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Smash Flops

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Welcome to Midnight Voices !
The ‘lockdown’ series #1: Screen-Freak
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 in 2019.
#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
The Colours Of The Night
Coincident with the release of his 2015 CD,
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.
Payday Evening
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.
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).
National Steel
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.
Errant Knight (abridged)
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.
Music and Arts Festival in North Yorkshire
Whitby Pavilion, 20th – 22nd October
Day tickets now on sale here. Awaiting confirmation of day!
Interested in booking Pete Atkin?
Serious enquiries please to: <>
Catch Pete on his other gig, keyboarding with Bristol-based
alt-country sensation THE SHRINKS on songs by the likes of
Waits, Prine, Newman, Hiatt, Parsons and... David Brown.
Available now from the Hillside Music on-line shop
Next Shrinks gig: [ No information at present ]
MV banner
DISCOGRAPHY of all Pete Atkin recordings
— includes listing of all known songs, recorded or not —
with lyrics, chords, annotations and session notes

The Luck of the Draw
The Clive James – Pete Atkin Songbook, Volume 2
New arrangements of Pete Atkin classics, plus some never before recorded. With Simon Wallace and band. Released September 1st
Hillside Music On-Line Shop

The Clive James Website, restored!
Following the collapse of Web hosting for Clive James's website in 2018, with loss of all content, we have constructed, with the blessing of Clive's daughter Claerwen, an enhanced and updated replica of the original site, true in style and content to Clive's vision, as far as possible given the loss of the original files. Our “Clive James Website Archive” is huge, contains almost all of his published work, and is hosted on a subdomain of Claerwen's new clivejames.com. Find the Archive at
Clive James' latest publications


Picador, 2020
ISBN 978-1-5290-4208-5


Picador, 2019
ISBN 978-1-5290-2882-9
Ian Shircore's books on Clive James and Pete Atkin


Red Door, 2019
ISBN 978-1-913062-07-1


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 the now defunct Red Door.

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 currently available from Pete's own Hillside Music Shop.

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- inaugurated July 1996 in rwt.co.uk Webspace -
- static content last updated 27th September 2023 -
Disclaimer : I, Stephen J Birkill, operate Smash Flops, the Pete Atkin Website, as a spare-time non-profit venture, to provide a free source of information and entertainment for fans of Pete Atkin. Though it has Pete's blessing, it remains independent: this isn't an official site in the usual sense of being sponsored or financially supported by the artist or by any commercial or publishing body. All rights are reserved, but if you believe I'm using something of yours I shouldn't, please let me know. If I am, I'll remove it — SJB.