Hold on: Selected lyrics 2004–2014 now available

Hold_on_coverLearners First publications have now published a book of 32 of my song lyrics. Here’s the blurb:

In this selection of lyrics – written between 2004 and 2014 – John Meed explores the themes that have informed his songwriting – love and loss, belonging and exile, growing up and growing older, the unexpected inevitability of change.

The lyrics are taken from his first five albums: The children of the sea (2005), Powder of the stars (2007), When the music ends (2009), Pavilion Parade (2011) and The dust of time (2013).

‘Meed has a real way of telling a story in song’ – Trevor Raggatt
‘Meed’s songs are both thoughtful and thought-provoking’ – R2 Rock’n’reel

The book is available in three formats, all costing £5:

Printed copies, fully illustrated – I will be selling these at gigs or you can order them online. If you order online you need to pay postage, but you get a free download of Rue Mouffetard!

There is also a fully illustrated ebook edition on the Apple ibooks store. This version additionally contains links to songs and videos.

There is an unillustrated Kindle edition from Amazon.

Here is the full contents list:

Contents

 

The Woodstock Rest Home

At last night’s gig at CB2 I had requests for links for the Woodstock Rest Home.

So here’s a link to the recorded version:

And here’s a live video of the song from Cambridge Folk Club:

It’s on iTunes and Amazon as well.

You and John Peel

Ever JP Centresince the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts opened in Stowmarket in Suffolk I have wanted to go there to perform ‘You and John Peel’. It just seemed appropriate to play the song that I had written for John Peel and my grandfather – two people who helped me survive my teenage years – in the town where both had lived. This autumn I managed to do this and here is a video of the performance:

I wrote the song in 2004, many years after my grandfather had died. Before moving to Suffolk my grandparents had lived in Eastbourne where I stayed with them many times in the seventies. My grandfather and I regularly walked the Seven Sisters – from Beachy Head we would leave behind the crowds and trace the vertiginous path along the clifftops to Birling Gap, where if time was on our side we would scramble down the cliff to the beach while fulmars hung in the air above us. Back on the cliff path the grass glowed silver in the morning light and stonechats stood sentry on the gorse bushes.

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On sunny days the views west along the coast were breathtaking, but on foggy days we would stray further inland through the sheep folds, and my grandfather, already well into his seventies, would lie on the damp grass and roll under the wire fences. As the walking rhythm led to gentle conversation, my grandfather (a Telegraph reader, ‘for the cricket reports’) would ask whether I shared his belief that one day socialism would come. We would end our walk in the pub in Exceat, close to Cuckmere Haven.

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These memories came to inform the song and once I had completed it, I realised that it was almost entirely about my grandfather, and was on the point of changing the title. But in one of those strange coincidences that seem to follow my songwriting around, in the afternoon before I planned to play the song in public for the first time a friend told me that John Peel had just died. I could hardly leave him out in such circumstances.

I did once meet John Peel in person. For a while his wife sang in the same choir as my mother, and during a concert they gave I found myself sitting next to him. I didn’t tell him how much he had meant to me during those difficult teenage years and perhaps should have done. But I found him a gentle and unassuming companion.

You and John Peel

We walked all day through meadows of silver
Over the cliffs where the white gulls play
And we rolled down the hill to the inn at the end of the day
Long summer days echoed with leather on willow
My childhood days could never end
Through my teenage torments you were still my best friend
You gave me hope
When others were dragging me down
And I was alone – you and John Peel

We talked all day about cricket and politics
You said that socialism would come one day
And I dreamed a world that was fashioned your way
On the old people’s ward you said you would never come home
And honesty ploughed up your honest brow
Half a lifetime on I miss you now
You kept me sane when I was close to the edge
And I was lost – you and John Peel

You never lost your temper or your cool
But I learnt more from you than I learnt at school
And you gave me the shoes for my journey through life
And I never thanked you half enough
Now I spend my days far from meadows of silver
Far from the cliffs where the white gulls mew
Further still from the days I spent with you

