With this in mind we soon turned our attention to using the downtime imposed by Covid-19 as a chance to address this issue. We recorded more than 18 new tracks – many of these with accompanying video, working hard against the backdrop of the various Covid-19 restrictions, regulations, and of course social distancing.
In December 2020 we released CHRISTMAS STAR which was adopted as the town’s official soundtrack to their Christmas Project (Whitby Christmas Dazzle). With the production of our new-look, streamlined and simplified website TRACK OF THE MONTH was introduced as a way to keep the website looking fresh. We’ve retrospectively added in a few other moments from our 2020 year, but from January 2021 we’re planning to add to this section monthly – in real time.
The current TRACK OF THE MONTH is on the website home page. On this page you will find – set out month-by-month the previously featured tracks. The plan is to build this into our YEAR IN MUSIC – documenting not just the music itself but hopefully also a little of our thoughts and experiences over this time. We hope you enjoy watching how the year develops……
With WORLD BOOK DAY being 4th March we decided to feature out new studio recording/video of PENGUIN BOOKS as our track of the month. However, March 8th was the first big day on the March 2021 calendar – kids could at last start getting back to school again – to the relief of many home-schooling parents.
There was concern about COVID mutations and the need to “tweak” future vaccines. Parts of Europe and Canada fell out of love with the AstraZenica vaccine over concerns about possible side-effects including rare blood clots. Vaccine Nationalism continued to be debated – the UK was generally deemed to be doing well with it’s vaccination programme, the EU perhaps not-so-well.
At the month’s end, on March 29 UP TO SIX PEOPLE/TWO HOUSEHOLDS were allowed to legally meet outside in a garden or other public space. A £5,000 fine was proposed for people who might attempt a Foreign Holiday.
In other news, Megan dropped a royal bombshell with the Oprah interview, the super-sized container ship EVERGIVEN ran aground blocking the Suez canal and the Black Lives Matter campaign remained prominent in the news as the Derek Chauvin trial (in connection with the death of George Floyd) got underway in the USA.
March 2021 marks ONE YEAR since the band last played/rehearsed together. As we write, fingers are crossed for the further easing of lock-down regulations. All being well, on April 12 we can all travel and stay over, and there is a possibility of many COVID restrictions being lifted mid-June: IF things go to plan……
MOON AND SUN was our nod to St Valentine’s day on February 14.
Any Holywood film telling the story of the start of February 2021, might have been titled: Lockdown 3 – The Nightmare Continues. Opening scene – families “holed-up” in the dark depths of a severe winter with snow conditions across the UK. A state of emergency in Texas USA due to severe snow and record low temperatures. Pan to images of snow in Athens on the Acropolis. Lockdown 3 was getting tedious. Back in the UK, scenes of heavy rain and floods, icy conditions and treacherous walking conditions. Too much TV in the national diet – and not enough quality new entertainment being produced. Definitely no live music. For bands contemplating international gigs there was now the added complication and uncertainty of new visa regulations resulting from Brexit.
In the news the sad death (and subsequent funeral) of Centenarian /NHS fundraiser Captain Tom. The story of two men who defied National Lock-down regulations, travelling from Liverpool to camp/climb/walk in the snow-stricken Lake District. One had “a pre-existing medical condition” and developed chest pains. Chris Lewis was the 60 year-old volunteer called out to rescue the men from off the mountain – an established member of the Patterdale Mountain Rescue team. Chris fell during the rescue mission to suffer “life changing injuries”.
The country was in wait of February 22 – when Boris would at last confirm the Back-To-School call – on or after March 8. From this date – it would again become legal to meet up with ONE OTHER PERSON OUTSIDE IN A PUBLIC PLACE (still not legal however to do so in a private garden). Boris announced from his podium that these two people could even enjoy a coffee together whilst sitting on a bench without breaking the law (but maintaining social distancing).
On the positive side, the vaccine roll-out was reportedly going well in the UK. China and Russia were the first to export vaccines to African nations, with the WHO following suit later in the month. By the close of the February, the weather was suddenly changing. There was a feel of spring in the air, Daffodils and Snowdrops starting to add some cheer while out on our permitted daily outdoor exercise excursions….
New Year’s Day is Traditionally seen as a time to look forward to a fresh start, and this seemed to tie in with the title and sentiment of our chosen track. On January 1st the prospect of the roll-out of the new Covid vaccines certainly gave some hope to the situation out in the “real world” and we were doing our best – albeit in a very small way – to play our part in promoting a positive vibe.
Sadly we were soon back in to LOCKDOWN 3, with the feeling that we were getting fully and more depressingly into a difficult and tedious winter season as the month slowly progressed. Short wet days were sprinkled with episodes of snow out in the surrounding villages. There were reports of flooding in some areas of the country – now no longer a part of the EU. Donald Trump reluctantly moved out of a recently stormed and breached Whitehouse, the USA looking more divided than ever.
