Tag Archives: Britpop

Get Ready!

In the spring of 2012, during some down time from touring “Sonik
Kicks” with Paul Weller, I began knocking together some ideas for some
new material. My parents had gone away for a fortnight so their empty
house became a base for some noisy music making.

As usual, I was joined by Pete Twyman. Between us we had a selection
of things to bang, pluck, press and scrape, and it wasn’t long before
some interesting ideas had begun to take shape.

It so happened that Pimlico’s singer, Wesley Doyle, also had a bit of
time free around then. Once the ideas Pete and I had recorded had been
hammered into some kind of shape, Wesley made the journey up from
south London to help turn them into songs.

It wasn’t long before there were almost enough tunes to think about an
album. As we were three quarters of Pimlico, the idea was mooted that
it could become a Pimlico project. I felt that a Pimlico album ought
to have the full line-up (Miles Chapman on drums), and also Pete
Twyman’s songs had traditionally formed the backbone of Pimlico’s
releases. Also, “The Best Of Days” had been released the previous year
as Andy Lewis & Wesley Doyle. This had been a song destined for “A
South Herts Symphony” but had ended up a standalone single. It had
failed to generate much interest but was already pressed up in
quantity and thus ripe for re-releasing to trail a album by Andy
Lewis, Wesley Doyle and Pete Twyman.

A tentative track listing was compiled, and a demo CD was produced to
play to interested parties. The general consensus was that with a bit
of a lick and a polish, this could be a pretty good album.

At this point, the fates conspired against the whole project in the
shape of a catastrophic computer failure. All the multi-track master
recordings were lost, and annoyingly the backup drive had become
corrupted. Hardly any of the project had survived in useable form,
apart from the versions of the songs on the demo CD.

It was deemed too expensive to pay to have the dead hard-drive mined
for it’s data. Licking and polishing were no longer an option. So for
the second time in almost as many years I had to abandon a project
that a good deal of work had been expended on.

It hadn’t been a total waste of time though. A number of songs had
been written which had the potential to be taken on to bigger and
better things. And a lot of fun had been had, blundering about with
junkshop drums and borrowed keyboards; sitting on plastic chairs in
the garden, drinking cider in the spring sunshine scribbling lyrics.
As it turned out, this would almost be the final time that I’d be able
to record in my parents’ house; on their return from their trip my
father announced that he was retiring and that he and my mum were
going to move to Nottinghamshire to be nearer my sister. Living Room
Studios in Watford would be no more.

It’s now almost two years since those sessions, since that computer
threw a seven, since my folks upped sticks and moved. A few weeks ago,
Wesley announced he’d found a copy of the demo CD we’d made and had a
listen. Some of the songs were better than he remembered. Pete too
uncovered a copy of the CD and he and I had a listen back. We had to
agree. They weren’t bad at all.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been releasing material on
Bandcamp that won’t be available anywhere else for the forseeable
future. Some of you will have had a listen; some of you may also have
bought the downloads. Here then is another selection of songs for you
to sample. I give you “Get Ready!” by Lewis, Doyle & Twyman. I hope
you enjoy it.

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May News

First of all, a huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone who’s had a listen to or downloaded my releases from Bandcamp. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback about these collections of tunes. There will be more of them to follow throughout the year. Check out what I’ve done so far at http://andylewisuk.bandcamp.com/.

Secondly, there’s been a lot of love shown towards the remix I did of “Carry On” by Lisa Stansfield. It’s available on a limited-edition 7″ right now from Soul Brother, Soulstacks and a variety of other places on the Web. But hurry!

Thirdly, I’ll be DJing at The Boom Boom Room in Bideford, Devon on Saturday May 3rd. Info HERE . It’ll be something of a Locomotion reunion in the sense that I’ll be sharing DJing duties with Wendy May for the first time in ages. Also guesting will be Tom Crawford from those splendid scenes in Worthing that I’ve been lucky enough to take part in recently. On Sunday May 4th, I’ll be a guest DJ at the Stockholm Soul Party at Brixton’s Jamm club. Info from HERE and also HERE.

Fourthly, I’m sure you’re all by now aware that Paul Weller’s releasing “Modern Classics Volume 2” in a couple of months. What you might not have noticed is that if you pre-order the album from his website, you get put into a draw to win tickets to some very intimate London shows. You should investigate this link for further details. Also, if you haven’t seen it already, the video to “Brand New Toy” can be viewed in all it’s glory here. I’d no idea that you could have so much fun with a giant Toblerone made out of mirrors.

Finally for now, a bit more on the whole Britpop thing. I’m pretty sure that the journalists currently enjoying themselves finding ever more creative ways to express their displeasure at the events of twenty years ago are doing this less from the point of view of historical accuracy and more from the point of view of having had twenty years to get their stories straight. I broadly agree with them that our current troubled pop culture world is a desperate and benighted place. I can’t agree that it’s all the fault of people who chose The Bluetones over Orlando. The trouble with being a futurist is that sometimes the future arrives, and it’s not what you personally hoped for. Thus it was at the end of the Eighties. Lest we forget that some publications were excitedly anticipating a Nineties brimming with New Age mysticism. While not everything about what became known as Britpop was brilliant, it was at any rate better than that.

 

“Bloimey! Modern Culture Don’t ‘Arf Like An Annivers’ry”

This week in 1994, Blur released “Parklife”. 20 years later, The Guardian newspaper published a couple of pieces on Britpop that made my blood boil. Here’s the first, by Michael Hann, and here’s the second, by Paul Lester.

