Archived News Stories
News - July 2018
Fifty Years Ago
A span of fifty years feels like a very long time, and indeed it is! However, the memories of a certain event from April 1968 remain so vivid in my mind, that it feels like the it only occurred yesterday! I am referring to a young soldier proudly standing, on a parade ground in Lympstone, Devon, and receiving his coveted Green beret from the presenting Officer. That young soldier was me, and I had just successfully completed my Commando course with the Royal Marines. It was a feather in my cap that I have always worn with pride. I would go on to serve in 3 Commando Brigade for almost three years, resulting in a far more interesting Military experience than would otherwise had been the case, had I not chosen to raise my own 'personal accomplishment' stakes a little. Why is this mentioned? Good question, and it does deserve an answer. It was whilst I was stationed in Singapore in 1968, 1969, and 1970 that the lyrics, which kicked off my song writing ambitions, just poured out of me. It was the beginning of it all!
A 'Come the Day' album story
I came across a fascinating little story concerning my 1977 album 'Come the Day' recently. In the next street to where I reside lives a chap that I have got to know quite well, over the years, as he is a very keen collector of all things Vinyl. He was at a local car boot sale and came across a copy of the album, which he purchased for £1! He noted that I had signed, and dated it, on the back of the cover to Maggie. The Maggie in question was Maggie Spong who was a member of the band that recorded that album with me. Her role being keyboards and backing vocals. I bumped into her in the late eighties, or it might well have been the early nineties, and she informed me that her brother had emigrated to New Zealand and taken her signed copy of the album with him. As you would expect she was pretty miffed about this! So I gave her another mint copy and informed her that there was interest in the album, out there in the internet, and copies were passing hands at £80 a time. If only her original copy could talk I do feel that it would have an interesting tale to tell. But, fancy it turning back up in Hertfordshire all these decades later!
FFG Studio Sessions
On Tuesday, and Wednesday, the 12th and 13th of June, Brian, Dave and myself returned to the FFG studio in Bredon to continue work on the songs that we had written for the proposed Stonefield Tramp Swan Song album. Because of all of the preparation that we had done we were able to record 8 new songs, to add to the 2 that we had laid down last year, thus making 10 in all! My share in things was rather small as I only had to lay down the templates for two of my own songs. The majority of the work being done by Brian and Dave, and they both worked their socks off! We are very pleased at the way that these songs are developing and we plan a return visit in October to keep up the good work.
And I am well aware that excessive heat can be a bit of a bug bare! But let's all put such thoughts aside and enjoy this lovely Summer, whilst it lasts, for we don't get them that often! And it seems to be well on the way to being as good as the one in 1976! So, farewell to you all, untill the Autumn, when the next news page will be due.
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News - April 2018
At long last I have finally been able to remove the winter scarf and hat, as Spring, however feebly at the moment, appears to be trying to assert itself. Apart from the devastating 'Beast from the East' which brought the usual chaos and confusion with it. No doubt bringing some rather harsh remarks of today's softies from those of us with vivid memories of the Winter of 1963. And yes, I am old enough to remember it very clearly. I actually remarked, to a friend of mine, as the gloom of a seemingly never ending season had me in its grip, that I was 'longing for the first of May'. His reply was that it sounded like a good title for a song. Now then, there's a thought!
Grandson Number Two
I am very pleased to be able to report the safe, and somewhat late arrival, of Grandson number two. Weighing in at eight and a half pounds, Ethan Cole Nixon arrived on Saturday the 24th of February. Apparently he is a rather noisy and angry fellow. There are times when it can be a real pleasure to remove the hearing aids!
I am pleased to be able to say that I am still enjoying the 4 floor spots a month that I am currently doing at Howard Hall and the Number 12 Coffee Bar in Letchworth. They are floor spots, rather than gigs, as I am standing in for my friends Allen, Paul and Mike, as they are the main act of the day. But it's all good fun and I intend to keep them up.
