Girl From The Neck Down – Part 1

At the time of writing this we are edging towards completion of the Suzi Chunk debut  album,“Girl From The Neck Down”. We began late June 2011 when Suzi came down to Kent intending to record three tracks for what was originally going to be the second Groovy Uncle LP-the follow up to “Play Something We Know!” We laid down “Probably Normal”, “Big Screen” and “No Stone Unturned”. The final touch on that session was to be the sublime flute playing of Phil Brown and it was while waiting for him to arrive on that hot, sunny afternoon when State Records‘ Marty Ratcliffe vocalised what I’d already been thinking; “This should be a Suzi Chunk album!”

And so it was…

“No Stone Unturned” was the oldest of these tunes, going way back to God-knows-when and I can’t even remember writing it, which is unusual for me. The Groovy Uncle rendition made it on to the first album and there is an acoustic live version by Suzi-along with me and the ridiculously talented Ben Jones -recorded at The Barge, Gillingham in April 2011. For my money though, the Suzi Chunk album cut is the definitive one. Haunting, soulful, moody, sexy and cool, she more than does the song justice and Ben’s guitar playing is perfect. Mole’s drumming is spot on as always while Allan Crockford’s bass playing is big and brilliantly effortless.

“Big Screen”. I started this one at the piano and it instantly took on a melancholic,reflective feel. The backdrop is a bleak, seemingly heartless Every Town as seen through the careworn eyes of a “sensitive outsider” who yearns for escape from “these narrow streets and cobbled minds”, where boys will be (monkey) boys and girls “reserve their right to sup”. Yeah, that old chestnut! In the end though it’s a song about hope-a kind of “Over The Rainbow” for the karaoke generation, if you will. “Big Screen” was the song that triggered the notion of working with a female singer after I wrote it back in 2006. Originally I heard it as a John Barry-esque arrangement but as the recording progressed a very different mood took hold especially after the addition of a subtle, mournful,”it’s grim up North” style brass section. Suzi’s vocal delivery gives the song a restrained sense of yearning and she finishes with a nice piece of three part harmony work. It’s a fine track. Well, I hope it is…  

“Probably Normal” was the first song written purposely for Suzi-i.e the first of the album tracks that hadn’t already existed prior to her involvement with the GU project. It’s a sunny, samba-infused little tune that would have sat nicely as filler on an Astrud Gilberto or Dusty album. But it had a traumatic birth…

Somewhere around mid-2011 I woke to a beautiful blue sky morning; the sun streaming through the curtains on what should have been a feel good kind of day. A day for writing songs and righting wrongs. And then it kicked the front door in and came looking for me! It gets you, you don’t get it. By “it” I’m referring to… depression?… anxiety?… some sort of emotional breakdown? In the song I named it “the feeling of not right”. Fact is, I reached for my guitar and held on to it like the only piece of driftwood in a troubled ocean and through tears I found both the chords and the mantra. It was all gonna be alright. This is normal. Probably. I’m probably normal….

I like songs with melodies and arrangements that are contradictory to the lyrics. Just because a song has a dark subject matter doesn’t necessarily mean the tune needs to be a morose, minor key plod. I also like the fact that there is a little nod to The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band classic “We Are Normal” as Suzi and I are massive fans. Click on the link below to hear a clip of an early mix of the track.

 

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