There was debate about the possibility of tighter controls at the UK’s borders as reports of new strains of virus emerging across the world became an issue. The vaccination process was rolling out at last, but it seemed that schools were to remain closed to the majority of children until March 8th – after half-term.
In November Simon Rupert and Paul (Whittaker) had a last minute push to get Christmas Star out for Christmas. It was a re-working of a track CHRISTMAS CRACKERS that Simon had written and had featured on BBC INTRODUCING the previous year – almost a bit of an afterthought/distraction to our working (all remotely) on the new album/ODD NUMBERS project. We re-vamped the previous video of Christmas Trees and Christmas shop window footage (taken in Amsterdam), and threw in a little bit of band footage.
In the run-up to Christmas, with the worsening Covid situation, the town was all dressed-up for Christmas, but the streets were largely empty. On the plus side, this was an amazing opportunity for photographing the streets with no crowds after dark. We quickly threw together a second video featuring the town’s Christmas lights, and this was soon adopted as “THE OFFICIAL SOUNDTRACK” to Whitby’s CHRISTMAS DAZZLE project – which hopes to lay to the foundation for a new WHITBY CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL project in 2021 – and indeed into the future beyond. This revised video version soon became the more popular and more promoted of the two, with 3.4k views on Facebook at time of writing (450 views on YouTube).
The MERRY CHRISTMAS video was very much an afterthought – a remix of existing material, but a song that seems to stay pertinent year on year. It seemed a pity not to give it an airing once more. The Christmas tree is Paul Whittaker’s. The nativity sets were filmed (with permission) in St Mary’s Church at the top of the town’s famous 199 steps. There is no baby Jesus in the larger nativity set because tradition has it that he paraded into the church and added on Christmas eve. We have since photographed him – but too late for the 2020 video!
In November we published THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE to Youtube. A re-vamped Video set against a freshly completed studio recording. The song was written by Simon Rupert – inspired by the band’s association with Liz Druce. Liz sang backing vocals on our 2018 album FALLING DOWN. She has a fabulous voice, and has on occasion shared a stage with us and performed alongside us as DRUCE – accompanied by guitarist partner Steve.
Liz has worked hard at her catering/baking enterprise – THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE. She’s widely known as a fabulous cook/baker/host with a big heart and a big smile. THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE had established prior to Covid a history of servicing festivals & events.
The band have played on Whitby Regatta’s music stage, set adjacent to THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE’s marquee on a number of occasions and in 2018 we enjoyed a memorable evening, playing inside THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE’s marquee itself on the Pier at STAITHES ARTS FESTIVAL.
This association with Liz clearly set the clogs going in Simon’s songwriting head. Although the lyrics have no obvious connection beyond the title of the song itself to Liz’s business – there is no doubt that the song would would never have come about without this association. THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE has been a popular and upbeat number in our live set for some time, and we’re delighted to get a really good studio version of the song put out there at last. The track will be further mixed and mastered before publication in 2021 as part of the ODD NUMBERS project.
In October we put out our new video for HEY JOE. We’ve been playing Hey Joe in our live set for a long time now. We had previously recorded a semi-live version for our SPOT ON CD back in 2015, but had just now finished working on new a studio version during lockdown.
It’s a tradition in our live set that we close with HEY JOE. Can’t really explain how that came to be. It just seems to be quite a reflective number & when we play it live it seems to hold people’s attention and leave a good feeling hanging in the air when the last notes drift away. Although it doesn’t actually say it in the song, the lyric clearly refers to Whitby. Hey Joe means a lot to the band for all the above reasons.
In planning the video, Simon and Steve met one evening at the town’s iconic Whalebone arch to work out the best possible camera angles and positioning for the drums and camera tripod. They marked out all the right spots for the kit, where to stand, etc on the pavement with chalk, and met again for filming the next morning at sunrise – 4.25am.
Simon and Steve did just a couple of takes filmed from two different angles. The whole video is built on these two clips ,and we were subsequently able to add in the rest of the band – one by one – with filming in planned positions on different mornings. One slight complicating factor that we hadn’t anticipated was that we would turn up to find no-one around, but then at about 2 minutes to the scheduled time for sunrise cars of people would turn up to photograph the moment! So – on occasion – we had to make sure we were there first, and hold our position while we looked like complete numpties miming to the track.
In the video you may notice that – to tie in with the lyrics, Simon is holding a copy of THE BIG ISSUE and Steve’s Dog Lead. He really does point across to the towns famous swing bridge as he refers to it in the song.
