On 4th May 2020, Tim Burgess of the Charlatans held a Listening Party for Living In Extraordinary Times, where everyone joining played the album at the same time, and members of the band live-tweeted thoughts and comments about each track.
Taking part were Tim, Jim, Andy and Saul and true to James form, technical issues meant that Saul couldn’t connect and Tim had other technical problems but luckily, between Andy, Tim and Jim, the party continued and we got some useful insights into the album.
Below are the comments from the band members, along with fan comments when the band member replied to that comment. Also, Andy tweeted some photos from the recording studio and album signings, which are also included below.
Andy – When we play Hank live – Jim and I will share a floor tom for the opening beat and Tim and Saul another one. It’s a powerful opener and good to see the crowd reaction. I have had the comment “he drums like a trumpeter” though!
Fan Comment – what’s the story behind the title Hank?
Tim – jams need strong names – it got stuck upon
Fan Comment – I love the wall of sound of this album… what can you tell us about the two gentlemen who produced the record?
Tim – Beni had a lot to do with the rhythms – Charlie overall captain
Fan Comment – When did you first start using a megaphone to sing through?
Tim – 7 [presumably the album, not age!]
Jim – It’s nice to hear the album again. Listened yesterday for the first time in ages. I just kept turning it louder and louder
Coming Home Part 2
Andy – Coming Home is a track we do in a quieter, really emotive live acoustic arrangement which I really like. The trumpet melody complements Tim’s vibrato – similar to Broken By The Hurt. We can get a real purity of sound, making these two very different songs
Fan Comment – was Coming Home (Pt.2) too painful to sing on the last tour? It seemed to disappear from the set list.
Tim – we switch them around – certain other songs felt stronger live
Fan Comment – Are you glad you kept this one until Brian could tinker with it?
Tim – Always
Andy – For me Leviathan is the strongest song on the record & should have been a single. It was made by connecting two songs from the jams we did previously & works really well. We all love playing this live, it just flows & there’s a real audience connection
Jim – Leviathan fave song off the album
Andy – I used a lot of effects on Heads – breathy rhythmic loops into the trumpet – I had a melody on a pitch shifter that made the trumpet sound lower (an octave down) and the producer thought would sound good on trombone so we used trombones in the studio
Andy – On Heads I use an effect to get that brass sound – when we do it live and Adrian plays cello along with it so it sounds even bigger
Jim – Heads is good fun live. Banging anything
Andy – I really did try to get a Mexican Mariachi feel to the trumpet on Many Faces, purposely in response to Trump and his wall to keep out the Mexicans which was big news at the time
Andy – Many Faces always been a difficult song – we’ve tried lots of arrangements & don’t play it live like we do on the record now, we have pushed the chorus further up. It was originally very Calypso-sounding, not everyone liked it – it nearly got dropped!
Andy – The crowd reaction to Many Faces has been utterly awe inspiring – proud to have so many fans who care deeply about issues such as racism, inequality & all the other social problems we face – it inspires us, how they take the songs & sing them back
Andy – I’ve a couple of videos of the crowd reaction singing along to Many Faces over the course of our tour of Australia and south in 2018
and on our UK tour of March 2019
Tim – we wanted this to be the main single but couldn’t work the chorus into the song – till it was too late – hence the album version – which is beautiful- but couldn’t be a single
Tim – Came up with the lyric in the first jam
How Hard The Day
Andy – How Hard The Day has become one of my favourites on the album. It seems so simple at first but is one of the strongest – we realised this when the Love Music Community Choir chose this to do as a flash mob at Edinburgh Usher Hall.
Andy – How Hard The Day We invited the choir on stage in the Edinburgh show – here’s a couple of links to their original and them performing it on stage with us
Andy – The cut off ending in Extraordinary Times is supposed to be a shock …that keeps you in the moment …and sort of represents you never know when the end is coming …it will be just as sudden
Jim – F*** me that’s some chorus. Pardon the language
Picture of This Place
Andy – For me, Picture of This Place is like early James … a sprawling jam that is fun to play live. It’s the one with lots of trumpet noises and rhythmic breathing effects on it through the trumpet.
