A stranger on Twitter just posted that No Blue Skies was my best vocal performance and guess what? I agree.

We finished recording what we thought would be my debut solo album sometime in the Spring of 1989. The record company, Polydor, were happy with it, but not happy enough to believe that they had an ideal single to launch the album, so they asked me to submit a few more songs. Singles. This was the first time this had happened to me so it hadn’t become tiresome, plus I was full of confidence, so I said OK.  Blair had this tune I liked which sounded to me like The Bunnymen meets Billy Idol (eventually became Blame Mary Jane), I could make something out of that, and I figured I’d just write something else myself. Quine was visiting our apartment in the West Village and I showed him the idea… he immediately came up with the lead guitar figure. It was a little odd… not awkward, but we both knew that we were on to something really good.

We couldn’t get into Right Track, where we’d recorded the rest of the album so recording was at Skyline Studios. The main recording room was considerably larger and more reverberant than Right Track’s, all other variables were the about same, I assume. The basic song structure was two verses before the middle section, one after and then chorus to playout. I’d written two verses, not three.

The session went very smoothly, Matthew played some ugly futuristic bass but it sounded great, Fred’s drumming was great, Matthew added rhythm guitar to double his bass part, Blair played keys and Matthew and Nicky Holland sang backing vocals. And Quine played lead. Somewhere in the midst of all of this I had recorded a guide vocal so the band knew where they were in the song…

A day or so later I said “Shouldn’t I record the lead vocal?” and there was a weird hush. Quine, I think, was first to say “You won’t sing it any better than that”. I recall Paul Hardiman concurring.

But I hadn’t written verse three. The lyric in the middle eight was vague at best… I insisted that I could do better and that the song would benefit. I had written more lyrics, I had fixed the vague bit.

I don’t recall how long it took for me to come around to their way of thinking but it did eventually happen…

That one vocal take, not meaning to be anything other than a guide for the musicians, was the one, and I couldn’t better it.

So the third verse is the same as the first and the middle eight… well I can’t tell you what my intention was because I can’t remember… but it does sound like two things a once… storms arrive or storms are rife? I don’t know…

 

 

9 comments

Richard Gibson

I like stuff from all across your career and Standards is right up there, so you’ve still got it. That said, the period covered by this new compilation is a very special one. I think No Blue Skies is so atmospheric in all departments. I love what RQ does, but yes that vocal is perfect. I never thought the middle 8 was vague and the repeated verse sounds logical, unforced and just fine. I love this story. It’s great that you had the confidence to trust your friends and ultimately yourself to not fix what wasn’t broken. One of your very best records and I could never tire of it.

Tracey

Thanks for sharing that story, Lloyd. Having that little bit of background makes an an exceptional song even more enjoyable. I’ve been revisiting your first 4 “solo” albums lately and am really looking forward to the boxset

See-Ye Tan

Thanks for playing No Blue Skies last night (Sydney City Recital Hall) and you still got a great voice. Frankly I didnt expect to hear NBS as you have so much to cover for the night….so I was pleasantly surprised. I will be seeing you again in Newcastle tomorrow night at LIzottes and because of last night’s excellent performance, I have bought myself a tix for my third night this coming Friday at the Sutherland Performing Arts Centre. Well done!!

Leave a Reply