BEEF SCARECROW
Beef Scarecrow
Under a Beef Red Sky When I’m Prime Minister Kidney Piper Shivering in the Rain Secret Wolf Midnight Bastard Wish That I Could Sleep Rodney Normal Beef Scarecrow Dawn of the Maggots Beneath the Beef Blue Sea Dusk of the Maggots Michael the Swan
album Sex Dummy 2003 video Ballerina Edinburgh 2003
GENERAL INFO Gary’s third full-length album (or fourth, if you count Glamoronica), from his ill-fated psychedelic period. His last release until Norman in 2014 and, at the time of writing in March 2024, it remains his final album. RECORDING VENUE & DATES 27 Maude Terrace, Walthamstow, Oct 20, 2005 - July 21, 2006 COVER IMAGE The Beef Scarecrow: one of two childlike paintings I did in 2006, never having painted a picture since I was about ten years old. It seemed to sum up what I was after. The original CD cover (on the left, below) frames it in a brown wrap, with lettering reminiscent of the font used on the cover of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. I wanted to zoom closer in, to really see the paint, when I revised it for the digital release. I’ve always been torn about whether I should have left the words off the cover altogether and gone for a much more straightforward full-frontal image like the one below on the right. But I liked the texture detail of the extreme close-up, and the words gave the image definition. Still torn though. As with Face Academy, the CD came with an 8-page inlay booklet, but this time it was mainly just pictures. The two lyrical quotes in the booklet - “My name is time - I live in a clock” and “Sometimes I go backwards, but only if you’re mental” are both from an unfinished piece called Swirling Purple Tripe, which would have been Part 2 of the epic Day of the Maggots suite, if only I’d had the time to finish it. You might notice the clock in one of the photographs is set to 6.45 - the time my Edinburgh show started.
more soon…
2006
LISTEN/BUY
album notes Beef Scarecrow 2013 video Loose Lips Living TV 2003 song Photocopier 2004 album Polaroid Suitcase 2003
THE MUSIC Thirteen leftfield comedy rock tracks - mostly but not always what you might call ‘songs’ - strung together into something which may well be an experimental song cycle about an innocent’s descent into depravity and delusion. But it might just be a load of tripe. And watch out! Whatever you’ve already understood Gary Le Strange to be, this is a conscious effort to be the opposite. It is the Anti-LeStrange. THE RECORDING PROCESS I’d already had a year to play with Cubase by the time I started this project, but I was still keenly aware of my own shortcomings as a music programmer. One of the biggest was my ability to program drums. Fortunately, a company called Spectrasonics (who already made my favourite two virtual instruments, Atmosphere and Trilogy) helped me out massively by releasing a groundbreaking piece of rhythm software called Stylus RMX, allowing me to manipulate live and pre-programmed grooves into shapes that suited the songs I’d written. This (along with its five Xpansions) ended up forming the rhythmic backbone of Beef Scarecrow and, in conjunction with the electric basses from Trilogy and rhythm guitar from Steinberg’s amazing Virtual Guitarist, pushed Gary’s work further away from electronica towards something that, even though it was completely programmed on a computer, could only really be called rock. If this sounds like it suddenly made everything easy, it didn’t. I still had absolutely no training and no idea what I was doing, and my songwriting ambition completely outstripped my meagre abilities as a recording artist and producer. I was basically making things up as I went along, using my tiny, dwindling budget to solve huge creative problems completely on my own. More and more nights spent drinking and smoking (at the time, I was on about forty Camels a day) as I listened to the same few seconds of sound over and over again, trying to hammer these songs into vaguely pleasing forms. Less and less time with friends. Less and less time doing gigs that gave me much- needed feedback. For almost exactly nine months (with occasional brief breaks to do things like Out To Lunch), Beef Scarecrow was my life. None of this protected me from the basic technological limitations of mid-2000s hardware. The PC I had was top notch for the time, but it wasn’t necessarily capable of running a project with thirty or forty layers of bass, drums, acoustic and electric rhythm guitar, lead guitar, strings, brass, woodwinds (all courtesy of East West’s Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra), several synth lines, multiple percussion instruments and stacks of lead and backing vocal takes, each loaded up with EQ, compression, filters, distortion, reverb and delay. At least not without stuttering and crashing and generally being rotten to work with. This meant a lot of bouncing down from multiple MIDI tracks to fewer audio tracks, freeing up