Silver Meadows – where it’s very nearly at…
It seems to have taken forever but here we are at last closing in on the Silver Meadows release date, it comes out officially next Monday although I’ve been dispatching CDs for the last couple of weeks so some people will have their copies already. I just want to say say a huge thanks to everyone, the support is really appreciated. Below is the mailing list info pre release, more on the songs, the ideas behind them. if you don’t subscribe please do, I typically only send out a couple of mail shots a year, for the important stuff, album releases and key shows. Ok here’s where its at…
Silver Meadows [Fables from the Institution], a concept album set in a fictitious 1980s long stay psychiatric hospital gets its release proper on 6.6.16. The CD is available now from the new look website, and there are pre order MP3 links here with Amazon, iTunes and Bandcamp
Heres a lovely new review from Americana -UK – more to come…
Silver Meadows has been a truly inspirational record to make and I’m really excited about sharing it with you, and performing it live of course. It was primarily influenced by my working in long stay psychiatric and learning disability institutions, that and my brothers treatment and mis-treatment in the mental health care system. It’s set in the mid 1980’s rambling old red brick victorian Institution during the emergence of Community Care, the government sponsored programme of hospital closures and new community service planning – the policy that shifted the emphasis of caring for vulnerable people from Hospital to community settings. The songs are driven by fictional characters that track lives in the Institution and beyond. Here are some of the key elements, and explanations behind the songs and the stage play which is currently in development.
Mild mannered psychologist Andy the ‘Saviour of Challenging Behaviour’ arrives at The Institution and is seen both as a threat and a liberating force for change, he doesn’t stay for long but he inspires a mini revolution by listening to what patients really want which isn’t so very different from what we all take for granted, somewhere to live that feels like home, the choice of who to live with, friends, a job, being part of things, having a boyfriend or girlfriend, getting married and so on. He causes a bit of a storm; his song gently chimes for freedom.
‘And the misfit voices in his head sang in perfect harmony, we’re going to set these people free, let them be who they want to be, let them see who they want to see their time is coming’
‘Gerald the Porter’, is the hospital drug dealer, the resident wide boy ‘he can take you eight miles high like Roger McGuinn’. is the songs refrain, he’s a proper Merry Prankster….
Title track ‘Silver Meadows’ is about a young man who returns to the Institution after failing to get on in the outside world. This was typical in the early days of Community Care when services were just working out what it was going to take to help people become citizens, share activities and engage with the outside world.
‘I recognise a girl I knew from the last time I was here, she smiles and says come in sit down you know there’s nothing for you to fear…. going back to Silver Meadows’
Community Care is a dialogue song between a member of hospital staff and a patient who is nervous about moving out. People were excited about moving on but with excitement came fear of change and societal rejection. One of the biggest barriers to community care was the irrational fear and anxiety of the local community. Relatives were also under pressure from the Institution’s key authority figure Dr Marshall, who does his best to convince everyone that things should stay just the way they are…
‘Room Management’ was a behavioural modification technique favoured by the Psychology Department, to occupy residents based on a reward of sweets and praise, positive reinforcement was the buzzword, toys were assembled in a day room and adults encouraged to play with them for hours on end. Graphs were produced, degree modules completed…
‘Residents occupy and engage earning their drinks their sweets and their praise’
The Self Help Skills Unit supposedly offered training and support to enable patients to do things for themselves through the fine art of task analysis and a series of complicated prompts recorded graphed and charted. It was in the main a complete waste of time. Patients would sit around half the day in a various states of undress, under instruction to take their jumpers on and off, make beds, clean teeth or sit on the toilet for hours to be rewarded at the end of the day with a jelly tot for using the loo.
‘Its two way mirror observation, take your jumper on and off, clean your teeth, brush your hair, until they press the stop watch’
‘This is What I Do Now’ is a song referencing the latter part of my NHS career. I visited a lot of secure hospitals, assessing patients, liaising with community services, the local authority and other unscrupulous bureaucrats. The NHS wastes a ton of money on independent hospitals supporting people with complex needs, and typically, like it says in the song, they hang on to people for much longer than they need to. It was an uphill battle and I conceded defeat more often than not…
‘I make some notes I say my bit they say he’s getting there but he’s not ready yet we need to keep him here awhile longer, more feedback from the new OT she says basket weaving makes him angry – is any wonder??’
‘Everyone Has Something To Say’ is all about people communicating in different ways, from the alphabet board to the text message. It’s about learning how to listen, always harder than you think. It was inspired by a poster of a microphone on a speech therapists wall..
