Snifferdog

Ten years ago John Mister decided if he ever had a band again, he'd call it Snifferdog. Today he still can't claim such a band exists, but he did persuade an impressive horde of great musicians to make his songs sound better. And although most of them have never met each other, in the parallel universe of his dreams they are definitely a band, and the name of that band is Snifferdog. The Strange Ways Of Love is its first album. Available through CD Baby from August 12, launch gig at The West Bank, Ladbroke Grove September 6.

Ghost Train

(John Mister)

To Mr Robert Zimmerman, wherever in the world the great song and dance men hang out.
Dear Bob, I have a confession. Ghost Train started life as a re-working of your song, It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry, but when I mentioned to your publisher that I'd changed a word or three and added a verse of my own, I was told if I put it out like that I'd be hearing from your lawyers. So I had to write my own song. It has the same basic structure as It Takes A Train, but I'm hoping the altered melody and chord shifts make it lawyer proof. Though if you're strapped for cash you're welcome to a share of any royalties that come rolling in.
With thanks for a lifetime of inspiration and intimidation. Yours, J Mister

  • Acoustic Guitar/Vocal: John Mister
  • Vocal: Tyrena Agy
  • Bass: Rufus Dexter
  • Electric Guitar/Drums: Cameron Louis Warren
I’m riding on a ghost train and I’m counting all the dreams it cost
I’m looking at the hard rain and I’m thinking of the girl I lost
she told me that she loved me but she must have had her fingers crossed
she came in like a heat wave, and she went out like a sudden frost.

You went out to the high plains to make a deal with your muse
she put you in the fast lane and turned you into headline news
but you had to cut your losses while you still had something left to lose
and now you’re on a ghost train with your lawyers and the ghost train blues.

If you run into Madeleine, maybe you could ask her why
she put me on a ghost train and she didn't even say goodbye?
And what good's a memory when you know it's rooted in a lie?
And does she ever think about me when she hears the ghost train cry?
Way off in the distance does she listen to the ghost train cry?

It Takes A Woman

(John Mister)

Charlie Gillett was a pathologically honest gent in a business full of self deluded con-men, hustlers and crooks. For thirty five years he was the sternest critic and most encouraging supporter of the compulsive scribbler and reluctant performer behind these songs. He didn't like all my stuff but he liked It Takes A Woman, and when I told him that each of its 3 verses was about a different man of my acquaintance, he said he wouldn't tell me which one he thought was about him. So I didn't tell him which one was about me. When he died I knew the music career he'd always urged me to pursue was finally over.
  • Vocal/guitar: John Mister
  • Vocal: Vashti Gleave
  • Violin: Anne Stephenson
  • Bass/Keyboards/Guitar/Drums/Violin arrangement: Bas Kelleher
Even while he was falling in love
He was thinking of ways to deceive her
Telling her she was all he could think of
And planning the day he would leave her.
It takes a woman to understand
How hard it is to be a man.

The less he believes in what he has to say
The louder and shriller he screams it
He knows that his bullying will get him his way
And he thinks that his charm will redeem it.
It takes a woman to understand
How hard it is to be a man.

You’ve got to give me a second chance
I’m begging I’m bending my knee
I’ll say my prayers, I’ll change I swear
I don’t know what came over me.

He can’t get enough of the thrill of the chase
He moves from one kill to another
He seeks consolation all over the place
For the wounds that he blames on his mother
It takes a woman to understand
How hard it is to be a man.

Where Do You Live?

(John Mister, Cameron Louis Warren)

Most of these songs had already been partially or completely recorded by the time I roped in Cameron to do his various musical things. But when it came to starting this from scratch he announced that from now on we should work in a different way. I would show him the chord structures and then he'd play everything. Sounded good to me. Still does.
  • Vocals: John Mister - Tyrena Agy
  • Choir: Keshia Smith - Connie Nugent - Adrian Young
  • Guitars/Keyboard/Bass/Drums/Choir Arrangement: Cameron Louis Warren
Where do you live? What rings your bell?
Who do you think you are? How deep is your well?
Did somebody get lucky? Or could you be free?
And why aren’t you living with me?

Where do you live? What’s on your mind?
Where are you coming from? Are you cruel or kind?
Are your circumstances what you want them to be?
And why aren’t you living with me?

Where do you live? Name your demands.
What are you looking for? Where’s your line in the sand?
Are you scared of rejection? Do you crave company?
And why aren’t you living with me?
Tell me why you’re not living with me.

