Riley McMahon

TILL MY DYING DAY by SPOTTISWOODE

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! Here's the next in my series of recording reminiscences...

The compliment I like receiving most is that my music is honest. I like to think this honesty is a kind of articulated ambivalence, a recognition that we can feel many conflicting emotions at the same time, that things keep changing. But the chorus of TILL MY DYING DAY (see video HERE) doesn’t seem to jive with that philosophy:

If I’m ever gonna love you
Then you know I’m gonna love you
Till my dying day

Okay, there is a conditional there. The singer may be hedging his bets, but it doesn’t sound like it to me in the context of the song.  Or am I just remembering what the lyrics were originally? When I first wrote the song the chorus was:

I’m never gonna love you
You know I’m gonna love you
Till my dying day

Truly. I had to be cryptic. I couldn’t bring myself to make a promise for a lifetime. Even in a song. Even though so many of my favorite songs by other artists do make such promises. It’s one thing to hear it from someone else, another to write it. Perhaps I should dwell longer on this point since it’s probably the most interesting cul de sac of this particular blog post but I’ll keep moving forward.

After several years of singing the awkward original chorus I began singing the song as it is on this recording from English Dream. 

Why? 

It just felt right.

I saw you there
In London town
Changing colors
Red to brown
As the sun went down

You’re an old lady
You’re a little girl
Caught you smiling
A string of pearls
As the sun went down

If I’m ever gonna love you
Then you know I’m gonna love you
Till my dying day

Someone on the radio
Is calling your name
You’re under the ground
On a Bakerloo train
Quarter to five

I bought me a ticket
Chelsea Arsenal
My team wasn’t winning
I thought of you
As the sun went down

If I’m ever gonna love you
Then you know I’m gonna love you
Till my dying day

THE RECORDING

There are rock songs with classic arrangements that can sound just as good stripped down to the minimum. This is the opposite. The song is nothing! It may sound like a perfectly respectable singer-songwriter number to be sung in the background at an acoustic cafe but it’s too slight even for that. It’s ALL ABOUT THE TEXTURE - the echo of the guitars, the sustain of John Young’s bass, the plinkety plink of Tony’s right hand on the piano, the plate reverb on the vocals and, most of all, Tim Vaill’s brushwork. Add Candace & Kevin’s weaving horns at the end plus Riley McMahon’s sumptuous mix and voila: one of my favorite Enemies recordings. 

So much so that it’s the opening track on ENGLISH DREAM. And an easy choice at that. We could easily have cut the intro down by a third but the vocal is exponentially more effective when it enters on the 25th bar rather than the 17th. Yes, I’m counting.

THE VIDEO

Once again we didn’t use the footage shot of the band at St. John’s Lutheran Church. As with Clear Your Mind we had dressed in 40s clothes and we (as in the royal WEE) looked ridiculous. And once again the archive British Council footage that Clare Elliott had edited for the background projection was simply too good. 

Luckily, Clare had also shot some video of the band recording the basic tracks at the Bunker Studio. So we very occasionally dissolve in and out of the black and out world like colorful ghosts. There wasn’t any footage of Kevin from the Bunker session because the horns overdubbed their parts later but, if you pay close attention, you’ll see him make a brief appearance near the end in a waistcoat and with his hair slicked back - the only remnant of the St. John’s footage for this song.

Still, the stars of the video are two British actors from the 1940s. Who are they? They’re not even credited in the archive footage. They are now ghosts as well. They both starred in a short 1944 propaganda film called London Terminus. It’s about a postal worker taking a woman for an evening date in the wartime capital.

We’re so used to postmodern appropriation that we no longer question the morality of using people’s images for our own purposes. Legally, there’s no problem - the film is public domain and the British Council granted us permission. But is it right to slap my song on top of their faces and share it with the world? The question is already old-fashioned.

It was only recently I realized how much the video reminds me of my mother and father. They also met in London in the 1940s, just a few years after the war. My father had dark curly hair. My mother was a glamorous American. They got married at St. Martin-In-The-Fields Church off Trafalgar Square in 1950. The marriage lasted 64 years until my father’s dying day in February 2014.

This is my Valentine to them. I love you, Mum and Dad.

Double Award Winner by SPOTTISWOODE

The title track of my recent solo record BLAZE OF GLORY has just won two awards in a row. First it won the Mark Award in Los Angeles for Best Underscore In a Television Show. And then it won the Production Music Award in London in the same category. The whole song was used beautifully in an episode of the DirecTV mixed martial arts drama, Kingdom. You can watch the entire clip HERE

Many thanks to Thomas and Gregoire Kouzinier at the French label Super Pitch for commissioning the album. Thanks also to Riley McMahon, producer extraordinaire at New Warsaw Studio in Brooklyn. And further thanks to Carol Sue Baker at Ocean Park Music for pitching the song for the show. 

Late Summer by SPOTTISWOODE

Photo by Clare Elliott

Photo by Clare Elliott

Here I am in sunny London having my nineteenth nervous breakdown, wondering what the future holds. Looking forward to some shows with Matti Muller and Angi Stricker in Germany this September and then some tours with my Enemies in the States during the autumn. After that? Well, I suppose that's plenty to think about for the time being.

There's also this strange collection of basement "Americana" songs that a French soundtrack label will be releasing very soon. It's called BLAZE OF GLORY. Nine of my songs, each produced in one day by the genius Riley McMahon. I don't have much idea about what the label, Super Pitch, wants to do with the collection. They have complete control. I'm honestly very happy about that. Don't let the monkey think too much. 

What else? I've just completed the 8th draft of a thriller that has occupied me off an on for a few years. How many more drafts? Of all my deluded ambitions, being a novelist was never one of them. A New York agent put paid to that and craftily lured me into this most recent humiliation.

One of the blessings of trying to write: it's a good excuse to read. Have been on a David Mitchell binge recently. Someone who can write a sentence AND tell a story. It's so easy for him he makes things more complicated than perhaps they should be, but a master gets aways with it. I thought writing a novel might be easy. Like writing a long song. Hmm.

So, basically I'm floundering about with a wonky rudder, taking on water and not sure which way to steer. Perhaps one day we'll crash into each other?

Love from the Thames,

Spotty