Monday 26 May 2014

Clive Gregson, York

I write songs. But I'm only playing at it. I've written about 30. And less than 20 of those are keepers. Yesterday I spent a day in the company of a proper songwriter. Clive Gregson, in his time with Any Trouble, as one half of Gregson and Collister and as a solo performer for many years, has written over 1000. And the great and the good are queuing up to record them: Nanci Griffith, Mary Chapin Carter, Norma Waterson. Even Smokie. So he knows a thing or two about his craft. Starting with a blank piece of paper and turning it into three and half minutes of pop wizardry is what he does for a living.

John, Rowena and Clive
When Ian and Judith Simpson announced that they were opening their beautiful home on the outskirts of York on the Bank Holiday Sunday for a songwriting workshop and house concert by the aforementioned Mr. Gregson, I followed Freddie Laker's advice and booked early.

Now residing in Houston, Texas, when Clive introduced himself it was reassuring to hear that he was not speaking in an adopted mid Atlantic accent. Despite having spent over 20 years in the company of our gun loving North American cousins his Manchester vowels were still intact.

The ten of us in the group chatted a great deal about music and writing, played a couple of our songs and were then paired up to collaborate on a new song. The results were remarkably good and by the time we wrapped up the aftenoon we all emerged with a better idea about which direction to take our writing in. I did, anyway. The song I opened the session with, 'What Are You Waiting For?' had Clive (sitting three feet away) scribbling furiously in his note pad. He suggested I move the capo from the 3rd. fret to the 5th., write a bridge and change the title to 'Don't be Lonely Anymore'. It's called finessing, apparently. I think he liked it though.

John Medd: What Are You Waiting For?

I like his new song too. He played 'My Kind of Girl' in the first half of his concert. Here's the ubiquitous pop video to promote it - featuring Gregson fans all over the world doing a stunning job of miming to the record. When his film maker friend in LA told him what he intended doing Clive told him he was bonkers. 'That won't fly'. But he was wrong. It flies remarkably well.

Clive is getting his old band, Any Trouble, back together in December. For one week only Any Trouble are playing selected dates in the UK. Check Clive's website for details.

A big thank you to Clive, Ian and Judith for a brilliant day. And Rowena, Ian's sister and my lyricist for the afternoon.


  1. What a great experience. Are you going to take Clive's advice and tinker with your tune? I have to say that it sounds fine to me as it is, but what do I know?

  2. I already have! I wrote a bridge, moved the capo and changed the title. So, until I decide which one I prefer (though, like you, I quite like the original), there are now two versions of the same song kicking around.

  3. I love Clive Gregson in an unreasonably fan boy way and I'm sure that whatever he said about your song was righteous, honest, truthful and...oh, I don't know, something else good.

    1. I am too. And it was! He played a song which is a fantastic homage to Glen Campbell. Possibly the best song I've heard in years.