On the 11th April 2017, I was fortunate enough to spend a day in the recording studio with the Original Rude Boy…Neville Staple from The Specials. I know it’s mad isn’t it? This all came about in a similar way to how I met Dave Swift. A mutual connection suggested having Neville feature on one of my Ska tracks. I had that ‘as if’ reaction again. The same reaction when I was asked, “Would you like to have a recording session with Jools Holland’s double bassist?”…and look how well that turned out! So I jumped at the potential opportunity and when I was given his contact details, sent off some of my stuff to him.
After a few weeks without hearing back from him I began to prepare for rejection. And when we received a one-line email from Neville’s manager/wife, Christine Staple, saying, ‘Ring me when you can,’ I braced myself for a conversation along the lines of, “What’s this shit you’re sending me?” Luckily, the conversation went more like, “My studio or yours?” The plan was that he would feature on 2/3 songs from my new Ska/Reggae EP. I was absolutely over the moon, I was about to record with 2 legends. The first being a bass-playing hero, and now a good friend of mine. The another, just so happens to be the Godfather of Ska. Plus of course ma boysss who are all fabulously talented in their own right. I’m not biased at all.
The night before the big studio day we decided to meet Neville and Christine for dinner to break the ice. We arranged for Neville and his wife Christine to stay in the RE Hotel in Hackney Road, not far from The Premises Studio booked for recording the following day. I brought along me ma and pa (my management), and my good friend and fellow enthusiastic muso, Dave Swift. Dave is perfect company to have in first meetings because he has this incredible, underrated talent where he can save any potential awkward silence – something that I cannot do to save my life.
So I’m sitting in the bar, sipping nervously on my gin + lemonade, and in walks Neville and Christine with so much swag that it should be illegal. Custom bomber jackets, bling and 2-tone checks galore…they looked the nuts. Neville sat opposite me and I just looked at this intriguing man. Boys and girls it is true what they say…black don’t crack. There wasn’t a wrinkle in sight. I was in shock when Neville told me that the next day (recording day) he’d be turning 62! Now;
a) He looks no where near 62, and;
b) He was gonna be spending his birthday with us!… What?….Legend!
Over dinner the mind-blowing stories flowed. I must say I was a little starstruck listening to Neville’s recollection of Ska origins. From the formation of ‘The Specials’ in the 1970’s from his original band ‘The Automatics’, to the household name bands he toured with like, ‘The Clash’, ‘Selecter’ and ‘Madness’. Then later touring The U.S. with ‘Sting’.
I’m not great at first meetings anyway, especially when it’s with a Ska legend Like Neville and he was there to guest on my Ska EP. No pressure! Although Dave Swift was a welcome asset to provide some credibility of me as an artist, I couldn’t help feel a tad intimidated. I mean there’s Neville, but who am I? We definitely needed an ice breaker to allow us to all drop our guards a little to really get to know each other. And then it happened…an icebreaker like I’ve never known. Most definitely the mother of all icebreakers!
As I was talking to Neville, I noticed something in the background across the street, just above Neville’s head, I saw…a naked man! My words were, and I quote, “IT’S A NAKED MAN!” Everybody immediately stopped and looked at me. I said it again, “LOOK. IT’S A NAKED MAN!” and pointed to a lit window across the darkened street. Everyone at the table turned around to look at the window of a flat just across the road. The bedroom lights were on and there stood a naked man with his back to us. Me being innocent assumed he’d just got out the shower or something. And then in the next moment I had no brain-to-mouth filter and my words were, “OMG HE’S THRUSTING.” That’s when we figured there may have been somebody in front of him…whether it was a man or woman, we were yet to find out. Neville gets up to take a closer look, Dave tells all the staff to come and take a look, the rest of us got our phones out just like any other normal human being would do. This all went on for quite a while. We eventually gave up trying to have a normal conversation, when that’s going on behind you, you just can’t help but look. After about 20 impressive minutes we learned that it was a girl he was with. I know what you’re thinking…have I written a song about it? I can confirm…of course I bloody have!
So after that situation, the ice was well and truly broken. More (naughtier) stories flowed which I shall not repeat! What happened in The RE Hotel, stays in The RE Hotel! When we asked Neville who he used to listen to, I was surprised about how much punk he liked. He also said he loved T-Rex which I was amazed by as I’d recently been listening to a lot of T-Rex (Marc Bolan, what a dude) after recording a Jazz version of ‘Get It On’ produced by Tont Visconti. But to learn that Neville’s favourite track was ‘Ride A White Swan’ was a shock…I LOVE that tune! I’d been singing it non-stop whilst I was getting ready that night, and on the entire car journey there as I’d thought about doing a Ska version of the track. I guess it was a ‘had to be there’ moment, but it was a sign! Things were looking up for the day that was about to follow.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Catch my next blog to find out how recording day went.
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