Stonefield Tramp Swan Song Rehearsal
On March the 12th I ventured into the great English wilderness, known to us all as Norfolk, in order to spend a couple of days with Dave Lloyd in order to go over the songs that we had both jointly written for inclusion in the proposed Stonefield Tramp album. It soon came to my attention that Dave had done considerably better with his life than I had done with mine, for my entire houses floor space would easily have fitted into the floor space of his attached conservatory! And, that first night, I kept getting lost attempting to negotiate the way to my bedroom! Needless to say, I was well looked after by he and his wife, and a lot of good work got done on the new songs. Looking forward to the two day recording session in Bredon in June.
Gardening Rears Its Head Again
I once remember seeing a joke, in my paper, about a rather fat middle aged bloke (Office Worker?) with a very glazed expression on his face sitting in an armchair, whilst his wife converses with a female friend who has just popped in. The caption of this joke being 'Oh ignore him, he's just heard his first lawn mower!' And yes, I not only heard my first lawn mower, I was actually pushing the damn thing yesterday. And, if that's not a sign of Spring, I don't know what is!
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The Acetate Album - A Roaring Success
The Acetate Album - A Roaring Success
I'm still attempting to come to the terms that the best selling album, out of the four that were recorded by Rob, Stonefield Tramp, and myself, during the seventies, has turned out to be the Acetate album. Released some 41 years after it was first recorded. At the time we were hard up, and complete novices in the studio, and the Engineer involved was not exactly all that helpful to us! But this album has shifted a lot of copies in a very short space of time. And I am highly amused to learn that the Guersson label, which re-issued Stonefield Tramp's 1974 album 'Dreaming Again' in 2012 flatly turned down the opportunity to re-issue the Acetate album, despite receiving many requests from very keen would be buyers! They are now stocking our 2016 version in their website! How about that for a complete change in direction and attitude!
New Songs Recorded
I am also very pleased to announce that, on Wednesday the 28th of November, four members of Stonefield Tramp gathered at the lovely FFG studio in Bredon, Gloucestershire, to record two new songs. Does this mean that there may be another album in the pipeline? You bet it does! So, please keep your eye on this website for further details. By the way, the people at the recording were myself, Brian Balster, Pete Kiely and Dave Lloyd.
Howling, Screaming and Chord Bashing
I am very pleased to be able to announce, just when the world had thought that it had heard the last from me, that I have managed to get back to strumming my guitar again. Pretty rough going, at first, but I stuck out the discomfort with my shoulder and just soldiered on. So much so that I have actually written two brand new songs, and have done about six little gigs recently. There's hope for this old dog yet!
And I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, and that this winter will not be as hard as predicted. And please look out for the launch of my New and updated Website in January 2018!
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After all of the aftermath of last years Motorbike 'accident', and the sad fact that I, after all this time, am still unable to play my guitar! Nevertheless, it is with great pleasure that I am able to announce the release of my new album Anno Domini, in this website, in both CD and Vinyl format. With the Vinyl version of this recording being found in the Collectors Corner page
Swan Song Album
And, the big burning question for me is this! Will this, indeed, be my Swan Song solo album? Deep down in my bones I do feel that it may well prove to be the case. But, if it is, I do believe that I am going out on a high, for I am very fond of this album, and all of the hard work put into it by my old friends Brian Balster, and Colin Wilson. Not forgetting our stalwart Studio Engineer and Producer David Pickering Pick, who has had the grim task of dealing with my chord bashing and particular brand of caterwauling for quite a considerable number of years now!
As with the ticking of a clock, so to do the seasons keep on relentlessly turning. Summer's gone, and we are now in the season of mists and mellow fruit fullness. Before you know it it'll be Christmas again! Why, oh why does time have to fly by quite so fast?
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40 Years Ago
Yes, it's hard to believe, but 40 years ago this Summer, this fledgling aspiring songwriter, had written enough songs to create his debut solo album. I could have so easily contacted my old band mates from Stonefield Tramp. But I didn't! I deliberately avoided them, as I didn't want my album to be a 'son of Dreaming Again' project. I wanted it to have a completely different atmosphere and texture from any previous work that I had been a part of. So I contacted various people from local bands Change and Quinquereme, and rehearsals commenced. We worked on the material all that summer and laid down the recording in the Autumn. At all times the atmosphere was very friendly and relaxing. And I do believe that the participants enjoyed the experience as much as I did. Hard to believe that my innocent little album, many years later, was to be a contender for the Galactic Ramble. Even though it didn't actually make it into the publication, I was so pleased to see that Stonefield Tramp's album Dreaming Again did!
