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!
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.
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!
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!
More RecordingsSince 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.
And so, it leaves me now to say farewell, and I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.
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.
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!
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!
The Tribute Album