I am a 60-year-old ex-television and film actor, puppeteer and movement choreographer from a coal mining family from Stanley, Co. Durham, England (now living in Oswestry, Shropshire) who had to retire three years ago for health reasons. I now keep busy and creative by writing and recording original and traditional folk songs and tunes in many styles (some in more of a musical genre) about or set in the Northeast of England, from the 18th century to the present day. I’ve recorded 5 ‘albums’ (Parts really) in all, with 13 tracks in each, and it’s these I will be sharing here, along with some stories about my professional and personal musical past. (The professional stories will include my encounters with Harry Nilsson, Stephen Sondheim, Elton John, Paul McCartney and David Bowie, to name but five.)
Mak’s Folk – I did the folk songs and tunes primarily for my own creative outlet, and for the entertainment of a few of my Northeastern England family, but thought it might be worth sharing them…we’ll see. After 40-odds years of entertaining others, this time I was just entertaining myself. I was also experimenting. Sometimes it worked, other times not so much. Another reason I decided to share them, was to see if others might take some, make them their own and improve on them…which won’t be hard to do! They are free to use for non-commercial use with only a credit, but in the unlikely event of anyone wishing to use them for professional reasons, I’m sure we can come to some arrangement. I’d just like to her someone in with a voice in a better state than mine singing them. (Some of my ailments affect my voice at times.)
What my music is not (in general), is a romantic, rose-tinted nostalgic look at the past. A great deal of the time it was anything but the ‘Good Old Days’, and I’m glad for young people today that some of it is indeed past and gone, even from my own childhood days. A great deal of the time it only seems good because we see it through happy childhood eyes, or because there was plenty of work to go around. However, it cannot be denied that there was probably a much stronger sense of community in the Northeast during the coal mining times. There had to be to survive! But, no matter how hard it was, there was always a great deal of humour and laughing!
I’m not your usual amateur folk singer-songwriter – if there is such a thing – as I don’t play acoustic instruments, even if I strive to make most of my music sound acoustic through the use of virtual instruments and loops. I never could get the hang of the guitar besides a few basic chords, and had a lot more success on the keyboard. Even then, I would never put myself in the same league as many an amateur folk artist, let alone professional! Also, unlike most, I don’t usually sing as ‘me’, but as the character of the song, so I will change my voice to suite at times. However, as I mentioned above, because of my illnesses, my voice isn’t always at its best on some tracks – it’s certainly not what it was ten years ago – and with a lack of energy to do more takes they have to remain that way. I hope they’re not too bad, however. There, that’s the excuses out-of-the-way.
For those not into ‘folk’ music, well you may have a false view of it. It isn’t sandal-wearing bearded blokes with one finger in the ear these days. There are so many sub-genres from Traditional to Indie Folk, all using different styles and instruments, from acoustic to electric, but all with the same general underlying content. If you want to see just one new kind of folk, take a look at Devonian Seth Lakeman‘s work, or the ladies he’s been singing with lately, Wildwood Kin. I’m not worthy! (Blue text links to YouTube.)
Music – I have done other types of music and, in fact, this all began back in March, 2017 when I started to work on a belated 40th anniversary version of a musical I wrote in 1974 called Leaving School for my older nephew, David Calvert, who played the teacher in it. (See THIS blog.) Before recording these, my illnesses had made me give up on writing and recording music. Silent (acid) reflux (for one) has partially damaged my vocal cords, which hasn’t helped; but writing and recording those songs not only got me back into the swing of it, it warmed the voice box up, and, most importantly, got me being creative again. This is the most important thing for me. We are creative being, and I think we all need to be creative in one way or another, whether that be gardening, fixing a car engine or composing songs.
Music Folk – I must confess something, I only started to do my Close Encounter Of The Music Legend Kind and other past musical career blogs purely because I knew they would get more folk coming to my the site and, hopefully, listening to my folk music too. Well, I was right on the first count, but, judging by my site and SoundCloud statistics, I don’t think it’s getting many people to have a listen to my musical attempts. Hardly surprising really, as most of those wanting to read these – include either current or budding puppeteers – are not that interested in folk-type music that is primarily about the history of a specific region of England. Just so you know, I have blogged about the other kinds of music I have done – see THIS one for example – and I will be doing more in the future. (I’ve added a couple of songs to the right-hand sidebar.)
What doing these has been is therapeutic. Before I started all this I was completely staying away from anything to do with puppetry or animatronics, because it was just too painful to think about, having had to give it all up over three years ago. I couldn’t even watch them on television. So this has helped me deal with that, and take away some of the pain. Still, it’s not always easy writing about it. There, now I’ve done my confessional….
Updated 25th. October, 2017