In 1990, I got wind that Elkie Brooks, the highly regarded British singer, was about to record a new album. I selected 3 song demos that I thought might suit her. I popped the envelope containing the audio cassette into the post box with a mixture of hope and pragmatic acceptance. These things nearly always come to nothing. How could I know at that point that a musical roller coaster ride was about to begin?
To my surprise, a couple of weeks after posting those demos, I got a phone call out of the blue from Elkie Brooks herself. She thanked me for sending the songs and declared she loved “One Of A Kind”, a song I’d co-written with Tommy Morrison. Elkie then explained that she was recording a new album and she’d like to include One Of A Kind. Would that be OK? I thought to myself, darned tootin’ that would be OK, but then she had more to say: Elkie said she was looking for a very strong single to release off the album. Could I come up with something? I said that I would certainly have a go. I promised to send the lyrics and chord chart for One Of A Kind and after she hung up, I called Tommy Morrison and told him the good news. Of course, he was delighted.
I needed to come up with a song strong enough to be the lead single off Elkie’s forthcoming album. This was an opportunity too good to pass up. But it wasn’t going to be easy. It had to be better than Elkie might write herself, and obviously other top-class writers would be pitching songs into that album project.
And so, before I began writing, I pondered the situation quite a bit, and I listened to a number of Elkie’s recordings. I was going to craft something around her vocal style and work on a melody that would give her a chance to shine as a vocalist. She was (and still is) a highly respected singer. I also needed a lyric that would match her singing style and exude a “strong woman” vibe. I locked myself away in my studio for several days and after countless hours of writing, editing, and rewriting, I emerged with “The Last Teardrop”.
With the usual “here goes nothing”, I posted the demo off to Elkie and waited for a response. A few days later, the response came: “You cracked it, everyone agrees – The Last Teardrop will be the lead single off the album, and we will feature both Teardrop and One Of A Kind on the album”, Marvellous! (I thought) When I got off the phone I called my friend Gus Dudgeon, I knew he’d be interested as he had produced Elkie’s previous two albums, “Pearls” and “Pearls Two”. He was pleased for me and asked me to send both song demos so he could have a listen.
A few days later, Gus called back and told me he liked the songs. He added, “and Elkie’s right, The Last Teardrop is a strong single”. I sensed a “but” and, sure enough, one arrived. Gus said that it needed several rewrites to make the song even better. He suggested extending the first verse a little and adding more lift to the choruses. And then he said, “and the first line of the chorus has to go -’baby oh baby’, you really should know better than that old bean”. Then I said, “but why would I do this? She’s already accepted the song and is about to record it”. And Gus replied, “because you owe it to yourself to make it the very best it can be”. It was typical of Gus to push me on to do better. He had been the record producer of several of my songs and always did that. And for a while, he was my publisher, and he pushed me even harder. But at this time, he was neither my producer nor my publisher. I assumed he was only doing it to assist as a friend. Anyway, I accepted the challenge and went to work on a rewrite. And you know what? – he was right, the song became much better. I sent the new version off to Gus. He called me up, really excited about the new version. He put the track on and played it down the phone to me as if I’d never heard this new song that he had discovered. Gus narrated the entire song: “listen to this bit, terrific”. He pointed out all the subtle little bits he’d noticed. And one particular section I remember to this day “wait for this guitar bit ……. It’s building ….. Here it comes ….. Whoaaaahhh”. His enthusiasm was infectious.
So, then I had to call Elkie Brooks and tell her the song she loved so much had changed. With some trepidation, I called and explained Gus’s suggestions and how I now had a new demo of an improved song. She was a bit freaked out about it and said, “Gus isn’t my producer anymore”. I said that I knew this and explained that Gus was only being helpful. I sent the new version, and everyone agreed the song was even better. And that’s the version Elkie recorded put out as the lead single off the Pearls Three Album.
Now, fast forward to today, and why has this story come to mind now? Well, I’m preparing to do an acoustic gig in Jesmond on August 5th. A first for me as I’ve never performed my songs solo before. But I really must include The Last Teardrop in the set. However, as I’ve stated, I wrote it for a singer with a powerful vocal range (which, sadly; I do not possess). Plus, there are a bunch of tricky chords in it. But I’ll give it a go. More about the Jesmond show nearer the time, and perhaps you’d like to come along and see if I can pull it off. I’m no Elkie Brooks but you’ll hear the song just as it came from the writer’s pen.