‘Can’t you do happy songs?’ Well, let’s see… I could if I was of a mind to; I happen to prefer writing about deeper things. If you want happy songs, I suggest you go and listen to someone else more to your taste and don’t tell me what I ‘should’ be doing! It’s like asking Tolstoy if he couldn’t write something shorter and lighter because that’s what you want to read. Obviously he wrote what he was best at writing. Likewise, I write what I’m best at writing and you’re perfectly entitled to like the shallow crap that you like. Just don’t tell me that that’s what I should be doing. End of.
I spent several happy hours yesterday at Tigersonic Studio in North London with Felix Macintosh and Gilly Spencer, recording my new song, 'Hangin' on a String', and coming away late in the afternoon feeling absolutely delighted with how it's sounding. Gilly has put down some fabulous Latin-style piano, complementing the Cuban-style percussion already put down by the lovely David Naylor, Felix has worked her magic with all those knobs and faders and other stuff that's beyond me, and I can't wait now to play it to the world - though wait I must as it's not quite finished yet. Anyway, as I floated down a busy rush-hour Caledonian Road towards the tube station, the song still flowing through my head, the thing that's happened at irregular intervals through my entire life happened yet again, and I responded in the same way I've responded so many times before. Yes, a dog trotted past, not obviously belonging to anyone, but I hoped against hope that one of the crowd of people he was among was trusting him to be good off the lead, even in that bustling throng. I watched him trot up the road, and then he stopped... and the crowd went on, and he was left standing there by the side of a road with lorries and buses thundering past just inches from his sweet greying muzzle. Immediately Mandy Woods, singer-songwriter disappeared, to be replaced by the Pet Rescuer Extraordinaire who has shadowed me through my life, from the UK to the Costa Brava (as a child) (we applied kid power to the hotel management to force them to get help for a stray pup wandering around the hotel grounds) and later to Austin, Texas, where I ended up falling for a stray dachshund on my way to work one morning, the rest being history... Anyway, back to the Caledonian Road, and I very carefully approached the adorable-looking old chap (he seemed to have quite a bit of Lancashire Heeler in him, and I've long wanted one of them...), not because I thought he might bite me, but because I was afraid he might get spooked and run into the road. He did look a bit edgy, but I crouched down, held out my hand for him to sniff, and very gently got hold of his bejewelled black collar - to find, to my dismay, no sign of a tag on it. Just as I was wondering what the heck I was going to do next, lumbered as I was with a guitar on my back and a hefty bag containing a day's worth of stuff, and no lead with which to restrain him, for the second time in a week (see previous post), a dog-loving angel appeared from nowhere, pulled out her phone and said she'd call the RSPCA. Thank God - or Dog - for her. And also for my jeans belt, that, in a moment of inspiration, I realised would serve as a makeshift lead. Fortunately my jeans were not so loose that without it they'd fall down, Whitehall farce-like, as soon as I next stood up. So there we were, two women and a ruby-studded Lancashire Heeler on the end of a leather belt, standing on one of the busiest roads in North London in the middle of the rush hour, not quite knowing what to do next. I was beginning to think this was Fate, that the dog had crossed my path for a reason, and that now I had to find a way to negotiate two jam-packed tube trains and the train back to Eastbourne with not only my guitar and overstuffed bag, but also my new four-legged friend in tow. Strangely - or maybe not so strangely - my main concern about doing this was that I didn't know when he'd last emptied his bladder, and was worried that he might do it in one of the carriages... He didn't seem the type though - he looked to be a real gent. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the angel ended up calling the Islington dog warden, who said he'd come immediately. I then gave her dispensation to leave, as she was on her way to work, and moved down the road a bit to stand outside the tube station with my chap, in two minds whether to do a bunk with him before the warden arrived or do the right thing and wait. In the end we waited, and within minutes, impressively, a white van rounded the corner and pulled up next to us. The warden whipped out his microchip checker and found that the old fella had one, which showed that he was 11 years old, was called Blanco (the astute Londoner thought his owner must therefore have been a fan of Porridge), was unaccountably described as a jack russell terrier, and lived just round the corner. Part of me was a bit sad that I couldn't keep him - but then my heart sank more for Blanco when the phone number for the address was found to be dead. The warden put a rope lead round his neck, gave me my belt back, then put the old chap in his van and said he'd take him round to the address anyway and see if anyone was in. I gave him my contact details just in case no one was there and Fate wasn't finished with me yet. He didn't call me, so I can only hope that, as I write, Blanco is curled up at his person's feet, and that his person was overjoyed to have such a great little fellow back safe and sound. As for me, I'm now back to being Mandy Woods, singer-songwriter, hangin' on a string...
