foto by Ron Elkman
I’m now 67yrs old. I always presumed that if I ever reached this kind of age (my ambition was to outlive my father who died aged 43) I’d have long since retired and be hanging on a sun-drenched beach drinking coconut juice. But I’m not; while my contemporaries talk of old age and retirement, I’m so busy, I’m struggling to find time to take a holiday.
In the recent past I’ve played a charity show with Trevor Horn’s band at the Roundhouse in London, which featured Seal, the Pet Shop Boys, Beverly Knight. and Ronnie Wood. I then went straight into a recording session with Seal - what a singer! - and the following day started recording a track for Italian megastar Renato Zero’s album (which I’ve been writing songs for and which I’m now co-producing with Trevor Horn and Phil Palmer). I then went on a 4 week tour of Brazil, Argentina and Chile with DSL (more on Dire Straits Legacy later), then after a couple of days to recover, we resumed making the Renato Zero track, which is the first single from his new album and which, I’m happy to say, was released recently and is already at the top of the Italian charts. I then spent a week or so preparing for a solo piano recital at Piano City in Milan, which I did and it went so well, I might have to do it again, and I’m now back in London working on Renato’s album. Once I’m clear of that, I’ll be playing a dozen or so gigs in the UK with Trevor Horn’s band. The holiday can wait.
Congratulations to two fellow Geordies (people from the Newcastle upon Tyne area of England) who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year: Bryan Ferry and Paul Thompson from Roxy Music. Last year, I was inducted as a member of Dire Straits. It took place in Cleveland, Ohio, and a good time was had by all, which didn't include Mark Knopfler who didn’t show up and who hadn’t arranged for someone to induct those of us who did, so we inducted ourselves, which was, apparently, a first in the history of the event. But that didn’t spoil what was a pleasant few days in the US when I received a rather weighty award, see below, caught up with some old friends, discovered Jon Bonjovi is a fan, then hung in Manhattan for a few days.
I’m on several tracks of Trevor Horn’s latest album “Trevor Horn Reimagines The Eighties”.
3 CHORD TRICK is the name of an album I produced for a band I'm a member of called LEGACY.
We (myself and co-producer Phil Palmer) recorded the basic tracks in Los Angeles with LA residents Steve Ferrone and Pino Palladino, then finished the record in my favourite studio in the world: Forward Studios in Grottaferrata, Rome. I wrote 5 of the tracks and co-wrote 4 of them. The record is called 3 Chord Trick, it's available now on all digital platforms (iTunes etc), you can buy CD's and vinyl on Amazon, and it's also available on DSD (an ultra-high definition format that has 256 times the resolution of a CD).
LEGACY has the following illustrious line-up:
Probably the greatest rock drummer in the world, Steve Ferrone from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers; legendary guitarist Phil Palmer who played on Dire Straits’ On Every Street record and tour, as did our ace percussionist, drummer and vocalist Danny Cummings who’s now on a world tour with Mark Knopfler. We also have in the band one of the greatest sax players of our generation, Mel Collins, who played on Dire Straits Alchemy tour and record and the Twisting by the Pool record’s and is currently touring the world with King Krimson; on bass we have the legendary, multi award winning record producer Trevor Horn who first appeared with his band Buggles’ record Video Killed the Radio Star then went on to produce a long list of hit records, one of which was the worldwide hit Owner of a Lonely Heart when he was the lead singer, writer and producer of Yes. From Italy we have ace Italian keyboard player Primiano De Biase, and the renowned Italian guitarist/singer Marco Caviglia, and guesting on the record is vocalist and ace multi- instrumentalist Jamie Squire who was a permanent singer in the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing band until he vacated that seat to join The 1975 on their mammoth world tour.
And, er, me!
LEGACY also plays the music of Dire Straits as “DSL DIRE STRAITS LEGACY”. Last year we played in Brazil, the US, Finland and Italy, when we also had in the band ex Dire Straits’ guitarist Jack Sonni, and we’ve just completed a South American tour which included Brazil, Chile and Argentina. More info on http://dslegacy.com.
