Saturday, 1 August 2020

Bulls Head Bob Aug 2020. BULLS HEAD BOB...HOW TO WRITE A SONG. The Incomparable PETER GREEN. WATKINS RAPIER. CHUCK BOTFIELD RIP.

Hello Brummies, lockdown compatriots, Musos, Rockers and Rockettes,
you Loft Boys of Japan, psychedelic funksters and drifters. 

A special hello to my new freinds in Romania and the UAE!! Welcome.

1964, 15 years of age but looked 12, Hall Green, Birmingham.  Left school, worked for the CO-OP at Tysley and had my first Pint of Brown and Mild, I had a couple more and was as sick as a dog all the way home from Moseley.   

Later that same week, ........having listened to a Huddy Leadbetter LP we, our group, decided that we could do better than that and prepared ourselves to write our soon-to-be hit.  We sat around a dining table and looked at each other for a few minutes.  I, as the lead guitarist took the mantle and commenced a chugging blues rythmn with an added 7th every 4th beat.   The Bass player looked at me in a knowing manner and added a one note plod-a-long, the guaranteed escape route for the 4 stringers in the world.  Although the rhythm guitarist was there we left him to his own devices as he lived in his own space-time-continuum, never playing the same thing twice and spending more time cavorting around on the stage floor during gigs than actually adding a musical element " It's all about art man" he would be writhing about the base of the mic stand screaming at me when I was doing a solo.     So apart from him,  we were solid, in the groove, to use the music parlance of the 80's.    Kerchunk, kerchunk, kerchunk, we could have gone on forever, looking at each other that is! 

Now, if the whole band had pooled our lifes experiences there wouldn't have been enough to cover a Cream Cracker.   Being drunk and told off by your Mum, Truancy, Three fumbles, 12 love bites and being sick in someone's record player at a party hardly constituted a joint life of pain and suffering that we could translate in the form of a biting lyric.   I stared at the singer, waiting for him to put sense to all our experiences but even he, at the ripe old age of 16, with a grammar school education, hadn't been allowed to parties where there had been girls, "Unnecessary distractions from algebra"  his Mother said.   Three hours later he had written,  " I went down to the station"  ....we stopped right there, not even making it to the platform, because he had to go home for his Sunday dinner.  

We never talked about writing a song again because I think we all subconsciously agreed that it was a far too difficult thing to do and we maybe better off revisiting that particular scenario anew once one of us had had a shag at least!  We further discovered that nearly everybody had already been "Down to the Station", had "Woken Up this Mornin" and found "My Woman Done Gone".   

BULLS HEAD BOB
HOW TO WRITE A SONG
There is a truth and that is you have to write a hundred crappy songs before you learn to discern what it good and what is poo.   However, you have to start somewhere and writing a basic melody for you to put your words to is as good a way to start as any other, anyone can do it, its guaranteed to work so you have halved the difficulty straight away and you dont need to know how to write music notation!! 

EQUIPMENT
An exercise book with lined pages, a blue pen and a red one. 

1.   Write down the numbers 1 to 5 horizontally on a page of lined paper with a blue pen.  
These numbers represent the five BLACK notes of a piano keyboard starting from the left as Number 1 through to 5 as the last black key on the right, in the group of 3.  Only the black keys are played.

  
2.  Now, with the red pen, write on the next line down, a selection of the numbers 1 to 5, in any order, even repeating some of them.   Let's say you chose to write down 12 numbers as below but it could be any amount or back to front.  These numbers are totally random I assure you.

143522134321

We now need to decide if the tune is going to be slow or fast and set our tempo speed.  
Congratulations you have just written your first tune.  That's it.........and you havent played a note
Yet......

MAKING THE BASIC MUSIC
If you have a keyboard of any type available, but preferably with a metronome, start from the middle of the keyboard using the 5 black keys only, play the first four numbers of your own random choice, one note for each beat in this case 1 4 3 5.    It's just four notes but will be a short melody, try repeating this four note group for the next four beats or......play the next four notes of your random number selection, 2 2 1 3 to have an eight note melody. 

PUTTING WORDS TO MUSIC 
If you have written words already you can apply this same formula to the verses, words and syllables.  Using syllables as note changes as well as the words if you wish "Re-mem-ber" for example.

Use tricks to form melodies.   John Lennons melody for  the opening lines of "I am the walrus"
Is made up of two notes, in fact the two notes he heard from a police siren passing by....Dee dah Dee dah Dee dah Dee dah = I am/ he as/ you are /he as...etc   and remember too that you can use one note for several words

Other melodies have been formed using Morse code. The music for the popular comedy show "Some Mothers Do Ave Em" was written by converting the individual letters of the title into Morse code so S = dot dot dot, O = dash dash dash, M = dash E = dot and so on.  All these groups of dots and dashes can then be manipulated into our 5 black note conversion melody maker above.

This is really nothing new and was a trick of the trade in the great songwriting days of the Brill Building and Tin Pan Alley here in the UK but is something you may not have come across before to aid you to achieve your wishes to write a song.  This is straw for you to build bricks with.   I would love to be the claimant of this method but learned this trick through chatting with the great Alex Wharton one of the pioneers of Rock and Roll (The Most Brothers, creative element of the musical "Oliver", film star and producer of "Go Now" to name just a few of the million things he has been involved with, so if like me, you find this useful he's the guy to thank.   

It is interesting to note that during world war 2, musicians were used for code and cypher breaking work at Bletchley Park and for the Battle of Midway because we work in mysterious ways with 5 number groups which is the way codes are generally transmitted.