The Language Of Love

(John Mister)

< p>Late in 2016 I thought this album was done when the Suffolk Art Farmers, Mat and Pauline Bickerton, asked to hear it. So I sat with them while they listened and gave feedback. They were being vaguely complimentary until they got to a track about Tony Blair, God and shock and awe. Suddenly they cried "But this is a concept album - it's about love and the ways it drives us all nuts. This one totally blows the mood!" I immediately knew they were right and so unearthed The Language Of Love (whose backing track was recorded on the same afternoon as Where Do You Live? using the same exclusively Cameron method).

  • Vocals: John Mister - Tyrena Agy
  • Guitar/Bass/Drums/Vocals: Cameron Louis Warren
But what strange tongue is this he cried,
That trembles on my lips?
Is it some subtle code supplied
To secret fellowships?
I need to work on my vocabulary
And the grammar is all Greek to me
I need a phrase book and a dictionary
When she speaks to me.
I think it’s the language of love.
Must be the language of love.
I want to reply but I'm too tongue tied
Teach me the language of love

I’m feeling like a stranger,
Marooned in a strange land.
Does she want me to talk to her?
Did I misunderstand?
All these signs are unfamiliar
She speaks and then she has to wait for me.
I need to sign up an interpreter
To translate for me.
I think it’s the language of love.
It must be the language of love.
I want to reply but I'm too tongue tied
Teach me the language of love

Some speak it like a native,
Some struggle but get by.
And others never master it,
However hard they try.

How can I articulate this feeling?
Can someone be a go-between for me?
The words I’ve got don’t seem to be revealing
What she means to me.
Teach me the language of love.
Must be the language of love.
I want to reply but I'm too tongue tied
Teach me the language of love

There You Go

(John Mister)

In 2012 there was a bio pic on the BBC about the life of George and Ira Gershwin's song Summertime. That simple, beautiful construction had arrived at bio pic status by being the most covered song of the 20th Century. And some way into the story, it was mentioned that the second most covered song was Paul McCartney's Yesterday. "Hmm", I mused: "Summertime, three syllables, Yesterday, three syllables, there you go! Oh my God, There You Go - three syllables!" 20 minutes later I had tune and words pretty much mapped out. Sadly I don't see this one setting any new records for cover versions, but it did provide a canvas for Cameron to write his first arrangement for string quartet, which the String Theory mob came and totally nailed on take one.

  • Guitar/Vocals: John Mister
  • String Arrangement: Cameron Louis Warren
  • Violins: Charlotte Scott - Hannah Dawson
  • Viola: Jon Thorne
  • Cello: Jonny Byers
There you go, sitting pretty everywhere you go
There you go, breaking hearts from here to Mexico
Here am I, still waiting for my eyes to dry
And where are we? I could have sworn you swore to stick by me
But there you go.

Some people say they could have told me so
There you go, they whisper things I wish I didn't know
You changed your name, and so much more when you became
A rich man's wife, with all the trappings of a rich man's life
But there you go.

I fell apart. Blame it on my broken heart.
I played the field thinking that might be the way my wounds would heal
But there you go

There you go. It’s not for me to worry any more
There you go. I hope you found what you were looking for.
It seems to me you thought love would go down painlessly
And I believed. I guess we both were equally naive
But there you go.

Nobody But You

(John Mister)

I was in the middle of a dream, and in my dream I was in the middle of a Tom Waits rock video. It had been shot on high contrast black and white film stock. The night was dark and in an anonymous industrial wasteland a bunch of bums, freaks and winos were lurching around the bleached out flames leaping from a fire in an old oil drum. And I heard Mr Waits sing the lines, "He tries to gain a few inches, while she tries to lose a few pounds". And then I woke up. It took me a while to establish that neither Tom Waits, nor anyone else, had used those lines in a song before, and I thought if he (or they) hadn't, I might as well.

  • Guitar/vocal: John Mister
  • Harmonium: Graham Henderson
  • Guitar: Nick Would
  • Bass: Simon Edwards
  • Drums: Roy Dodds
  • Vocals: Pam Douglas Shaw - Vashti Gleave
Benny was the king of the boneyard,
Natty was the queen of the night,
They came hard and then they both fell hard,
Now they never get anything right.
He tries to gain a few inches,
While she tries to lose a few pounds,
They both try to roll with the punches,
Hang on for another few rounds.

Ain't that just like you and me babe -
Emotionally black and blue?
When I'm hung-over, hung up and I'm over the hill
I don't need nobody but you.

Sister Mary boots up in Beijing
The Bishop logs on in Mumbai
And as soon as their lines are engaging
They lift up their habits and fly.
He pulls out the stops on his organ,
She dreams that she sits on his grace,
And they both find their own way to heaven,
While they wish they were in the same place.

