Remembering Alvin

alvin87I was sad to hear this week that Alvin Stardust had died. I spent quite a bit of time with Alvin in the late 80’s producing an albums worth of my songs with him. The tracks never saw the light of day so I’ll attach a compilation of them to this post.

I know Alvin was not his real name but I always called him that and he always referred to himself that way. He called me a while back and we talked about dusting off these recordings and trying to do something with them. Clearly that must have been before he embarked on the album that he planned to release in November but I now realise he was suffering with cancer at the time he called. He never mentioned it of course.

I remember him as quite a gentleman always very polite to everyone and never the pop star. He came to Newcastle several times to work on the recordings and sometimes stayed at my home in Whitley Bay. I didn’t drive in those days so we got the metro to the studio in Newcastle each morning. He didn’t bat an eyelid and nobody recognised him. I did see the pop star side one time however. After one set of sessions he was due to catch an early flight next morning so he was staying in a hotel. I dropped him off there in a taxi and as he went up to reception he said “watch this”. He checked in and on some subterfuge or other asked to see the duty manager. When she arrived he turned on the charm and a glowing pop star smile. The manageress asked if he would mind having his photo taken in front of the hotel and insisted on upgrading him to a suite of rooms at no extra charge. As she went off  to make these arrangements he turned and winked at me and said “works every time” !

IFTTT

ifttt-blog480I’ve only scratched the surface with IFTTT https://ifttt.com/ but it looks set to become even more highly regarded with $30M in funding.

IFTTT is pronounced like Gift without the “G”. It means “If This (happens) Then (make) This (happen). It’s kind of a visual programming tool kit for the Internet and social media. It’s pretty easy to use and there are lots of “recipes” you can use to get started. The recipes do things like: send a tweet if a YouTube Video gets commented on, send me an email if it will be raining tomorrow or Monitor a Wikipedia Page. You and edit and refine existing recipes or make your own using the easy toolkit. Now they have announced a set of recipes for outer space http://ift.tt/1sReoqS but what really looks like being the next big thing are the recipes for the Internet of things http://nyti.ms/1tjbb7j

Hamburg – Stockton

I picked up the following story from Guido Russo on Facebook. It seems just as I was crawling about under the stage, setting up for Stockton Weekender a crowd was “going wild” to one of my songs on another stage in Hamburg, Germany. Was I in the wrong place? The following from Guido.

“I was near Hamburg, Tygers Of Pan Tang were performing their show. I took this picture while the band was playing a beautiful song called Paris By Air. The audience goes crazy but all of a sudden my mind goes to Steve Thompson, the man who wrote this song so many years ago. Many thanks, Steve!”

tygers-hamburg

Digital Ideas Tapes

I’ve got boxes of “ideas tapes” (Cassettes) in the attic. Luckily digital ideas are easier to store and access (see pic)

Back in the 70’s and 80’s my various publishers and production companies were always badgering me for more songs – give is more !! make us money !! – oh the stress. Sometimes the very pressure they exerted staunched the creative flow. Lately new ideas have been dropping from me like … well er… the proverbial dropping off you thing (again see pic). I wonder if my old publishers would be pleased to hear this. The ones I haven’t either sue’d or told to F off that is.

Sadly, I can’t really play you any of this stuff as it is really ruff so just hum along with the picture.

song-ideas

Social Media Optimisation

I’m making this post on the basis that it should go to all my social media outlets using a mixture of plugins + smoke and mirrors. I’ve pretty much cracked it all but for Google+ – Now, Google + does not play nice with very much else at all. It’s a shame where Google have taken this social network as I thought it had great promise. I would like my postings to go to Google+ as there are people there that I like to connect with. However, I do not like Google+. Firstly the content is scrunched up into little boxes in the center of the screen. Then there’s the fact that Google are trying to channel people into using the network the way Google wants rather than how the people want. This probably goes for all the social networks and it’s a trade off between the benefits and fun we can extract from these tools offset against the annoyance they cause us with constant changes.

Facelift

I think it’s time to overhaul my http://stmedia.org website. I quite like the WordPress skin I’m using but it has some odd anomalies. Perhaps it’s time to use a more modern and updated template. I think what I’ll do is create a mirror site and copy the content. Once I’m happy I’ll port the skin over. I want to retain some of the retro stuff and many of the quirks are lost in the mists of time.

Unfinished Song 2000

Rediscovered this on my iTunes today. When I was in the Whitaker Band I produced an album “The Tuesday Club” circa 1999. This is one of my many unfinished songs and we slotted it between the tracks as if it got there by accident. Sorry, it’s my naff vocals – maybe I should dust off the rest of the album.

Once I was a loner,
How did I survive?
’till the day you came my way
I was barely alive
Once I was a poor man
with nothing to my name
but a worn overcoat
and a crooked walking cane

Music by the Yard

measuring-tapeI once worked with an Irish audio engineer, I don’t know if the fact he was Irish has a bearing on this but he had an interesting way of determining the length of pieces of music. He worked in a studio run by video production outfit and would be asked to music of a specific duration – quiet often 28 second for commercials. His solution was simple: the music was produced on a machine running at 15 i.p.s. (15 inches per second) therefore he deduced that a 28 seconds long piece of music would be 420 inches long i.e. 35 feet long. So he would take out his tape measure and measure off 35 feet, snip it with a razor blade and deliver it to the video producer.

Old Days vs New Days

1024-cubase7Computer recording vs the old days: spent about 4 hours yesterday trying to recover a lost track. Weird stuff with lots of blind alleys trying to rectify.  I’d done all the right things with incremental saves and backup files but it seems many of the saves were corrupted. So how would this play out in the old days? – If a tape became corrupted? I guess we’d have given up sooner and re-recorded rather than trying to recover or rebuild. I guess the lost time might be similar. There’s always the fear of losing some of the magic of the original take but then: magically, the rebuild nearly always turns out to be better!

SONG STORY: One Of A Kind

For a while I published “Song Story Sunday”  where I took a song and made a collage of it, going through the various stages of development. Today I’m reviving  this feature for a song called “One of A Kind”. This song was co-written with Tommy Morrison. Just under a week ago I heard this song played as we all bid our final farewell to Tommy. The version we used for that occasion was by Elkie Brooks because Tommy was justly proud that his song had been recorded by a major artist.

Naked song alert !!  – the collage starts with my rough “dooh be doo be dooh” rendition. All I had was the title. I gave this to Tommy to develop a lyric and next there is a version sung by Tommy when he’d done the lyrics. This is not a simple pop song lyric – “I’ve spent a lifetime, or so it seems, moving in circles, dealing in dreams”, pure Morrison Magic. Next there is a version sung by Phil Caffrey that I used to pitch for covers. This version can be heard on the recently released “Sleepless Nights” album by Caffrey, Morrsion, Thompson. Then we hear the version by Elkie Brooks released on her “Pearls iii” CD and also as a single in various parts of Europe. Finally, there is an updated version I started to work on about a year ago. Maybe I need to finish this?