Tim Staffell Newsletter

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Q-Freddie
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Tim Staffell Newsletter

Beitrag von Q-Freddie »

Tim Staffell hat seinen neuen Newsletter gestartet:

Spring 2024… Welcome to my Newsletter!

Hi, Tim Staffell here,

As some folk may already know, Many years ago, I had a role in a young band which later developed into the best rock band in the world; The earlier band of course, was Smile - soon to evolve (with the addition of my good friend and fellow graphics student Freddie Bulsara) into the mighty Queen. For reasons of my own, I left to go my own way, and spent much of my professional life shooting television commercials and series, both in front of, and behind, the camera. For the inaugural series, I was chief modelmaker on the Television Series ‘Thomas The Tank Engine’, but worked on many ‘above-the-line’ advertising campaigns - Lego - BirdsEye - Ski Yoghurt - Heinz - British Rail - British Airways - We built models & sets for The BBC, Thames Television, Channel 4 - I worked with Tony Scott, Tony Kaye, Ken Russell, Graham Rose and many others...Later, I spent a decade or so teaching construction skills at Mountview Academy before ‘returning’ to music in the twenty-first century, (though in reality, I’d never fully let it alone, just put it, as they say, ‘on the back-burner’)

My music, in the words of ChatGPT (and who am I to argue with AI?)…

‘...... is characterised by intricate arrangements, thoughtful lyrics, and a blend of acoustic and electric elements. Overall, you might describe it as a fusion of progressive and folk rock with a touch of the blues’.


I’m happy with that description; That’s pretty much what I always meant it to be. As I’ve said before, I seem to be hard-wired to write songs. At the moment, All told, I have recorded seven + albums during my musical ‘career’ - stemming from ‘Gettin’ Smile’ in 1968, to ‘Wayward Child’ in 2020 - some are collaborations, some are solo works.


I’m gearing up to produce another album in the next eighteen months, and I’m starting this newsletter so you can all join me on the journey; experience the process of developing an album of songs from the beginning and learn about my past and what has brought me here.

Follow me on the Socials and your streams. Or grab a CD if that’s what you prefer. Check out my shop where I’ll be selling memorabilia and both past and present art. Stay in the loop as I move towards the recording date.. Each month I’ll have something to say about selected legacy tracks; history, inspiration, process and other events that occur over the course of the month…


Toodles - Tim x


Thuringia rocks
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Beitrag von Q-Freddie »

Good people,

I’ve started these newsletters to share some of the stories behind my music. I'm beginning the series with a song that first saw the light of day in the late '60s: "Step On Me.", from the Smile album.
‘Step on Me’ - A Time Capsule

It doesn’t get any easier, looking back on the details of a life from half-a-century in the future; People ask me what it was like in those days, and I can only give them a flavour of the times, not a complete picture… But then there are the songs; which may be the best way to illustrate how you felt at the time because that’s mostly what one takes from an experience, and there’s always a good chance that it was there in a song that you wrote; even if only as a general snapshot of where your head might have been.

Countdown to Creativity

I’ve mentioned before that the pressure was on bands in the mid-to-late ‘sixties to start creating original material; those of you who engage with the process, will know how hard it is to actually begin, especially if there is the added complication of having to learn an accompanying instrument at the same time. Back then, we were immersed in a sea of twelve-bar blues; (the ubiquitous format that so many early rock & roll songs drew on for their structure) – and it was somehow a rite of passage that the budding songwriter needed to steer clear of that format in order to set his personal wagon rolling; it was partly this which shaped the first of two offerings that came out of the short-lived writing partnership with Brian (May).


Myself and Brian at Trident Studios - 1968

The Birth Of ‘Step On Me’

Although I’m by no means 100% sure, I seem to remember that it was I who provided the lyrics, Brian who provided the music. The song structure of both of the tunes ‘Step On me’ & ‘Doin’ Alright’ was a great deal more original and interesting than much of the output of our contemporaries, but the lyrical content stayed firmly in the territory of post-adolescent relationship angst (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, because it was a topical subject and we were all experiencing it to some degree or another. ‘Write About What You Know’; it’s sensible advice.