There’s loads to hate about the times as portrayed in those articles. Yes, a life of drug-fuelled showing off in the public eye is never going to be a lot of fun in retrospect. And when you look at what has happened to popular culture since, it does look rather like everything that’s happened post 1997 has been a race to the bottom in pursuit of the lowest common denominator. Not to mention embarrassing photographs taken at a champagne reception with an alleged war criminal.

What is happening during “The 20th Anniversary of Britpop” is a wholesale flushing away of babies with bathwater. Back in 1994 nobody felt the hand of history upon their shoulders. Those of us that were writing songs, crate-digging for interesting records, writing think-pieces in obscure publications, drinking and dancing and screwing, were too busy to have an eye on a future legacy. We had no idea what was around the corner, though we hoped it would be better than the road we’d been travelling along hitherto. What became known as the Britpop era was home to both a very simple concept (pop music made by people in Britain) and a whole host of disparate, occasionally conflicting influences. The bands that rose to prominence during the mid-90’s didn’t come from nowhere, although some of them seem to have risen without trace. They arose from a generation who sought to fashion the elastic jumble of pop culture’s past into something new.

It didn’t always work, and it wasn’t always brilliant. But the intentions of that generation, my generation, our generation, were good. One day someone will tell our side of the story.

 

The “Bassetlaw” mini-album

Sometimes a change of scenery is the best inspiration. I never get tired of living in London, but there are occasions when you feel like you’ve seen and heard it all. All it takes to lose that cynical mindset is a short train journey up what I call the “Get Carter” line out of King’s Cross. Head north, past that amazing new windfarm near Arlesey;  through Peterborough and the RTV-31 on your left just before you reach the station; past RAF Alconbury’s Cold War ghosts, over the Trent at Newark to the old Powerhouse of England. Pasts, presents and futures blend into a different reality, all soundtracked by whatever is on my ipod at the time.

Since my parents moved from Watford to North Nottinghamshire in 2012, I’ve had more occasions than ever before to travel up that railway line. In the garden of the house they’ve moved into there’s a small outbuilding. A shed by any other name. They very generously allow me to store in it some of my belongings  that are too big for my home in London. This inevitably includes various pieces of recording equipment and musical instruments. There is a theorem about music making today that states “wherever a laptop and a kettle can be plugged in, there you can make records”. As this shed has both mains electricity and a cold water tap, it has everything necessary for use as a makeshift  studio. Last year I spent a very happy week exploring the quirks and qualities of shed-based recording, and found it was a very viable option. The songs I wrote and recorded there form part of the catalogue of material that’s going to be on an album by -well, I can’t say at the moment but it’s nearly ready and it’s sounding excellent.

A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to spend a few nights at my parents’ home, and spent some of the time fooling around in the shed. I had a lot of fun playing my junkshop drum kit and tinny cymbals, a battered Squier Stratocaster through an old practice amp, an ancient Yamaha organ, an Indonesian acoustic six-string, a lovely but fantastically heavy Waterstone bass guitar and a noisy miscellany of percussion.

Sharing shed space with my bits and bobs is a selection of my father’s redundant tape recording equipment from the days when he was one of the leading lights of the Watford & District Talking Newspaper. A collection of reel-to-reel machines by makers such as Uher, Vortexion, Revox and Ferrograph and a small but useful selection of quirky old microphones from Shure, Adastra, Beyer, Radio Shack and AKG form part of this treasure trove of audio-geek joy. There is also a pile of boxes containing unmarked and un-cared for reels of old tape. I spent an evening fortified with red wine coaxing some of this machinery back to life and exploring the boxes of tape reels, discovering that I still knew how to make tape loops and create echo effects the way my dad had shown me nearly 40 years ago.

With the change of scenery and surrounded by myriad sources of inspiration, songs seemed to write themselves- an unusual situation for me. Before I knew where I was I’d recorded a dozen new ideas. When I returned to London at the end of a most enjoyable few days, I had a listen to what I’d recorded and thought I’d polish up the most promising ideas into another Bandcamp release. So here it is, the “Bassetlaw” mini-album.

It’s the eve of Record Store Day. Up and down the land, physical format enthusiasts like myself are girding themselves for the now annual scramble to acquire the latest big-ticket Exclusive Record Store Day releases by their favourite artists. While I’m broadly in favour of Record Store Day (although can we please call it Record SHOP Day in the UK), I really don’t like the way that most of the “Exclusives” end up on eBay a couple of days later for vastly inflated prices that benefit neither the shop, the artist nor the label. At least with this Bandcamp release, there’s no danger of that happening!

What would be lovely is if the major labels who now seem to call all the RSD shots staggered their “Exclusive” release schedule throughout the year. Limited edition physical releases could then be made available every week or so to the few remaining independent record retailers. That way, every Saturday could potentially be Record Store (SHOP!) Day. You know, like it used to be.

A better brain than mine discusses this very subject at length in The Quietus.

To show your support for record shops, you should order what’s left of my physical stock from your nearest independent record retailer as a matter of course. If you don’t live near one, you can always order for delivery. Norman Records for example carries quite a lot of my stock. If all else fails, order direct from Acid Jazz or through their eBay shop.

In other record news Streetsoul will apparently be selling vinyl copies of my Lisa Stansfied remix from Tuesday.

Maybe see you at Paper Dress tomorrow night or at Chocolate in Watford on Easter Sunday for some Northern Soul.

Bassetlaw Cover Art smaller