Monday, February 20, 2012
THE MONDAY CORRESPONDENT
From Hilltown to Tinseltown.
Hearing a track on my iPod whilst in the middle of the South China Sea inspired this posting.
The track I heard was Tragedy Girl by King L, a band band formed in 1995 by Gary Clark.
Clark had fronted Dundee band Danny Wilson, who were formed in the mid-eighties. Gary Clark and schoolmate Ged Grimes had been in a school band together. It was when they were joined by younger brother Kit Clark, they were signed to Virgin Records after being discovered busking.
Initially they were called Spencer Tracy, their first album was recorded, the artwork completed, when someone from Virgin Records in America feared that they may be sued by the Tracy family, and so a name change was needed.
Clark’s father was a big Frank Sinatra fan and his favourite Sinatra film was Meet Danny Wilson, about which Clark Snr was always complaining that the TV companies never showed often enough. It seemed to fit the bill.
The album Meet Danny Wilson was released in April 1987, and its first single Mary’s Prayer was released three times before becoming a hit in the UK. It only happened after it was championed by Jonathan King’s ‘youth’ TV show No Limits who kept playing the video as a song that ‘should have been a hit’. The song actually went to #32 in the US charts before it reached #3 in the UK charts, as I said earlier, at third time of asking.
mp3 : Danny Wilson - Mary's Prayer
The album was an eclectic mix, with two tales of leaving their hometown of Dundee - Davy and Aberdeen. Other tracks had a jazz feel to them and one song - Nothing Ever Goes To Plan - is even described as a Bosa Nova. But the strength of the album is the song writing of Gary Clark.
The follow up album Bebop Moptop produced a second hit single The Second Summer of Love, a song that I don’t really care for, while another single I Can’t Wait was backed by a wonderful live cover version of the famous Abba hit Knowing Me Knowing You which includes the immortal shout out ‘Jimmy Shand*’ before the instrumental break where they played an accordion instead of a guitar.
mp3 : Danny Wilson - Knowing Me, Knowing You (live)
*Sir Jimmy Shand from Auchtermucty, Fife was a Scottish musician who played traditional Scottish dance music on the accordion. He was a favourite of the Queen.
The three members of Danny Wilson went their separate ways in early 1991, Gary Clark then released a single under the name of Eleven.
He then set about writing and recording a solo album, most of the songs were intended for a third Danny Wilson album but he had a free hand with his choice of songs without consulting anyone else.
Ten Short Stories of Love was released in 1993; it’s an album that shows Clark’s ability to write bitter/sweet pop songs. The album had a more soulful sound in places. Unfortunately the album didn’t sell in any great numbers.
mp3 : Gary Clark - This Is Why, J
It was on the back of this release that I saw Gary Clark, for the one and only time, play live in his hometown of Dundee, at the Whitehall Theatre on the 27th May 1993.
Being a sort of homecoming gig, the place was packed to the rafters and a surprise was that in his touring band was Boo Herwerdine, the founding member of The Bible.
During the evening both Ged Grimes and brother Kit joined Clark on stage. One of the highlights was when they played a tremendous version of the Isley Brothers’ Summer Breeze, which was quite appropriate for an early summer’s evening even in Dundee.
The collaboration with Hewerdine continued into Clark’s next project, the aforementioned King L album Great Day for Gravity.
The pair started writing songs and the album developed further when Clark met Eric Pressley on a trip to Los Angeles. Neil MacColl, also a former member of The Bible, joined in the writing and recording of the album.
The album once again failed to sell but received great critical acclaim, but it's one that I've found very enjoyable rediscovering recently.
mp3 : King L - Tragedy Girl
Clark and Pressley then formed a band Transister with Keely Hawkes, (sister of Chesney ‘the one and only’ Hawkes). They produced a six track EP and one album. Tracks from the album were used in six different Hollywood movies. Their sound is quite similar to Garbage.
mp3 : Transister - Dizzy Moon
Gary Clark then became ‘a gun for hire’ songwriter composing hit songs for the likes of Natalie Imbruglia for whom he co-wrote and produced her million selling album White Lilies Island.
So far he has worked with David McAlmont, Liz Phair, Skin (Skunk Anansie), Mark Owen and Lloyd Cole among others.
mp3 : Mark Owen - Kill With Your Smile
Working with Lloyd Cole seems on the whole to have been a very enjoyable experience, according to a recent interview with Gary:-
"I’d met Lloyd a few times in the process of gigging and doing promotional work, we shared the same publisher and he suggested that it would be good for us to write together. We met up in New York and we came up with a few songs. The interesting thing about Lloyd is that he is a brilliant songwriter….but he doesn’t want to write lyrics with anyone else.
I was used to being involved in the lyrics, so it was a weird dynamic trying to work with him, because I’d suggest things and could feel him pulling away. I’d suggest more and he’d just close the song down. So I left New York thinking we had a bunch of unfinished things and Lloyd would finish the lyrics once I’d gone.
‘That Boy’ is the one song of ours that saw the light of day and it has been released, on the original ‘The Negatives’ album, on a Greatest Hits compilation and on another release.
It really is the gift that keeps on giving!!!!"
mp3 : Lloyd Cole - That Boy
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives - That Boy
mp3 : Lloyd Cole - That Boy (Langer & Winstanley Mix)
Gary Clark now lives in LA and is a highly sought after songwriter and producer.
If you are listening to a mainstream radio station chances are you are hearing a pop song written and produced by a man from Dundee.....from the Hilltown area of the city of Discovery.
Mr John Greer, Monday 20 February 2012