SNARK UPDATE

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Stephane Grappelli and Mike Batt at CTS Studios, 1983

Dear Snark-Interested Bloggees,

SNARK UPDATE - MARCH 2019

Just an update re SNARK. I think we all know by now that PledgeMusic is, at least in the short term (and unless it gets rescued) up the Swannee. Most folks who pledged (by pre-ordering their copy of the album/merch/experience etc) won't have been charged on their card. If you HAVE - (Apple Pay is one that WAS apparently taken) - do get in touch with Pledge Immediately. If you just used a credit or debit card you can rest easy. If you prefer to negate the transaction just in case, you still have that option.

Anyway - so I'm continuing on what seems to be a longer-than-anticipated trek to get this BLOODY ALBUM made!

In anticipation of getting it made eventually, I have started cutting together a "dummy" version of the show using backing tracks from the original album interspersed with midi signals taken from my orchestra score (I use FINALE software to orchestrate and it plays back the score. I can assign samples to the midi sounds to approximate the orchestra and rhythm. I won't be issuing it like that but it does mean that if I have a star cast member in town, who can only make a certain date I'll have a backing track to work on, which will be at the right tempo and in the right key. The midi orchestra will never be heard on the final record. When we get funded, I'll add the real orchestra and it'll all sound lovely!

I can also do all the backing vocals (which are mostly me, stacked up like I always have done (plus some friends who identify as female) so that no time will be wasted when the dosh shows up.

This approach means I will creep up on the album gradually, like a Snark that happens to be looking the other way, or a Fumious Bandersnatch that has nipped out for a fag and is having a little kip on the way back to its nest.

All this is of course rather boring and it would be so much better just to run into the studio in my usual way and PLAY THE BLOODY THING in a week or so. But - it IS actually quite good for my soul to be chopping this template version together. My son, the brilliant singer-songwriter LUKE BATT (also known in Recordland as "Superheart") is helping me as engineer/programmer on a "day here and a day there" basis. I will probably do what I did on the very first album before my star performers were added one by one, and that is to sing it all through, myself, so they know what to sing and where.

So that's where we are. Why does EVERY project (or nearly every one) turn out to be so long-winded and uphill? It seems to be the story of my life. I am heartened by the fact that the ones that have taken the most effort and given me the most grief are the ones that often end up being the greatest successes, either artistically or commercially. Ideally both, but not always.

Lots of love

Mike

PS - The picture with myself and Stephane Grappelli taken in 1983 when we were making the first album, is to remind me to tell you that we are technically able to transfer his solo work off the old album, onto the new one. Same with George Harrison’s guitar solo. Hooray!

HOW TO GET GIRLS TO TAKE THEIR SHIRTS OFF

HOW TO GET GIRLS TO TAKE THEIR SHIRTS OFF 

(Autobiography excerpt)

Our house in Winchester only had three bedrooms and there were four of us kids, plus Mum and Dad. I was therefore allocated the front sitting room as my bedroom, and this coincided with my noticing an ad in the paper asking for someone to take away a Broadwood grand piano, – for free. We collected our free grand piano and it lived in my downstairs bedroom. Dominated it, in fact. You couldn’t get into the bedroom by walking in, – you had to crawl under the piano, which was quite good for privacy. It was huge. The pointed end was rammed right up against the door and the keyboard end was so close to the fireplace at the other end of the room that I had to put the piano stool on the hearth in order to be able to squeeze myself in to play it. It was a full-length concert grand in a tiny suburban front room. The only other thing in the room was my small bed. As I progressed into adolescence, I would sit at my grand piano with all the windows open just as the girls all came out of the nearby County High School and I’d play my dodgy versions of the classics, as loudly as possible in the hope that some gorgeous girl – or even an ugly one – would hear the music and fall in love with me. If any of them ever did, they kept it to themselves.

