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Dick Greener
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Dick Greener

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Updated: 4 Oct 2010

Secrets Stories and Songs front cover
  • Not Just A Book Of Songs, But A Journey Through Dave's Personal And Musical Life - Review by Barry Smith
  • Buy One !! - Review by Sue Holton
  • Compelling - Review by Pete Cusumano
  • Fabulous Addition To A Strawbs Collection - Review of Spoken Word CD by Judi Cuervo

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    I have been reading Secrets, Stories & Songs by Dave Cousins and I just love it. I have nearly always just looked at the words in the past when listening to the songs for the first time. I have never sat back and stripped away the music and just appreciated the sheer poetic brilliance of the songs. I have never forgotten Rick Wakeman's introduction to an interview with Dave on if I remember correctly his television 'Gas Tank' programme, when he described him as 'the best lyricist in the country', well this excellent and fascinating book proves that.

    Indeed there are so many secrets and stories hidden in the songs explanations. To me one the most significant stories was Dave's feelings at the time of the Bursting at the Seams tour when most of the band wanted comedy routines and musical interludes included in the live shows. He was very much against this and wanted to concentrate on the songs, but he gave into them as he puts it 'against his better judgement'. I had the previous year seen the Grave New World tour, it was just magical to me as a teenager just discovering real music. But I was so disappointed with all the long jokes and messing around on the Bursting at the Seams tour, the music seemed to be in second place. This was the only Strawbs show that left me feeling disappointed and no wonder Dave wrote "A Song For Me". To me this is one of the most powerful songs that Dave has ever recordered and is featured on the Old School Songs album with Brian Willoughby. I found the lines 'But the galleries are empty now, the crowds have all gone home, I locked away my songs and I sang them on my own' such powerful and sad words, you can feel the hurt and anger that he was feeling at the time.

    There are many insights into his past, and I love 'The young magician' description for one of his girl friends. Also one of my favourite songs "The Smile You Left Behind" is about his dad meeting his mum over the counter in Sainsburys where she worked, she was the 'dairy maid' and he was 'the boy in the sailor suit'. Even though his dad has passed away, Dave still has the smile he left behind. These are incredibly sensitive words, and I did not realise how you can sum up someone's life so beautifully in just one sentence. There are also sad insights into his life as described as the explanation on "Round And Round", as well as lovely songs about his family such as "In Amongst The Roses" about his daughter Joelle picking flowers in the garden for her mother. There is also the nostalgia of a bygone english seaside holiday, inspired by some saucy and old fashioned postcards seen on the walls of two local pubs and captured so well by "Wish You Were Here" Here Dave writes ' A view along the promenade, tinted pastel shades, a picture of our lady before the image fades, a young girl with her bra undone, the vicar with a leer, a postcard from a long lost friend wish you were here'.

    This is not just a book of songs, it is a journey through Dave's personal and musical life. It is full of interesting facts such as how lines of songs evolved like 'Brown speckled eggs all newly laid' that is part of "A Glimpse Of Heaven". He was in a bakery shop in Branscombe, and he saw a bowl of brown speckled eggs on the counter and he asked 'What sort of eggs they were? 'Chickens my dear' came the reply, he said that 'he felt a complete fool as he had only ever seen white eggs in London'.

    The book also gives you an insight into how music producers dictate at times over the wishes of the artist which surprised me, I thought the artist had full control.

    In my opinion the CD of Dave reading the words of his songs that comes with the book should be listened to in a quiet darkened room, perhaps with a glass of wine. It is incredibly relaxing to listen to, it is like Dave is reading them just for you.

    I feel very proud that at the end of the book my name and my wife's name appears. It was stated that if you ordered early and helped with the production costs your name will appear in the book, but I was not prepared for the lovely words that appear on the previous page. It is lovely to think that we helped to be part of something as special as this book is.

    BUY ONE !! - Review by Sue Holton

    The description of this as a book of lyrics doesn't do this volume justice. Each song not only has the lyrics, but album covers, photos, snippets of Dave's thoughts and memories associated with it and for the musicians amongst you he has even included the tuning used and instruction how to achieve it.

    There are some intriguing glimpses into the usually private life of the writer and in some cases Dave teases the reader by giving partial explanations that keep you wondering, often posing even more questions. Dave assured me that a full autobiography is planned for next year expanding on the content in the current book.

    As a final treat there is a CD included of Dave reading 17 of his songs/poems aloud - in contrast to the dramatic way the lyrics are often delivered in song here they are very measured and Dave's voice very smooth and soothing. All in all a great package which will be of interest to casual listeners or hardcore Strawbs fans alike. Buy one !!

    More photos from Sue from the book launch on 14 Aug

    COMPELLING - Review by Pete Cusumano

    A lovely volume, thoughtfully laid out so it is pleasing to the eye and very easy to reference. However, a coffee table lyrics and art book is just a minor device from which a far more intriguing story springs forth. As Dave Cousins notes in his introduction, the chronology of his lyrics along with his comments and recollections have inadvertently created something autobiographical. And, I might add, it is compelling!

    Reading from the beginning you start to see Dave's growth as an artist and as the artist grows you sense the twists and turns of his life that inform his art. What starts out as a few glimpses into his songs accumulates and infers a much larger portrait of a man and his times. While Dave's journey is unfolding, the lyrics of his songs still do what they always have done - hold up a mirror to the reader/listener to reflect something of their own personal journey back to them. For those with a history of their own tied to hearing these lyrics throughout recent decades the trip will be that much more rewarding.

