"I don't believe in anybody's dreams now/ There's too many casualties passing by my window." - Daniel Rachel, "Burned By The Wire".
Sometimes this gig's far too fucking great for words. New music, some great people, some wild times. And if you'll allow your humble scribe a moment's naive indulgence, a sense of well-being is imparted by this profession, an altruistic glow that maybe one of you lot out there will pick up something that you'd never have thought of listening to, of letting into your lives something different. Something good.
Daniel Rachel's single "Drivin' Round The Bend" is underpinned by a kind of classic songwriting that is rarer these days than sightings of a Thylacine in Bermondsey. It has a Beatles-esque sense of ineffable "rightness". It's like The Clash let the dope alone for long enough to realise just how fucking great the minutiae of life can be. Really. Its lyrics are full of a knowing joyfulness, poignancy cut with joie de vivre, bright and shiny and stirring and witty; like Thom Yorke would be if he was addicted to Prozac rather than Proust. A ragtime piano line nags at your senses, the back-beat is beautifully judged and the chorus a delicious rush. It manages the not inconsiderable trick of being inspiring yet not at all self-conscious in its loveliness, neither cloying nor cynical. It is deeply adult in its emotions and subject matter, yet tempered with youth's tireless energy and optimism. His voice is a gloriously ragged thing, and his musicianship is as obvious as it is human and affecting.
And the AA-side, "Burned By The Wire".... Ooh. It's enough to keep you warm into your old age whilst being wonderful enough to remind you not to waste a single moment of the journey getting there. It's red- wine- and- our- love- keeping- us- warm- in- a- drafty- attic music.
A year ago, his tiny Indie label, Dust Records, unleashed a clutch of demos as a limited release, under the title "A Simple Twist of Folk". MOJO were moved: 'A core of affectingly honest material, highly hummable, delivered with a minimum of pretension... the new Cat Stevens-meets-Al Stewart.'
"When he gets it right- which is often- Rachel proves to be a songwriter of poise and panache", proffered Angus Batey, Times freelancer. Rose Wilby in Making Music thought there was "a real depth of emotion and a great sense of narrative here".
Know what? They were all correct.
Grant Showbiz, producer for The Smiths and the Billy Bragg/ Wilco project, was apprehended in HMV in Oxford Street. After hearing it, he offered to produce Daniel's first single. Daniel got to record the vocal (for reasons taste and my own delicate sensibilities forbid me from probing into) in Grant's bathroom; the very same bog Morrisey had once used for the same purpose -- and very probably others which we won't go into here.
And here the rosy-tint begins to pale.
Independent labels from the dawn of time (well, from the dawn of Punk, which is near enough as makes no odds) have forged a clearly delineated path for utilising the structures of the record industry to release music without sacrificing their souls to the machine. One of Rachel's greatest loves is The Specials, and Jerry Dammers' boys' route to success - taking the risk to get the record into the shops, selling it at gigs and letting the vultures - sorry businessmen - smell the fresh reek of potential lucre - has been noted.
Dust Records are putting their money where their mouths are. They haven't got the kind of resources a talent like this requires to elevate the record to the best potential audience. Few people short of coke barons or lottery winners have. And coke barons and lottery winners aren't interested in supplying the radio station pluggers, the high-profile press agents and the money for distribution that this thing needs.
So here's what to do: visit Daniel Rachel's website. Find out about gigs in your area - because the boy tours like a bastard - and go there, enjoy yourselves and buy copies of his single. Buy copies to give to your friends and relatives. Then, when it comes out on a major, buy some more copies and send it to number one.
And without getting all voiceover-at-the-beginning-of-The-A-Team about it, if you are in the position to help, get in touch with Dust Records. lets make a difference, eh?