“Putting the catch back on the table” - a retrospective look at Private Parts & Pieces IV - A Catch at the Tables. (originally published in #12 of The Pavilion).
INT: What can you tell us about this album…
AP: Well, Arboretum Suite is about trees. Lights On The Hill is about lights. Earthman is about Earth, Dawn Over The Lake is about the lake and Bouncer is about cricket and that’s about it.
INT: Yes, thanks for that! That was a good dry run. You mentioned before that this album was almost concurrent with Invisible Men and the other projects from that era. Can you run us through it track by track?
AP: The Arboretum Suite was actually a piece that I wrote for the wedding of Chris and Jacki Maliphant who are two friends of mine. That was done in 1980 and that last piece on the suite, Lights On The Hill, which was the more arranged piece , was also a song. Richard Scott did a version of it first of all in Masquerade and it was then used in Alice where it became the song Walls And Bridges. But the original version was the one recorded as part of the suite and there was a body of opinion that suggests that it worked well so when it came to putting the next Private Parts & Pieces album together it seemed natural to try and include it.
Editor’s note: I had the great pleasure of visiting the Arboretum in question with Ant and members of his cricket team: The Send Occasionals and so, dear reader, when you read the album note and listen to it, imagine your editor in the same situation… oh someone DID fall in the lake that day too but it was not I!
Most of the pieces on the album date from around 1980/81 with one or two exceptions, which is why most of it was probably recorded at Send. Dawn Over The Lake was just one of those moments where I picked up the twelve string and switched on the drum box. The drum box on that track is the one that Phil Collins made famous; the Roland CR70. I remember that for that track I slowed the drum pattern right down so that although the drum pattern is actually a normal rock one, it doesn’t sound like that at all. I was also in a tuning on the twelve string which was unusual and which I’d never been in before, so inevitably it has some strong moments and its bound to have some loose moments because I was just experimenting. I didn’t go in thinking that this would end up as a track on the album, I was just mucking around, so the track itself is edited down and the edits are not perfect but I think it’s strongly atmospheric.
Bouncer was recorded later when I had moved up to London and that was done during the Invisible Men sessions before Richard Scott arrived one morning. It was done literally just before breakfast. Eduardo was done during the last days in Send and that was recorded on my eight string Rudloff guitar. Heart Of Darkness was also from the last days at Send as was The Sea & The Armadillo, which I think was recorded during the summer of 1981.
Sistine and Bouncer were both going to be on the Invisible Men album but ultimately they didn’t fit in. Erotic Strings, which was first released on the harvest of The Heart compilation was from a much later period. That was part of the music for the Limehouse Productions play, Tropical Moon Over Dorking which was shown by Channel 4 and which starred Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon. It was used in a scene where the female character us supposed to be having an orgasm! The character that Pauline Collins played was a writer, who imagines all this stuff going on and in one part it intercuts with scenes of a couple that she is imagining in her novel, It was quite interesting because (in Ringo Starr accent) its not every day you have to write orgasmic music like, you know John…
A Catch At The Tables is the most recent track on the album. There was never originally a title track but I wrote that for the Virgin release in 1990 when the album came out on CD for the first time. That actual title came from the painting that’s on the front cover, which was done by a good friend of mine, Ed Tanner. The actual title is A Catch FOR The Tables but I misheard him and I also thought that there was a little bit more mystique to it and a double entendre with the gaming tables at Monte Carlo which is included in the painting. I still have the original rough painting and it had cigarette marks and phone numbers written in the corner! The finished version of the picture was a lot smoother and tidier but it seemed to lack the atmosphere and he was surprised when I wanted to use it but it has got something about it that I quite like.
There was also something about the music on this album that had an overall quality as well that was perhaps reflected in the cover. Dawn Over The Lake was a bit long and I was always worried about that./ When you put these kind of improvisations on and you start cutting them down too much you end up with nothing, so if you think it’s strong enough you have got to accept it, warts and all and ideally it could have been shorter but after all, improvisations are just that and maybe the audience drifts in and out of them just like the quality drifts in and out as well.
INT: Was Eduardo about somebody you know?
AP: No, that was just a title. My friend Denis Quinn helped me at the time with the titles when I played a lot of the rough tracks to him. Denis suggested Heart Of Darkness. I think Eduardo was my title but Heart Of Darkness was definitely his, he knew the book well, which I didn’t. That was a sort of Concerto Grosso type piece and I used he reference to “Concerto Grotto” in the sleeve notes as a sort of joke. That’s where you go from larger sounding strings to smaller sounding ones, so you get an alternating kind of quality. That track also had the Mellotron flute on it which still has bags of character together with the different forms of Polymoog string. The Sea And The Armadillo has the charango on it at the end and the charango is actually out of the body of an armadillo which is where the title came from. And that’s the album.
Indeed, short but sweet, or should that be “suite”? Quite appropriate as we now move on to the next album in the series…