Shaun Belcher Songwriter

The Serious Mr B-Side to Trailer Star

Category: Songwriting (page 1 of 5)

Robert, Grant and me: My Go-Betweens obsession – Floor of Wood

I always liked The Go-Betweens right from the get-go…and so did my friend Pete Astor from the Loft, the Weather Prophets. In fact the first time I saw them we went together to what was then called The Rock Garden in London’s Covent Garden before it became fancy dan town. They were supporting The Laughing Clowns who were also great.

As you can see from pics below I started collecting everything they did. Recently a neighbour went to Australia and pointed me at the Right Here: Go-Betweens appreciation society on facebook.

This prompted me to revisit a 1993 recording which summed up my devotion then and now.

The songs turned into poetry and the budding songwriter became old and grey but I think this amongst my best songs and certainly the most poignant.

It describes my visit to a now derelict farm cottage near Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire. My childhood home when my father a farm labourer. Everything in the lyrics is true.

It originally was released as a cassette tape here the original description and cover…

‘LAST FARMER OF RATTLEDOWN ROW’ – 1993 Horseshoe Tape (HS 003)

The story behind the songs…

The Big Time! Moved back to London -got my Fostex working overtime ( well three out of four channels anyway) and made the tape that would ensure I’d go down as the Berkshire Hank Williams! Ended up playing some pretty ridiculous gigs with a drunken bunch of HIGH PRIESTS which gained some attention and a debut 7″(click name to see full story).

Thought I was Tom Waits/ Raymond Carver and the ghost of Old Hank Williams until I sent out the tapes to all and sundry and received just two replies from a head honcho at EMI believe it or not who said the words were good -the music and singing not -and someone at Roundtower Records who was too polite to tell me I wasn’t the next Tom Russell but who sent me some of Tom’s discs anyway (for guidance?) so that made me feel a lot better.

Guess what …I still think 26 years later that I’m the Berkshire ghost of Hank Williams…too late to stop now……………..and there’s a bloke down the chip shop swears he’s Elvis…no really he’s the spitting image……

Track ‘City of stars’ renamed ‘Big City Nights’ on re-release CD

 

Listen to LAST FARMER OF RATTLEDOWN ROW here now on Bandcamp

https://trailerstar.bandcamp.com/album/last-farmer-of-rattledown-row

My heart is buried under a floor of wood…..here the song Floor of Wood lyrics and track on Soundcloud

FLOOR OF WOOD

 

This house was built of planks ten years after the war

I spent my childhood days watching the wind blowing the straw

As the sixties twisted away and the motorways came

I would stand at the window playing with toy cars in the rain

 

This time I’m really leaving these green fields for good

But I’ll leave my heart under this floor of wood

 

Slate roof is full of holes, the walls are covered in rambling rose

Nothing lives here now but the ghosts

I push a broken door against broken plaster and ash

And watch the wind blow through windows all smashed

 

This time I’m leaving these green fields for good

But I’ll leave my heart underneath this floor of wood

 

Since I was a boy England has drifted from fields to city

All these cornfields been turned to golf courses or light industry

Plaster crumbles and dusts my shoes just like chalk

I walk away, scratches on my arm, I try to close the door.

 

This time I’m leaving these green fields for good

But I’ll leave my heart buried under this floor of wood

 

© shaun belcher – horseshoe songs 1993

 

A 1000 Birds – new song – new typewriter

 

 

I bought an old manual typewriter and thought now I had it I better write a song on it..so I did…simple really…

how to solve writers block just get away from the screen for a while 😉

Will record and place soundcloud link here later.

Inspired by Darrell Scott’s song believe it or not. ‘You’ll never leave Harlan alive’ .

I heard versions of his song by Dave Alvin, Kathy Mattea and his original version
oh my  what a song!

My Berkshire farmer’s version of same theme:-)

p.s. birds true..as a kid I saw a thousand or more Redwings launch up from a fieldside never forgot it 🙂

Oh and ice and cattle yup did that too..as a boy

 

Revamped Studio and new song

New Year, new studio..well the old Trailer Barn Studio given a dust off and a new track recorded on the trusty old TOA recorder.

