Saturday, 26 September 2009

Fun with forms

I realise I haven’t posted much about the mechanics of self-publishing recently. That’s partly because I’m in what you might call the admin phase, which isn’t particularly interesting. Also, I haven’t done it particularly efficiently. So here, for anyone thinking of self-publishing, is how it works.

First, I wanted to get a quote for the job from the printers. When I went to fill in the form, I realised I needed the detailed specs of my book – what size I want it to be, what paper I want it printed on, whether the cover will be matt or glossy, and so on. To get these I had to consult my book designers, who made their recommendations based on my initial meeting with David.

So eventually I filled in the form, and a couple of days later the quote came back. I ran it past the designers, who seemed to think it was fair enough. Now I was ready to place an order with the printers. So I looked at the order form – and found that I needed to enter my ISBN (the universal code used to order books worldwide).

So now I had to fill in the ISBN application form, and discovered – surprise, surprise – that this required yet another item I didn’t possess; a sample title and verso page for the book. This meant going back to the designers once again and a couple of days of toing and froing by email.

Now, finally, I have my ISBN number, which means I can place my order and get a date when my book will be printed. But I’m sure I could have reached this point several weeks earlier if I’d just taken the trouble to read all the forms at the outset.

Thursday, 10 September 2009


One thing I learned from the sleevenotes to the deluxe CD version of Five Live Yardbirds was the true derivation of Eric Clapton’s nickname. I’d always assumed that ‘Slowhand’ was an ironic reference to the speed with which his fingers moved up and down the guitar when he was playing a solo – in much the same way as tall men sometimes used to be called ‘Titch’.

Not so. According to Yardbirds rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja, Clapton used to use very light strings made for ukuleles, as they were easier to bend. Being so thin, they frequently broke, so Eric would have to restring his guitar between numbers. Frustrated at the delay, the audience would start slow handclapping – hence the nickname ‘Slowhand’ Clapton.

I just thought I’d share that with you.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Got Live If You Want It

I’ve just been listening again to the album which was one of the crucial inspirations for First Time I Met The Blues: Five Live Yardbirds.

I’m not sure if it was actually the first LP of British blues I heard (the Rolling Stones’ debut may have nipped in ahead of it), but Five Live Yardbirds was definitely the one that proved, beyond all reasonable doubt, that boys from the suburbs of London could play r’n’b that was every bit as raw and exciting as the Chicago blues I was learning to love.

Listening to it again now, it is, if anything, even more astonishing. After an eccentric on-stage introduction by the band’s manager’s assistant, they go from 0-60 in about five seconds in a manic assault on Chuck Berry’s ‘Too Much Monkey Business’, complete with furious soloing by Eric Clapton. The next song, ‘Got Love If You Want It’, features equally expert blues harp solos by lead singer Keith Relf, over a Bo-Diddlesque beat.

That sets the pattern for the rest of the set: fast songs attacked with gusto, and (slightly) slower ones which generally rise to a succession of crescendos. The primitive-sounding recording – this was one of the first live LPs, and the equipment wasn’t really up to it – only makes it even more exciting, as do the enthusiastic reactions of the audience, crammed into a sweltering Marquee club one night in March 1964.

In the book I place one of my three lead characters, Des, in that audience. It’s this experience that inspires him to form a blues band, in the hope of emulating his new hero, Eric Clapton. It’s the resulting live LP he plays his bandmates when he wants to show them what is possible. And it’s the Yardbirds’ arrangement of ‘Good morning little schoolgirl’ that is one of the first songs they learn – and when their new acquaintance Trevor realises that they haven’t got a blues harp player to imitate Relf’s riffing, he sees his chance to join the band…