All Men Are Fools

I hope all is well with you and yours, I have some madly exciting news, that you might well guess from the headline.

I’m really happy to announce that 16 Tambourines are releasing a second album, ALL MEN ARE FOOLS, on 9th December 2022, via 9×9 Records. It will be available in Vinyl, CD and streaming formats. The vinyl LP comes with a free art print of the cover painting I did, signed by me, and both physical releases will have a lyric sheet and insert. We are also planning two gigs around the release and providing we can sort out logistics, others in 2023. More news on gigs soon.

It’s available to pre-order right now from this link here for the vinyl and from this link here for the CD. Please do so as presales do a lot to promote not just the band but our confidence that all shall be well!

I’ve written some notes about the background to recording the album and the songs on it, for social media, and 9×9 will be sharing them over the next few weeks, but I thought I’d print them on full in this email. See below.

Talking of social media, I’d be really grateful if you could share to any places you frequent as we had quite an audience back in the day, but obviously before the world wide web was even a glimmer in Tim Berner-Lee’s eye, so we need to get this news out far and wide. Any podcasts or blogs you think might be appropriate as well as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and, if you can dance, please do a Tik-Tok video… or share this email with your buddies. Everything helps.

Here’s a photo taken last week by Rae Lesson of Tony Elliott and I planning our return. We actually spent most of the time admiring the scooters at the Stockport Vintage Market…

I’m so happy with how the album has turned and I hope our music in a small way can provide a bit of beauty and truth. There’ll be at least one single (so to speak) out before the album.

OK, if you can handle more hyperbole, (!) I’ll leave you with the essay I’ve written. 

thought you might be interested to read some background on our new album.

32 years after the first, ‘How Green is Your Valley?’, there’s the second, ‘All Men Are Fools’. 

16 Tambourines formed in December 1984 when another band I was in broke up just before a gig we’d got at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool. I just had to play that iconic venue, so a couple of mates and a name change later (from a 13 0’Clock album I owned) and there we were. A few months later, the core three, the trifecta of me, Tony Elliott and Tony McGuigan were playing gigs. Sometimes with Dave Curtis on guitar and keyboard, then with Brian Chin Smithers. We were playing a lot but never seemed to find a permanent guitarist or keyboard player, always mates who’d help us out. I also played guitar but wasn’t very confident in my abilities. 

I was writing some good songs though and we were always recording demos, usually in New Brighton at Station House which was in the basement under New Brighton train station. Loved that place. We eventually found a settled line up, less angry sounding than we had been, and played a gig in the City Centre – a venue called Rudi’s, seemed to be there every other week, and started to get interest from record companies and publishers.

One day we were introduced to Trevor Worman, a big cuddly bear of a man, a cockney type who lived in Manchester and was part of the old 10CC/Sad Café Strawberry Studio crowd. He said his team would get us a record deal. And they did. With Arista/BMG.

We recorded the ‘How Green’ album in Lincolnshire and London. It was a great time but I wasn’t completely happy with how the record turned out and looked forward to doing a second. We didn’t get to do one.

In 2019 we played our first gig together since 1990. I was back on guitar, but, fortunately, I did ok. We had a great night and so did the audience. ‘Let’s do a follow up album!’ Then, COVID. 

So it took a while. Tony Elliott and I sent each other songs we thought would work. We’d decided we wanted it to be upbeat. I don’t mean mindlessly happy, but upbeat and scathing, sharp. Pop music as we know and love it. Melodic hopefully, with a bit of an edge.

Finally, with restrictions being lifted we three met up to record at Igloo studio in Liverpool. As we all had our 30 years on grown up lives and responsibilities, these recordings were done in fits and starts. David Oliver sent his piano and keyboard parts (and a flute!) down the line, my brother Chris Roberts played electric guitars and Sue Bailey did her backing vocals in a Manchester studio. I thought my vocals were better recorded at home but when it came to the mix, the vocals recorded at Igloo were chosen. Goes to show… something.

