Just adjacent to Kensington Palace in the splendour of west London is one of the world’s finer hotels. The Royal Garden in Kensington was one of the new hotels of the sixties. In the summer of ’66 it was the chosen venue for the victorious England team when they returned with the World Cup.
I’d passed The Garden many times on my walks along Ken High St but can’t remember ever staying there until the end of the nineties. I’d signed a new publishing contract with Warner Chappell Music and they were kind enough to accommodate me there on the night we sealed the deal. Music publishing is the dowdy bird in the aviary of the music business and I was more surprised than most at this display of uncanny opulence. I remember my well-appointed room offering a wonderful prospect of the High St as the lights started to come on in the early London dusk.
In the months that followed the publishers affirmed their good relationship with the hotel by moving their own offices round the corner to Kensington Church St, one of the old capital’s beautiful thoroughfares linking bohemian Notting Hill to the grandeur and glitz of WestKen.
I would stay there again on one of my first co-writing sessions of this new life I had. The publisher thought I should write with one of their best and most successful writers, Charlie Dore. So it was on headed note paper from this hotel I wrote out the lyrics to the first song Charlie and I had drafted together. I proudly showed her my effort the following morning back at her house in Highgate. ‘Good,’ she said warily, ‘let me just photocopy that and we can start work.’ For the next few hours I got a text book lesson on the art of co writing from of the finest songwriters I have come to know as a colleague and friend. Scribbling over with pens and pencils, the lyric was chiselled and shaped till it became, finally, a song.
In the intervening seventeen years or so we’ve become close friends and songwriting partners and Charlie has found a renewed love for performing and recording her own songs. Along with her own regular song writing partner, Julian Littman, Charlie has produced a series of brilliantly realised folk/americana records. On her latest, Dark Matter, she meshes stories as disparate as teenage science-class apathy to…. well… matters of life and death. And it is on this last subject where you realise Charlie’s songs matter more than most. Never afraid to poke and prod and ask the tricky questions, her own visceral response to growing older and facing the end of times becomes a compulsive listen.
This Tuesday I get to ask her the questions I’ve always wanted to ask and Charlie talks honestly, openly, hilariously and movingly about her own life and her brilliant songs. It’s one of those nights where you need to drop everything and listen.
Elsewhere we will pay tribute to Don Williams who died over the weekend aged 78. Don was a giant in country music and he had a special career in the UK touching millions of people with his music. Listen out for tributes from The Pistol Annies, music from Don himself and some great new music from Margo Price, The Orphan Brigade, Joanna Serrat, Willie Watson and Whitney Rose.
We’re on from five past nine on BBC Scotland FM this Tuesday evening. Join me if you can.