With the suspension of live performances imposed in Spring 2020 by the COVID-19 outbreak, Pete decided, with accompanist Simon Wallace, to give his fans a series of virtual concerts. This song, from his 1973 album 'A King At Nightfall' was their first.
#2: Girl On The Train
Simon assembled the tracks he recorded at his home studio in Dulwich along with those Pete laid down in Bristol, to create the multitrack videos. Here he replicates Pete's 1970 strings arrangement using three cello parts... and a model railway.
#3: Have You Got A Biro I Can Borrow?
What a difference Simon's sweeping, sonorous piano intro makes, to this, one of the first songs Pete co-wrote with Clive James. The calligraphy, in Japanese kanji (assimilated Chinese characters) spells out 'Aikido', a Japanese martial art.
#4: The Last Hill That Shows You All The Valley
Another from 1973, with a lyric revisiting Clive's perennial theme of humanity's folly through wars down the ages, this version maintains the urgent drive of the original. A cracking percussion track here, and an interesting set of changes in the coda.
#5: Driving Through Mythical America
Another percussive treatment, this really bursts into life where the intro meets the first line, driven by rock-band bass. Clive's song about the Kent State shootings puts the event squarely in his named construct, society sleepwalk-enacting popular culture.
#6: Razor Boy
A break from self-penned material. Steely Dan fans will recognise this song by Becker and Fagen, from the Dan's second album. Straightforward arrangement here, single-track vocal, though with some nifty piano fills. The video has a real 'live' presence.
#7: The Road Of Silk
Named for the ancient trade route from China to Europe, a lyric full of half-recalled childhood imagery as we contemplate the subject's last days. Especially poignant in memory of its author, whose magnificent circus finally left town just months ago.
#8: The Party's Moving On
Pete Atkin and Simon Wallace tackle this very early James/Atkin song, demo'd by Julie Covington on February 4th, 1969. It needed just three almost imperceptible pronoun changes for Pete to make it his own. Marvellous keyboard work!
#9: The Go-Away Man
You'll not have heard this: an unrecorded (not even demo'd) James/Atkin song from the late 1960s — a classic Jamesian lyrical theme from the man who's been around. Pete and Simon work their magic-at-a- distance to bring it to us, 50-plus years on.
#10: History And Geography
As lockdown returns to England, Pete Atkin and Simon Wallace apply their considerable complementary skills to this new recording of one of the greatest James/Atkin songs, complete with an unmistakeable line from Shakespeare. Currently the featured video.
The Colours Of The Night
Coincident with the release of his latest CD (June 2015), Pete visited Clive in the book- lined study/kitchen of his Cambridge home. Here we see them in conversation, intercut with clips from some of the songs, shot in Simon Wallace's studio in south London.
You'd Better Face It Boy
New to most fans from the CD 'The Colours Of The Night', this song actually dates from the earliest days of the James/Atkin song- writing partnership, first appearing on the 1967 privately-pressed LP 'While The Music Lasts'. Here Simon accompanies on piano.
Since 2016 Pete has performed regularly with Simon at The Pheasantry, basement jazz venue of Pizza Express in London's Kings Road. Here he sings the song that gave Midnight Voices its name. Audience video by Seán Kelly, 31st January 2018.
All The Dead Were Strangers
In 2006 Pete played a special concert for members of Midnight Voices at the Lantern Theatre, a bijou 80-seat venue in Sheffield, with a reception afterwards. It was such a success that he returned in 2009, when he played us this song about the Vietnam War.
May 2012 saw a very special event. Pete performed a solo concert at the historic Château Vieux de Saint-Germain-en-Laye just outside Paris, plus an all-day event in an adjacent walled garden. Here he is with this James/Atkin song from 1974.
Search And Destroy
Another from 2009's follow-up to Theatre of Dreams at Sheffield's Lantern Theatre. 'Search and Destroy' employs one of Clive James' favourite lyrical tropes, seamlessly transposing a well-known historical event into a present-day wartime context.
History And Geography
Pete's 'comeback' gig (though he'd never really gone away) was headlining the 1997 Monyash Festival in Derbyshire, with Julie Covington as his special guest. This was a song new to everyone there, eventually to appear on 'The Lakeside Sessions' in 2001.
The Old Grey Whistle Test
BBC TV session 25th June 1974 for 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' presented by Bob Harris. Pete Atkin plays 'An Array Of Passionate Lovers' and 'Care-Charmer Sleep', accompanied by Steve Cook (bass guitar) and Paul Keogh (electric guitar).
This song, dating from the early 1970s, relates how Pete became the owner of this fine vintage instrument, an original National Steel guitar. Here Pete plays the song to an appreciative crowd at the first Monyash Festival, Derbyshire, England, in 1997.
Pete proves there was life after 'Live Libel' (1975). Here he appears on Yorkshire Television's game show '3-2-1' (Series 2, Episode 14, 'Folk Legends') in January 1980, in an amusing routine featuring a pull-along toy horse. The mail man?
The Way You Are With Me
Demonstrating that the best vantage point for an audience video is the one where you most need to keep yourself small, I shot this at the Dulwich Festival in 2009, where Pete appeared with Sarah Moule, Simon Wallace and Nicki Leighton-Thomas. [SJB]
Beware Of The Beautiful Stranger
Pete plays this, one of his most perennially popular songs, at Bernard Hoskin's venue Acoustic Routes, in the basement of the CB2 restaurant in Cambridge, on the 11th of October 2014.More at www.acousticroutes.co.uk
During Pete's music's 'Wilderness Years' (when he held a senior post in BBC Light Entertainment, producing many classic radio shows) this song, often rumoured, seldom heard, came to represent an almost legendary unattainable treasure.
Ian Shircore's books on Clive James and Pete Atkin
SO BRIGHTLY AT THE LAST Red Door, 2019 ISBN 978-1-913062-07-1
LOOSE CANON Red Door, 2016 ISBN 978-1-910453-23-0
So Brightly at the Last: Clive James and the Passion for Poetry
Clive James, famously having announced his imminent demise several years too early, while continuing to create a brilliant dying blaze of poetic beauty, has finally quit the stage, the sad songs left half-done. Ian Shircore's new book takes an in-depth look at the poetry of late-period James, illustrating and analysing with example and anecdote not only the works themselves, but the creative impulse that drove the Kid from Kogarah to become one of the great poets of our time.
So Brightly at the Last (ISBN 978-1-913062-07-1) by Ian Shircore was published in 2019 by Red Door and is available in hardback and e-book formats from Amazon.
Loose Canon: The Extraordinary Songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin
Here's the book we didn't even realise we were waiting for. Author Ian Shircore has created this splendid tribute to the canon and its creators, filled with observation and anecdote, and reinforced with background material from both Pete and Clive. This is no scholarly analysis; instead it skips lightly through the songs' structure and content, and intrigues the reader with whimsical diversions into related fields of art, literature and (especially) popular music.
Loose Canon (ISBN 978-1-910453-23-0) by Ian Shircore was published on October 13th 2016 by Red Door and is available in hardback, paperback and e-book formats from Amazon.
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