Here is a collection of original songs written and recorded by Jeffrey St John and Michael Gray in the years 1987-1990. Jeff titled the project "The Invisible Years" because at that time he made a decision to step out of the public limelight and do some other things away from the constant rigors of touring and performing. I, Michael Gray, your writer and compiler of this web site, was very priviledged to share these four immensely creative years doing one of my favourite things, writing and recording songs. I played in Jeff St John's "Asylum" band in 1981-1982 which included Kevin Toneycliffe on drums and Kim Wheeler on guitar. It was in this band that we started our writing partenership and the extent to which it developed in the invisible years project was a wonderment in it's unfolding. It had a relatively inauspicious start. We started off with a couple of songs and not much of a plan. However a creative hub developed that surprised us both. The thing just took off. Before you knew it, song after song just started pouring out. Regular whole fridays were set aside for the work and a creative and productive energy stream was opened up that still leaves me in awe even as I write this 20 years on. I am still writing and recording songs ( in between tuning pianos for a living ) but I struggle to get 3 or 4  done a year. Back then we did that number in a month! These intensely creative periods are interesting. The Beatles are probably the best example, having produced so much great music in a relatively short time. Elton John talked about it once in a interview, saying it happened to him when recording the Yellow Brick Road double album. He was writing and recording, with his band, a song a day. He also said that he remains in awe looking back at that time. How did we do it? I don't know. Our songs obviously did not have the same success as EJ and the Beatles, although there was some record company interest at the time, but unfortunately it did not progress commercially.Our songwriting was done in something of the Lennon/McCartney style in as much as Jeff would write a song complete with lyrics and music, as would I, but also some songs would be co-written from the start. The actual recording of the songs was done on a fostex 4 track tape recorder. I played keyboards and guitar and we used a roland drum machine. Jeff did all the vocals and harmonies apart from a couple of harmonies from yours truly. From a technical stand point, ie pre computer recording, this system allowed only seven recorded tracks. 3 mixed down to 1, then 2 mixed down to 1, then 2 more left.  Recording had to be close to perfect because there was no going back. The final mix was done on Jeffrey's home state of the art hi-fi. Speaking personally, from a songwriters perspective, I read an interview with Quincy Jones who said that the best friend a song can have is a great singer. After thinking about that for a bit I realised he was absolutely right. I could not agree more. I have written a lot of songs with different people but never with a singer the calibre of Jeffrey. For example, the transformation of a song that perhaps I mainly wrote and submitted to the partenership, and then having that same song worked up with his lyric and vocal ideas into something so much greater than it was originally envisaged, was an amazing experience, and without doubt the most artistically gratifying songwriting period of my life. This is an artist who comprehensively knows his craft, and this material, I think, is particularly interesting because it showcases a vocal and writing style of Jeffrey that is a bit different to his more well known recorded works. These songs are not all in perfectly recorded form due to time and technical constraints, however we do offer you a piece of our heart here. These songs have never left my regular play list since they were done. I am very proud of them. They also now reside in the National Archives in Canberra where they will remain for posterity. I suggested to Jeff that we also put them out on the web for all to hear free of charge. He agreed. We hope a few of these songs find a place in your regular play list as well. The Invisible Years have now become the Visible Years.

Michael Gray       August 2007.


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