Adventures In Music    
Mick playing guitar Action in 1976

  

      

THE ALBUMS

(INDEX - BOTTOM OF PAGE)

Mick playing piano


Despite being highly impressed by, and very envious of, the guitar playing of one of my teachers at school, my musical talents on leaving that establishment were about zero; however, my first employment involved working for a company that had a 'musical instruments' department. I soon became friends with several of the sales assistants who happened to be quite good musicians, and would often listen to them strumming away on the guitars during tea breaks and lunch hours. Always fancying myself as a guitarist, the temptation to take some positive steps in this direction gradually became overwhelming; so I purchased a guitar, a tutor book, and began my first adventures in music. One of the assistants - Steve Saville - had toured the country performing at many Working Men's Clubs, sometimes as a solo artist, and at others, as a member of various groups. He was a very capable singer and guitarist; but in my opinion his greatest talent lay in his song-writing. Steve had written a considerable number of songs, and I adored many of them: it amazes me to this day that he never made a career in this field. I have no hesitation in stating that, if he had been a 'pop star', churning out albums by the score - I'd have the complete collection.

Steve Saville - Concrete World

As my guitar playing progressed I started writing some songs of my own. My first few attempts were quite poor, but I soon produced several that, I believed, to say the least, were 'listenable'. After playing a few of these to Steve, he invited me up to his home, and we began writing together, ultimately recording the songs on his multi-track tape recorder. We decided to produce a tape in the form of an album, so when we had eight songs ready - two of Steve's, two of mine, and four jointly written - we set about recording 'side 1'. The album was named 'Concrete World' after the jointly written song that we considered our best. We then went on to write another handful of songs together, being uncertain as to whether they were for 'side two' of 'Concrete World', or to begin a new album: whatever, in the event, we never got them down on tape. Some years later I recorded the songs alone to complete 'Concrete World'.

After a while Steve and I gradually went our separate ways, though kept having the odd get-together from time to time - writing two or three new songs on each occasion. With hindsight, the most memorable incidents of our time together were the highly peculiar and persistent arguments we used to have - arguing about which one of us was the better songwriter - me insisting it was him, and he adamant it was me.

Recording alone - Phase 1

In 1972, after recording the Concrete World tape with Steve, I wanted to produce an 'album' of my own, so I purchased some suitable recording equipment. This included a stereo reel-to-reel tape recorder that had provisions for producing 'multi-track' recordings: the system it used was rather basic and crude, but it served its purpose - just! With a handful of new songs that I had written, I set about recording the album. I included on it several songs previously written with Steve, though not recorded on 'Concrete World'; Steve's song, The Dreamer (with a few minor alterations) - the song that had literally lured me into song-writing, and some re-arrangements of several of the 'Concrete World' tracks. I tried to create as much variation as possible, and so included my first guitar solo - Elementary Paul; though, in effect, this is little more than a guitar ad-libbing session. Regarding this tape as the first phase of my own written and recorded music - I named it accordingly - 'Phase 1'. The album was completed in 1974.

Bits and Pieces - Bits & Bits

By 1974 I had accumulated a mountain of unfinished bits and pieces of songs, along with a handful of complete ones that I considered to have 'not quite made the grade'. I decided to record them all - exactly as they were left - just for posterity. The finished result was two tapes containing a total of two hours recording. With the exception of a few songs that aren't too bad; and several bits and pieces that show promise, and could produce good songs if completed appropriately; most of the material is so poor that I would not play it to anyone! 'Bits & Pieces' seemed a rather bland, obvious title for the tapes, so I deviated this to 'Bits & Bits' (1 & 2). I now hate this title and wish I had thought of something more imaginative, but as this was my choice at the time I have not changed it. In any case, I suppose the poor title aptly represents the poor material the tapes contain!