PETER GREEN........RIP
I first saw Peter Green at the Carlton Club, Erdington after he stepped into the breach with John Mayalls Bluesbreakers after EC had split the scene to form Cream.  I wasn't impressed one bit, I listened to Mayalls LP 'A Hard Road' with P Green and wasn't impressed and it wasn't because of any wrongdoing on his part either.  There are moments in Rock History that cant be bettered, the moments that encapsulate a feeling of greatness and that moment had occurred with The Bluesbreakers Beano LP with Eric at his thundering best, every note in every solo was the right one, there was more effort on Mayalls part too.   It was predictable that any sort of follow up to that would be incredibly hard to judge either as an LP or especially as the new featured guitarist in the J Mayall group.    
 
Within the year Peter Green left Mayall and with Mick Fleetwood persuaded John McVie, a staunch Mayall bassist to join with them and call themselves Fleetwood Mac after Mick and John's surnames respectively.   Released from Mayalls business-like grip on his musicians was like a blessing and now Peter Green bloomed with a hard rocking blues band aided on slide guitar by Jeremy Spencer.   Although he and Spencer "Went down to the Station" in the bands formative months, Green developed his own melodic approach to his song writing and wrote the first of his 'world beating' songs "Black Magic Woman", it was, his 'moment', his awakening of blues in another form, his songs were now the perfect platform to display his unique guitar style and sound which was mature and oozed emotion.   If I had written Black Magic Woman I would have been happy for the rest of my life, this song though was just the first of his incredible catalogue including The Green Manalishi, Man of the World and Oh Well.   Every single one of those songs is a genuine world classic, two rockers and the beautifully written Man of the World with its soul touching lyrics, guitar fills and a solo that didnt just come along, he dug every note of that from his very being, superb!!
 
"I need your love so bad" which, although not written by him (Little Willie John 1955) contains some of his finest "touch" guitar work ever but even above that his vocal interpretation was incredible and one that ranks with the highest of any blues singer in my humble opinion.

"Albatross", their only instrumental hit was nothing more than a stocking filler, for me.  Middle of the road slush.

In 1968 Fleetwwod Mac swelled their ranks by the addition of third guitarist Danny Kerwan because Green thought they could go further and also said he didn't want to be responsible for everything, this was a bit of a chink in his emotional make up.   At their height they did a gig in Berlin and upon arrival at the airport Peter and Danny got whisked off to a commune in a forest where they were given too much/took too much or were fed some hyper-LSD that had a devastating effect on them and Green came out of it a lot worse off than Kirwan.  His mind had been fried.

He left the band shortly after and made two dreadful LPs, I bought them both and played them once, it appeared that his time was up.   He lived in a small house and was getting robbed by a variety of ne'er do wells and could be seen wandering around Twickenham looking like a tramp, dreadfully unkempt, carrying around a couple of plastic bags with nicotine stained fingernails that had overgrown and were curled.   He had sold his Les Paul guitar to Gary Moore for a song.   

By a stroke of luck, a girl got the feeling the tramp was following her, then thought that she knew him and went and asked "Is that you Peter?"    She was the person who saved his life and got him some help and got him cleaned up.  After a lot of time and care by his friends and some persuasion he made a comeback with The Splinter Group including Cozy Powell.    Eric Clapton showed up for the gig too giving Peter some encouragement.  Whispering Bob Harris was the compere of the festival where the band were performing, he walked onto the stage and said   "How many years have we all waited for this moment??" the crowd were up for it.

Greeny took to the stage to the roars of the eager and opened with "I'm going Down", nice classic blues.  It was evident from the off that the great Peter Green was no longer available and we were left with just a bit of his echo.   Both his voice and guitar playing were weak,  nonetheless the crowd knew he was damaged goods and although they probably hoped for more, all got behind him in the knowledge of just how difficult it must have been for him to do that. 
A rush of love for him was overwhelming and it would be fair to say that that love has been undying by his many who knew him "back then".  

That initial concert was a long time ago and The band have been on the circuit a lot.
I think we have all lived in hope that maybe, just for a moment, we could have seen a true touch of his previous genius come sneaking through. His past greatness has been recorded for all to hear.  There is some marvellous footage of the original Fleetwood Mac on Youtube playing live in France and at The Playboy Mansion that pays testament to what a fantastic live band they were with their leader at the top of his game.
The Fleetwood Mac that emerged from that band are a completely different animal and although a bigger band on the world stage, have no relation to their brilliant, dynamic, beginings.   
We British have a knack of producing the worlds best guitarists but none of them had or have  the "touch" of Peter Green.

God Bless you Peter Green guitar hero and lovely man.

WATKINS RAPIER
This may come as a bit of a shock but when Danny Kirwan joined Fleetwood Mac in 1968 he was still playing his Watkins Rapier 33.


Now I haven't played one since around 62 but it struck me that if Kirwan was making music that impressed P Green he must have sounded really good as there were no foot pedals available then.    Why then are people not using them for years and years?  Its a bit of a mystery, there must be thousand in attics and wardrobes all eager to be played.   Perhaps you should dust it off and put it through a Watkins Dominator.

I mean why would people buy shit Russian Jolana crap when there is a British guitar of some repute, just a wardrobe away? Just a thought.  Dont get fooled into paying too much on EBay though.   It ain't that good.




STOP PRESS
CHUCK BOTFIELD RIP
News has just come in of the passing of Rockin Berries lead guitarist Chuck Botfield.
He has been in my life as someone to look up to from when I was learning not to write songs.
My condolences go out to his family and friends

FINALLY 
Summer is here and though people may have thought that COVID has stopped everything, it hasnt.   Life and fun is what you make for yourself.



Take Care my Friends
till next time

Bob

Copyright:  BullsHeadBob
Contact:   Bobsbullocks@GMail.com