Ballykissangel – Series 6 – 2001

Kieran Prendiville, creator of Ballykissangel, returns to rescue series 6 of the popular TV drama set in Ireland. This series was a very definite ‘reboot’ of the drama, and featured many changes. Sadly, it was to prove to be the last series of the show. Even Prendiville’s intervention was not enough to save it. This seems unjust, as the rebooted series 6 was very good indeed. Unfortunately, time and fate were against Ballykissangel…

Detailed background to Series 6: Why did Ballykissangel need to be rescued?

In its 1996-98 heyday, Ballykissangel attracted 10-15 million viewers and was the jewel in the BBC’s Sunday evening entertainment crown. These popular episodes comprised the first three series of the show, and were largely – though not exclusively – centred on the growing love affair between parish priest Father Peter Clifford and bar owner Assumpta Fitzgerald.

It was Prendiville’s scripts that formed the climax of series 3 that saw the death of Assumpta and the departure of Father Peter. These episodes were screened in May 1998.

Ballykissangel then underwent inevitable changes for series 4 and 5, and Prendiville took no active interest in the continuing show, perhaps feeling it had run its course. New characters were introduced (Sean Dillon being the most important) and some old favourites were gradually lost. Actor Peter Caffrey (Padraig O’Kelly) left somewhat abruptly mid-series 4 (1998). This may have been due to health reasons, but I am only speculating. He died ten years later and, it has to be said, he didn’t look at all well during series 4. (Ironically, it seems he was an alcoholic in real-life, as was Padraig.)

After Peter and Assumpta, Padraig’s departure was the next substantial original character to go, but there were still plenty of characters to know and love, not least Naimh, Ambrose and Brian Quigley, played by Tony Doyle.

Brian Quigley was an excellent character. A schemer, always looking for the next get rich scheme, but also a person with emotional depth – especially when it came to his daughter Niamh Egan and his grandson Kieran. Many episodes centred around Brian’s amusing schemes: Knockbeg golf course, a paintballing centre, and a business park for Korean investors – to name but a few! Many said that Tony Doyle owned each and every scene that he appeared in, and it’s hard not to agree. The seasoned professional of British and Irish TV added a real depth to Ballykissangel. Although a dodgy dealer, you cared about Brian Quigley.

However, despite series 4 (and to a lesser extent series 5) developing well, bad luck behind the scenes began to dog the show. Peter Caffrey’s departure was a blow, but not a fatal one. Sadly though, things were to get much worse.

During the filming the series 5, the elderly Birdy Sweeney (Eamonn Byrne) passed away and had to be hastily written out of the show. Now, with Padraig and Eamonn gone, along with the much-loved Assumpta and Peter, the show was beginning to take on a different feel. The large number of new characters for series 4 only heightened the sense of loss and change, even though many of them were worthwhile additions to the show.

Actor Peter Hanley (Ambrose Egan) had an excellent opportunity to develop his character in series 4. Hanley, the bumbling Garda, looked on helplessly as his wife of three years, Niamh (nee Quigley), began to flirt with newcomer Sean Dillon.

Despite this rise in his profile on the show, Hanley had had enough and wanted to leave the show at the end of series 4. He was written out in episode 1 of series 5, tragically dying a hero on the day his wife left him for Sean.

By now, by any measure, the show was beginning to feel unfamiliar as series 5 progressed. Peter, Assumpta, Padraig, Eammon – and now Ambrose – were all gone for good. But still, the scheming Brian Quigley held the show together.

The end of series 5 saw a natural break approaching. Sean and Niamh were married and due to leave for the UK and a new life. The last episodes of the series hint at some intriguing ideas: priest Father Aidan seems to be developing feelings for policewoman Frankie, Brian Quigley’s arch rival Paul/Sean Dooley (from Series 1 and 2) reappears with his wife and family to run Quigley’s pub, and Danny Bryne (Eammon’s nephew) successfully takes over his uncle’s farm. However, none of these potential plot ideas ever came to pass. (Note to fans: it is intriguing to think what storylines were being developed for the next series. Should it be called Series 5a?)