Lost and Found!
During the years 2006 and 2007, when Stonefield Tramp were hard at work on their reunion album 'Full Circle', intense efforts were made to trace Dave Lloyd, electric guitarist on the 'Dreaming Again' album, but despite our combined efforts, we failed to locate him! And the fact that he had never tried to contact us, despite all of the Stonefield Tramp related stuff, out there on the internet, we assumed that he was dead! A little harsh perhaps, but it was the only logical conclusion that we could come up with. Image my intense surprise, and delight, to receive an e mail from him about a month ago, after he had stumbled across my website. Unbelievable as this may sound, he had only just, after all these years of the internet, only just decided to put Stonefield Tramp into google. I asked him if he had spent the last 20 years living under a stone, and that 'we all thought you were dead'. Needless to say, he was as pleased to find us all again, as we were pleased to discover that he was still very much alive! A reunion most definitely seemed to be on the cards.
A Series of Reunions
Three, to be precise. For by a very strange quirk of fate, Rob had decided to bring his wife and young daughter for a first visit to England. After much telephone conversations, and e mails, it was arranged that we would all meet up in Letchworth on Saturday the 3rd of June, for a slap up lunch in the Three Horseshoes pub in Norton, followed by tea and cake on my lawn. And for once, the fickle English Summer weather was kind enough to let it all take place without any mishaps, and a splendid time was had by all. Previous to the Saturday event, Rob and I met up for an alcoholic 'meet and greet' with former Stonefield Tramper Pete Kiely, who now resides in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, in Letchworth, at the Hotel where Rob's family were staying, on Friday the 2nd of June. And it naturally got the atmosphere off to a very good start for the following days little shindig. Also, at the Reunion was Dave Maughan, who was, with myself and Rob, back in 1965, a former member of Alamein Platoon, The All Arms Junior Leaders Regiment. And for those of you who kindly purchased the recent Tramp release of 'The Acetate'. It was Dave who was closeted with Rob, on that memorable day when I noticed them writing a song together. From that very small incident emerged my songwriting partnership with Rob, and the forming of Stonefield Tramp. And the rest, as they say, is history. As the old saying goes.....From little acorns, great Oak trees grow.
And, finally, after all the set backs of my accident and broken shoulder, I shall be at the FFG studio for the finale Mixing/Mastering session for this album. This will be on Wednesday the 14th of June, and the newly discovered Dave Lloyd has kindly agreed to drive me there. I expect nothing but a successful outcome, and have already booked the production Mastering session, in London at Sound Performance, for Tuesday the 11th of July. I do like to strike while the iron is hot!
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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
As this is the start of a new year, with all that that suggests, let us commence this News page with some good news! it is always a source of joy to be involved with the launch of a new recording project. And in December 2016 Rob and I launched the new vinyl album 'The Acetate' by 'Van Spyk and Friend' in both of our websites. I am pleased to be able to report that it is doing well. Recorded in 1971, but released in 2016. Now that's a 45 year gap! I wonder if that fact would make it a contender for the Guinness book of records?
On the 15th of December I was on my way home, from my very last gardening chore of the year, with no further need to get on my motor bike for the next three months, when disaster occurred! I drove up to a red car, with a female driver, who was simply creeping along the road. As I slowed down I glanced at my speedo and noted that I was only doing 25 m.p.h. At that moment the woman in front slammed her brakes on, I immediately went into an emergency stop, otherwise I would have slammed into the back of her car and, possible, been catapulted over it. Unfortunately my bike did an instant flip, and I landed very hard in the road. And I clearly recall, as I slid up the road, praying that the two drivers behind me were switched on, and wouldn't run over me. Thankfully, they did not, otherwise I might not have been here to type these words. As for the woman that created this mess, she just drove away from the scene.
