1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote/ TKO Horn member tells all

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1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote/ TKO Horn member tells all

Postby johnfoyle » Mon Mar 07, 2005 4:56 pm

Thanks to mcramahamasham for posting this , along with all the other 'notes , in another thread here - I'm posting them individually for easier access.


Preface 2003
It was rather like one of those anxiety dreams in which the groom finds himself at the altar, without his trousers. I was onstage at the “Red Parrot” nightclub in Manhattan with the entire Count Basie Orchestra behind me. I opened my mouth to sing, but all I could utter was a hoarse croak.
I had accepted NBC’s berserk invitation to take part in a television special in which I would sing with Tony Bennett, backed by the Basie band. I was certain that somebody would have the good sense to pull the plug before it ever was visited upon the unsuspecting viewer. But if it happened, it would be something to tell the grandchildren, that for one night you had sung in front of the same band as Billie Holliday, Sarah Vaughn, and Jimmy Rushing, the band that had once featured Lester Young. What I hadn’t considered was that the preceding three nights would consist of howling, bawling mayhem in front of a sonic battle between The Attractions and the TKO Horns that would reduce my voice to a whisper.
My choice of solo song seemed quite fortuitous at first. I had learned Neal Hefti’s “Lil’ Darling” at ten years old from the Georgie Fame recording. I could probably get through the verse even with a shot throat by singing very softly, but the bridge, in which John Hendricks’ words are set to the original saxophone solo, proved to be nearly impossible to negotiate. However that was nothing compared to having to duet with Tony Bennett on “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”, a number I’d have had second thoughts about tackling in the shower.
Any illusions I might have harboured about “holding my own”, or even springing a few surprises, were rudely dashed. Throughout rehearsals Mr. Bennett was patient, sympathetic, and paternal. From the looks on their faces, the same could not be said of the saxophone section, Their expressions ranged from comic through pitying and all the way out to a sullen and contemptuous “How in the hell did this guy get the gig?” resignation.
Mr. Bennett was also very, very good. If I had been less mortified, I might have started to formulate a conspiracy theory in which NBC had tempted me into this humiliation as revenge for our song-switching act on Saturday Night Live in 1977. After several half-hearted attempts, I did what any grown man would do—I broke down and pleaded for mercy.
Count Basie, who was in the last months of his life and suffering from chronic arthritis that required him to sit at the piano astride a little motorized buggy and play even less than his economic style had previously allowed, fixed me with his big, sad eyes and said, “Young man, I’m seventy-nine years old, and I can’t get my arm above this”, indicating the extent of his movement, “You can do it”.
So I had no choice. My reward, though hardly deserved, was to stand two feet away from the piano as The Count took his solo and introduced his big finale. Of course there was a technical hitch with the cameras, and this perfect piece of music was lost, forcing a retake that was obviously very painful for him. I’m happy to say that all of these indignities remain buried in an NBC vault somewhere and long may they moulder. “No” rolls off the tongue a lot easier these days.
None of this has very much to do with the making of Punch The Clock, but I have begun each note accompanying this programme of re-releases with an anecdote in hope of capturing something of the moment in which the album was made. Sadly, I have been unable to recall a single further entertaining incident that occurred during these sessions.
As a consequence, I have decided to re-print the following essay from the previous edition. It is a truthful account and seems to accurately reflect my feelings about the material and the times in which it was recorded. I do not believe I can improve upon it, other than add some words about the additional tracks on CD2 in a “postscript”. In the end, I trust your decision to purchase this edition is rewarded by the music on the discs.
Your friend in hi-fi,
Elvis Costello

