New single from Psychedelia LP


The new single “Mediocria Firma” aka common ground…..

http://www.arthouserecords.co.uk/mediocre-firma-common-ground.html

A lot of people are talking about common ground: here’s my singer-songwriter’s answer to that. Mediocria firma means common ground in Latin and it was the motto drummed into us at school, mediocria firma being Francis Bacon’s motto: common ground; there must be some out there and that’s where I am…

The record business is a cartel…


While I’m on economics: the recorded music business is monopolistic: it’s a cartel. There are three huge corporations dominating the market. That’s a cartel, that isn’t a free market and only bad things come out of cartels and monopolies (like the BBC): bad stuff. Because, as even Marx explains, no-one owns it, so no-one cares, all they want is the profit (in the case of the BBC, the inflated salaries).

Even the energy cartel up to recently had 6 players: but that’s still a cartel. Now they’ve started to break it apart and you’re getting cheaper fuel.

Break up the power of the 3 record majors and you’ll get better music (instead of toothpaste)…through greater diversity.

Anyone should know how cartels work and the record business is a cartel.

Arthouserecords.co.uk, of which I am very proud – never mind the music – is private capital. It is virtually impossible to compete with the publicly-financed majors without selling-out to them, but, as we’ve just seen with James Taylor et al, they don’t feel the need to pay you when you do (as such; “it seemed like a good idea at the time”). Because it’s tough to sue them: so they do what they like. They just don’t care.

So at least I control what is mine. If you sell out to the stock companies, it becomes the property of the shareholders etc. and they don’t care.

That’s why I think SMEs, like it was before 1985, the small record companies, produced better music overall…diversity…

And the Bowie Prom….


Bowie prom. Reminded me of the bad old days when I tried to record a song and people tried to stick bits in, not on the basis of what worked but what they wanted to do.

I get the Berlin abstract music thing but not when the song entirely vanishes (eg rebel rebel; what??) but Cage’s version of Space Oddity just sounded like Cage couldn’t do all the chords so he just played two or three. Non.

Bowie used very straightforward chords (probably because he played 12-string) but what’s interesting about his songs is the arrangements: he does a typical chord structure (e.g. A maj, F# minor, D maj, E major esp on Ziggy) and then goes off on a short but interesting diversion (often with a bass note variant/slash chord) before landing on something straightforward again. All that was lost.

Plus pop music/r&b relies on a strong beat/bass drum. Without it the rhythm goes awol because r&b/pop is highly syncopated, particularly in the instrumentation. This is something classicists tend not to learn at music school. I learnt classics then r&b on the American bases in Germany. Pop is beat. Classics and abstract classics isn’t.

Black star was ok, and fame sort of worked (I’m sure Laura is relieved at that) but otherwise…..

And the beat goes on…


That’s showbiz.

I must say, I don’t know about the music system being “clogged-up” by “new artists” (or similar), but for once in my 43 years making r&b recordings, I’ve never known a more free-market for pop. I can write my own records, release them, get world coverage, advertise them and make *some* money at least, much easier than before when there were so many “gate-keepers” deciding what *they* wanted in the “pop charts” or on the radio.

The whole BBC/Top of the Pops system was corrupt. I don’t like saying it, but it’s true. It was a huge gate-keeping operation. And corrupt.

Now we can just make records and advertise them without the “lens” of the BBC fraternity, who require a lot of “servicing”, it seems.

But the beat goes on and I can do my own thing, without any gate-keepers deciding who is “clogging-up” the system. Is this like Trevor Horn’s “riff-raff”?

A free-market is properly-regulated where anyone, including me, can come and go as they please.

Sounds like some people were “benefitting” from how it used to be?

I certainly know that the people like me who are getting their royalties are benefitting where the big artists used to receive from a big pot: are we assuming the ones that were “clogging-up” the system were the ones excluded from that, if you get my drift?

Bowie and I


In 1967 I discovered 3 things. I know it was ’67 because the World Cup was ’66 and I must’ve grown up a bit. Those 3 things were: electric guitars, Pop Art and flowery shirts. Jimi Hendrix, Warhol and the Hippies. The shirt cost about £5. No wonder the salesman was polite to me. Pop Art was invented by Richard Hamilton in 1959, not Warhol, but Warhol ran with it and bigged himself up: that’s what you’re supposed to do, for 15 minutes anyway. The Velvet Underground. Bananas. You know the sort of thing.

So as I heard Bowie’s Starman in 1972, while I was doing my “O” levels, I knew about all that stuff. 5 years is right. 5 years is a long time. I was more into r&b as in Tamla, although there was Hendrix and Cream too and I liked Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. I still do. And I didn’t hear Hunky Dory til ’73, 2 years after it was released, through a girl-friend of the time who played it to me on her dansette. But there was a big thing about Ziggy in ’72, so I sat down and learnt the songs. It was easy.