On 28th January 2000, while negotiations were in progress for Series 6, Tony Doyle suddenly, and very sadly, died of a heart attack in London.

It is hard to imagine a bigger blow than this to a TV show: a much-respected actor and much-loved character is suddenly gone. Clearly there were no serious ideas to replace Tony Doyle with another actor, such was his command of the part, so a radical re-think was needed.

In addition to this, although I don’t have the figures to hand,  I am fairly certain that the ratings for Series 4 and 5 would have shown a steady downward track. Therefore the production team would have had a double problem of falling ratings and a major hole in the cast, something that would only make things even worse.

It was in these circumstances that Kieran Prendiville was approached with a view to steering Ballykissangel back to success. Information about this move is sketchy and most of it comes from interviews with Prendiville in the media.

The first big change was to lose the amiable yet naïve ex-monk Father Aidan O’Connell and replace him with Father Vince Sheehan, an Australian. Prendiville insisted on the viewpoint of an ‘outsider’ to engage the audience with life in rural Ireland.

Paul Dooley becomes a replacement for Brian Quigley by attempting various money-making schemes that most of the shows centre around. Sadly, this doesn’t quite work as Paul Dooley is not someone the audience have invested time and emotion in over 5 previous series. Also, with the greatest of respect to actor Owen Rowe, Paul’s character doesn’t appeal to the audience. He is either being played by a lesser actor than Tony Doyle or, more likely, the character has never been developed properly. Paul Dooley is not a person you sympathise with or warm to.

It is also notable that Series 6 namechecks people and events from Series 1-3 but rarely alludes the non-Prendiville Series 4-5. The most brutal exception to this is how Aidan O’Connell is dispatched from Episode 1 of Series 6 in about 5 seconds! Brendan Kearney says: “He didn’t think he was making a difference. He did, but it was hard to tell.” At least Father Aidan got a mention! We never hear about Danny, Emma, Orla or Uncle Minto ever again (no bad thing in the case of the latter!). Sean Dillon is also absent except for one brief mention in Episode 1.

So, it was against the background of tragedy and falling ratings that the Kieran Prendiville stepped in to rescue Ballykissangel. Bold decisions were made, and the break with the previous two series meant that this was a gamble. Sadly, it didn’t work, and led to the cancellation of the show.

The series (Based on my Amazon.com review of the Series 6 DVD)

Father Vincent, the new lead, is an interesting character, not least because he is an Australian recovering-alcoholic priest and (I’m told) is good-looking as well (he was superbly played by Robert Taylor, one of the highlights of the new series). Most of the familiar characters from the earlier series reappear too, such as Brendan, Siobhan, Liam and Donal, and the playful and often moving plots are generally very good. There are also several references to the ‘classic’ series 1-3, which were absent from series 4-5, showing the Prendiville touch. It’s a welcome move as many fans felt that series 4-5 were disjointed from the original three series.

(Note: series 4-5 are dismissed pretty rapidly in the first episode of this series, almost like a bad dream! Several major characters from those series are gone, many without even the slightest mention.)

It is also sadly inevitable that having yet another lead priest character is disorientating. Father Vincent is a likeable character, and very interesting, but being from Australia just seems contrived.

But this is by no means a bad series, and if you have enjoyed the other five series then I do recommend this one. It was the last series of the show before it was axed, so any BallyK is always better than none. It is just a shame that the gaps are too big to plug and the programme is starting to get repetitive, even with Kieran Prendiville’s input.

