A composer writes…



It began life on a battered old piano back in the throbbing metropolis of Hitchin. When Jet emerged blinking into the sunlight, out it popped again. Producer Roy Thomas Baker suggested that it might be the first track on the album and, full marks to him for perception, it was. Sir ‘Patrick’ Oxenpump noted ‘There’s something to be said for not being classically trained, I would never have thought of those chord movements’. But it was all Emmenthal to him.


Various journalists, noting the ‘high grade of steel being torn from axe’ routine, supposed that this was the sad story of the Plank-Spanking Himalayan Mountain Goat, but it wasn’t. It featured a Mellotron, which was hired at great expense but to very little effect. It was however very handy for putting sandwiches and bottles of wine on. It was white and one could spread an entire Sunday newspaper on the top. Not while playing, of course, although that might have been a good idea.


Expensive modal pop song, complete with organ and handclaps. Whatever it was, he never go around to it. Nice goaty guitar, buried by lots of other stuff. But nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s one of the basic Principles recommended by Eric Blatant.


A short song, less than half a minute long. Mike Leander’s wife said “It’s very nice but it’s a bit short”. The author said “Of course it’s short, it’s supposed to be short, it’s a short song”. Mr Leander was not impressed with the reply, or maybe he just didn’t want to be beaten with kitchen implements later on, it was the seventies after all.


Less catchy than difficult to get rid of, opined Charles Shaar (I ask you) Murray of the NME, comparing it to an epidemic of Chinese flu. Based upon the principle of serial repetition, at that time obscure but later seized upon by such Johnny-come-latelys as Philip Glass and Steve Reich, the chorus is repeated 85 times. The single version, however, was cruelly hacked down to a mere 36 repetitions. Such was the tempo that, if you monitored the drums from the sync head of the tape machine, rather than the playback head, they would be a perfect half bar late. Chris argued strongly for this, Martin argued unpersuasively against. The trick was used for the middle. It was not a hit.


Boogie for the manicured minority, while the unwashed masses watched football and TV. Pah! Let them eat cake!! The chorus goes round in threes not fours, in case anyone’s counting. Live it was the opener because we thought all that diddley-diddley would moisten the necessary parts. One Jet drummer regularly used the opportunity to spontaneously solo…..during the intro to the opener.


Apparently a song about communication. Features two simultaneous left/right melodies in the chorus, an idea nicked wholesale from Jack Bruce, it can now be admitted.


Narrowly avoiding plagiarising Walt Disney, the song was composed painstakingly finger by finger on the old battered piano. Nice O’Listing outro which went on for some hours. Alas, all things must fade. Again, a painstaking reproduction of an earlier recording by the short-lived six-piece milkman version of Jet.


Chris Townson and Andy Ellison wrote the nonsense lyrics which were painstakingly stolen wholesale from Ambrose Bierce. This was not mentioned at the time. Strange nasal contortions were produced by RTB’s insistence upon putting Andy into a suitcase synth. There wasn’t much room in there.


A second appearance for the tune, and the first appearance of Norma Shady. Lots of ‘snarling feedback’ and ‘plectrum wizardry’ (copyright P von Tell) from a passing mountain goat. A veritable lexicon of words for the outro, most of which were forgotten live due to the encroaching effects of effects of gravity and strong drink. And, 25 years later, rapidly-approaching middle age.


The composer sings (is it the correct expression?) the outro, following the engineer’s fork solo. The general impression was that no one was taking it very seriously, but surely that can’t be right…. Nice rolling piano which fitted very nicely onto the B-side of that thing.



The first (and last) O’List/Gordon composition before one of the authors took off his anteater costume and staggered unevenly off round the mountain. Wordy or what? But at least they weren’t the same as they to him, and for that we can be grateful.


Or else GOING DEAF, both titles seem to work. Old favourite that was disinterred for the 2000 tour. The band heard it again after many years while driving to a John’s Adults rehearsal and thought it had legs, so it was run up the flagpole to see if it fluttered. And it did.


The band finally stumbled upon the truth, and rehearsed this as a present to the management. When said people eventually came down to investigate what their protégés had been up to, they were bombarded with musical insults and diatribes. The rest is not history. It is a jolly little tune and even has an outro in 11:8, if you will.


Apparently about the view from the stage. The goat is standing in the footlights, evidently blinded and disorientated. Uncertain as to which way round the mountain to go, it races through the border checkpoints with tears in it’s eyes, while simultaneously freaking up and down in dry ice. You couldn’t make it up, really. And why would you want to?


Good grief. The British Forces Broadcasting Service used to do a Sunday broadcast for all the guys and gals out there in wherever they were. This was the germ of the idea – Ghan is somewhere in the Middle East. Maybe. Or maybe not, anyway it doesn’t matter, this is the first of a long line (two) of Oxendale/Gordon collaborations, carried out under protest as a rearguard action. Not the sort of thing you want happening in your slit trench, clearly.


The second in the long line. Seems, in it’s rather opaque way, to be about pornography. The topic would later be returned to with greater success. Kind of Liberace-without-the-showbiz vibe. Doesn’t leave much, you cry, and indeed it doesn’t.


Jet tune later revisited by Radio Stars. Began life in TW Studios in Fulham with P Ox on keyboards, Jet’s personal manager Jamie Turner on drums and MG on vocals; let’s face it, things could only get better, and they did. It found a quasi-HM outro which ‘tended to overshadow the rest of the song’ (copyright R Mael) but certainly got those toes a tappin’.


The dankness of the rehearsal room plus the generally gloomy outlook produced this tune about – well, frankly, someone who preys on schoolchildren. Well, it was fashionable, you see….the Who did it, didn’t they?


Not sure where this one came from, or indeed who he is or why he shouldn’t cry. A piano was filled with anacondas and the strings plucked. Don’t try this one at home. The middle section refers to the proposed title of the Jet album, ‘Have You Seen Charlotte?’. It went down like an anteater at a baby shower, so it was called ‘Jet’.


But this, on the other hand, was much more sexy and referred to the well-known range of designer luggage which, I believe, is still going strong. More aspirational than actual, it also brushes lightly, if truculently, up against the art world. Or is it just peevish? Wouldn’t mind a nice suitcase, meself.


The title comes from THAT S****s review, but the piece itself was, rather presciently, recorded many years earlier and is in fact the dying moments of AN Other song which remains unheard. This is one of the reasons J*t mysteriously didn’t go on to become rich and famous. Oh, well, can’t win ’em all. Sometimes you can’t win any of ’em.

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2 thoughts on “A composer writes…

  1. My brother hates me when I play some of these songs. Thanks, sir! I’m not the best but it is for the best and nodfbsdhfjkhkjethinkaboutchu!

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