Sorry … what?
Oh don’t be ridiculous. Of course it’s not.
No, it’s me and John Howard.
John wrote a fabulous song called The Time Of Day, which I’ve now recorded, with John adding backing vocals and harmonies. How Fabs is that?
This is what happened.
Five years ago I was in the throes of depression – divorced, but stuck with my ex-wife in a house that refused to sell.
I had just celebrated (!) my 60th birthday and it was very clear that once the house sold, I would be all but broke.
Always one to like sharing life, it occurred to me that I may spend the rest of mine alone. Who would be interested in a broke, overweight 60-year-old with no work, and no prospects of any?
And then John Howard sent me his album, As I Was Saying. As I listened, alone in my garrett (well, the top of the house, which I had colonised), this lyric poked through:
“Who in his right mind would give the time of day
To a man, no longer young, the space to stand and say:
I am young in my heart, I am young in my heart.
Though some days I look much older than I feel.”
Well, you can imagine, can’t you?
I had tentatively started writing and recording again after 30 years, and this just seemed like a gift. There was no question I was going to record it.
First of all, let me say that John Howard is a proper musician. He plays the piano as if it is his orchestra. And he has a particularly expressive and emotive voice. He also happens to be gay.
But for him, Time Of Day had nothing to do with sexuality or even romance. It is “an introspective song to oneself about the process of getting older physically”.
When I heard it, the word ‘his’ immediately transposed to ‘her’ and it became a song about how no-one in their right mind would take me on at this stage of my life.
Which provides an opportunity to demonstrate for you the influence a producer can have on a song.
I’m not saying it’s a good influence, or that I haven’t ruined a perfectly beautiful song. But it is a perfect – as the Americans say – case in point.
John’s own version is a slow, elegiac lament, accompanied by a wonderfully controlled piano arrangement. I have no doubt many will prefer it to mine.
There was no point me trying to match John’s style. I don’t play like he does, and I don’t have the voice or the technique to carry off his soulful balladeering.
So I thought, I wonder how this would sound if it was covered by an indie band?
And that’s what I did. Built it up from an indie drumbeat and a non-stop eight-to-the-bar bass, some jangling acoustics and a lead guitar.
But when he heard it, John immediately wanted to put “a big backing vocal wodge of harmonies coming in and out”. Eventually, we got round to that, and it changed my version all over again. We are a pair of Beatle nuts, and his contribution introduced that element.
It took me quite a while to remix and incorporate John’s harmonies. In the end, I had to let go of the ‘indie’ idea, and go with what I was working with. After all, a Driver 67 track, featuring John Howard – irresistible. It’s forty years since we last recorded together. There’s a perfect symmetry to it.
So here it is – my version, then John’s (although you can listen any way round you want). Decide for yourself (it’s not a competition!). I still prefer John’s. It’s a stunning rendition of a beautiful song.
But I’m glad I recorded my version, which I hope to include on a new album to be released later this year.