Levi Stubbs Tears

I’ve been a Billy Bragg fan since I saw him at the Portsmouth Guildhall in ’86 and I’ve terrorized my family and friends by singing his songs ever since.

Life's a Riot with Spy vs Spy

My best Billy Bragg memories include teaching Train Train to Dylan when we lived in New York. He was only a year old and he used to finish the chorus for me “Train! Train!…Hurry bring my baby back again!”.

Brewing Up with Billy Bragg

I was cornered by an Old Etonian and an Old Harrovian for singing There is Power in a Factory  in the showers at BRNC Dartmouth. They’d never met a Labour supporter before.

Talking with the Taxman about Poetry

The night before I was due to see Billy at the Guildhall, Rob and I saw him being arrested on the Nine O’Clock News for breaking into the nuclear base at Greenham Common. Billy was released in time though and he was brilliant. Ted Hawkins was his warm up act and I bought all of Ted’s albums too.

Levi Stubb’s Tears is one my favourites and I’ve wanted to learn it since I got my first guitar. This is the first song I’ve recorded in a couple of years and I’m a bit rusty. Was fun to play though.

I decided that the song needed a bit of a video to go with it so I spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering through Flickr’s Creative Commons gallery looking for images and cramming them together in iMovie (iMovie sucks).


Ride it back out

Here’s another version of Ride a White Swan recorded on GarageBand proper on a Mac with a real guitar, real piano and real microphone.

Ride a White Swan (performed by The Ragged Clown)


This was T-Rex’s first successful single.

It was the first single released after they changed their name from Tyrannasaurus Rex (which no one could spell).

It was released in 1970.

They didn’t have a drummer when they made Ride a White Swan.

Marc Bolan and Co over-dubbed five guitar tracks (I only did four).

It was kept out of the Number One spot by Clive Dunn’s Grandad which will be my next recording.

I have the single (don’t tell Carol).

iPads make iMusic

Like I wasn’t gonna get the new GarageBand for iPad??

It’s pretty good but VERY frustrating. There are tons of bugs and it’s a  little too slow to keep up with any kind of complex strumming. I lost my whole guitar track once and, by the end of the session, the sequencer view thingie was about a bar and a half out of step with the sound. You can see from the screenshot that the bars don’t really line up with anything.

I wanted to fix up some stuff but I decided I should quit while I was ahead. Here’s my first attempt at making music.

Ride A White Swan (iPad version performed by The Ragged Clown)

I can’t figure out how to create a fade. Anyone?

I’ve been practicing Ride a White Swan on guitar and meaning to record it for a while. It’s a simple song but the chord change is pretty tricky. It’s easier to play when you just have to tap the iPad but it doesn’t sound as good as the real thing. I’ll need to record it on GarageBand proper for comparison.

Liner Notes

For the drums and bass, I used the auto-play thingie. TIP: if you use any drum set except the rock kit, it’ll mess you up and you’ll never be able to keep time with it. Keep it simple. Same with the bass. I started with a fancy bass riff but it sounded silly and overwhelmed everything else.

There are three guitar tracks. For the riff, I used the auto-chord selector and then just picked out notes from the chords. For the rhythm guitar, I just banged on the chord name like a chimpanzee. I tried picking out an arpeggio on individual strings but my poor iPad was too slow to keep up.

I played the lead part on the single note setting. This is really well done. You can do slides and hammer-ons and hammer-offs and really nice bends. I couldn’t figure out how to get further up the neck so if your solo has any high notes, I guess you are screwed. Birthday’s coming up so maybe I’ll get the plug-your-guitar-into-your-ipad connector but there is plenty of fun to be had with the so-called smart guitar.

I recorded the vocals with the dreamy effect. Sounds just like Marc Bolan, don’t you think? That’s probably my bronchitis.

I added the keyboards because it seemed a shame not to.

My aim is close

Haven’t recorded one for a while. I’m stuck on a plateau and can’t seem to make progress. I have three or four songs where I can play everything but the solo. This one doesn’t have a solo so it’s good to go. It isn’t quite right, but it’s about as close as I’m gonna get.

Alison by The Ragged Clown

Thanks to Tom for teaching it to me (I hope he doesn’t mind that I recorded it – there is a story about Bob Dylan recording House of the Rising Sun and Dave Van Ronk never spoke to him again). Thanks to my children for tolerating a song they dislike so much and thanks to Elvis Costello for giving us a song that still gives me the shivers even when _I_ sing it.

Recording Notes:

I recorded the rhythm guitar twice to give it more depth. I recorded the lead parts in micro-takes because my memory is crap and I can’t remember more than one measure at a time but the rest I recorded in a single take or, at most, two.

The drum track is a loop from Garage Band but the fills are me as is the bass which I played on a keyboard.

I flubbed the opening “oh” because the intro is about half a beat late and it was throwing off my timing. I tried to re-record it but it just got worse and worse so I just went with the first take.

Trading Heroes for Ghosts

I got a bit carried away with the overdubs but it was fun. I got most of the parts in a couple of takes – except the last two lines of the second verse. I sang the second verse about 20 times before I realized that I had played the wrong chord at the end. After I re-recorded the guitar part, it was easy.

Wish You Were Here

(performed by The Ragged Clown)

I got a bit carried away with the overdubs but it was fun. I got most of the parts in a couple of takes – except the last two lines of the second verse. I sang the second verse about 20 times before I realized that I had played the wrong chord at the end. After I re-recorded the guitar part, it was easy.

I didn’t know the solo part in the middle so I made shit up. I fired the drummer.

Sunshine of your Love

Sunshine of your Love

I’m not really sure why they call him Slowhand. My hands were much slower than his. I gave up trying to copy the last two measures of the solo and just made something up.

Sunshine of your Love

Performance by The Ragged Clown

I thought it’d be at least easy to sing. Turns out… not so much.

An End To Weeping

It cost me an E string and the skin off the top of my ring finger but I am done.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Recording Notes

Making music is hard.

I started with the drum track this time and it made everything so much easier. The rhythm guitar was fun even though you can’t really hear it over all the other tracks. I finished everything except the guitar solo in one day but it was another week before I could get back to it. Most of the drumming is me but I threw in a drum loop for the first verse just to see how it sounds. If I had picked a slightly faster tempo, I would have had a ton more loops to choose from. Oh well.


I played the piano part on the mac keyboard. I could’ve re-recorded it on a real piano when my midi cable arrived but I was too lazy. I did record the bass on the piano though. Can you believe I had my piano for 20 years before I got a midi cable? I thought so.

In that extra week, I had got much, much better at the lead and could play it through in one take and it was tempting to go back and re-record it but I was impatient to get to the solo.

Man, was that solo hard! I had to cheat a little. I recorded most of it in one go but had to go back and overdub the last bit because my fingers are too slow.

I got bored following the tab for the final solo so I ad-libbed a bit. I broke a string string bending to get that top A which is why it sounds a bit flat at the end – I was scared I would break it again!

I re-recorded the vocals too and was joined in a duet by guest vocalist, Mrs Clown. She was the photographer for the album art too!

Most fun song yet! On to the next one! It will involve dark desert highways.