Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have had many interests in my life. Some have been transitory, but one thing that has been constant throughout my life is my love of music.

I'll See You in my Dreams

My nephew Jamie Wood and his wife Katie had a garden party in Corby, Northamptonshire in June 2010. I took my ukulele along and sung this as the party drew to a close. It's been one of my favourite pieces since Joe Brown did it as the finale at the 'Concert for George' in 2002. Unfortunately I messed up the end of the instrumental bit as I'd just broken a fingernail and couldn't pluck the strings properly, but no-one seemed to mind...


From the mid '70s on I was a member of a band called Entropy, playing bass, doing some backing vocals, and writing most of the songs. The band played gigs around the Bristol area and did lots of the free festivals that were ubiquitous at the time - we were variously described as "those loonies with the saxophones" and "a bunch of black hole freaks". The original Entropy broke up sometime in the early '80s, but some of us remained good friends and stayed in contact.

Around 1990 ace guitarist Rick Pomphrey acquired a Tascam 244 Portastudio, a four-track tape-based portable recording studio (and a very desirable bit of gear at the time), and immediately dashed around to my abode. We diligently studied the manual for almost two minutes, then said "sod it, let's record something" which we found to be a much better use of our time.

What do to with the lovely Portastudio? What else but record an album. Bringing in fellow old Entropy member Chiff Coleman on saxophone we spent the next few months recording a selection of the old Entropy hits from the '70s, along with a couple of newer numbers. The result was an album called "By the Light of the Moon". Here it is.



Rick Pomphrey - Guitars

Chiff Coleman - Tenor Saxophone

Al Dixon - Vocals, Bass, Drum Programming, Keyboards

(If you want to download these songs onto your computer, right-click on the link and use the 'Save link as...' option)
  • By the Light of the Moon One from the mid-'70s, this song is basically about the effects of the moon on the human mind, or something like that. The nightingale singing at the window in the first line comes from this story by Hans Christian Anderson that I read as a child, and which has stuck in my mind ever since.
  • Anyway  Another from the mid-'70s, this is a jolly little ditty about angst, nihilism and the total futility of existence 
  • 3-D Written in 1976, when we (the UK) had a long, very hot and dry summer, and I was reading Robert Graves' "The White Goddess". Throw a bit of fantasy/horror into the pot and this is the result. I play a bit of mandolin in this one.
  • The Lurker Those who have read their H.P. Lovecraft and are familiar with the Cthulhu Mythos will know that "The Lurker at the Threshold" is none other than Yog-Sothoth - so be warned!
  • Hiatus This was actually inspired by a design on a coffee cup, but probably owes a lot to the writings of Carlos Castaneda. Yes, we're still in the '70s!
  • Starways In the early '70s I was working as a clerk for British Rail, and one day while sorting out a filing cabinet I came across a really old advertisement urging me to "Go Great Western" - Great Western Railways, that is. I changed it to "Great Western Starways" and wrote this - well I suppose it's a sort of advertising jingle, although it is probably a bit long for that. This song is the first where I play keyboards, in the form of an analogue monophonic synthesizer that I built from a kit based on circuits published in 'Practical Electronics'. Those were the days...
  • The Shadow In the early '80s I became interested in the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung. In Jungian psychology "the Shadow" is an archetype in the unconscious that represents those aspects of our psyche which we will not acknowledge. This song is probably based on that concept, perhaps
  • Remember This was written in 1990, and was conceived while on a camping trip in the Mendip Hills, where I really did see a rainbow in the middle of the night, and nearly got swallowed by a bog. I play keyboards again on this one, but I had gone upmarket by this time, having purchased a Korg DW8000 (voted keyboard of the year in 1985). Nice!
  • Dnuor Yaw Gnorw Let's finish off the album with this fine old traditional Celtic ditty...

Another album? 

Well, we did start work on one - here's a track we worked on:

  • Passion Play  Shortly after we finished the "By the Light of the Moon" album I was visiting Chiff and he asked me what the songs we had been working on were actually about. I went through them all, pretty much as I have done above, and he commented, "So no political statements, no love songs?" which is something that I hadn't myself noticed. This, then, is my attempt at a love song

But working on songs like this, where everything has to be planned bar by bar - because the first thing that had to be done for each track was to program the drum machine - did get to be rather tedious. We wanted to go live, and that meant getting a band together. First I had to decide whether I was going to carry on playing bass as I had always done in the past, or if I was going to be a singer. I couldn't do both, you see, as I find that playing bass requires too much concentration to sing as well - at least playing bass the way I liked to play. The thing is, although I haven't got much of a voice I did love to sing, so in the end I decided to take on the vocal responsibilities, playing rhythm guitar/keyboards, and look for another bass player.
Fortunately I knew Glenn Fairley, the bass player in Poison Tree (an excellent Bristol band who really should have made it big, but never got the breaks), and he agreed to join us. The big surprise was when Sal, the singer in Poison Tree, said that she would come in as well! Sal (or Sally-Ann Dwyer to give her full name) was a great friend of ours, and also a fantastically good singer, so this was a real boost for us.
The big problem was finding a drummer. After a couple of false starts we eventually found Perry Robbins, who you will hear on the following tracks. These are recordings we made at rehearsals, sometimes with the Portastudio, sometimes with a little two-track pocket recorder (cassette-based in those days). They were made for the band members to get an idea of what the total sound was like rather than for other people to listen to, but considering the primitive recording methods, they're not too bad...