"Punch The Clock" was our chance to get reacquainted with the wonderful world of pop music and still maintain a sense of humour. After Nashville and the labyrinth of "Imperial Bedroom" I was ready to find a different production approach.
Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley certainly knew where the charts were but they also made great records. They had produced hits for The Teardrop Explodes, Dexy's Midnight Runners and Madness. In fact I first met Clive as a fellow producer for Two-Tone Records. By the time I had finished The Specials' debut album Clive and Alan had moved with Madness to Stiff Records where the cut some of the best pop singles since the finest days of the Kinks.
Despite making the most "English" music on the planet "Clanger and Winstanley" even managed to get Madness to No. 1 in America with "Our House". By 1983 they were pretty irresistible and unstoppable. (Clive was also an excellent songwriter. "Clive Langer and the Boxes" opened for us on the "Get Happy" tour of seaside towns and out of the way places. I produced a version of Amen Corner's "If Paradise Is Half As Nice" for his "Splash" album on F-Beat. Alan, the quiet and patient one of the team, also had some pretty mean credits to his name including engineering The Buzzcocks' best records.)
They favoured the "building-block" method of recording: retaining very little from the original "live" take (often only the drums) and tailoring each instrumental overdub to best serve the arrangement. This system naturally precluded the spontaneity of our past "happy accidents" but could yield startling results when the last piece was in place.
Now to be honest I haven't always been kind about this album. I find it hard to ignore the benefit of hindsight. However I shall try to explain how we fared among the passionless fads of that charmless time: "The Early 80's".
Being in a fairly feckless frame of mind I had dashed off a couple bright pop tunes that didn't have much else to them. The chorus of "Element Within Her" consisted entirely of the immortal words: "la-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la" (although I liked the silly Liverpudlian-slang joke in the last verse: "He said "Are you cold?" She said "No but you are La...la-la-la...etc.) "Everyday I Write The Book" was written in a spare ten minutes on tour as a spoof of a Mersey-beat tune. In rehearsal Clive guided us towards an arrangement that was unlike anything we had ever recorded. Although we borrowed a few touches from the r'n'b styles of the day I have witnessed, firsthand, the record's ability to clear a nightclub dance floor in seconds. Despite this it remains one of our very few entirely cheerful recordings and was even a minor hit on both sides of the Atlantic - reaching No. 28 in the U.K. and No.32 in the U.S. charts - then our best placing for a single.
The vocal responses on "Punch The Clock" were improvised by Claudia Fontain and Caron Wheeler, known at the time as "Afrodiziak". They had not appeared on that many pop recordings and their spontaneous approach was a welcome contrast to the jaded cliches demanded of other groups of "session singers". (Both went on to grace many hit records. Caron is probably best known as the lead voice on the Soul II Soul smash "Back To Life".)
The other addition to our ensemble was the horn section led by trombonist Big Jim Paterson. He brought with him saxophonists Paul Speare and Jeff Blythe who had also recently left Dexy's Midnight Runners. So that we did not duplicate that group's sound we added trumpet player Dave Plews to the line up. (However it is true that the "T.K.O. Horns" employed something of the rude, unison sound that the "Stax" comparison was often made in the press. I was only happy if we sounded like Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers on their version of "One Way Love".)
Though I scatted all the main horn refrains on my demo recordings, Clive and the players worked out a [Note: this was incorrectly done in the book, I'm doing it as exact as possible] some of the more sophisticated punches and flourishes. I soon found myself writing them into the other tunes.
("The Invisible Man" was the final resting place of lyrics which had been part of the "unreleased" songs: "25 to 12", "Seconds Of Pleasure" and "I Turn Around" - see the re-issues of "Trust" and "Imperial Bedroom". Now this song and "Let Them All Talk" - originally "beat-group" tunes - revolved around horn figures. "The Greatest Thing" even contained a reference to my Dad's years with The Joe Loss Orchestra by way of a quote from "In The Mood" - complete with Paul Speare doubling on clarinet. "The World And His Wife" was re-written from a solemn folk song about a drunken family gathering into a bilious knees-up with the horns playing their part in the scene.)
All of the above is not to suggest that I entered into the writing and recording of this record in a haphazard or lackadaisical manner. On the contrary I was still writing most of my songs at the piano and almost all of them were melancholy ballads. Clive cajoled me into picking up the guitar at least for the purpose of writing some more lively material. he argued that there was a danger in becoming known for only the most cynical and disillusioned songs of "Imperial Bedroom". I remained allergic to the happy ending but in reply I managed a pair of proud and wishful songs on Love and marriage: "The Greatest Thing" and "Let Them All Talk" and a couple about the Ugly Truth: "Mouth Almighty" and "Boxing Day".
"They put the numb into number
They put the cut into cutie
They put the slum into slumber
and the boot into beauty."
-"T.K.O. (Boxing Day)"
Between 1979 and 1983 something strange happened. The British government mutated from an annoying and often disreputable body, that spent people's taxes on the wrong things, into a hostile regime contemptuous of anyone who did not serve or would not yield to its purpose.
"Work" was transformed from a right into a privileged reward. There were a few passionate and coherent calls to resistance (most notably Alan Bleasdale's "Boys From The Blackstuff") and I could offer little more than a puny echo and some of the crude references which litter the lesser songs. I might have tried to argue that this was all very ironic -- while fashioning a bauble and feeling for a faint pop pulse but I've always been a dunce at making up that kind of alibi. Anyway most of what I wanted to get out of my head had gone into two songs recorded before we began work on "Punch The Clock".
The phrase "Pills and Soap" was originally inspired by "The Animals Film", while the sound of the record was indebted to "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel. The former was a long harrowing portrayal of man's abuse of animals as pets and exhibits, in factory farming and scientific research. It didn't take much to extract that we are willing to do unto each other as we do to the animals. Beyond that it was a catalogue of the lovely times with the tabloid press just beginning to hone their skills of assassination, exploitation and phony indignation, the country's blind, sad affair with the lucky family in the palace and the new rank breath of jingoism.
I'd been fooling around at the piano with a piece that I told myself sounded something like something Ramsey Lewis...or Mose Allison....or Dave Brubeck might play...when I heard "The Message" ....
It was the first rap record that I had encountered that was anymore than an invitation to dance. It spoke about ugly life. It was the best and only record of it's kind that I heard since The Last Poets' "Wake Up Niggers".
I could not adopt such a vocal delivery but I wanted to set my litany to a drum machine beat. So I turned the piano part over to Steve Nieve (who could actually play it) and switched on the device....that was on a Wednesday, the acetates were cut and distributed to the press and radio the following day and the finished single was in the shops by the following Friday. A week later it appeared in the charts. (The Ability to achieve all this so quickly had everything to do with the fact that I was not, for the moment, being distributed by a major record label. "Pills and Soap", credited to The Imposter, a "Fairley/Imposter Production", appeared on the "Imp Records" - a Demon Records imprint. It was released for a limited period only and melodramatically deleted on the eve of the 1983 general election. The need to re-issue it the following day on a celebratory red vinyl 12" sadly never arose).
This seemed to alarm the BBC who feared that the lyrics might somehow contravene the rules of broadcasting "balance" during the election campaign. A senior BBC producer questioned me about the song's subject matter. I said it was about "man's abuse of animals", a strictly truthful but slippery explanation worth of a Tory cabinet minister. The producer then threatened me with banishment from the national airwaves if I should ever reveal that the song had a hidden agenda and more importantly...gloat about it...How very English.
Given the outcome of the election that I was supposed to be trying to sway and all the miserable years since I can hardly say that the episode gave me much satisfaction other than to get such an unusual song to No. 16 in the charts without anyone noticing.
"Shipbuilding" started out as a piano melody composed by Clive Langer. He asked me if I could come with some words that would suit Robery Wyatt... "perhaps something to do with the hours of the clock" being the only clue. Robert had recorded a beautiful soulful version of "I'm A Believer" so I did not feel that the song had to be inspired by current events. Anyway he had a way of narrowing the distance between a simple love song and an obviously political number. Take a listen to his reading of Chic's "At Last I Am Free" and then hear his version of Victor Jara's "To Recuerdo Amanda" and you'll see what I mean.
I was leaving for an Australian tour with Clive's demo in my bag. The government was in the process of reversing their disastrous fortunes by springing to the defense of an obscure and obsolete imperial coaling station and sheep farming outcrop. In as much as you spring to the defense of The Falkland Islands when you are in the Northern Hemisphere and they are in the South Atlantic. Especially after the nincompoops in the Foreign Ministry have done everything possible to suggest to the particularly vicious junta in Argentina that their claim to "Las Malvinas" might go unchallenged if they would only care to invade...Oh what a lovely war. Except that it was never called "A War". It was always referred to as the "Falklands Crisis" and later the "Falklands Conflict". Thank god CNN wasn't what it is today or we'd have had a theme tune and a log overnight: "South Atlantic Storm: The Falkland Countdown".
By the time I reached Australia the bloody liberation was underway. I thought I'd seen it all in the British media coverage: grown men drooling over the hardware, the sick illusion of invincibility before H.M.S. Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile, The Sun's "Gotcha" headline when 300 Argentine sailors drowned when the Belgrano went down, the construction of the odd heroic myth to cheer everyone up after a series of blunders had lead to a pointless and brutal slaughter of Welsh Guards and of course the Real star of the show: The Prime Minister arriving on our screens each day as if directly from the theatrical costumiers. Sometimes as Boadicea. Sometimes as Britannia. Oh! I nearly forgot the raving lunatic who reared up from the Tory backbenches to suggest a nuclear attack on Buenos Aires. However none of this could prepare me for the depravity of the Australian tabloid coverage. To listen to them the "Poms" were getting slaughtered Gallipoli-style and the "Argies" were eating Falkland babies.
Most of the above was beyond words but the notion that this might really drag on and become a war of attrition seemed as believable as anything else. Ships were being lost. More ships would soon be needed. So: "Welcome back the discarded men of Cammell Laird, Harland and Wolff and Swan Hunter. Boys are being lost. We need more boys. Your sons will do...just as soon as those ships are ready."
For what it's worth this was pretty much the thinking behind the words of "Shipbuilding". That it didn't come pass was a blessing. It was always less of a protest song than a warning sign.
Clive, Alan and I co-produced Robert Wyatt's recording of "Shipbuilding". He sang it beautifully and the single reached many people in Britain. Despite being daunted by the prospect of "covering" the song I wanted to include it on "Punch The Clock" so that it would be heard by a wider audience. As Steve Nieve played the piano on Robert's version I thought we should feature a trumpet soloist on our rendition.
Truthfully my ideal was Miles Davis, though I was probably thinking of the Arabic lines of "Sketches of Spain" rather than his recent fusion records. (I had even attempted to imitate some of those figures in the background voices on both Robert's "Shipbuilding" and "Pills and Soap". This last arrangement also took a cue from parts of Joni Mitchell's album "Hissing of Summer Lawns", although my vocal delivery obviously disguises this quite well.)
If that seemed improbable then what happened next was almost miraculous. I opened the paper to find that Chet Baker was playing a hurriedly announced residency at The Canteen. I went alone to find Chet in a wonderful musical form despite the presence of several drunken bores who would loudly cal for more booze in the middle of some of his most delicate playing. You got the feeling that this happened most nights but it seemed particularly appropriate that the main culprit was said to be one of London's leading jazz critics. Between sets I introduced myself to Chet who was wandering about in the club untroubled by patrons. There is no false modesty in saying he had no idea who I was. Why the hell should he? However he accepted my invitation to come and play on the "Shipbuilding" session the next day. I mentioned a fee. He said "Scale". I think I probably doubled it.
It was a tense but rewarding session. Chet took a little time to grasp the unusual structure of the song but once he had it he played beautifully even if he looks pretty deathly in the studio photos. I'd also say it was one of The Attractions very best performances. At the end of the session I handed Chet a copy of "Almost Blue" a song which was modeled on his style. He ended up recording it but that's another story.
My one regret about the track is that I was tempted to put a spin echo onto a couple of Chet's phrases. I suppose I still had "Sketches of Spain" in the back of my mind. Then again at the time I didn't really understand what composer David Bedford was trying to do in the arrangement of the strings and had them rather buried in the mix. Now I'm really glad that we are all on the record.

