Simulacra (Side Two) – ‘sleeve’ notes
Simulacra began as a solo album with a smattering of esteemed guests, and Side Two looked as if it would continue in much the same direction. That changed when I asked Angeline Morrison if she would sing on a version of Gang of Four’s ‘I Found That Essence Rare’ and she said Yes. It turned out well, so we did another song, and another, until we found ourselves co-writing a song in partnership with the venerable folk legend known as Trad. This stretched the concept of cover version that little bit further. The collection became a Morrison/Duffy co-production, with a couple of interludes for solo spots by me.
1 Ginchy (Bert Weedon)
Bert Weedon’s ‘Play in a Day’ Guide To Modern Guitar Playing was a useful handbook when first I took up the guitar. Mostly I used it as a compendium of chord diagrams, stopping well short of ‘Seventh with augmented fifth shapes.’ I had a go at his ‘Simple Blues for Guitar,’ even recording a version, on my Grundig quarter inch half track reel-to-reel, with my dad on flute. Replacing this lost recording was my first idea for a Bert Weedon tribute, but instead I opted for one of his better known tunes. Scholars of ‘pop trivia’ will know that this number has the alternative title ‘Teenage Kicks.’
2 He’s Frank (Ganesh Seshadri/Thomas Hardy)
There are two versions of ‘He’s Frank’ by The Monochrome Set and opinion is divided as to which is superior. Now there is this version, which some might consider one too many. Not me. If nothing else, consider it a fresh opportunity to make a close reading of those extraordinary lyrics. The peculiar boy, his purple bed, his decline from lustrous youth. Forsake and forsooth…
3 Don’t You Rock me Daddio (Trad. Arr. Morrison/Duffy)
Skiffle has too small a place in the histories of music. Thinking to redress this balance I turned to a song my own daddy-o was wont to sing. What you hear here is a rendering of the Lonnie Donegan version. It was the beginning of something, as evidenced by the two other versions of this song which you can find on track 6 and track 8.
4 Pretty Flamingo (Mark Barkan)
It occured to me it might be interesting to reverse-gender the lyric of this song. Angeline had a better idea and sung it just as it is. The particular impact of the line ‘And all the guys will envy me,’ when sung by a female protagonist, brings to mind the legions of eager lads aggrieved by the unavailability of Samantha Fox.
5 I Found That Essence Rare (King/Gill/Burnham/Allen)
…is a song you can sing unaccompanied to great effect. It sounds good in the bathroom, even better in a tunnel or cathedral. There’s something about the tune that wouldn’t sound out of place in a programme of ecclesiastical works from the middle ages. The lyrics could not be relocated so easily, redolent as they are of the discontent of the Thatcher years, obliquely undermining the status quo of the post-nuclear world.
6 Sing Away Ladies (Morrison/Duffy/Trad.)
If a folksong might be defined as a song with no definitive version then there can be no cover versions of it. Alternatively, all folk songs are cover versions. Both are valid positions. This version of the ‘Daddy-O’ template began when I played a wrong chord and the tune took an unexpected turn. It continued when Angeline suggested we rewrite the verses, locating the action in our shared homeland, Birmingham.
7 Dirty Armour (Nick Duffy)
It was a bit of a stretch, suggesting that reworking your own old material might count as a cover version, but it was a fundamental part of the creation myth that brought Side One into being. This track demonstrates a certain reluctance to let go of the idea.
8 Sail Away Ladies (Trad. Arr. Morrison/Duffy)
There’s the Lonnie Donegan version of ‘Don’t You Rock me Daddy-O’ and there’s another by The Vipers Skiffle Band, but it doesn’t stop there, not by the longest of chalks. Following Cecil Sharp’s practice of seeking out the many variants of a song rather than attempting to find the one true ‘original’ it soon became clear that this was a song with a long history and a multitude of different iterations. Many of them elbow Daddy-O out of the title, giving preference to the Ladies who sail or sing away. What began as an homage to skiffle was revealing hidden depths, deepest of them all being the glorious renderings of Sail Away Ladies by Odetta. Should we even attempt a version of a song that she had brought to perfection? I was hesitant, but Angeline thought otherwise. Odetta wouldn’t have wanted us to be put off, she insisted.
Simulacra was coming together nicely when I had a bicycle accident which kept me out of the recording studio for a while. It was at that point I decided to release what I’d done so far and call it Side One – as if it was an imaginary vinyl record with only an obverse face. A geometrical and physical impossibility, but a notion with some of the attributes of a zen koan.
Why it took more than two years to complete Side Two is not entirely clear, even to me, but here it is. Perhaps one day the two sides will be united in a single disc of actual vinyl. Preferably several hundred discs.
Although this has yet to happen, the titles of these half albums fell foul of the Apple Style Guide. It was this section that was the sticking point:
3.12. References to Physical or Digital Content or Content Not Included. Titles must not include explanatory terms that refer to the digital or physical format of the content.
A compromise had to be reached. Side One and Side Two are henceforward to be known simply as ‘One’ and ‘Two.’