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Demon forum / ENDINGS - CAUGHT BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA (PART 2)
Steve Watts 2001
Hello there - Steve Watts here...
"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana" (Groucho Marx)
"I wish I could use those last few lines from 'The End' (The Beatles) for the end of 'Coming Home' ", said Dave, (or at least using words to that effect)...
"And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love
"Then why don't you?" I asked
"Because I don't want to get sued" replied Dave caustically: fair point.
Demon album endings were always tough (if sometimes, fairly predictable affairs). "One Small Step"; "Through These Eyes"; "Time Has Come"; "Coming Home" - it's hard to summarise the collective, creative output of an album (not that you have to), but with Demon, conceptually speaking, this never stopped us from trying. It's even harder to summarise in just a few minutes; or if you're being pedantic, 11mins: 30secs in the case of "Time Has Come"; but who could have exactly predicted the end of "British Standard Approved"?
To begin with (where all endings start after all), BSA represented a huge shift in direction for Demon; "Heading in the New Direction"... as it were...
(I wonder if that's where a particularly, irritatingly popular new boy band got it's name from? ... no, probably not - sorry...)
So, you either bought your boarding ticket and went with this brave new direction (sometimes getting lost on the way), or you decided that you were quite happy to stay exactly where you are thank you very much and either:
a) Stop listening to Demon post "The Plague" (or "The Unexpected
b) Sit it out and wait until the band start doing what they were doing
pre - British Standard Approved/The Plague.
"But, Oh that magic feeling - nowhere to go..." (You Never Give Me Your Money - The Beatles)
...and who could have predicted that Mal Spooner would suddenly pop off?! Well...he had been ill for a long time - but we tend to bury our heads in the sand somewhat, regarding such matters don't we, so regardless, when the end finally happens, it comes as a shock.
...and who would have predicted (including me) that I would take his place as co-composer in the band, and take an equal part in steering the bands musical direction once again into uncharted territory?
As the old cliché tells us, endings are just new beginnings aren't they?
Change is inevitable: we may as well just get used to it.
"AH!!!!..." (I hear you cry) "...But there's always nostalgia isn't there?..." (Including a stubborn insistence that the past is always (usually) fundamentally better than the now)
"...and you're always celebrating it aren't you? Otherwise you wouldn't be writing (or consistently spamming, according to some luddites firmly buried in the bunker of their own, not exactly, so freshly dug graves) these blogs! Would You?!..."
Well - yes. And no.
In writing these blogs I'm trying to put a fresh and current perspective on something that has argumentatively, become set in stone (no pun intended).
"Either this man is dead or my watch has stopped" (Groucho Marx)
I remember quite vividly another conversation with Dave concerning what I perceived to be a lack of post-release promotion for "Taking The World By Storm", arguably our best album post BSA.
"Oh - I've already forgotten about that!", said Dave.
"Very odd" (I thought)
I hadn't; and felt post-humusly deeply disappointed that our current magnum opus had come to a imperceivably early end and been so readily dismissed. Perhaps in reality, it hadn't, and Dave was simply stating a desire for continuation of his own, and the bands, personal journey. It is of course, these very changes that keep us alive, fresh, and creative, and prevent us from stagnating; unless of course we have a desire (unconscious or otherwise) to become mired in the past, which by "Hold On To The Dream" I thought we had.
So anyway, "British Standard Approved": subtle, big, bold, and beautiful...and incredibly brave.
It takes a lot of courage to "make for the change in the end" - which of course, finally, is what the album is all about.
The final song on the album (originally entitled "Hemispheres of Influence") is a very interesting track on which to end such a great album. It is both pessimistic (by suggesting that we are caught in the same old loop by repeating the same old mistakes) and optimistic, as we head aboard that great ship, towards some great unknown with the collective feeling that it's not really the destination that matters, but the journey itself. A journey of discovery: which was certainly true of the collective consciousness that launched 'The Titanic'.
When the statement "Even God himself couldn't sink this ship", it was actually believed to be true (except by those in the know, who seriously had their doubts). Still, if we don't try, we don't succeed, and even if we fail, we can "learn the lessons of the past" (now an unhappily hijacked sound-bite of the ruling elite) and apply them to a potentially successful future, can't we?.
Or we can of course simply hide our head in the sand...
...if we're really, really, stupid.
Even knowing that there are potential icebergs all over the place.
