Downstream Sniff 'n' The Tears


Ace Records
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Downstream (MP3), MP3 (£7.99)

It started with a phone call from Les Davidson, Sniff guitarist since 1980. He was in the process of organising a benefit for his wife Bobbie who was struggling at the time with breast cancer. He was calling on some old friends to play in a Hoxton club to raise money. Pete Brown was coming, Les being an ex Battered Ornament, and other musicians and bands of his acquaintance. Les proposed putting together a scratch band to do a couple of "Sniff" songs. No rehearsal just get up onstage and see what happens. What happened took me by surprise, the assembled throng, which included people waiting for the club to revert to its normal night club activities, seemed to love it. Several people approached me later to tell me how much.

The drums had been manned by Richard Marcangelo who had played on a couple of tracks on "The Game's Up". Playing with him again felt instantly comfortable and right. Les rang me later and suggested we think about getting out and playing. Over the years there had been interest from agents and promoters but never the will on my part to do it. Somehow this one off gig had changed all that. I had at around this time begun work on some new songs and thought maybe if we are going to get out and play again there should be a new album. Les had stayed in contact with Nick South bass player with the original band. Nick had moved to Los Angeles and established himself as a successful Hollywood music editor for films but still played and was keen to be involved. Richard Marcangelo was up for it. I contacted Robin Langridge who had played keyboards on both my solo albums for Sonet in the eighties and Sniff albums "No Damage Done" and "Underground". We had a band. Other musicians who were involved in the recording included Jennifer Maidman on bass, Robert Webb on keyboards, my daughter Caitlin on the accordion and keyboards and Helen Hardy, Josie Mills, and Noel Mc Calla on backing vocals.

The new songs had been written over a long period so from a choice of about thirty songs we finally got down to these twelve. Some are political, or at least critical, some are love songs and some call up that old perennial, existential angst. We seem to be living through torrid times and not to reflect that in song would be neglectful. The album starts with 'Black Money' which you would be forgiven for thinking was inspired by the banking crises. In fact it was written before all that and was in part about the extraordinary aftermath to the Iraq war, when anarchy was allowed to prevail and some of the world's most priceless historical artifacts were allowed to fall into the hands of the looters. The neocon dream of a middle eastern beacon of democracy, and access to the world's second largest oil reserves being more important than preserving the artifacts of one of the worlds earliest civilisations. Having said that Black Money is about greed and how overriding self interest seems to be the axis on which our world turns. 'Here's To You' is that songwriter's standby the "she left me" song, the twist is that this one is about remembering the positives and even, as implied in the title, toasting her for being her. 'St Raphael' is perhaps the odd one out among the songs on the album. I started my career in music in a band called "The Dreamland Express". we didn't last long but the excitement that we caused in our brief existence marked us all. My co founder and songwriting partner was Nigel Preston. Nigel didn't have the stomach for the vicissitudes of the record industry and not long after went into a career in fashion. Fashion's gain was music's loss as Nigel was a very good songwriter. Last year he died and thinking back on those days I remembered the chorus to one of those early songs. I decided to write a verse as I couldn't remember the original one. I tried to make the lyrics fit, employing that strange Sixties mixture of optimism, surrealism and naivety, it's a young man's song being sung by an old one.This song is my tribute to Nigel who I know never stopped being obsessed with music. 'Snowblind Lovers' celebrates the abandonment of all responsibility, all accountability, to the narcotic verities of love. 'Pray', global warming, economic meltdown, religious fundamentalism, terror, the shifting of the tectonic plates of global power and the new world order, something is happening here and as all our certainties become uncertainties maybe all we can do is Pray and I say that as an atheist. Next comes 'These Streets' this is about the simple self determination of a happy man, the message being, the less you want the happier you'll be, I suppose. 'Is It Any Wonder', a happy love song and a great opportunity for Les to show off his blues chops.'Night Owl Prowl' an ode to the joys of going out on the pull and an excuse for the band to let rip with some raunch and roll. 'Don't Rectify Me' is a poke at the way we are no longer just exhorted to lead exemplary lives. We are told a million ways by a million experts how to make it by the warped standards constructed by the media. The "media" holds up a distorting mirror to us and we endeavour to live the dream. Reality TV, an oxymoron if ever there was one. This philosophy of narcissism means that success is no longer measured by dedication and talent but by notoriety or fame. We are bombarded with an endless barrage of tittle tattle. Meanwhile somebody's making a lot of money out of all this. etc etc. 'American Dreams' is not a song I really want to explain, ostensibly it's about estrangement from a loved one and how we all dream American dreams the rest is up to you. 'Driving By Night'. Here comes the existential bit. Inspired by that late night drive when your mind wanders and anything seems possible. You may be on the A303 but you could be anywhere, driving to an assignation with a beautiful woman, or on the run from your enemies, probably the guy in the white van behind you. The song plays out in a similarly unstructured and episodic way, building to a climax that hopefully doesn't put three points on your licence. 'Downstream' the title song, this one's about the journey and what matters most, in spite of life's interventions.

This record was a lot of fun to make, hope you enjoy it.


Track listing


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