As for me, and the aftermath of all this? My arm is still in a sling, and the pain is still quite intense, but at least I have had the shattered bones in my right shoulder replaced, that was on January the 6th. I have to remain in the sling for a further 4 weeks, and I have been informed that full recovery will take 6 months. However, I have also been told that my arm and shoulder will only ever function again at 50% of what it used to be able to do. I cannot imagine being able to continue as a jobbing gardener any more. And what about the guitar playing? How is that going to be affected? It will be a long time before I'll be able to find out the real outcome of all of this. So, please, keep your fingers crossed for me.
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Here we are again, Autumn already! And another British winter lurks threateningly just over the horizon, and how was your Summer? It wasn't the best that I can recall nor, indeed, was it the worst, and there was even the odd mini-heatwave to cheer us up. But it was late starting, and it seemed to pass by far too quickly for my liking! And I do so hate discarding the shorts and T Shirts for long trousers and winter Jumpers! And those two days in September at David's FFG studio were most enjoyable and rewarding. I was relegated to the Kitchen to perform the usual tea making duties whilst Brian and my brother Chaz did most of the work. And I would say that the album is progressing nicely, and has been left in the very capable hands of David to round off all of those little finishing production touches that are essential to a good album.
It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce the imminent release of a limited edition of 250 copies of the former 'bootlegged' recording from 1971 of the first album written, and recorded, by Rob Van Spyk and myself, formally known as 'Going Nowhere' by 'Your Friend Spyk'. And from here on to be known as 'The Acetate' by Van Spyk and Friend'. There will also be a CD version available too.
These items should be in my website in about six weeks time and the Vinyl version will be found on the Collectors Corner page. I have been made aware of various bloggs out there, and of the interest in this early work of ours, and I fully expect, that in time, this album will have the same reputation amongst the Vinyl collectors as that enjoyed by 'Stonefield Tramp's' 'Dreaming Again'.
I am also introducing a limited edition of 100 copies only, of a 'Stonefield Tramp' T shirt. This will also be in the Collectors Corner page. So, please, shop early to avoid disappointment!
Farewell for now, and I think it's high time to get down to the local supermarket to stock up with whisky to assist in getting through the dreary months to come. And aren't they already proclaiming a bad one! That's what they said last year, and I didn't even see one little snow flake! I hope they'll be proved wrong again!
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Flaming June, or so the rumour has it. Not today, it's pelting down and it's winter coat weather. A good excuse to sit indoors, with a lovely hot brew close at hand, and type out these words. One should use one's time wisely. I'm fast approaching my biblical 'three score and ten' so I am constantly reminded of just how little time I have left on this planet of ours. And will I achieve all that I wish to, with what little time there is left to me? To quote the Bard from Stratford. 'To be or not to be, that is the question'.
I would like to apologise for the terrible quality of the last three videos, inserted into my Youtube site fairly recently, to promote the new album. However, the fault has been rectified and Pierre and I have been beavering away into the small hours of the morning to rectify the matter. You may now view them in a top quality condition. And my grateful thanks to that unknown person who gave them all a 'like' in their previous condition. I certainly hope that you will 'like' the newer versions.
I am very pleased to be able to announce the launch of my new 'tribute' album "Once upon a song, there was a time..." by 'Balster and Friend'. Brian has been a staunch friend, and life long music collaborator, on many of my contemporary self penned albums. And, on this one in particular, he has worked his socks off for me. And his name on the cover as a joint musician was long overdue. And the idea behind this album was to give due credit to those artists who inspired us both to want to become guitarists and song writers ourselves. And it was a most enjoyable experience working on this album together.
A very successful recording session was held at David's FFG studio'in Bredon, on the 5th and 6th of May where Colin Wilson, from 'The Boys from Melbourne Street' band in Exeter, guested on my next album, and laid down some beautiful acoustic picking on 8 of the songs. Already, at such an early stage of development, this album is already beginning to pick up a delightful flavour and direction of its own. I eagerly await the next session, which we have pencilled in for late August or early September. This will be with Brian to enable him to add his backing vocals, harmonica and 12 string Acoustic guitar tracks.
I shall leave you all with the vain hope that we might actually, at some point, see the sun, or even actually get a Summer!
