'Moonlight's Back in Style (songs by Nicky Campbell)'
Come for the Ride (click here for the lyrics)
This was always meant as a showcase for the band and I hope it's a worthy introduction. Mark and I wrote this one together as a real blow out and when we've done it live the band have had a ball and taken glorious liberties with the dots. Having sung it myself in front of an audience I can attest to how much fun it is. It was for me at least. Straight out of this take Mark was as ecstatic as a thrill freak after a bungee jump. "I enjoyed that" he exhilaratingly declared, with his headphones still on and his heart thumping. He is right in the pocket here.
As for writing it, I'd suggested the vibe to Mark and we got cracking. He brought a huge amount to the shape and feel of the song with a lyrical contribution straight from the poetic heart of county Moraghan. I had no idea what an Electra Glide is and am still not entirely sure. He loves all that stuff. We really like the idea of a swing song having references to Sat Nav and Obama although for that lyric Mark had initially favoured ‘Sam Giancana' to the current President. Now, that says a lot about my friend.
A Blast from the Past (click here for the lyrics)
I was walking along Regents Street on my way to a meeting when from somewhere in the madding crowd I caught the "trace of something in the air''. A scent that sent me; transported me to a time long gone and a place very far away. Sometimes it's a millisecond but time stands still and only the past exists; tangible but tantalising - and then just as suddenly it has vanished, like a will ‘o' the wisp. What if life had gone another way? That love was so real and so strong. Is it still somewhere? I thought, "That was a blast from the past", started playing with phrases and melody, got the Dictaphone out and wrote the song in the throng. Paul Buck told me he approached the arrangement as Nelson Riddle would have done. Oh yes! You know you're in business when you've got an MD who can think like that. Incidentally my wife Tina "suggested" I change the lyric from "A love affair that sadly went astray", to "somehow went astray".
Moonlight's Back in Style (click here for the lyrics)
I guess this is a song that is nostalgic about nostalgia. I originally wrote this as a ballad with different lyrics and sent it over to Mark on an MP3. He said the melody was good but he didn't like the words save for one phrase - "Moonlight's Back In Style." "That's what the song should be called and that's what we should call the album. And it should be a swinger." Feeling the total frustration that gnaws away from a job half done [if it is a job I care about] I went back to the piano, tried swinging it and it was so obviously meant to be. The next day I wrote the lyrics on the back of a coach full of nine year olds on the way to a party in the sticks.
This song was a breakthrough moment that made us start believing that we could maybe come up with something special. After Kevin's last high trumpet note, he skipped back into the booth beaming. We were too.
Angel Don't Cry (click here for the lyrics)
This was written very quickly while dreamily tinkling one evening on the piano and then, rapidly discarded and forgotten. I sang the first thing that came into my head as I mucked around. They can be the best ones sometimes. Months later I remembered it as an afterthought and played it to Mark. "Oh there's this one but you won't like it." I told him the lyrics were rubbish and I'd change them. He loved them.
Like me he has produced only daughters, all beautiful, all cherished and all unique. The doors may occasionally slam but the heart will always skips a beat when you see them. And she is always that little Angel you would protect with your life. I suggested Mark look at a photo of his little girl Ella when he was recording it but if he had, he would never have got through it.
We'll Never have Manhattan (click here for the lyrics)
I first went to New York in 1989 on a day return, to interview the Rolling Stones. The record company sent us First Class. Those days have long gone. Nice work if you can get it. It was as you can imagine - an intoxicating experience (apart from the return flight on Air Kuwait). But coming over the bridge from JFK as the cityscape came into view was, for a Jazz, Swing and Woody Allen nut like me, a quasi-religious experience. I was a pilgrim at the gates of the Holy Land. The radio in the yellow cab was actually playing ‘Rhapsody in Blue' like some kind of a corny set up. I am a sucker for the place.