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." (Albert Einstein)
Well...where is this leading us? I have several enduring memories of the recording sessions for "Hemispheres". First and for-most is of Dave laying down the vocal track. We'd had one of those "what chord should we end the first chorus on to make a big statement?" discussions, and in typical Demon fashion, (admittedly nicked from "The Only Sane Man", and much to the chagrin of Johnny ("why do you have to keep putting bloody explosions on every album") Waterhouse, I finally settled on a World War 1 Mortar explosion sampled from a BBC Sound FX album, which would, in some way shape or form, represent the final cataclysmic crash of the ship hitting the iceberg.
By removing all the bass and drums for the next verse, the listener's attention could be fully focused on the vocals and lyrics over those melancholic Roland Juno 60 synthesized horns. Little did we expect the impact this arrangement would have on Dave's performance, if I remember rightly, done in only one or two takes, with Dave eventually breaking up emotionally as I think the mourning for a dear friend and the realisation of a creative ending, made it's full impact. It was a deeply emotional session, and the image I have of him, trying to keep it all together whilst performing that song behind that big sheet of glass with all the studio lights dimmed, is something I won't easily forget...it's part of the legacy that is "British Standard Approved"; the ghost of Mal lives on throughout the album, particularly in "Hemispheres", and that beautifully played and understated guitar part, processed through his Ibanez DM1000 Delay unit, which still has pride of place in my studio.
On a lighter note, the end chorus outro went hilariously wrong. As with the albums intro on "First Class", and largely due to chemical enhancement and the presence of jester extraordinaire Gavin Sutherland, we ended up completely abandoning Dave's original lyrics,
"God bless Her Majesty
God bless Her Majesty
Long live Her Majesty
Die for Her Majesty"
We simply repeated the first two lines with increasingly exaggerated gusto whilst Dave, after God knows how many takes of trying to get us to sing it correctly, finally gave up. I can't remember if Mal was part of this session - I'm sure his voice is in there somewhere.
I managed to arrange the first few bars of Elgar's "Land Of Hope and Glory" over the songs outro using a weird Yamaha DX7 "guitar" patch I programmed (yes those big end guitar crash chords are a synthesizer), and we also recorded an extra outro section (available on the CD-Re-Master), but this was justifiably abandoned, as in my mind, the albums cycle was completed by the dying strains of the ships chorus, disappearing over an uncertain horizon.
So...where to end this blog?
Well, nearly 28yrs later, I listen to "British Standard Approved", and apart from the nostalgic memories of how it was created, and the people who were part of the great ships journey, I hear one of the most sublime, criminally underrated, and cutting-edge Rock albums ever created. It encompasses a stark beauty that leads the listener on a journey of mysterious discovery.
It is both sad and celebratory; profound and absurd - just like life in fact...and like all great journeys, it's not the destination that really matters.
It is of course, the journey itself.
God Bless Her Majesty.
Steve Watts: 11: 03: 13
I know my Camel cigarettes. I like to think (like every other self- respecting Taurean) that I have a highly tuned and instinctive aptitude for taste and smell.
I shouldn't really still be smoking anyway... (too much smoking in the "good old days" have screwed up my lungs) but over the last few weeks, I've been in a debate (i.e. argument) with a tobacconist in Manchester who insists that Camel Cigarettes are still exactly the same - they're not!
The packet has recently changed - true, but to me, the quality of the tobacco seems to have changed from full-on strength to something a bit more insipid.
It could of course be that increasing age, decrepitude and sheer bloody-minded resistance to change (triggered by the packet changing) or simply getting habituated to the fags, has (ironically) changed my perception. Perhaps the tobacconist is right?
But regardless of any true reality (or slanted perception of it)
Thing's have changed... and I have a choice to make.
Isn't it frustrating when things you've grown used to, suddenly and inexplicably
Nicely constructed blog, and an interesting read as ever Steve.
I think you are right, whilst oddly enough, not a big favourite of mine in particular, I agree that BSA was/is one of the most sublime, criminally underrated, and cutting-edge Rock albums ever created. I think it just never got the exposure it needed to reach a new audience. If it had, I think it could (given the right guidance and support) have taken Demon into the early 80s Neo Prog Rock genre where they could well have been to Pink Floyd, what Marillion were to Genesis. I mean that! That's possibly not what certain people associated with band wanted to do anyway, but I think that could have happened - just my opinion.
Re tabs: I'm going to Tenerife soon, do you want me to bring you back some smokes? He he.
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