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Since last posting in my News page much good work has been carried out in David's delightful little FFG studio, down in deepest, darkest Gloucestershire. The 'tribute' album is almost reaching its finale lap and will soon be in a position to be mixed and mastered. I have also commenced work on another of my contemporary albums, where ten new songs have been templated, both keeper guitar tracks and vocals. They will now remain in suspended animation, until next May, where I shall be joined by my good friend, and fellow singer/songwriter Colin Wilson, from Exeter. In the past Colin and I have done a couple of gigs together, both on radio and at a music festival, and I am looking forward to working with him in the recording studio.
The Jekyll and Hyde gigs
Yes, I do realise the word 'Gigs' seldom occurs in this website, but last summer I was contacted by my friend Allan to join him in a charity gig. This I elected to do, but he'd got his wires crossed! He sent me to the right pub, in Baldock, Hertfordshire, but on the wrong day! However, I was informed by the landlady that the next pub, down the road, was holding one. So I walked into it and was informed by that particular landlord. 'No, not today, tomorrow'. But eyeing up my guitar he continued, 'If you play, give us a song'. This last sentence was muttered as he flung chairs and tables away from a corner of the room to allow me a place to perform. So I dutifully rattled off half a dozen songs. I was cheered and clapped, and a pint of beer turned up. The landlord's parting words were, 'Come back tomorrow and do it all again'. So I did! But I don't know what went wrong, for I was expecting a pub full of punters and musicians, enjoying a charity gig. It was almost empty of punters, and not a musician in sight. This was about 3 in the afternoon, some charity gig, but what to do? I took my trusty Gibson out of its case and manfully played away, and I did feel that it went much better than the day before. But! And isn't there always a but? No cheers, no clapping, no pints of beer moved in my direction! I put my guitar back into its case and walked out of the door. How are the mighty fallen!
I was privileged recently to come across a rather lovely young singer/songwriter called Roxy Searle and thoroughly enjoyed her set, and her way of strumming her acoustic guitar. She has a very strong, and confident, stage presence and I really do think she's going to go places. So, keep your eye out for her. Her gigs are well worth attending. www.roxysearle.co.uk
And so, it leaves me now to say farewell, and I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.
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Well then, after a pretty delayed, and a rather lacklustre start, Summer eventually arrived. And when it did, it did so in a rather savage way. A massive heatwave that lasted for a week from the 1st of July. All in all it was pretty unbearable, having previously been so cool and unseasonal for so long! But, as I have previously noted in this website, such is life!
By a strange coincidence, the 1st of July was the date that we had chosen to fly out to Gibraltar, for a change of scene. 35 degrees Centigrade when we left the U.K. and we wondered what we'd be experiencing in Gibraltar, especially as the temperature in Spain was 40 plus! Much to our relief, upon arrival at 'the Rock' it was a civilised 22 degrees centigrade with a lovely cool sea breeze.
The Tribute Album
A return visit to David Pick's FFG studio in Bredon was booked in for the 5th and 6th of June. This time I was in the company of my younger brother Chaz. A fellow guitarist and he got roped into things and ended up playing his acoustic guitar on three of the songs. I, myself, laid down the vocal and acoustic guitar templates of the five finale songs for this project, and the rest of the time was left for Brian to catch up with things. And the bulk of the work did indeed rest on his shoulders. But Brian, being Brian, magnificently rose to the occasion. Naturally, I did not expect any other outcome.
Farewell for now. I expect the Tribute album will be well and truly done and dusted by the end of this year.
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My year started well, with a small appearance at an old peoples home on New Years Eve, with a set of four songs. This was due to bumping into an old friend, from years ago, called Allan Aldridge, a consummate performer who invited me along to join in. So I did! The whole thing was very relaxing, and therefore highly enjoyable, with the promise of more gigs to come.
Well, I think it's gone? But it is still wooly jumpers and coats again as we are assailed by a bitterly cold wind. But, for goodness sake, It's the Merry, Merry month of May. It ought to be far warmer than this!
The Tribute Album
A two day session at the recording studio in Bredon, FFG, has been fixed for the 28th and 29th of this month to continue the good work on the tribute album. Brian should be joining me again and I'm quite sure that good progress shall be made. And I shall leave you all with the thought, and hope, that we'll all soon be able to discard the winter wear and get back to shorts and T shirts again!
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