Clive has fun...cutting a record
PUBLISHED: 15:00 25 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:25 20 February 2013
Despite his rudimentary grasp of the recorder, Clive Agran's musical career has never really taken off. This month he goes to Eversfield Studio at Lower Beeding to record his first hit
RELUCTANT though I am to begin this article on a downbeat note, there is no denying that lifes journey contains a number of disappointments. For example, as a fresh-faced schoolboy I was confident that one day I would open the batting for England. As it turns out, the nearest I got was going in at number seven for the school second XI when the guy who ordinarily went in at number seven had a dental appointment. Despite including a boundary, not only did my 11 runs fail to impress the England selectors but they didnt make much of an impact on Mr Foskett either as I slipped back to number nine for the next match.
Although I always believed sport offered the most likely route to fame and fortune, I have always been willing to consider other options. My hopes of one day becoming a film star never properly recovered from the occasion I dropped my sword on Brutuss foot whilst playing third soldier in a fourth form production of Julius Caesar. Who knows whether or not I might have been living it up in Hollywood today if David Ashforth (who played Brutus) had been wearing sensible shoes rather than sandals and had not let out an expletive when the pommel landed on his big toe thereby drawing undue attention to the incident?
In the days before reality TV programmes offered wannabe celebrities the prospect of instant fame, perhaps the quickest route to glory was via what is now called the Charts but was then the Hit Parade (yes, Im that old!). Although I had a rudimentary grasp of the recorder and could play Three Blind Mice tolerably well, the instrument could never successfully compete with the guitar when it came to popular appeal. All I had left to offer was my voice.
How bad a singer I was is a matter of conjecture but, as we all know, not being able to sing need not necessarily preclude a hugely successful career as a pop star. And then there is the sensitive issue of age. A proud possessor of both a bus pass and Senior Railcard, am I too old to have a big hit? Frank Sinatra, with whom I coincidentally shared a birthday, made it into the top 40 with New York, New York when roughly my age and so, although East Sussex, East Sussex doesnt scan particularly well, could I have a go at making a record er, I mean CD?
Having located a recording studio just outside Horsham and then persuaded the owner, Graham Noon, to give me a chance, all I needed was a song. The safe but rather timid option would have been to go for a novelty number that didnt require much in the way of singing. Something like Right Said Fred that Bernard Cribbins recorded back in 1962 or Mike Sarnes Come Outside, both of which, incidentally, made it into the top ten.
Courageous to the point of reckless, I eschewed the safe option quite simply because it would deny me the opportunity to demonstrate the full extent of my vocal range. In other words, I felt I needed a song that would stretch me to my vocal limit. For several days when walking the dog through what I hoped were empty woods, I would suddenly burst into a medley of old Beatles, Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard hits in a desperate search for precisely the right number before it came to me in a blinding flash of inspiration. The first record I ever bought was I Remember You by Frank Ifield. How fitting it would be if I were to have a hit with it precisely 50 years after it topped the charts. Although Franks version was at number one for seven weeks, Id happily settle for just one or two.
So here I am pulling into Eversfield Studio in Lower Beeding near Horsham to be greeted by Graham. The portents are almost spookily encouraging as he was born in 1962. Reluctant though I am to use the word conceivable in this context, it is just possible that the midwife who delivered him was humming I Remember You at the precise moment he entered the world. More importantly, not only is he mature but hes also very relaxed, friendly and doesnt strike me as the sort who, in the unlikely event that I hit a duff note, would grow impatient or irritable.
Having done his homework, Graham puts on Frank Ifields original for me as he pops next door to his beautiful barn conversion home to make us both a cup of tea. While hes gone, Frank transports me straight back to those halcyon days of my youth and Im still wallowing in nostalgia when Graham returns. Its a great song. I really like it, he says before ominously adding, However, it is rather difficult. I gulp. Would now be an appropriate moment to confess that Im not entirely confident of my singing ability? As prudent as I am delusional, I sensibly sent Graham a comparatively safe alternative. Wild Thing by The Troggs is significantly harder to screw up and, as we sip tea, Graham and I weigh up the options. My whole future career as a rock star could well depend on the decision we are about to make.
Graham hands me the words to I Remember You and suggests a quick rehearsal as he puts on the backing track. Although a somewhat shy individual, I recognise that if Im going to perform live at, say, a packed O2 arena, I mustnt baulk at singing before an audience of one. And so I rip into it with gusto. Even if privately Graham can now see the appeal of Wild Thing he nevertheless backs me to the hilt in my bold decision to stick with I Remember You.
By going through the door into the studio and donning the headphones, Im not only at last fulfilling a fantasy but am literally following in the footsteps of legends like Geno Washington, who regularly records here. Graham plays in his backing Ram Jam Band and promises to put in a good word for
me if Geno ever needs a bit of vocal support. Will some future aspiring performer be excited to be told Clive Agran recorded his smash-hit single I Remember You in this very studio?
The backing track starts up, the adrenalin rushes in and I pour my heart and soul down the microphone into what I believe is a simply sensational rendition of I Remember You. Take your headphones off, come out here and lets listen to it back, says Graham. If nothing else, it is refreshingly different from Frank Ifields version.
Despite having only met for the first time less than three-quarters of an hour ago, Graham and I have already developed such an honest relationship that we can tell each other precisely what we think and he gently suggests there is a little too much yodelling. Other performers might go into a strop or sulk at this perceived criticism but I take it on the chin and simply go back into the studio and, whilst giving it all Ive got a second time, throttle back a tad on the yodelling.
One more take and Graham has not only clearly heard enough but has also gathered sufficient usable material to cobble together a potentially colossal hit. With the help of technology, he tweaks the recording and removes one or two minor imperfections that I suspect are inaudible to all but a very few experts. However, we decide to largely forego what is known in the biz as auto-tuning so as to retain what can perhaps best be described as the recordings refreshingly natural and non-manufactured quality.
Graham passes me the possibly historic CD, which is where the story would ordinarily end were it not for the magic of the internet. For once you dont have to accept my version of events or wait for the CD to go on sale at all good music stores. You can hear me singing I Remember You below.Just sit back, relax and try to enjoy.