Monday, 13 February 2012

My Top 5: Barry Cross

Barry Cross is an important figure in the world of MM; he first came to my attention when a copy of 'Tune In' dropped through my letter box. 'Tune In' was a Miracle Mile fanzine lovingly compiled by someone who seemed to know more about Marcus and I than... Marcus and I did.
It turned out that Barry was a talented designer with his own company 'Hot Cross Design'
Now, most struggling musicians will tell you that the likes of Barry, a functional fan, are a godsend. 
If only he wrote for Mojo and ran Radio 2... Barry went on to do much art work for us: the 'Glow' diary; numerous ads and press releases and the covers for both 'Hopeland' and 'Keepers'. 
But Bazza's influence has extended far beyond functionality for both Marcus and I; he's become a close personal friend; loyal as they come. He got Marcus and I together on stage to play at his 50th birthday party and invaded the stage (with Rob, his own personal sax player) with the confession that he'd been taking drum lessons specially for this moment, and instructed us to play his then favourite MM song 'Morecambe and Wise'. This song was pre-Marcus and I have to confess that I hadn't heard (or thought of) the song in over 10 years. Undaunted, Barry insisted and we gave it a... bash; 'bash' being the operative word, as Barry's drumming was a bit more 'John Bonham' than the delicate shuffle required; there was a classic moment' a colossal kerfuffle when we thought he'd fallen from his drum riser... he was actually attempting a Phil Collinesque drum fill (think 'man in gorilla suit'). On record that drum fill leads into a sax solo and Barry's afore mentioned appendage, Rob, had been diligently practicing along to the record. Now, the recording's in the key of D; we were strumming in C (no 'black notes' for Marcus on the piano) and that solo (16 bars played in full) was more 'jazz' than anything MM have played before or since. 
Barry has sold the drums and is currently working on the design for the next Miracle Mile album. Knowing Barry he's conscientiously compiling a dozen options so that we get exactly what we need.
Write to Barry here; you're bound to get one of his brilliant calendars and an enthusiastic reply.
God Bless Bazza.

Barry Cross's Miracle Mile Top 5

It was minus thirteen in my home village last night and the shower has frozen up, it's therefore apt that - in an effort to compile my Miracle Mile Top 5, I'm currently listening to Alaska. Alaska was the first Miracle Mile album I listened to. I bought it at HMV in Oxford on a Saturday afternoon sometime in 2003. It was probably August or September - my record buying memory isn't what it was. Sting signed my copy of Message In A Bottle on Saturday 15th September 1979 at about half past three in Oxford's Music Market - an independent music chain that is no more. It was on green vinyl. There was no instore signing for the Miracle Mile purchase so although more recent, the memory hasn't cut quite so deep. I'd heard the name Miracle Mile previously as I was a massive fan of Haircut One Hundred and since they split, names of various band members kept cropping up in connection with that of Miracle Mile. I'd seen small adverts in the back classified section of Q magazine for Miracle Mile albums, but could never be bothered to actually mail order them, this was the first time I'd seen any of their albums in store, and my purchase was impulsive. I still have those Q adverts, in fact I still have every issue of Q magazine since it launched in 1986 - I'm beginning to see them as a potential pension fund. And so, from my first Miracle Mile album Alaska, comes the first of my top 5...

Weatherwise instantly became one of my favourite tracks on Alaska. From the enticing bar chimes and Marcus's teasing upright bass this track is a thrill a minute, well 5 minutes 24 seconds to be exact! Sometimes it's better not to know the meaning behind a song, you can make up your own story, paint your own pictures, but these words have always resonated and to me it's about finding hope in the smallest of things; maybe even in a tune. It's a melody laden tour de force on which I've always thought Trevor sounds like early David Bowie on the 'there he goes, twinkle toes, you should know...' line. That's a compliment. A hammond organ creeps up in the middle of the song and gives it a gentle hug, only to release a more forceful slap in the face just after 3 minutes - see if you can spot it.

From here, the only way to get more of the Miracle Mile back catalogue was to contact Mr Jones himself. I ordered my CDs with an accompanying letter of appreciation (I became a groupie). He replied, I replied, and it turned out - in the worldwide scheme of things, he 'lived up the road'. We discovered we had similar record collections, a shared obsession in the detail, and the same birthday! Trevor has enjoyed exactly one year more on this fine planet than me but, with the possible exception of The Beatles first Hamburg gigs in August 1960, I didn't miss much. We share cultural, musical and childhood references, in essence, we know the same shit.

