Bus Long Gone
The genesis of Bus Long Gone was the re-establishment of contact between me and my old musical partner and friend Michael Anderson in November 2013. We had not seen or heard from each other
in twenty four years.
Mike getting in touch via Facebook was a welcome development in my life. I’d often wondered if it would happen, and what it might be like if it did. In fact, It was good. Most of
the rekindled friendship took place by email, though we did meet up twice, once in Cleethorpes and once in Liverpool. We had a lot of fun talking over old times, discovering what each of us had been up to over the past near-quarter of a century, and most of
all in re-discovering our old musical cassette tapes and digitally preserving them for prosperity. We even made the best of them, Revolver Ten and Roctober One available to buy Online. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ten-Revolver/dp/B00IQXJ3KQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=dmusic&ie=UTF8&qid=1427693878&sr=1-1&keywords=Revolver+Ten
latter collection features a new recording of our song Shetland, written in 1980, but which no intact recording of had survived the years. This new version was recorded simply on my phone in Mike’s flat in Cleethorpes with me on acoustic guitar and vocals
and Mike on vocals.
We had such a good time with all of the above that we decided to commence work on new material, a Roctober Two follow up to 1984’s Roctober One. We decided that all of the songs should
fit within a theme, a Concept Album no less, that theme being the period when we were the best of friends, roughly 1978 – 1989. New songs were written, and after Mike’s visit to Liverpool in October 2014 when more enjoyable phone recordings were
made, this time utilising two phones and a speaker for Lo-Fi, make-shift multi-tracking purposes, new recording equipment was purchased for the purposes of recording our masterpiece.
However, the process soon
became much less fun as clear Musical Differences emerged. These differences eventually became unpleasantly personal, putting an end not just to the musical collaboration, but to the friendship itself.
was a shame. However, amongst the mangled wreckage of the crashed dream o f Roctober Two, I was left with a nice BR 80 micro-recording device, the New Machine that has become the name of my imaginary band for this album, and a new collection of songs, my first
new material since 2007. What is more, these songs had a definite theme, and were amongst the strongest I'd ever written.
Mike soon completed and put out his own album featuring the songs he he'd planned to
contribute to Roctober Two. To my ears, it sounds rushed, and the music lacking in space and a variety of mood and texture. But that’s just my opinion, and it's based really on the most cursory run through of the songs. One day I will want to listen
to Mike's album in depth, but that time has yet to arrive. At any rate, my opinion as to its quality is no more and no less valid than anyone elses. If you want to listen for yourself, here’s the link http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spring-Michael-Anderson/dp/B00T5QNSHC/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=dmusic&ie=UTF8&qid=1427695025&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=Mihael+Anderson
became a bit of a watchword in the recording of my album. I wanted it to sound like the organic offspring of the Roctober ’87 sessions, two tracks of which have survived as bonus material on the Roctober One digital re-issue, and the best of my solo
material from 2002-2008 (which is available on two collections – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Days-Analogue-2002-2005/dp/B00L2BDJEU/ref=sr_1_2?s=dmusic&ie=UTF8&qid=1427695720&sr=1-2&keywords=The+Tony+Green+Band
I think I have largely achieved what I set out to achieve. Anyway, here it is, Bus Long Gone, track by track:
was the first song written for the abortive Roctober Two, and the song me and Mike worked on most during the now legendary ‘Phone Sessions’ in Liverpool, October 2014. It was always going to be my album opener. The phrase ‘Famous Soon!’
was taken up by Mike and I soon after our first amateurish musical efforts commenced early in 1979, hence the opening lyric ‘We were feeling fine, back in ‘79/twanging out of tune guitars.’ We used the phrase pretty much throughout the eighties,
though by mid-decade it had already taken on a cynical, knowing, self-depreciating, sadder and wiser connotation. Back then, when it all begun, we'd really meant it; and that whole ‘lost innocence’ thing seemed a natural way of beginning the album.
It’s a good song. I’m particularly pleased with the middle eight, ‘Looking back from middle age/that distant, bygone age…’ As on the album as a whole, some of the lyrical and indeed musical references, will be understood only
by me, and perhaps Mike. But I don’t care. I don’t find having no audience to speak of depressing. I find it creatively liberating.
There have been three ‘lost years’ in my life,
years when I was rather socially isolated, and did a great deal of not very much at all. These years were the period between finishing my degree and commencing work in Social Care 1993-1994, the period between giving up alcohol and starting a relationship
with ‘Angela’ (of ‘The Angela Suite’ Novel fame) 2000-2001, and the not quite a year January - November 1981 that this song is about. In retrospect, all of these ‘downtimes’ have been quiet, unwitting preparation for the
next period of my life, just as sleep is necessary preparation for tomorrow. The song covers the period between my somewhat premature return from my stint working in a fish factory with Mike in Lerwick, Shetland, and my becoming a more or less full
time political activist with the Militant Tendency. I tried a few ‘full band’ versions of this song which never really worked, until it found its finished form as a simple piano and vocal arrangement. I did it all live in one take and one or two
outside noises seeped through the Boss Mic, something that is true of several of the songs on the album. To me, that just adds to the organic, Lo-Fi charm.
