Thursday 6th October-Cleethorpes
A drive out to the East Coast, Cleethorpes and the fresh sea air. Jim and I take a walk down the beach and into the small town. Synchronicity leads all the Dead Men Walking to the town library. All of us take a computer each and answer emails and surf the Internet etc. etc., before taking afternoon tea in a nice seaside cafe.
All the talk is of the upcoming recording sessions. I have written some lyrics for the song and with Jim’s inspired ‘Song for Eddie,’ we feel that we have a fairly solid starting point. We also feel that we probably should just try and get some rough backing tracks done and so we won’t have much need of Bruce Watson.
Bruce is supposed to be going back to Scotland after Saturday’s show and we decide not to keep him back for the recording sessions as he will probably only end up hanging around. Bruce agrees. With technology these days we can send him the recordings and he can add some stuff in his studio in Scotland.
The show is in the Winter Gardens, a classic ballroom from another era. The crowd are really up for it and we have a great time. Captain surprises us again by disappearing behind the amps just before ‘Neat Neat Neat’ and reappears with a full Dracula style head mask. He even has the cheek to introduce himself as “Dave Vanian of the Damned”. The fans go mad for the final song of the set at the end Captain pulls off his mask and asks the fans not to broadcast this escapade on the Internet as he reckons that he’ll get the sack from the Damned if Dave Vanian finds out!!! Sorry Capt.
Friday 7th October-Darwen
Tonight is the first of two shows in the Library Theatre, Darwen. The venue is just south of the city of Blackburn in Lancashire. Both shows are sold out. We filmed a Dead Men DVD here a couple of tours ago and we seem to have struck up a real relationship with the fans in this part of the world.
Jules has come up for the weekend and Dylan is staying with his grandparents. A friend of ours, John Tyrell has arranged for us to stay in a beautiful cottage in the village of Waddington in the Ribble Valley and has even talked me into playing an acoustic show in his local pub — The Higher Buck — tomorrow night. I must be mad…
Great gig again tonight and Jim Slim gets the biggest cheer of the night with his ad lib during Kirk Brandon’s ‘Never Take Me Alive.’ As the audience sing the ‘They’ll Never Take Me Alive” refrain, we all end singing the chorus individually, I usually stick to the correct lyrics but Captain and Jim end up changing theirs. Tonight Captain sings “I’m glad they didn’t call me Clive” and Jim comes up with the classic “Four thousand holes in Blackburn Lancashire.” It brought the house down.
After the show I end up in the Higher Buck with Jules, John and friends and I break with my normal tradition of not drinking alcohol whilst on tour and have a couple of pints… What a rock and roller…
Saturday 8th October-Clitheroe
Jules and I had a lovely day in the countryside… We had a little wander around Clitheroe but generally spent the day having lunch and relaxing.
Fantastic concert tonight, even better than last night. We changed the set around dramatically and played some songs that we hadn’t included last night.
Everyone was on top form as musicians and comedians. Kirk and Captain had gone through the theatre’s wardrobe department backstage and had found all the pantomime gear. So at various points in the set things were appearing. Kirk in a cowboy hat that gave him a whole new personality. Slim Jim running across the stage on a pantomime horse and Captain Sensible brandishing a pirate sword on ‘Westworld.’ You had to be there I suppose but it gave the show an extra dimension and the humour just seems to offset and enhance the songs when we get down to the serious business of rock and roll.
After the show we say our goodbyes to Bruce Watson (see you in London mate). After the show I am whisked up to Waddington for a midnight show in the Higher Buck. What a great night it turned out to be. It was all very clandestine with fans being allowed in via the back door of the pub as we were obviously flaunting the licensing laws.
I played a set of requests and worked my way through a list that John Tyrell had given me of songs that he reckons I must play! I can’t remember all the songs I played but I really enjoyed myself in a relaxed atmosphere and I do know that I finished with an Alarm medley and a closing segue of ‘We Are the Light’ into ‘In the Poppy Fields.’ Two shows in one night, you must be crazy Peters!
Sunday 9th October-Liverpool
Jules and I drove back to Wales in the morning to see Dylan for a couple of hours before driving into Liverpool for the Dead Men recording sessions. Liam called me about 2 p.m. to say that I should set off to arrive for 3 p.m.
There’s always something inspiring about driving from Wales to Liverpool. The Mersey lights in the distance, traveling through the Birkenhead tunnel. Always in the back of your mind is the Beatles legacy, I can see why Lennon drew parallels between Liverpool and New York.
I get to the studio on time and Slim Jim has already got a sound going on the drum kit. Sean Sinnott, the young recording engineer seems cool. Vince Davey is watching a bootleg DVD of the Rolling Stones from 1972. There is a good atmosphere of positive energy. The studio is in a loft space in the city centre and the recording space is on the second floor with the control room on the third. A lot of walking up and down stairs.
We are setting up in the four corners of the room all within sight of each other. We decide to set up a microphone for each of us so that we can communicate through the headphones system. Kirk gets a sound on his black Gibson arch top. Captain has already got his bass guitar vibe going. I plug my guitar into an old Fender bassman.
Once we have a headphone balance, we decide to have a go at the new song I have written for the Dead Men, the one that started life in Stoke earlier on in the tour. It’s a simple song based on an old blues sequence of E, A and G. Surprisingly, it comes together very quickly, even after the first run through. We know we have something. I reckon that after the second run through it, we had an arrangement. Luckily, the engineer was recording straight from the get go and so we were able to go back up to the control room and listen to what we had created together. We were all really astonished. It sounded really good, far
beyond our expectations.