Al Dixon - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards

Sally-Ann Dwyer - Vocals

Chiff Coleman - Tenor Saxophone

Rick Pomphrey - Guitar

Glenn Fairley - Bass

Perry Robbins - Drums, Vocals (sorry - I don't have a photograph of Perry)

So how do you record 8 or 9 sound sources on a two-track or four-track recorder? With a two-track recorder you plug one track into the 'Line Out' socket of the PA amplifier - that captures the vocals and saxophone - and stick a PZM microphone on the wall for the other track - that gets everything else, but as the PZM microphone we used cost £20 from Tandy, the sound quality was not of the highest. With a four-track recorder you have the luxury of a couple more strategically-placed microphones (another PZM and a cheap dynamic microphone). Getting the sound balance between the voices and various instruments was a hit-and-miss affair, but the object was to listen to the session afterwards to work out which bits needed working on most.
  • Anyway  Not too different from the 'studio' version (i.e. the version on the 'By the Light of the Moon' album, see above. When I say 'studio' I actually mean 'my living room')
  • The Lurker  This is a very fast number, so it's difficult for Perry to do anything other than maintain a basic beat. (It is also difficult to sing, but that's my own fault for writing stuff like "shimmering incandescent" etc. I just like interesting words...)
  • Wasting Time  Written in 1991, this is basically a long-winded way of saying "Get on with it!" As Horace (65BCE - 8BCE) tells us, "Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think" (see the " Favourite Quotes" page for more gems like this!) . This is the one song where I play a bit of lead guitar, unfortunately you can barely make it out...
  • Hiatus  A little bit slow for my taste, and my voice sounds very tired - Musicians should never have to work for a living! Sal never sang on this one, she said she couldn't add anything to it - I still worry that she thought it was so dreadful that she didn't want to be associated with it, but then, we did lots of other dreadful numbers that she contributed to quite cheerfully...
  • Next Time You Write   Another song from the '90s, and this one is almost a pop song (egad!). It's about someone who can't let go of a relationship that has ended, so it's quite a sad song really, despite its upbeat sound. The slow instrumental section in the middle was written by Chiff.
  • The Shadow    Once again, not too different to the 'studio' version, but with wonderful vocals from Sal to lift it to a new level
  • Smokescreen   Here's one that I didn't write! This one was written by Rick, probably in 1991. As it was a new song, you can hear that we're still working out how it should be structured, but it's pretty tight nonetheless. It is about pollution and human greed
  • Zombie Dance   This was also written in the 1991/92 period, and started life (?) as a polemic against people who allow their thoughts and opinions to be dictated by the media, but it was all a bit dire and didactic, so I turned it into this light-hearted tale of flesh-eating zombie horror....   Woooo o ooooooo !!!! That's much better, thank you!
  • Passion Play   Pretty much as the studio version with Sal, Chiff and I providing lots of percussion stuff at the end
  • By the Light of the Moon   Sal advised me to sing this like Jack Nicholson. It worked - - - -    "Here's Johnny!"
  • Eyes  Another from the early '90s, and I had decided to try my hand at writing a standard rock song - whatever that may be. Although why I tried singing it in this key I have no idea...
  • Direction  This song started life as a poem that came to me fully-fledged one night when I was in bed in hypnagogic mode. This treatment of it is, I think, a bit heavy-handed - if I did it now I would try a lighter touch, perhaps slower without the clunky piano...
  • Computer Man   Dedicated to all the beautiful people I used to work with at Hewlett Packard Ltd in Bristol. This is definitely one from the early '90s, with "a laser disc memory" having "the fastest access time of all"! Glenn did a good job of keeping that bass line going all the way through the song
  • Oblivious  A song about our inability to perceive beyond 'the veil of Maya', and written in 1992. This is an early attempt at the song, so doesn't, at this stage, hang together too well. Perry joins in on the vocals, and was obviously very taken with the "it goes up and down, it comes and goes" line (which came to me as I watched waves in the sea), because he kept it going on and on at the end of the song - we consequently had great difficulty in bringing the song to a stop!
  • Living in Room 101   Here it is at last, a song with a political statement! I think that George Orwell's '1984' is possibly the greatest novel ever written, and 'Room 101' in that novel one of the most horrific things ever conceived. This was written around 1991. If you have never read '1984' then get yourself a copy right now. By the way, I utterly deplore the TV programmes 'Big Brother' and 'Room 101' for trivialising George Orwell's brilliant conceptions
  • The Limit  I really hope you like this one, because I spent months writing and structuring it before presenting it to the band, and it has actually come out pretty much as I wanted it to. Written in 1991, and conceived while driving down the motorways between Hartlepool and Bristol in the dead of night...
So what happened next? Perry left the band in late 1992 and we never could find a drummer to replace him. We did try using percussion instead, but we were basically a rock band so that wasn't really going to work. It just fizzled out in the end...

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