It’s absolutely true that there ‘Once
was a teacher/at Yarborough school/who gave us a pattern to do/he said choose two colours/I chose orange and blue/he said that’s a strange choice/but typically you/Strange Boy.’ A teacher who called a pupil ‘strange’ nowadays would
probably be sacked for psychological abuse; and who knows what hidden emotional traumas you caused me MR FUCKING PIGEON! Apparently, Mike’s mum called me ‘strange’ too when I used to call for him at Westlands Ave back in ’79.
Of course, as I’ve got older I’ve become more and more comfortable with my essential strangeness. Now I embrace it fully. The song is kind of Funk-Psyche, with perhaps the merest hint of a drug ravaged Beach Boys in there. I think it’s
A song about my first love, with lyrics like ‘Postman’s knock on the garden shed/First time sex in my parentrs bed'. The eponymous heroine of the title was my best friend’s
sister growing up, and I would sometimes sit forlornly by our living room window, just hoping for a glimpse of her passing by, or even better of her doing cartwheels on the green opposite. The song is also partly about the bittersweet joys of tracking down
people from your past via social media. It’s written in ¾ time, and has quite a nice languid feel to it. It’s the one track where I’m not now, in retrospect, a hundred percent sure that I put the best version of it on the album, though
the raw harmonies on the chorus are probably my best ever.
This song about me and Mike’s trip Liverpool in 1984 is short and catchy and arranged simply for acoustic guitar, tambourine and
vocal. The lyrics are personal, political, but above all, humorous (‘Derek had his hat on…’). It’s the sort of thing McCartney would have insisted on putting on the White Album. Lennon would have hated it, but every songwriter should
have a song like this in their repertoire. After I'd finished it, I felt like taking up busking again, just so I could play it.
Girl in the Sweetshop (on Pasture St)
I’ll come clean and admit that it’s
a song about a girl called Sandra Loveday, just so that if by some miracle she ever reads this she can say ‘Wow, some weirdo I can hardly remember wrote a song about me!’ We really did sit next to each other in Double History at Hereford School
for a while (not by choice), and she really did work in a sweetshop on Pasture St in Grimsby. Maybe it’s a case of False Memory Syndrome on my part, but as far as I remember she was there from us leaving school in June 1978 to my heading off on the great
adventure of being a mature student at Manchester Metropolitan University in September 1990. It’s about how the sight of her weighing out the midget gems through the shop window was a constant in my life as I went about my main activities of the day,
‘I’m going paper-selling (she is there)…I’m going busking (she is there)…I’m going drinking (she is there)…’ It’s a psyche-blues with some nice treated slide guitar. At the moment it’s probably
my favourite track. She’s not there now by the way, and neither is the sweetshop. I’ve checked.
Steve Lives in the Light
Steve Draper was a quirky little character who was on the fringes of Militant throughout
my time as a member in Grimsby. He was prone to repetitive rambling, and was often treated as a figure of fun, but he was perhaps the most thoroughly decent person I have ever met, a gentle soul who I don’t think had a malicious or bad bone in his body.
Me and Mike used to drink with him sometimes on giro days in pubs like the White Hart, the Tivoli Tavern, and (as mentioned in the song) Pepys Bar, along with his friend Terry who was (‘For reasons lost to time’) known to everyone as Jagger. Jagger
died a few years ago and Steve joined him in 2013. I hadn’t seen him since my dad’s funeral in 1993, but always had, and always will have, fond memories of him. I remember he once told me that he thought that what happened to you after your death
was simply whatever you believed would happen (take note Dawkins et al). I hope that at the end he believed in Paradise. This little tribute worked out quite well. Musically, he chorus was partly based on a piano melody I wrote during and after a Zen
Buddhist retreat in Chester in 2005. For a long time this melody was called 'Japanese Shop', but it never really had any decent lyrics. I knew it would come in hnady one day though. No act of creation is ever entirely wasted. The song has a sort
of ‘folky’ feel, but with the electric piano string setting also put to good use. There is also a two bar blast of my style of lead guitar playing circa the summer of 1980, as heard on Revolver Ten, which I'm very pleased with. I knew I'd
get that in somewhere. Back to Steve, I really would like to have bought him a ‘last Barley Wine’, his tipple of choice, though this drink was perhaps one of the chief architects of his early(ish) demise.
