I am writing three and a half years after the release of this, my longest album to date clocking in at 79 minutes +
Events were about to overwhelm me not least my fathers long final illness with vascular dementia and beyond that the now familiar year plus lockdown due to the Covid crisis that has affected so many in the arts.
Maybe after a very promising start I lost the wind in my sails with promoting this album but the official launch show in London (my very belated first headliner ever in the capital) was a real highlight of my whole musical life.
If ‘Touching Stones, Tasting Rain’ was my ‘Physical Graffiti’ then maybe ‘Driven By Love, Driven By Hate’ was my ‘White Album'. I even allowed myself some an ‘Ob La Di’ type silly track in ‘Arizona Highways’.
Just the one mind..
Although it hasn’t been viable to do a vinyl edition (yet) I conceived it as a double album with four sides.
Also I thought of it as four EPs, one with five songs, the others with four.
Side one and three weren’t themed. Side two had the protest songs. Side four songs inspired by the Eyres Monsell/Glen Parva districts of Leicester I came from.
Each ‘side’ had announcers as if it were a radio show or radio play.
It was the fifth album made with Adam Ellis at Deadline Studios with some ‘regulars’ like Mark Haynes on drums, David Dhonau on cello and Jonathan Read on keyboards and brass but also a few new faces most prominently Autumn Dawn Leader sharing lead vocals and on piano on a couple of numbers.
The ever patient Jim Tetlow did the artwork which we based around the beautiful flower photographs of the artist Asuka Sawada in Japan. I first heard of Asuka from Morgan Fisher on his Facebook page and I loved her work and happily she agreed to let us use some of it.
To launch the collection I had my first evening London headliner at Walthamstow’s E17 centre, organised by Mark Hart and featuring Crayon Angels opening the evening and me doing two sets broken up by a ‘chat show’ style interlude with Jude Rawlins.
Exciting times but difficult days ahead is how I think of it now but I am kind of amazed at how I pulled it off..
A ROBE A RAZOR AND A BOWL
I read about the articles of faith for a Buddhist monk. There is a bit more to it than this song title - there are three robes to rotate as one is washed and one is spare, and a girdle to be worn underneath them. But that is all with the bowl for eating, washing and alms and the razor for shaving the face and head.
So it’s about the longing for simplicity, peace and calm.
I am very fond of the saying “Stop the world, I want to get off!”
THE COUNTRY MILE
To my surprise at time of writing this is the most popular song from the set on streaming figures and radio play. The ever supportive Peter Paphides gave it its world debut on his Soho radio show.
It’s again about ‘getting away from it all’ to a better place, a better scene, and having loving trust in humanity.
I reference David Lynch’s ‘The Straight Story’ where Alvin Straight touches the lives of whoever he meets on his epic journey , a Christlike figure, pure in heart and intent and infinitely kind and compassionate.
I can’t quite match that but I try my best.
LIFE IS TOO KIND
The title is ironic. The life depicted in the song is gone but the narrator remembers it as if in the present tense. Being the family man, like I was in the 1990s.
It’s all very “..how can I be so blessed?!”. But..
Autumn Dawn Leader makes her first appearance here on piano and backing vocal. She appears more prominently later on.
DRIVEN BY LOVE, DRIVEN BY HATE
A tough drop D blues feel on guitar with the lament of wailing Bombarde of Chris Conway.
Family estrangement, with a touch of Old Testament in the form of a feminised prodigal son.
I am always very moved when I play this song. I always feel the loss in it.
It’s that moment you hesitate and all is lost.
Our on the country lanes and in the fields you can say anything.. but nobody hears you.
WATCH AND LEARN
This begins the ‘protest songs’ side 2/EP.
I take on the billionaire media robber barons that manipulate news and opinion in the UK. I bet this song really scares them - and I get to swear!
Great fake BBC announcer voice by Kathryn Ellis and ‘Bob Dylan protest singer’ harmonica by PJ Baker.
MY FRIENDS THE RATS
This is perhaps the nearest I have to a ‘showstopper’ in my set.
My love song to my class, the working class, transposing Hogarth engravings of Gin soaked debauchery with 21st century food banks.
The ultra violet light in toilet cubicles so poor junkies can’t see their veins. Like the spikes in the ground of ‘Forgotify’ so that the homeless can’t Sit or lay down.
Rats are beautiful creatures with a real sense of community and watching out for each other.
So a rat ain’t such a bad thing to be.
This track lies on a bed of percussion, Mark Haynes on djembe and Arian Sadr on daf and cajon. The daf is an Iranian frame drum that Arian is a master of. I met him when he was playing with the great Ethiopian singer and krar player Haymanot Tesfa. Her album ‘Loosening The Strings’ on which which Arian also features is highly recommended.
I was an article about how rich and powerful the aristocracy still are and how they benefit from that. Almost below the radar, thought as an anachronism. That suits them fine.
Much of it is of course is all for their own benefit.
To all the guitar players I capo this but the 6th string is drop B! Very flappy!
Is about... Brexit!
I have an old schoolfriend who is very opposite to me in his beliefs but we have learned to..respectfully debate.
He said to me why don’t you write a song that brings everybody together Brexiteer and Remainer, in mutual love of our country.
So I wrote this where they duel and one kills the other and inherits a ravaged land not unlike my earlier song on ‘The Heat Of Molten Diamonds’, my lost epic ‘Another Jerusalem’...
I thought of the Autumn as a TV show, ‘Season Three’.. for this song of love and loss amongst the falling leaves I thought it would be a great idea to have an actual Autumn, Autumn Dawn Leader sing on it with me and it worked fantastically well, I love her voice with mine and we’ve had a great time performing this song live on a few occasions.