These are the strange ways of love babe,
We do what we all have to do,
And when I've fucked up with everything else in my life....
I don't need no no - nobody but you.

Riona McChree

(John Mister, Roy Dodds)

A couple of years ago I was told that if I practised with a plectrum it might impose a bit of discipline on my sloppy guitar style. While doing my plectrum exercises I stumbled on a chord sequence which seemed to be whispering the name Annabel Lee. And then Annabel Lee began insisting she was the anti-heroine of a murder ballad which I had to write. It was only after I'd finished the whole thing that I had an uneasy feeling that somebody had used that name before. Those with quicker wits and sharper memories than mine will have immediately recognised Miss Lee as the dead heroine of an Edgar Allen Poe ballad. So I had to find another name, and Riona McChree eventually stepped in.

  • Vocal/guitars: John Mister
  • Vocal: Tyrena Agy
  • Guitars: Hugh Burns - Cameron Louis Warren
  • Harmonica/Organ: Graham Henderson
Hangman bear your burden well
And shed no tears for me
For I am going straight to Hell
And the arms of Riona Mchree.

I loved nobody but my wife
And I swore faithfully
That I'd be hers for all my life
And then I met Riona Mchree.
Then I met Riona. Riona Mchree.

With ready lips and flashing eyes
Her hair hung wild and free
I told myself I'd gladly die
For a night with Riona Mchree.

As in a dream that night was done
Which sealed our destinies
And she and I became as one
Alas for Riona Mchree.
Bad news for Riona. Riona Mchree.

There came a pounding on the door
And screaming “treachery!'
My wife burst in declaring war
On the life of Riona Mchree.

"And see what a demon you have made”
She hissed and spat at me
Then slit her wrist and thrust her blade
To the heart of Riona Mchree.
To the heart of Riona. Riona Mchree

They found me clutching the bloody knife
And wailing piteously
“What have I done to my darling wife
And the beautiful Riona Mchree?
The beautiful Riona. Riona Mchree”

So hangman bear your burden well
And shed no tears for me
For I am going straight to Hell
And the arms of Riona Mchree.
To the arms of Riona. Riona Mchree

Burnt By Love

(John Mister)

Q: What to do when you have a bunch of tunes in your head, but your own efforts to play them mostly result in a shifty eyed drift to the exits by 90% of your audience?
A: Find collaborators to add musical depths to the material which your guitar playing and vocalising fail to deliver. There are some amazing musicians throughout this album, and I'm in debt to all of them. Burnt By Love features 4 of the most regular - the young prodigy Cameron Warren, the old prodigy Roy Dodds, the multi-talented (see album design) Rufus Dexter, and the velvet-voiced Tyrena Agy.

  • Ukulele/vocal: John Mister
  • Guitars/vocal/drums: Cameron Louis Warren
  • Vocal: Tyrena Agy
  • Bass: Rufus Dexter
  • Percussion: Roy Dodds
It's the fate of the good looking woman
To have a man reading her wrong.
She tries to be friendly with someone
And he thinks she's leading him on.
He dreams that his life and her life
Would fit like a hand in a glove.
And we've all been there,
But he'd better beware
He's about to be burned by love.
He's about to be burned by love.

The case of the fanciful lover
Is bound to be ending in tears.
He thinks he's in love with her flesh and her blood
But he's in love with his own ideas.
He tells himself their destinies
Are aligned by the stars above.
But when he's clutching thin air
And the stars don't care
He'll know he's been burned by love.
Yes he'll know he's been burned by love.

And the rules of the game
Say that she'll get blamed
Everybody gets burned by love.
Everybody gets burned by love.

Unring Those Bells

(John Mister, Cameron Louis Warren)

Yes I know the uber hit machine Diane Warren wrote a song called Un-break My Heart many years before it occurred to me that there might be mileage in the phrase un-ring those bells. But that wasn't where the idea came from. It actually came from Tom Waits (again) who even longer ago than Ms Warren wrote a thing called You Can't Un-Ring A Bell. I was in the middle of a conversation with the grande dame of documentary, Sarah McCarthy, when I heard myself using the phrase, "and I'll never be able to run-ring that bell." At which point all kinds of lights lit up, hooters hooted, and yes, bells began to ring. Wishing to be un-rung.

  • Vocals: John Mister - Tyrena Agy
  • Guitar/piano/drums: Cameron Louis Warren
  • Choir: Keshia Smith - Tyrena Agy - Connie Nugent - Adrian Young - Gareth Joseph
Un-ring those bells. Un-shoot that gun.
Un-say those words, undo the damage they have done.
Un-think that thought. Un-cast that spell.
I'd make it good if I just could un-ring those bells.