Brian at Trident Studios - 1968

Brian’s Signature Style

‘Step On Me’ clearly shows off Brian’s super-melodic approach to guitar playing. Not a frantic shredder, his trademark style is audible on this very early rendering. The approach to harmony vocals that Queen developed into such an art-form in their canon has it’s early iteration on these tracks, too.

Light Blue Touchpaper, and Stand Back


In general I wouldn’t claim to have contributed a great deal to the firework display of their fantastic career, but maybe it could be said that I put a match to the blue touch-paper? You can hear ‘Step On Me’ (and Doin’ Alright) in their original versions if you can get hold of a copy of the Smile Album, or on YouTube. It would be nice if those legacy tracks were remastered and remixed and reissued, but so far, there’s no sign of that happening…

Toodles, Tim x
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Re: Tim Staffell Newsletter

Beitrag von Q-Freddie »

Hello Folks,

If there’s one tune that needs less of an introduction than any of the others. It’s Smile’s ‘Doin’ Alright’ - which has had a long and illustrious career, and might be said to be the main reason why I returned to making music on a ‘serious’ basis. Even before the movie BoRhap hit the screens, it had been an important song for me; I recorded a countrified version on my 2023 album ‘aMIGO’ with a certain Brian May guesting and contributing his unique musicality.

Somewhere in my memory is the distinct image of sitting in one of the front rooms of the flat in Ferry Road, shared by Roger Taylor, Jo (his then girlfriend); Pat McConnell, Denise and John (surnames escape me for the moment). Brian and I were working on the tune; I don’t recall it being a particularly intense session, but it was certainly a pivotal one, as far as the song was concerned. Brian played his acoustic guitar, (the one with the novel bridge that he designed allowing much better intonation than usual on such an instrument). I pulled the words out of the air and gradually the tune took shape.

Fast Forward to 2018

Although I had performed the song on and off over the years, and revamped it in a country style after the millennium on my aMIGO album, the development of the movie ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (which I was only dimly aware of) - brought the song to the fore once again, as it appears in the preamble scenes of Freddie (Bulsara)’s journey - a live performance of the tune by ‘Smile’ in the opening scenes, featuring Jack Roth (son of the excellent Brit actor Tim Roth) playing a young me. Quite a surreal experience seeing oneself depicted; but great fun, nonetheless. I had gone to Abbey Road Studios with Brian earlier in the year to re-record the song vocally - an honour and a privilege for me; what a relief I was actually able to perform it after all this time!

The Legacy of Doin’ Alright’

The aftermath of the movie had the effect of drawing me closer to the Queen community than I had been for some time. I have always been very respectfully treated by the band and the fans alike; but it came as some surprise to me to discover that the song has such a firm place in the canon, and is highly regarded by many fans. I have even seen it included in a ‘Best Of’ journalistic compilation, and I feel pretty humble when you consider the absolute classic tunes that it shares that accolade with.

A Tricky Little Number

Much as I’d like to feature it more as a live performance - it’s actually quite a tricky tune to master. Leaving aside my foray into a ‘country’ style with it, two decades ago (featured on my aMIGO album), I feel it now needs to remain as it was originally conceived, and thereby hangs the problem; as a solo artist, performing a song which has a number of distinct sections; it’s very difficult to integrate those sections and achieve an appealing continuity. I don’t feel that I have quite achieved it yet; but ironically for a song that is fifty years old, for me, it still remains ‘work in progress’.

