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Friday, March 2, 2012

3-02-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #59 (“Blackheath SE 3” -- an original Blues number)


(picture of Jools Holland at the 88s. . . )

Glenn had an old upright piano in his Blackheath flat, and one of the first songs I wrote on English soil was a blues number called “Blackheath SE 3.” I was hearing John Cale singing it and pounding away on the ivories in my head. . . though of course, such a song would be just naff for such a punter as Cale!

I picked up as much slang as was thrown my way, and every day came a new expression that just tickled my love of words (linguaphilia?). Reading the NME weekly in my previous NYC life came in pretty handy. So did having British friends and hanging out with them prior to moving to London.

I just wasn’t ready for the way people talked and acted while at the pub. Such warmth, merriment, volatility, and optimism -- peppered with hilarity -- happened over pints of bitter and the lagers, ciders, etc. etc. Accustomed to people really meaning what they said and saying what they meant whether in a bar or not, I wasn’t ready for the way people acted the next day, when on came the famed British reserve, like a mask. I thought I was going crazy, imagining that they were different people just the night before. But after repeated nights of fun and abandonment -- compliments of the pub -- then comparing the same people the next day (probably hungover!), it dawned on me. . .

Having a laugh up the pub -- that’s all it is. Had to tell myself, don’t delude yourself thinking they’re being sincere, whether it’s talking about making big plans or even being “chatted up” -- it’s just not “on.” I had and still have a really hard time kicking back and just being silly and fun. Life was a VERY serious business to me, and even though I hid that most of the time, I’m best at planning, worrying, and getting things DONE. I’m better throwing a party and WORKING during it than kicking back. Yes, it’s crazy and probably unhealthy, but I was ill equipped to do the pub scene unless I felt useful and secure -- which I felt neither of, on my own, in South London.

So, I tried to talk seriously to Glenn and Chris about this album they were talking about doing with me. The next day, I marched to Glenn’s Greenwich flat; he gave me a cassette tape of some songs that they thought I’d like to sing. I gave them a cassette of my songs, too, which I doubt they listened to.

Now, you have to understand that I LOVED (and still love) Squeeze, and I’m a big fan of Difford & Tillbrook. Besides the fact they’re sweet guys who were always nice to me (and didn’t make any sexual overtures at all, so at least their motives weren’t carnal!), their songs were magnificent.

Not so THESE song demos they gave me. Recorded on Glenn’s four-track, then bounced to cassette, these songs were VERY long, kind of monotonous, and didn’t say much. I was crushed. Disappointed wasn’t the half of it. I was also outraged that they were trying to foist off those “discards” on me (I was sure these were songs that were passed on from previous recording sessions).

Two weeks into my great adventure, the wind was knocked out of my sails and I hit the doldrums. . . then I got a call from Jools Holland, who lived nearby.

“Allo? Is that Lauren? It’s Jools. I’m having a bit of a party tonight, would you like to come by?”

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