In the old Institutions people who got sick were nursed on site in a ‘Hospital Wing’ – in the song a young man with a degenerative condition is fading away like his brother before him…
‘Spend all day in a giant pram, listening to Dexys, Spandau & Wham, the nurse manager says hello you remember her of course you do, she’s been here for twenty years she’s an end of life specialist’
The video for Hospital Wing was shot by regular VP collaborator Andy Squiff and at Bream Community Centre in the Forest of Dean with a lovely group of actors who added some sweet humour to the song, the patients drugging the staff, and breaking out to pay their respects. It was a lovely touch and lightened the mood nicely.
In ‘Waiting Games’ a young man with multiple disabilities has fallen in love with a trainee psychologist, he cant move and he cant speak and he’s waiting for her to unlock his intelligence, to understand there’s more to him than people realise.
‘I’m waiting for someone to come, to come and see me, waiting for someone to, for someone to be with, waiting for someone like you waiting to be found out, to have second thoughts and cast a shadow of doubt, anyone will do, but I’d rather it were you’
The trainee psychologist is called Beth, she’s the girl in the title track experimenting with LSD…
‘The pretty young psychologist is sitting on my knee, she says this is the first time that she’s taken LSD, you can stay on the sofa bed if you’re really that bleary eyes, but no soon as I’ve mentioned it she’s throwing up outside’
In ‘The Wednesday Club’ [the patients disco] a couple fall in love only to be separated when the hospital closure program kicks in, ending up in different parts of the country. Michael and Jenny are their names, they help others, make things, do jobs, run errands, but they are ultimately separated by the system…and based a true story….
‘And every Wednesday night, at the Wednesday Club, we held each other tight, we were so in love, we’d dance and sing along, then we’d all applaud as Steve the DJ says same time next week you all’
There’s a charge nurse called Rick who specialises in in-patient humiliation, he’s handy with his fists and the patients are scared of him. I witnessed an assault when I was a student nurse, reported the incident, filled in the forms but no one would corroborate when witnesses were sought even though several staff saw what happened. This incident makes a verse in albums opening song The Institution…
‘I reported him but no, the witnesses were petrified they as good as told me so I had to go’
The closing track on the album is The Back Wards; they were the wards set apart from the main site of the Institution and housed the hard to manage patients. In truth staff did what they liked there and no one asked how or why. This is a song about the bad stuff…its still goes on today.
You better behave or they’ll send you away, send you away to the back wards, just settle down and do as you’re told or they’ll make you pay on the back wards’
Silver Meadows is also ‘in development’ as a stage play with Liverpool playwright and author Ian Salmon. We are aiming to have a production ready to go early next year 2017 but it depends on grants and suchlike as its a big ensemble piece. We are currently scouting for decent theatre space, actors, musicians, set designers. I’ll update people as we go on; interested parties get in touch do.
Liverpool rhythm aces Paul Tsanos [drums] and Bobby Kewley [bass] added their respective brilliance to the Silver Meadows record. I’ve worked with P&B in a number of guises over the years, from glam rock tribute shows to dodgy party bands. They did a wonderful job on Silver Meadows. The band will also feature piano wiz kid Rob Steadman who I have been lucky enough to do duo gigs with since the defunct days of Parlour Flames.
The Silver Meadows Artwork is by acclaimed Manchester Photographer Paul Cliff. The deluxe digi- pack CD comes with a twelve page lyrics booklet. Paul’s work is always inspiring, the images capture the mood of the album perfectly.
Silver Meadows producer Dave Marsden and I last worked together when he was managing Pearl Studios in Liverpool in the early 90s and his input was inspirational throughout. Dave has a successful career in film, games and TV music and is the most diligent of musicians, and a brilliant editor, we spent many an afternoon at his studio reshaping and arranging, recording and editing vocals, adding extra guitars and various bits of exotic instrumentation, including the Moog. Dave is a state registered moogaholic. His sonic vigilance and production nous has given Silver Meadows its epic overtones and we are both proud extremely of it. I hope you like it too and if you do would be most grateful if you could share and re tweet and support on any social media you mediate with. Every little helps. Thanks for reading thus far, its been a bit of a mini epic mail out this one which is probably down to pride and hope and a genuine wish to connect these songs to more people.
Thanks for your time
I hope you enjoy
Some forthcoming gigs for your diary more tbc details on the site
Tue 14th June Gullivers Manchester with Pete Williams with Rob Steadman details
Fri 1st July Cinnamon Club, Bowden duo show with Rob Steadman details
Sun 12th July The Railway, Newnham, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
Thur 15th Sept The Old Stables Cricklade Wiltshire with Rob Steadman
Thur 22nd Sept Broadcast Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow with Rob Steadman
Fri 23rd Sept Speakeasy Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh duo show with Rob Steadman
Fri 7th Oct The Eagle Salford – full band show performance of Silver Meadows