 

                     

 

http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/toa-mr8t/2186

 

 

For People My Age

PEOPLE MY AGE

PEOPLE MY AGE WORRY ABOUT THINGS
WORRY ABOUT THE WEATHER, THE PRICE OF STRING
PEOPLE MY AGE KNOW THE DAYS ARE SHORT
KNOW THE ROAD LEFT IS DARK AND COLD

PEOPLE MY AGE – PEOPLE MY AGE – PEOPLE MY AGE

PEOPLE MY AGE KNOW HOW TO MAKE DO AND MEND
THERE SO MUCH PUNISHMENT THEY TAKE
PEOPLE MY AGE ARE HEADED TO THE SUN
WORRIED ABOUT THEIR PENSION AND THEIR MORTGAGES

PEOPLE MY AGE HAD A THOUSAND DREAMS
A THOUSAND THINGS THEY MEANT TO DO AND SEE
PEOPLE MY AGE KNOW IT AINT EASY
AS EASY AS IT SEEMS

PEOPLE MY AGE THINK THEYRE FOREVER YOUNG
PEOPLE MY AGE SOME ARE DEAD AND GONE
PEOPLE MY AGE THINK THEY WILL LIVE FOREVER
PEOPLE MY AGE SING AND DANCE AS ONE

PEOPLE MY AGE ARE RISING LIKE LIONS FROM SLUMBER

 

Two new guitars…..like buses

Nothing for ages then I buy two in as many weeks….

First up was the 1974 Takahuru Japanese Martin D25 copy made by a violin maker…..which I love

http://takeharuguitars.blogspot.com/2009/09/takeharu-acoustic-label_21.html

then today my lovely local second-hand shop handed me the Prudencia Saenz

https://www.guitarrasdeluthier.com/en/luthier/prudencio-saez-guitars/106

Probably a beginners or student edition. Solid spruce top looks like and laminate sides probably late 1960s early 1970s.

Later editions are all higher quality and quite a expensive mid range luthier in Spain now.

Plays well I not a classical guitarist but nice to have. I can stop buying guitars for a while now.

 

Dylan to Sinatra’s Capitol Years – a new obsession

I purchased the Dylan ‘Triplicate’ volume in the nice packaging back last year not really thinking that it would be that good but curious none the less.

Although the performances range from the stunning to the not so sublime throughout there is an obvious affection for the American Songbook which like The Great American Novel everybody knows about but nobody can quite say what it is…

Subsequently I started collecting Sinatra LPs and CDs whenever they turned up on a trawl.

Pretty quickly the obsession kicked in and I now am collecting as many Alan Dell mid 1980s vinyl copies as I can find ( in some cases Dutch copies are DMM too) but generally they in better nick than original 50s and 60s vinyl and sound better due to improved transfer of tape to vinyl.

I also started collecting the 1987-1991 Larry Walsh remastered CD transfers as they are considered (with the exception of the expensive 21 CD UK set) to be the best out there. All of this recording trivia is wonderfully explained on this website.

http://www.11fifty.com/Site_108/Welcome_Sinatra_Cole.html

Even more there a handy wall-chart of the best copies too:-)

So far  have about 5 Alan Dell reissues and 6 Larry Walsh CDs from the Capitol years.

More importantly I discovering what a treasure trove of song writing they contain and my admiration or Sinatra growing daily.

e was a complex character but always like his mother a Democrat and stood up against racism and injustice whenever he saw it…sometimes as in the case of being Sammy Davis Jnrs best man when it could have harmed his career but like Chaplin he bigger than all of that.

There no place for highlights most of the albums are superb but particular stand outs are September Song on  Point of No Return his last album for Capitol and Lonesome Road off of A Swingin Affair.

The Beatles came and went and he was still singing and having hit records which shows his longevity.

I have a lot more to discover.

Here where it all started for me…Dylan ‘moidering’ one of his songs…and the original and best 🙂

 

Top Ten – Significant LPs

Top Ten Challenge from facebook – name 10 LPS personally significant.
As you can see the most significant period for me as a songwriter was the mid to late 1980s when Americana  as such didn’t exist.
Records that did not make the cut but could have include Micky Newbury – Fridco Mabel Joy,  David Ackles – American Gothic, Bobbie Gentry – Ode to Billie Joe, Guy Clark – Old No. 1  …..the list is endless……oh and Dylan and Cash..everything..

No.1: Townes Van Zandt – Our Mother The Mountain 

I have been challenged to post 10 album covers in 10 days that significant to me…day 1 has to be this Steven Ingman. ‘Borrowed’ from my Uncle Brian Butler in about 1985 still on loan.

I had no idea who he was just loved cover and songs before I even really knew about Texas songwriters..had a lifelong influence….and still my favourite of all his albums..

Discographical note this the UK RCA edition not the US Poppy copy…uber rare:-)

No.2

The Triffids – Born Sandy Devotional.

No-brainer..loved the Triffids almost as much as the Go-Betweens. This their finest LP.