Buh-Bye for now, peops

Doin’ Alright

May/Staffell – recorded by Smile 1968

Photo of Japanese album release of every Smile studio recording - 1982
Japanese vinyl release of every Smile studio recording - 1982

'Smile' - Brian May, Roger Taylor and, Tim Staffell in 1969
Early photo session in a run down area of London with Roger and Brian - 1968

The Flat in Ferry Road, Barnes

Brian May and Tim Staffell in 1969
From the same session in a bath with Brian - 1968

the front door of abbey road studios

Me at the Bohemian Rhapsody premiere wearing the Smile T-shirt and Smile badge I designed; Wembley - 2018


Previous newsletters for your reading…

Stepping Up To The Plate: The first song I ever (co)wrote… Step on Me
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Re: Tim Staffell Newsletter

Beitrag von Juan »

"THANKS" an Dich, Q-Fredddie!
Für's 'Teilen' dieser weiteren 'Zeitreise'.
Am meisten haben mich diesmal die 1969er-Bilder von den jungen Männern im Alter so gerade eben "nach der Konfirmation" geschockt.
Schon wiederzuerkennen -
und doch eigentümlich 'unwirklich', dieser Flashback.
Mann - WAS ist seitdem inzwischen alles passiert!
In der Musikwelt ... und auch sonst so.
Und... wenn das alles stimmt - wie alt bin ich dann schon?! Hä?
Merkwürdige Sache das.
Zuletzt geändert von Juan am 04.04.2024 22:56 Uhr, insgesamt 1-mal geändert.
"Menschen sind gut darin, Neues zu erfinden, aber sehr schlecht darin, die Folgen abzuschätzen ... Wie weit darf, wie weit soll Forschung gehen? Und wer zieht eigentlich die Grenze?“
(Aus: "Human Nature", britische Doku von Adam Bolt 2019)
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Re: Tim Staffell Newsletter

Beitrag von Q-Freddie »

Hello Again’

The remaining tune from the Smile era - the song that really generated in me the belief that I could cut it as a writer, is of course, Earth. Actually it was more than just a song, it was a true expression of my interests when it first saw the light of day.

Brian May was in pursuit of his academic career (before becoming an interstellar guitar-player) as a serious Astronomer, and quite coincidentally, I’d always had a vocational interest in the subject. This proved to be a mutual connection and legitimised my confidence in the song - (and incidentally, I have retained an interest in cosmological and astronomical events to the present day).

Prepare for Lift-Off

I’ve mentioned before, that starting to write original tunes was a developing angst for many musicians in the mid ‘sixties. The Beatles had really carried the torch since they burst onto the scene; They weren’t alone, but the quantity and originality of their output had taken a lot of us by surprise. Sure, Brian & I had collaborated on two songs since ‘1984’ days (the band, of course) - but I owed it to myself to start writing on my own.

Cast adrift amongst the Stars

It was because of our mutual interest in all things space that I felt confident enough to play the embryo song to Brian; certainly one's peer group represents the first major hurdle when asking for approval on anything; and I guess I felt that the space theme would be more favourably received. In the event the song was indeed accepted very positively, by everyone who heard it, and in fact it became the first (and only) single release that the band ever had. Backed by ‘Step On Me’, it was released in America on the Mercury label, having been produced by Lou Reisner and recorded at Trident Studios in St Anne’s Court, off Wardour Street in London’s Soho.

A Penny Rocket

The space metaphor proved to be slightly misplaced. We had hoped for a warp-speed journey to stardom, but in fact the record behaved more like a penny rocket - shooting up in a glitter of sparks, and then falling back to earth, spent and silent. I had already, by this time, begun to suspect that the style of music that we were producing might not be quite in-line with my own sense of direction. I didn’t really have a clear idea of things, but the song itself was probably a clue. Fundamentally it has the kind of narrative that I have always (since) pursued - the short story in song form. We envisaged it as a dramatic rock anthem (and actually, it worked well in that guise) - but for me it has always remained a somewhat less strident song, and I have a plan to re-record it as a more reflective piece in the near future, as it has acquired a poignancy since it was written, that has kept it topical. As a matter of interest, I’ve recorded the song twice more - you may know that I re-recorded an updated version with Brian’s assistance on my 2003 album ‘aMIGO’, but it also appeared as part of the Space Opera ‘Nova Solis’ which was the title track of the 1973 album recorded with the band Morgan, in Rome.