Series Overview

  1. God.com – Niamh returns to BallyK to investigate the mysterious disappearance/suicide of her father, Brian Quigley. Dermot Dooley runs a lucrative online confessional and Father Vincent Sheehan arrives from Australia, the latest curate in Ballykissangel.
  2. Drink – Father Sheehan gets into trouble with a drink driving charge. But is he actually innocent?
  3. The Cat and Daddy G – A feel-good episode with the unusual premise of a goat making a horse run faster at the races! Better than it sounds, actually.
  4. Spirit Proof – A very different episode that takes the supernatural as its theme. The plot involves ancient fishing rights and all-too-human shenanigans from the Dooley children. Not a classic episode, although certainly different, but did a show like this need to explore the supernatural? I think not.
  5. Paul Dooley Sleeps with the Fishes – A Mob-flavoured episode with Liam and Donal trying to get Paul to pay them back what he owes.
  6. In a Jam – There’s a jam-making competition at the BallyK Parish Fete. Not a great episode, particularly as the parish fete has been a plot device previously, but quite funny all the same.
  7. Getting Better All the Time – A great Prendiville episode featuring faith healers, an implied comparison of Protestantism verses Catholicism, and faith verses science. There is unresolved sexual tension between Avril and Peter, and Peter faces a major dilemma about whether or not to marry an old friend and his new girlfriend. A great script and a fully-orbed storyline make this one of the highlights of Series 6.
  8. Smoke Signals – The final episode! Not written as the end of an era, but with hindsight there are some moments here that could point to the end of the show. Father Mac is getting older and facing a possible (enforced) retirement, courtesy of the Bishop. Liam and Donal drive off in their iconic blue truck which has served them so well since the show started, and we also have the development of Vincent and Avril’s slightly flirty friendship. The Peter/Assumpta wheel has come full circle (although you could also argue that the show is running out of ideas). A great end to the series, Kieran Prendiville delivers some classic one-liners and in the BallyK tradition, a serious subject is also raised, in this case the use of marijuana for palliative care. Fittingly, we end with the Ballykissangel family sharing fun and good times in Fitzgerald’s, the pub at the heart of the show.

Final note: The US DVD edition of Series 1 of Ballykissangel features some interesting extras, particularly the hour-long documentary that was filmed at the time of the show’s cancellation. It’s really interesting to see Joe Savino (Liam) walking around Avoca and speaking about the show in the past tense. Frankie Cafferty (Donal) is very honest about the show and suggests that it was past its best. A fascinating watch!

Summary

My closing comments are that Frankie Cafferty was probably right. Even though Ballykissangel Series 6 was really reinvigorated by the massive contribution of the show’s creator, it was on borrowed time. Yes, we were still in love with the scenery (who could not be in love with those County Wicklow vistas?), we still loved the Fitzgerald’s regulars and we were falling in love with the new characters and new situations, but it was hard to bring ourselves to face the truth: Ballykissangel had seen too many changes and was starting to get somewhat repetitious. There’s only so many women each curate can fall in love with, only so many regulars you can lose and, last but not least, there was only one Tony Doyle/Brian Quigley. His passing was the last straw; the show couldn’t recover.

Personally, I would have liked a final series (7) which was apparently in pre-production when the axe fell. This was SUCH a great TV show and it deserved a proper send-off in the same manner as Monarch of the Glen, where everyone, including the viewers, knew it was the last series and some old favourites came back to bring the show to a satisfactory conclusion (2005). However, four years earlier in 2001, the BBC did not seem to be willing to make a series ‘for the fans’ and we were left with a rather disjointed finish.

 

Dr Ian Paisley 1926-2014

IanP

Dr Ian Paisley 1926-2014

Some people seem to be born with superhuman powers, and I would say that Ian Paisley was one of them. Such people have massive amounts of energy, focus and determination. They often become leaders of men, inspiring great loyalty from their followers. They can persuade, encourage and inspire.

With his passing, we are seeing an interesting view of Ian Paisley, one that would not have been seen had he died anytime before the early 2000s. Before this time he was still very much Ulster’s ‘Dr No’ – a man determined to oppose any sign of compromise towards what he regarded as a dangerous enemy: Irish Republicanism.

Ian Paisley was a minister of religion and a politician, and was undoubtedly a figurehead for Northern Ireland, despite his controversial image. He was elected to the European Parliament several times in a row, a feat that would have been unlikely without the broad support of both communities in the province and the quirks of the PR system of voting.