Was lucky enough to be stood on stage at Glastonbury 1987 with Heidi Berry as they played a fabulous set that started with Wide Open Road…only time I saw them.

David McComb sadly passed away too young.

 

No.3:  Roy Orbison – In Dreams

Long before I’d ever heard of Richard Hawley I picked up a single of Lana/House without Windows..and the b-side was amazing..haunts me still. Written by Fred Tobias, Lee Pockriss.

It is also Leonard Cohen’s 6th favourite all-time jukebox song..so there you go….what a song..

 

No.4:  Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

Hugely influential on my songwriting from the muddy fields through the dash cover to the contents near perfect and you can hear echoes of this album in just about every serious americana act since..

 

No.5: Lucinda Williams – S/T Rough Trade

Possibly her best record alongside Car Wheels I went with this of the two. Bought it when it came out on Rough Trade in 1988. I did not know then that her father Miller Williams was a poet..it is a poetic record 

 

No.6:  Peter Case – S/T

Huge influence in my younger days and my introduction to T Bone Burnett who plays and produced the album. Others involved read like a roll-call of LA music including Gurf Morlix. I have seen Peter play three times..first time was magical as he as a trio played in a huge tent at Greenbelt Christian Festival supporting Sweet Honey in The Rock. Second time was at Borderline in London and third was a Cosmic American gig here at the Maze in Nottingham.

I have carefully preserved a Steel Strings demo on flexi-disc from Bucketfull of Brains magazine released in October 1986 and the accompanying magazine the first copy I had seen and bought from a record shop in Wimbledon:-). I went on to write for B.O.B. later. For a while I even carried a suitcase like Case and got me a stetson too…..fandom .

 Never did learn to play and sing like him though   

Hugely under-rated talent and a very good songwriter.

 

No.7: Tom Russell – Poor Man’s Dream

Got this some time in mid 1980s and links to Peter David Case album as he and Tom Russell have worked together most notably on Beyond the Blues with Neuwirth. Got to see the band that made this LP in 1992 when they played the Garage London which was a great gig and I got a bemused Tom to sign a beer mat as I could not afford a CD. Roundtower later sent me some of his catalogue when I sent them a rather dodgy tape of myself maybe as an example of how to do it properly 

Have seen him a couple of times since at the Borderline and The Maze Nottingham. Like Case a songwriter of depth who under appreciated.

Trivia: A young Claudia Scott sings back up on this LP as it recorded and released in Norway. The same Claudia that beautifully covered my lyric The Devil’s House later 

 

No 8: Dave Alvin – Every Night About This Time

This completes the trio of like-minded mid 80s LPs which to be honest the foundation of my interest in americana. Having discovered Townes via my uncle then Texas songwriting in general the trio Case/Russell/Alvin were my guiding stars.

They have all worked together at some point but this where my Dave Alvin collection began. I didn’t know when I bought it that some songs carried over from The Blasters but Border Radio and Fourth of July are just beautiful. Another fine songwriter. Many great records since of which my current fave is Eleven Eleven which a masterclass in songwriting.

 

No. 9: Tom Waits – Rain Dogs

Had to one Tom Waits in the list and this the one that I hear in my head when I being a ‘third-rate’ Tom Waits which fine by me to be ranked that high  The original vinyl still bares the scratches from a way gone love affair in North London but the woman it involved did buy me a ticket to the Dominion show in October 1985 by Waits around this album’s release. To be honest Tom has had a longer lasting impact than that affair …..superb artist, superb album..and Janice Broad thank you for the tickets wherever you are….and the scratches on my heart:-)

 

No. 10:   Terry Clarke – Call up a Hurricane

Will the circle be unbroken? Coming full circle..Started in Texas..end up there…Bought this LP when it came out as Terry comes from Reading, Berkshire a couple of train stops away from my home town of Didcot. Terry is a consumate songwriter who mixed with the best ..Rosie Flores, Joe Ely and Butch etc…he a direct line between Sligo and Austin as I wrote in a review in my younger days. This was his first solo album but all his records worth seeking out. He showed me that a writer from Berkshire could dream of Austin so had a big impact on me. I also designed the CD cover for Night Ride to Birmingham which he made with Wes McGhee and is outstanding too. This is Americana before the term was coined from 1989….

Kimberley Jam 2017

Preparations under way for my annual gig. This year I am playing at the new Tynemill Pub The Cricketers Rest on the Mayhem Bill with Frankie Vacuum and Paul Carbuncle…..earlier I at the Miner’s Return Micropub..looking forward to it.

