Marylebone EP

TRACKS: Marylebone, (She's a) Self-made Man, Gregory Peck, Padawan

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Mik on Lyrics:

English names can be a mystery to non-English speakers. How could St John possibly come to be pronounced Sinjun? Menzies become Min-gis? And where do you start with the Cholmondeleys or the Featherstonehaughs or the Woolfhardisworthies*?

Every time I pass through Marylebone, (apart from speculating on who Mary was and why she had that effect on people), I recall an American friend never quite managing the Englishman's pronunciation - Mar-lee-bone.  

However, his version makes a great hook, and kind of accentuates the feeling that the female character is a bit out of place, lost and vulnerable. It also sounds gorgeously smutty when sung out loud by a builder.

mod-maryleboneMarylebone took about a week to write, as I returned to it over different days. Whilst refining the second verse, I needed a three-syllable word (which had to rhyme with 'Cab Driver') to describe how the male character's journey across London was thwarted. Speaking some alternatives aloud, the word 'Highsider' presented itself - something I thought was a term my brain constructed spontaneously to help. It sounded plausible - I imagined it to be a large articulated lorry - so yes, a highsider could indeed block up the street. Bingo.

Checking the word, I was even more delighted to learn from YouTube that a highsider is, in fact, a high-speed motorcycle crash, the kind you get in Grand Prix. This would certainly close the road - and also bring a slight sense of irony, given the kamikaze manoeuvres that some bikers have a penchant for in heavy traffic.

(*actually pronounced Chumley, Fanshaw & Woolsey)

Jon on the mix:


5oz simple beat
2 tbsp catchy bass
4 tbsp synth hooks
2 tsp hooky guitar licks
1 tsp crazy-arsed sfx
2oz vocal talent


1. Pour simple beat and catchy bass into a large pan and place over a medium heat. Stir thoroughly until mixed.

2. Add synth and guitar to your mix and bring to the boil.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and place in a hot oven. Do not cover your mix as you will need it to crisp up.

4. When mix is firm and crisp, remove from the oven. Allow to chill.

5. Add sfx to vocal talent and pour over your mix to serve.

Serving Tip:
Best enjoyed with a smile on your face.

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Mik on Lyrics:

mod-selfPhyllida Lloyd's film The Iron Lady left me with more questions than answers about Margaret Thatcher, particularly concerning the role which Thatcher's father played in shaping her beliefs and forming her work ethic - and therefore directly influencing a nation's path.

This song isn't actually about MT, but it is about the way parents' expectations can subtly - or not so subtly - influence a child's development. I saw a character who moved herself from smalltime council estate into bigtime real estate, and then on to the world stage. Yet every time she takes ground, she can't truly possess it, because her father's spectre lurks in the background. Her ambition is really a smokescreen to obscure the fact she can't settle - nothing's ever going to be enough. The balm of Necker Island is too soporific, so she trades it in for the Alps. She buys a Swiss retreat - but isolation and tranquility for her equates to inactivity, so she develops it into a high-end spa. She acquires an alpha-lover from Rio (guess I should have called him Theo) but she really fancies a trio. Well, ok, on that front, who wouldn't.

SMM was also important for us because it started Jon and I talking about graphic novels, which he was keen to explore as a Tracys' project. The prospect of writing an entire book was a daunting one, so we took a couple of days to throw together a comic-book page of frames which were then used as a daily strip on Tracebook (our Facebook page). And whaddaya know - Lisa turned out far more gorgeous than we'd imagined.

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mod-gregMik on Lyrics:

Jon sent over twenty grooves to choose from, and this one really grabbed me. Initially, the music evoked two key pictures in my mind's eye - one of an assassination, (from the bells) the other, a forties dance hall, from a sound clip at the very start of the song.

Jon mentioned that he had an idea for a title: 'If You Should Kill Me' - so we were clearly thinking along similar lines. I wrote a version about an assassin and his girlfriend - the chorus went something like: 'If you should kill me / If I were run through / Every piece that you carve would say / 'I Love You'. Hmmm. Pretty - but not quite right. 

Over thirty years in the creative industries I have learned to identify and work with what I call 'seed thoughts' - those random whispers in the back of the mind that can be powerful triggers for the imaginative process, yet are easily overlooked or reasoned away. Creatives work out of the right side of the brain which may be why, for me, these seeds occur whilst driving, an activity that engages the analytical side, leaving the artistic part freewheeling. As I drove back from a meeting with Jon, this seed was a phrase: 'He smiles like Gregory Peck'.

This lodged, shrapnel-like in my brain. So should the assassin be a grinning, Brylcremed actor? Perhaps not. I listened again, visualising possible storylines and allowing extra elements to come into the frame: the Brecht and Weill song 'Surabaya Johnny', the East Indies, merchant shipping around World War Two. Having plumped for the latter as the scene, set a target of three stanzas, placed the Gregory Peck line as a payoff on each one, the rest was - almost - plain sailing.

Eight bells signals the end of a ship's watch, but is also a sailors' euphemism for death. The character wears a suit 'black as java' (as in coffee) to the makeshift champagne bar - not a tuxedo, but a uniform. In his eagerness to pick up the girl (a naval wife en route to Australia perhaps?) he has deserted his duties on watch - so when the reef looms, no-one notices it. I realised that this was indeed an assassination - but of a ship by an errant officer.

The line 'Deep calls to the deepest' is a reference to Psalm 42 - 'Deep calls to deep... Your waves and breakers have swept over me'. The original has spritual significance, but here I've used it literally to evoke the might of the sea and the helplessness of the crew against nature as the ship goes down. Larboard is a bit anachronistic - it was a term used by sailors instead of 'Port' in the eighteenth century, almost certainly out of use by the 1940s except possibly by much older seamen - but I wanted something to rhyme with 'starboard' and it seemed a lot more appropriate than cardboard.

There is a post-war window when Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich and Yvonne De Carlo (her reference is to the movie Salome, Where She Danced) were all in the public eye. I always thought of Peck as a sixties actor, but he actually got several Academy Award nominations in the forties. Go Greg.

So in the end, Gregory Peck is the combination and refinement of several ideas. I never did figure out exactly what the girl was doing on board in the first place. But I think the final result works and sets the tone for Jon's orchestral section which I love, and Cath's ever-so-slightly spectral backing vocals.

Jon on Music:

This track was written to be a ghost story before it became Gregory Peck, so imagine my delight when Mik came up with his lyric. From the bells at the beginning to Cath's subtle 'Oohs' towards the end, it all had to be eerie and romantic sounding. I love doing string arrangements and Gregory gave me an opportunity to do one... I love the orchestral sounds found in many of the old songs recorded in the 40's and 50's, especially the imaginative string arrangements sadly missing from pop music these days... my strings had to be simpler to fit the track, but I hope they evoke something of the era.

Thanks to Cath, whose versatile vocalising made this track such a joy to record... Her voice is so easy to mix... Lucky me.

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Mik on Lyrics:

mod-padawanAs we all should know by now, a Padawan is a Jedi apprentice, the relationship which Luke Skywalker has to Obi Wan Kenobi.

This song was written for my daughter, who couldn't get to the Star Trek Convention with all five Enterprise captains. So I hope it goes one better - a mashup convention of many faces and masks, a mixing of alter-egos and super-egos. Where else might Scotty meet Stark, or Chewie hangout with Cyclops? Is this a Starfleet fairytale? Or are we in graphic novel Nirvana?

For those not familiar with the Marvel universe, the Minutemen were an early incarnation of the Watchmen heroes. Call me a geek if you like but I guarantee that I pale into utter insignificance next to Jon Tracy.