Pete Atkin and Clive James
|People keep telling me that this is just rock 'n' roll.
We believe in Clive, the songwriter mighty,
|On this page (scroll down)
me to present myself
Allow me to present myself…
(This was the introductory message I sent to the "Midnight Voices" group, about August 2000)
For nearly thirty years these were my songs. Just mine. They were the soundtrack to a private adolescent intellectual awakening, burned into memory and carried into adult life like a secret tattoo on the inside of the back of my brain. Even Clive James, who I saw all the time on the TV, seemed to be happy to keep our secret. May be I had got it wrong, may be he wasn’t the same guy. But yes, printed both ways thank you on the backs of two albums, there he was: the man and his reflection. As for Pete Atkin he was the stuff of mythtory and fabrication, back in some place where memory dissolves into imagination, a fading photo on a torn album cover. He was in that one groove that the needle always skips, so you never know whether it’s the same music in there that used to be there when it played straight or if may be there is new and secret melody in there now: magical stuff in the places we are too big to crawl into. Pete Atkin was there, alive only with all those other guys from the bedroom shelves. Did it ever really matter to me if Randolph Scott and John Wayne were still alive? They were, and are, alive and well and riding the purple sage in that projector that plays out onto the inside of my mind’s eye.
Then, after all these years, it says there’s a one hour show on the radio about Pete Atkin and Clive James. Well how about that. Tape it, listen to it the next day, and whaddya know – a web-site, Check it out.
Floodgates. Information. People. Like when you reach the top of the climb and clamber over the top of the cliff onto the summit, and boomph a crowd of tourists have come up by car on the other side of the hill and are pic-nicing at the top of your 3-day epic feat. Who are all these people, and how did they get here? What are they doing with my songs? And Pete Atkin is alive and well and played a gig 20 miles from where I live just a few months ago. And there are more songs than I knew about. It takes a millisecond to adjust the consciousness of 30 years to an unexpected new scene. Alexander hears that whoosh whoosh whoosh of ‘copters coming up the valley. Hey look, there’s a message list. Check that out:
And there you all are, three years of you, displayed in amber like a pageant across the pages, across the (vdu) screens of memory. The artists and the acolytes, the poets and the pedants, the students of music and the students of the human condition. The brilliant and the bigoted, the masters and their apprentices all thrown together into a mighty cavalcade no bigger than a tea-cup. I look away for a moment, stepping back from the brink. Drawing the soggy, bending bourbon of my sanity out from the tea of your madness just in time. I look around me: my room is unchanged – I have been away only moments in my time – the world is as it was and you are shrunk again to a figment of cyberspace. I take a deep breath and plunge my head back into the magical trough. Characters lurch across the screens: generals and footsoldiers, professors and proletarians, Pontius Pilate with an Uzi, and the fearsome Boagogre. What teeming life is here.
Download. Unzip. Search. Browse. And then the Treasure. Pete Atkin. Clive James. Still there, but this time the real ones, not the ones I built up over the years in my mind.
I have spent many hours reading the whole back catalogue of MV postings, and would like to say, to all of you: Hello!
Songs by Pete Atkin
and Clive James: Personal Reflections.
Everyone who has enjoyed the music and songs of Pete Atkin and Clive James has their own story to tell about how the music entered and accompanied their lives.
For a few of us, the stories stretch back to the 1960’s, and the days of the Cambridge Footlights reviews where Pete and Clive first made public exhibitions of themselves in the company of other luminaries such as Julie Covington. For a larger number, the stories start in the early 1970s, with memories of Pete’s gigs in folk clubs, bars and student unions around the country, or of listening to Pete’s records with partners, friends or family who had already discovered them. More heard the records played by Kenny Everett, John Peel and others, and by the mid 1970s, with 6 albums behind them, Pete and Clive had earned a powerful reputation with glowing reviews in the music press – “one of the most formidable songwriting combinations in Britain today” according to Sounds in 1971. Then, in the later 1970s, fashions changed in the music world, Pete and Clive found that their songs were not what the music industry wanted to promote, and they produced no more new albums together. Professionally, they packed up, did a fade and went their separate ways.
In the years that followed, Pete and Clive’s admirers were left clutching old vinyl that shone more, but weighed less, as the needle steadily wore down the grooves: cult followers who didn’t know that there was anyone else in the cult. “Pete who?” would be the reply when you listed for someone your favourite singers. “What, the Clive James? He never wrote songs did he?” when you told someone about Pete and Clive’s work. But the power of these songs was such that the people who had heard them didn’t forget them: they kept them in that short stack of the few good songs that really count. Love songs that capture how things flow; songs that stun with candour and grace. And for each of us, they took on a unique personal significance. A thousand different kinds of heartbreak, instruction and delight. The scent of Frangipani. A pocket full of silver coins.