Footnote: From then on I always went to see Chet whenever he played in London. Jazz club patrons, who'd probably never heard "Shipbuilding", looked a little startled when he picked me out in the crowd or dedicated a number. We'd have a drink and he'd say funny things about the "jazz singer" who was wowing house with less than a pink dress and little talent. however he seemed somebody that you "knew" rather than somebody you were "friends with". I even interviewed him once for a video special and sang a few numbers, including "You Don't Know What Love Is", with his trio. I think he knew I didn't want to talk about "the drugs". However, despite the fact that he once said in an magazine interview that he didn't care for that fateful echoed phrases he never raised that matter with me and I never got round to apologizing. I guess you can't change history.

Both these songs should have been part of Punch The Clock. I was still so uncertain about the running order that I even had a scheme to substitute "Heathen Town" for "Love Went Mad" after the initial vinyl pressing. It was written as an "answer" to Gram Parsons' "Sin City" with just little pinch of "Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat" (from "Guys and Dolls") thrown in. "Flirting Kind" was originally written in the same time and idiom as "Kid About It" (from "Imperial Bedroom"). There was more than a tip of the hat to Burt Bacharach in my demo. However the mania for "pace" whcih infected some of our wrong-headed choices lead to this pretty but less tragic version. Nevertheless we put quite a lot of time into the arrangement. Somehow it just doesn't really fit the song. (In contrast "King Of Thieves", a tricky tune about the trials of a blacklisted scriptwriter, benefited from the production process. It created a bridge between the somber songs and the brash attractive noise. I woke up from a dream with the first line of the song in my head... "I had forgotten all about the "Case of the Three Pins"...I still have no idea what it means but it sounds like the beginning of a detective novel.
During the "Clocking on across America" tour I received an invitation to meet Yoko Ono at a New York City studio. She had recently begun mixing and compiling the two albums she and John Lennon had been working on at the time of his death.
"Milk and Honey" might have been an album of rough and unfinished Lennon recordings but hearing them in a dimly lit studio with the widow, who had only recently been able to face listening to the tapes, was a very emotional experience. This was probably due to the fact that Lennon's unedited "between-takes" banter was blasting out of the control room speakers while the studio itself was in darkness. The effect was quite unsettling. Yoko asked me to contribute to "Every Man Loves A Woman" (the other work-in-progress album): a collection of other artist's recordings of her songs. Although I would not pretend that her records are exactly a fixture on my turntable I was happy to help complete one of her husband's last projects which one must imagine was conceive out of love.
We were to cut a version of "Walking on Thin Ice", certainly one of Yoko's strongest pieces. However our touring schedule required that we record on one of the few days when we would not be either traveling or performing. Our itinerary suggested Memphis or New Orleans. Now we needed a producer. I suggested that Yoko's office might approach Willie Mitchell in Memphis or Allen Toussaint in New Orleans. After all both these producers had created unique horn-section sounds and we just happened to have one with us.
I don't know if Yoko's people ever heard back from Willie Mitchell but the next thing we knew we were at Sea-Saint Studios in New Orleans with Allen Tousaint behind the board. Pete Thomas was delighted to be in the same drum booth as used by the Meters' Ziggy Modeliste while Allen worked closely with Bruce fashioning a very original bass part and swapped keyboard ideas with Steve Nieve. Ironically the main horn frame was a quote from an obscure Willie Mitchell production: "Let The Love Bell Ring" although Allen naturally tailored the overall arrangement and phrasing to a recognizably Toussaint sound. I don't believe that horn section ever sounded better than on this recording. During our stay we too in a couple of Neville Brothers shows where I first heard drummer Willie Green who, long with Allen Toussaint, later played on the New Orleans sessions for my Warner Bros. album "Spike". As for our concert in the city...it was cancelled due to lack of ticket sales.
The result of an experimental Eden Studios session between "Imperial Bedroom" and "Punch The Clock". Pete Thomas provided the drum loop (With my "vocal percussion") and I added the rest of the instruments. Much later I re-worked some lyrics for a song written with Ruben Blades: "The Miranda Syndrome".
This 4-track home demo is my only recording of this song. It is my unsubtle revenge on the landlord who swindled me out of my last penny when I was a twenty-one year old "newly-wed". It was later recorded for a solo single by Rockpile's Billy Bremner.