Every DB song is around C, A minor, F major, G, D, D minor, A minor and the descending motif like in Changes and Oh You Pretty Things. Queen Bitch plainly should have been in Ziggy Stardust.

But that’s his style. Fripp said if you repeat something, that’s a style. We all do that in songwriting.

But I like major 7ths and minor ninths and diminished and augmenteds, and especially my famous “major minor” (D minor with C# octave in the left-hand). That is, and was, nothing like DB’s songs. He’s a straight-chord person. He’s more rock than groove. More 4-4 than syncopation.

So there I was getting into what we NOW call funk but was American-style r&b, fuelled by large amounts of Stevie Wonder’s early 1970s LPs and Steely Dan after 1974. DB was playing glam-rock, or rock anyway.

Then in ’75 he turned to funk with the Young Americans album. So are great conversions made. Excuse me, but I was already there.

English or British r&b has a much straighter beat. American or New England r&b is syncopated (16th beats). I just find that more interesting. Nevertheless, at that time, that’s the way it was. I had to play it at gigs. The British r&b style was straight-fours like the Beatles in particular. In the meantime the UK charts have completely transformed into US-style r&b: funky and syncopated (but non-existent songs sadly)…

My point being that although Bowie and I write different kinds of song we came from precisely the same cultural environment: guitars and Pop Art. And flowery shirts. The same “cultural milieu” as the professional artists like to call it. The Theatre of the Absurd (Beckett), post-modernists, de-constructionists and, of course Pop Art. All that. Futurists, Cubists, it goes on.

And Pop itself.

So, if people found David wierd or odd, I didn’t because we had the same cultural background. He was, if you like, easy to understand and, in that sense, easy to follow. He played standard chord structures and put his make-up on.

just what is it that makes today's homes so appealing

My life south of the Watford Gap…


pop art is for everyone

There seem to have been two themes in my music life: 1. All the showbiz stuff and who I’ve known through the years and 2., my particular journey playing music for the love of it and in particular making r&b records, that is, songs with a beat. Which brings in the Beatles. Magical Mystery Tour. That’s it.

Harp strings, blurry image…………….

I discovered r&b music at 5 when I heard “let’s twist again” on the wireless: it was the bass drum. My grandparents taught me about classical music but Let’s Twist Again got me started in pop beats in 1960 when I was five, then I discovered Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles, amongst others, when in St. Albans Herts, 1967, at the time when Donovan was having love-ins in Verulamium. I played piano anyway but I got an electric guitar and an amp and it all began. I was into tape recorders too.

1970 I heard James Brown’s Sex Machine, I liked the record and then by 1973 I was playing in an r&b band on the US bases in Germany, where the (sadly conscripted) musicians there taught me the funk. Then I heard Elliott Randall’s solo on Steely Dan’s record, then I discovered Steely Dan and then Stevie Wonder who had all those LPs out. Plus there was Average White Band and the whole disco thing started to kick-off with Jive Talkin’.

By 1974 I’d signed to Chris Denning ie Johnathan King (there’s a story there!) but I moved on to work with Tony Arnold to learn production engineering, plus I’d recorded with Charisma, Regent Sound Studios, 20th Century Fox and Denmark Street in general before it all changed. I just caught the end of that.

Previously to that I’d met Robert Fripp so I knew of Brain Eno and David Bowie and that scene, in fact I’d seen King Crimson with the Stones at Hyde Park in 1969.

I gigged variously, went to Brasil with the Deodato connection and learnt samba, or rhythms anyway, came back and formed the Hit Men 19 1977 which worked with RCA and there was the single Red Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qagqtPbCgf0. There’s a long story in there.

Then I went to Red Bus in 1982 and toured with Hot Chocolate for 54 dates across the UK, so Errol Brown, Mickey Most, Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Jolley and Swain, Imagination and all that.

Then the big money corporations took over in the mid ’80s and all the smaller companies disappeared so that was a tougher environment but we released records independently in the 1980s until I started www.arthouserecords.co.uk in 1998 and released LPs Funky Groovy and Pop Art.

Funk Groovy, 1998, is a best of so far (Electricity, Devil of Love) and Pop Art (If I Loved You; Work!) was the new LP in that year and was well-received, it seems.

After that I got into digital, recorded 2004’s Fly White Guy (whilst getting a psychology degree as it happens), then Art Pop (You’re the Love of my Life 20,000 downloads, my biggest ever and King’s and Queens remake 2nd at 19,000) in 2009 seemed to get things going again ( I recorded it and engineered it myself which was definitely too much!) and through Facebook I met up with all those people I’d worked with etc and that resulted in 2015’s Romantic Fiction, with new single and video Hole in my Heart and follow-up Baby Come back to be released later this year.