It’s summer! Must be camper van time…

As summer seems to be here it must be time to venture out into the countryside. So I have posted a video of a live, full-band version of the Camper Van Song, which even features Rhys on electric guitar and a couple of photos of Mike Harding’s camper van (thanks, Mike)! There are also photos of our friends Kevin and Amanda Goode in and around a purple VW –  I wrote the song for their wedding, and they have just had a baby boy. It must be something to do with the second verse… Anyway – here it is:

If after all that you could face coming to a gig, I’m playing Cambridge Folk Club on May 30th with Brian (bass) and Rhys (guitar and keyboard). It’s a showcase event with two other acts: Holly Tamar and Matt Woosey. It would be lovely to see you there – we shall open the evening at 8pm with a 45 minute set. Cambridge Folk Club takes place in the Golden Hind on Milton Road.

Ahead of the folk club gig I shall be joining Les Ray on his Strummers and Dreamers radio show, and playing four songs live. The show goes out from 7-8pm on Sunday May 25th on Cambridge 105FM. Outside the Cambridge area it is possible to listen on-line.

Then on June 13th Brian, Rhys and I are playing Royston Folk Club, and this time Dawn will also be joining us on accordion. We’ll be playing a half hour slot later on in the evening, and there are 7 other local performers on the bill. The club will be meeting this evening in Melbourne at The Bungalow, Royston Road, Melbourn, SG8 6DG – leave the A10 at the southern Melbourne exit (Royston Road) and then turn immediately right.

In addition I’m playing a few other gigs over the next month or so:

– Saturday May 31st, the Acoustic Routes CB2 basement session with Bernard, Dave and Rhys (with Jacqui and Geoff as special guests)
– Wednesday June 5th, the Ship Inn, Brandon Creek, Downham Market
– Monday June 9, the Boat House on Chesterton Road.
– Saturday July 5th, the Felsham Festival.

It would be lovely to see you if you can make any of these. And let’s hope the sun keeps shining! Have a very good summer.

Andalucia

IMG_0797 We have just got back from a couple of weeks traveling around Andalucia; we visited El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cádiz, Sevilla, Córdoba and Granada before taking the train to Madrid and then on to France.

MezquitaIt was good both to catch up with good friends and to see again the astonishing Moorish architecture of the Mesquita in Cordoba and the Alhambra in Granada – two of the most remarkable buildings ever constructed.

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FlamencoWe also did our best to take in some Flamenco, though it’s always hard to pick one’s way through the abundance of shows for tourists which, while often good, are nonetheless expensive and lack a certain something. We managed to find three young performers in a bar in Sevilla who were both competent and very committed.

However the highlight was the Peña Flamenca El Almíbar in Cordoba. While the main part of the evening – a lecture about two styles of Solea (from Utrera and Lebrija) – left my Spanish far behind, at certain points the discussion became more heated and a couple of men who had left youth some way behind burst into song to illustrate their point. I have rarely heard singing like it. The two singers we later heard in Granada were rather pale by comparison.

It left me wanting to do greater justice to my song Andalucia (there’s an old version below) so Miguel and I plan to re-record it at some point. Many, many years ago my friend Gordon and I walked right across the Sierra Nevada – we took the bus from Granada and spent the first night in a simple refuge just under the summit of Veleta. The following day we bathed under a waterfall before following the Rio Lanjarón down the valley. We saw no-one else all day other than a goat herd who waved from the hills on the other side of the valley and spent the night in the open air of a pine forest. The following day we found we had taken the wrong path, so that rather than arriving in Lanjarón before the sun became too hot, we had to trek for hours as our water ran out. Fortunately, we made it before sunstroke set in. Alhambra This time we contented ourselves with an afternoon walking up the valley of the Rio Darro – the views were still remarkable. Darro

Reviews of ‘The dust of time’

Here are some highlights of the reviews my fifth album, The dust of time.