Often outrageously controversial, he was a force of nature and something of an enigma. Many who spent time with him would speak of his personal warmth and charm. However, put him in front of a loyal crowd and the media spotlight, and he appeared to change into a monster, determined to smash his opponents. Indeed, this was the Ian Paisley of my youth, televised across the 1980s and denounced – in my household at least – as a ‘nutter’! To many in England, the conflict in Northern Ireland was a throwback to another era, and the province itself was a backwater, barely related to the rest of the UK and bringing nothing good: just bombs and mayhem to the mainland. While we disliked the IRA intensely (because a lot of people were dying at their hands) we were also at a loss to explain the passions that drove the loyal Orangemen.

I am not here to defend everything Ian Paisley did in the political arena. I don’t know all that went on, but I think I’ve heard the worst of it. You might have heard more than me, I don’t know. Either way, it is a shame that this Protestant clergyman – an evangelical no less – should have been associated with a lot of powerful rhetoric which (it is claimed by his detractors) led some people to violent acts or attitudes towards Catholics/Nationalists. The Bible is clear about ‘letting our gentleness be evident to all’ and ‘avoiding the appearance of evil’. Clearly, Ian Paisley crossed the line sometimes.

In fact, it must be said, I cannot defend all he did in the Christian sphere either. Through his Free Presbyterian denomination, Ian Paisley distanced himself from many churches that would have agreed with him on the essential foundations of the Gospel, and much more besides. Those most in the firing line were those who embarked upon ecumenical ventures (especially with the Roman Catholic Church), although Christians who drank alcohol, danced or who wore certain clothing could be under close srutiny, and criticism, also.

And yet…and yet…there was more to him than this. I met Ian Paisley once or twice, and even received a brief email from him. I was struck by his personal warmth and charm, as many others have been – and not just his fans. Even critical accounts of his life (e.g. Ed Moloney’s 1986 biography ‘Paisley’) cannot portray a monster on every page. In fact Moloney paints a fascinating picture of Paisley, the politician-pastor, equipped only with a Bible and his trademark overcoat, striding around the staunchly Catholic Rathlin Island on the North Antrim coast. There he went, meeting his constituents – mostly fishermen – and listening to their woes, never taking paper notes, only mental ones, and taking their concerns back to Westminster.

I’ve never forgotten this image. It is inspiring. This is spirituality, Christian duty and political nous at its very best. It is unpretentious and sincere. Those political duties would have been more than enough to keep us busy, but Paisley also pastored a church, delivered sermons and had a full diary of speaking engagements too. Energy like that is God-given, but do we, as modern Christians, ever ask for the power to be able to serve God so mightily?

Whatever men say (and Ian Paisley, for all his faults, knew that he was never going to be loved by all for his uncompromising stance) there was something he was consistently right about: the only opinion that matters is that of Jesus Christ. What do we make of Him? Do we love Him? Do we love others enough to preach Christ to them?  Has He forgiven our sins and given us eternal life?

On these Christian essentials Ian Paisley never wavered. I will always care a lot more about my public image than Ian Paisley did about his, but nonetheless, there is something inspiring about Christians who speak up for Jesus, irrespective of the cost and their repuation.

How should today’s Christians regard Ian Paisley’s legacy? We should not to dismiss him as an embarrassing dinosaur, nor emulate everything he did (and he admitted to many past faults as he grew older), but to be a single-minded lover of Christ who will not buckle under the pressure to deny him or compromise His standards.

Even more important, as the rain-soaked Paisley trooping around Rathlin island demonstrated, showing a real care and concern for your fellow man (even your ‘enemies’) leaves a real impression of Christ on them. It is said many of them voted for him, in spite of the criticism it would have engendered in the community, if discovered. Words AND deeds.

Certainly, Ian Paisley had the words (and not always the kindest ones) but he had the deeds as well.

Learn from Ian Paisley; don’t emulate his mistakes, but emulate his sheer hard work for the Gospel, and his unwavering love for Christ. He was not ashamed of Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Killed Jill Dando?

JillDando

Background: As baffling today as it was then

During some down-time this summer I revisited a topic that I have read about with great interest from time to time: the murder of Jill Dando. It is one of the enduring mysteries of modern times.

Whilst not quite in the JFK or 9/11 league for “Where were you when it happened?”, I do remember the day of her murder well. It was Monday 26th April 1999, and the news of what was initially thought to be a stabbing was raised as a particularly poor taste joke by a work colleague.

