into a new song “Desert of No Love”. I must have had “desert” on my mid because one day (as a non driver) I took a walk from my hotel and pretty soon the sidewalk ran out and I had a sense I was on the edge of town and going off into the desert. We domo’d the songin MCA’s studio which was in the basement to the Universal Pictures building. One evening we had to wait whilst they shot a scene for Night Rider in the basement parking lot which was the access to the studio.
So there we were in Backpool and the song was slated for inclusion on The Wreckage album. As we routined the song prior to laying down some takes we got into a discussion about the chorus. I said it’s just two chords Em to C. Neil Shepherd said no, it’s C to Em. We disagreed. We batted this back and forth. Then I snapped. There’s no excuse for what I did but I have to say in my defense that Neil was a bit of a cocky young bastard. I raised my voice to full volume, puffed out my chest and raised my aggression level to 11, and berated him in front of the whole band. I treated him to a full on rant about how I was better placed to know the chord progressions to my own songs. I probably said loads of other stuff but the red mist washed over me and I have no idea what I said.
An hour or so later I realised he was right. It was just as he’d said and I was wrong about the chord progression. To my discredit I didn’t apologise or own up. I just stayed shtum. Even though, as we recorded it Steve and Neil were playing C and Em as Neil had said and I was doing the same on keyboard. Later when I overdubbed the bass parts I was reminded how monumentally and loudly wrong I had been. I stayed silent. Later we did Desert Of No Love live on a TV show I played Keyboards (Heavily disguised) and played the chords the way Neil had observed and not as I had mistakenly said. I said nothing. I fooled myself that nobody had noticed my outburst. But they had. A few years ago Steve Lamb confided to me that Neil had said to him “Cantankerous old bastard doesn’t even know the chords to his own songs”.
I’ve felt a little guilty about it all these years but maybe now that I’ve owned up atonement can be mine.
Now The Wreckage was not particularly NWOBHM and Desert Of No Love certainly wasn’t but you can hear more NWOBHM stuff at my talks in March 17th Trillians ,Newcastle – 25th The Fish, Hartlepool – www.bit.ly/storyneat