This is a photo taken from the BBC website, ©Scott Hughes. It could just as well be Jon looking through the wrong end of his new varifocals. Spring is upon us, and change – not just of the eye-wear variety, not just of the aging variety – is in the air. The blog has been quiet, shall we say dormant, patiently waiting through the wind and the rain and the shifting seasons. Do other people find something melancholy about the woodland sentinels of shaded blue, their ephemeral parade?
But the moodiness of sunshine and shadow is perfect for recording for Specialized 3, especially since our Madness assignment is One Better Day, a song about homelessness that includes the line “the feeling of arriving when you’ve nothing left to lose”. It is a lovely song: hats off from a band of Specials snobs (well, one of us in particular is, anyway) to a band whose discography of poppy hit singles belies their lyrical and musical sophistication. “Mad Not Cancer”, the Belmont Stakes of the Specialized Triple Crown, has a wealth of material to draw upon, and we’re very excited to be a part of, and hear, the next offering from Paul Willo and crew for Teenage Cancer Trust. Please show your support via www.specializedproject.co.uk
So, “the feeling of arriving”? It resonates. I alluded a while back on Facebook to a change in our lineup: after much soul-searching – and he has much soul to search – Mark has left the Bluebird flock. His increasingly frequent antics with Two Gentlemen Play the Pops, and his family life, meant that he could no longer commit to our admittedly infrequent gatherings of the gig and rehearsal nature. It is with great fondness and love that we thank him, wish him well, and look forward to ongoing musical collaboration of some form or another with him in the future. He is an exceptional person and an exceptional talent.
Fortunately, the panic of being guitarist-less was short-lived; with gentle and persistent wooing, we invited Thure Gade Johansen back into the fold. “Back” because, if you remember, Thure depped when Mark was unavailable for the Camden Specialized (1) gig in July 2012. And, like Tom Archer before he got cold feet and left Kirsty at the alter, Thure said “yes”. Unlike Tom, Thure is a man of profound thoughtfulness and integrity, and brother can he play the guitar. If you don’t believe me, wait until you hear the tracks he’s just laid down tonight for the Madness cover. Less of an axe-man, more of a sculptor on this one. An “arriving”, yes. Beautiful.
And since Thure has joined us, as though he is blessed with the Midas touch, we have booked a veritable handful of gigs throughout the rest of the year. We aspire to one a month; this month, we have three. First up is another support slot with Jersey Budd (hard to believe our last live set was also supporting Jersey and his band, at the 02 half a year ago ) at the beloved Musician in Leicester on Friday, May 16th. Though the varifocal theme may have you rubbing your eyes, no, you won’t be seeing double – that will be our own Will posing as Jersey’s bassist. (Evidently the rider is better. And if you haven’t seen Will lately – check out a certain flower shop on Loseby Lane in town near Grey Friars. There’s a life-size cardboard cut-out of him* holding a bouquet and wearing nothing but a come-hither grin and a pair of khakis.)
A few days after that, on Tuesday, May 20th, at least two-thirds of us will be at one of Howard Coleman’s Live Acoustic Special nights at the Priory in Nanpantan. This promises to be a good night; yes, it is special when an audience is so clearly there to listen to music, rather than just have a few drinks and a chat over background tunes. The other acts that night are Jaine Bow, Anna Perver, and Paul MacClure. I have no idea if those are the correct spellings of their names, as Jon was the one who wrote them down, and spelling is not his strong suit. I haven’t heard any of these artists perform before, and I’ll try to get some more info on them closer to the time, but judging from last time around, Howard is a music lover of “sound” taste. Ahem.
I’ll also write more about our other upcoming gigs closer to their respective times, but before I go there’s another good piece of news to share. We’re writing, and preparing to record, another album. It started in Anglesey, in the depths of February on a spectacular piece of coastline that cried out to be immortalised in song. The project was going to be a modest EP, but it’s too late for that…and life, as the bluebells know, is too short; so why settle for five songs when we’re feeling this inspired?
*Or someone who looks a lot like him.