Bobby Valentino

Japanese Sleeve Notes

Thank you for purchasing this CD. Of course, I think you have made an excellent choice and I hope it brings you many hours of listening pleasure. Perhaps I should give you a brief history.

I blame my Mother. I’m from a musical family (my sister is Anne Dudley) and mum put a violin under my chin when I was 4 years old. After teaching me the scale of D major and pointing out that I could play almost any nursery rhyme with those eight notes, I was soon walking round the house playing “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with the confidence and obliviousness to intonation that a 4 year old should have. She was taught the violin as a young girl and had a fantastic mezzo-soprano/contralto voice (the female equivalent of my baritone, but more operatic). If World War 2 hadn’t gotten in the way, she would probably have become quite famous as a musician or singer.

My first proper professional gigs, apart from restaurant and wine bar “rent money” gigs, were with the Fabulous Poodles (click here to visit the un-official website), a supposed punk-rock/art school band. I never thought of us as either. We were four reasonably good musicians, who hadn’t gone to art school, trying to make a living, learning and having fun. When that band split up after some success, especially in the U.S., I felt quite lost but soon got back into live work. At the same time I was beginning to make a name for myself as a session musician, providing the solo violin for quite a few chart hits. I have now been on “Top of the Pops” 17 times with 7 different acts, the biggest hit has been “Young at Heart” by the Scottish band, the Bluebells which sold over ½ million copies in 1993. Their record company never gave me a gold record but Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“Pack up the Plantation”) and Billy Bragg (“Talking with the Taxman about Poetry”) did.

Around this time I started a flirtation with musical theatre, appearing in the West End in “Destry Rides Again” for 4 months. The show was part of the fashion of the era where the musicians were part of the cast and not in the pit. I played the Dude, a card sharp, gunman and fiddle player. The cast was headed by Jill Gasgoine and Alfred Molina with me getting extremely bored having to play exactly the same notes every night. Later on I was also in “Who Killed St Valentine” which played on a river boat on the Thames.

During the same years, a number of the Fab Poos and I became part of a local Deptford pop-cajun band called the Electric Bluebirds (CD due out soon) and after gigging around London and making an album, I was poached by the Hank Wangford Band as a singer as well as a fiddle player. I stayed with Hank for quite a few years; performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for 5 consecutive years; making a few dodgy albums; a couple of TV series and putting on our own musical. But I became increasingly restless as I became a better singer and developed as a songwriter.

So, I decide it was time for me to make a solo record. I had been writing on the quiet ,co-writing a song or two and I helped in the writing of the music for the Hank Wangford Band’s musical: C.H.A.P.S. staged at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. So, I trawled around my contacts who were good with words. I am not a good lyricist but I like to think that I know when I come across good lyrics. The name that jumped out was Will Birch. He had produced the one and only Electric Bluebirds album, was the drummer for the pubrock/South End band the Kursal Flyers and also their major song-writer, penning such wonders as: “Little does she know”; “My sugar turns to alcohol” and “The tour de force who was forced to tour”. I contacted him and he was game. Of the songs on this record, the lyrics that he wrote are among my favourites. With many I opened the envelope, read the lyrics, picked up the guitar and sang the song, almost complete the first time I tried to find a melody, without hardly ever changing a word or note. He has just written a book about his early days in pubrock called “No Sleep `till Canvey Island”

The other regular co-writer on this album is a guy called Gary Clark, the singer and song-writer from the Scottish band, Danny Wilson who had a world-wide hit with “Mary’s Prayer”. I had already met Gary’s manager, Ian Wright (there are lots of ‘em), whom I had met whist I was doing a TV session for Kirsty Mc Coll (he managed her as well) and asked him if he would help. He said yes, and suggested that Gary and I get together to finish my unfinished songs, so that I would have enough to record an album. This we did.

The next thing was to pick a bunch of musicians, later to be called a band, to record it with. At no time did the idea of using machines enter anyone’s head.

I was introduced to Mark Flanagan by Ronnie Box, Squeeze’s sound engineer (Squeeze, Dire Straits and the Fab Poos were all from Deptford in South East London). Mark was and still is playing with Jools Holland but managed to get time off to help. On the bass is my old compadre from the Fab Poos Richie C. Robertson, I always reckoned he was one of the best. The drummer, Jim Russell, is a neighbour and would dep with the Americana band, Los Pistoleros, that I was part of with B.J. Cole and Martin Belmont (CD due out soon) and when he drummed the audience danced, so I figured he was probably the right guy to ask. I hope you’ll agree that I made some good decisions.

We recorded some crude demos in my front room on a Teac 4 track Portastudio and I took them to a record company that I had been doing some session work for. Unbelievably, they said yes to making a record, but it did get me fired from the Hank Wangford band - I had a deal and they didn’t.

We recorded some more demos in a bedroom studio, in Deptford just down the road from where I live - I’m lucky, I live in Brockley. The studio became known as Gibson Wood (I don‘t know why), but it was really Geoff Sample’s front bedroom and disappeared as soon as there was progeny. In fact during the recording Jim and his drums were actually in the back bedroom. The record company liked the results so much that they wanted to release what we had recorded as demos until I convinced we could do it better. As it is, five of the tracks recorded there are included on this CD. They are: “I made my Excuse and Stayed”; “Morse Code”; ”Is a Bluebird Blue?”, Walking After Midnite” and the single version of “No Smoke without Fire“.

The remainder of the album was done at Livingstone Studios in Wood Green in N. London and was engineered and co-produced by George Shilling (check out his website). It was recorded over about 4 weeks, with us working about 4 days a week, during the hottest summer we’d had in years and ,of course, the air-conditioning was on the blink. When it was time to do another take the cry went up - “OK, back in the sauna”.

When the CD was released in the U.K. under the title “You’re in the Groove, Jackson”, the radio stations loved it. There was plenty of radio play and I did quite a few live radio sessions and TV shows, in fact the single, “The Man who Invented Jazz” got so much exposure that many people still think I had a hit. But, it never made the shops. The distributor (Rough Trade) went bankrupt with thousands of copies sitting in a warehouse instead of the record stores at a time when I was working really hard to promote it - very soul destroying. Many artists complain that their record companies don’t do enough promotion. This wasn’t the case with Big Life, they did everything they could and were equally disappointed by the failure of the CD to reach the market.

There was another single released, a second version of “No Smoke without Fire” but, yet again, the distribution failed so, as far as the U.K. was concerned, the record was dead.

Los Pistoleros hadn’t played much for a couple of years, all of us were busy on solo projects, but we were asked to stage a reunion at the Weavers Arms, a pub in N. London. At half time I met Larry Monroe (, who I later found out was a radio DJ on KUT in Austin Tx. so I gave him a copy of my solo CD. Back in Texas, he began playing it on his radio shows and got a great response on the telephones. One of the callers was Mike Nyland who was just starting Vireo Records at the time and was looking for acts. Larry put him in touch with me.

After a few adventures the album, that I hope you are listening to at the moment, was released on Vireo Records under the title of “You’re Telling Me” with some additions and subtractions. I went to Austin to help promote it during the South by Southwest festival in March 1995 and really enjoyed playing with the local musicians and listening to the bands in the local bars. I have been back a quite a few times since and thoroughly recommend Austin, Tx. as a holiday destination for music fans. That spring, B.J.Cole was about to begin a tour of America with John Cale so he flew out a few days early and lent his presence to the project.

The record did OK in Texas, but that was some time ago and so, again, I thought it had had its day. Yet here we are again... Koki Emura of E.M. did a bit of detective work and found my manager through B.J. Cole’s website..... the rest may yet be history.

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