For nearly thirty years they were my songs. Just mine. They were the soundtrack to a private adolescent intellectual awakening, burned into memory and carried into adult life like a secret tattoo on the inside of the back of my brain. Even Clive James, who I saw all the time on the TV, seemed to be happy to keep our secret. As for Pete Atkin he became the stuff of legend and fabrication, back in some place where memory dissolves into imagination. A fading photo on a torn album cover. The one scratched groove that the needle always skips and makes you wonder whether it’s the same music in there that used to be there when it played straight or if may be there is new and secret melody in there now: magical stuff in the places we are too big to crawl into. For me, Pete Atkin was there, alive only with all those other guys from the bedroom shelves. Like Randolph Scott and John Wayne, who were alive and well and riding the purple sage in that projector that plays out onto the inside of my mind’s eye, Pete played on as if eternity really were still a good address.
Then, in summer 2000 in my own case, but a little earlier for many others, everything changed again. News in the paper that there’s a one hour show on the radio about Pete Atkin and Clive James. Well how about that. Tape it, listen to it the next day, and whaddya know – a web-site, Check it out…. Floodgates. Information. People. Like when you reach the top of a climb and clamber over the top of the cliff onto the summit, or rise over that last step and – boomph, a crowd of tourists have come up by car on the other side of the hill and are picnicking at the top of your 3-day epic feat. Who are all these people, and how did they get here? What are they doing with my songs? And suddenly you find out that Pete Atkin is still out there and just played a gig not 20 miles from where I live. And there are more songs and more albums than I ever knew about. It takes a millisecond to adjust the solitary consciousness of 30 years to an unexpected new scene. Hector hears that whoosh whoosh whoosh of Achaean helicopters coming up the valley towards Troy. Hey look, there’s an internet discussion group: the Midnight Voices. Check that out too…
And there they all are: hundreds of others, just like me, arrayed like a pageant across the pages, across the (vdu) screens of memory. The artists and the acolytes, the poets and the pedants, the students of music and the students of the human condition. The masters and their apprentices are all thrown together into a mighty cavalcade. Characters lurch across the screens: generals and footsoldiers, professors and proletarians, and even, yes, there they are, Pete Atkin and Clive James. Still there, but this time the real ones, not the ones I created over the years in my mind. Here they really are, day by day, talking to their fans about all those songs.
And tonight here we all are. We got what we wanted and more. They must have set up a booster not far from Milton Keynes, and it’s sending the Midnight Voices wild with joy.
Reviews of Pete and Clive's "Together at last again" tour of 2002
Buxton - 14th March
"First thoughts" (written on the night of the Buxton gig)
First impressions, after a drive home through the snow
Buxton - and there they all were. All the beautiful
The Opera House was a superb setting, a miniature
A routine broadly familiar from previous tour dates.
Part 2 (written on the day after)
"We drove out from Stoke to Buxton
Buxton must be a near perfect venue. Arriving about 6.30 we were able
A few hundred souls braved the forecast of "snow on high ground"
and the place
During the interval, as I stood with the cornetto eaters at the antique
As were we. And so, too, seemed Pete and Clive. As Pete sang, Clive
Thank God for Pete Atkin and Clive James.
Telford. 21st March 2002. Oakengates Theatre.
The 15th show of 30 in Pete and
I arrived 2 hours early (as usual) clutching a
brace of ancient album sleeves in
At Buxton I thought Pete started a bit nervously
and Clive was the more
The chat and the improv seemed both more relaxed
and more informative that at
The piano sounded like a real cracker, and Pete
made the most of it. i thought
We came out of the auditorium after the show,
and as usual there was the
3.30 a.m. Bolt upright in bed. Realisation. OF
COURSE they said they would sign
Last night at Milton Keynes I saw Pete Atkin and Clive James from a whole new point of view. Sideways on. Seating at The Stables Theatre is arranged in three sides of a rectangle around the stage. My hideout deep at the open end of the rectangle was more or less in the wings. This was no bad thing. For me, with this tour, going to see Pete and Clive has not been like going to a show. It’s been like visiting friends or relatives. It doesn’t matter where you sit as long as you’re close. You can talk to your uncle as well side by side in the car as face to face across a formal space. Pete and Clive specifically invite the informal kind of communion, and I sensed, from Clive in particular, an appreciation of the proximity and wrap-around distribution of companions for his evening. I was so close I could almost read his notes over his shoulder when he turned to face the other wing. The notes, incidentally, are becoming increasingly dog-eared and scribbled upon as the tour progresses. Now THERE would be a souvenir worth having! Clive’s stage notes! Knocks my rare unsigned album sleeves into a cocked hat! In fact he left them unguarded on his side table no further than seven-foot-six from my fabulous seat during the interval. I wonder how cross he would have been if I’d nicked them.
