I have to confess that reading reviews of our album 'LoveTel Motel' gives me a real sense of pleasure and achievement. After all, making this album was a real labour of love for all of us involved - including Ian Jackson our engineer and sometimes 'fifth' Magic Shipper. I would say that everybody seems to like different things about it and as far as I am concerned, everybody will have their own take on each of the songs and what their own particular favorites are. And why not? That, after all, is why we make music to put out into the public domain. It is not my place to argue with somebody else's personal taste, especially if they have been gracious enough to purchase our record, and for that (I am certain that I also speak on behalf of the rest of the lads) we are immensely grateful.
Regular readers will have followed many of the trials and tribulations, early demos, tantrums, tiaras, the 'you name it I have been through it' traumas of making of this album here on axevictim.com - which as you have probably guessed is not actually my name although I do actually respond now to either Axe or Axey. Both of which is a huge irony as far as I am concerned, but so what? I'm just glad that I had the foresight to register axevictim.com as my own domain name in spite of my stealing it from the title of the debut album by Be Bop Deluxe, one of my favorite English bands of all time. Sorry Bill, but I got in first, so fuck off because it's too late for you now. The quick or the dead and all that.
Before I go on, I must point out that my take on the songs on the album are only from my own personal perspective. I am not going to start telling you how Sam achieved a particular sound for a guitar solo, or how Ad set up his bass for a specific take, or that Dave para diddled when he should have para dummed. That's a matter for the lads to tell you their side of the story if they ever feel so inclined. All I can say is that they are a fantastically talented group of musicians that I am proud to play with, and more importantly I am extremely proud to have co written and recorded this album with.
What you do need to know though is that as with all of our material, Sam Day is our musical arranger and overall Quincy Jones type personage. If a song doesn't meet his stringent quality control and it's not happening, then it needs more work - and we're all hip to that. We didn't' ask Sam to be our musical arranger only to ignore what he says. That man has ears like you would not believe. He can hear a pin drop at a thousand paces! So if you're out of tune, or there is a 'clip' in the recording or a cough off mic - he will thankfully pick it up. Also, nobody ever tells anybody else what to play. We all contribute equally in our share of the overall song writing experience. For example, I might turn up with a lyric and just a couple of chords in mind. Sam might then pick it up and shake it up a little, or give it a nice little riff to get it going. Ad will always make a major contribution with his bass playing, but also as a wise sage, often knowing just what to put where when all else seems to be failing. The classic case in point is the chorus to 'Love and Glory'. I had written a really long winded lyric for the chorus that just wasn't working. "Just do the 'whoo - aha' bit Col. Drop the other crap and it'll all work out fine," he said. And it did, as if by magic. As for Dave? Well he's a proper bossy bastard the way that all great drummers should be. Dave drives everything in the band equally as hard as he drives his drums, and he punches well above his weight and contributes extensively to every song. Magic Ship is a team effort and we share everything equally, and nothing gets done unless it has unilateral backing of everybody in the band. Personally speaking, I'd have it no other way except for when they are not listening to me and doing as I say! But you can't have everything in life.
So what's all the fuss about 'LoveTel Motel' by Magic Ship? Well, let me give you my personal take on the songs.
Fly! You have no idea how much I fought not to have an exclamation mark in the title! I think I traded it off in the end to be able to call the album 'LoveTel Motel' or something along those lines. Dunno. It seems like years ago now. Most people that I know who have heard the album or own a copy of it cite Fly! as being the best track on the album. But it has been described by some as nothing but just a piece of pure pub rock. It was the first song that we ever wrote as a band together in the rehearsal room. We had the vibe of the melody, and I was filling in for our singer Keith Spouncer who had left for the first time (You Only Leave Twice in Magic Ship Meeeeeeeeeister Bond) before we recorded it (it was also the first song that we ever recorded) and I had the general meter of the lyric and even the first couple of lines such as "Got a girl, she's a friend of mine, ain't seen her in a long long time." The session ended and I recall saying to the lads 'not to worry' and that I'd have 'a lyric for knocked up' for it within the next week. I like a bit of pressure. That motivates me. So I was on a train, that was very delayed, and I am going quietly mad wishing that I was home with my family. I was missing my missus and my kids who were going up to bed and I was stuck in the middle of the country going nowhere. What to do but get my magic pencil out and work on that lyric. So it became a song - mostly - about a bloke trying to get home to his woman, anyway he can. Preferably by flying because I was wishing that I had chosen to fly, or drive or even taken a boat rather than to be stuck on that bloody train. I chose not to reflect the negative aspect in the lyric though and included the reference to 'Midnight Train' which was about me being so very late. By the time I eventually got back home from my trip I had pretty much nailed that lyric. When we got together the following week it just flowed and the song was wrapped before we had even started. It was a great feeling to watch that particular song come together. The singer returned after an ill advised flounce and I had to hand it over. We cut it at our first session with him singing it, but I always felt that I could have done a better job of singing it than him. Little did I know that I was going to get my chance! We chose to put Fly! first on the album because it has something about it that has a kind of 'bounce' factor and people say that they really like it. While it's not high art, I think that it is nevertheless a very good, catchy pop song. You ought to try writing something catchy that comes in at just 2.43 secs! We did pretty well in the end I think.
