Reading - May 2018

Songwriting For Dummies by Jim Peterik, Dave Austin & Cathy Lynn (2010)
This was a bit of a grind. There's some interesting stuff about the mechanics of songwriting - the section on song structures in particular was new to me - but it's not well-written, and didn't carry me with it. Most annoying is the fact that Jim Peterik appears to have only contributed by adding multiple quotes throughout the book, and each time he does, the quote is credited to "Jim Peterik, author of 18 Billboard hits, including (blah blah blah)", which is ridiculously repetitive and redundant, and just makes him seem like a one of those insecure people who keep reminding you about what they've done: "I wrote 'Eye Of The Tiger' you know!"
The Perfect Neighbour by Nora Roberts (1999)
I'm part-way through a number of books I'm finding hard to digest, so for a bit of light relief I picked up this sweet little snack of a book. Nothing fancy, just something to entertain for a short time.
The Joys Of Yiddish by Leo Rosten (1968)
This came from C's grandma a couple of decades ago - at least - and I've started reading it many times. It's great for dipping into, being basically a selected dictionary, but hard to read much of in a sitting, and as a result I'd never actually made it far. This time I was determined to finish it - even though it took me about three months! It's amusing and educational, and worth it for an insight into American Jewish culture in the US, certainly that of thirty-forty years ago, which, lest we forget, is still a very influential voice in Judaism.
Are We Still Rolling? by Phill Brown (2010)
I learned about this via the Spirit Of Talk Talk book. Phill Brown was the engineer on Spirit Of Eden, Laughing Stock and Mark Hollis's solo album, but before that he'd spent twenty years working in London studios, primarily for Island Records, engineering a host of classics by the likes of The Wailers, Robert Palmer, John Martyn and many more. The book is an autobiography, but centred on his recording experiences. The world of the music business in the seventies sounds as bacchanalian as legend would have it - clouds of cocaine, parties every night and women everywhere - but equally, plenty of hard work, at least for an engineer. It sounds like he started falling out of love with "progress" during the eighties and isn't entirely happy with the music business any more. It's also notable that the band he most consistently references throughout the book is Talk Talk, and the experience of recording their last two albums sounds particularly intense, and it casts some valuable light onto the process, even if it reveals nothing of the reasons for it (as a techie, he seems to have little insight into the artistic process). An interesting read for a music geek like me but probably a bit niche for most people.
Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophie Kinsella (2003)
I last read this about four years ago. I grabbed it one evening when I just needed something to read before sleeping, rather than spending half an hour trying to choose a book. I enjoyed it last time and I enjoyed it this time. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, it's sweet and the central character is quite endearing.
Get Fit Swimming by Kelvin Juba (2006)
I'd like to start swimming again properly, because I'm not running regularly and I think it's because, really, I'm not that bothered about running, despite its convenience. So it's good to have a reminder of training approaches to swimming, and there's some useful summary information about land-based work too.
The Importance Of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1895)
Light and fluffy, but sharp and so beautifully honed. Reading it isn't the same as watching it, of course, but it's a good read anyway. Other than the classic 1952 film, I probably last saw this on stage in the 1995 Old Vic production, about which I remember little other than the famously silent "handbag", and being a little underwhelmed.


Solo of the Month #36

The backing track this month sounds like something from a sixties spy thriller (although only to me apparently, judging by the other entries). I'm thinking of things like Get Carter (not actually from the 1960s, I know), The Persuaders, The Ipcress File and so on.

Hence I have attempted to create "Theme from Unknown Man", the title sequence from a little-known TV series shown for 3 weeks only on ATV Midlands in 1969.

In my simplistic way, "spy theme" boils down to semi-tone intervals and lashings of plate reverb. So I fiddled around in Am and added grace notes a semi-tone above or below where the main notes were until I got a melody that sounded suitably mysterious. I played the first half in 3/4 across the 4/4 beat to make it sound interesting, and the second half in 4/4, but shorter phrases, to make it sound like it was going faster.

Production wise, this was straight into the audio interface and all effects in the box: JS 1175 compressor (one of the many compressors in Reaper), a bass amp plugin that came free with Computer Music, TAL's Dub II delay, Acon Digital Verb (also free with CM), and a (free) valve exciter thing to sprinkle a little pixie dust over the top. (I haven't gone for many paid plugins yet!)