Some explanations from Marvin about the music…
DEATH OF A CENTENARIAN : Written about Winchester resident Henry Gray, who I got to know over the past two years. Most of the song – then titleless – was written on the evening of December 29th, 2012 – the exact time (I found out later) when he died, three hours short of his 101st birthday.
There are several references to his favourite song, Over The Rainbow – the song I ultimately played at his Thanksgiving service: at the very start, there are two guitars playing the main (chorus) melody. One plays the melody disguised – with each note given the same length. The other guitar, much quieter, plays the melody proper, in the recognisable form.
The “somewhere over the rainbow” line appears several times in the song’s second half, sung in 5-part harmony.
Songs from the extended player LITTLE BELL
LITTLE BELL: There are references/nods to two other songs: at the very start, one of the 12-string electrics plays the melody from Land Of Hope And Glory by Edward Elgar, and at start of the end instrumental section, the 12-string guitar plays the same figure as the guitar in Scott Walker’s Two Ragged Soldiers, and, very much buried, the vocal melody – albeit greatly deformed – from Two Ragged Soldiers can be heard, played once.
THE CONVERSATION: Written and recorded on the Burns Double-Six electric 12-string and using an odd tuning where, instead of the usual octave pairing, the string courses are tuned to major and minor third intervals. This was a tuning used by the 1950s American session man, Jimmy Bryant on his 12-string neck of his Stratosphere Twin – the first double-neck electric guitar. He recorded a single – Stratosphere Boogie using the tuning. (The tuning didn’t catch on, possible because it is impossible to play chords with it).
I AM A SUMMER NIGHT: The title is from Jacque Brel’s 1968 song Je Suis Un Soir D’Ete (I Am A Summer’s Eve). Some of the lyric refers to a two week trip I took to north-east India in November 2011 – in particular the city of Shillong – “tiny taxi town”.
A notable feature of the instrumentation is the very Indian sounding, slide-ey sound heard at the song’s start and at the end crescendo. This is the Rickenbacker, with every string tuned to one note – D, spread out over two octaves, and played with a bottleneck slide. This was born out of desperation due to my Focal Dystonia rendering me incapable of playing the initial idea correctly – to play the phrase using the technique devised by Fransisco Tarrega and used most famously in his Requerdos De Al Alhambra. In fact, there are very recognisable nods to Requerdos, in particular the lower guitar note runs, during the end crescendo.
Apart from some bass, all the instrumentation is handled by the Rickenbacker 12-string.
Songs from the album THE STARGAZER’S SYMPHONIUM
LITTLE SPECK OF BLUE: The song grew from the four-note guitar phrase heard a few seconds after the start – one of those things which sound much better on a 12-string than a 6-string. The phrase was written on my Hoyer 12-string (hence it’s inclusion in the video) but recorded using my trusty Sigma. Amongst several devices heard during the end sequence are: an ascending single note guitar figure borrowed from The Beatles’ Day Tripper instrumental break and an Elvis “Way on down” reference.
BOY BECAME A MAN: Recorded using two 12-string guitars playing in unison and tuned very low, like some of the black (and usually blind!) American blues and ragtime players of the 1920s, 30s and 40s.
A FLASH! WITHIN A MOMENT: Initially “inspired” by Frank Sinatra’s recording of Ebb Tide!
‘TILL DEATH…: The guitar sound was created by a mixture of open string notes and notes fretted high up the neck.
JUST THINGS: The line: “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree” – from the poem Trees (1913) by Alfred Joyce Kilmer.
THE GARDEN OF ZELOVELY: The title was from a dream I had: while trying to find a way out of a huge building with myriad rooms, doors and corridors, I finally emerged to look up and see the title in huge neon letters on the wall.
NO THANKFUL VILLAGE: The title was from the book of the same name, by Chris Howell, about Somerset men who went to fight in the First World War. There was a copy in each room of a country house hotel I stayed at near Bath.
A Thankful Village is one in which all the men returned.
Songs from the album THE LAST FLIGHT OF BILLY BALLOON
LITTLE PIECE OF MAGIC: A vignette about some of the characters encountered at the open-mic nights in Winchester from a few years back.
DULCIBELLA PLAY!: The title was derived from the name on a gravestone I saw, while cycling past Brockley Cemetery in South-east London. The name was Dulcibella Pye – an old lady who died around 1880. The song features a banjo cameo and at the end, two 12-string guitars playing in unison and slightly out of tune with each other.
BELLE-AMIE: Written after reading the Guy Maupassant story – Bel-Ami, the gendre mearly being reversed. The only song of mine written on a six-string guitar.
ALICE AND MARIANNE: The names were the mother (Marianne) and daughter (Alice) of a colleague.
BEAUTIFUL BALLOON: The arrangement format was borrowed from Scott Walker’s Plastic Palace People.
DAISY SUNSHINE (FOR FRANCESCA): About a childhood “sweetheart” who died aged 17, many many years ago.
THE RECORDINGS: All original recordings co-produced by Marvin B Naylor and Gary J Brady and recorded at Escapade Music Studio and The 3rd Floor, London. Engineered by Gary. All instrumentation and voices are by Marvin apart from: drums – Guy Whitby, additional percussion – Gary.
Mastered by Jeff Mortimer at JM Mastering, London.
Artwork by Gary. Additional artwork by Doll.