This week (27 October) Richard Hawley is reissuing his first three albums, all recorded for the Setanta label between 2001 and 2003. For a series of special guest columns the crooner has written Q a companion piece to each record which we’ll be running over the next few days. Following Monday’s look back at his debut, today it’s time for his second record, 2001’s Late Night Final.
The start of this album saw me in a curious position, where I found myself in the odd place of actually having a record deal, which I never expected to have. Keith Cullen ran Setanta Records and released the first album and was mad enough to release the second. I started this album with Alan Smythe (who has worked with just about every Sheffield artiste over the last 20 years). In retrospect I reckon I bullshitted my way through it – I had 100 of songs I’d written over the years, but cos I’d always spouted off about how Sun Records, Chess back in the day had done it on the spot, I wanted to prove that could still be done. Halfway through the album I decided I wanted to include some of the musicians I wanted for a live band. So half the album is recorded with me in Al’s studio playing everything and half with a full band who became my band.
I remember writing this on the way to Yellow Arch Studios – in the studio there was plain table facing a dirty, white wall and I’d sit starring at it with just a blank piece of white paper and a pen, with my guitar, until I’d written a song. It has the brilliant drumming of Andy Cook on it and I remember asking Shez (guitar) to play an old Vox Phantom, which was terrible but he got a sound out of it. I played a Baldwin Double Six – it was a bit better! On this track something seemed to come together that was quite distinctive.
Baby You’re My Light
This is a full band track and where things got really interesting. I had the opening riff which I’d had for years as a comfort riff – something you play over and over – I couldn’t ever think what to do with it, but in the studio I played it, got the lyrics and recorded it by lunchtime. Some of the guys in the studio said ‘it’s a single’. Elaine Constantine made the video, which is beautiful and was everything I wanted to say. I appear in the video being represented by an old hawaiian guitar.
Love Of My Life
Fairly self-explanatory, but I insisted we record live – no over dubs. I can remember we could all see the whites of each other eyes as we played, and we had to respond to the music and really feel our way through it. I thought this might be a demo version, which you can hear in the lyrics, but I loved the feel of it and didn’t want to change that. The feeling would convey what lyrically would take a week to do.
The Nights Are Cold
I wrote this a long, long time ago. It never found its time, I wasn’t sure it was right and sat agonising about it all day and then Andy (drums) said, ‘we’ve all got a gig tonight – you’ve got one hour’, so we got on with it pronto and I played a 12-string acoustic and detuned all the strings to 5ths . As soon as I messed with the tuning it all fell into place and it was obvious we could get it together quickly. Sometimes not having the luxury of time makes for better music – sometimes making good music is simply about making good decisions – left or right – the end.
Can You Hear The Rain Love
This song was written in my head weeks as I was coming down from mushrooms and coming down from them, which is a beautiful time because the door of your mind hasn’t quite rehinged itself, but just enough to make sense of reality. It’s about me and my wife listening to the rain fall on the velox window of our first ever shared flat. Simon Stafford’s Hammond organ playing on it is magnificent.
This is the other half of the record – which I recorded on my own, with the ever lovely Alan Smythe who went on to work with the Arctic Monkeys. I was supposed to be doing a vocal for something else but this song popped into my head and it was like an old folk song, like a Fats Domino song – no thought needed just playing – me and my guitar and everything else added after.
Another with Alan recorded in Priority Studio – owned by my old mate Steve Singleton from ABC – the studio’s now gone, sadly. It was on West St in Sheffield. In a way this list is misleading as all the songs I did on my own were recorded first. So the album was almost recorded backwards to the run of it. I recorded the rest with Shez, Col and Andy cos it made it less fucking miserable. Fact fans – I played drums cos no one else was around – plus it’s the only one I ever recorded with no guitar. At the time I was reading the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O’Brien, which blew my mind and it’s a song that reflects my fascination with our nation’s relationship with the sea – all it gives us and takes away. The title comes from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, where Ben Gunn, after being marooned on an island for several years says, ‘precious sight’; his first words to another living person in seven years. I remember playing the first piano solo on this, which I was pleased with – then realised it needed another solo. Simon Stafford from Longpigs days turned up after the pub one night and did it amazingly in one take.
No Way Home
This was written on an instrument called an omnicord, which I found out much later was used by the likes of Sun Ra. Jarvis gave it to me. I wrote this about two minutes after I got it out of the box and plugged it in. It was recorded quickly but still sounds all right, I reckon. I did actually spend a bit of time on the vocal (in comparison to the other songs – about 20 minutes).
Cry A Tear For The Man On The Moon
There were a slew of songs on this album that came from dreams – this came from a dream about Neil Armstrong and imagining what it must be like looking down on earth and thinking about our trials and tribulations. It came to me whilst half asleep.
Long Black Train
I was and still am, a massive John Lee Hooker fan – he died in 2001, around the time this was written – and he came to me in a dream with a raven on his arm, on a long black train. The raven did the talking. It’s a total flight of fancy, it was just a dream. Again I insisted categorically this had to be recorded live and I wrote the lyrics on a pizza box the night before. I think there’s two mics and two faders used on this track. It’s beautifully played by the band.
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is A Train Coming The Other Way
This was the first song I recorded so I was obviously in a really ‘positive mood’! I always like having an instrumental on every record cos you do get sick of the sound of your own voice after a while. This one was the first one I messed about with multi-layering. This also has Saskia Cocker (Jarvis’s sister) humming along with me.
For more head to Richardhawley.co.uk. Richard Hawley’s final guest column on Lowedges will appear on Friday (31 October).