I did my ‘Robert Fripp’ guitar inspiration my 1978 Les Paul custom and Autumn did some ominous piano and Dave Dhonau added sighing cello onto the bedrock of Mark Haynes drums and my bass.
Adam Ellis did a lot of magical sound weaving. Of all the ones I’ve done with him I think it’s one of my most favourite recordings.
Adams dad Kevin Ellis ‘announces’ it in his finest ‘Shakespearean actor’ tone.
I had acquired an early Flyde acoustic guitar from John Montague, a Lysander, maple bodied and beautifully resonant and harpsichord like.
I emailed it’s maker Roger Bucknall about it and from its serial number 00179 he dated it as from 1975.
It’s as if it’s made for Orkney tuning, CGDGCD and it’s inspired a few songs including this rather self pitying ‘poets dilemma’ piece with the Dave Dhonau cello adding a mocking sonic commentary.
49 years in the making I finished a song I started in 1968..
My teacher Mrs Browse put some copies of a magazine called ‘Arizona Highways’ in our classroom and in my 11 year old head I made up a song, the “On the Arizona Highways - Tonight!” bit here.
I kept thinking of this as my ‘White Album’ so therefore it needed an ‘Ob La Di’ type novelty number.
Also I wanted a old time good old Allman Brothers boogie.
And crazy characters - Simon Ball and I - in a ‘zany’ exchange like Cheech and Chong on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Twisted’.
I got a reference to my beloved Lana Del Ray in there too.
Perhaps that explains the unexplainable.. or perhaps not..
I love ‘Easy Rider’ so I just wrote my own fantasy version. I love this song but I feel it’s never connected with people like I’d hoped.
I thought ‘Uneasy Rider’ was a really clever title, I only found out about the Charlie Daniels song of the same name afterwards.
Sad I know but I tweeted Peter Fonda about it but got no reply though most likely he never saw it.
We used my Fender Partscaster Stratocaster like my main acoustic Gibson J-45 formally part of Ralph McTell’s collection.
It was out through Adam Ellis’s genuine Leslie speaker, a big cabinet with a fan in it, I think of it as the biggest guitar effects pedal in the world.
JACKSON POLLOCK PEBBLEDASH
This would open Side 4 of a vinyl album.. maybe one day.
This set of songs/imaginary EP are inspired by the Eyres Monsell/Glen Parva areas of South Leicester where I grew up.
The title refers to our pebble into concrete encased council houses.
I think of them looking a bit like 3D Jackson Pollock’s.
We moved there when I was 2 in May 1959. It was a huge leap from a shared room at my grandma Hewick’s and outside toilets and tin baths. My first ever memory is being stood out of the way in the corridor as my dad and my uncle Bill took chairs out of our room to go to Eyres Monsell.
The council really did decide the colours of your door and gate. If it was your turn to be mustard yellow that was it, you couldn’t say can we have green instead.
I was close to my parents and stayed living with them too long though often never there in my teens and early twenties, then a self inflicted depressive exile after Factory and Cherry Red..
It also refers to our pubs, The Glen and The Scarlet Pimpernel and our proliferation of crows and magpies.
The “owl made of stone” is a statue at Cooper House, the care home where my dad briefly lived at and where he passed away in 2019, the chorus “My family lived there/My family died there” a self fulfilling prophecy in his case, and my mum died at home in 2007.
This is another song using the 1975 Flyde Lysander guitar in vibey Orkney tuning. Jonathan Read adds layers of eerie ghostly echoed trumpets.
It’s about my unrequited schoolboy love for a girl in the year above me.
I used to follow her around and walk home from school with her. She must have known about my excruciating crush on her but never commented on it.
She was very unorthodox and defied school uniform at South Wigston High and dyed her blonde hair black long before the goths and then green.. in 1971 which was unheard of back then.
She was the first person that I knew that got into drugs which made her seem even more cool and otherworldly to me.
This was one of my last glimpses of her running in the rain in front of my dad and I in his car, the wet green hair like seaweed.. she was destined to have many difficult times in her life..
Why was I so bothered by events and non-events of 46 years before to write this? Go figure.. I just got inside my 14 year old head that rainy day. Vastly over dramatic and immature but feeling what I was to feel decades ahead.
‘Radcot Lawns’ is a non descript little road off Hillsborough Road on the Monsell. It’s where the song happened and I thought it sounded a bit ‘Astral Weeks’..
GLEN PARVA DOGWALKER
We used to be in Glen Parva but they moved the city/shire boundary.
Smokey and I walk through the scenes of my misspent youth and I remember old friends and old parties, those that have passed on..Joy Mills, Beverley Pidd, Rod Browse at the time.. that list has grown sadly longer now.They will always be young and beautiful to me.
If you think my immortalising Leicester place names in song has made me the toast of the city (and ‘the bard of Blaby’ as someone once called me)... you’d be wrong.
The much loved Library cabin is long gone for a purpose built one on the park. Carvers Corner is still there. Where I bought my first NME because John and Yoko were on the front page performing ‘Cambridge 1969’.
Tinks was a lovely marmalade ginger tom cat who had been called Tinkerbell until it was discovered that she was a he.
He would follow dog walkers by the spinney and it really did look like dog and cat walking.
He followed Smokey and me on our walks and was very sweet natured and friendly.
I thought it would be a cool idea to have Autumn Dawn Leader be the voice of Tinks. I loved singing with her here. She never fails to give 100% to anything she sings on.
Sadly not long after the album came out he passed away at 14 years old with feline dementia. His owner bought him out to say hello one last time near the end and he looked very ill. He lived on prawns and water in his last months.
I like to think he haunts where he used to magically appear. Maybe I haunt it too, a living ghost..
KEVIN HEWICK MAY 2021.