Upon checking online, or getting home to the news (I don’t remember which) the grim rumour was a reality; Jill Dando had been shot in the head on her doorstep.

I have been trying to think of an equivalent situation today, but it is a struggle. It is a bit like someone saying that Carol Kirkwood, the weather presenter, had been assasinated (God forbid).

In both cases, the people involved are famous female UK TV personalities, both with very cheerful styles and apparently sunny outlooks on life. They deliver harmless, feel-good TV and bring a lot of happiness to many. Why on earth would they suffer a very public, very violent death? What could possibly be the motive?

Even now, Jill Dando’s murder is as baffling as it is shocking, and a terrible example of just how awful violence against women by men is. Why should an unarmed, innocent lady be brutally attacked in a place where she should have felt very safe?

Now, the analogy above is somewhat imperfect. With the greatest of respect to Ms Kirkwood, Jill Dando had journalistic experience and had been a news presenter, delivering the serious issues of early nineties current affairs. More importantly, she co-presented Crimewatch, a proper ‘gritty’ TV show, with Nick Ross. So, although a very happy and cheery presenter, Jill Dando was not immune to more serious broadcasting and mild controversy in her public profile.

Background Information

I will not attempt to go into all the details of what happened on that day, or the subsequent investigations. Although this murder happened near the beginning of the ‘web’ age, there is still a fair amount of good information out there online (although I would avoid paedophile conspiracy theory sites, of which there are many).

The case still makes headlines today and even a cursory Google will reveal articles in the national newspapers about the latest theories (which, ironically, tend to be very old ideas re-heated).

One ebook I found particularly useful was by Mike Bourke, Barry’s uncle, and it is available on Kindle.

‘The Battle to Clear Barry George of TV star Jill Dando’s Murder’

The link is below and you can read my review of the book there also.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00DZVKI4E?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o02_

Another item worth considering is the May 1999 episode of Crimewatch, which was the first broadcast following her murder. This is a helpful way of getting back to a lot of original witness material. There is no hindsight here, just raw uninterpreted facts, and it is a refreshing way to look at the case.

Possible Theories

  1. The Serbs did it because NATO bombed the TV centre in  Belgrade and Jill fronted an appeal for refugees in the Balkans, which many said was biased against the Serbs; Motive = revenge and warning to the West/NATO
  2. Career criminals did it because of Crimewatch; motive = don’t investigate organised crime
  3. Barry George did it; lone, obsessive nut theory; motive=jealousy, fame or unknown motive
  4. Someone like Barry George did it; lone, obsessive nut theory II (same motives)
  5. Someone very close to Jill did it, or gave orders for the murder; motive= her forthcoming marriage or a past greviance
  6. Another professional assasin did it; motive = unknown

Having given you something to think about, I will add another section to this article at a later date.

 

Scotland Decides

I can hold back no longer….

I predict a ‘No’ vote of anything up to 5%.

I am not sure that this will actually put away the demands for independence for ‘a generation’ as the Yes campaign seem more concerned with matters of the heart over those of the head, and that’s a tricky thing to placate. I don’t think the Yes campaign will be at all content to settle down quietly.

I don’t understand the point of an independent Scotland. It doesn’t strike me as particularly independent with a proposed currency union, the Queen, the EU and probably Eastenders also. (Although the Monarchy will surely be jettisoned when the older voters die off?)

The ‘No’ campaign has been absolutely useless, and New Labour and David Cameron should be absolutely ashamed that they ever let this particular cat out of the bag. They have potentially split the UK forever.

 

Paul & Russell

Paul and Russell have composed several songs together. One of these, On and On (recorded 2002), has not had any offical release.
A great little spiritual number, the recorded version has a wonderful Spanish/Mexican/Spaghetti Western feel. As I often say, recording is a mystery, and it is possible to create wonderful soundscapes almost without thinking. Often this is how the best material arises!

Here it is!