more RAM but creating other problems of its own. Looking back on it, I’m amazed what I managed to get away with. But the whole thing was so over- ambitious, it led to a kind of sonic maximalism, with way too much going on at once. I thought of this as Gary’s psychedelic album, but it often lacks the lightness, the fluid dynamics and the sonic clarity I’d normally associate with British psychedelia. The original 2006 mix in particular was quite muddy in places, and many of the vocals got lost in the mix: a cardinal sin for comedy songs. I was aware of this at the time. I would have loved to put it right. But I only had so much time. I had a show to write and rehearse, and the album had to be ready to sell at my Edinburgh show in August 2006. In the end, I was working right up to the wire, with the final masters not ready till July 21st. Consequently the CDs didn’t arrive till I was already several days into the show. And then, to add insult to misery, barely anyone bought them anyway. When it came to the digital release seven years later, I thought maybe I could fix it. The 2013 remaster is technically a remix rather than a straight remaster, but in such a subtle, shallow way that calling it a ‘remix’ would have been tantamount to fraud. I wanted to do a full new mix of all the elements from the ground up, but it quickly became apparent I still didn’t have the skill, the technology or - most crucially - the time to do it justice. So I opted for a middle-ground option, increasing the volume of the vocal line relative to the other instruments and slightly brightening the overall sound. It achieved a lot of what I wanted to achieve - making most of the words clearly audible while retaining the punch and weight of the backing tracks I’d spent so much time on - but there’s still quite a long way to go before I’m totally happy. THOUGHTS & FEELINGS Stewart Lee once told me he thought this was more a Waen Shepherd album than a Gary Le Strange project, and I’ve often been tempted to look back and agree with him. But that’s only because it flopped. The truth is, Gary was always going to do this. It was always on the cards that, if his career lasted long enough, he’d take a detour down a weird, anti-commercial alley that would alienate even his staunchest fans. I just saw that as part and parcel of what genuinely good pop stars did. And this was - at the time - my only chance to do it. If you see this as more Waen than Gary, that’s presumably because the idea of Gary as an exclusively 80s-inspired character was too strong, and I underestimated that. But this is absolutely 100% a Gary Le Strange project, and I shouldn’t have spent most of the past eighteen years regretting that. Listening to it now, I don’t find much to regret at all. The backing tracks are, without exception, the best music I’d made up to that point. You could definitely make a good argument to say they’re the best set of lyrics I’d written as well. The question is whether I managed to marry the music and the lyrics together effectively to create good songs and good recordings. And I’d absolutely forgive you if you genuinely think I didn’t. My primitive skills as a studio engineer didn’t allow me to lift this stuff as high as it needed to go, and often the sounds mash together to create quite a challenging noise, when a bit more subtlety would have helped. The remaster I did in 2013 went some way towards correcting that, but it didn’t iron out all the problems. As for whether they’re good songs, a lot of that is going to be up to you, and whether you find the general gist of them appealing. They’re certainly different to what I’d done before, though the deeper you dig, you’ll probably find more similarities than differences. Michael the Swan is a rewrite of Ballerina. Secret Wolf is Sex Dummy. I just swapped the distant, unattainable objects of Gary’s early desires for things that were more immediate, more visceral, more meat-based. And far more perverse. But on a personal level, I love this stuff. It’s not as great as the stuff Gary did in the mid-2010s, but it’s by far my favourite of the three albums he made in the 2000s. It’s not readily accessible and it was murder to sing many of the songs live, but as a thing to listen to, this is basically the only Gary album I actually enjoy. The sad thing is that, despite several valiant attempts, I still haven’t been able to follow it up with a credible full-length fourth effort. I think if I had, Beef Scarecrow would look less like a bizarre outlier and more like a waypoint on a journey, or just another chapter in a long, long story. BEST TRACK Another one where the whole is probably greater than the sum of its parts, the album works best in its entirety. But I think most people would say Rodney Normal’s the track to listen out for. Other highlights include Shivering in the Rain, Midnight Bastard, the ten-and-a-half-minute Day of the Maggots and the album closer Michael the Swan.