I Have Seen Many Worlds

The observation about little stories seems to me to hold water; At the time that I wrote ‘Earth’, I had a paperback Sci-Fi library in my room at my parent’s house, of over a thousand books.I’d pretty much read everything from what’s called the ‘Golden Age’ of Science Fiction, and It was always a dream of mine that I would one day write a novel of my own. In fact, I finally did, after working on it for many years. ‘Hidden Planet’ is available on Kindle: for those with a similar leaning for space and the stars. (and, by the way it should be available in paperback edition, later in the year)

Tales of Whimsy & Imagination


In fact it occurs to me that virtually all of my songs are little stories; if they don’t feature particular characters, then they feature some kind of principle that I’ve glimpsed, and that I pompously imagine needs making public. In later years, I have begun to write songs that are more personally reflective. As I grow older, I’ve begun to realise that the only things that I can really communicate are those of which I have direct experience. Having said that of course, each one of my albums still contain little tales with dramatic events and characters. That may, in the end, prove to have been my forte all along!

‘Till next time! Tim

Fotos:
*Doodle I did when I made the aMIGO album
*The song ‘Earth’ appears as part of the Space Opera ‘Nova Solis’. Available to listen on all streaming
platforms.
*Smile’s only single. Earth was the A-side, Step on Me was the B-side.
*1984 - L-R - Me, Dave Dilloway, Richard Thompson, John (JAG) Garnham, Brian May
*Smile playing live in 1968
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Re: Tim Staffell Newsletter

Beitrag von Q-Freddie »

Hi Once Again,

Although ‘Why Can’t We Be Free’ which was written in 1969 never made it onto the Smile canon, it, together with ’Country Of The Blind’ dates from those far-off days, (although not in the form that it finally appeared in on the aMIGO album in 2003); it was conceived as a more rock-styled tune than it eventually turned out. It comes from that era when we were all anxious to produce original material, and I suppose the accompanying uncertainties prevented me from presenting it as a serious contender. As I’ve said before, I was confident about ‘Earth’ but I certainly wasn’t so much about this tune.

The Structural Revolution

It does, in my view, though, represent the beginnings of my personal preference for interesting structures in songs. I’m sure a musicologist could find examples of similar forms elsewhere, but for me I was definitely engaged with the idea of songs that resolved musically in a coherent and satisfying manner. It doesn’t have a chorus, but it has a single hookline that completes every verse, and it’s that which I found plausible during the writing process. The verse ascends gently to an expectation each time, and the hookline rounds it off with a descending phrase which picks up the root chord and prepares for the next verse.

Not quite into The Jazziverse

Although it started life strummed on an acoustic guitar with a rhythmic backbeat (I thought it had Beatle-esque characteristics) - It was the change of root chord from a straight E to an Emaj7 that changed the vibe altogether. I started to see it in a different light in the early seventies. I didn’t perform it very often, as I couldn’t quite decide what kind of song it was. I still wasn’t confident offering it up in a band situation, and my early experiences with Jonathan Kelly, (the Irish Folk Singer who fronted Humpy Bong), was somewhat self- intimidating, as he was a far better writer than I. We became great friends, but I was reluctant to be offer my songs up. In retrospect I think this was a mistake, and the low self-esteem I felt during those times was a rather unfortunate state of affairs. It was probably delusional, and something that I wish I’d overcome.

A New Lease Of Life

When we finally recorded the song after the millennium, my good friend and keyboard player on the aMIGO album, Peter Hammond, (an accomplished jazz pianist and expert on vintage Cinema organs), transformed it into a light jazz ballad which I feel absolutely nailed the proper vibe of the tune.

It’s one of my songs that I really have a soft spot for, and apart from the tune itself, the whole process educated me into considering all of my material in a much more open light - that is to say, although I might write, test, and demo them with a guitar - that would by no means necessarily be the right dominant instrument to use; if the rhythmic accentuation of the groove called for something else; a piano - or any instrument that has its own distinct rhythmic character, then it should be ‘led’ by that instrument. Many have their own characteristic sound ‘envelope’ which places them completely on their own rhythmically… for example, mandolin, accordion, banjo, of course keyboards, all have completely different ways that they accentuate successive notes, they govern rhythm in unique ways, and can influence the development of style by the very way in which they produce sound.