Headaches and Heartaches. Not much to say about this song except that it is one of my favorites. It was brought in as a totally finished number by Sam and we all kind of said "Yeah but it should go like this" and totally changed his arrangement! It's simply a pleasure just to play on this song. More than anything I thoroughly enjoyed the entire recording process of it. Sam and I got to sing the backing vocals 'live' together in the studio (including doing a crazy kind of dance together which has me grinning from ear to ear just thinking about it) and I also had the pleasure of opening the can of beer at the end and talking those great big gulps. Ahhh. Just a great song. I love it.
Monkeyphonic Alpahabets. Don't get me started on this one! This started life trying to be a funk/rock song because I was heavily influenced at the time by Little Barrie who are heavy rockin' but oh so funky with it, but nobody wanted to touch it. So I re wrote it as a jazzy vibe, all nice and mellow. Again, nobody would play it. I was really getting frustrated by this time because I knew that I had something good going down but I wasn't sure how to breath life into it. I stuck with it and one day, quite out of the blue, I was noodling away on the tune that we always warmed up to, which was a bastardisation of an old David Crosby vibe that he had nicked off Neil Young, and bugger me if the lyrics didn't fit it exactly! The chorus just wanted a new set of chords and it was job done. Everybody liked it. We then recorded it with a ten minute version with about 100 guitars all over it! The idea was to use a fade out technique but we later decided against this. Nobody fancied editing it either, so I spent a four hour session one evening with Ian at Airplay just trimming, trimming, trimming until we had got it down to what I regarded as an acceptable 7.30 secs bang on and most of the mess cleaned up. It still required a considerable amount of work after that to tidy up and make good, but the end result is a song that the majority of people say is their favorite Magic Ship song, including a lot of chicks. Yeah baby! If I had a penny for everybody who has said that they have no idea what it is about then I'd be quite rich by now. All I'll say is that after sending some lyrics to a mate of mine, very early on in my first flush of writing songs, he said that I was full of Transatlanticisms and general nonsense verbosity by using words such as 'baby' and so forth. Serves me right for asking for an opinion! So I set about writing a song about such verbosity and nonsense. I was reminded by a particular episode of South Park where Cartman is given a Monkey Phonics play set to help him improve his literacy and I kind of connected with the idea of using the Monkey Phonics concept to express my feeling at being regarded as nothing much more than a verbose lyricist. And this was feed back from a bloke that writes songs about homosexual prostitutes! However, it's not just about verbosity. That was just my songwriters gimmick. The song eventually became all about...
Standing Taller. Nobody ever mentions this song. I love it to bits. Again another song that was written very quickly, this time by Ad who came up with the chord progression one night when Sam was not around. I bashed out the lyrics during the session and by the time that Sam came back (from a holiday or flu or something) we had the bones of a new song that was just waiting, ready for him to arrange. I love to sing it. This song also has had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at it including the only time we ever used bongos AND a cowbell on a track!
Black Holes Don't Eat Everything. This was originally written for our singer Keith Spouncer to sing. He used to make a good job of it. I kind of stepped into the breach on this one considering that it was entirely one of my own songs, originally written and demo'd by me at home. The lads simply speeded it up and that was about it. Not much was changed aside from the usual tasteful arrangement and Ian added the piano which I think simply makes this track. I later found it quite hard to sing even though I wrote the thing!!! We all thought at the time that it was going to be our 'big number' and we could all envisage the Wembly/Twickenham crowds all holding their cigarette lighters aloft while we repeat the chorus with our feet up on the monitors holding an outstretched mic to the crowd as they all joined in. It's a song about living with depression so I doubt that it will ever gain that level of popular acceptability!
