Yesterday I put the finishing touches to my new solo album Jenga Society. I love that phrase, ‘finishing touches’ as it is evocative of being a great painter and completing a masterpiece which of-course I would like to think it is, but that is not for me to decide and quite rightly so. I’m off to get it mastered tomorrow and then I need to turn my attention to the artwork and then get the thing into production. Once it comes out, I would so like to have an out of body experience in listening to it because I have heard it some many times I have lost all objectivity to it and there is a part me that despises it as well as adores it. I have Drewett fatigue, after listening to myself day after day after day I begin to loathe both the music and myself.
Fortunately, when this is all over, I will be able to leave it alone and come back to it with fresh ears and I will love it again.
That loathing that accompanies close working on my new material is one of the reasons that I love listening to the Newtown Neurotic releases.
The distance of time is so great that it sounds wonderfully fresh to me, It is, of course a younger man I am listening to but it is like studying a photo graph of the past with the difference that this has soul connected to it and it can reach into your heart with more power than a picture. Every picture tells a story, but in every song should live a story.
After yesterday explaining the context to Licensing Hours, let me just say something about No Sanctuary. It was a part of a double ‘A’ side along with ‘Licensing Hours’ and at first glance this is a ‘teen rebellion’ song, and you wouldn’t be wrong, it is a young adult railing at his parents while his parents try to reason with him whilst showing great restraint.
It is a true in that it is a universal story but I cast the character as being like me but not me. (I had some trouble with my mum on this, she found it upsetting that I would view her like that and I had to explain that I wasn’t writing about myself or her, but I was in a way as all teenagers feel like this at some time if not all the time.
The strange thing was I wasn't a teenager when I wrote it, I was twenty three or twenty four, but I was still living at home and close enough to the subject matter to still be considered to be in the environment I was describing.
I think I got away with it, especially as I consider myself a man out of sync with the ‘normal’ world. I was later than everyone else in getting a girlfriend, having sex, leaving home, smoking, starting a band, starting a family, getting married, I just didn’t do anything at the right time but it suited me, it suited me right down to the ground in-fact and there is always some comfort to be found in consistency.
This, like Mindless Violence and Oh no was one of my first numbers I wrote for the band and for a long time it played like a real dog, but as we didn’t have a full set I didn’t drop it. I was hearing something in my head I was not skilled enough to be able to play. Once we had enough material we did stop playing it, the line up wasn’t right for it either. By the time Simon Lomand joined, the band really gelled and our proficiency was sufficient to revisit the song.
I don’t really know when I became a musician, there was no exam. I started off as a chancer, a wannabe and you could not have called me a ‘musician’ then but as time went by I somehow became one, an invisible metamorphosis, I guess If I was to pin a time this transformation occurred it would have been when Simon joined the band so I think I certainly have that to thank him for.
By the time of ‘No Sanctuary’ I was well away. I remember listening to a rough mix of the song in the morning before we went back in to the studio finish it.
I had an idea and was not sure it would work, I was going to try it that day but if it didn’t work there would be no chance to change it from that point on.
I wanted to include a backing vocal that was actually a lead vocal contradicting the main lead vocal. It was to replicate an argument right in the middle of the song. The idea was unusual but would it create a vocal mess disrupting the flow of the melody? In the end we did it and I believe it worked. Listen to the song below, during the “Just wanna hide my head at the end of the day, worn out by people like you who are always trying to get their own way”, the parents behind that (via Colin) are singing “can’t you keep it down, you’re beginning to shout, can’t you talk more quietly you’re talking too loud”
They are trying to defuse the anger of their child who is enraged with indignation.
The only way it would work was to keep it below the main vocal but still provide the tension that was needed. The story teeters on the edge of violence but never descends to it. What the song does portray though is the powder keg that some family homes are.
This level of sophistication in a punk record was in the early Eighties, a rarity when most of our contemporaries were sinking into a quicksand of reactionary and conservative ideas of punk.
We were unfashionable in our own way but we loved it.