Adios aMIGOs!

Me in 1969, when I was still living at home with my folks. Typewriter and Portadyne record player in the background. I’m playing a white Ned Callan SG guitar through the bass setup I used in ‘Smile’. Dig the tie-dye tee-shirt & velvet loons!

Promo picture for aMIGO, London 2003

Peter Hammond
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Beitrag von Q-Freddie »

Country of the Blind
Written 1969, recorded for ‘Wayward Child’ 2020

Once Again, Howdy;

This Time around, I come to a song that started life in about 1969 (Country of the Blind) - as a ‘work in progress’ embryo - and then remained - as they say; ‘on the back burner’ for half-a-century before finally breaking free and gracing the album ‘Wayward Child’ which I released in 2023.

Where I shared a fascination with Brian (May) over all things cosmological - that of course extended into the realms of science-fiction, and we were both early converts to the writing of one Herbert George Wells; notably, ‘War Of The Worlds’, ‘The Time Machine’, ‘The Invisible Man’ and so forth; now Wells was no slouch as a writer. His stories were beautifully written, unique and visually rich. It’s hardly surprising that ‘WotW’ has been filmed on several occasions; turned into a musical, illustrated and broadcast as a radio presentation and must be known the world over.

Hidden Gems

But there are little nuggets of short stories peppered across his collected writings which are real gems, and one of these is called ‘The Country Of The Blind’ - about a hiker, who one day stumbles into a hidden valley with impossibly steep descending mountainous sides, and finds a race of blind people, who are astonished that he seems capable of so much. They, of course, don’t fully understand what his talent is, as they don’t possess it themselves. I’m sure Wells wrote it as an allegory for the hierarchies we experience in our own society, and I saw fit to borrow the title, in order to portray a similar dichotomy; everyman navigating the oceans of incomprehension that surround him.

‘Ain’t Gonna Get Downhearted’

It was another tune that I was reluctant to play to my peers, because at the time I had little confidence in it. And that was really another missed opportunity… of course, in a sense, that was the very subject of the lyric: ‘Don’t you worry… everything’s gonna be alright; Just remember, Rome wasn’t built overnight’ I was trying to take myself seriously as a musician/songwriter, and somehow, I knew that it was as much about confidence as anything else ‘You’ve got to find some reason - to satisfy your mind’ - I was looking to persuade myself, in spite of a deep sense of insecurity, that everything would turn out fine.

The Long Haul

It ended up taking half-a-century before I was able to look at the tune and say to myself -’actually, that’s rather good’ - and in fact in all honesty it was the encouragement of the producers, Jason & Oscar in Room To Studio in Barcelona that finally persuaded me to believe in the song after all that time. The production transformed it and gentrified it from (as I saw it) a folksy ballad, into a much more elegant anthemic piece; and completely reinforced the lyrical content. I wasn’t sure I could sing in a subtle voice, as I’ve always rather seen myself as being natively a more strident kind of singer - but I was encouraged to embrace it more sensitively, and I think it worked really well…

Hasta La Pasta!

The single cover for Country of the Blind which released on May 19th 2023
Recording Wayward Child at Room To Studios in Barcelona. Photographer credit: Cody Cloud.
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Beitrag von Q-Freddie »

Don’t You Be Too Long

Jonathan Kelly – recorded by Humpy Bong - 1970

Salut, fellow travellers and welcome to my new subscribers!

This week, I’m deviating slightly by featuring ‘Don’t You Be Too Long’; a song by a man who was a huge influence on me - Jonathan Kelly. I met Jon, (whose real name was Ledingham) during the closing years of the Smile era; I’d auditioned for Colin Petersen’s band Humpy Bong, and Jon was the main writer, as well as sharing vocals and guitar. Colin was the drummer, (originally from the Bee Gees) and for the first couple of recordings, we used session players to complete the team. The ‘mission statement’, if you like, was what I had been looking for in those declining days of Smile - I’d begun to fall out of love with heavy rock; I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was mainly because so much of it doesn’t have strong rhythmic underpinning. When rock began, it was called rock ‘n roll, and I liked it, because it bounced, and was dancy. (Chuck Berry’s music had strong rhythm) To be fair, the strength of heavy rock is its dramatic character, although what has come to be referred to as the ‘groove’ is very often absent. (Not always, but it isn’t a prime requisite of the style).