Tony E mixed 4 songs at Igloo with Simon Denny and Craig Edmondson mixed 6, with me interrupting him, at his home studio. We honestly think it’s a better album than our first one. It’s mod, new wave, pop, soul, couple of jazz chords, just how we wanted it.

Mike Cave, who I knew from Parr Street studio years ago, has mastered it. It sounds great because Mike is one of the very best in the world at what he does.

The album is titled after the opening song ‘All Men are Fools’. The first song I wrote specifically for the re-tooled 16 Tambourines. I wrote it on piano in a slower tempo than it ended up. It was a riff really, which you can hear on the track, played on electric piano. The lyric came from boyfriend trouble my daughter was having. I just told her the truth: men are idiots and fools. Aggressive in war and sport, misogynistic, hungry for power and money, the list goes on. We undo the good we’re capable of time and time again. I’m waiting for the ‘not all men’ shouts… It’s a little banger of a song though! I love the piano on this, particularly the middle bit. I promise you can dance to it too.

Sky High is a story from Lockdown. A true story, about a man who with time on his hands decided to build a model airplane in memory of his dad who was an RAF pilot. When it was finished the neighbours dressed the street and the model plane flew down it to love and applause.

Celebrate is one of Tony El’s songs. I was going to sing Tony’s songs originally, but you know what, I couldn’t do them the justice they deserve. Tony does. You’ll have to ask him what he wrote them about, but I think this is about finding the truth in yourself by being yourself.

Sweet Libra is an older song of mine and is kind of tongue in cheek. I don’t read horoscopes or believe they can predict anything. That said, after I’d seen what my star sign’s attributes are, I have to admit they fit. BUT SO DO OTHERS! It’s another banger of a tune and, I think, Craig’s favourite on the album.

Sorry is a VERY old song written for the second album that never happened. At the time, the Berlin Wall had fallen, (thanks to David Hasslehoff), revealing the ethnic and religious hatred that had been contained for decades, particularly in the Balkans. This same hatred is governing many countries now and the appeals to nationalism I find disgusting and despairing. It’s another uptempo song. We tidied up the arrangement a bit before re-recording it, but this is probably how I wanted it to sound in 1990.

Don’t Throw It Away. Another one of Tony’s and it opens the second side of the vinyl version of the album. It’s a driving song, for me. If my car had a top to take down, I’d do it for this song and have my hair flowing and my arm around my girl as we raced off into the sunset. And be back to make tea.

Jennifer is another written years ago for the second album and is the only one I’m ambivalent about. It’s a song about a couple going through a divorce, and I think I was working through some childhood issues – or I was just putting words together. Tony and I wrote this one together in Lincolnshire if memory serves me right.

Closed for Business is the third song Tony sings and is the most experimental one on the album with the changes it goes through. I think it’s about rampant capitalism, but again, Tony might say different. I love the acoustics in it. I added, or changed, one word. Guess which!

Sun Valley. Written long ago, on a tablet of stone back in old Californ. I. A.  Well, in a house in Wavertree. This one is a piece of unfinished business. Coming from where we do, the Murdoch family and it’s evil empire casts a terrible shadow. However, it’s not just Merseyside that suffers through it’s lies and manipulation of the media, politicians and public opinion, the whole world does. My mate Simon Driver added to the lyrics. I think of this as a folk song, it has that kind of feel. 

Dark High Land is the final song on the album and I wrote it about the Peak District town I now live in. It was a shock moving here I must admit. I loved Liverpool. I still do, with all my heart, and 16 Tambourines is still a Liverpool band, but we needed a change and so we came to the hills that raised my wife. Steve Davies, a friend from round here plays the piano, instead of Dave (sorry D), as he played on the demo and I think that’s appropriate. Thanks Steve. There’s ghosts and all manner of beasties up on the moors and in the vacant mills, and there’s indescribable beauty on a summer’s day. Do visit. And take home your litter.

So that’s the album. Writing about music is difficult, the proverbial dancing to architecture meme, but it’s been nice to put some thoughts in a kind of order.

The songs have been written and played with love and fire and skill. I hope you enjoy them.