Intro | Writing | Recording | Finishing | The Songs  
The Songs

Upside Down On Brighton Beach

I always imagined that this would open the album – I don’t know why, maybe because it is slow and not an obvious choice. It is a love song and I wanted to capture a dreamy summer atmosphere on it, which Brian caught straight away – I think it is his favourite track on the record.

When we moved into our flat, Bridie gave me a moving-in present of a photo of the two of us on Brighton Beach, but she put it into the frame upside down. It still sits on the side in the bedroom with us stood there upside down.

I had the “Bah’s” towards the end of the song on my demo, and Jim loved them. I didn’t add them to the song in the studio because I felt they were twee and clashed with Jim’s guitar line. Jim protested so much that I went back in during mixing and added them. When Jim heard the new mix, he texted me early one morning saying “This morning I say Hallelujah for the Bah’s on Brighton Beach”. I love the organ sound on this, and this is the track where Andy Lewis got over-excited about the chord on the final fade… Am also very partial to Jim’s effects and twangy guitar.

Dissolving Time

Like many Spearmint songs this is about trying to live life in the moment. I often feel that real life is passing me by as I think about the past or plan the future. The song is a rallying cry to removing obstacles to fully living in the present. I love Ronan’s drumming on this, and Jim’s harmonies on the verses.

It is Andy’s favourite on the album, and he proudly used his new 8-string bass through a fuzz pedal on the choruses – sounded like Bootsy Collins had popped into Walthamstow. Brian added some nice effects to this too, in fact it is only my rather inispid vocals which let the team down I think… The “Ah’s” on the choruses are actually Andy, after Si and I tried it and failed…

When I started writing this album, I had an odd idea that I wanted it to sound like a 1920s band playing on a ship which was sailing past you in the night. I got out some old dance-band records and experimented with putting effects on them to get the sound I was looking for. I couldn’t get it to work and abandoned the idea. Then, when we were recording “The Lights Change” I discovered that once the band was muted, the sounds of Brian’s effects on the middle section created exactly the sound I was after. This is the music you hear at the front of “Dissolving Time”. It then appears in full at the end of the album.

Spiralina Girl

As with “Brighton Beach” this is a straight-ahead love song for Bridie. It started life as a punky tune played Ramones style. This more acoustic approach just came into my head one day, and seems dead right for the song. I love Si’s harmonies and Jim’s guitar lines – this is one of my very favourites on the record.

The Lights Change

I don’t expect anyone to get the words to this. And I am not about to explain them. Its oddness appeals to me – it is not like any other song I have written, and it was great fun to put it together. Like most of the songs on the album, it has an A section and a B section – I wanted to avoid middle eights as much as possible on this record. Again, all the guys contribute lovely parts, and Brian added a lot too. Jim does harmonies in the middle section as he does on “Dissolving Time” – the first times we have used his voice like this rather than Si’s. Jim has done quite a lot of recording and gigs with his own band Telley over the last couple of years and his confidence in singing has really grown.

Come On Feel the Lemonheads

There are two versions of this: the acoustic one featured here, and the punkier full-band version which has yet to be recorded, and may see light as a Spearmint release. This is my home-recorded version, though I did get Simon round to add harmonies. The lyrics are all true, so that explains the title!

The Smack Of Pavement In Your Face

I wrote this during the last Spearmint tour of Germany and Austria. By the time we got to Vienna I was keen to try it live, and had the bright idea that we would play it in the set without having ever rehearsed it. After all, it is a straight-forward Country song, and I know how well the band can play – quite often they come out with great things the first time I bring a song into rehearsal.

This did, however, introduce a lot of unease and nervousness into the band which I guess I understand – I mean it was easy for me as I knew the song. Andy was particularly anxious, but he is the last person who should worry about something like this as he is totally capable of dealing with it. It made the song exciting and special to play it live like that, and it will always remind me of that gig in Vienna. We played it the next night in Innsbruck too. I enjoyed playing the song unrehearsed so much that I began to think about doing a whole set like that… But I haven’t suggested that to the band yet! I like Simon’s voices which come in on the instrumental break two thirds through – sounds like the sun coming out.

London Ghost Story

Originally the title track, this is an instrumental interlude in the middle of the album. When we were on tour, I had a terrible cold, and one night I went to sleep early, huddled in a sleeping-bag while the others were still up chatting. Si had a Lovin Spoonful harmonica instrumental on his phone, and he was playing it to James as I fell asleep. It was the feeling of being full of cold and gradually drifting off that inspired the sound of this.

In fact, I was originally going to ask Christian from UK States to play harmonica on this, but we decided that the vibes sounded really nice.I like the feel of this one – nice work Brian… And lovely bass playing Mr Lewis…

Walked Away

I recorded the verses with beats at home, and we recorded the band sections with Brian. Hear Ronan wigging out on the bongos towards the end! A song about having a row and being too proud to make up.


A love song for Bridie. This one came out quite well I think – it is one of the extra tracks we recorded at the end which wasn’t originally intended to go on the album. I think the recording captures how the band really sounds. This track features me messing around on the Omnichord (a kind of electronic harp), the same Omnichord we borrowed to use on the “A Different Lifetime” album. It is featured on several tracks on that album and we used it at the launch gig at The Garage in London, where it let us down by cutting out. We then hung onto it for years – I think Ronan has finally given it back to its owner, his friend Paul.

The First Time You Saw Snow

Bridie grew up in New Zealand and had never seen snow. I grew up in Yorkshire and was used to heavy snowfall each winter. It very rarely snows in London, and last winter the forecast one night was for snow the next morning. So I set the alarm for early and we went out to the park in it. The song tells the rest of the story… The snow on snow section also reminds me of snowy gigs in Germany with Jim and Simon throwing snowballs and taking photos. Ronan brought in the Ska beat to this, and it swings along nicely! I always imagine a black on white literal stick-figure video for this track.

The Traffic In The Street

Another love song and very much a band track. I had a lot of trouble getting the altered rhythm of the break down bit two thirds through – Ronan introduced that on the drums and we all went with it – but it took me ages to get. Jim’s guitar at the very end reminds me of an early Be-Bop Deluxe track – I adore Be-Bop Deluxe!

The Reservoir

Lots of songs in a row starting with “The”. My father died a few years ago, and I have written a number of songs for him since, but this was the first one which I felt captured what I wanted to say. It is just me on this track, recorded at home. The vocal is the first take, and goes a bit out of tune at the end, but that seems appropriate and I kept it in. I am very very proud of this song, especially the words in the middle, the “Firstly, you’re a fool; secondly, that would be lovely” section.

Originally the song did not feature my father’s voice at the end. It was after I had done the recording that I remembered I had a cassette somewhere with a recording of Dad’s voice from an old answerphone. He had rung me up and left a message to say that he had been in a hypermarket in Belgium, and had heard a Spearmint song being played over the loudspeakers. He was very excited, and I was very proud and touched that he had left me the message. I had this vision of him standing there expecting the other customers to start applauding, or dancing…

I got the idea of adding the tape recording to the track, and was then undecided for ages. It seemed gratuitous to me, and a bit tasteless. I eventually used the old adage of whether he would mind or not, and decided he would like it, so I tried adding it. It fit perfectly, and it is wonderful to hear his voice again! As Simon said, “It was good of Dad to pop in and help out on the album”.

The Last Song

I had the idea that the intro and middle of this would sound as though they were recorded from out in the street while we played inside the studio, so that is exactly what Brian did. You can hear the Walthamstow traffic and doors slamming. A declaration of total love and the last word on my feelings.

So there it is: my first solo album.