© 2001 Russell Dyer & Paul Jackson

Chrous:

On and On, the story never ends
On and On it goes
On and On, the story never ends
On and On it goes

Tear down your barns
Build bigger ones
Check to see how your pension’s grown
You say you don’t believe in God
I say we didn’t get here on our own

 (Chorus)

You say you believe
Just what you want
And you know it’s true – true for you
But if you’re wrong – the Bible right
Then you’ve got so very much to lose!

Middle 8:

But wait a minute, my friend!
You can’t take it with you
Have we missed the point of life?
Wait a minute, my friend
We’ve got to face it soon
Your time is drawing, nigh…

 (Chorus)

Outro:

 On and On and On it goes
On and On it goes………..

Paul’s 40th Gig – October 2010

October 2010 in Corsham Town Hall

Variously plagued by ill-health and injury, the performance at our first live performance in many years was missing key members Jez and Russell (who ended up acting as sound man). Old friend and sometime keyboard player for the band, Paul Hazell, manfully deputised on drums (with no rehearsal!).

Personnel:

Paul – vocals, guitar, bass

Andy – vocals, guitar, keyboards

Steve – vocals, guitar

Paul Hazell – drums

The gig was ambitious. Held in the daytime, it lacked a little atmosphere and most of the guests were deep in conversation rather than listening to the band. The initial set was patchy but the second set took off with a barnstorming Sweet Home Alabama – and the rest was history!

The gig was ultimately quite a rousing success. It was notable for the only outing of the most recent collaboration between Paul and Russell – Something That Will Last. This reflective song looks back over past years of being a Christian, and then looks forward to the believer’s glorious destiny in heaven. The track is a big favourite of mine!

Sweet Home Alabama (c)Rossington/Van Zandt, 1974

Spirit From Above

Something That Will Last

‘First’ EP – 2003

First EP

Recorded at Stanford Sound, Oxfordshire, October 2002 – Feb 2003.

Copies distributed on CD: ~50

Cover by Sam Dallyn

Question: What do you get if you mix a frustrated home studio enthusiast and a talented multi-instrumental music student? Answer: ‘First’, by Jackson-Mckenna…

This was Paul’s colloboration with the multi-talented Andy Mckenna, who offered keyboards, guitar, vocals and trumpet to the EP. At the time of recording, Paul had only known Andy about 6 months. However, this project led to enjoyable (if infrequent) work together, mainly in live performances.

Paul Jackson:

“This EP happened because Andy and I had recently met on a UBM beach mission in Looe, Cornwall, August 2002. We clicked immediately and started to record music together the first chance we got, which I think was November. It was also written to encourage a Christian student friend who was spending a lonely year in Spain.

The core of the album was laid down in two hectic weekend sessions, with Andy staying the weekend at Stanford Sound. I oversaw Russell and Steve’s contributions, without which, the album would have been a guitar-solo-free zone…and who wants that?

I did the production and mixing with moral support from everyone else. The whole enterprise was squeezed into a busy time as preaching engagements abounded and the PFS (FIEC’s Prepared For Service course) assignments were coming thick and fast! Finishing ‘First’ was sometimes frustrating and trying, but I hope you will agree that it was worth the effort. The EP still sounds fresh today. It is arguable that this version of ‘Spirit from Above’ is slightly more gripping than the Milestone version as the excitement seems to build and build, but don’t let me put thoughts in your head!”

Track Listing & links to song pages:

1. My Inspiration
2. In Your Presence
3. Reminds Me of the Son
4. Spirit from Above [Psalm 139]

Backing vocals: Russell Dyer
Guitar solos on Spirit from Above & My Inspiration: Steve Gascoyne

CSNY 1974

http://addictedtonoise.com.au/crosby-nash-talk-1974-doom-tour/

This is a very interesting article (thanks @alansarchives) from David Crosby and Graham Nash about the 1974 CSNY tour that has finally been immortalised on CD/DVD/BluRay etc.

We learn from this article (and others connected with this new release) that Crosby didn’t call this the ‘Doom Tour’ because it was a particularly unpleasant experience, but rather because it was hard work to perform well to such gigantic audiences. However, no-one involved denies that there was plenty of excess on this tour and, this being CSNY, there were no doubt plenty of arguments and an unpleasant atmosphere for much of the time!

