There are those who can and some who can’t.
The number one song streamed on Spotify written by me.
It’s The Ballad of Alaska.
It’s been over a week since I wrote about the number 2 song, From Speke to Waterloo. I haven’t been holding back to ratchet up the tension, I have instead been busy doing other mundane or great things and haven’t found the time.
When I first had a look at the stats for my Top Ten, this was number 2, but then I noticed that I was only looking back to 2015 and this song, thanks to its inclusion on a ‘What’s Cookin’ compilation album, was the first of my songs to be on streaming services. What’s Cookin’ is a brilliant gig (s) in the east end of that London, it has the best dressed stage in the Capital, that’s for sure. Still going strong too.
The Ballad of Alaska is on the Shake It… album and was recorded at my then home in Liverpool. Martyn C played the lovely bass guitar lines and Brian C S, the piano part. I played the other instruments as far as I can recall and for years it was the final song in my sets. It occasionally gets a run through nowadays, but I don’t play that many gigs and have a lot more songs. I still like it though. It’s a bit of an epic, I suppose, yet started life as a quiet Neil Young-ish acoustic style song, but kind of went it’s own way.
In the early 90’s I found myself without work, money or a band. Unemployed and largely unemployable, I felt. I really didn’t want a band, for quite some time, as it’s intense going and my anxiety levels and patience were, to say the least, worrying.
I got myself off the dole by getting a weekly acoustic gig at stamps Bar in Crosby, every Tuesday night and I did a mix of my own and cover songs. About the same time I found another gig doing the same in Liverpool town centre. I wasn’t rich but I had more than the dole paid and my drinks were free. Then a mate asked me to ‘dep’ every now and then in his covers band playing mostly 60’s songs and I’d get a ‘nifty’ for each gig. That’s £50 by the way. This all seemed like easy money, stress free, 3 chord trick songs and cash in hand.
So what does this have to do with The Ballad of Alaska? Everything.
The same mate also did duo gigs with backing tracks and he said he’d give me copies and introduce me to his agent. Ok, why not? Ta very much. I needed another person for it to be a duo. Enter Big Dan Dean, gentle giant, great guitarist, lovely person and funny bastard.
We called the duo, Alaska.
We had a really old heavy P.A., out of tune cassette copies of a load of backing tracks, an old porta-studio we could play them on and also use to alter the pitch to get the songs vaguely in tune. Then the agent got us a gig in Fleetwood and off we went.
It soon became apparent this was a road to nowhere, other than to flat roof pubs in small towns we’d barely heard of. The money was kind of ok but it very soon became routine. Every Friday, Saturday and most Sundays, for years. We did play in Blackpool Tower once. Well, underneath it in a room that held about 2,000. There were about 50 people there, eating home made sandwiches,
We got a few gigs off the books that paid better, but not enough and we basically got fed up of meeting only drunk people.
We did have fun and we saw the North West of England and North Wales, in great detail (!) but I was losing my will to live. I hate travelling in cars, for a start, but I think I also started to hate music. I only ever wanted to be a songwriter.
So I wrote a song about it.
Me and Big Dan are still great buddies.
The Ballad of Alaska can be listened to on the streaming service of your choice by clicking the link below.
Thanks for reading these rambling memories!