Hi Everybody,

Well … it’s been a strange old year, social distancing, lockdowns and face masks (I lost the instructions for mine, when I put it on I couldn’t see a damn thing!). Still, it could have been worse. In the days of the great plague they enforced lock downs by nailing your door shut, I guess Boris just didn’t think of it, or is not as hot on history as he would have us believe.

So … during lockdown things were happening behind closed studio doors. We couldn’t get the band together on account of the ‘rule of six’ (there’s seven of us!), but after weeks of overdubbing, editing and mastering we have new CDs available. Two new Wes McGhee albums, a double CD companion to the earlier BORDERS collection, and the album of Spanish guitar based music ‘JONDO DELUXE’.

There’s also an album by our late friend Terry Clarke ‘WALK LIKE A KING’, news of possible future releases and some weird film news!

Scars, Bars & Red Guitars

To accompany the BEAD MOUNTAIN, BAD ROADS & BORDERS 3CD set this 2CD compilation covers some early, never before released on CD tracks from the McGhee back catalogue.

It all began with LONG NIGHTS & BANJO MUSIC, recorded in the late 70’s in The Attic. The Attic actually was an attic. My downstairs neighbour, Arthur Anderson ( a huge Scotsman) and myself decided to rent the top flat (The Attic) and install a recording studio. This was pre-digital days and the equipment was huge. The landlord was told it was a fancy new stereo, I don’t know if he ever really believed it! I’d had two really bad experiences with record labels over the previous few years and we’d decided to go it alone. The first result was LONG NIGHTS… vinyl nerds might have noticed on the original album, around the edge of the label where the small print usually lists the copyright laws, LONG NIGHTS … bore the legend ‘Any unauthorised use of this album will result in a smack in the mouth from Unpleasant Arthur’ … check it out!

So CD1 contains several tracks from LONG NIGHTS, a couple from AIRMAIL, a couple of remakes and a bunch of rockier tracks from later albums that didn’t quite fit the theme of BORDERS.

CD2 is an album of covers, some from LANDING LIGHTS, four from the THANKS FOR THE CHICKEN album recorded live in Austin Texas. Others that were recorded but remained unreleased, and a guest appearance from legendary 50’s rockers VINCE & the VILETONES.
(More about the ‘TONES on the Twangballs page.)
The album’s finale is a cover of (I Don’t Wanna) Hang Up My Rock n’ Roll Shoes … so I didn’t!

Initially this 2CD set will only be available from this website.

Jondo Deluxe

Jondo Deluxe Wes Mcghee
I became a lover of all things Spanish some years ago. I like the climate, the wine, the art, the history, the wine, the poetry and literature, the Moorish architecture, and of course the music, oh - and did I mention the wine?!
So … a quick word to explain the background to some of these tracks.

The cantor Agujetas was considered one of the greatest exponents of the ‘martinet’, an early flamenco form. A song of the forge, accompanied by only the beating of a hammer on the blacksmith’s anvil. Now, I could never attempt to sing a martinet, or any other flamenco style for that matter, but being fond of the form I tried to reproduce the distinctive vocal inflections on slide guitar, with the aid of several amplifiers and mics placed all round the room. On the rest of this collection I’m mainly playing my beloved Morales Spanish guitars and the pre-guitar instrument, the Arab Oud.
Morales guitars
I’m fascinated by Spanish artists, from Goya and El Greco to Dali and Picasso and of course Miro. Miro has often been called the musician’s artist or the poet’s artist, his work inspiring both verse and music. I look at a Miro and can almost hear music. Hence the line in the song ‘I’m listening to a Joan Miro”

The Colonial ambitions of both England and Spain really have not much to commend them. However each contributed at least one thing of lasting importance to their Empires: England gave the world cricket, and Spain gave the Americas … the guitar!

This song is about an even earlier Empire, that of the Arabs, who invaded Spain in the 8th century and stayed til the end of the 13th. They brought among other things irrigation, philosophy, literature, medicine, even cutlery, and of course music. When the Reconquest by Spain was complete, books were burned and all was destroyed, but for some beautiful buildings and the roots of flamenco.

This album has been a labour of love: after many years of Telecaster fuelled rock ’n roll, blues, tex-mex and honky-tonk I really wanted to spend some time with my Spanish guitars and my love of Spanish/Arab music.

I hope you enjoy this collection and if it inspires you to seek out the work of guitarists like Pepe Habichuela, Tomatito, or Diego Del Gastor, or the cantos Agujetas, Camaron, Enrique Morente, or the many others on record, then I’ll consider the time making this album well spent.

Oh - and did I mention the wine?

Terry Clarke:
Walk Like A King
songs for Dylan Thomas

Terry Clarke Walk Like a King Album
I guess most of you will already know we lost a good friend and a great songwriter recently, Terry Clarke. Terry and I shared several adventures together. I produced a couple of his albums, we misbehaved both in the UK and Austin and together with Ronny Elliot from Florida we toured as The Unholy Trinity, three songwriters trying to keep out of trouble. It’s a great loss and I’ll miss him.

