Tuesday, 12 April 2016

You Made Me Feel Better

I was looking back at the writing of the latest YouTube effort – You Make Me Feel Better (blog post 5 April 16) – very much a journey. It came out of a new friendship and musical coming together. Not long out of university; a long way from home, a new job, finding my feet… At work I’d heard of this guy who did music – something I wanted to do. So one day, I plucked up the courage to ask this then stranger for help to 'properly' record some of my songs, next bringing in a tape of some recorded on cassette. Fortunately, he was both interested and nice enough to help.

Mike Meade had been in gigging bands, had experience of recording and had a circle of musical friends. He gave me some tapes of his; demo recordings with his band and on his own. Really good music; some of it very poppy (Stripes) and some of it very clever – him weaving little stories with synthesiser, drum-machine and multi-tracked vocals on a 4-track – often with a theatrical quality.

Recording at Jester's
We shared a passion for music; a love of The Beatles (me being from Liverpool helped), and of vocal harmonies. A couple of hired in 4-track weekends to record a few demos, turned into a few budget studio recordings (one a week-long session requiring a bank loan). We gelled, and in forming a musical partnership and friendship, hung out together, laughed, joked, talked and bounced ideas off each other. Musically, I was very green at the time, no experience of being in a band, but had had music in my life - making up songs for a few years and a little live singing entertaining tourists on the Isle of Man. We soon had this idea of being a 'modern Everly Brothers' with synths and electric guitars.

It was quite an exciting time; things were happening amongst Mike's circle of friends – some in charting bands – then there was his friend, Clive, who not only had a presence and a charisma, but was coming out with record-quality, radio-friendly music. Another friend Tony, a guitarist/producer we would work with, was in a 'happening' underground band – The Sons of Valentino... I was honoured, if a little overawed, about being in such talented company.

John and Paul
In the tradition of Paul going to John's to write, we did a bit of that... Mike coming over with his keyboard and us jamming seeing what we came up with, sometimes having a tape machine to catch those ideas. It was fun, occasionally magical, and we fed off each other. There was a healthy competition, so if one of us had an idea, we would both be invested in it. I think because I was the lesser musician, needing some approbation, once we had the song idea, I would like to take it and to finish it off if we were stuck; also the words sometimes need an individual focus as in writing from experience or the heart.

A sea shanty
Looking through my songs folder, there are lyrics in Mike’s hand, which suggests he had the original idea (meeting someone who 'made him feel better'). I have a recollection of us trying to write this song, building on that "You Make Me Feel Better"... we were in my room in that shared house in Hounslow, my girlfriend at the time, a nurse, was there – a song for her? - it was up tempo, and had the chorus (same line repeated), we tried some verses (on the theme of a new love to lessen the hurt of a previous love). The middle 8 ("I'm never down...") was conceived. Looking at the sheets of lyrics, there are several attempts at writing verses, however that incarnation was never finished.

A year or so later and living in Slough, having learned how to play a bit on the keyboard, I revisited it experimenting with my new keyboard skills – slower because I couldn't play fast! – coming up with some new verses; the chorus and middle 8 remained. Still the same idea of a new love to get over an old one, but now more wishful thinking – romanticised. Scribbled on the sheet of paper where I’d been writing the lyrics was: "I want to feel like this".

Mike and I did have a run-through once with the new lyric and feel, by this time we were on different paths. The music hadn't taken off. For me, a song to play now and again if having a jam. I always thought it was quite a nice song with a positive, hopeful message, As it happened, all those years later, it became the one to start the ball rolling on YouTube, even if just me on a guitar. Knowing it was 'to do' project, I worked on it, creating the music and building up the vocal textures – eventually it was done. Pleasing to have been able to shoot the video on my beloved Isle of Man.

You Make Me Feel Better

You Make Me Feel Better - filmed on location on the Isle of Man

There is still more to come from those early days – songs to dust down and put on show. For me, unfinished business; more about getting it done than any particular aspiration. The answer to the question: why can I do this? Generally, 'Music Makes Me Feel Better'. So I do. And it is good to have music in your life.

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