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An Acoustic Confusion

An Acoustic Confusion 1
An Acoustic Confusion 1971 ~ Village Thing Records

Village Thing VTS5 (LP, UK, 1971);
Scenes Of SCOFCD 1002 (CD, USA, 1998);
Village Thing VTS 205 (CD, UK, 2007)


STEVE TILSTON, VOCAL & GUITAR with thanks to: Dave Evans (guitar & vocal), Keith Warmington (harmonica & vocal), John Turner (string bass, finger-picked & with a bow), Pete Finch (violin).

Tracks

01. I Really Wanted You (3:54)
02. Simplicity (3:43)
03. Time Has Shown Me Your Face (3:44)
04. It’s Not My Place To Fail (3:59)
05. Train Time (3:33)
06. Sleepy Time On Peel Street (3:44)
07. Prospect Of Love (2:24)
08. Green Toothed Gardener (3:22)
09. Normandy Day (3:05)
10. Rock & Roll Star (4:50)
CD bonus tracks
11. The Price Of Life* (4:10)**
12. Show A Little Kindness* (5:00)

TOTAL TIME – 45:57

Musicians

Steve Tilston, vocals, guitar
Dave Evans, guitar, vocals;
Keith Warmington, harmonica, vocals;
John Turner, finger-picked and bowed string bass;
Pete Finch, violin

LP recorded February-March 1971, produced by Ian A. Anderson and Gef Lucena;
CD bonus tracks 11-12 are studio demos recorded 1978;
Digital mastering and audio restauration by Jim Hemingway, Shuresbury, MA;
Original cover by Pete Jackson and Sam Wells;
Original graphics by Plastic Dog;
CD booklet and tray card design by Philip Price / ChickenMan Design, Easthampton, MA


STEVE TILSTON RAMBLES…
“An Acoustic Confusion” was recorded during the early part of 1971, when I was twenty years old. The location was an old stone house in the wilds of Gloucestershire. All of the tracks, both solo and ensemble, were recorded live, straight onto a Revox 1/4″ tape machine. Gef Lucena (owner of both the house and Revox) engineered the session and Ian A. Anderson produced it. The heat in the house packed up for some of the sessions. I had to wear a long fur coat while recording, my fingers were freezing and I was too poor to buy new strings for the guitar, so we had to boil used strings for me to twang.

My guitar at that time was a scraped and stained red Yamaha FG 180, I wish I still had it. Dave Evans left his potter’s wheel in Devon to come and play second guitar. We had been playing as a duo around the midland clubs, and were pretty tight. At a concert in Nottingham we met the legendary Wizz Jones (not even 30, but nonetheless a legend; he still wears it well.) It was he that suggested going down to London and playing at Les Cousins, the then-premier club in the country. I was banging on his door a week later and ended up sleeping on his floor with my head next to Clive (Incredible String Band founding member) Palmer’s feet – two legends in a week, this was all pretty pungent stuff.

Wizz got me my first date at Les Cousins: I was last on the bill at one of the famous all-nighter sessions. I’ll never forget emerging from that cellar into the early ‘jingle jangle’ morning of Soho, babbling and blinking like a battery hen. I knew then that I wanted to be a professional musician. Soon I became a regular at Les Cousins, left my job as a graphic artist in Leicester and moved to London.

At one of the Cousins sessions, I met Ralph McTell. He gave me a lot of encouragement and ultimately put me in touch with Ian A. Anderson who had not long before set up a small record label called The Village Thing. The label was based in Clifton, Bristol, and when I saw Brunel’s suspension bridge and those beautiful Georgian crescents stacked high above the Avon gorge like layers of wedding cake, I had a feeling that one day Bristol would be my home. In all I was to live there for 8 years.

Bristol also boasted, after Les Cousins, the second most revered folk club in the land. This was the Bristol Troubadour. Set in Clifton, it was based on two levels, which meant that no sooner had the last chord died on the first floor, than a replicate set was required in the basement for the audience below. The ensemble-based songs for “An Acoustic Confusion” were rehearsed in the basement one bitterly cold afternoon, the only source of warmth being the hot air blowing through the harmonica. At the actual session in Gloucestershire, during the recording of “It’s Not My Place”, the harmonica player Keith Warmington got a fit of the giggles. It spread like wildfire and took us about 20 takes to finally complete the song. The only way it was possible was to put Keith in the corner, with his back facing the rest of us. The trouble with this was that we could see his shoulders going up and down like the clappers, so the rest of us had to turn round and blast it as if we couldn’t see his pulsating shadow. We nailed it in the end and though I could have cheerfully swung for him back then, Keith and I have remained firm friends over the years. Both Keith and the string bass player, John Turner (another good friend), now work for BBC Bristol. Saints preserve us!