Postscript 2003
Thanks to some enthusiastic digging in the vaults by my friends at Rhino and Demon Records, CD2 now presents the listener with an alternative Punch The Clock, constructed from raw, pre-production studio run-throughs, demos, and live tapes. Here are a few words about the new inclusions.
I have absolutely no memory of cutting this version of the song, but it is how it was originally intended to sound and replaces the inferior lo-fi live take on the previous edition.
This song is actually supposed to be a ballad. It was written around 1980, at the same time as the Trust cut “Shot With His Own Gun”, and occasionally performed in concert on my ‘80s solo tours. This abandoned studio take is out ill-advised attempt to play it in the English Musical Hall style. Careful listeners may notice an inserted musical quote from The Move’s “Fire Brigade” at the end of the bridge. Everyone else will find it hard to avoid the singer’s bewildering decision to vocalize after the fashion of the “David Jones” who was not in The Monkees.
This cut is the product of a BBC radio session, and even that usually resulted in us becoming extremely “pissed” in both the US and UK definitions of the word. On this occasion we recorded this live arrangement in which we made a transition from the final song on the Trust album into Dave Wakeling’s more plainly spoken appeal to the Prime Minister, as originally recorded by The Beat. This session also produced another Cold War favourite that had recently become rather too timely. I had known this Percy Mayfield song since childhood, after discovering it on the B-side of the Ray Charles 45 “Hit The Road Jack”.
This was the third attempt to record this material, following versions of the song included on recent editions of Trust and Imperial Bedroom. According to our highly qualified researchers, it is being returned to the correct chronological sequence by its inclusion here.
A solo studio recording of the original version of this song, prior to a reworking as a band and horn section number. This take includes a few extra lines, none of them very memorable, but it does replace the lo-fi live recording included on the previous edition.
Most of these songs were the product of a challenge from Clive Langer for me to provide more up-tempo material for the album. Listening again to these fuzzy four-track demos, it seems that there was a possibility that this record might have continued in the beat group direction suggested by the early version of “Everyday I Write The Book”.
Many of the songs feature passages of two-part vocal harmony, and the influence of Lennon and McCartney and Roy Wood is much more apparent than on the final horn-driven recordings. Certainly the “direct” electric guitar accompaniments all seem to take their cue from very early George Harrison parts… only played by someone wearing boxing gloves.
I have to confess that I now prefer the less produced approach to “King Of Thieves”, as the story seems more concentrated. Certainly, even a slight and lyrically laboured song about life in a nuclear shelter such as “Love Went Mad” is clearly musically rooted in the 1960s, and I suppose Clive saw it as his job to bring us more into the moment, hence the voguish arrangement that the song barely deserved.
There seems to be a deal more doubt in the slower rendition of “The Greatest Thing”, I referred to it in the notes above as “wishful”, and that would be a generous view of this version which includes more references to deprivations that I was no longer suffering and edited out of the final text along with the odd surreal observation: “There’s a world of coffee-table books and no coffee table”.
Obviously some of these demos are more intimate and conversational. There is a slightly different melody in the chorus of “Charm School”, and I think I can detect references to a Pretenders song in this version of “Mouth Almighty”.
I’m not sure that anything vital was really lost in submitting these songs to the Clanger/Winstanley method, as we took to the recording process with some gusto. However, whenever I return to any of these songs today they usually come out sounding closer to these original drafts than the recording found on CD1.
These excerpts from a radio concert from Austin, Texac, illustrate the influence of the TKO Horns on the material from Get Happy!! They sound most reminiscent of that great siren sound that three of the members created in Dexy’s Midnight Runners when playing the original organ line from “Possession”. They also add some drama to a rather frantic verse of The O’Jays’ “Back Stabbers” that tumbles into “King Horse”.
“The Bells”, an obscure Motown number arranged and produced by Marvin Gaye for The Originalsm became a favourite of mine around this time. I became possessed of the belief that I should sing it, even though the strain on my voice during these shows frequently left me unable to do that much with the melody. Sometimes I think I only called the number to infuriate certain members of The Attractions. On this rendition it sounds as if Steve Nieve was retaliating, using some rather literal sound effects on his brand-new Emulator keyboard. Then again it was the ‘80s. The decade that music and good taste forgot.
Last edited by johnfoyle on Wed Jul 11, 2012 4:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby johnfoyle » Sun Jan 22, 2006 7:04 pm

2 euro in a Dublin charity shop got me this curio -



Chrom cassette - now that was the Highest of Fi !

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Postby johnfoyle » Mon Jan 23, 2006 8:56 am

http://www.popmatters.com/music/feature ... tist.shtml

The Last Temptation of the Completist
[23 January 2006]

by Zeth Lundy
PopMatters Music Columns Editor


Pop music was once bigger than itself, a labyrinthian world with self-made pockets of myths and mysteries. Pop was more than just music; equally important to its magnetic allure were the legends its music spawned, mythical footnotes that accompanied the albums we heard and, at times, withheld the albums we didn't hear. Unreleased studio outtakes were mythologized: the greatest single that never was; the lost record, conceptualized but never realized. Live concerts became bloated depictions of lore, disseminated through the bootleg trading underworld and canonized in exaggerated halls of fame.

But gradually, systematically, pop's longstanding mythology is being debunked and demystified, thanks to a combination of technological advances and general human curiosity. Older works, thought to be lost like ashes of the ages, are being reworked; expanded reissues of classic albums offer outtakes on bonus discs. The missing pieces of pop's puzzle are being reassembled. Riddles are being solved for us, one by one, whether we like it or not. But what if we don't want the puzzle completed with in such a definitive manner? What if we want to plug the gaps ourselves, with the bits and pieces we've struggled to collect? Being offered a glimpse behind the fabled curtain is one of the last temptations of the completist, but how does it ultimately impact our perception of the original albums? Do we ignore the meddling (and weather its temptation) or embrace it, and have the element of mystery drained from how we personally experience music?

Some reissues offer "alternate realities" that directly contradict the original release. The two-disc Rhino editions of Elvis Costello's Punch the Clock and Goodbye Cruel World include acoustic demo tracks of nearly every album song. These two particular records (often singled out as two of Costello's worst) were mired in glossy, dated '80s production indulgences; hearing the songs delivered untainted allows us to reexamine them with all prejudices expunged. The effect these alternate versions have on us can vary: We can learn to appreciate the original albums more than we ever thought we could, we can finally see the albums for what they really were -- collections of decent songs with poor execution, or we simply loathe the albums more intensely than before as impeachable bastardizations of relatively good intentions.

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Postby johnfoyle » Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:19 am

http://www.benigncomedy.com/2007/07/cos ... means.html

July 13, 2007

The Costello Show, Episode 3 – Means-justifying for dummies

Paul Pearson blogs -

Punch The Clock
Elvis Costello & The Attractions
(Columbia, 1983)

It's a little embarrassing to admit this is the album that got me.

Not that it's bad. It's not. I was just listening to Punch The Clock this afternoon and tapped my foot right along. The cars in front of me didn't appreciate that but I sure got a kick out of it. Rather, my mild anxiety is about why Punch The Clock sent me headlong into the closest I've ever come with obsession over a particular artist and not, say, Imperial Bedroom, an album that will forever earn more acclaim than PTC, deservedly.

I have a personal corollary from the world of cinema: Martin Scorsese. When I was in my teens I'd seen an edited version of Taxi Driver on broadcast TV. I thought it was fine except for the fact that all these people were in New York and never used profanity. Seeing it on a 12-inch black and white TV screen didn't really convey anything, to me personally, about how good Scorsese was as a director. What film first did? Raging Bull? Maybe Mean Streets?

Try After Hours. Out of all the films Scorsese directed between Mean Streets and Cape Fear, After Hours is probably the one of least consequence. It's a pop comedy, albeit a very tense one, about a word processor named Paul who has the worst night possible in the streets of SoHo in New York. It's still one of my favorite comedies, and it fits neatly with any other film he made about New York, but the Scorsese touch may be all that separated it from lesser pop comedies of the 80s, of which there were many. I mean, c'mon – Cheech & Chong are in After Hours. (No offense to C&C fans, but c'mon -- Up In Smoke ain't exactly a Victorian comedy, even if it does feature a couple of guys pensively sucking on pipes.)

But at age 18, After Hours was a revelation. I thought it was the greatest thing. Everything fit neatly. The laughs and the terror were consistent, and it was relentlessly paced. Most importantly, it started me on a Scorsese jag that never let up until he started working with Winona Ryder. I started researching his past films on VHS – I reappraised Taxi Driver, caught Mean Streets, understood the mentality behind The King of Comedy (also a horror film in disguise), and caught The Last Temptation of Christ and Goodfellas in theaters. He became my favorite. (Curiously I never got around to Raging Bull until a couple of years ago, after being let down by Gangs of New York.)

Exact same thing with Elvis Costello. I wandered into the Wherehouse at Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, California, and I heard the opening horn charts to "Let Them All Talk" on the in-store. The trumpets and trombones came in with the subtlety of sledgehammers being catapulted by a giant spring-and-slab contraption, but they got me. When Costello's voice came over the speakers I was stunned. It was as far away from the dainty arrangements of Imperial Bedroom as one could get. It was pop music. Every ass-kicking I'd ever taken from a jock or white trash for loving pop music was immediately, duly atoned for in that one moment. Elvis had gone pop, and had gotten a new pair of glasses with more refined rims on top of it all. He looked like an Oxford lecturer now. I had to have this fucking album. Have it I did.