I went through several titles for this little collection of songs, even briefly entertaining the notion of calling it ‘Roctober 2’ just to annoy Mike. Eventually I realised that the name of this track, with its suggestion
of times inevitable forward trajectory, was the perfect label for the album as a whole. The song was written about one particular person who was a leading light in Militant in Grimsby at the time I joined, and is still a leading light in its successor organisation
today (though not in Grimsby). It could be about anyone who has spent their entire lives within an essentially closed group, following one particular goal to the exclusion of almost everything else, cut off from outside ideas and influences – ‘You
never moved on/though the bus has long gone/afraid of the world beyond.’ It’s another jaunty sing-along which, in its earliest incarnation, Mike compared to the Small Faces. I had T.Rex more in mind when I was writing it, but I can definitely see
what he meant. The arrangement enhances rather than tries to downplay its jauntiness. It’s probably one of my best songs. I’ve always liked the mild incongruence of a catchy tune with a serious message. The reverse doesn’t seem to work quite
so well. Another good busking song.
If ‘Space’ was my first watchword in the making of this collection, then ‘brevity’ was its close runner up. Apart from the final track,
which was always intended as a more sprawling affair, I made the conscious decision that none of these songs would last longer than four minutes. It’s always good for an artist to work to self-impose limitations. It’s a useful guard against
self-indulgence, although some might plausibly argue that doing a Concept Album about yourself is already self-indulgent enough. Anyway, the original version of this with Mike on board, clocked in at well over six minutes and had ‘chanting monks’
and all sorts of nonsense going on. Luckily, I realised that all of this was trying too hard to be ‘epic.’ A good song, and we always knew that this was a good song, benefits most of all from a simplicity of approach. In the end, I manage to say
a lot both musically and lyrically in the three minutes and thirty nine seconds that Telephone Streams lasts. Originally the verses were written by Mike, the chorus by me. I re-wrote the verses to make the song explicitly about me and Mike getting back in
touch, it not working out, and neither of us ever quite being able to finally give up on that whole Famous Soon! thing. The ‘…still holding tight to my/our dreams…’ of the chorus references the song Hold on Tight, the opening track
of Roctober One from ’84. The ‘…teenage boy/with a ghetto blaster on his bike’, a vivid image of Mike from a pre-Revolver story he told me many times, section came to me late in the day, and is perhaps the best thing on the album.
The idea of following that with Roctober style arpeggios ringing out over a closing instrumental run through of the chorus came later still. Coceptual and musically this made perfect sense, and I’m very pleased with the arrangement as a whole.
I particularly like my bass playing. This song is really the albums closer, what follows being more of an extended coda.
It’s August ’88 and Maggie, Mike’s ex girlfriend, and
best friend of his cousin Karen, is making her third visit to Grimsby from her home in Lerwick, Shetland. Sometime during the visit, she, Mike, me, and Mike’s then current girlfriend Bev’, spent a pleasant afternoon visiting my dad at his home
in Newsham Drive on the Yarborough Estate. Our time is spent drinking and talking, mostly arguing politics, with a bit of music thrown in. At some point during proceedings, my dad, unbeknown to the rest of us, hit Play-Record on an old cassette recorder. The
resultant 45 minute cassette, marked simply with the names of the cast list, gathered dust at various locations within my possession for nearly a quarter of a century. It’s now been digitally preserved, and a small section of it was used as the basis
for this track. It’s influenced by my love of Minimalist composers like Steven Reich, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass. All I did was set a simple piano figure and accompanying organ drone against the original voices as they spoke to me, ghost-like, from
the mists of time. I kept it in my old dad playing his harmonica because, well, because how could I not? After the long ago voices stop, there are a few seconds of silence. The silence is ended by me blowing into the very same harmonica in the present day,
signalling the second half of the piece, a sort of free, one man jam around a slightly altered version of the original piano figure. And then, suddenly,
The full digitalised version of the original August 1988 tape can be heard
Reading this, and listening to the album itself, will no doubt unleash amongst you a
tsunami-proportioned torrent of wet, foamy speculation as to my future musical direction. My recent Family-Tree research and my love of all things SteamPunk has led me to jot down a few possible song titles under the loose, provisional title of ‘Family
Matters’, the idea being to create for my ancestors an imaginary world within which they can live once more as characters in a form of Lo-Fi Rock Opera. That might be fun. Or there is the sonic potential contained in my novel The Angela Suite. Within
that book there is a running theme of the central character, Terry, creating a five ‘Movement’ instrumental musical piece called ‘The Angel Suite’ based on his relationship with Angela, which in turn is of course based on my own real
life relationship with the woman whose identity I have chosen to hide under the no-de-plume ‘Angela’. I have often considered the possibility of attempting to give this imaginary piece of music concrete, living form. That could be an adventure,
something very different musically for me to explore. Or, although a Roctober reunion is positively ruled out, forever, no matter how many millions are put on the table, I could re-visit the eighties again in the form of a Bus Long Gone 2. There is plenty
more I could say about that era; many more songs I could write. But I don’t think I will be pursuing this last option. Like all foreign countries, the past is an interesting place to visit. But I wouldn’t want to live there.