Baby's In The House
To steal a Nick Lowe album title, this is Pure Pop for Now People! There's a touch of Elvis Costello in this song, Miracle Mile rock the house and this was an immediate favourite on hearing the album Glow. From the onset of crashing chords and opening lines; 'I've counted the stars in the sky, I've counted the fish in the sea, counted the tears in your eye, tho not one of them was for me' this is a classic. 
The hammond sneaks up, Danny Cummings expressive percussion takes us to the glorious middle eight which then explodes to the instrumental break where the hammond conquers the pedal steel for superiority. I'd always anticipated a blistering guitar solo at that point, and apparently it was left on the cutting room floor. We can only look forward to hearing it reinstated on CD2 of the 10th anniversary reissue. Note to the boys for the new album; solos are cool again!

Step By Step
This song finds its way into the top five courtesy of Marcus's dancing bassline and a perfect example of the importance of BJ Cole in the MM sound. I know Trevor doesn't like too many overdubs or backing vocals on the songs, but when they are used - as here, they use them to great effect. Marcus also produces a wonderful arrangement that coaxes you from the gorgeous middle eight - 'god bless this road of broken dreams', into the final exultant chorus. It's contemplative and optimistic, how can you ignore lyrics that reference the band name! How many other bands have referenced their own name in a song? Answers on a postcard geeks!

Bluer Skies Than This
Although I had dabbled with a few bits of artwork for Trevor over the years, Hopeland was the first time I was given the complete album to put my artistic stamp on. Consequently, it's close to my heart and my top five has to include a track from this Jones debut. The title track would have been the obvious choice with the passionate 'I just want to give you something to remember me by' line, but I've chosen 'Bluer Skies...'. Blue skies are a recurring theme in Trevor's songs, and I guess we all look for a glimpse of a blue sky in our often grey world. Despite my earlier observation, knowing the story behind these words has made them all the more poignant for me. I love the piano sound on this, like it's in the next room (also used to great effect on My Bourbon Sky) and the simple yet seductive percussion. 
Marcus's dynamic strings are perfectly placed to give a stirring culmination to the chorus.

Morecambe and Wise
I've mentioned how Trev and myself are roughly the same age and have therefore experienced the same cultural references. Morecombe and Wise is a case in point. Not only does this song evoke memories of the brilliant comedy duo themselves, but it can't help but trigger memories of childhood christmases laughing with the aunts and uncles of a greater generation who are now 'gone with the ghost of...'  
Phil Smith's one take sax solo and Trevor Smith's lilting drums deserve particlar mention. 
I have a plan to make an accompanying video for this song and get it some long overdue youtube exposure, it does indeed, bring me sunshine. 
I had the pleasure of Trevor and Marcus playing a set at my 50th birthday and this was the one song I insisted they play. The duo was augmented by myself on drums and my mate Rob on sax for a unique and unrepeatable version. Legend will decree whether our performance did the original justice, but I would like to think it was at the very least, 'special'!

Any chart worth it's weight will always have a 'bubbling under' section. My bubbling under section includes - and I can't believe they're not the top five; Under My Tongue, Malkovich (Anywhere But Here), Sugar and Spite, All The Way To London and Walking John Wayne.

Ask me again tomorrow and my top 5 will undoubtably be different, so what do I glean from compiling this list? 
Here's the Top 5 conclusions to my Miracle Mile Top 5;
1. Trevor Jones can knock out a decent tune.
2. A little bit of hammond goes a long way.
3. Miracle Mile are just as much part of the soundtrack to my life as Slade, 10cc, U2, The Blue Nile and Sufjan Stevens.
4. A new Miracle Mile album is long overdue.
5. The weight of 308 Q magazines almost certainly exceeds the weight limit of my loft.

Keep walking that miracle mile.


  1. What a fantastic post! It had me laughing and weeping. I agree, their rendition of Morecombe and Wise will never be forgotten.
    Much love Bazza.

  2. Says he who has a week off... spawny devil.

    Barry writes so well... you have competition!

  3. I give up! Barry should be doing the blurbs here. Here's a bona fide "Friend Of Miracle Mile" who has a brilliant way with words (me... not have way). Insightful and articulate writing except for the Sting bit, which was kinda creepy. I'm glad the Captain twisted his arm to contribute his Top 5! Great choices and perceptive comments, although I have a feeling "Morecambe & Wise" won't be on everyone's short list... I had to Google the source, thought it was maybe a brand of liquor? Trans-Atlantic naivete...
    I won't bloviate, I just wanted to commend everyone. Barry deserves many accolades. It's easy to see we have a perfectionist here, in his writing and his splendid artwork on the CD's, etc. I don't know who's idea it was to super-impose the "I just want to give you something to remember me by" lyric under the Hopeland disc, but it was genius...
    PS: Barry, we share the same good taste in music... and haircuts!