I played it all summer long. Heavy, massive groove-wearing with Punch The Clock. Even more than Synchronicity! Go ahead and watch every taco I make, Sting, you goddamn stalker, I got Elvis to keep me warm!

There were three more songs with horns on 'em, and they all did the same thing. They pumped away in mass slabs – they were called "The TKO Horns" – and placed some heavy brass weights on the confectionaries Costello had thoughtfully wrapped up. There was a song called "Everyday I Write The Book," which actually cracked the bottom of the Top 40 pop charts. Oh, man, was this sucker clever. It was an uninterrupted metaphor for love about book authorship. There was another metaphor for love, prizefighting, in "Boxing Day (TKO)." I got 'em! That's the important point.

And this album had a lyric sheet on it, too. You could read it. It wasn't the spaghetti-like mess that Imperial Bedroom threw at me. Each lyric was properly presented underneath the title of the song. Man, I can't tell you how many man-hours that saved.

Nowadays I don't have too much more to say about this album. Even Elvis once claimed that a lot of this album's slighter songs – "Love Went Mad," "Mouth Almighty," maybe "Charm School" – were more triumphs of profane cleverness than of subject matter. You could pick apart the smart lines, separate them from the rest of the song, deposit them in your bank of quotations and whip them out later to prove how amusing you are.

Lines like "I wish you luck with a capital 'F'" ("Love Went Mad"). Okay -- that's funny. I might say it tomorrow, come to think of it. I'll be entertaining some guests and I think they would appreciate the rougish wit. As Costello told an interviewer who defended how much he liked that line, "Oh, it'd probably sound great in a pub."

All you really need to take with you from Punch The Clock these days are the songs with the horns, the pair of stunning political protests ("Shipbuilding" and "Pills & Soap"), and the first of only two Top 40 hits Elvis was ever able to manage. The rest of it's sorta like a chocolate Easter bunny. It'll go good with your jet-ski. No songs on Punch The Clock suck. But a few of them wheeze a little.

But screw it! I was a 16-year-old kid with a Hall & Oates complex and Punch The Clock was possibly the biggest high-school crush I ever had. It certainly put out more than the others. (See? I'm witty!) More importantly, it did the job. Now instead of hemming and hawing over the older Elvis Costello albums with "The Nice Price!" stickers on them, I was going to go out and buy every last one of them without hesitation. Sooner rather than later. Sorry, Howard Jones, get in the back of the queue.

By the end of the autumn of 1983 I'd finally managed to pick up the three first albums of his, the ones I was scared of, and that's where the real story begins.

Now I feel kinda dirty. I'm gonna go back and start on the third chapter of Ulysses again to jack up the short-term I.Q. Maybe tomorrow I'll crack a joke about Buck Mulligan at a cockfight. That'll be hilarious. Introibo ad altare Dei, sucka. Pass the olives.

To be continued.

by Paul

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Postby littletriggers » Sun Jul 15, 2007 12:22 pm

John , couldn't be bothered to read the opening paragraphs , but glad to read this was the LP to get you hooked I did play today and now feeling a little horse, can't be beaten in the feelgood singalong stakes.

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Postby lostdog » Mon Jul 16, 2007 6:39 am

littletriggers wrote:now feeling a little horse

That's technically illegal, you know....

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Postby johnfoyle » Sun Nov 11, 2007 11:50 am

I listened , for the first time ages , to this album in full today and, was just knocked out ( ha, ha....) by the 'Charm School' and 'The Invisible Man'. There are some astonishing bass and piano parts on both . Keeping in mind a recent Martin Amis interview ( [i]The novel he most admires is Nabokov’s Lolita. “I must know it as well as I know any book. But it’s always different … You’ve got to read it every decade of your life because you are a different person.â€

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PTC - original release ...

Postby charliestumpy » Mon Nov 12, 2007 4:54 am

Remember very well that sunny Saturday straight after release of LP buying my PTC vinyl - hated brass on it for a while, but now love it all.

I never play my vinyl now on LP12 but stick CD(s) in Naim CDP/dance like a whirling dervish when any of the PTC tracks are played on radio.

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Re: PTC - original release ...

Postby verbal gymnastics » Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:02 am

charliestumpy wrote:Remember very well that sunny Saturday straight after release of LP buying my PTC vinyl - hated brass on it for a while, but now love it all.

I remember listening to the album and not being overly impressed until I heard the last track - I loved it. And I went out wondering where "Taramasalata" was..
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Re: 1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote

Postby johnfoyle » Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:50 pm

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Re: 1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote

Postby johnfoyle » Wed Jul 11, 2012 4:38 pm

I just stumbled on this fascinating account of working with Elvis right through the PTC period, written by one of members of The TKO Horns


This blog entry linked this - http://lineartrackinglives.blogspot.ie/ ... -horn.html

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Re: 1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote/ TKO Horn member tells

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:21 pm

Enjoyed that read. In particular, the discussion about how initially they tried to differentiate their sound from others by not utilizing a trumpet. Interesting to view Declan's working habits through another pair of eyes and ears. Still for my money a most enjoyable record and probably my favorite tour from all that I have seen. They helped considerably to bring that material alive on stage and on the record for my ears. Witness:
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: 1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote/ TKO Horn member tells

Postby Top balcony » Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:42 pm

Yeah - big thanks from me too John, really interesting.

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Re: 1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote/ TKO Horn member tells

Postby johnfoyle » Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:33 pm

It was sad to read about the death of trumpet player Dave Plews ; the Yoko Ono story is hilarious.

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Re: 1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote/ TKO Horn member tells

Postby johnfoyle » Fri Aug 23, 2013 6:48 am

On the Costello-l Facebook page we have been discussing aspects of some photos - by Keith Morris - that appeared in the booklet with the Rhino reissue of PTC.


Mark Perry commented -

Whenever Bruce has achieved the coolest look you know that the other three have let themselves down badly. Pete appears to have grabbed his ensemble from the laundry basket in a students' hall of residence. Steve looks like one of those French exchange students we used to get at school who would spend much of their valuable time in England smoking Gitanes in the bogs and sneering at the French teachers' accents. And Elvis, with the golf umbrella, beret and wide-leg trousers. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear.

This affords a clearer account of our hero's garb, minus, of course, Bruce's headgear.

Pete seems to have thought this session was for Hello! and was prepared to honour that magazine's tradition of having subjects in different outfits in each photo. What a pity his colleagues didn't make a similar effort.

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Re: 1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote

Postby thepopeofpop » Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:42 pm

johnfoyle wrote:I just stumbled on this fascinating account of working with Elvis right through the PTC period, written by one of members of The TKO Horns


This blog entry linked this - http://lineartrackinglives.blogspot.ie/ ... -horn.html

Very interesting read. I'd figured that EC had done the horn arrangements somehow - but since he couldn't write musical notation back then I'd wondered about the process.
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Re: 1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote/ TKO Horn member tells all

Postby johnfoyle » Tue Nov 23, 2021 12:22 pm

I just stumbled on this fascinating account of working with Elvis right through the PTC period, written by one of members of The TKO Horns


This blog entry linked this - http://lineartrackinglives.blogspot.ie/ ... -horn.html

Paul Speare's account of touring with Elvis in 1983 as part of the TKO Horns is no longer at the link above .