A couple of years back there was to be some kind of festival honouring Dylan Thomas. Terry, who lived in Wales, wrote a bunch of songs for the event and we recorded them at Glebe Studio. However, for whatever reason the festival never happened and the recordings disappeared into the Glebe vaults!

After Terry’s passing Kate, his wife, contacted me and suggested we put out the recordings. It’s a wonderful collection of songs, Dylan would have loved it. It features cameos from Terry’s son Joseph and some harmony vocals from Kate … and it rocks!!!

Big Wheels & Sailor

‘What dat?’ I hear you say. Well … many many years ago I was invited to write the music and the theme song for a Childrens Film Foundation film called … yes … ‘Big Wheels & Sailor.’

I was recently contacted by the British Film Institute to tell me they were releasing Vol. 3 of CFF films and ‘Big Wheels’ was in it, would I like to write a piece for the booklet?
This is what I wrote!

In this Twenty First Century any kid can drive a Formula 1 race car, fly a jet airplane or start and win a war, all without moving from a computer screen. The only complaint from an adult being a comment on the lack of fresh air. But there was a pre-laptop time when kids had to use their imagination. If anyone had a football or a cricket bat a quick cup final or test match could be arranged, failing that you could be a cop or robber, a pirate, a cowboy, a great detective or a spy, all played with a healthy dose of fresh air. Then …there was Saturday morning pictures where the stars were your contemporaries and they always triumphed over the wicked evil grown ups … great stuff!

In 1979, a time referred to by today’s youth as ‘the olden days’, producer Jeni Cole contacted me either by pigeon or note fixed to an arrow, I can’t rightly recall - it was the ‘olden days’ after all - and asked me if I’d like to write the score for a new CFF film about trucks. Despite thinking that a ‘score’ was something you got at the end of a cricket match, I agreed. I’d had an album out recently which had the word ‘banjo’ in the title and had been to the US, the land of big 18 wheelers and CB radio, so I guess Jeni thought I just might be qualified.

My partner in crime then was a giant from Paisley in Scotland named Arthur Anderson. We had a recording facility in North London based in the hippy house we shared with girlfriends and various drifters passing through. Arthur had the ground floor flat, I had the first floor. My spare bedroom became the control room and the top floor was the actual studio space. Whenever the landlord came by we managed to convince him that the mountain of equipment in the place was just an elaborate hi-fi. I think we got away with it!

I had no idea how to go about writing a film score. We started by using delaying tactics. I talked to director Doug Aitken and convinced him that Arthur and I should hang around the filming to ‘soak up the atmosphere’.
We got to see some of the truck stuff, a taxi driven into a pond - twice - and
hang about in a transport cafe while shooting was in progress, in fact you can see big Arthur drinking tea and reading Melody Maker in one shot.

So … we were ready. I got busy watching a test match on tv. England must have had a rare victory as I was in a good mood (Arthur, being Scottish…not so much). Anyway I started work on the theme song the next morning and discovered that the hard work had already been done. Two of the trickiest parts of writing a song are subject matter and title. As I’d already been handed both, I located my crayons and set about writing. Two boxes of crayons later we set about recording. We got the legendary Carlo Little on drums. Carlo was a long time member of Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages. That was before Lord Sutch became Prime Minister (you might want to check I’ve got that right). On fiddle - or ‘violin’ as he preferred to call it - was Bob Loveday. Bob played with my band, among others, for years and is currently part of Bob Geldof’s touring band. I handled guitars, banjo, bass and vocals, and Valya Picquart provided vocal harmony.

Recording took a couple of weeks and when I’d finished all the bits and pieces we proudly presented it to Jeni and Doug. Then we hit a problem. I’d happily written what I thought was a pretty snazzy trucking song. It had all the right elements: the names of the trucks in the movie, a bit of CB radio thrown in and the obvious US trucking reference …18 wheels! Doug gently pointed out that the trucks in the movie had FOURTEEN wheels. I frantically searched for a drawing board to go back to. Found it, re-wrote bits of lyric and recorded the vocal again, making a mental note to do some work on this counting business. I’m a guitar player, damn it, not a maths professor.

I have to say the whole experience was a joy and even the weather played ball for a change. Many folks involved with CFF projects went on to have successful careers including several from ‘Big Wheels’.

So here I am … managed to reach old age without a criminal record though I sure have played on a few, but you always look back on your early career with fondness. Many thanks “Big Wheels & Sailor’.

What's Next?

During the lock downs I’ve been busy composing, unlike Mozart, who is decomposing. I have songs enough for two CDs, could be two singles or a double … or none at all! Recording had begun on most of the new material and hopefully we’ll be able to get the orchestra together again in the studio and finish them off (the songs not the orchestra!) before they finish me off!

Like many during lockdown I have grown somewhat tired of watching paint dry, so to amuse myself during this Covid unpleasantness I’ve begun to think about writing a book thingy. It won’t have any ‘big words’ obviously … I’s just a igrunt banjo player, but it might be a laugh … !

And what’s next …? Lets face it, nobody has a clue! I’m off to watch the cricket. (For readers in the US it’s not an insect, it’s a game).
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