I need to confess. The sun drenched days of summer that we had for weeks have now been replaced by soggy, heavy skies. All over Swansea parents have been left wondering what to do with their kids on a wet summer’s afternoon…and I think it’s all my fault. I’ve just released a new song called ‘Summer’s Gone’ and how love changes when it starts to rain, and I’ve just tempted fate a bit too much this time.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been sweltering in my studio trying to write new songs. Initially the weather reminded me of the long hot summer days of the 1970’s, summers of hose pipe bans, playing football on the beach and listening to the soul sound of Philadelphia on my little transistor radio. Sadly, my beach football days are over, so as always I fell back on the music.
Those soul records of The Spinners, The O’Jays and The Stylistics were masterpieces of soul with classy production values enhanced with the use of strings and horns. I’ve been working with Andrew Griffiths as an orchestral arranger for a number of years. He’s a lot younger than me, in fact he started off on work experience with me when he was 17! The trouble is when I sent him a new song and said I’d like that Philly Sound he didn’t know what I was talking about. In the end I sent him some links to videos of Gamble and Huff on YouTube and he soon got the idea.
The result was my last single ‘I Still Think About You’ described by one music journalist as a cross between ‘Club Tropicana meets Daft Punk’ with a tip of the hat to the sound of Philly.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been chatting to radio presenters all around the country, telling them my story and the story about the song and how appropriate it was to be out this summer with the weather being so good.
So why oh why did I have to write a song called ‘Summer’s Gone’ described again by my publicist as what happens to summer love when it starts to rain.
A week or so ago, as we planned the record’s release, the song seemed to be particularly badly timed. The song tells the story of love found while the sun was shining only to be lost again when the rains came. At that time the mercury was rising and there were blue cloud less skies everywhere.
My record plugger said not to worry. He explained that these things take time. He will send the song to the radio stations, but they then take a few days to a week to listen. If they like it, well that’s another couple of weeks before they play it. Before you know it a song released on 6th August is just about making an impact on August Bank Holiday Monday when everyone is going back to work, the nights start closing in and the weather turns. Perfect timing.
In preparation I decided to film a video. I think it was my keyboard player Nigel Hopkins that suggested I take a camera crew to the Amalfi coast, hire a sports car and film a video driving along those coastal roads that hug the cliffs like mountain goats on a natural history programme. Unfortunately, with the current travel restrictions and absolutely no budget I had to think of another idea.
The thing is, the Amalfi Coast is lovely and all that, but when the sun shines you really can’t beat Swansea Bay. With various members of my family still vulnerable due to the pandemic I’ve been trying my best to isolate as much as possible. Even if I had been able to afford a Panavision camera crew, make up and extra lighting I probably wouldn’t have wanted to bring them all together just in case.
So, I got my iPhone, dug out an old selfie stick and went for a stroll along the beach.
When I say went for a stroll what I actually meant was I went for a run. As the weather has been so wonderful recently I usually head for the beach not far from Mumbles and head towards town. I also quite often take my top off to top up my tan.
The top off works in two ways with regards the pandemic. Firstly, exposure to sunshine encourages the body to make Vitamin D thus making me healthier and more able to fight any potential infection. Secondly, when people see a topless man running towards them they naturally give me a wide berth, even more than the government recommended 2 metres. I think I’m immune to the funny looks now so when I took my iPhone out, popped it on a selfie stick and started singing along I didn’t even notice if anyone thought me strange.
In preparation for the filming I had downloaded a special app that made my videos look like old 8mm home videos. The programme adds film damage and blurriness to the otherwise crisp digital video. There is an added bonus, wrinkles almost completely disappear.
I got back to the house and downloaded the footage. I edited some bits together but soon realised that for a 4 minute video I was going to need more film. To be honest there aren’t that many people around early in the morning on Swansea Bay so I could prance around singing my heart out without too much concern. What I needed was another beach location.
Langland was the favourite bet but on a sunny afternoon the sand would be covered with lots of families and young people. Could I walk up and down the beach singing the same song over and over again without people calling the police?
It soon became clear that these days, with so many people either listening to music or talking on their phones very loudly one old guy walking up and down the beach filming himself singing with a selfie stick hardly raised any eyebrows at all.
I put the video together and sent it to my kids for their reactions. ‘Dad’ one said, ‘you’ve made Swansea Bay look like Miami’.
The song has now been released on all of the streaming services and we start plugging the radio stations next week. The song was really supposed to come into its own a little later this month as the summer comes to an end. Whilst the change in the weather makes the track somehow a lot more apt I can’t help feeling that maybe I should have held back release a week or two and not forced the British weather to call my bluff.