(Climbing Pen Dinas at Aberystwyth, Wales.)
In May of 1987 I was in the U.K., writing songs for my RCA debut album, which would be released in 1988 and called “Blind To Reason”. My producers Michael Baker and Axel Kroell were producing the Scottish band Wet, Wet, Wet’s 1987 Mercury Records debut record “Popped In Souled Out”. To record it, Michael and Axel booked two months (May & June) at the recording studio Ridge Farm in Surrey, England. They were going to produce my album next and, knowing I’d be inspired by the natural beauty of rural England, they brought me along.
It was a wonderful and very productive working vacation. I’d take long walks to the neighboring villages and think up songs as I walked. Upon returning to Ridge Farm, I’d rush into the studio, record into a little boombox my ideas on the piano and write out the lyrics. In fact the title song for my record “Blind To Reason” was written exactly in this way. The rhythm of my stride provided the beat as the words and music came to me. In my imagination I would watch a video of myself performing the song live onstage as if it were already completed. I even saw the James Brown-style dropping-to-the-knees move as I sang the line “My pride is gone, baby; so’s my sense.”
It was easy to be inspired since it was just me and the beautiful countryside on those long winding hedgerow roads. At dinner, the Wet, Wet, Wet lads would ask me what I’d done that day and I’d tell them. They soon began referring to me as “the man who walked to Horsham”.
About halfway through my stay I decided to take a side trip to my ancestral spawning grounds of Wales. My grandfather was born in the fishing village of Aberaeron, which was just a short bus ride from Aberystwyth, where I decided to stay for a few days. Aberystwyth University is located there and it is a beautiful town of hills and castles on Cardigan Bay.
So I stood on the side of the road on a half misty, half sunny day at the end of May and caught the bus down to Aberaeron, rolling by the Welsh pastures full of sheep and luxurious deep grass going down to the sea. After having a late lunch of fish and chips, I realized it was Memorial Day in the States and Bank Holiday in Britain. At 5 pm in Wales, it would just be noon in Connecticut and my Dad would be barbequing in his backyard, with his dogs and my siblings gathered round the large above-ground swimming pool.
(Row houses on an Aberaeron street.)
(On a hill looking down on my grandfather’s hometown of Aberaeron.)
I found one of those iconic red British phone booths tucked away on a little lane, fished out all my confusing U.K. coins and called him. He answered in his characteristic cheerful voice, with that British accent he came to this country with.
“Happy Memorial Day, this is Ivor Hugh!”
Suddenly a big lump in my throat made it hard for me to speak. I knew he was proud of me, of my getting signed to RCA Records, of me finally having my dream come true, a dream he had always encouraged me to follow. I told him where I was, and he was of course delighted. He remembered his father’s village well, though now it was built up considerably and doing well for itself as a tourist destination.
I remember feeling that an important ancestral circle had been completed in that moment, just by my being in that particular spot in North Wales and speaking to my father over the wires in a little red phone booth. In honor of that Memorial Day memory, here’s one of the songs (“Empty As The Wind”) that I wrote for “Blind To Reason”. I was thinking of my father when I wrote it, and of his growing up in London. It’s about leaving the past behind you and going forward to a brand new day and a new chapter in your life.
To hear “Empty As The Wind” click HERE.
Happy Memorial Day again, Dad, and to everyone! – Grayson Hugh, Danbury, Connecticut, May 24, 2020
© 2020 by Grayson Hugh