I suppose a Piano’s out of the question?

I could never work out what it took to get an endorsement. I had originally thought that becoming a musician, performer, artist would open the door to offers of merchandising that would enable me to play and create rather than worry about buying the next piece of essential gear.

Having saved to buy my very first guitar, which I ended up hating only to trade it in for another equally average and lacklustre instrument, I finally settled on one that I found in a local music shop in Croydon and lovingly cared for until it was stolen by a brainless ignoramus in Edinburgh.

Starting from scratch yet again, I took the advice of the lovely Gordon Giltrap, fellow player, genius and extremely lovely fella, and had my very first hand made instrument carved out of a tree and other wooden bits so that I could at least say that it was unique and become part of the family.

Meanwhile I was constantly being told by other fellow musicians how many companies had given them this and that, with very little by way of a return, and that their musical treasures were growing while mine seemed to be either shrinking or remaining static.

I turned to my first instrument of the piano and keyboards.  I had fortunately secured a keyboard chair with Cliff Richard and thought that this may well provide the gateway to getting a few nice freebies.

I remember walking down Shaftsbury Avenue in London’s West End where there were, at that time, many enticing music stores. Maybe I would see what was on offer:

“Hello can I help you?”

Yes, I’ve just been asked to play keyboards for Cliff Richard on tour”

“Oh, good. And….?”

“I was wondering if you would consider……?”    

“Sorry, we’ve given  all of our main endorsements to Rick Wakeman. Can I help you with anything else? A piano-stool perhaps?’

I decided that this wasn’t going to be that easy.

Ripple dissolve to more recent times and Jem Cooke, my daughter had asked me to play some concerts with her. As well as being a brilliant vocalist she was a budding ukulele-ist (is that a word?)

So off I went to any and all stores that I could find that sold this lovely mini four-stringer to see if I could at least secure a deal for someone else closely related to me. Much time and effort ensued and I finally walked away from one store with a fine tenor ukulele for us to use on the road. This included a chord book and nice gig bag. At least I felt I’d achieved something.

But throughout all the continuous days of studio recording and producing I still hadn’t managed to get anything that would come close to a proper artist deal.

I suppose retrospectively there was a good side to this. Each time I secured a commission I would buy a new toy for the studio. Whether it be outboard, playable or even the odd plectrum, I would add this to the pile and justify it telling myself that the client had actually paid for it. I could therefore be objective and not worry if I ended up hating it, not using it or indeed selling it.

It was on one uneventful afternoon that Jem and I got a call to do a promotion concert at a local studio in West London. This specific music company were asking various artists to come and play in a café environment, say something nice about their gear that was being used. We weren’t doing anything else so we thought it was worth a shout and certainly a good idea to venture out to meet new potential clients. We did the gig, played with some lovely toys and left. Sometime after I wrote a short note to the organiser thanking him for a fun time and the usual ‘Give me a call if anything comes up that would be useful for the future’ ending to the message.

By return, I received a rather nice invitation to try out some of their new instruments. Could this be what I had been looking for all this time? I certainly didn’t think any more about this as I was moving and selling quite a chunk of my existing hardware. So, I stuck it in the ‘to-do’ folder to look at again once I’d moved into the newer smaller studio where I didn’t need quite so much by way of keyboards and outboard gear.

It was only very recently I remembered this encounter and thought it was worth a shout back, several years later to see if indeed this offer was still available. Meanwhile this particular manufacturer and retailer had reassembled and produced all of their favourite hardware keyboards, sounds and modules in software format on The Cloud. I was already a fan having bought and subsequently sold pretty music their entire range of products in physical form. I even had my trusted antique D50 still plugged in and ready to go in the studio.

Would the original offer still stand? In an amazing series of exchanges, I managed to secure my first and probably most valuable endorsement with ROLAND and access their entire library on The Cloud. What a treat! I know it’s pathetic but I was that little boy in a sweet shop. Who knows how long this will continue?  I’m reminiscing and discovering as I find new and old sounds that are exciting and energising. It’s an exciting journey that, despite being free to use at the moment, I’m not being precious. If I don’t like, I don’t use. It they ask I will tell them. If they withdraw, I won’t fret or be upset.  I’ve learnt that there are more worthwhile endeavours. Meanwhile I’m clearly enjoying the Roland Cloud and I encourage anyone out there to explore. You will not be disappointed.  It a treasure of new and old, innovative and retro and, if you’re like me, some of these sounds will certainly take you back in time.

I suppose a piano is out of the question? How about several hundred?

Thank you, Roland; it’s great to have you as part of Topline and the library.