Andy – Tim wanted me to play something wild & uncontrolled at the end of Picture of This Place & sang “Andy root toot toot” on a demo as a signal where he wanted it – but I thought his root toot toot sounded great so played along with it using a weird effect!
Hope To Sleep
Jim – Odd little song Hope To Sleep
Better Than That
Andy – I personally preferred the original stripped back version of Better Than That – found some brass chords on my harmonizer pedal that lift the trumpet into the chorus and drift in the dropdown
Tim – Some band members felt it was too James – and none of us were really happy with it being the first single as we felt the album was more experimental – love the song though
Jim – BTT Good crunchy bass. It’s like eating granola when you’re stoned.
Andy – I think Mask was a track that we had worked on for the previous album (GATEOTW) that was never finished in time – it has an Eno keyboard line in it that works really well
Tim – want to play an acoustic version of this
Jim – Mask BVs thanks to Larion Stolk RIP lovely man
Jim – Mask We tried an opera singer on this. Didn’t use it. Prob a good idea.
What’s It All About
Andy – It was an interesting way the album was constructed – we all took 10 or so jams home to work on. Tim invited me to LA to help edit some & there’s breathy, rhythmic trumpet lines throughout the album that people often don’t realise are trumpet thru effects
Andy – What’s It All About was made up of three jams joined together – lots of wailing trumpet harmony lines and mad trumpet effects on second bit
Tim – [commenting afterwards] – What’s It All About was one huge jam – about an hour – I wanted it to be a journey song so we tethered bits together.
Andy – Tim recorded the end vocal What’s It All About in a supermarket next to the studio
Tim – A live favourite for us
Jim – The end section is Tim and Adrian wandering the streets of Wood Green London
Jim – WIAA Mad James journey song
Andy – The backing vocals for Backwards Glances are me, Ron Yeadon and Adrian Oxaal – we had separate mics for the recording but all gather around one on stage …. it was cosy
Tim – We had over 100 jams – we ran out of time and money to work on the bonus tracks – some of which are as good as the album tracks. I had hoped for a double album
Jim – B Glances. Love the end section
Andy – Moving Car was done very simply, using a drum machine and the reaction of the James fans has convinced us to play around with it live – hopefully we can revisit it again
Fan Comment “Dropped off at the side of the road like a Christmas dog” is one of the saddest lines I’ve heard. No idea why that stuck with me, it’s a beautiful song.
Tim – one of my favorites
Fan Comment – With bonus tracks this good, why not just include them on the album?
Tim – They wouldn’t fit on a cd – And the record company wouldn’t have it
Fan Comment – When bands ‘make it’ couldn’t you do away with the record company? Just approach the CD manufacturers directly and negotiate a unit price?
Tim – They had been really supportive for the 2 albums before…
Jim – M Car. You have to wait ages for the chorus and then we only play it once.
Jim – Moving Car. Played this a ton live. Soooooo good.
Andy – Overdose is an early version of Extraordinary Times & a good example of how James songs are never fixed & always developing -listening back now, the versions have developed so much playing it live that the album seems almost old & rough in retrospect
Jim – Took an overdose of happy.
Andy – Trouble is one of the songs I edited in LA with Tim – it was two bits of jamming that didn’t quite flow together …then we thought of everything dropping out and leaving a gap …then the chorus comes in.
Tim [commenting afterwards] – it was Mark’s version of Trouble that was used as the bonus track.
Andy – When it came to working on Trouble some were unsure on the yes yes yes backing vocals and it sort of got dropped … a shame …it would have been good to have put some more work in on it.
Fan Comment – #16 Trouble – I really, really like this track. Totally classic James. Only played 4 times live. Shame.
Tim – Pure uplift
Jim – Ah Trouble. Played this loads before we went in the studio.