Finally, on August 18th, 2023, Jo and declared ourselves satisfied with the final mix of the final Bottom Drawer album and we went off for a long walk in the countryside with Foxy. Since then, of course, the whole business of artwork and printing and making CDs means that the actual release date happened much later.
It has been an extraordinary journey. Originally planned as 7 or possibly 8 albums, it kept growing as I found yet more half finished or forgotten ideas. I would then run them by Jo, usually rather apologetically, who would then tell me I was wrong and encourage me to proceed.
Looking back now at the first albums, both of us can hear a progression. Technically, there is a gradual improvement in the recording as we both learned from our mistakes and I increasingly learned to trust his judgment. There has been a competition between us to see if we can always improve on the last album. I hope you will agree that we have achieved that with Number 9.
I deliberately kept back some favourite songs until the end. And I hope that you could start on the series with the final one, and work backwards, as opposed to the usual method of starting with Number One and working forwards. Or, indeed, starting at any random point and just exploring. You may notice that there are only 12 tracks on this one, as opposed to the usual 14. There is a reason for that…there are no more songs. The Drawer is finally empty and all this material now exists.
I couldn’t have done this without my great friend and brother, Jo Meacham. Without his genius these albums would be a far different affair. Probably just one guitar and a vocal, as in my weekly posts. The sketch becomes a painting. No words of praise are high enough.
There is also a team behind this project. My dear friend Alma Pitchford has laboured mightily and brilliantly, designing and delivering the artwork. I love the empty drawer! Like Jo, she has been determined to see this Great Work through to the end. Once again, without her…Huge thanks.
And finally, to Chad’s great friend and supporter, Jason Rhoden. It is fair to say that none of the recordings and gigs and posts for the last twenty years would have happened without Jason. From the moment that PBS asked Chad and I to get back together again for a concert in the early 2000’s, until now, and I hope into the future, he has been the rock on which all of this stands. He has been my friend and manager and without his enthusiasm I would now just be a retired actor. As it is, we are happily planning the next move. An album of covers, Classics, on which Jo and Alma are already working…and an even more exciting secret project, to be revealed at a later date. The Team is ready!
Now for the background to the tracks.
The first track on BDS 1, That Will Be That, was the last song Big Dave and I wrote together. Zanzibar Sunset is the first song we wrote after we met in 1980. There is a case for putting Zanzibar right at the end. Track 12…a perfect bookend to the series. But then that would mean leaving one of our most known and popular songs in the hope that the casual listener will have the patience to wade through the other 11. Better to make it the lead song and celebrate the synchronicity of the First and Last. I decided to ask Jo to follow Chad’s guitar lines, in other words his arrangement, but also decided to leave out the brilliant harmonies which already exist in the various versions of this song that Chad and I did when he was still with us. So, the song as Chad first heard it. There were some rewrites to the lyric. Originally, Rocshire Records felt that “fresh mint tea” didn’t belong on a pop record, and Dave came up with “disappear behind the sea” as an alternative. And I requested a few lyric changes to make it easier to sing. But this is now the definitive version.
This is one of those songs that I’d been unsure about. Didn’t really think there was enough there. Held it back, and then nervously presented it to Jo, who immediately told me I was wrong. And of course he was right. It’s now one of my favourites on this album. Love that slinky groove. As we shall see there will be other dubious offerings that Jo rescued. But then, I’m my own harshest critic.
Follow that Car
I see that Last Tango In Paris came out in 1972, so that means that the joke was quite old by the time Dave wrote this in the mid to late 70s. I’m pretty sure he wrote it with Meal Ticket in mind, which means that it was one of those lyrics, like Zanzibar Sunset, that was unloved and unused in his Bottom Drawer when I first went round to his place in 1980. I recorded a version of this with a view to putting it on the Rocshire album, but it didn’t make the cut. Originally I’d intended it to be yet another chug, one my favourite grooves, (thank you, JJ Cale) but then Jo came up with another version, and with Jamie Little’s lovely drumming, this is now the way it should have always been.