We discussed a couple of minor changes and went down to do a ‘proper’ take. The tape is rolling. Jim counts me in and I reel of the intro riff on my amped up acoustic guitar. Slim Jim kick starts the rhythm track with a tom tom break and Captain joins the fray with his bass groove. Kirk digs deep and pulls out a dark guitar motif that swings alongside my acoustic. A few bars of space and then the vocals. A key change into the bridge and then the chorus — “After we’re through this city is going to burn”. No need for a further take, this is the one.
Upstairs for a listen and it’s all there. The sound of the DEAD MEN WALKING is born. All the plans of just trying a few ideas have flown out of the window. We all know instinctively that we have something special here.
Kirk and Captain replace some of their parts and add a few flourishes and overdubs. Kirk is an amazing guitar player. He really is in touch with the blues but in a way that is completely his own with the added spice of his own dark punk rock upbringing. Captain is an amazingly versatile musician and surprises is us all with his dexterity on the silver Dobro that is in the studio guitar rack. Captain adds a touch of the instrument to the songs middle section that sounds brilliant.
I get into the vocal booth in the early evening having decided to keep my
guitar part as ‘live’. Kirk produces my performance, encouraging me not to get to involved in the lyric but to sing as if an observer rather than a protagonist. By the time we are done the track is sounding amazing. Far better than any of us could ever have imagined.
A quick break for dinner and we head back into the ‘live room’ to tackle Slim Jim’s ‘Song For Eddie.’ For the second time today, the magic takes over and within another two or three run throughs we have the song down. It’s the Stray Cats meets the Damned meets the Alarm meets Spear Of Destiny aka Dead Men Walking.
We go for one more take to see if we can better it and we do ‘technically’ but rock and roll ain’t about technicalities it’s about spirit and the first take has the magic and the personality.
We all decide to continue tomorrow and try and finish both these tracks in time to let the engineer do a mix. To be honest I don’t think any of us thought we would get so far so quickly and a rather astonished and exhilarated Dead Men Walking hit the streets of Liverpool.
Monday 10th October-Liverpool
Lunchtime and we are all assembled at Elevator studios. A playback of the tracks confirms the thrill of yesterday. We set to work on backing vocals and other embellishments. We all agree that less is more and that we must not over produce the tracks and allow the music to breathe and our personalities to come through.
Slim Jim cuts the first vocal on ‘Song For Eddie’ and although this is the first time he has ever sung on a track before he sounds great — his ‘New York/Long Island’ accent coming through beautifully. Kirk wants to leave the track there, he loves the sound of Jim’s voice. I think we should keep going and follow our instinct of all of us singing together, in the tradition of the Temptations, CSN&Y, Travelling Wilburys. After some persuasion, Kirk takes to the microphone. He sounds great immediately and after a couple of takes to get used to the lyrics, he has it in the bag. I play back the track and demonstrate the power of
both vocals together, not both at the same time but some times in a duet style with Jim in the high register and Kirk in the baritone. It’s amazing.
Let’s keep going I say, so I give the lyrics a shot. My voice doesn’t suit the song the same as Jim and Kirk’s voices but it works well on the choruses; the voices are stacking up. Next up is Captain Sensible. He gives us all he has got and comes up with some great vocal adlibs. Captain’s voice again works great in the voices and also with me in the choruses. We let Slim Jim have the song’s title line. The energy coming from the vocal takes are making the track really work, again far better than we could have hoped for.
There is magic in the air as the tracks come together and are decreed to be finished and ready for mixing. I head for home rather than stay for the mix, the rest of the gang also take their leave and head into Liverpool for a curry or some other extravagance.
Tuesday 11th October-Leeds
Spent the morning at Cylch (Welsh playgroup or direct translation, ‘circle’) with my son Dylan who dragged me around the community hall looking at fire extinguishers… he loves them!
In the afternoon, I got into the car for the drive up to Leeds. The weather was atrocious. Tonight we are playing at the Irish Centre and we had agreed that we would leave the soundcheck to the crew. I got to the venue about 8 p.m. with an hour to spare. The lads arrived about 8:30. There’s no pre-gig ritual in the Dead Men — we all get ready and that’s it.
Captain likes a few beers (Bishop’s Finger) on stage, I have some hot honey and lemon (I’m starting with a cold…). Vince brings me the harmonica for the first song and BANG we are on. There’s usually some banter before we get going and tonight we start up once more with ‘New Rose.’ Justin Sullivan from New Model Army is in the crowd tonight.
After the show, I do a runner and am in the car and gone before the audience have left the building. Liam gave me a CDR of the Dead Men sessions and I played the tracks all the way home. Sounds great.
Wednesday 12th October-Derby
Had a great morning in the garden of my mother’s house with Dylan before catching the train to Derby for tonight’s show. If we are in the Northwest I always try and get home after a show but now we are heading south and so I’ll be traveling on the tour bus with the gang.
Had to walk from the station to the gig as England are playing a World Cup qualifier tonight and everyone is watching the TV except this Welsh boy in Derby.
Another cracking show tonight in a great venue, the Assembly Rooms. The Captain’s fans are giving him a going over with their chant of ‘Sensible’s a wankerr!! Captain responds by playing ‘Happy Talk’ amidst talk oh his “chequered career.” We even go out for one more encore which means that half the audience have to fight their way back into the gig as they thought it was all over. After the show we all went to a Chinese restaurant. Good times indeed.
Read Mike’s previous entry.