‘Meed has a real way of telling a story in song. Whether it’s a love song to a VW camper van, or bittersweet Moroccan memories, they are all beautifully told.’ (R2 Rock’n’reel)

‘Meed delivers his lyrics in a style very similar to Leonard Cohen…Standout tracks include Rue Mouffetard (concerning the famous Parisian street once frequented by Verlaine and Joyce) and Sirocco, which departs from the gentle acoustic theme of the album to provide a Spanish flavour complete with whirling Spanish guitar.’ (Americana UK)

‘This is down to the floor folk music and in that arena, “The Dust Of Time”, John Meed’s fifth album, is a well worthy release and one that shows local perspectives do matter in a globalised world.’ (FATEA)

The full reviews, warts and all, are on my reviews page.

Flamenco legends – Camarón and Paco de Lucia

Paco de Lucia, one of the finest flamenco guitarists, died today at the all-too-young age of 66. He will be greatly missed – guitarists of his calibre and influence do not come along every day. Here is a recording of him with singer Camarón de la Isla, playing a siguiryas in a small and presumably smoky club. Fabulous guitar and some of the most passionate singing you could ever hear.

I first encountered Camarón’s music in 1983 – we were staying in Nerja on the Andalucian Mediterranean coast and the family who ran a local bar also became a flamenco troupe in the evening. The daughter and lead singer was a passionate fan of Camarón and each night she more or less worked through his seminal album, La leyenda del tiempo.

I tracked down a copy of the album and from there sprang my love of flamenco music. On  La leyenda del tiempo Camarón, accompanied by the young guitarist Tomatito, combined flamenco with rock and jazz. The record has been described by Flamenco World as ‘a turning point, one that by breaking up preconceived ideas changed our concept of flamenco music’. It was one of the first flamenco discs to feature electric guitar, bass and synthesiser.

Much of Camarón’s earlier work was, though, with Paco de Lucia. Under Franco, flamenco had been co-opted to support the dictator’s stifling views of traditional Spain. As the country began to emerge from fascism, Camarón and Paco helped restate flamenco as a vibrant, sensual music and to re-establish it as a major art form. Camarón also sang some of the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca, one of the many victims of Franco. Aged just 42, and ravaged by cigarettes and heroin, Camarón died of lung cancer in 1992.

Flamenco is made up of a number of palos or styles of which the siguiryas is the darkest – the cante jondo at its most profound. As with many flamenco palos, the siguiryas has a compas of 12 beats, counted 1 and 2 and 3 and a 4 and a 5 and… Other 12-beat palos include the wonderful soleares and the much more upbeat bulerías. Here is a link to another piece by Camarón and Paco de Lucia, this time por bulerías.

By coincidence, we also today had the visit of our friend, Miguel, also a fine guitarist and with whom I have had the great fortune to play and record. Miguel grew up in Seville where he lived close to and got to know Ricardo Pachón, who had worked closely with Camarón and had produced La leyenda del tiempo. Here is Miguel’s wonderful playing on Sirocco, which is set to the rumba flamenca rhythm.

October wind

I’ve prepared a new video of October Wind which is available here:

The song is the next single from my album ‘The dust of time’ and you can download it here:

I wrote the song after a chance encounter by Grantchester mill, just outside Cambridge, and much of the video is filmed there, together with some footage from my last concert at Cambridge Folk Club. Rhys Wilson produced the song.

The story of Moelfre Hill

As if a child could learn
What joys and sorrows fill

The roads of no return
Away from Moelfre Hill

In July 2011 I was invited to join the French choir Ensemble pour Boala in a concert in the Mynydd Seion Chapel in Abergele in North Wales. The concert also featured local choir Coastal voices.

We got together to rehearse over the days preceding the concert in a farmhouse in the hills a few miles inland from Abergele. Isabelle and I stayed nearby in a little hut half way up Moelfre Isaf – there was no water or electricity, plenty of night-time visitors, and it took a half mile walk to get there, but the view out across the Elwy valley in the morning was remarkable.

