I'm an obsessive. How else would phrases like 'the queue stretches right down the hall',
'knobs and screws and toggles' or 'residues of which you're better rid' have become
incorporated, however subtly, into my everyday conversation. These songs had a quirky,
intellectual appeal, yet they still managed to satisfy my rock music sensibilities. More
than that, their idiosyncratic melodies somehow made them work all the better - from
Master of the Revels to Uncle Sea-Bird they had become indispensable. I'd long
suspected that more Pete Atkin/Clive James material existed, unrecorded - a stash of
first-rate songs in danger of being lost forever. I wanted to unearth it.
The Internet was the catalyst. Artists with the slightest of followings seemed to warrant a
Website, but where was Pete Atkin in all of this? Eventually I discovered a listing for him,
an advert for a folk club date on the south coast. So he still made the occasional
appearance! I hatched a plan for the dream event: I'd build a festival around a Pete
Atkin comeback concert and invite all Atkin aficionados to my Derbyshire farm. But first
I had to make contact.
When I first wrote to Pete in the summer of 1996 I hardly expected a reply. It was 20
years since I'd seen his name in the popular music press: he was no longer a part of
that world. Those songs, those six albums so important to some of us through the 1970's,
had surely been forgotten, perhaps even by Pete himself. Since that time, Clive James
had grown into a monster TV personality and Pete himself had, I'd heard, become
something big in BBC network radio.
Confounding my natural reservations, Pete turned out to be generous and self-effacing,
and the perennial trouper. I assembled a Website, and the long-dormant Atkin audience
began to surface via the electronic medium. In August 1997 my dream became reality:
the Monyash Festival culminated in a two and a half hour, 31-song set in which
Pete sang and played, better it seemed than ever, to a marquee full of delighted fans.
As a special guest he invited Julie Covington, who sang five Atkin/James
compositions. Pete himself performed three songs never before recorded.
Now, just four years on, not only do we find Pete's entire back catalogue available
for the first time on CD, but he and Clive have an extensive UK concert tour planned.
The reawakened interest in Pete's work has taken him back into the studio, where he's
laid down these two discs, incorporating the three 'new' songs from 1997 together
with twenty more which wouldn't otherwise have been aired, three previously recorded
by Julie, and two totally new ones written with Clive since the revival began. Here
are some of their greatest ever compositions: History and Geography, Canoe,
Femme Fatale, You Alone Will be My Last Adventure, The Eye of the Universe.
I count myself most fortunate in having been able to contribute to the realisation
of this recording.
Stephen J Birkill Sheffield, August 2001