One fly in the ointment was that Kingsley (Lead Guitar) had recently moved away from Whitby. We had to wait some weeks before he could make the trip, fit in with the current travel & visiting restrictions AND be around at the necessary time of morning to complete his footage. After a lot of delay and complicated planning we tuned up at dawn – but on the day it was misty and started to rain as we arrived. We JUST ABOUT got one take of the first (of two) guitar solos filmed when the heavens opened – no time for a second take, no time for doing the second guitar solo that we needed to complete the clip. There was going to be no further chance of videoing Kingsley at that spot, at dawn, that season. In the end we settled for using the clip of Kingsley playing in the rain for the first solo. For the second solo we came up with the device of the postcard – we filmed Kingsley on another occasion against a white wall. So that’s how Kingsley came to play his second solo on the front of a postcard. HEY JOE.
RUSH was a track that had proved popular in our live set for some time – in fact there is a nice video on Youtube of the band playing it live in the summer of 2018 (check-out the YouTube LIVE RECORDINGS playlist). Rush was mainly written around Kingsley’s lovely guitar riff, with words and melody by Simon, plus a little input from Phil.
Our experience of RUSH is that Kingsley’s guitar solo has a certain weight to it and when the song concludes there is often an atmosphere left hanging in the air. It gets good applause. Because it has this certain feel of gravitas and the ability to captivate live audiences, we have often introduced it by joking that it was going to be the next James Bond soundtrack! It’s got that kind of feel. And so it is that we have been asked on a number of occasions to play “that James Bond number”.
The video for RUSH was compiled and published at the end of August. We feel that the photography was pretty stunning. It was all about the light. We filmed each band member on different evenings, on the cliff top of West Beach. Each one against a different sunset. We had a window of about 20 minutes for each band member – on suitable evenings. The weather was amazing. The sea looks incredible – almost too perfect to be real. We did use a couple of filters to get the tweak pink/purple colour, but it was 95% one of the wonders of nature.
It was an interesting experience to mime along to the track in front of that seascape – with the occasional walker wandering past us past, wondering what we were up to. We amalgamated the five different videos, and it seemed to work a treat. The image of the band at the top of this page is a collage of stills from these RUSH sessions.
One glorious evening we filmed on the West Cliff Beach to get the shots of the rose in the sunset-drenched surf. The rose was cut from Simon’s garden that very evening. It just bloomed at the right time and seemed to be asking to be included in the video to round it all off.
Just as fortuitously, the very next evening we were in the right place at the right time – just in time to see a young couple come together at the water’s edge against the backdrop of yet another stunning seaside sunset. In that moment the end of the video was recorded and decided. We couldn’t have staged it better. Thank you both – whoever you may be!
In July 2020 we released the first of our new music videos – WHAT IF? The video was great, was well received on Facebook, but ultimately we realised that the soundtrack could have been better. There were a few timing and mix issues because we hadn’t quite resolved how to work remotely on the internet during the earlier days of the Covid lockdown. We’re addressing that at the time of writing – and so a new mix and re-vamp of the WHAT IF video is currently on the “To Do” list, and this will hopefully make TRACK OF THE MONTH at some future date!..…
In March 2020 all our planned live events were cancelled as we went into lockdown. Everyone in the music community was missing the live scene. Phil Moore came up with the idea of a virtual band (which came to be called METRES APART) and he proposed Carole king’s song for the project.
The majority of singers and musicians involved in the project were from Whitby or Phil’s home village down the road – Robin Hood’s Bay. But this wasn’t a closed community and others from further afield were involved as well. This project was nothing to do with Tuppenny Blue really – except that 3 band members were involved: Steve on Drums, Phil on keyboards, & Simon Rupert doing some backing vocals. But perhaps more importantly it established Simon and Paul as a working team. Paul Whittaker did all the collating of the audio parts, engineering and sound production – a mammoth task. Meanwhile, Simon agreed to work alongside Paul (over the internet) to compile and produce an accompanying music video.
We all worked together so well and so fast that before the end of April we had published a great soundtrack and a great video. The whole thing was deemed to be a success – a lot of fun for everyone involved and a product with real quality (you can access YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND by METRES APART to stream/download via all major music platforms). It’s undoubtedly a great version of a great song – lively, vibrant and uplifting AND with METRES APART’s own personality stamped firmly across it.
The official Facebook video registered 13k hits, with an additional 1.5k on our YouTube channel. More importantly perhaps, the project raised the best part of £1500 for St Barts Charity (for Covid research).
The whole METRES APART project established a mutual understanding of online working practices between Simon Rupert and Paul Whittaker, and when this project came to an end, Simon & Paul decided to carry on working together. This time they were focusing on a larger project – to produce a new collection of music and video for TUPPENNY BLUE – ODD NUMBERS.