59. Real Foundation – Word to the wise

December 24, 2010

/ Afterthought, Dishy, 1995

Real Foundation

I won’t pretend through omission that this is in any way objective.  I’m writing about the music made by friends; I’m writing about the songs written by an old friend.  And yet, I think I can stand outside of that friendship and say, this is a great debut record, that he was a great melodic songwriter; and that I still think it’s a shame that he didn’t go on to write as many songs as he might have, or that the songs that he did write never got to be better known.

So I know a lot about the genesis of the two songs on this single, and the others I heard played live a dozen times.  I know the music that influenced how they came out as they did.  I even know the songs written before them and remember noting the jumps in learning and craft at each stage.

Long before ‘Afterthought’ and ‘A word to the wise’ were songs such as ‘Angel Hill’, written about meeting a girl in what happened to be my home town.  And one day in the early nineties, while I was at work, the songwriter in his excitement at his creation played a demo of a song called ‘Sweet life’ down the phone at me.  And although it was not yet the finished article, from what I was hearing even through that tinny earpiece speaker, I couldn’t see how this songwriter wouldn’t become one that anyone with an interest in pop music would one day know about.

Real Foundation

I know that the harmonies of a song called ‘Reach for me, honey’ were sung over and over in a Pimlico bedsit, and that far from irritating one of the other residents of the building, she was enchanted (though not above taking it upon herself to make some suggestions as to the song’s arrangement).

And I know that the songwriter – Jack – used to listen obsessively and at times exclusively to the Beach Boys.  You can’t hear that so much in this record, whose lyrical tone tends more to the sour than the sweetness which was actually the staple of his songwriting.  What you do hear is a breadth of listening.  Brian and all the other songwriting Beach Boys were gods, purveyors of ambrosia, nectar and wild honey, just as they have been for so many writers and listeners, but Jack strove to assert his own vision in a way that prevented the Real Foundation’s recorded songs from succumbing to any one predominant influence.  And of course the other boys in the band brought their ideas and influences with them, so that what resulted was a marriage of the Beach Boys to mod, soul, funk and nuttiness.

After the Real Foundation collapsed, Jack recorded songs under his own name.  These solo songs hinted at all sorts of possibilities, and a future beyond influence.  One, ‘Head full of sound’, appeared on a Dishy compilation; for reasons best known to himself, when an upcoming film director asked if he could include it on the soundtrack of his first feature, Jack said no.  It might never have made it there, in the end, of course, the world of film being what it is; but what it indicates is that there are so many other things beyond songwriting talent that enter the equation, that stop someone from making it, in whichever way you think ‘making it’ ideally applies.  The what ifs are legion.

Well, here it is then, both sides of a lost gem.  I hope its creators don’t mind me posting it in advance of telling them about it.  It’s my Christmas present to them, and to you.