My personal life was miserable at the time and Manhattan came to represent for me, Never Never Land, Emerald City, and Shangri La. A haven of dreams, romantic love, musical genius and 13ths with flattened 9ths - a place (for us) where anything and everything was possible. When things were really sad I was sustained by the ridiculous fantasy of going and living there in a little apartment with that girl. Ah yes, that girl from long ago. Those classic tunes; those sublime mini-essays on love would be our happy ever after world. It was never going to happen.
I had the idea for ages but the words and melody came to me one morning after a running past Tooting Broadway tube station. I hummed the instrumental break into my mobile imagining fireworks breaking over the electric night skyline. The fantastic Margo Buchanan duets with Mark. Margo has sung with among others, Joni Mitchell, Clapton, Tina Turner, Daryl Hall and Pink Floyd. She once said to me said, ‘swings my thing; just give me a call" You bloody bet we did.
Many's the Time (click here for the lyrics)
I wrote this song it after I met my wife in 1994 so it is the oldest on the album by far. I played it to Mark one day and the man from Del Mersey said "yes". It was composed when I was coming out of that period of unhappiness. The clouds had lifted, the ice melted and the sun was coming out. I'd started playing the piano and guitar again and the world was a different place. It's amazing how one chance meeting can do that. When we got married on 1997 I played it on my out of tune guitar during my wedding speech as I stood there in my Campbell kilt. There wasn't a dry glass in the house. I strummed it on the ukulele a couple of years back, giving it more of a Western Swing feel, and it worked a whole lot better. It's in tune for a start.
I'll Make an Exception for You (click here for the lyrics)
I started writing this when I got back from summer holidays in the Scottish Highlands, refreshed and ready to take on the world. The working title on my Mac was ‘Warm Franky Swinger'. I wanted to capture the feel of one of those big feel-good embracing belters Sinatra made his own.
It's a grudging admission of vulnerability, which develops into a resigned acceptance of inevitability. The idea of this resolutely macho but ultimately doomed rear guard action kicked the idea for the bridge into place. I love that nexus between testosterone and tenderness. You read it in the beautifully sculpted words and thoughts of the great boxing scribes, Mailer, Mcllvanny among them. Growing up in the age of Muhammad Ali I remember one fight; it might have been against Larry Holmes or Leon Spinks when, as things were going really badly, his legendary corner-man Angelo Dundee flung a towel in frustration at Ali's feet. I saw Hugh Mcllvanny at the British Open this year and made a beeline. He said the incident probably happened against Sonny Liston in 1964 but I remember it clearly and was only three. Anyway, Hugh added that he had recently gone over to see Angelo Dundee in Florida. I sat in jaw dropping awe. Growing up in Scotland I loved that guy's name. How could anyone so cool be called Dundee?
Marciano Moraghan got this first take. An undisputed champ. We applauded. He liked that.
Through it all (click here for the lyrics)
In the summer of 2007 I decided to teach myself ukulele. You can get to a whole different type of song with different instruments and I remember Dad playing a twangy old thing round the house when I was growing up and singing George Formby numbers not entirely brilliantly but with great joy. It's such a happy instrument which imbues songs with incurable optimism. The tune buzzed, brewed and bubbled up for a few weeks as a ditty before it fell into place one lazy afternoon after I'd chanced upon D flat 7th. Mark tweaked the lyric but not enough for a credit. The two if us sat in the garden, drank a bottle of wine and sang it together one long summer's afternoon and then glanced at each other. We thought, "This could all be quite good. Let's have another drink". It's fun to harmonize on and I'm backing Mark on the record.
The great Steven Sproat, who had got in touch when I mentioned my ukulele conversion on the radio, plays a 1927 Banjo-Uke on it. The minute he brought it into the studio and strummed we gave a resounding ‘yes'. Paul scored a ragtime break. We weren't sure about the idea. We were wrong.
