Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas recently released their new song "Lead Me On" which features Paul Cook from Sex Pistols on drums. To celebrate we asked Ben to tell us about the track. Here is the story:
We were approached about writing a song for The Guide Dogs For The Blind Association. They were looking to put out a track to use as a charity single and to raise awareness for the incredible work they do.
Having done some support work with Guide Dogs I was afforded the opportunity to work very closely with visually impaired people. Lyrically I wanted to write something about the level of isolation they experience and their courage. Many of the songwriters who were a big influence on me were able to write from the perspective of characters very convincingly: not simply describing them but finding a way to truly embody them in song.
This led to writing a song that came to be deeply personal to me. Inevitably, in attempting to fully channel the subject material I lifted the lid on myself, as is so often the case with songwriters.
For some reason or another, the Guide Dogs Association single never came to pass. One very happy bi-product that was born out of preparing for the session was the song itself. We had recorded demos and then guide tracks and eventually, mixing and mastering a final cut.
Playing 'Lead Me On' live for a run of shows and having completed the track, we were just about getting ready to release it.
It had started to get some pre-release radio play in the States and Japan and we were chomping at the bit to get it out.
At this point Paul Cook came into our lives. The former Sex Pistol and drummer with The Professionals had been earmarked to drum on 'Lead Me On' but due to touring commitments this couldn't happen.
Now, in true miraculous music business turn-around, it could happen. The excitement we felt is quite hard to express but it's safe to say that it was palpable in our camp.
Having any drummer play over an existing recording is never ideal; with tight deadlines this can sometimes be unavoidable. When this happens, vocal, guitar and bass parts often have to be recut to fit as each drummer brings their own character even when playing, relatively, the exact same part.
For this reason we decided to totally rebuild it again from scratch: the existing parts no longer fitting as well as they should.
Having done this before typically, it involves frustration and expletives at having to jettison parts whose characters and energies may not be easily recaptured.
That said, knowing that Paul was coming in, we'd have done it a hundred times over.
We recorded the track at Unit 2 Studios in West London which is our favoured studio for most of our recordings. We arrived at the studio particularity early and were not unlike children on Christmas Eve. Adie Hardy, our sound engineer and many-time producer, was the most excitable of all of us. Not least of all because recording drums is an art form that he is a master of.
Each minute we waited for Paul to arrive felt like an hour and to be productive we tuned the guitars and got decent sound out of the amps. We then made a pact to NOT, under any circumstances, play the guitar intro to the 'Pretty Vacant' or to talk about The Sex Pistols no matter how tempting either of these options became and I must say, they certainly did.
Paul arrived with a bag loaded with drumsticks over his shoulder and he quickly became settled in behind the kit. As soon as he started hitting the snare it was quite an experience for us all. It was like a gunshot. Almost like the air was being sucked out of the room with each snap and it was instantly 1977 in that room.
After Paul ran the track through once or twice the atmosphere was getting tense. Paul's phone rang in the control room and Andy went for it- "Look Paul, do you think you could get Johnny Rotten to call you back later? We're trying to do session here." Everybody laughed, Paul included.
What struck us immediately was that Paul had set out with his own feel for the intro which was much more patient than we had expected. This went on to inform the guitar parts we went for and completely changed the track. We were absolutely delighted with this unexpected shift, especially as we had been worried that the song (in essence a slower track than we had ever cut before) would not be 'Pistols enough.' We had even made contingency plans to dirty it up, as it were. For all that, here was Paul intuitively feeling the tempo out for us ahead of the game.
Paul is a busy man, but when Adie, a gifted bass player himself, said that he had an idea he wanted to try, we thought this would be Paul's cue to say his goodbyes and call it a day. Surprisingly he asked if anyone wanted a brew and stuck the kettle on. He makes an amazing cup of tea, by the way. He ended up hanging around for the rest of the session. At one point as Andy and Adie were trading noise between Les Paul and bass, Paul turned to me and said "it's a really good song, Ben" and I just floated away after that.
We produced the 'Lead Me On (Version 1) video as a meta-esq description of what the band would be doing during a studio and live set were we not all locked down with the Covid-19 crisis.
Strangely, the white text shimmering out of the total black and darkness like isolated messages and signals was quite fitting given the subject material.
We are taking donations for the Guide Dogs For The Blind Association via 'Just Giving' on our Facebook page. Your support would be hugely appreciated.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen and watch for yourself below and learn more about the band here