Jane Thickett - Love in Our Time

In September 1974 I began giving guitar tuition to Jane Thickett - a work colleague who had expressed how impressed she was with my songs, along with an interest in learning to play guitar. Jane had also intimated a desire to 'have a bash' at writing and recording some songs; so, following the guitar lessons, we started tossing some ideas, lyrics and tunes to and fro until we had a handful of compositions ready for recording. This turned out to be an extremely successful venture. With hindsight, I would say that some of the best songs I have written were those I did with Jane: namely Living In A Dream, Run Run Run, Foolish Pride and Dance (the 82 bus song), (the latter, in parenthesis, was Jane's line - she used to catch the 82 bus home from work!). I soon discovered that, despite having had no previous experience in music whatever, she had an astounding singing voice, and have no doubt that if she had been that way inclined could have made a career out of singing. Jane's guitar playing didn't progress too well; she began to lose interest, so the 'guitar lessons' gradually evolved into 'song-writing sessions'. The first song we recorded together was the beautiful Neil Young composition I Believe In You, a song we both liked very much. We then began recording our own songs, intending to produce an album of our own that we would call 'Love In Our Time' - after one of the songs we had written. Sadly, before we had completed many recordings, Jane's fiancée decided that he wasn't happy about the whole arrangement, and the guitar lessons/recording sessions came to an end. Maybe he'd noticed her guitar playing wasn't progressing much and wondered what was going on, though he was fully aware of the songs we had written. I subsequently recorded all but one of the remaining songs myself, and had to write a few additional ones to complete the album. This was achieved by 1976. It included a song called Lady of Love, which I had written with Steve Saville on a short re-union in April 1975 - several months after my recording sessions with Jane had ended; and this song is loosely based on my friendship with her. The last song to be recorded was the title song - Love In Our Time: its nature was such that, ideally, it needed to be sung as a male/female duet, so I acquired the help of a friend, Anne Turner, to assist me with the vocals on this final recording.

Alone Again - Dream World

In addition to Lady of Love, my short re-union with Steve Saville produced three other jointly written songs: I Believe - You Believe in Me, Small World, and Hardy Turk (although the latter was mostly Steve's). Between 1976 and 1978 I added nine more of my own songs, and recorded my next 'solo' album - 'Dream World'. This included my first piano solo Bartoven's Sympathy (in 'J' major), though this is not one of my better compositions - largely due to my limited ability on piano: piano-playing never was my forte - if you'll excuse the pun! The title song is based on a slightly heated debate which took place between a friend, Shaun Connealy, and myself: while I didn't agree with certain comments he made, I felt they provided a great theme for a song - and so Dream World was born!

Stuart and Christine Ward - TARDIS - The Gods of the Universe

In 1977 I became friends with a married couple who went by the names of Stuart and Christine Ward. Stu and I shared the same taste in music - namely the Beatles. We used to play and sing many of their songs together at Stu and Chris's house. Stu's guitar playing was rather limited so I taught him some additional chords and fingerstyles. We then gradually progressed onto writing our own music, and decided to do an album together. Before the album was complete we were employed to perform two gigs at some relatives' weddings. We decided to pick a name for our 'duo' act, and as our choice of music was not current material, but stuff from an earlier time - namely the sixties/early seventies, we named ourselves after the famous time-machine - TARDIS. We did talk of having a bash at touring the Working Men's Clubs, but ultimately decided against it for a number of reasons, not least of which - we didn't consider ourselves good enough to make any significant impression. Our 'album' included a song Stu had written with Christine - Tardis (The Gods of the Universe), the song that ultimately provided the album's title; and a song Stu wrote with his brother Steve - In Every Dream - very good too, particularly given that Steve had no previous experience with music whatever. Also included is a song Stu wrote for Christine - Lady of Mine. On the latter recording Stu provided the vocals and main guitar work; I decided I was going to do something 'different'. I decided to add some keyboard backing; however, there was a problem - we didn't have a keyboard! Not to be defeated by this minor setback, I produced the backing by multi-tracking a - wait for it - Rolf Harris Stylophone! - anybody remember those things? I've always been proud of the backing I added to this song, believing it to sound quite professional - particularly considering that it was produced with nothing more than a child's toy. For some curious reason, the last few months of recording became very stressful, and we were very relieved to get the album finished! 'The Gods of the Universe' was completed in 1979.