I knew vaguely that there was some connection between the family of my best friend, Dave, and the area, so I had mentioned the concert to his widow and sister. They came over and brought his mother, who lives in Abergele, to the concert. The following morning, as rain hurtled down, we met them for breakfast in a café on Abergele high street. Dave’s sister asked me to show her on the map exactly where we had been staying.

It turned out that their family had been tenant sheep farmers of the land around our hut for generations. What is more, a white farmhouse that we could see from our hillside vantage point was the place where they had spent their summer holidays as children. And when I had phoned to give them final details of the concert, I had been leaning on a gate looking towards this farmhouse, on the fifth anniversary of his death.

On the way home down the M6 we stopped at a service station and I jotted down the beginnings of what was to become the song, Moelfre Hill. You can listen to the eventual recording here:

The recording, included on my fifth album The dust of time, features Cliff Ward from The Willows on violin, and Brian Harvey on bass. The song has been has played both on Celtic Heartbeat on BBC Radio Wales and on BBC Radio Scotland (twice) by Iain Anderson who commented ‘rather nice – we liked that’. There was also an article about the song in the Abergele Post.

Looking back on 2013

Here are my annual musical reflections on the year now almost past.

We launched my fifth album, The dust of time, on November 30th in CB2, Cambridge. The first track, Moelfre Hill, has been played both on Celtic Heartbeat on BBC Radio Wales and on BBC Radio Scotland by Iain Anderson who commented ‘rather nice – we liked that’. There was also an article about the song in the Abergele Post. Rue Mouffetard has also been played on several occasions. Richard Penguin, of Future Radio, described it as ‘part Parisien, part Leonard Cohen, part Jacques Brel, part Christy Moore, part you’ while Emily Barker described it as ‘really beautiful’. There’s a video here. At the launch event, The camper van song – a tongue-in-cheek look at successive generations’ love of the VW Camper, went down especially well.

The album features Brian Harvey (bass), Dawn Loombe (accordion), Miguel Moreno (flamenco guitar), Cliff Ward (violin), and Rhys Wilson (guitar and keyboard). Rhys also co-produced the album with me.

I have really enjoyed playing with the band this year – as well as the album launch we played Cambridge Folk Club in May and as ever the club made us most welcome and provided a lovely audience – there is a video here of Thesalonika. I hope we’ll manage to do a couple more gigs together next year. I also returned twice to Alstonefield in the Peak District where Dave Littlehales has made me one of his regular support acts – this year I played with Al Parish and Brooks Williams (which included Brooks and I singing Waterloo Sunset together!). In June I went back to my previous employers, the National Extension College, to play Second chances, a song I had written for their 50th anniversary.

We also managed a trip to Istanbul with friends to see our good friend Leo who has moved back there to live. Leo introduced us to his own Istanbul friends and musical parties ensued, firstly in our own flat on the Istiklal Cadesi, and later in the home of Aysem and Bora – and we recorded the backing vocals for Leo’s Party Machine which also features on the album. We also visited the workshop of Seyda Hacizade, who makes the classic kemençe – a three-stringed instrument, slightly like a violin, but held and bowed differently and where notes are sounded by holding a fingernail against the string, rather than by pressing the string down onto a fretboard. The kemençe produces a very special, melancholic sound that I first encountered in the film The Weeping Meadow.

I spent far too long this year listening to drafts of the album tracks, but in between my favourite new music has included:

– The National’s new album Trouble will find me – not perhaps quite up to the standard of High Violet but still rather good, especially Fireproof.
– Daughter’s debut album If you leave – see for example Still.
– Volcano choir’s Repave, for example Comrade.
– Agnes Obel’s Aventine which can be streamed at her website.
– Our friend Emily Barker’s Dear River – see for example Letters.

I’ll leave you in peace for a while, now! Thankyou again for your support through the year. I’d like to wish you a lovely Christmas and all the best for 2014.

You can listen to, download or order the album here: