BILLY JENKINS VINYL ARTIFACTS ON VOTP
Greenwich One Way System
Dreadnought Seamens' hospital
Arrival of the Tourists
An Empty River
Meridian Council Estate
(Vandalise Tourists' Property Not Residents)
Discoboats at Two o'Clock
BJ (e gtr); Iain Ballamy (a sax, t sax); Skid Solo (a sax, bar sax, b clt);
Dave Jago (tbn); Steve Barry (db); Dawson (per); Roy Dodds (dms);
+ VOG String Trio -
Andy McFarlane (vln); Patrick White (vla); Steve Berry (cel).
Recorded at Waterfront Studios, London SE16
August - September 1985
Recorded and Produced by Tony Messenger
"Jenkins as tone poet. The aural imagery is magnificent.
All questions about the guitarist's seriousness (in the sense of viability) as a
musician are settled by 'Greenwich,' which remains one of the most distinctive British
jazz albums of the 1980's."
- Penguin Guide to Jazz on Record.
-Ron Atkins, The Guardian.
"'Greenwich One Way System' is not the most exciting title for a track on an album."
- Sarah Ward, Capital Radio.
"A left field stunner"
- John Gill, Time Out.
Dick Ward got BJ to recall his 'Greenwich.'
'Greenwich One Way System'
"When editing the master mixes for the album, T.M. inadvertantly
sliced off the reverb at the end. "Bastard," we said. It was a good mix.
Would we be able to match it? "Fuck it," we said. "Have to do another album and get it right next time."
And to this day, no-one has ever mentioned let alone noticed it.
As for the 'get it right next time' maxim - why, we use it every album.
One of the 160 beats per minute peices, like 'Motorway at Night' and others."
'Dreadnought Seaman's Hospital'
"There exists a cassette of a class of schoolchildren (from Montem Junior School, Hornsey)
who paid and educational visit to Wood Wharf in 1984, singing along to this piece
accompanied by BJ (gtr), Dave Bitelli (bar sax) and David 'Mole' Carmichael (b gtr).
For the 'A' section they sang "dearie me" in unison, as if lying on the ward
waiting for surgery. For the 'B' section Billy told them they had to pretend they were
having their salty seadog legs sawn off without anaesthetic. It's a scream."
"There is a lot of rope in Greenwich - nowhere more than on the Cutty Sark, that strange mummified icon to a bygone age
when wind filled the sails and a man's life depended on sureness of foot up on the rigging.
Hence the ascending chromatic chords. Upwards in short spurts, then a pause to reduce the
bounce of endless twine soaring skywards to the mast-top.
And when no more than a gentle breeze blew on the aluminium-adorned Gypsy Moth,
trapped in its own dry-dock death-bed, slightly adrift from the more majestic tea-clipper
on the concrete expanse farcically called Cutty Sark Gardens, the winch rope on the main mast
would go clack! clack! clack! against the upright. All day and all night.
One suspects it didn't help the residents within earshot on the Meridian Council Estate
to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
As the swell from a passing boat heaved shoreward, floating snakes of twine and hemp would make desperate attempts to reach terra finma."
'Arrival of the Tourists'
"Crash bash 6/8 & 12/8 over 4/4.
"TARRAH!! WE ARE HERE!!!!"
Well we don't want you - we want your money.
Only the trader likes the tourist. Every weekend in Greenwich, siege mentality got the
locals through, but not necessarily through the debris. Pavements opaque with gum stains and squashed hamburger, pools of cider,
piss and Special Brew underflowing benches scored with 'I Woz Ere,' followed by a historical
date for one person to treasure, the next to scorn."
'An Empty River'
"I wrote this one day in the early '80's for saxophonist Mark Ramsden and walked along the road
to hear him play it. He wasn't in so I left the manuscript on a music stand in the middle of what seemed
like a dolls' house bedroom full of haphazard hand-scooped carpet strewn dolls' clothes.
He later took off to reside in Germany, so with a slight huff I re-titled it for the 'Greenwich' album. Ramsden had gone.
The tide was out.
'Meridian Council Estate (Vandalise Tourists' Property, Not Residents''
"Fuzzy-faced flock wallpaper peeling at the edges, barely supporting cracked flying ducks
and wire gilt clock hideously deformed into a classical guitar.
Crash! resonates around the square. Crash!
Faded-colour cot-out photographs of pit bulls invite you to break in and 'make my day.'
On the wind the strains of John Coltrane's 'Giant Steps' accompany the weary young mother
plodding her way up four storeys as the piss-smell lift lies dormant, vandalised again.
The choice was stark. Which to carry first? The child or the shopping? The latter won out,
trusting baby to half-seen, half-known but never spoken to neighbours.
Crash! goes another car window as forgotten children dance a cha cha cha on a lovingly-waxed Vauxhall - 1966 vintage.
Eyes down and collar turned, the alto saxophonist hurries through."
'Discoboats at Two o'Clock'
"Every night they'd come, wafting in through the skylight on the summer breeze.
Drifting out of sleep into 'Lover Ter Love Ya Bay-beee,' bass pumping and bouncing of the far shore, then off our side, then back over ...
Boom Boom Doom. The slow approaching crescendo, whirling louder, softer, even louder 'till one feared the children might
disco in their dreams.
One day we found a bass guitar washed up on the foreshore. I pondered for a moment where its owner was
and prayed that next time it'll be a disc jockey's turntable ..."
Motorway at Night - 1
Motorway at Night - 2
BJ (e gtr); Iain Ballamy (a sax, t sax); Andy Sheppard (t sax); Frank Mead (a sax); Mark Lockheart (t sax);
Dai Pritchard (bar sax, clt, tpt); Chris Batchelor (tpt, slide tpt); Dave Jago (tbn);
Django Bates (kbds); Nick Page (e gtr); Neill MacColl (e gtr); Steve Berry (cel);
Simon Edwards (b gtr); Dawson (per); Roy Dodds (dms); Steve Argüelles (dms);
+ VOG String Trio - Andy McFarlane (vln); Patrick White (vla); Steve Berry (cel).
Recorded at Waterfront Studios, London SE16 - August/November 1987
Recorded and Produced by Tony Messenger
"Goddam but this cooks!"
- Bill Tilland, Option..
"Hilarious, explosive, disarming - essential acid jazz"
- Ben Watson, Leeds Other Paper.
"Real new Age sounds throb to a decidedly unrelaxing metronome setting and chaotic instrumental mixes."
- Penguin Guide to Jazz on Record.
'Motorway at Night.'
The magnum opus of the 160bpm travel pieces.
See also Commuting, Greenwich One Way System, High Street/Saturday, High Street/Part Pedestrianised.
Said Billy to Wire magazine:-
"I briefed the players for each 'Motorway' closely.
Twenty minutes at 70mph, no U-turns, no stopping. I like to hear the person, the potential, the
inherent skills. Every player who records with me knows that if they blow it, it will be documented forever.
Knowing this, this was certainly no 'all-the-lads-together-what-a-larf' session. Some
were visibly petrified and too wound up to play fluently. Whatever humour is apparent (though
I find little humour in the concept of a motorway) is entirely down to me attempting to relax
the players. We did no re-takes, no editing. We over-dubbed the String Trio using 'real notes' from
By having a 160bpm click in the drummer's ear, we ensured a repetitive measure,
thus placing the lateral improvising of a Prime Time-type music into an 'easier to absorb'
vehicle to those who might well turn off to improvisations less structured."
'Motorway at Night' was the last vinyl release - and one that actually uses the sound of the plastic itself.
For the end of side two the groove was deliberately opened up during the cut. This had two effects.
Firstly the sound of Django's synthesiser was raised (but not loud enough to shatter a stylus,
as was BJ's original daft suggestion), and secondly, a genuine surface noise can be heard on
the 'motorway exit' - as the record label warns.