I’m just about getting some sense of order back in my life after the stress and upheaval of selling my mother’s house (the family home of forty years) and finding somewhere else for me and the dogs to live, since that had been our home for the past 18 months. In finally sitting back and breathing a sigh of relief this evening, I realise that I haven’t actually told too many folks that, in the end, having said I was going to stay living in Oxford, things changed with two weeks to go to completion on the family house (a long story which I haven’t got the energy to go into), and instead of Oxford, I’m now a resident of Eastbourne on the south coast. So far I’m really loving it – I had friends here already, it’s great to have a whole new music scene to get involved in, and I’ve found a fabulous flat ten minutes’ walk from the sea, in a lovely part of Eastbourne and at a fraction of what it’d cost in Oxford or London – and Silva and Chilli seem delighted with their new surroundings too. All fantastic – apart from the embittered elderly couple we encountered this morning on our walk along the seafront… The man seemed to deliberately stand in our way as the dogs and I came to the top of a narrow pathway leading up from the seafront, and then, despite my muttered thanks (not sure why I even did that now, come to think of it) as the three of us struggled past him, the wife made a big thing of saying ‘THANK YOU’ as if I’d been rude to them as she brushed past me on her way down. I told her that I HAD thanked her, to which she replied, ‘We don’t like dogs.’ WELL!!!! I naturally then saw red and yelled down at the crabby pair, ‘You rude, hate-filled people!’ – only then to become embarrassingly teary when an angel of a woman came past seconds later, admired the dogs, and was incredibly sweet when I poured out to her the whole horrible encounter with the gruesome twosome… There may well be a song in this in the near future...
Anyway, that was but a minor blip, and I continue to be amazed at how much I’m liking Eastbourne – even my encounter with the dentist this morning was a delight! Exhaustion is setting in now, but stand by for more tales from the sea...
As a songwriter, I dream of the day someone with clout in the music business approaches me with a genuine offer to pitch/record/promote a song of mine - any song, I don't mind which one - but the offer has to be genuine. I was recently sent a sub-publishing agreement to sign concerning my song 'Hangin' on a String', which included the following wording:
'Publisher will have the sole and exclusive right to administer and exploit the Composition throughout the world to execute in its own name any and all licenses and agreements affecting and respecting the Composition...
Included with the rights referred to above, without limitation, is Writer's irrevocable grant to Publisher of the sole and exclusive right, in perpetuity and throughout the universe with respect to the Composition...'
I suppose he assumed I was born yesterday and/or was desperate enough to sign any agreement without first running it past various legal and music experts (I'm fortunate enough to know a few). Although, really, I didn't need to do that to realise that this was just a crap rip-off.
Ah well - ever onwards... The version he heard of the song was a demo version I'd had done in Nashville. This weekend I'm recording my own version at Tigersonic Studio in the expert hands of Felix Macintosh, and with Gilly Spencer and David Naylor doing some fabulous salsa-style piano and percussion for me.
There are so many stories of songwriters being ripped off after signing contracts like this one - it makes my blood boil - though it also makes me breathe a sigh of relief that I haven't just handed over all rights to my composition to some fucking con man in Beverly Hills.