I don't know what it is that's eating you
I don't know what I did or didn't do
But something tells me even if I knew
My knowing would be wrong.
There's something changed about the way you act
Your voice is angry and your looks are black
And I'd do anything to take you back
To when our love was strong.

Un-ring those bells. Un-shoot that gun.
Un-say those words, undo the damage they have done.
Un-sink those ships. Un-launch those shells.
I'd make it good if I just could un-ring those bells.

Once knowing you put every wrong thing right
You wanted me, you were my heart's delight
Now every time that you come home at night
I wonder where you've been.
There's nothing colder than a dream that dies
On broken promises and careless lies
We need more than to apologise
We need a time machine.

Un-ring those bells Un-shoot that gun.
Un-say those words, undo the damage they have done.
Un-drop those bombs un-flame this hell
I'd make it good if I just could un-ring those bells.

Don't Turn Me Away

(John Mister)

Brought in to replace a bebop pastiche about 60's New York hipsters, which also failed the Bickerton concept test, Don't Turn Me Away has lurked in my sock drawer since about 1980, when it was written about the then future mother of my children. Amazingly (and mostly happily) it still applies.

  • Guitar/Vocal: John Mister
  • Vocal: Tyrena Agy
  • Guitar: Cameron Louis Warren
  • Bass: Simon Edwards
  • Keyboard: Patrick Wood
  • Drums: Roy Dodds
Sometimes I think that you don't want me any more
And you've grown weary of the love that you once swore
Then you say "it's alright now baby - do not despair,
Just turn around and I'll be there.
Don't turn me away - I would not hurt you.
Don't turn me away - I would rather hurt myself
And when I come to you with no-one else to turn to
Don't turn me away."

Sometimes I worry that however hard I tried
You could not ever be completely satisfied
Then you say "it's alright now baby - I understand
And you don't have to meet all my demands.
Don't turn me away - I would not hurt you.
Don't turn me away - I would rather hurt myself
And when I come to you with no-one else to turn to
Don't turn me away."

When we're apart, there's something wrong,
I know I'm not where I belong.

Don't turn me away - I would not hurt you.
Don't turn me away - I would rather hurt myself
And when I come to you with no-one else to turn to
Don't turn me away."

SNIFFERDOG: the backstory

 

 Within six months of arriving in London, in 1967 John Mister found himself at the heart of that Summer Of Love’s music scene. He was at all the first recording sessions and gigs of Tyrannosaurus Rex - the acoustic duo which later morphed into the glam rock monster T. Rex. Credited (under the alias Horace Parkin) with providing ‘Sunlight’ on their first album (Marc Bolan thought the name John Mister too straight for an album called ‘My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair, But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars On Their Brow’) he was later to discover his too straight name being celebrated (?) on the T. Rex song Mister Mister.

 

In 1973, after film school, screen immortality arrived for Mister Mister with a bucket on its head. In a 6 frame cutaway, he had his throat ripped out by a killer rabbit in one of the most successful British comedies of all time - Monty Python and the Holy Grail - but from that career high it was downhill all the way into what sometimes seemed like an endless routine of film editing.

 

Persuaded by Charlie Gillett in 1979 to get some recognition for the songs he’d been writing since his teens, he put together a band (featuring the great Roy Dodds on drums and the soon-to-be superstar producer Robin Millar on guitar) and began performing.

 

But as it became obvious that extreme stage fright was a perfect recipe for a drug addled and miserable future, he fell back into the day job.

 

Subsequently whenever he was editing (rock videos for everyone from Madness and Madonna to Thomas Dolby and Ryuichi Sakamoto, and award winning documentaries for Nick Broomfield, Kim Longinotto, Saul Dibb, Laura Fairrie, Sarah McCarthy and many long suffering others) he could routinely be heard whimpering, “but I don’t want to be cutting films - I just want to SING!”

The results of that desire are finally here:

15 years in the making, The Strange Ways Of Love is a collection of ten songs, produced and made beautiful by Roy Dodds and a full supporting cast of extravagantly talented musicians, including Cameron Louis Warren, Tyrena Agy, Vashti Gleave, Graham Henderson, Hugh Burns and the illustrations of Rufus Dexter.

It would have been finished in a mere 14 years but for the fact that it’s creator spent the first half of 2017 developing Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and the second half in the care of the glorious institution that is UCLH, being injected with the poisons which (so far so good) killed the cancer.

 

 

50% of all proceeds from these songs will go to Haematology Cancer Care at UCLH.

 

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