It’s interesting to note how the current crop of interviews (and Nash’s recent biography) all seem to be keeping to the party line that, yes, Neil Young is a bit weird and ‘only the music matters’. There seems to be a concerted effort to play down the personality clashes that have dogged the world’s greatest supergroup, particularly when Neil Young is involved.

I’ve put the CD box set on to my Amazon wish list and will probably get it next birthday or Christmas. £50 is very, very steep in my opinion, so this is not an instant purchase for me, by any means.

The latest Mojo magazine has a sampler CD (which seems to contain 5 tracks from the box set, although I’m not totally clear about this) and it sounds pretty good.

The CSNY 1974 release inspired me to pull out my CD of CSNY’s 1970 live album ‘4 Way Street’. Strangely, this wasn’t actually a great idea, as each time I play this CD I realise that I don’t like it that much! Although there are a few high points (mainly from Neil Young) this has always struck me as a very rough-sounding document of the band live. The singing is poor in many places (was this the tour when Nash lost his voice? He is particularly hoarse). Sounding more like enthusiastic pub rockers than the supergroup who seemed destined to take over the mantle of the (recently defunct) Beatles.

I am hoping that Graham Nash and Joel Bernstein have produced a substantially better sounding document in ‘CSNY 1974’. The rave reviews in the music press would suggest they have, which is good news for fans everywhere.

 

Calling Earth EP – 2000

callingearth

Recorded January – March 2000 at Stanford Sound and GBM, Abingdon.

Track listing & song page links:

1. Marred
2. My Inspiration
3. I Can See Her Face

Copies distributed on CD: ~30

Cover by Jez Fernandez.

This EP was recorded for the purposes of publicising the band in 2000.

Copies went to all sorts of people, from people involved in Christian music, to friends, family and anyone else who was interested. The EP was our first official release, and represents a good effort at capturing the band’s sound.

Despite the relatively good technology on offer, some of
the ‘invisible’ backing that underpinned the actual bass and drums
recorded on the EP was rushed, the result being that My Inspiration, in particular, was a little slow and lacked punch. (Entirely Paul’s fault!)

Additionally, a less than magical antique microphone meant the vocals were pretty thin, or authentically 60s, depending on your point of view. Still, the group played well and the songs shone through: Marred for its chorus, excellent guitar work and imaginative lyrical concerns, I Can See Her Face for its sheer groove – and Steve did a fantastic job of arranging the song from Paul’s original version.

This CD enabled us to make some connections in the Christian music
scene and play several high-profile gigs that year.

The EP was recorded in a Fostex R8 reel-to-reel tape recorder and a
Fostex R81 2 matching mixing desk. Although it was digitally edited with Cool Edit, all subsequent band releases were recorded digitally from start to finish.

History of the 11th Hour

11th hour at prayer?
11th hour at prayer?

1991 After several years as a rock music fan, Paul Jackson buys a guitar and tries to emulate his musical heroes. Tries to record a Beatles song on a cassette machine and pens a few (thankfully) long-forgotten songs.

Paul playing guitar 1992
Paul playing guitar 1992

1992 With help from a guitarist friend called Alan, masters the guitar further and writes another song, Private State. Not too good, but playing and singing coming on well.

1993 Becomes a born-again Christian – still interested in music, but begins to write songs about his new-found faith.

1994 Paul meets Russell Dyer at Grove Free Evangelical Church, Oxfordshire. Russell is also a guitar player and songwriter. The two hit it off immediately and begin playing and writing together. ‘Spirit From Above’ is first significant effort. Paul buys a Fostex 4 track cassette machine and gets stuck into making demo recordings.

1995 Paul & Russell write and record more songs. They meet guitarist and songwriter Steve Gascoyne whilst the duo are leading a service at Hanney Mission. It is nearly a year before all three work together. ‘Don’t Throw Your Love Away’ written this year.

