By crispyw, Aug 4 2018 10:58AM
Dan Writes: I was trying to be a punk and was slightly too old to join the first years at secondary school walking robotically round the playground saying “I am your automatic lover, automatic lover” along to Dee D Jackson’s only UK hit, but I always secretly liked it, a bonkers novelty record. Space Disco in the UK charts was all like that, “Spacer”, “Starship Trooper”, “Magic Fly” were a genre closer in my mind to other space records rather than Studio 54, in the wake of Star Wars.
“Flash” by Queen, the work of ELO, “Clouds Across the Moon” by the Rah band, and “No Doubt About it” by Hot Chocolate seemed close relatives as were more obviously were light Euro Disco offerings such as “Lets all Chant” by Michael Zager band and the estimable work of Boney M and Baccara.
Admitting you like this sort of stuff as well as the Clash is part of a journey towards self-realisation and part a return to childhood (see Wandering into the twilight”!) At some point a year or two ago I fell down one of those magic internet rabbit holes and found myself reminding myself of Ms Jackson and finding out more about her insane concept album “Cosmic Curves”.
Her story, in which she was so busy endlessly promoting “Automatic Lover” with her Robot in tow round the discos and TV shows of Europe that she was unable to promote the equally excellent “Meteor Man” (titular pun surely intended?) causing a swift end to her UK career, seemed sad to me.
At the same time Railroad Bill were playing a series of gigs for Count Skylarkin and Itchy Feet that were finishing at 2 am before long drives home and I started to question my own capacity to sing “the same old song” forever. These two trains of thought came together in Spacetouring, a song about diminishing returns set in outer space.
The basic song was written quickly and I knew exactly how it should sound. Of course being a tune and lyric man and completely unskilled at technique I had no idea how to play it. The contributions of Chris, Rob, Charlie, Spencer and Suzi all expanded on my vision massively, transforming it and making it ever more galactic and silvery, until we ended up with the disco juggernaut you hear now. The thinking, analytical side of me is in awe of people who can make a song as detailed as this out of me singing gruffly and saying “it needs sort of swooshes here” and “boo boos” there. The instinctive artist isn’t however which is why instinctive creativity is often allied to bastardry.
Finally Ray had incredible faith in this song, which led to all the Nang and Richard Norris stuff.
Rob Writes: Yes, ‘Suzi definitely wants to sing this in D minor’ I was told. But she didn’t. ‘Well I could do it up there, but it’s not really in me comfort zone’. We settled on C minor after jamming the piece out in the Splott room where ‘Wandering’ was scored out and Charlie Francis’ magic midi buttons and some careful re-recording by Spencer completed the transformation on this.
Charlie Francis writes: 'As a qualified astronaut and world-famous disco dancer I was the obvious choice to produce Space Touring by the Naked Citizens. Assembling a team of world-class musicians we were able to provide the ideal backdrop to the amazing vocal stylings of Suzi Chunk as she brought this perfectly crafted song to life. The icing on the cake was seeing the astonishing video which the band made to accompany the song.'
Suzi Chunk says "I was asked by some people that I know through some other people but had never actually met. The term 'space disco' was bandied about and I was in! Camp cozzy and a big bouffy wig you say? But of course! Song was great - loved the concept, and was just generally chuffed to be involved!"
Chris writes: I knocked up a demo from Dan's accapella recording - my version was very electronic, and I'm no disco diva so it was great to hear it transformed into a proper piece of late 70's disco. The making of the video will get a blog all of it's own but Dee D Jackson's Automatic lover was the obvious starting point... I also came up with the tag line 'Somewhere in Space it's always 1978', which I believe to be a 100% scientifically accurate statement. Ask Brian Cox....
Country Mile writes: We get a lot of demos send to Country Mile Records. Most are well played and earnestly recorded but if we are honest, very few really make an impression that makes us want to get involved. The Naked Citizens entered our world via an anonymous email and link to the track “Space Touring”. It’s fair to say that on the first play, we were hooked! We had never had a track that made us play it again & again immediately to try and work out the elements of the track… Great vocal (tick), top drawer drumming (tick), fantastic bass line (tick), choppy “Nile Rodgers” style guitar (tick)…plus a fantastic song and lyrics…FULL HOUSE!
Country Mile Records are no experts in Dance music but this sounded like something that could fit into that world as well as the more mainstream pop music scene. Ray got hold of his old friend Richard Norris (formerly of The Grid) for his opinion. Within an hour, he had a responded saying that he also really liked it and asked if we were interested in getting him to remix it!
We got back to the band to say that we loved the track and did they have any more? The response was yes, but the others are in much more diverse styles…. They duly sent a selection of songs and while they were completely different to “Space Touring”, they were extremely well written and performed songs...
Country Mile Records needed to meet this mysterious band as they obviously had something special and we wanted to release this fantastic music. Chuck and Ray arranged for to meet the anonymous Naked Citizens (we hopefully they would be clothed!) in a pub in Cardiff Bay. As soon as we walked through the door there was a “Hello Chuck and Ray” from two familiar faces, Dan and Chris of Cardiff skiffle legends Railroad Bill who we had released the album “Pigs Might Fly” a few years ago! Sat with Dan and Chris was Rob Smith (of Wonderbrass). It was them all along!
We talked through our proposal to use “Space Touring” as a single before releasing the eclectic and brilliant album later in the year. We couldn’t be happier with how this has gone and we are really looking forwards to the album coming out and the launch gig in October!!
I was pleased to have my 0.75 seconds of Fame in the Space Touring video extravaganza. Even more pleased as it was written and played by friends of mine and even more pleased that it is a fantastic tune.