You may recall our hero had been booked to play a solo piece and also accompany the leading ladies in a ‘folk’ episode of Midsomer Murders. Here, the tension mounts, certain mysteries are solved, and Mitch gets a free lunch…
Scene 2. May 31st. Woodstock Recording Studios, Shepherd’s Bush. 10.30am
I’m booked for four hours. I arrive and am greeted by a welcoming committee comprising Jim (producer), Renny (director), the studio engineer, a TV production co-ordinator, a photographer and a ‘behind the scenes’ camera man. I’m offered a coffee. It never arrives. Relaxed and confident, I prepare to record – something.
Ah! It’s going to be The Midsomer Ballad (written by folk legend Seth Lakeman). And there is Seth. Joy of joys! As far as I’m concerned, he is International Rescue made flesh. He plays me the song. On a bouzouki. The ‘strange sounding guitar’ demo mystery is solved (remember I couldn’t work out how he’d played it?). He tells me he tunes his guitar to DAD GAD with a capo at the 10th fret to replicate the sound. Obvious! I learn the tune and the tuning. Very fast. Lucie arrives (actress Lucie will be miming to my guitar playing). We record the song to click, having routined the arrangement for about 10 minutes. A couple of changes, then a clean take with me listening on cans to Lucie’s pre-recorded voice and the click. Done!
“Great! See you on location. We’ll record Rakie’s songs and your rag on stage on Tuesday (Rakie is the other actress for whom I’ll be providing backing; the ‘rag’ is the tune I ‘composed’ on the spot last time). You’ll be required on Friday, too, when we shoot Lucie’s scene. We’ll need you to act as a consultant to ensure that she mimes to your playing in a suitably authentic fashion.”
At 12.30, I’m back in the car. It’s taken two hours and I don’t have a parking ticket. Result! Two minutes later, I can remember nothing of what has just occurred. Or what needs to happen next…
Scene 3. June 3rd. Exterior: Sydenham, Oxon. 10.00am
I arrive at a picturesque village that has been transformed into ‘Lower Crosby’, the fictitious setting for the ‘10th Annual Folk Festival’, complete with bunting, posters, a private house converted into a pub, a crowd of extras and a tiny stage on the village green. It’s cold. I rapidly lose all feeling in my hands. We go straight into it. Jim, Rakie and I run through her song in about a minute and a half. Rakie (looking like a million dollars) sings and I (looking like the ultimate Shabby Failed Folkie) play her guitar part. Then she lip-syncs to a playback of her vocal while she mimes to my/her part on her cheap prop-style guitar. Considering she can’t play, it looks pretty good. Renny doesn’t hang about. Mime is money.
At this point I lose the ability to comprehend simple instructions, let alone execute them. I can no longer separate fact from fiction, and the day takes on a dream-like quality. I lurch through the second tune, enact some business relevant to the plot and somehow re-invent Mitch’s Midsomer Rag to the required minute-and-a-half length. We film it. A lot. The audience love it. Every time. Why wouldn’t they? They’ve been paid to be there. “That’s a wrap!” booms out from somewhere near fake Lower Crosby Village Hall.
No such thing as a free lunch
A black BMW limo appears and transports me to lunch. Location catering. Very acceptable. I like this and the fact that I’ve finished for the day. Except that I haven’t. “You’re in shot during the next scene”, explains Renny. “Barnaby interviews Rakie and you can be seen playing your rag.”
And so the merry day wears on, punctuated by cries of “Cut!” as a succession of tractors, RA F jets and geese ruin 50 per cent of the scenes. The countryside is louder than Jeff Beck. Trust me.
Next time: the final scene. But things don’t start well as I arrive at… the wrong village.