# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Flatmates - Part 13

  by Martin Whitehead

published: 13 / 1 / 2002



Flatmates - Part 13

intro

Chapter 26: ‘Heaven Knows’ - I’m miserable now We’d decided on ‘Heaven Knows’ for our 5th single. The song’s lyrics tell of a protracted battle with mental instability brought about by the traumas


Chapter 26: ‘Heaven Knows’ - I’m miserable now We’d decided on ‘Heaven Knows’ for our 5th single. The song’s lyrics tell of a protracted battle with mental instability brought about by the traumas of unrequited love - or something like that anyway. We didn’t recruit Jackie until after we’d recorded ‘Heaven Knows’ so bass on the single was played by me. In fact, bass is the only thing I am playing on that track. We went back to Strongroom Studio to record that track and the B side, ‘Don’t Say If’. Both tracks were mixed at The Kinks ‘Konk’ Studio. Once again Chris Allison was the producer. Multitrack recording consists of long hours spent waiting to make your contribution, doing your bit, then more long hours hanging around. Upstairs at Strongroom is a pool and TV room where after recording the guide track we passed the time waiting to be called downstairs by Chris to do our piece. Again, I was footing the recording bill personally. Over the summer Tim had repeatedly come up with songs that he wanted The Flatmates to play. If I may interject at this point, whilst I was a great fan of Tim’s slightly idiosyncratic songwriting style, he in the past had been dismissive of my simple, straight down the line, pop technique. Tim was, as far as I was concerned, still the second guitarist. There was a place for Tim’s songs and that was in Tim’s band, The Five Year Plan. He’d also wanted to make contributions in the studio, and I’d always welcomed ideas and suggestions from all the band. As long as you have a good engineer or producer who’ll tell you when something isn’t working it’s fine. I’d been waiting upstairs all afternoon. I may have been paying for the recording, but I was also paying a producer to look after then session. Why have a dog and bark yourself? After several games of pool with Joel I went downstairs to see how Tim was getting on with his guitar parts. Tim had finished his guitar parts. He’d also finished my guitar parts as well. Despite having spent the last 4 hours no further away than the top of the stairs, Tim claimed that he hadn’t been able to find me. Chris Allison claimed to believe that I wasn’t playing any guitar on this track. How someone can be an experienced producer and having worked with the band before and been supplied with demo versions of the song not know who’s playing what instruments on a session escapes me. Similarly how a producer can take instructions from a hired hand guitarist, rather than the band’s founder member and/or proprietor of the record label just smacks of unprofessionalism. From that moment Chris had blown any chance of producing any album that I would have been paying for and I’d have resisted any attempts by a record company to have imposed him upon us, especially after my dissatisfaction with ‘Shimmer’. I was less surprised by Tim’s actions. He was eager to get his foot in the door if he saw an opportunity and didn’t seem to care who he upset in doing so. I could have insisted on taking all Tim’s playing of my guitar parts off the tape and re-recorded them myself. That would have cost me about £200 in studio time and as Tim was a more experienced guitarist than myself probably not have sounded any better. From my previous experience of working with Chris I half expected him to keep Tim’s guitar track anyway and if he preferred it to mine, lose my part in the mix, just as the sequencer was "lost in the mix" on ‘Shimmer’. I also had to consider how much everyone else would get pissed off with further delays and how this might affect Tim’s relationship with the rest of the band. I really had no practical choice other than to be big about it and pretend it didn’t matter, but I was so pissed off that I had worked on this song and when it came to record it didn’t even get to play guitar due to what I still believe to be Tim’s arrogance and Chris’s laziness. At least I got to play guitar on the B side, ‘Don’t Say If’ which we also recorded at Strongroom with Chris Allison, albeit in only a fraction of the time that we allocated to ‘Heaven Knows’. That strum that comes in a couple of bars too early is me. It was a mistake but we kept it, and like many studio mistakes gives the song a bit of extra character. Several people later commented that they thought it was better song than ‘Heaven Knows’ and should’ve been the A side. It was certainly one of the more mature songs that the Flatmates recorded in terms of lyricism and structure, being something of a departure from the 3 chord love songs that had become our trade mark. I’ve never denied that at that time I was listening to a lot Game Theory and I think that ‘Don’t Say If’ shows Scott Miller’s influences. It always makes me think of Game Theory’s ‘Friend’s Of The Family’ though the link maybe more theoretical than actual. I was also listening a lot to the first two Pixies albums which came out in the way Jackie’s bass on songs we recorded around that time was a lot riffier and scuzzier than Sarah’s pop style of bass playing. For the 2 extra tracks for the 12" and CD single we went back to Sooty at SAM Studio in Bristol. We recorded ‘Turning You Blue’, a 3 / 4 time, 12 string acoustic strumalong which Jeremy Woods once again contributed harmonica to after the success of his contribution to ‘If Not For You’. Sooty did an alternative mix of this which was called The Campfire Mix. (Chris had done an alternative mix to ‘Heaven Knows’ which got called the Mogadon mix). The other song we recorded with Sooty was a reworked version of ‘My Empty Head’ which we’d recorded for the Janice Long Session and had been issued on the e.p. of that session. The original version had bopped merrily bopped along at 150 mph. Without changing any of the structure or the lyrics we slowed it to about half of its original speed. Tim added a lead guitar riff or two. The song took on a completely different character from the earlier version, and was now brooding and threatening rather than inappropriately frothy. ‘Heaven Knows’ may not have been the out and out pop hit that we’d been looking for, but all 4 songs on that e.p. showed a band that had grown up drastically in 12 months. We’d achieved an ability to change atmosphere without losing our individual sound, songs were exposing more layers rather than being a single faceted 2 minute pop burst, and we were developing a lyrical maturity. One of the labels that had been showing interest in The Flatmates during our hectic springtime gigging schedule had been London Records. Unlike some of the other labels whose staff seemed more interested in ‘hanging out with the chicks’ and drinking free beer, London stumped up the money for some demo time. At London’s expense we went back into SAM studio for a couple of days to record some 16 track demos with Sooty. This was the first recording we did with Jackie and in fact the demos we recorded for London records, live bootlegs aside, are the only recordings to feature her. The songs we recorded were a cover of Pauline Murray's ‘This Thing Called Love’ and 3 new songs; ‘Nothing Kills Like Time’, ‘Is It Me?’ and ‘Never Coming Down’. We’d been playing ‘This Thing Called Love’ since Rocker was in the band, and it had been Rocker who had worked out how to play it. The 3 new songs had been written in a hurry when we heard that London wanted us to record some new material. Having played together at least 3 times a week on average for nearly 4 months, we hadn’t rehearsed together all that time, or sat down to get any songwriting ideas. I was trying to run a record label and promote gigs with my own time off from the band and hadn’t written anything new since the spring gigging schedule commenced. Now we had about 3 weeks to write some new songs. Whilst I think that ‘Nothing Kills…’ (as it was more frequently abbreviated to) would have made a respectable B side, ‘Is It Me?’ and ‘Never Coming Down’ were rushed and unrepresentative. It’s the sound of a band trying too hard. The Flatmates had never been prolific songwriters, but had just managed to keep up with the demands of a new e.p. every 6 months and BBC sessions in between. Given time we could have come up with some great material (and we eventually did), but recruiting a new bass player, recording the new single and doing all the work that goes with it, running a record label, dealing with the major financing headache that ‘Heaven Knows’ became and planning the autumn tour including bringing Choo Choo Train over from the States hadn’t left much time to relax and write some new material.




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