song The Chinese Ghost of Christmas 2003
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL
Bag of Pigs Black Doll Man Brain Lord Broken Angel Cat in a Washing Machine Dig the Bug Eyed Kid Fish Drink / Garibaldi People Meat Jesus Oui Monsieur Papillon Oysters and Cabbages Pork Pyramid Round the Corner Swirling Purple Tripe
lyrics Michael the Swan 2005 song Michael the  Swan 2006 video Michael the Swan London 2007 pictures Beef Scarecrow Steve Ullathorne  2006 radio The Day  The Music Died  2003 video Is My Toaster Sentient?  ITV2 2006 pictures Face Academy Andy Hollingworth  2004 lyrics All I Ever Do 2005 song All I Ever Do 2005 album notes Glamoronica 2013 album Glamoronica 2005/2013 video Is My Toaster Sentient?  Paramount 2006 cd packaging Beef Scarecrow 2006 originals
BEEF SCARECROW
more soon…
Beef Scarecrow
Under a Beef Red Sky When I’m Prime Minister Kidney Piper Shivering in the Rain Secret Wolf Midnight Bastard Wish That I Could Sleep Rodney Normal Beef Scarecrow Dawn of the Maggots Beneath the Beef Blue Sea Dusk of the Maggots Michael the Swan
video Michael London  2007 song Michael the Swan lyrics Michael the Swan pictures Beef Scarecrow notes Beef Scarecrow pictures Face Academy
GENERAL INFO Gary’s third full-length album (or fourth, if you count Glamoronica), from his ill-fated psychedelic period. His last release until Norman in 2014 and, at the time of writing in March 2024, it remains his final album. RECORDING VENUE & DATES 27 Maude Terrace, Walthamstow, Oct 20, 2005 - July 21, 2006 COVER IMAGE The Beef Scarecrow: one of two childlike paintings I did in 2006, never having painted a picture since I was about ten years old. It seemed to sum up what I was after. The original CD cover (on the left, below) frames it in a brown wrap, with lettering reminiscent of the font used on the cover of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. I wanted to zoom closer in, to really see the paint, when I revised it for the digital release. I’ve always been torn about whether I should have left the words off the cover altogether and gone for a much more straightforward full-frontal image like the one below on the right. But I liked the texture detail of the extreme close-up, and the words gave the image definition. Still torn though. As with Face Academy, the CD came with an 8-page inlay booklet, but this time it was mainly just pictures. The two lyrical quotes in the booklet - “My name is time - I live in a clock” and “Sometimes I go backwards, but only if you’re mental” are both from an unfinished piece called Swirling Purple Tripe, which would have been Part 2 of the epic Day of the Maggots suite, if only I’d had the time to finish it. You might notice the clock in one of the photographs is set to 6.45 - the time my Edinburgh show started.
THE MUSIC Thirteen leftfield comedy rock tracks - mostly but not always what you might call ‘songs’ - strung together into something which may well be an experimental song cycle about an innocent’s descent into depravity and delusion. But it might just be a load of tripe. And watch out! Whatever you’ve already understood Gary Le Strange to be, this is a conscious effort to be the opposite. It is the Anti- LeStrange. THE RECORDING PROCESS I’d already had a year to play with Cubase by the time I started this project, but I was still keenly aware of my own shortcomings as a music programmer. One of the biggest was my ability to program drums. Fortunately, a company called Spectrasonics (who already made my favourite two virtual instruments, Atmosphere and Trilogy) helped me out massively by releasing a groundbreaking piece of rhythm software called Stylus RMX, allowing me to manipulate live and pre-programmed grooves into shapes that suited the songs I’d written. This (along with its five Xpansions) ended up forming the rhythmic backbone of Beef Scarecrow and, in conjunction with the electric basses from Trilogy and rhythm guitar from Steinberg’s amazing Virtual Guitarist, pushed Gary’s work further away from electronica towards something that, even though it was completely programmed on a computer, could only really be called rock. If this sounds like it suddenly made everything easy, it didn’t. I still had absolutely no training and no idea what I was doing, and my songwriting ambition completely outstripped my meagre abilities as a recording artist and producer. I was basically making things up as I went along, using my tiny, dwindling budget to solve huge creative problems completely on my own. More and more nights spent drinking and smoking (at the time, I was on about forty Camels a day) as I listened to the same few seconds of sound over and over again, trying to hammer these songs into vaguely pleasing forms. Less and less time with friends. Less and less time doing gigs that gave me much-needed feedback. For almost exactly nine months (with occasional brief breaks to do things like Out To Lunch), Beef Scarecrow was my life. None of this protected me from the basic technological limitations of mid-2000s hardware. The PC I had was top notch for the time, but it wasn’t necessarily capable of running a project with thirty or forty layers of bass, drums, acoustic and electric rhythm guitar, lead guitar, strings, brass, woodwinds (all courtesy of East West’s Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra), several