I got my Hat, I got my Shoes (click here for the lyrics)
We got our Flugelhorns, we got our trumpets. They blow their lovely mid range tones for the first part of this and then the boys switch as it kicks up half way through. All of course, after Kevin's trumpet intro drifts out of some tenement alleyway on a balmy night. It's a song about the days you once knew and could so easily return to. Don't need much. Your hat, your shoes, your book about the blues and other sundry boy stuff. No problem. Not quite. Just don't look back.
Love Ran Out of Time (click here for the lyrics)
We've both been here. We've all been here haven't we? Mark rang me one morning in a state of some musical arousal. It could have been worse. He had woken up with a phrase in his head. "Etched in a teardrop." I got him to keep the stream of consciousness going and we wrote some more lyrics together, bashing the words back and forth and all the while focussing on the feelings of the song which was all too easily done. I went away, wrote the chords and melody and by the end of the afternoon we had most of it. "Northerly Line" came a couple of days later. So much better than ‘Hammersmith and District'.
The Birds are Singing Your Name Again (click here for the lyrics)
I do have a weakness for a smidgeon of country. I reckon it's the Celt in me. Maybe this is country /pop /swing. Maybe it's just a song you might enjoy. It's about realising just what you've got. I'd been driving near our home, saw a tall blond with nice legs walking on the pavement and out of natural curiosity you understand, craned my neck for a closer look when I was at the lights. It was my wife. Moments like that are faintly embarrassing but frankly unforgettable. A few days later I was walking home through Battersea Park thinking about what had happened, enjoying the soft breeze in the tall trees by the dirty old river and it developed into a song about the reaffirmation of love; the invincibility of love; the unfathomable mystery of love. Paul went for a ‘Baccarachian' horn arrangement. Now there's a word that sounds great in a broad Scouse accent.
The Universe of Blue (click here for the lyrics)
We are lucky enough to have a place in the Scottish Highlands to where we retreat whenever we can. It does tend to rain. And rain. Horizontally, relentlessly, spectacularly and frequently. I wrote this while playing the piano, sitting in the warmth and staring out the window, which was taking a hypnotic battering. I couldn't take my eyes off it. As the storm raged outside a silent one gathered within. It took me somewhere melancholy. I guess that stemmed from the feeling of futility in the face of such elemental power. The words just tumbled out. The very first time we did a demo on my Apple Mac, Mark totally made the song his own.
Wonderfully Wonderful You (click here for the lyrics)
Not long after we met and I'd heard Marks ability to swing, I mentioned my own love of the genre and my obsession with songs and song writing. He asked me to write him a swingy thing with clever lyrics. "Do me a Cole Porter?" he said. Yea baby- paint me a Rembrandt. No problem. Nothing wrong with setting the bar high but that's what I call competing at altitude. It was a plainly ludicrous aspiration but a wonderfully wonderful challenge. It did set me on a certain creative course especially in some of the rhymes I went for. Porter was brilliantly audacious and at the very least I can be bloody impertinent. You try stuff and its great fun to write and you know - it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I hummed the melody into a recorder on a crowded tube train. I remember the looks. "There's always one. Please God he doesn't sit next to me" Thanks to Cole for the phrase ‘gossamer wings' and while I'm at it just - thanks to Cole.
You make this Whole Crazy Story Worthwhile (click here for the lyrics)
Mark and I are away from home a lot in our working lives and this song he immediately identified with. The great advantage of writing for someone else is that you are automatically and instinctively more inclusive in your approach. We are of a similar age although he claims to be a bit younger than me. The "kickers and flairs' line got more than a glint of recognition. "That's me on that bus" he said. Since these are our lives, hopefully the lives of others are in the song too. I like love songs that see love as the only reality in the lunacy. Ain't that the truth. Emily Dickinson was right - "That Love is all there is, Is all we know of Love."
Recorded at ffg studios, Gloucestershire, UK
Recorded on June 2008, November 2008 and April 2009
Engineered by David Pick
Mixed by Calum Malcolm, North Berwick, UK
Surround mixing and mastering by Philip Hobbs at Finesplice, UK
Photography by David Levine
Design by John Haxby
All songs published by Bucks Music Group Ltd.