    The accompanying CD is Dave Cousins reading/performing a sampling of his lyrics and poetry with very simple atmospherics. Dave's gracefully understated yet confident approach really draws your interest to his words. This disc of elegantly spun tales and poetry will be a treasured resource for providing that perfect counterpoint when putting together a mix tape or set of music for radio.

    FABULOUS ADDITION TO A STRAWBS COLLECTION - Review of Spoken Word CD by Judi Cuervo

    While we've had quite a few reviews of the extraordinary Secrets, Stories and Songs, nobody seems to have reviewed the spoken word CD so I'll add a few comments after listening to it for the first time yesterday.

    I must confess that when Cousins, Dick and I were talking about the book after the Lakewood show, Dave asked if I'd listened to the CD and was surprised that I hadn't. It was he, in fact, who suggested that I give it a try. Okay…he suggested about EIGHT TIMES that I give it a try so I figured I better get around to it before B.B. Kings. (Swear, this is the ONLY band that assigns homework.)

    First, let me explain why the disk was never out of its sleeve since I've been in possession of the Secrets, Stories and Songs package: 1. I know the songs; 2. I know the words; and 3. I can read. I really believed that Cousins reciting the lyrics, mellifluous (*adjective contributed by Peter Rand) though his voice might be, really wouldn't enhance the reading experience in any measurable way and, from conversations I had with others who owned the book, I wasn't alone…when I asked if they'd had a listen, none had.

    As soon as I arrived home from the Pawling show, I grabbed the CD and played it on my computer. Holy moly! I had expected that each reading would be affected by the number of times Cousins had no doubt performed the song and each would sound like a slowed-down version with a touch of the rhythm intact. Instead, Cousins' reading demonstrated that these songs are nothing less than poetry. Sure, we've always known his lyrics were poetry, but with his reading, I realized they can stand alone and conjure vivid images that in an odd way are lost as a song. If you do nothing else, listen to "The Antique Suite". If you thought it was a jaw-dropping song, have a listen to it as a story….the timing, the inflection and the tone make it even more powerful.

    Awhile back, we talked about how to get friends into Strawbs' music. A listen to this CD might be the perfect way to introduce people who appreciate brilliant poetry to the band. If AS is stripping the songs down to their basics, this spoken word CD takes a further leap, stripping the basics down even further to the timeless lyrics alone which, at least for me, are the best part of Strawbs.

    A fabulous addition to a Strawbs collection...but first you have to play it!

    Comments from Witchwood - the Strawbs Discussion Group

    Gordon Hughes

    Yes, beautiful volume. I'm looking forward to reading through all the notes for each song.

    Alison Brown

    Number 201 crashed through the letterbox this morning. It looks amazing. I haven't decided yet whether it'll live on the coffee table or beside my bed.

    Pete Madely

    The book is a wonderful insight for Strawbs afficionados. The "explanations" to the songs probably generate more discussion topics than the songs did!

    Well worth the money.

    Paul Brazier

    We have terrible post service here in Brighton. The post came this morning as usual at about 11am. I went out at 4pm for an hour. About 8pm, I came downstairs and found the packet on my doormat. (150/500). So, unless Witchwood were delivering them personally, I just feel fortunate to have my copy -- it might have languished in some other person's house.

    I can't find my reading glasses, so I can only give a generalised response at the moment. It looks gorgeous. It looks delightful. I want to be able to read it. My only disappointment is that it isn't a hard cover -- I might have to rebind it.

    As a designer and editor, I always make a point of making a physical dummy of any book I create, for the simple reason that you can't truly appreciate how the reading of a book works until you hold it in your hand. But the arrival of the finished item is such a blast. "I made this"! Wow!

    Adrian the Rock

    My copy was waiting here yesterday when I got back from my w/e trip to Malvern. Excellent stuff, I could hardly put it down and eventually had to force myself to do so as I have to start out too early in the mornings at the moment.

    Robert Pfeiffer

    I just received my copy of Secrets, Stories, and Songs and wanted to let you know how pleased I am with it. Kindly tell Dave that I think it is a beautiful book and it will be cherished by me and, I imagine, by Strawbs fans everywhere. I can hear his voice as I read the song descriptions. Congratulations to Dave and to you, as I see that you were the editor. Now I know why you were so busy.

    Lindsay Sorrell

    Dave Cousins has definitely revealed a lot about both himself and many of his fascinating experiences in this beautifully crafted book. Plenty to read and ponder (both in print and "between the lines"), lots of beautiful photos sympathetically interwoven into the text, and oh what editing!!

    I agree entirely that holding a book physically in your hands beats anything digital by miles, for me at least. I still can't get quite as excited about looking at digital photos as having a tangible print thrust into my hand. (I still say nothing beats a Box Brownie, they can try to sell me their new-fangled colour films and flash cubes all they like but they'll get nowhere.)

    Nigel Bennett

    Once I started reading it was so difficult to put down and to avoid reading all in one go.

    I have had to treat it like my favourite chocolate bar and have a nibble a bit at a time, digesting the contents and looking forward excitedly to the next nibble later, whilst admiring it as it sat on my desk. Enthralling is what I say.

    Even saved a bit for the weekend (Unless I finish the last few albums later tonight )

    Ian H. Stewart

    I was thinking about Dave's book and it's the only one I have ever bought that I had already memorised 90% of, just to read what was writen in the margins.

    Mike Barker

    Mine came in at 63 in the charts and I have to say it's extremely well written. DC's insight and historical references make a really good backdrop to the lyrics.

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