Happy Birthday, Roy Wood.

It’s Roy Wood’s birthday today, one of British pop’s often overlooked heroes. Apart from the annual appearance of his Christmas classic, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, you rarely hear much from him anymore. And that’s a shame for during the Sixties he wrote gem after gem for The Move.

To celebrate, here are five  (sort of) Ballard songs that were very much influenced by him (and slightly ripped off in some cases).

1: Little Rockets – this is the first song I wrote where I had Roy Wood in mind. The main part of the song is actually inspired by Billy Nicholls’ Portobello Road but the middle bit with the speeded up voices is pure Boulders-era Roy Wood

2: A Smile For A Tenner – A sad little tale of a chap who visits a lady of the night and pays extra just to see her smile. The opening riff is lifted from I Can Hear The Grass Grow (and many other Move songs, it turned into a signature riff). I went for a Trevor Burton bass sound here, nice and trashy.

3: Heading West – recorded in a posh studio with a bloke from Stereolab and a bloke from Cotton Mather, this is a cross of Jeff Lynne-era Move with a hint of Walk Upon The Water. I purposely pronounce the line ‘take a stroll by the sea’ in a slightly posh manner, in tribute to that song. I’m very Bolton though, so it doesn’t sound too posh. There’s a hint of George Harrison’s What Is Life in the middle 8 of this song too.

4: Where Are You, Silver Surfer? – this is my favourite Roy homage. It’s got everything: the signature bass run; jangly guitars; augmented chords; an exciting middle 8 – the lot. I absolutely love this one yet not many people seem to express the same opinion about it.

5: Rosie & The Leaving Song – so short I’m counting these two as one entry. Both songs are little tributes to Roy’s acoustic songs and both are also exercises in writing a song that says everything it needs to in as short a time as possible. Each one is a little vignette, setting up the scene and then leaving you to fill the blanks yourself.

So there you go. Happy Birthday Roy. Sorry for ripping you off.

Napoleon Pre-order News.

Bit of an update about the physical version of Napoleon.

In a nutshell, I don’t have the funds available to pay up front for the whole run of CD’s and packaging needed for the CD. So for that reason, I’m looking to see how many of you would be interested in paying up front for a copy.

It’ll be in a nice full colour Digipack case with a full colour-printed CD. I’ll be charging £8 for it and as soon as I’ve got a reasonable number of people interested I’ll set up a way for you to pre-order and get the files off to the duplication plant.

Postage will be £2 in the UK, £3 to Europe and £5 anywhere else in the world. Just add your name in the comments to register your interest.

Napoleon!

Napoleon, the third Ballard album, is now released and available to buy direct from Bandcamp.

Eleven songs packed with the usual melodies, trashy guitars and nonsense lyrics and clock in at just under thirty minutes, it’s the longest Ballard album yet, almost an epic!

Here’s the track listing:

  1. Everything Is Scary
  2. Tijuana
  3. Where Are You, Silver Surfer?
  4. I Know That You’re Watching Me
  5. Fish And Chips
  6. Charity Boy
  7. Sophisticated Means
  8. Build Break Repeat
  9. Right Train, Wrong Destination
  10. We Can Protect You
  11. Crawling Back To You

For now it’s download only but I’ll hopefully be releasing it on CD. If you buy the download and want the CD you’ll only have to pay the difference. Just contact me to do so.

In the meantime, enjoy it!

A Bundle of Ballard

I’m delighted to say that you can now get the first two albums, the Monkey Business EP and two bonus tracks all on one CD from Kool Kat Musik. A Bundle Of Ballard kicks off with Time With You and So Cruel, two rare Ballard tracks from a few years ago.

Following those two tracks is the Monkey Business EP, then Bucky, then Little Rockets. It’s like going back in time from the end of 2013 to the start of it. It’s also worth mentioning that Bucky was placed in the Absolute Powerpop Top 100 albums of 2013! All recorded here at Rancho Pancho. It’s amazing what you can do when you stop trying…

Get A Bundle Of Ballard

MONKEY!

Not sure how I’ve done this but I’ve forgotten to mention that I finished the Monkey Business EP that I went to London to record. Two days in Press Play Studios with Andy Ramsay (him out of Stereolab) engineering and the mighty Dana Myzer (him out of Cotton Mather and Farrah) drumming. Drumming for me. Awesome.

Anyway, it’s got three great songs, it’s much more polished than my other stuff (which is neither worse nor better, just different) and you can get it by clicking on the picture of the best monkey ever:

Catch-up time

Right! Been a while since I’ve posted anything in here so time to rectify that with a round-up of what I’ve been up to.

Releases

Since the Working Boys single I’ve released more music on the Bandcamp page. First off is Bucky, the second full album from which Working Boys was taken. It starts with the studio version of A Fire In New York City and continues in a similar eclectic vein to Little Rockets. The Kinks, The Move, Nilsson, Bruce Springsteen – lots of variety I think.