`I Don`t Mean a Thing (If It Ain`t Got That Swing)`

The title of a Duke Ellington composition from 1931 which gives a clue as to what ‘the groove’ actually is; At the beginning of the seventies, new styles and expressions were springing up, that grew from the blues, Motown & American soul music, disco, jazz, and rock ‘n roll; at that time, as I suggested, a lot of rock had begun to lose it’s ‘roll’, and the musical community that Humpy Bong was a part of, was focused on a developing hybrid style, although it would take some years for Jon Kelly to create a band that really ‘grooved’, the seeds were sown, and the bouncing rhythm of Don’t You Be Too Long’ is an indicator of what was to come.

Leaving His Roots Behind

Jonathan Kelly was a brilliant songwriter, performer and thoroughly good bloke. His origins in Ireland had seen him rise to prominence as a folk balladeer with a very respectable following on the circuit. His stage presence was immensely appealing, and the anecdotes surrounding his wonderful songwriting made up the complete entertainer. I’m not sure if I ever fully understood why he signed an English/Australian management deal, although it is true to say he had probably gone as far as he could as a local artiste, and the world at large was ready. In support of my suggestion that the musical styles were changing, it’s worth listening to John’s own version of ‘Don’t You Be Too Long’ from his eponymous debut album. It’s a completely different treatment, more firmly associated with his earlier style, a bluegrass banjo reinforcing the folksy flavour.

Never Look Back

John is sadly no longer with us, but he has left a legacy of great work. I urge anyone to check out his songs - it’ll be well worth it. I count myself lucky to have known him. It was a turbulent and inward-looking period in my life, but John was a supportive and loyal friend, and did an awful lot to help to crystallise and mentor my approach to the world, and music. It’s something for which I’ll be forever grateful.

Have a great day!
Was man tief in seinem Herzen besitzt, kann man nicht durch den Tod verlieren.
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Beitrag von Q-Freddie »

Jonathan Kelly - A Recollection

Top of the Pops, depping for Eric Clapton and staying in a house with a tame cheetah…

I can’t pass over this period in my career without stopping to say a few words about Jonathan Kelly; he was significant in my life, and I have to pay my respects.

He was born Jonathan Ledingham in Drogheda, Ireland, in the summer of 1947.

I first met Jon in the closing years of my membership of Smile - and it was the proximity to his thoughts on music and life that encouraged me to move away from the rock idiom, which I had already become uncomfortable with. Perhaps it wasn’t solely Jon, rather the peer group that he represented - a widespread conglomeration of musicians (and artists) - who seemed to more accurately be broadcasting on my wavelength. In any case; I knew that my musical destiny lay along this road - and it was the beginning of an introspective, though stimulating period of my life.
“Humpy Bong? Are you joking!” (We were’nt)

The name of Humpy Bong has become somewhat immortalised by being good-naturedly ridiculed in the movie Bo Rhap; and I know that’s because of its retrospective failure to perform, rather than a genuine intrinsic lack of quality - names are subjective and often contextual…. That’s the case here… I’m very easy with it.

The best of Jon Kelly’s songs belong on the highest strata of modern songwriting; if I thought any of my songs were as good as ‘Cursed Anna’s Stare’ or ‘Sligo Fair’ - I would be more than happy… The appearance of the band on Top Of The Pops was a high spot; I’d enjoyed recording the single, and we engaged in a PR schedule which involved TV, Radio and Interviews in the service of getting things off the ground. At that time it was Jon, and I, and Colin Petersen (the BeeGees original drummer, and Jon’s manager) - together with random session guys for recording. A touring band was still work in progress…

Memorable Times

Those days were truly epic. The ‘sixties going into the seventies are etched into my mind as a glorious catalogue of experiences. The days at Art College with Smile - and the London of the decade; my meeting and working with Jon Kelly; my first trip to the U’S’A’ on early 1971 - playing with some great guys in the clubs in West Palm Beach, Florida - the subtle reinforcement of the American way of making music on my expectations back in the UK; Dare I say it? Weed and its cousins, the excitements and post adolescent philosophical epiphanies. Hanging out with Draft Dodgers (it was the middle of the Vietnam War) deep in the Everglades… hitching to Miami to see Arlo Guthrie… staying in a house with a tame (?) cheetah and marmosets, playing in a Southern Baptist Church….