Paul in the 'studio' 1995
Paul in the ‘studio’ 1995
Russell recording 1995
Russell recording 1995

1996 Paul, Russell and Steve start to work together with various jamming sessions. Paul makes more demos at home. Not so many new songs this year, but the threesome are gelling well. Band work on each member’s strongest material.

Russell, Paul & Steve 1996
Russell, Paul & Steve 1996

1997 Jez Fernandez joins as drummer upon returning to Wantage from university. First gig, as the ‘Jesus Loves You Free Electric Band’ in Abbey Meadow, Abingdon. Pretty hot – weather wasn’t bad either!

Abbey Meadow gig 1997
Abbey Meadow gig 1997
Russell at Abbey Meadow gig 1997
Russell at Abbey Meadow gig 1997
Jez at Abbey Meadow gig 1997
Jez at Abbey Meadow gig 1997
Steve at Abbey Meadow gig 1997
Steve at Abbey Meadow gig 1997

Later in the year, Paul buys an 8 track tape machine and a decent mixer – the sky’s the limit! They play at roadie Dave Owsnett’s engagement party at Abingdon school in December. Paul prefers to forget his attempt at ‘Everybody Needs Somebody to Love’ singalong with Afican gospel choir. Cue stoney faces and silence in the hall!

1998 Band plays at a youth event in Garford as ‘11th Hour’, a name coined by David Henderson from church. Many of the songs have evolved well and the band seems to be getting more and more proficient. In December band start recording three songs in two days at ‘Stanford Sound’. Project actually finishes at end of May 99!

Stanford Sound

Jez & Russell recording at Stanford Sound 1999
Jez & Russell recording at Stanford Sound 1999

1999 Big Christmas gig for friends and family in Grove village hall. Quite good actually – even if ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ will never be the same again! Paul Hazell joins band as keyboardist. Paul J writes ‘Marred’ (about Northern Ireland) and ‘My Inspiration’.

Grove December 1999
Grove December 1999

2000 Year begins with the ‘Calling Earth EP’. Recorded with help from Mike Parsons at Grace Baptist Mission studio, Abingdon. Three songs are attempted, and finished off at ‘Stanford Sound’. EP is a bit of a mixed bag but certainly the most professional sound yet achieved. Copies of the EP are sent out to various organisations. Band plays UCB ‘Cross Rhythms’ festival in July (how did we land that gig??) and youth events in Faringdon (Sept) and Littlehampton (Nov).

Cross Rhythms 2000
Cross Rhythms 2000
Cross Rhythms, Okehampton, July 2000
Cross Rhythms, Okehampton, July 2000

Russ’s ‘Hope In The Saviour’ helps give the gigs a very direct focus on the Gospel. The 11th Hour’s star is rising and there is talk of it fast becoming Wantage’s best contemporary Christian band! 😉

2001 Unbeknown to them, band plays last gig at the Q Gundersen’s ‘Impulse’ event in Faringdon in February. Also performs four songs ‘live to air’ at UCB Cross Rhythms radio station in Stoke, the day before final gig.

Outside UCB, Feb 2001
Outside UCB, Feb 2001

The band can now go in a new direction, but not all are keen to pursue the commercial route via Cross Rhythms. By now the band is taking up a lot of time and, with wives and babies on the way, the band goes into hibernation….

2004 After a large investment in the facilities at Stanford Sound, band begins to record semi-live album Milestone, a collection of their best tracks so far. They attempt to record the songs as live as possible in an attempt to recreate the songs as they were performed on stage. However, some of the songs evolve during practice sessions and the band decide to record these more interesting versions for posterity.

Seck mixing desk, Stanford Sound, 2005
Seck mixing desk, Stanford Sound, 2005
Andy & Russell, Stanford Sound, 2005
Andy & Russell, Stanford Sound, 2005
Let there be drums! Stanford Sound, 2004
Let there be drums! Stanford Sound, 2004

2005 Recording continues at Stanford Sound, spurred on by the fact that Paul will be getting married early 2006!

2006 Milestone released on limited edition CD in February.

March 25th 2006 – Photo opportunity at Paul & Liz’s wedding.

Paul & Liz's wedding, 2006
Paul & Liz’s wedding, 2006