Good Morning, No One
Another of Dave’s songs that have, yet again, a Dream Theme. I’ve spread them out across the BDS so that it isn’t so obvious. And the Good Morning Someone theme is another old favourite, a reliable standby when nothing else comes to mind. I had a go at this song with Chad, who preferred a Good Morning, Someone version as he felt it was too negative. I asked Jo for his opinion and he argued strongly for the No One version…the original, as Dave wrote it. Agreed, Jo. I also kept this one back because it is so romantic and we need at least one of those in each album.
The last of the Hugo Williams lyrics from the mid Seventies, held back because I wasn’t sure where it belonged. It seems to be about a very destructive relationship or at least that’s how I see it. I suspect it was written with his pal Wilco Johnson in mind and there is a slight hint of The Punk era. Probably the nearest thing to a straight pop melody that I’ve ever come up with. Rather nervously, I ran it past Jo, who loved it. So in it went. I never could come with a harmony for the chorus that I liked, so left it well alone. Chad would have found one, of course.
Blue Eyed Susan
Another one I was unsure about, except that I liked what there was. But was there enough? I knew that Jason loved this one and Jo gave it the seal of approval. I pulled this lyric together from some notes of Dave’s, written when his health was failing. The background chorus of “oooh Susan” was popped in right at the last minute. It really helps fill it out, and reminds me so much of the C and J sound.
The original title for this one was, obviously, Last Night. Unfortunately we had already written a Last Night. It’s on BDS 4. So, what to do? Luckily, the repeat of the first lines, So Close, provided the answer. This one has been in the drawer for quite a while, as I remember it was included in What’s The Score, the musical theatre idea that we tried out. The show didn’t work but the songs remain, mercifully unmoored from any plot.
I Don't Know How it Happened
One from the mid Nineties, written in Dave’s gloriously bohemian house in Paris. We went back later and reviewed the lyrics. There is a demo from that time. I’m playing a ratty old Spanish guitar that someone had thrown out, using a pick, which I hardly do anymore. And there is the Old Boy, singing along at the end. Alright, he says triumphantly at the end. The author apparently approves. Happy days.
Of all the songs I’ve been holding back, this is the one that I’ve been most unsure about. I wrote this in about 1973. There are influences, certainly a hint of the Ark, our last album. Perhaps a bit of Bowie in there. Maybe a smidgen of Prog Rock. All in all, something of an oddity. As ever, I ask Jo. He gives it the thumbs up and away we go. And then, in the studio, it begins to take shape. I’m pleased with the result and delighted that the song finally exists, no longer just an ancient demo. But it is an odd one, unlike anything else I’ve come up with. You be the judge. One from the absolute bottom of the proverbial drawer. A very deep cut.
One of two riff songs on the album. Take three chords and repeat until your fingers drop off. It’s one I pull out if there are a few friends with guitars hanging around. There is a video on YouTube: “Fun at Rick and Val’s”. And there we are, some years ago, before my dear friend Rick Jones left us, just keeping those three chords going. For anyone who is interested, they are…Dmi7, Ami7, and Gmi7. Off you go, now you can join in.
I Hate Spring
One of Dave’s brilliant acerbic lyrics with a twist in the tail. Once again, Love Lost. Poor fellow, once upon a time, they had their own cheap love song. Not any more. Dave was delighted with “that suggestion of a dress”. Quite rightly…a great line. But I was never sure where it fitted in with the rest of the catalogue and held it back. We recorded it in the BDS4 sessions and it’s been hanging around ever since. Now that it’s the final album, no more hesitation. Decision made for me.
How to end? And then I remembered a weird lyric, probably from a musical theatre idea that Rick and Dave were working on, years before I met Dave. Apparently it was called Double Negative. Much stuff about old movies. And there was this song called Joe Do. Some rustic character, possibly African American, who knows the answer to everything. Who knew…well, Joe Do. But the jokes were excellent. So I just got rid of Joe and instead put in Who knew…Did You? And with some slight adjustments to the lyric and a two chord riff, off we went. I managed to make it end on a philosophical note…who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?