Steps on a Ladder

Back in London after my American trip there was another Top Of The Pops booking. This time it was a Jonathan Kelly single (not the band) - titled ‘Don’t You Believe It’; I didn’t initially expect to be involved beyond backing vocals, but a curious situation arose which drew me in. which was this: In those days - It was forbidden to mime on TV, unless you re-recorded the track you were going to perform in front of BBC inspectors (to prove you were genuinely the artists) - The record Jon was to perform on Top Of The Pops had employed, for the original session, Eric Clapton, playing some nifty session slide guitar. Contractually he was not allowed to appear on the TV session due to his existing contract, so I found myself in the rather nerve-racking position of having to re-record his guitar part in order to appear on Top Of The Pops.

It was a little ragged, but I managed it, and that proved to be the last time We were booked for the show.. Illustrious events indeed!

Ta ta for now!

Oo-er, had to learn Eric Clapton’s guitar part <GULP>
‘Sligo Fair’ - from Jon’s album ‘Twice Around The Houses’
Jon during the folk circuit years of the early seventies
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Was man tief in seinem Herzen besitzt, kann man nicht durch den Tod verlieren.
J.W.v.Goethe
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Q-Freddie
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Re: Tim Staffell Newsletter

Beitrag von Q-Freddie »

A Broader View of The Seventies

Well Hello,

This week, I thought I would try to give a flavour of London in the early seventies, at least, as far I was experiencing it, and contrast it with the situation today. I should add the caveat that this is all how I see it; no doubt others will have a different perspective. All are equally valid, because all are personal and subjective. Pitching the timeline at about 1972 - I found myself, at age 24, on a personal voyage of discovery. Through meeting Jonathan Kelly, I had begun to realise that there were areas of my education that I had not engaged with, and that I should address, because they were rich & satisfying, and essential if I was to grow. Leaving the more academic pursuits aside, I began to absorb literature, drama, and music outside of what had been my comfort zone. Although perhaps I didn’t realise it at the time, the broader my awareness of the arts, the more qualified I would become to participate… Here I was, four years out of Art School, Two years away from my first foray into musical performance, standing at an open door to the Universe, with a cornucopia of potential experiences ready for consumption.

If I Was a Carpenter in Wardour Street

The Marquee was still operating in Wardour Street. It had been such an iconic venue for so long that even now, the memory of it is etched into my being forever… the chatter in the bar was an incestuous mix of industry gossip, deals between managers and promoters, and the swagger of one-upmanship between musicians and artists of all genres and persuasions…I played there many times. I remember one night backstage, in the tiny ‘cupboard’ that served as a dressing room, the tragic figure of the legendary Tim Hardin - who had composed amongst other things: ‘If I Was a Carpenter’ (featured in Smile’s stage act) - a lovely guy, who would eventually succumb to the curse of Hard Drugs at the young age of 39; I remember first seeing The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and Brian Ferry and Roxy Music at the Marquee, and I remember playing there myself on many occasions. Those nights are some of the fondest memories I have. London in the sixties and early seventies was, in some ways, quieter and less frantic than it is now, but in a lot of ways it was more exciting.

A Lyrical Turn Of Events

At this point in time, I was about to begin another big adventure - one that would take me to the beautiful cities of Rome, and Florence, and the enchanting Tuscan Countryside. I was also about to embark on a sort of apprenticeship of learning how to be a librettist. For the only period in my life so far, it fell to me to furnish the lyrics to another musician’s music… It gave me a very thorough grounding in, and a significant boost of confidence to my ability to write interesting and original words to my own songs.