The songs themselves were written over a 2 year period. For the most part I only remember how to play snippets of each, but “Simplicity”, “Normandy Day”, and “It’s Not My Place To Fail” my fingers can still find with relative ease.

I REALLY WANTED YOU
This love song was played in normal tuning, D major shapes with a descending bass line D, C#, B, G, A. It was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy, written about an inevitable break-up of a first relationship, a year before it actually happened.

SIMPLICITY
I was brought up in a village, so, although in a way I couldn’t wait to move to London, I found the big city life at times intimidating. The silver tree mentioned in the song was a Mountain-ash that had a wonderfully contorted silver trunk and was regarded as ‘my’ tree because I could climb in it higher than anyone else. The guitar was tuned to open G, but with the 6th string tuned down to C.

TIME HAS SHOWN ME YOUR FACE
I remember being really pleased when I created the almost traditional sounding melody for this song, not least because I was nowhere near a guitar at the time, yet I actually remembered it the next day. I also recall going straight to the guitar, which was tuned in open G, and pretty much instinctively finding the accompaniment. I must add that this has not happened often.

IT’S NOT MY PLACE TO FAIL
Another leaving love song.

TRAIN TIME
Would you believe, another “leaving, going to the big city” song. The guitar is tuned in DADGAD and, wait for it, tries to emulate the rhythm of a speeding train. Pretty original stuff this.

SLEEPY TIME ON PEEL STREET
Sometimes the songs come back to haunt me. This one is a ragtimey hallucinagized observation of a back street on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Some wit said somewhere that, “If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.” Unfortunately, songs like this help it to all come flooding back.

PROSPECT OF LOVE
Another DADGAD piece and another love song. My first taste of the unrequited kind.

GREEN TOOTHED GARDENER
I remember wanting to write a traditional sounding song with traditional type word play on “thyme and time”. I wrote the words of this one surreptitiously in the graphic design studio, when I should have been doing other things like designing peppermint wrappers. I also mention garlic a lot in this song. Much to the displeasure of some of the older designers, I ate a lot of it and even made a badge proudly declaring “I eat garlic”. Pretty radical stuff what? The guitar was tuned DADGBD.

NORMANDY DAY
Nineteen years old, and the plan was for a bunch of us to travel down to the south of France. After an horrendous crossing of the channel, we fetched up in Cherbourg and proceeded to move all of twenty miles where we finally camped out on one of the D-day beaches among the then still extensive network of concrete fortifications. It all happened like the song says: there was a case of musical sleeping bags, we killed a crab with the intention of eating it, but didn’t, and the sand hoppers drove us to distraction. The only thing I didn’t mention is that after spending so much time and money trying to beat the locals at table football, I sprained my wrist and was unable to play guitar for a week, so the words of this song came before the melody.

ROCK AND ROLL STAR
This is another of those songs that returns to haunt me. I can’t honestly remember what motivated me to write it,although it would appear to be my first excursion into narrative verse. I like the guitar figure and the driving pace of the song and remember that it was fun to record.

THE PRICE OF LIFE
SHOW A LITTLE KINDNESS

These two additional songs were part of a London session that I did in 1978 for Stefan Grossman. They were intended as demos for an album I planned to record for Stefan’s “Kicking Mule” label. For various reasons the album was never made. The songs themselves were written quite a bit earlier. ‘The Price Of Life’ was written around 1973 or 1974 during the then Tory government’s imposition of a three day week. I remember thinking that times could not get much worse. However, in light of the Tory ‘dark age’ that was to follow a few years later, those days seem benign in comparison. “Show A Little Kindness” was written about 1975 for the daughter of a friend. Not long after writing it I was made aware of several other songs about a person named Louise, so the song was shelved until now.

Notes by Steve Tilston, September 1997.

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