Next up is the Pancho Got Soul! EP. Four songs (and a bonus one if you download the EP) in a lo-fi garage-soul style. A bit of a departure for me but I think it’s still obviously Ballard.

News

I Won’t Be Coming Home was recently played on a couple of shows. First off was Eddie Piller’s Modcast. I’m particularly chuffed that this was played as Eddie is the head of Acid Jazz and is well known for his love of all things Mod and Soul. On that particular show was an author called Tony Fletcher. Tony wrote Dear Boy, the excellent biography of Keith Moon. He commented how much he loved the song and I’m thrilled to say that a couple of days later I met Tony at one of his book signings and gave him a copy of Little Rockets as well as I Won’t Be Coming Home.

Which brings me to the second show it was played on, as when Tony returned home to the US he played it on his FM radio show over there. Both shows can be heard at the links below.

The Modcast – Episode 28

Tony Fletcher – All Hopped Up and Ready To Go

Gigs

And at last, I’ve started gigging. Just me and an acoustic at the moment but it’s going well. I recently opened for Nineties popsters Space at the Hebden Bridge Trades Club. It’s a great venue, my set was well received and I’m hoping it may lead to further support slots there. A couple of days after that I opened for Suburban Sons at the Dog & Partridge in Bolton, my musical home. Always a great crowd and I’m pleased to say I’ll be back there on August 24th, taking part in the Hushed Puppies acoustic festival. It’s free entry and runs over the weekend so come on down!

Plans

Next up for me is a recording session in London with Dana Myzer of Cotton Mather (see earlier post). We’re recording at Press Play Studio which is owned by Andy Ramsay of Stereolab. Andy will be engineering and I imagine we’ll all be producing in a collaborative effort. I’ve no idea what will come of it but I’m sure we’ll get a couple of cracking tunes out of it.

I’m also rehearsing with a full band. No idea when we’ll be gigging but I’m sure it won’t be long. Keep your eyes peeled!

Darren

We Are Working Boys

It’s new single time!

In anticipation of the next album, titled Bucky, I’m releasing Working Boys as a free/name your price single. Also included are two single-exclusive tracks, All Rock’n'Roll and a special version of album opener, A Fire In New York City.

Recorded in New Jersey with my good friends The Smoove Sailors, it’s a live band performance with a one take vocal overdubbed. The song was recorded in a studio in Jersey City that overlooks the Hudson River and beyond that, Manhattan.It was a truly inspiring place to record a song I’d written especially for the occasion.

The single can be streamed live and downloaded from my Bandcamp page:

Working Boys

Thank You Dana Myzer, Wherever You Are

I wrote a little piece on my Facebook page about an email I got last night. It’s reproduced here in full.

So, I actually got this email last night whilst in the pub. I’ll copy it here:

Hi Darren,

You don’t know me but I just wanted to say hello and tell you that I really like your music. Found you on a power pop blog and just wanted to say hello.

All the best and again, the music’s great.

Dana Myzer

Now, as he said, I don’t know him. I thought it was nice of him to take the time to write to me.

So this morning, I read it again and smiled. Included at the bottom of his email was a link to his Linkedin profile. I clicked on it and discovered that Dana Myzer is the drummer of the excellent US power-pop band, Cotton Mather and also the drummer for excellent UK power-pop band, Farrah.

Cotton Mather’s album, Kontiki, is included in the NME Top 100 Albums You’ve Never Heard. It was picked by Noel Gallagher.

I’m still reeling from the idea that someone in such a great band (TWO great bands!) took the time to listen to my music and actually write to me. It means such a lot.

And that goes for everyone who’s bought the album and enjoyed it – I really appreciate it.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Maybe Dana will be including it on his Top 100 Albums You’ve Never Heard? Maybe I’ll get the chance to support him the next time he’s playing in the UK? More likely none of the above, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that sometimes, people are just really, really nice.

Thank you Dana Myzer, wherever you are.

Review Roundup

The album has had a few good reviews on various power-pop blogs, all of them excellent.

Click the links to read them and please take the time to look at other posts in the blogs, there are some good bands out there!

http://powerpopulist.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/ballard-bloody-catchy-indeed.html

http://icecreamman1967.blogspot.se/2013/01/ballard-little-rockets-lp.html

http://speakercreatures.com/review-little-rockets-by-ballard/

http://www.monkey-picks.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/january-playlist.html – Not a review of the album but spot-on little summing up of Pretty Colours down at the bottom of this great, eclectic playlist.

Pretty Colours indeed!

The Pretty Colours video is here! Directed by Paul Wright, with French subtitles by Frances Clay.

Why it’s got subtitles, I have no idea! It was Paul’s idea, I just let him run with it. As long as I don’t look silly I’m happy for the director to be in charge.

Two things: I needed a haircut. I have a bit of a Barry Gibb top lip. Apart from that, it’s a fantastical explosion of sound and colour, exactly as I’d hoped it would be.

The boy done good.