Clive James and songwriting

Clive James is to publish the fourth volume of his Unreliable Memoirs in October, and those of us who have long admired Clive’s stint as a lyric-writer in partnership with Pete Atkin (see blogroll) are curious to know what he will now say about that phase of his life. A taster of what he is saying came in the form posting to Midnight Voices (The Pete Atkin web fourm) from  one Tiny Montgomery. 

North Face of Soho – Unreliable Memoirs Volume IV, to be published by Picador in October, contains some interesting and rather bitter-sweet comments about the early James-Atkin years. Trying to pinpoint the reasons for their lack of commercial success, Clive interestingly still believes the lyrics were mixed too far forward in the RCA albums and admits he often preferred the demo tapes to the finished album tracks. But he believes the central reason for their failure to make any dent on the charts was down to to Clive James himself, explaining: “My assumption that popular music could be dragged towards literature was fundamentally wrong-headed. It was a sure-fire formula for creating unpopular music…I was killing us with every clever lyric that I wrote.” And speaking as someone who never rated Live Libel*, I was glad to read Clive’s description of the last album before the long creative break of their partnership as “a patchy collection of spoofs and parodies…half meant as a deal-breaker and fully did the job.” …

*Live Libel was the last album Pete put out under the RCA label.

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