Did anyone save it ?

Fellow TKO member Jeff Blythe talks about the expierience in the latest episode of the Dangerous Amusements podcast


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Re: 1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote/ TKO Horn member tells all

Postby And No Coffee Table » Tue Nov 23, 2021 2:20 pm

johnfoyle wrote:Paul Speare's account of touring with Elvis in 1983 as part of the TKO Horns is no longer at the link above .

Did anyone save it ?

https://web.archive.org/web/20131205084 ... ge0003.htm

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Re: 1983, Punch The Clock sleevenote/ TKO Horn member tells all

Postby johnfoyle » Tue Nov 23, 2021 5:47 pm

Great , thank you

TKO - A Year in the Life of a Horn Section

By Paul Speare

There are two gold discs on my wall which represent the same achievements (100,000 copies sold) but tell completely different stories. One, the less celebrated of the pair, from which Elvis Costello stares ashen-faced, represents, what seemed at the time to be, the highlight of my commercial music career.  The year was 1983 and the album, "Punch the Clock".

 It seems that EC doesn't hold this album in particularly high regard (as evidenced by his own sleeve notes on the 1995 CD re-release).  He was also dismissive of one of its single releases, "Let Them All Talk", in a television interview on Clive Anderson's "All Talk" show which used it as a signature tune: "As a soul record, it makes a great signature tune for a chat show".

 Ironically, before I began working with EC I hadn't really listened to any of his music.  I missed out on the late seventies' punk explosion (and its offshoots) altogether, being heavily involved at the time in funk bands around Birmingham.  It wasn't until I joined Dexys Midnight Runners, at the end of 1980, that its influence became relevant to the music I was playing.  This was also when I first met Jim Paterson (trombonist, and an original Dexys member) and Brian Brummit, aka Brian Maurice (alto sax player, a new band member like myself).  I was recruited on tenor sax.  This three-piece horn section was, after another two years (and that's another story), to become the nucleus of the TKO Horns.

 Having broken free from Dexys, our now freelance and anonymous horn section was, in late 1982, touring Britain with the Q-Tips, a soul revival band fronted by Paul Young, and it was partly through their contact with EC that he became interested in recruiting us for his next project.  Also, we'd recorded Dexys "Too-rye-ay" album with the production team of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley who were associates of EC and would be producing his next album.

 Brian was ecstatic and insisted that I listen to some tracks from "Imperial Bedroom".  The two which made the biggest impression on me were "Town Cryer" and "Man Out of Time", which were a total surprise, with their soaring melodies, lyrics, expansive production and arrangements, and the glorious piano playing of Steve Nieve (I was expecting to be quite underwhelmed by some reasonably good pop/rock material).  I, too, became quite excited at what might be in store.



 It was late November 1982 when Jim, Brian and I were called to meet EC and his manager, Jake Riviera, at The Jam Studios in North London.  He was affable, with a sharp wit, but simultaneously very focused.  He outlined some ideas he had for using horns on his new material and rehearsals were booked at Shepperton for 13 December onwards.  There was no time to waste - gigs were lined up for the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool on 21 December and the Royal Albert Hall on the 24th and 27th - the horns would be playing a half-hour spot during the set.  There would only be five days to arrange, rehearse and memorize all this material.  To add to the pressure, he wanted us to record a version of his recent release, "Party Party", for an appearance on Channel 4's "Afternoon Plus" on the 15th.  Fortunately, we were used to picking up new arrangements quickly through our previous work, but all this would be a challenge in the time available and the stakes were high.  Oh, and by the way, could we recruit a trumpet player?

 To those in the know, it's a bit unusual for a horn section like ours not to include a trumpet.  This was a legacy from our Dexys 'pedigree' where a fat, rasping sound was the order of the day.  Since then, we'd kept the line-up to alto sax, tenor sax and trombone, partly because we felt this sound lent us a particular identity, and also because no one we'd worked with since had insisted on us adding anything else, except the occasional soprano sax part.  Anyway, that was all about to change - EC didn't want our horn sound to be too close to the now-famous Dexys and so Dave Plews, a contemporary of Jim's at Leeds College of Music some years before, was brought in.  Dave was a considerable player whose experience in jazz and musical shows was rather different to our own, but his powerful tone and aggressive playing lent themselves perfectly to our style.  (Sadly, Dave Plews took his own life in November 2000.  He was 42.)

 We arrived at Shepperton on the first day and attempted to get to grips with all the arrangements that were thrown at us.  I very quickly realised that EC was like a big-band arranger without manuscript paper - all the horn lead lines were already in his head and sung or played on the piano to us, from which we'd construct harmony parts where necessary.  Steve Nieve also contributed ideas, often taken from his own keyboard parts.  We'd frequently worked this way with other artists, but they were never so sure as EC about what they wanted.  Gratification was instant on playing back these arrangements with the Attractions, a rhythm section of the highest calibre.  Everything seemed to slot together as if we'd been playing as a band for years and the Attractions seemed as fired-up about the sound as we were.

 When I received the itinerary for these December gigs, under the title "Party Party", I noticed that our horn section had grown a name, "The Royal Guard Horns" - not something that truly reflected our sound or image - but by the Royal Albert Hall dates this had been changed to "The Imperial Horns", a very slight improvement.  Anyway, it showed EC's desire to give us some sort of identity within the band, and that couldn't be bad.

 The Liverpool gig came and went, and as far as I can remember, went down well with the crowd.  At least our five days' rehearsals had enabled us to 'break the ice' without embarrassment before the daunting task of playing two nights at the Royal Albert Hall.  One detail I do remember from Liverpool was that EC had developed a prominent scouse accent for the occasion, which was the subject of mild amusement among band and crew.

 Christmas Eve arrived.  I'm not usually nervous about performing live, however big the venue, but as I waited backstage at the Albert, standing beside the famous conductor's podium, I was soon aware that this occasion would be different.  The Hall is steeped in musical history, its grandeur impressive - almost intimidating - and did I really know all the horn parts?  For that matter, did Jim, Brian and Dave really know all the horn parts?  Would my faithful old Selmer Mark 6 decide, on this auspicious occasion, to throw a wobbler during the set, leaving me with only half the notes working?  And why had I never worried about this before?

 I needn't have been apprehensive - we gave a good account of ourselves that night and there was a feeling of pride and achievement within the "Imperial Horns" at having pulled it off within the limited time and in such grandiose circumstances.  During the final number, "Pump It Up", there was a chance to let loose and really enjoy ourselves, the gig now more or less 'in the bag'.  In the extended chorus near the end we found ourselves using more of the stage area and I was jumping across towards Pete Thomas's drum kit, hammering home the rhythm in a state of mad relief!

 There wasn't much time for congratulations afterwards as the horns had to rush off to the Venue, Victoria to play another gig.  It was the Q-Tips Christmas bash and, as it turned out, their final gig together.  By this time Paul Young's first album, "No Parlez", was well in progress and his future career would be as a solo artist.

 After a very brief Christmas break, we were back again at the Albert for the 27th.  No problems there - by now we felt we'd passed the audition and this was confirmed by the fact that EC had asked us to play on the forthcoming album to be recorded in March and April.