Stu and I practicing a Cat Stevens' song in preparation for our forthcoming gigs (mentioned above):

Alone Again - Rainbow Hill

Following 'The Gods of the Universe' I experienced a loss of interest in music, and produced virtually nothing throughout the following few years. Even a short reunion with Steve Saville in 1981 produced very little. I helped Steve record a song which he had just written - Freedom - which contains the term 'Rainbow Hill', and I decided that this name would form the title for my next album - should I ever get around to producing one! Freedom would provide the opening track, though the recording was done mostly by Steve - my only involvement was to provide some backing vocals. I also decided that I would include Steve's recent song Julie (another one of his classics!), though this was both written and recorded entirely by Steve. 'Rainbow Hill' progressed no further until 1983 when my song-writing interest underwent a short revival. I wrote and recorded two songs in a relatively short period of time - Geordie Girl and The Girl I Love; both quite good too - at least I think so! Around this time I had developed an interest in C.B. radio, and the song Geordie Girl was related to this; incorporating some C.B. lingo, which may sound quite peculiar to anyone not familiar with this jargon. Following these two songs, my interest in music took another nose-dive, and I produced virtually nothing for the next twelve years. In 1996, more out of a curiosity of whether I still 'had the knack', I determined I was going to write at least a couple of new songs. This resulted in Melanie and Worlds Apart, though, at the time of writing these notes, the latter is not quite complete. It seems that I do still have the knack - but my interest is nothing like it was: it might be another twelve years before I write another song! When I have completed and recorded the song Worlds Apart, side one of 'Rainbow Hill' will be complete. Don't ask where the songs for side two will come from - they might not!

1996 - Worlds Apart/Worlds Together

In addition to writing two new songs in 1996, I decided to transfer a selection of my better songs on to one tape - producing, if you like, a 'compilation album'. I named this after my last song Worlds Apart - a song reflecting my recent interest in, and admiration for, the Victorian authoress Anne Brontë. I was so impressed with the 'Worlds Apart' album, that I decided to produce a second compilation - and gave it the inverse title 'Worlds Together'.

***************

The above notes were written several years ago. Now, in 2002, with the growing popularity of the computer, and the advent of the CD writer, I have been able to transfer the songs on to CD, giving a more professional appearance to the albums. Additionally, the digital recording format will preserve the recordings far better than audio-tape ever could.

Public Performances

Despite all I have written above, I would like to make it clear that my musicianship and singing ability is quite limited (some audio 'wave' samples are available {see 'Worlds Apart' link - below} to firmly settle any doubts on this matter!) - though I have performed in public on a number of occasions - and lived to tell the tale (maybe only just though)! Many of my songs are nothing to shout about, though I have often thought (and said) that I would love to hear some of my better ones performed by a more competent, professional artist.

I have lost track of the exact number of 'live' performances I have been engaged in over the years. All have occurred at only relatively small functions. I may have done about six alone - when I used some tape-recorded (by me) backing instrumentals and vocals; two with Jane Thickett; two with Stuart Ward (as the duo 'Tardis') and one with a friend's wife - Julia Clayton and her niece at their village annual get-together. The latter was the biggest and most successful one, taking place in October 1977. Julia is a superb musician and has toured Britain with some top bands: in her spare time she teaches piano. She asked if I would repeat the 'village' performance the following year, but I declined.


Todwick Village Hall
15 October 1977

One of my rare live performances, when I entertained the 'Todwick' villagers at their annual get-together in the village hall. Also performing with me was my friend's wife Julia Clayton (guitar and vocals), and her fourteen year old niece (flute).

Mick 'live' at Todwick village hall


The Albums

Please excuse my use of the term 'album', which may make my 'tapes' (which is after all, all they are) sound more up-market than is actually the case; but my dictionary assures me that this is an appropriate term for such a collection of recordings.

For some of my better songs I have presented the lyrics, accompanied by audio 'wave' samples. In several other cases I have presented the lyrics alone - where there is an interesting story behind their composition, or they carry a certain degree of poetic element, and seem to be able to 'stand alone' - at least to some degree; though song lyrics often lack impact when not accompanied by the music.


 The albums 
Compilations (1996)

  Worlds Apart  (and 'wave' samples)

  Worlds Together 

The Others

  Concrete World  (1971 - 72)

  Phase 1  (1972 - 74)

  Bits & Bits 1 & 2  (1971 - 74)

  Love In Our Time  (1974 - 76)

  Dream World  (1976 - 78)

  The Gods Of The Universe  (1977 - 79)

  Rainbow Hill  (1982 -     )


Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage
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