As my planned release of Trailer’s Latest ‘Chalk Pit Rattle’ been undermined by events I will be taking some very rare Suit of Nettles along as product instead.

As my desktop above shows I also sketching out my next project which I hope will be a CD/tape and graphic novel work based around my more sensitive songwriting rather than Trailer’s raucous ribaldry…

So expect sensitive at Miner’s Rest..i.e. me and my arsey alter-ego (safely deceased since 2001) at the Cricketers on the Barmy Bill.

See you there…

Shaun Belcher the Songwriter and his alter-ego playing Kimberley Jam. Belcher at Miner’s rest 7-8pm playing through the lost classic ‘Suit of Nettles’ and then Trailer’s ‘Chalk Pit Rattle’ set at Mayhem at the Cricketers 8.30-9pm…

My Father’s Trees – the story behind the song

There is a stretch of road below Wittenham Clumps in what now Oxfordshire (originally Berkshire and I consider myself a Berkshire Kid) where my father planted a row of poplars and other trees for a farmer in the early 1960s. As we’d drive past them going to builder’s jobs years later he always mentioned them. Stuck in a cold Edinburgh this is a fond remembrance of those trees. As far as I know the disused road (cut off by a bypass) and the trees still there….

I wrote this in 1996 aged 37 bemoaning being nearly 40….now as I approach 60 I don’t know what I was worried about.

The caravans comment is a connection to family history. My great grandmother was born into the Lee gypsy family and indeed it present on both sides of the family…..a rovin I will go 🙂

 

Influences? Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer.

 

MY FATHER’S TREES

WELL NOW I’M PUSHIN FORTY
AND ALL MY LUCK’S BEEN SPENT
I WISH THAT I COULD GO BACK
TO THE PLACES THAT I LEFT

I WISH THAT I COULD BE
I WISH THAT I COULD BE

SITTIN’ UNDER MY FATHER’S TREES

PLANTED THEM IN ’63
NOW THEY’RE SO BIG AND TALL
BUT THE ROAD HE PLANTED THEM BY
IT AIN’T A ROAD ANY MORE

NOW THERE’S A LINE OF CARAVANS
PARKED IN THE WAY
AND THERE’S A LITTLE KID SITTIN’ IN THE SHADE
WISH I COULD BE JUST LIKE HIM…

JUST WATCHIN THE CLOUDS GO BY…
from Black Tin Barns, releases February 1, 2017

The Factory – the story behind the song

In the 1940s men would regularly bicycle from Didcot and local villages to the Oxford car plants.
This is my song about their early morning rides in convoy which especially grueling in mid winter.

THE FACTORY

MEN ARE RIDING ACROSS THE WINTER FIELDS
BYCYCLE LIGHTS SPARKLING IN THEIR CHROME WHEELS
WORKING DUSK TO DAWN IN THE FACTORIES
WHOSE LIGHTS SHINE THROUGH THE TREES

OH CAN’T YOU SEE, CAN’T YOU SEE
THE FACTORY

NOW THOSE MEN THEY ONLY RIDE IN THEIR DREAMS
THE FACTORIES ARE GONE, ONLY FIELDS OF WEEDS
AND THOSE MEN HAVE GRANDSONS WITH COMPANY CARS
YOU CAN SEE THEM OUT RACING AROUND THE BYPASS

BUT TEN MILES OUT OF TOWN THERE’S A SCRAPYARD
WHERE FIFTY YEARS HARD LABOUR IS FALLING APART
IF YOU STARE INTO THE RUSTY CHROME YOU’LL SEE
THE GHOSTS OF MEN POLISHING HEADLIGHTS AND POURING LEAD

MEN ARE RIDING ACROSS THE WINTER FIELDS
BYCYCLE LIGHTS SPARKLING LIKE A CHAIN OF PEARLS

 

 

from Black Tin Barns & River Ghosts, releases February 1, 2017

Road is a River – Story behind the song

Strange one this.

I have lyrics for all the other songs but not this one.

Maybe a one off recording.

Fairly minimal and quite sad.

The road is a river and my windows are full of steam….

Thames Valley blues again….song about home from Scotland.

THE ROAD IS A RIVER

The road is a river and my windows are full of steam
That woman I remember walking across these muddy fields

The road is a river its taken us all away
Far from these fields of straw
These empty barns in the rain

The road is a river
Yes the road is a river
The road is a river and maybe one day it will bring her back my way
In a car of chrome and silver
It’ll slide through these fields of rain
And we’ll float away

The road is a river….

from Black Tin Barns & River Ghosts, releases February 1, 2017
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