synth lines, multiple percussion instruments and stacks of lead and backing vocal takes, each loaded up with EQ, compression, filters, distortion, reverb and delay. At least not without stuttering and crashing and generally being rotten to work with. This meant a lot of bouncing down from multiple MIDI tracks to fewer audio tracks, freeing up more RAM but creating other problems of its own. Looking back on it, I’m amazed what I managed to get away with. But the whole thing was so over- ambitious, it led to a kind of sonic maximalism, with way too much going on at once. I thought of this as Gary’s psychedelic album, but it often lacks the lightness, the fluid dynamics and the sonic clarity I’d normally associate with British psychedelia. The original 2006 mix in particular was quite muddy in places, and many of the vocals got lost in the mix: a cardinal sin for comedy songs. I was aware of this at the time. I would have loved to put it right. But I only had so much time. I had a show to write and rehearse, and the album had to be ready to sell at my Edinburgh show in August 2006. In the end, I was working right up to the wire, with the final masters not ready till July 21st. Consequently the CDs didn’t arrive till I was already several days into the show. And then, to add insult to misery, barely anyone bought them anyway. When it came to the digital release seven years later, I thought maybe I could fix it. The 2013 remaster is technically a remix rather than a straight remaster, but in such a subtle, shallow way that calling it a ‘remix’ would have been tantamount to fraud. I wanted to do a full new mix of all the elements from the ground up, but it quickly became apparent I still didn’t have the skill, the technology or - most crucially - the time to do it justice. So I opted for a middle-ground option, increasing the volume of the vocal line relative to the other instruments and slightly brightening the overall sound. It achieved a lot of what I wanted to achieve - making most of the words clearly audible while retaining the punch and weight of the backing tracks I’d spent so much time on - but there’s still quite a long way to go before I’m totally happy. THOUGHTS & FEELINGS Stewart Lee once told me he thought this was more a Waen Shepherd album than a Gary Le Strange project, and I’ve often been tempted to look back and agree with him. But that’s only because it flopped. The truth is, Gary was always going to do this. It was always on the cards that, if his career lasted long enough, he’d take a detour down a weird, anti-commercial alley that would alienate even his staunchest fans. I just saw that as part and parcel of what genuinely good pop stars did. And this was - at the time - my only chance to do it. If you see this as more Waen than Gary, that’s presumably because the idea of Gary as an exclusively 80s-inspired character was too strong, and I underestimated that. But this is absolutely 100% a Gary Le Strange project, and I shouldn’t have spent most of the past eighteen years regretting that. Listening to it now, I don’t find much to regret at all. The backing tracks are, without exception, the best music I’d made up to that point. You could definitely make a good argument to say they’re the best set of lyrics I’d written as well. The question is whether I managed to marry the music and the lyrics together effectively to create good songs and good recordings. And I’d absolutely forgive you if you genuinely think I didn’t. My primitive skills as a studio engineer didn’t allow me to lift this stuff as high as it needed to go, and often the sounds mash together to create quite a challenging noise, when a bit more subtlety would have helped. The remaster I did in 2013 went some way towards correcting that, but it didn’t iron out all the problems. As for whether they’re good songs, a lot of that is going to be up to you, and whether you find the general gist of them appealing. They’re certainly different to what I’d done before, though the deeper you dig, you’ll probably find more similarities than differences. Michael the Swan is a rewrite of Ballerina. Secret Wolf is Sex Dummy. I just swapped the distant, unattainable objects of Gary’s early desires for things that were more immediate, more visceral, more meat-based. And far more perverse. But on a personal level, I love this stuff. It’s not as great as the stuff Gary did in the mid-2010s, but it’s by far my favourite of the three albums he made in the 2000s. It’s not readily accessible and it was murder to sing many of the songs live, but as a thing to listen to, this is basically the only Gary album I actually enjoy. The sad thing is that, despite several valiant attempts, I still haven’t been able to follow it up with a credible full-length fourth effort. I think if I had, Beef Scarecrow would look less like a bizarre outlier and more like a waypoint on a journey, or just another chapter in a long, long story. BEST TRACK Another one where the whole is probably greater than the sum of its parts, the album works best in its entirety. But I think most people would say Rodney Normal’s the track to listen out for. Other highlights include Shivering in the Rain, Midnight Bastard, the ten-and-a-half-minute Day of the Maggots and the album closer Michael the Swan.