 The next couple of months were to involve working on new material for "Punch the Clock" at Shepperton.  It was around this time that Jim rang me to discuss Brian's future in the horn section and his possible replacement.  This was something of a shock as Brian was a good friend and source of wicked Geordie humour when it was needed.  Although Jim’s reasoning (something I don’t wish to discuss here) was sound, I wasn't looking forward to the prospect of Brian’s demise one bit.  Also, who would replace him and still provide the sort of sax tone we needed?  The decision had to be made quickly, before rehearsals commenced, and Brian was replaced by Jeff Blythe.  Jeff was another Dexys player, from its first incarnation, who'd left with four other members to form The Bureau.  When this happened I joined Dexys as his replacement.  The Bureau had a deal with Warner Brothers but the album hadn't sold that well and, eventually, it all fell apart.  Jeff was primarily a tenor sax player but was willing to play alto with us and had no other major commitments at the time.  Now, with the difficult decisions behind us, and feeling stronger musically and temperamentally, it was time to move on.

 Another addition to the expanding line-up of EC's band was "Afrodiziak" - Caron Wheeler and Claudia Fontaine - two relatively inexperienced, but inventive singers who were to add some very original and off-beat parts to the songs.  (Caron Wheeler is probably best known for her later work with Soul-2-Soul, particularly the vocal on “Back to Life, Back to Reality”.   She has also released her own solo albums since).

 During this period, Steve Nieve was also composing and rehearsing solo piano material for his album, "Keyboard Jungle".  In order to do this he was sleeping at the studio (an ex-film stage the size of an aircraft hangar) on many nights.  We'd walk in each day to find his sleeping bag on the floor by the piano. (He didn't say much about this work, but I received a copy on its release and, to this day, still enjoy it.  It's strictly in the 'classical' tradition and shows the other, more serious side of Steve’s talents.  Apparently, it was recorded in less than a day).

 The horn section had been given a new name.  EC had written a song called “TKO (Boxing Day)", with a lot of references to boxing terms, and tagged us with the title.  I'm no boxing aficionado but this was a definite improvement: "The TKO Horns".

 We commenced recording at Air Studios, London.  Most of the rhythm tracks had already been laid down, along with some of EC's vocals.  As mentioned earlier, Jim and I had worked with the producers, Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, on the second Dexys album (and it was much to their credit that they managed to bring those songs to life in the studio environment where previous producers had struggled), so we were used to their approach and they knew how to get the best from us.  Alan was frequently involved with the sound engineering, whereas Clive came up with lots of ideas 'on the hoof' for extra (or sometimes less) parts, once the basis was recorded.

 The whole horn section was recorded together, as we played tighter that way, but was often 'double-tracked' (recorded twice) to fatten-up the sound or add harmonies.  Clive would come up with some unexpected parts at times which really added to the size of the arrangements - a particularly good example is in the later choruses of "Let Them All Talk" where, under the main double-tracked horn riff, there's a long note harmony part played by the whole section, making twelve horns in total.  Combined with Afrodiziak's (again, double-tracked) rhythmic vocal parts, a throbbing string section, EC's lead vocal and the Attractions' thumping rhythm track, it all adds up to an arrangement of almost orchestral proportions.  Such is the skill of Langer & Winstanley.  There's a similar treatment towards the end of "The World and His Wife" where we were presented with a fairly tricky stuttering horn part which we would later have to incorporate in the live version.  (Another trumpet player, Stuart Robson, appears on "The World and His Wife".  This horn part was recorded later than the others, at Genetic Studios, Reading, during the mixing stage - Dave had other commitments at the time).

 I provided the flute part to "The Flirting Kind", which was originally the ‘b' side of the "Let Them All Talk" single.  Jeff got to play some clarinet and baritone sax on "The Greatest Thing". (EC credits me with the clarinet on the re-release sleeve notes but my clarinet playing is suitable for comedy purposes only!)

 Further evidence of Langer and Winstanley's inventiveness at the board is heard in their 12-inch remix of "Let Them All Talk", where various sections of the song feature particular instruments, overlaid with bizarre vocal babble and digital effects.  We first heard this version while touring the USA and it provoked a reaction of horror from one or two of the Attractions.  I was inspired by this technical wizardry to get involved in remixing and editing myself later on.

 The album completed, the TKO Horns were required for a photo session for the sleeve.  Not being the most good-looking or photogenic 'popsters', we'd decided to splash out on some matching sharp suits which we had made in the Kings Road - blue silk but each with a different cut.  The end result was quite pleasing and made us look mildly like a bunch of protection racketeers, especially in the photo used for the album, taken by Nick Knight.



 When the tour of America was first mentioned I almost refused to believe it.  I'd never been there before, and to be paid to spend two months there, playing at big venues from East to West in this great band, seemed too good to be true.

 Anyway, we arrived, slightly bewildered, in Lititz PA on August lst for a 'dress rehearsal'.  This was mainly for the crew and band to get accustomed to the rig.  Then came our first gig, Allentown PA.  The difference from a British audience was immediately obvious - the response to every number (and even every sentence spoken by EC) was incredible, and I knew that this tour would be different to any I'd done before.

 By August 7th we'd arrived in New York where we would stay for five nights while playing two gigs at The Pier and The Arena, Long Island.  This gave us some time to do some sightseeing and serious partying!

 The bulk of the travel was done in two luxury Greyhound buses - each with its own dining, lounge and sleeping areas - one for EC and the Attractions and the other for the horns. (On some of the longer journeys flights were booked, which could cut the time from twelve hours to one or two).

 The tour manager, hardened by years of doing this unenviable job, would charm us with his legendary wake-up phone calls which went something like, "Oi!  Aren't you out of bed yet?  Bus leaves in ten minutes - if you're not on it, it'll go without ya - and tell the others" (phone hangs up immediately).  This is the censored version.

 The support band for the tour was Aztec Camera, led by the highly talented Roddy Frame.  They had yet to break through to chart success and therefore had their own, more modest travel arrangements, consisting of a fairly small motorized caravan, one driver and a tour manager.

 "Let Them All Talk" was to be released as a single from "Punch the Clock" and a video to be produced when we got to Milwaukee WI on the 25th August.  We were becoming quite tired by this stage of the tour and were looking forward to the scheduled day off, but were taken to a sort of large arts studio for the filming.  During the day, the shots involving the whole band were done, and then EC's and the Attractions' close-ups.  The horns hung around the studio all day, doing the occasional hour or so for a particular shot.  It was around eleven at night - when we were ready to collapse into a heap with fatigue - that we were called for the horns close-ups.  We knew this was going to be something of an endurance test!

 It had been decided to use black & white film for this promo and we had to wear a particular type of make-up for the best effect.  This could loosely be described as a white, powdery foundation with blackish-blue lipstick and some shadowy stuff around the eyes.  From eleven till four in the morning, four ghouls were put through their paces before the camera with barely the energy to stand, let alone perform their usually dynamic stage act for this up-tempo tune.  (The single didn't chart and I never saw the video until around ten years later.  Funnily enough, the make-up had the right effect and we had, somehow, turned in a pretty strong performance).