Lucky Lost. Originally called When Lucky Lost. Some people think that Lucky is actually me. There might be a grain of truth in this, but suffice to say that the song was actually written about how Lord Lucan mistakenly killed his children's nanny and was rumored (according to the newspaper article I was reading about it) to have been killed by the same people that were helping him to absconded. This was supposedly to prevent the Lucan family and the peerage from any further embarrassment and shame. It was one of the very first songs that I wrote and I am immensely proud of it. Again it was another song that was first recorded by Keith Spouncer, but I could sense that he had not done the song justice and I was planning on asking him to re record his vocals but he beat me to it and left the band for a second and final time. I probably had the hardest job, but the most fun, with this song. It took me a full four hour session to find my vocal 'motivation' because I couldn't sing the song in the register that Keith had first sung it. So after many a failed attempt I finally realised that I needed to put myself into character and become the actual killer of Lucan and not the narrator. I then asked Ian to give me a heavier drum sound and to bring Ad's great bass playing right up in the mix, I then recorded all the backing vocals which are meant to be the ethereal voices of the victims of the narrator as well as Lucan's victim, and thus the song started to come to life. Then I started getting carried away. Keys were added, thunder, lightening, screams - from a Hollywood movie sound archive - and what Sam refers to as the 'toy piano' in the intro and outro. Oh well. You can't please everybody all of the time eh? Personally speaking, I love everything about this song. Job done.
LoveTel Motel. A lyric inspired by TOL Wil Harrison's 40th birthday party celebrations. Simple really. I have always wanted to write a lyric along the lines of 'Blinded By The Light' that was full of great character names and so on. Wil provided a great blog post all about his party and the fun of the weekend's events that I simply put it all down into a lyric. I posted it on here and before I knew it I was being instructed to bring it along to band practise that same night and within a very short space of time the lads had concocted a rockin' vibe and we had this song down solid. Incredible really. I don't think that we have ever written a song that quickly.
Love and Glory. Everybody's favorite. Recorded at our very first recording session. You wouldn't think it would you? We sound like a bunch of seasoned pros. I don't even play on it. I just sing it. Rhythm guitar duties on that session fell to Keith Spouncer who couldn't sing it. My first taste of the microphone in the studio. I've been hooked ever since. It was my way of having a bit of fun and trying to write a pseudo Christian Rock cross over record even though I am not at all religious! I was simply thinking South Park and how Cartman had the idea of making a Million dollars by turning to Christian Rock. I got carried away and was trying to persuade the rest of the lads to go CR with so that we could corner the market. Thankfully they chose to ignore my new found vision! Nowadays I just sing and shake my maracas when we play this number. The lads all know where it's going!!!
Tumbling and Falling. One of the best songs we've ever written collectively. I had been badgering everybody for months to think about giving Lifeboats the band treatment and they finally caved in one day and said OK. I was thrilled, but before we had even started I was going "Yeah but before we do I've got this chord progression in me that is driving me nuts and I need to get it out" and so I start playing it and everybody just jumps on it and then Sam begins singing the first verse - just as it is on the record - and I throw in the second verse and the chorus and Sam polishes it off with a third verse and we were done. It came together so fast that it kind of caught us all off guard. We practically recorded it within a week of writing it. Our German friends call it a 'mid tempo power ballad' but I am not so sure that they are digging the vibes on this correctly. Ad's bass playing on this song is some of the best I have ever heard him play. Brilliant.
Lifeboats For the Dead. This hardly ever gets a mention which is a shame. I know Furtheron likes this song a lot, probably more than any other, but in the scheme of things it doesn't get a look in. It's a song about a dream that I had about my dad who died ten years before. It was my first dream of him. I recall that I was out and about getting my wife's ring mended and I was thinking at the time how much I wanted to write a song that featured a 'magic ship' and Bam! Right between the eyes floods back a 'closure' dream that I'd had a while ago about my old man. The lyric accurately reflects everything in that dream. Nothing was made up. I rushed back to my desk and wrote it down really fast. And cried. Great big sobs. I sent it to Sam and asked for his opinion. He suggested that it had great quality. I took it home and showed it to Mrs. Axe and watched her shoulders heave upon finishing it. Sam then demo'd it and I cried my eyes out at it. It seemed to bring my old man to life again in the song. Then it kind of suddenly died, just like him. Nobody wanted to touch it. "Let's just leave it alone as an acoustic song" they said. I was heartbroken. I shall be forever indebted to the lads for recording this song and for putting it on the album as the closing track. I still cry out loud every time I hear it, and I am more than delighted at having sung backing vocals on it. Thanks lads. From my heart.
And there you have it. Just my two cents worth and only from my own personal perspective. Funnily enough I was on a 200 mile road trip today with only one CD in the car! Thank God that LoveTel Motel by Magic Ship is such a good record.
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