DSL: “I took a chance and my wife and I brought our next door neighbors and we absolutely loved every minute of your fabulous show. As I write, I’m watching aLCHEMY Live DVD. As good as Mark was and is, Dire Straits was as much your keyboard work as his guitar. Please bring DSL back to St. Pete soon; better yet, the Van Wezel in Sarasota. Thank you for your fantastic music”. (from Al Horrigan, a DSL fan)
If you’re looking for a first class recording studio with a full size live room (which is a rarity these days), I can recommend Forward Studios in Frascati, near Rome. It’s a world class, money-no-object facility with a great atmosphere and excellent engineers. When I work there, I stay in the marvellous Villa Mercede hotel in nearby Frascati - a big thanks to owners Luigi and Gianluca and everyone at the hotel for making it my home from home in Italy.
I’m occasionally asked to write music for TV commercials, and two of mine are currently being aired.
15 or so years ago, I recorded an instrumental version of the famous Geordie song Blaydon Races, in the hope that Newcastle United would adopt it as their theme instead of Mark Knopfler’s tune Going Home (from Local Hero) which is actually a Scottish-based song. They still use the Local Hero tune. However, my version of Blaydon Races is being put to good use; early last year, I found myself once again in the band of the Sunday For Sammy charity show at the Newcastle Arena and was pleased to see/hear they’re still using it as their theme and opening the show with it. Tim Healy, who is the founder of Sunday for Sammy, performed my song God's Land on the show, which is a track from LEGACY's 3 Chord Trick album. Trevor Horn also featured in the show, performing the song that was a worldwide hit with his band Buggles: Video Killed the Radio Star. Happily, the DVD of the show reached #3 in the national charts. Next year, which is the show’s 20th anniversary and promises to be the best yet, I’ll be in the band again, as musical director.
Some rock trivia:
I joined Dire Straits in late 1980. It recently occurred to me that thereafter I am the only person besides Mark Knopfler to have played on every track Dire Straits recorded.
More rock trivia…
Doubtless there are many Alan Clarks in the world, but the only one I knew when I was growing up was the one on the TV: Allen Clarke, the singer in the Hollies. Many years later, when I was in Australia with Dire Straits during the Brothers in Arms tour, when we were the biggest band in the world, I stepped into an elevator in the Sebel Townhouse hotel in Sydney, and there was Allen. So I introduced myself and, to my surprise, he asked me for my autograph! Funny old world.
Even more rock trivia…
The accordion I played on the track Brothers in Arms, has been exhibited in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. The foto below demonstrates how I played it on the song because, not being an accordion player, I had Guy Fletcher squeeze it while I played the keys. Thanks to ace accordion and keyboard player Primiano de Biasse from LEGACY for helping me play the accordion, in a similar fashion, on the Three Chord Trick album.
A penultimate bit of trivia…
The 1975: I was at Matty Healy’s christening.
And finally the last bit of trivia:
When we recorded the Brothers in Arms record at AIR studios on the Caribbean island of Monsterrat, for the first few weeks I stayed in Beatles producer George Martin’s house (George wasn’t there) along with Terry Williams and Guy Fletcher. In the living room there was a nice sound system but no records, and all we had between us were 2 cassettes I happened to have with me: Pat Metheny’s album As Wichita Falls, So Falls Wichita, and Prince’s Purple Rain. We played Purple Rain most nights. Did it influence the record?
I was in Nashville last year and had Sunday brunch at Woolworths Restaurant...
…which is the refurbished former Woolworths shop and restaurant bar recognised as the place where the civil rights movement began in 1964.
When I'm at home, I'm very keen to get into the mountains on this:
My mountain bike, a Scott E-Genius 700 Tuned. It's an E-bike with state of the art components including a Shimano engine and electronic gear change, full suspension, hydraulic disk brakes and a bunch of other amazing stuff. It's an absolute hoot; everyone who rides it wants one. It’s designed to cope with extreme off-road conditions but it's also a great urban bike. My association with Scott goes back to the early 90's when they first set up in the UK, and every bike I've owned thereafter has been a Scott. This picture was taken when I was riding the mountain trails around Lake Ullswater with my son Josh. Just below us, out of sight is Howtown bay where I learned to dinghy sail when I was 12 yrs old, which later led to my obsession with windsurfing.
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