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Posted on Mar 4th, 2009
Spearmint Recording, Cleaning Out The Cupboard, Mandarin Duck, The Wagon, Stand-Up Comedian


(Soundtrack: “Absolute Beginners” Soundtrack, Eric Bachman “To The Races”)
We went back into the studio with Brian last week to record some new Spearmint tracks. These are tentatively destined to go on a 10” EP in September, alongside some live shows celebrating 10 years since “A Week Away”. We went in with the intention of getting four and a half songs recorded and mixed in three days. I say four and a half because one of the tracks is planned to appear twice: different versions with different lyrics. Working fast, we got all the recording done, but didn’t mix them. I suspect this was wise, so they can be lived with for a while and then mixed in a few weeks time. This is better than mixing them hastily then having to revisit.
One of the songs, “A Signal Or A Sign” was brand spanking new, with the lyrics and arrangement being nailed as we recorded it. This makes recording thrilling and really spontaneous as the track comes together before your eyes. It is not necessarily the best way to work, as you may get better results by working on a track for longer before recording, but it is worth it for the buzz. It worked well having a mixture of well worked out songs such as “Outside The Roundhouse”, and totally fresh tunes. Brian was on form and all the guys played really well. Andy was zipping back and forth to Abbey Road to do some charity show with Paul Weller, but he managed to come rushing in and play some blinding bass. It all sounds very Spearmint and I am excited about it – after all it needs to be good to go alongside “A Week Away”!
Yesterday Simon and I cleaned out our storage cupboard where we keep our equipment and CDs. We tend to do this each time we have a new album ready, prompted by the need to dig out copies of older records to sell at gigs. Also by the fact that the cupboard gets so packed we are always hopeful of getting rid of stuff and freeing up space. It is also an excuse to have lunch and drink coffee and make an afternoon of it. While we were getting all the gear out, there was a Reggae band playing in one of the rehearsal rooms downstairs. On the way out to get coffee I mentioned to Simon that Reggae was exactly the right soundtrack to be doing this job on such a sunny day in West London. When I got back I suddenly realised who the band was – only the fucking Specials! We were made up, and were treated to “Do Nothing”, “Stereotype”, “Friday Night Saturday Morning”, “Ghost Town” among others – made the whole job a pleasure! Jim is green with envy…
Tonight we are rehearsing for Thursday’s gig. We are supporting Darren Hayman at The Lexington in Pentonville Road. Hopefully we will play “A Signal Or A Sign” if it doesn’t sound too bad tonight. Am hoping we will pull out another less obvious Spearmint tune too. It will be good to see Darren again – we did several shows together around the “My Missing Days” album, but I haven’t seen him since. Our manager Nick is over from Istanbul – it will be the first time he has seen us since about then too.
Yesterday as Bridie and I were walking home from going to see the new Clint Eastwood movie “Gran Torino” (which is fabulously entertaining), we noticed an exotic looking duck by the lake in the park (see photo). After a little research Bridie found him on the Internet; it seems he is a Mandarin duck, native of China or Russia, and is quite a rare fellow, usually only found in zoos. Apparently they are a symbol of romance and fidelity. I am not sure if he was an escapee, or wild, but he did seem to have a lady with him.
Today is our first day of giving up alcohol for forty days. We have decided to give it a go for Lent. It seems that lent is in fact forty-six days, with the extra days being Sundays which are counted as days of rest. Our version is going to be forty days from today, ending at Easter. I am going to find this hard. I enjoy drinking; have done since I was sixteen. We drink most days and spend way too much money on it. I wouldn’t say I have an alcohol problem, but I sure do fancy a drink quite often. So on the one hand, I am worried that I will not be able to give up, on the other other hand I am looking forward to it. That part of me is happy to be given permission not to drink for a spell. I think that doing the gig on Thursday will be tough.
The money that this will save us will be handy as Bridie is also now not working. She has left her job, basically because she didn’t have enough work to do, which after a while is worse than being too busy. So we are now both at home, and have played tennis a couple of times this week, which is nice on a weekday as it is quiet, and the Parkie isn’t around to collect the money. Bridie is actually a lot more employable than me so I am confident that work will be found soon. I seem to have granted myself some time to write the next album. This feels right to me.
One of the things I dislike about drinking is that I tend to wake up, wide awake after three or four hours of sleep. I did that last night, because of course we got drunk on our final night of booze. It is annoying being so awake for so long in the night. Last night I got to thinking about how I would like to try doing stand-up comedy at least once in my life. I would probably be awful, but it has always appealed to me. Once we were doing a Spearmint gig in Brighton (with Darren in fact) and the power went down, but the microphones were still working so I thought it was the ideal time to give it a go. I started telling what should be a genuinely amusing anecdote about Jeff in Sweden. Halfway through, I realised that I was dying and the crowd were not with me at all; it was awful. Luckily the power came back on and I was saved, but it put me off the stand-up idea for a while. The urge has returned though. I guess I should just write ten minutes of material I am happy with and go and try it out at an open mike night. There are a couple of good comedy clubs near here. I certainly wouldn’t be asking the guy in the front row where he is from and what he does. In fact there wouldn’t be any interaction with the audience – I hate that.
Pity the poor girlfriend who would have to sit through an attempt at stand-up. All the rubbish gigs are bad enough!


the rehearsals on Wednesday were clearly worth it, as it was a great show on Thursday. The new tunes sounded great both live and on the CD purchased that night. Listening to and reading the lyrics makes more sense now as to why it’s a Shirley Lee album. Great news on some impending new Spearmint tracks, look forward to hearing them. Any more gigs planned for the near future? Hope there is, ‘The lights change’ is destined to be a live classic, perfect pop. Thanks.

• Posted by Tim at 9:21 pm on Mar 8th, 2009

Thanks for your kind words Tim… We plan to do more Shirley Lee shows in May, both in London and regionally, so if anyone would like us to play, please get in touch..

• Posted by Shirley at 12:07 pm on Mar 9th, 2009
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