 September 3rd, and we arrived in New Orleans ready to record a Yoko Ono song, "Walking On Thin Ice", which EC had been requested by Ms Ono to cover on the album "Every Man Loves a Woman".  This was to be done at Sea-Saint Studios - the workplace and base of Allen Toussaint, a veteran New Orleans producer and performer.  The Attractions' rhythm track, it was reported, was completed very quickly and the horns then arrived at the studio.  We'd previously had a couple of quick run-throughs of the main riffs with EC and Steve but, as is usual, there were a couple of extra new parts added during the session.  We were generally pretty quick at getting parts down in studios - a horn section which works together as often, and for as long as us, would be - but there would inevitably be parts to re-do.  One of these became a memorable event on this particular session due to the 'cool' of Toussaint.  I've heard various diplomatic terms in the studio headphones when the correct take wasn't forthcoming, but on playing one slightly duff phrase, Toussaint's deep resonance commented, "Yeah guys - I think we have a slight flam concept here".  A "flam concept"?  Jeff, unaccustomed to drumming terms, turned to me quizzically, not wishing to question the terminology of the great man, and I lifted one side of his headphones to respond in a hushed voice, "He means we're not together".  Nevertheless, despite this minor hiccup, the whole session was wrapped up in half an hour and EC has commented since that he thinks it's the best he ever heard us play.

 This recording venture was to lead to another memorable event towards the end of the USA tour, in San Francisco.  As a "thank you" for the recording, Yoko Ono invited EC and the band to her hotel suite for supper and drinks.  This took place in a large room with a 'top table' at one end, at which sat herself and EC, and a bar and food tables at the other.  Bodyguards were obviously present, as was Shaun Lennon - a seven or eight-year-old at the time - a combination which led to a slightly uncomfortable moment.

 Jeff had a liking for kids and was entertaining the young Lennon rather noisily near one of the balconied french windows, watched by one of the bodyguards.  A crescendo of laughter and delight led to Jeff picking up the lad bodily and exclaiming, "That's it - I'm throwing you out of the window - oh yes I am (etc. etc.)"  Lennon was enjoying every moment but I thought it might be time for Jeff to put him back on the floor when the bodyguard's hand had slipped into the inside of his jacket while watching him with a steely gaze.  "Jeff," - I tried to catch his attention as casually as possible - "can you come here a minute?"  We all lived to tell the tale.

 As the evening wore on, I became aware that Ms Ono wasn't moving from the 'top table'.  She and EC were chatting continuously and there was no sign of her making any attempt to meet us – a great example of the rock business hierarchy system.  I decided that I couldn't return to England, having been to Yoko Ono's party, without at least saying "Hello" - it would be a bit like going to Disneyland and not meeting Mickey Mouse - so I decided to make the move, also enlisting Jeff.  It may appear that I'm blowing this out of proportion, but so seemed the situation - we felt like courtiers in the palace of Queen Elizabeth I.  Determined to break the stalemate, we strode up to the 'top table' and I interrupted the conversation with, "Hi!  I'm Paul, this is Jeff, and we played saxes on the track".  A limp hand was held forward and, for a split second, it wouldn't have seemed out of place to have got down on one knee and kissed it, but as I crushed it with my customary firm handshake Ms Ono replied, "Hello, there's plenty of food at the other end if you'd like to help yourselves".  Such was the esteem with which we, mere session musicians, were regarded.

 The tour ended at the Calexpo Amphitheatre, Sacramento CA on September 24th.  My first experience of the USA had been something of a baptism of fire, performing 36 shows in 57 days across most of the country.  On returning home there would be only a week or so before the British tour.



 The British Autumn Tour commenced in Newcastle-on-Tyne on October 5th and was for one month with a short trip to Essen, Germany for "Rockpalast" on the 15th.  This was an annual all-day rock event, broadcast over Eurovision networks to most of Northern Europe, attracting an estimated audience of 25 million.  I think we gave an appropriate performance!

 The tour itself passed without major event, as I remember (it was certainly low-key compared to the scale of the USA), and ended with an appearance on Channel 4's "The Tube".  We only had to play one number, "Everyday I Write the Book", which had a horn arrangement on live performances.



 This one month tour began on November 5th without a rest from the British tour.  By this stage we were showing signs of fatigue and needed a holiday.  Touring is hard work in terms of the relentless travel and performance schedules, without taking into account ‘leisure activities’ which add their own stresses by distracting participants from regular and sufficient sleep.  In addition, the European travel frequently consisted of twelve or fourteen-hour journeys and was all accomplished in one bus which, for this purpose, was basic.  Winter was also setting in as we hit Scandinavia.  By November 29th, our last commitment in Europe, a TV show in Amsterdam, all we could think about was getting home and having a break.



 EC found the horn section some other recording sessions around this time, most notably the title track on the Madness album "Keep Moving" (produced again by Langer & Winstanley) and "Actions Speak Faster", a track on Difford & Tilbrook's album.  The latter provided my first experience of playing baritone sax, which was hired in for the session by the producer, Tony Visconti.  After playing tenor and soprano since I began, the baritone was almost like discovering 'the meaning of life' and is, to this day, my main instrument.

 The final bash for the TKO Horns, as it turned out, was to be the two Christmas gigs at Hammersmith Odeon, London.  It seemed that EC had a change of heart around this time as we'd been given a schedule for February rehearsals and a French tour, and Japan had also been mentioned, but by Christmas this was not to be and we were advised to start looking for our next contract.

 The TKO Horns had been voted number 1 in the Miscellaneous category of New Musical Express Readers' Poll for 1983, and gold discs were presented to us by Jake Riviera for "Punch the Clock".

 Exactly one year after our Albert Hall gigs, we played with Elvis Costello and the Attractions for the last time.  It was also the last time TKO played together regularly as a horn section after a total of three years' non-stop work.  Dave, as ever, had offers of work lasting well into 1984 and shortly embarked upon a world tour with Eurythmics.  I needed a break from the full-time music industry, particularly touring, and took an extended holiday to formulate ideas for the future.  However, I did one further bit of work with EC during this time and, ironically, it was far-and-away the most famous of our collaborations.



 EC mentioned the idea of a protest song to me during December.  He would be producing it with Langer & Winstanley and had an idea for a tin whistle part. (My limited tin whistle skills were featured on the opening of a tune from the Dexys album, called "Until I Believe in My Soul", but the part was very slow and involved a grand total of five notes.  I was a little concerned about being presented with, for instance, an up-tempo Irish improvisation style on this instrument with only six holes).  Anyway I agreed to do the track and thought no more of it.

 January 1984 arrived and a rehearsal was booked for the band, The Special AKA, before the session at AIR Studios in Oxford Street, London.  The band consisted of Jerry Dammers and John Bradbury from the original Specials, Afrodiziac and various other musicians, and the song was "Free Nelson Mandela".  The tin whistle part was easy enough and my session lasted half an hour.  Little did any of us realise what an anthem of the eighties this would become!  A few more TV appearances sprang from it, including The Tube, Top of the Pops and some in Europe.



 And that was it.  I never returned to performing and touring as a full time occupation after 1983.  My attention turned towards the recording and production process and I opened a studio in Tamworth, Staffordshire in 1985.  Later I got back into playing with various bands and led my own ten-piece dance band for several years.

 I've seen EC performing live once since then, at a stadium in California when I was there on holiday in 1993.  Seeing and hearing the show from the audience made me realise why the crowds reacted as they did - it was a superb performance.

 And the other gold disc?  Dexys’ “Too-rye-ay”, and that’s another story altogether.

 Paul Speare

Copyright 1998

Revised 2003 

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