These were the exciting years during which I learned about my talent and about what was driving me. I loved all records. I played Frank Ifield’s “I Remember You” till it wore out, bought the Springfields’ “Island Of Dreams”, – delved into classics, Flamenco and pop. Rock didn’t really exist yet, but it was ultra cool to be into Leadbelly, Howlin’ Wolf and Josh White, whose album “Empty Bed Blues” was a favourite of mine. The Beatles had just started and were putting singles out regularly all throughout my adolescence. The Stones were laying down a regular barrage of great white R&B, – in other words, black music sung by white boys. I copied them. I wanted to be Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, and probably John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful as well. And then suddenly rock did exist, and it was all Jimi Hendrix, The Animals, the Yardbirds and The Move. There were other great bands, lesser-known ones like the Downliners’ Sect and Geno Washington’s Ram Jam Band.

I played piano in a pub in town when I was fourteen. It was the only way to get into the pub, under-age. I would always have a row of free pints on top of the piano and some drunk hanging off me, trying to sing “Slow Boat To China”. It taught me that the piano was a good way to be welcomed socially, - and it was indeed a good way of making friends, even if the County High girls hadn’t taken the hint yet. I answered an advertisement in the paper and joined a Southampton rhythm and blues band called Phase Four (pictured). The other guys were printers during the day, and all of them were nineteen. I was fifteen. We’d get the odd gig, but not much. Most of our gigs were in youth clubs, but we played the Park Ballroom a couple of times. When I joined, I knew next to nothing about blues, not even how to play a twelve bar blues, – but I soon picked it up. We played a lot of Chuck Berry songs. His songs showed me the power of lyrics. The tunes were all pretty much the same, but the lyrics were chunks of urban poetry, completely original and totally unique.

I always thought music was there for one main reason, to impress girls. It became a sort of lifetime habit, trying to impress women. When I first crossed that line from thinking girls were nuisances to trying to take their shirts off, I was about fourteen.I started going to ballroom dancing classes to meet girls.

The girl I connected with at Ballroom Dancing was Kathy Stocks. She was slim, pretty, smelled GREAT and had a way of looking through half closed eyes at you that was mysterious and totally sexy. I plucked up courage to ask her out, and we spent some time thinking we were an item, though at the age of fifteen I didn’t have the courage to lead her astray, even if she’d wanted me to, which I’ll never know. We would sit in a corner of the dark little coffee bar listening to “The House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals, and snogging without taking a breath. “The House of the Rising Sun” was the most popular song on the jukebox because it was the longest for the money. I think it was about five minutes long, and still only cost sixpence to hear. One day, Kathy started acting funny and not returning my calls. She even stood me up at the pictures. I waited an hour before I realised, and trudged home miserably. The moment it became clear to me that it was over coincided with my buying “It’s Over” by Roy Orbison. I played it endlessly in my bedroom. The memory of Kathy’s perfume hung in the air and each line of lyrics cut me like a knife “Golden days before they end/ whisper secrets to the wind/your baby doesn’t love you any more”. I thought life itself, not just my relationship with Kathy was over. And I suppose I was, all the time, subconsciously learning about the power of lyrics and the importance of love in our lives.



ONE DOOR CLOSES...


…AND ANOTHER ONE SLAMS IN YOUR FACE!

I’m sorry to report that PLEDGE MUSIC - the crowd-funding platform that has for so many years offered a route to market for independent artists, have reported that they are in a cash-flow crisis and seeking a buyer. That leaves us unable to fund our SNARK project (see “Dear Bloggees” Blog on this site). I’m so sorry. Particularly to stars Matt Lucas, John Partridge and Philip Quast, who have pinned, and have not yet unpinned their colours to my mast. In other words they have so far agreed to star on this new first-ever recording of the full West End show score, as stated in my previous blog entitled ”DEAR BLOGGEES”. I will get the project funded a different way. Just got to work out how. Gimme a moment!

More soon, when I get it sorted.

Forgive the lack of jollity in this announcement.

Anyone who has ordered their copy (that’s how Pledge Music works, you just pre-order - it’s not a donation or investment) - rest assured your money has not been, and will not be taken unless they are back on their feet and operating again, in which case you’ll get your album/merchandise/experience whatever. It doesn’t make it any more fun though, does it!??!!!

Thanks for your patience.

All the best

Mike


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