Speaking of dog-eared things… I took my dogs to see Pete Atkin and Clive James at Milton Keynes. It was a long day out from Stoke, and they didn’t want to stay behind. I couldn’t take them right inside to see the show, of course: they are not guide dogs, and I am not blind. Having missed out with my album sleeves at Telford I thought I’d get the doggies signed, but in the end good sense prevailed, and I left the autographing queue to grey-beards clutching memorabilia of a differently dog-eared kind.
As the tour draws on, I get the impression that Pete and Clive are increasingly enjoying their evenings together with the audience. Relaxing into them more as the routine becomes familiar, and interjecting more spontaneous, conversational moments. Having more confidence to shift the programme just a little one way or the other. Putting in something new for a change (a encore song from Clive at Milton Keynes that hadn’t featured in any of the previous shows or set-lists that I’d seen). Pete trying out some different twiddles with the twiddly bits of some of the songs. I’ve been three times now, and it’s still fresh. I would go again if I could. It’s not like going to a show, it’s like going to see friends. Friends who don’t know you from Adam, true, but that’s OK.
Clive James smiled at me in Milton Keynes (and I was pleased). In fact he did it twice. When we arrived early at The Stables, Clive was sitting at a table just outside the entrance. It was a great spot looking out into the sunset across the fields (and, of course, you can’t smoke inside the building). He glanced up as we passed, and smiled back when we smiled at him. I fought the urge to go up and disturb him! The few “famous” people that I meet probably all think I’m dead rude. I see Nick Hancock most days, and we nod at each other or raise a hand as our cars pass on the lane, but I wouldn’t dream of saying, when the winter weather returns for a burst of springtime snow, “I thought it was all over! Will you sign my Stoke shirt and can I stare at your house?” May be he’d like it. May be Clive would have liked it if I’d gone up and said hello. But then, he doesn’t keep coming up and bugging me, does he? The second time he smiled at me was right at the end of the show. He bowed, and said something that I couldn’t make out above the applause. Of course, he bowed and smiled and spoke to the 150 people on my wing of the auditorium, but I just happened to be the one right in front of his nose as he did it. I should have brought the dogs in: he was close enough, and seemed friendly enough, to have signed them right there on the stage.
Thanks again, Pete and Clive, for sharing an evening
with us. And Clive, when you come to chuck those notes in the bin at the
end of the tour…
Why This page is here
Immediately after I posted the Telford review (above) onto the "Midnight Voices" e-mail forum, someone wrote back saying that they didn't like to read mentions of fluffs or nervousness in reviews that people sent onto the list, and asking for contributors to give Pete and Clive a little more respect. Well, I hated the idea that anyone might think I was not giving Pete and Clive respect, and that my paltry inputs might distract the group from its more worthwhile discussions about the songs, and so I decided that I would put things that I wrote about Pete and Clive on this site, just for anyone who chooses to seek it out. Like everything on this site, it's my stuff, about how I feel. Everybody is welcome to look at it, and everybody is free to feel about it as they wish. The only people I would really care about what they think of it, if ever they were to see it, would be Pete and Clive themselves. I had hoped that my respect for them was evident from what I had written. So I still join in discussions on the "Midnight Voices", but I keep this page too, for my own stuff. I hope you like it. If you don't, then, as always, the easy solution is to surf on somewhere else! Otherwise, drop me a line and tell me what you think. For other reasons why this page is here, check out my "why this is here" page.
Election night resignation speech
I wrote this spoof resignation speech using lines culled from the songs for the benefit of Midnight Voices folk on the occasion of some election or other, saying: "If there are failed ex-politicians amongst us, I trust
their post-election "losing" speeches ran along these MV-esque lines..."
I tried hard to be useful, but I can't see my way
Tonight the high times finish. Tomorrow sends me back
You waited too long for this, and I have come to
The chairman's calling Time and he is right. My time
I hear the Voices
This is a spoof of Pete and Clive's song "I see the joker", revised as a spoof for Clive himself and the Midnight Voices group!
Mornings now I breakfast in the tower
Who are these guys and why do they want me?
The agent’s checking each incoming flight
We do the routine different every day
Message to Midnight Voices discussion group:
Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2003
From: Peter Knight
Subject: Songs from a heart that's been lived in
Songs from a heart that's been lived in.
This is a mature property, with established trees and shrubs, but still
When you see in the grandson's expression something of the great great
Appropriately (or ironically, depending on whether you're mourning winter
Winter Spring adds more soundtrack now that we've had more life.