McShane & Shaw are proud to present…. Dad Dancing a new album of original tracks covering diverse styles such as jazz-swing, classical, comedy, country, disco & reggae all superbly recorded and mixed by Ian Rafferty. It’s an audio variety show evocative of McShane & Shaw’s eclectic live performances.
The album is now available both as CD and digital download (if you get the CD you also get the download as part of the package) available from our Bandcamp store.
Bandcamp is fabulous for us because most of the proceeds go to the musicians. Also, the purchaser can choose to donate an extra amount to support the recording. I urge you to go there now and check it out. (The pound has been at a record low against the dollar so there’s never been a better time to invest in British music!)
In my life I have recorded and released three cassettes, six CDs, two VHS videos, four DVDs and two books but, until now, I’ve never done a public “launch”. Here’s what we did:
It was after releasing my Ukulele Playalong DVD in 2009 that I went for Sunday dinner with the family of Yiorgos, my Greek brother-in-law. Yiorgos suddenly wanted me to play the DVD for the family to watch. I adamantly would not go for it. As well as it not being made for sitting and watching (its purpose is in the name) I had no desire to sit there watching myself on the screen. I just didn’t see the point of taking up everybody’s time to do this.
Somewhat angrily, Jiorgos turned on me saying, “You know what? You have issue problems!”
My immediate reaction was to laugh at the idea of “issue problems”. It struck me as funny – quite unfairly since English was his second language – but Jiorgos’ words stayed with me to rankle in my mind whenever I am, once again, struck by the familiar reluctance to publicly celebrate my achievements. I never really got it that other people would make such a big deal over their new CDs or books. So what if I’d made a thing? Does a carpenter hold a street party every time he knocks together a table? Does a plumber have a grand opening for every new toilet she installs? I honestly didn’t get why a musical product should be any different. But maybe it is?
This was clearly not a solo project. The creation of Dad Dancing required the time, talents and good will of others. For the first time I’ve felt a compulsion to publicly acknowledge the key people involved in the work, and to say thank you to those who have supported us in the past. And, at this time of economic fragility, when gigs are few and far between, it would also give us a chance to show our work, not just to those who know us but to others who have not yet seen us perform.
We found a venue: a worker’s club on the outskirts of Barnsley that Chris had played several years before. When I saw the layout of the space with its tables, and a stage at one end, I knew it was perfect. The bar staff managing the place were friendly and helpful and, when I learned there was no rental charge (they depend on drink sales to make their money), I booked it on the spot.
Thinking about a musical warm-up act we wanted something stylistically different from ourselves so I suggested Fern – the string quartet who’d accompanied us so beautifully on our classical track Galileo
The next subject to come up was money. How would we finance the thing? We came to the conclusion that we did not want to spend weeks hustling to sell tickets. Instead, we magnanimously sent out invitations to our swell party offering an evening of entertainment at our expense. It’s a much easier sell when you put it like that.
It sounded good in theory. We’d obviously get some revenue from whatever CD sales we could make on the night but it also meant that we were going to have to ask the other musicians to join us without pay (we offered a nominal amount to cover expenses so it wasn’t costing them at least.)
First to sign up were the four members of Fern. For us this meant being able to play Galileo for a live audience. For them it was a chance to advertise their act – they mainly do weddings – as well as a rare challenge to do a thirty-minute set before an appreciative and listening audience.
A fortunate side-effect of my association with Chris has been to connect with local musos of a very high calibre who have also now become friends. One of them, Dave Fisher (a long-time student of Hawaiian music), offered to set up a PA and do our sound, as well as play lap steel (his work features on a couple of the album tracks.) The phenomenal Duncan Waller came in on bass and we were delighted to also include our producer Ian Rafferty playing cajon – one of those mystifying plywood boxes that sound like a drum kit (in the right hands.)
Originally Ian had had a clash with the date but I was secretly pleased when his other gig fell through and he was able to join our party. I cannot overstate how valuable Ian has been to the creation of Dad Dancing. As well as being a skilled recording engineer he’s also an excellent musician (piano, violin, drums, percussion and probably more that I don’t know about), he’s edited our videos and even designed the album cover and posters. We needed some way to honour Ian “Magic Fingers” Rafferty. After some failed attempts at making a gold record, I came up with a framed award that displayed the CD along with an inscription of thanks.
In the weeks leading up to the album launch we struggled with who to invite and how many. It’s not that we were altogether picky but we had no clue as to how many would actually show up. With a hundred seats to fill we wanted to make sure that we got a decent crowd – but not an unwieldy horde. Asking people to RSVP was not too helpful. A few people took the RSVP seriously but most didn’t and it was only a very rough guide as to who would actually be there. In the end we slightly overbooked: in the style of the airlines who routinely oversell their seats. It all worked out. We filled the place nicely with about a hundred people on the night. My partner Jane and friend Catherine had decorated each table with homemade flower arrangements, LED tealights, nibblies and microwaved popcorn freshly made at the bar. These touches were small but important, for you could see the appreciation on people’s faces as they came in and took their seats.
We planned to play four shortish sets (about 35 minutes each) with short breaks in-between to chat and buy drinks. Our aim of creating a “listening audience” hit the mark. Almost everyone there had a musical connection. Chris McShane is a teacher and several of his music students were there plus my friends from the local choir, the manager of the Paramount Theatre, Father David from the church where we recorded Galileo, plus Sam Ireland, the landlady of the Huntsman Pub (along with some of her denizens) and many more.
Fern got there just before showtime and set up onstage while Chris and I made opening comments. We sang our first two numbers and then played Galileo with Fern – our first performance of it since the recording. Playing such a long piece from memory is a challenge for me and I was relieved that it went well. Fern then performed a chronological selection of classical and popular pieces ranging from the 1700s through the current era to include The Beatles and some modern classical.
During the intermission the band set up to play Disco Ukulele, McSwing, Your Car’s Too Big and other songs from the album. Having only heard ourselves onstage as a duo it was a great feeling to be backed up in such a fine way.
Then came time for the award ceremony. I explained, “In the same way George Martin was called the fifth Beatle – Ian Rafferty is the third McShane & Shaw. But he needs work on his look. He just doesn’t look enough like the major record producer that he deserves to be.”
So, we made a show of festooning him with gold sunglasses, disco bling and a Burt Reynolds moustache before presenting him with the award (Ian that is, not Burt Reynolds.)
CD sales were brisk during the break. Chris and I stood by the merch table to sign autographs while meeting a selection of new and old friends who had lined up to chat. Even Pete Arnold, who helped organise the filming of our McSwing video, had come all the way from Diss, Norfolk and was there with Martin Coyne from the Steel Valley Folk Club to join the fun.
The next set was McShane & Shaw performing, as a duo: more songs from the album plus some covers. We do a version of ELO’s Mr Blue Sky that people seem to like. We might put it on an album of cover songs at some point. After this set it became apparent that we’d created quite a long evening. The “thirty-five-minute sets” all overran and time was moving on. Some people were getting tired and came up to make their apologies before leaving. We didn’t want too much more of that, so we got the band back on for some final goodbye songs to bring the McShane & Shaw launch party to its sweet finale. We closed with just the two of us harmonising a 1920’s Richard Rodgers song without microphones.
When you host an event there are a lot of things that can go wrong but, thanks to good luck, great help and a decent dose of care and attention we had managed to pull it off. The album is well and truly launched. And while you go off to download Dad Dancing and enjoy our music, McShane & Shaw are already working on the next things.
Thanks for reading, and, in your own way, being an integral part of what we do. It is very much appreciated.