With my training as a graphic designer, I have been able to offer handwritten presentations of my own lyrics to ‘Doin’ Alright’ and ‘Earth’ on my shop… I have now decided to make all of my songs available as handwritten artwork… check out the new product out below.

The original Marquee Club
The Widow Applebaum’s - Sadly now long gone.
Kensington High Street in the 70s
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Was man tief in seinem Herzen besitzt, kann man nicht durch den Tod verlieren.
J.W.v.Goethe
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Q-Freddie
Made In Heaven
Made In Heaven
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Registriert: 13.11.2009 22:46 Uhr
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Re: Tim Staffell Newsletter

Beitrag von Q-Freddie »

Alone

Recorded by Morgan - 1972

Ciao, Friends!

Today I want to introduce to you an almost forgotten song of mine ‘Alone’. The story behind it is as follows: When it became apparent that the infrastructure of Humpy Bong (the band I left Smile to join) - was unlikely to provide a successful career path, I started looking out and auditioning for a new gig, and it was during this period that my path crossed with that of one of the most popular bands of the late ‘sixties - The Love Affair. In 1968, only the Beatles sold more records,. I met them at a time when they were considering a shift to a more introspective kind of music. Steven (Morgan) Fisher, the keyboardist, was a prolific neo-classical composer in his own right, and the blueprint they had settled on was a keyboard-based progressive rock ensemble in the same mould, perhaps, as The Nice, Yes, King Crimson and so forth. The new band was to be called ‘Morgan’ as it was predicated around his original material.

Prog Rock Epiphany

I joined the embryonic outfit as vocalist/guitarist, and we spent a period of time refining and rehearsing the material. It wasn’t initially the kind of music that I had a close affinity with, but it turned out to be an astute career move, because the next couple of years saw me working hard as a librettist for the complex thematic music that Morgan was writing. It provided an intensive learning curve in how to write complicated yet plausible lyrics. The time-signatures and rhythmic accents meant that I had to create flowing narratives within difficult structures, while still retaining prose and poetry that scanned and didn’t sound awkward or contrived. I like to think it was the reason I took a serious view of lyric-writing from then on, and it certainly honed my skills.

Hidden Nuggets

As a foil to the complexity of Morgan’s music, there was an opportunity to interject one or two of my self-penned songs, by way of a contrast. Our first album, ‘Nova Solis’, recorded as it was in the then state-of-the-art studios in the Via Tiburtina in Rome, was a ‘concept’ album, revolving largely round the premise of my song Earth; whereby our sun goes Supernova, (scientifically unfeasible) and consumes the planetary system. It was effectively an extended soundscape, and contained the Smile song, plus another; ‘Floating’ written expressly to continue the narrative. The majority of the music was provided by Morgan himself, though we used a clip from Gustav Holst’s Jupiter (from The Planets), as our main theme. It was released in 1972, at a time when the digital revolution was a tiny spark - it would be another decade before the advent of CDs.

The First Age of Vinyls

We were releasing our music on 12” vinyl. This meant that there was an A side, and a B-side, since discs were played mechanically using a turntable and a stylus arm for reproduction. ‘Nova Solis’, the concept track - about 20 mins long, I think covered the A side, and on the B-side, tucked away between the other prog tracks, was a little unprepossessing song of mine: ‘Alone’

Just a short ballad dealing with a topic always popular with me, injustice and exploitation, it nevertheless still holds a place in my heart, as I happen to think it’s not a bad song. It does seem to me that I have autonomously produced many songs with unusual and original (i.e. not consciously derivative) structures. Alone was one of the earliest.

See you soon!

Morgan back in London after recording their first album ‘Nova Solis’ in Rome
The lyrics to ‘Alone’ on the interior of the sleeve of the original vinyl
A well worn copy of the original cover. Illustrated by me.
The original vinyl for ‘Nova Solis’ from 1972
A poster that I illustrated for the release of the album
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Was man tief in seinem Herzen besitzt, kann man nicht durch den Tod verlieren.
J.W.v.Goethe
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