I wrote the score for Romantic Fiction using Sibelius with my transcriber Kieran, tranferred it to MIDI and recorded it on Cubase 7.5 with production engineer dave Thomas. I play all the instruments and sing all the vocals. I was advised by Elliott Randall and Deodato and it sounds like it to me. I love it. My influences are legion.

With the digital syatem I’ve been able to do all sorts of things I couldn’t before so I’m very happy with the sound.

Plus video-making has become more accessible so it’s not so much records these days as music-videos and just media. I always change with the times: I was taught that at home. And pop is always evolving.

Robert Luther Smith

Bio.

There are two themes: all the showbiz stuff and who I’ve known through the years

and

my particular journey playing music for the love of it and in particular making r&b records, that is, songs with a beat. Which brings in the Beatles.

However I discovered r&b music at 5 when I heard “let’s twist again”: it was the bass drum. My grandparents taught me about classical music but Let’s Twist Again got me started in pop beats in 1960 when I was five, then I discovered Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles, amongst others, when in St. Albans Herts, 1967, at the time when Donovan was having love-ins in Verulamium. I played piano anyway but I got an electric guitar and an amp and it all began. I was into tape recorders too.

1970 I heard James Brown’s Sex Machine, I liked the record and then by 1973 I was playing in an r&b band on the US bases in Germany, where the (sadly conscripted) musicians there taught me the funk. Then I heard Elliott Randall’s solo on Steely Dan’s record, then I discovered Steely Dan and then Stevie Wonder who had all those LPs out. Plus there was Average White Band and the whole disco thing started to kick-off with Jive Talkin’.

By 1974 I’d signed to Chris Denning ie Johnathan King (there’s a story there!) but I moved on to work with Tony Arnold to learn production engineering, plus I’d recorded with Charisma, Regent Sound Studios, 20th Century Fox and Denmark Street in general before it all changed. I just caught the end of that.

Previously to that I’d met Robert Fripp so I knew of Brain Eno and David Bowie and that scene, in fact I’d seen King Crimson with the Stones at Hyde Park in 1969.

I gigged variously, went to Brasil with the Deodato connection and learnt samba, or rhythms anyway, came back and formed the Hit Men 19 1977 which worked with RCA and there was the single Red Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qagqtPbCgf0. There’s a long story in there.

Then I went to Red Bus in 1982 and toured with Hot Chocolate for 54 dates across the UK, so Errol Brown, Mickey Most, Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Jolley and Swain, Imagination and all that.

Then the big money corporations took over in the mid ’80s and all the smaller companies disappeared so that was a tougher environment but we released records independently in the 1980s until I started www.arthouserecords.co.uk in 1998 and released LPs Funky Groovy and Pop Art.

Funk Groovy, 1998, is a best of so far (Electricity, Devil of Love) and Pop Art (If I Loved You; Work!) was the new LP in that year and was well-received, it seems.

After that I got into digital, recorded 2004’s Fly White Guy (whilst getting a psychology degree as it happens), then Art Pop (You’re the Love of my Life 20,000 downloads, my biggest ever and King’s and Queens remake 2nd at 19,000) in 2009 seemed to get things going again ( I recorded it and engineered it myself which was definitely too much!) and through Facebook I met up with all those people I’d worked with etc and that resulted in 2015’s Romantic Fiction, with new single and video Hole in my Heart and follow-up Baby Come back to be released later this year.

I wrote the score for Romantic Fiction using Sibelius with my transcriber Kieran Marshal MA, tranferred it to MIDI and recorded it on Cubase 7.5 with production-engineer Dave Thomas. I play all the instruments and sing all the vocals. I was advised by Elliott Randall, Deodato, Jason Rebello, Ashley Slater, Tom Green and Wes Maebe. And it sounds like it to me. I love it.

With the digital syatem I’ve been able to do all sorts of things I couldn’t before so I’m very happy with the sound.

Plus video-making has become more accessible so it’s not so much records these days as music-videos and just media. I always change with the times: I was taught that at home. And Pop is always evolving.

kiss

Who’s that where?


and where that chord changey bit on Baby Come Back is obviously me mimicking Steely Dan (or Nightfly actually), the middle bit of Hole in my Heart where I go – gone, gone gone, – is me doing a David Bowie….and maybe a bit on the chorus of Baby Come Back, but not much.

Then there’s Stevie Wonder, Tom Waits, Billy Joel, Heaven 17 and a mention of Station to Station on I’ll be there. And Frank Sinatra references on same. Plus plenty more.

I’m in there somewhere, I’m sure.

Average White Band especially Hamish Stewart. Tamla. Nile Rogers. Morriconi. Just like Elliot Randall on guitar. Just like Deodato on Fender Rhodes. More more more. Giorgio Moroder. Paul McCartney/The Beatles on Heaven Knows, as well as Billy Joel; duh…..

In fact I thought I could give a prize for the most number of correct references I’ve used on the album. I won’t hold my breath.

And Robert Fripp guitar on High Anxiety!