“Bye Bye Boris” has definitely been the song of the last few days. Played through a loudspeaker at Westminster by campaigner, Steve Bray, it certainly captured the mood of the public response to a departing Prime Minister. The song, based on Bye Bye Baby, has lyrics written and performed by musician, actor and stand-up comedian, Somerled Mackay.
I was interested in Somerled’s music and caught up with him for an interview.
Somerled Mackay: background
Somerled is a Blackpool lad who told me that’s where he lived until he could get away. He started working at 13, collecting glasses in working men’s clubs like the Tradesmen’s and No 1 Club in Blackpool. His dad wasn’t around and so the money went to his mum, who worked in 3-5 jobs.
“As I got older I moved onto working in the Tower Lounge which was the largest bar in Europe at one stage.Then the Tower Ballroom which I did for a few years. I took a break of four weeks for my O Levels.
“[The] family wanted me to be a doctor so I did science A Levels but I loved Art and Drama so it didn’t go well. I’d been acting in school plays from a very young age, I was a drummer and singer but never gigged.
“As a kid I grew up with my mum’s collection of seven Beatles singles which I played constantly. #Mum had been a dancer in the Folies Bergère in the late 50s early 60s and is reputed to have met Elvis at some point when he visited Paris.
“She had poets, artists and painters trying to date her but she fell for a welder from Bury who was working in a seasonal job at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. So she gave it all up (crazy lady)!”
In the end Somerled did a combined science and arts degree and achieved a MSc in Computing, which led to a job working for an American company and doing theatre work on the side.
“Later I was the lead singer in a Beach Boys cover group which is where I got into harmony singing which I found hard but very rewarding. Eventually I formed my own company with a friend which gave me the chance to do more acting when I wanted to. I was in some low budget movies and a spot on The Bill and then I fell in love and babies were on the way. I had to knuckle down and earn a crust so I stepped away from acting and worked my socks off to get a mortgage and bring up the kids.”
Brexit and Covid
Brexit caused major issues for the company as most of the customers were in the EU and so Somerled left the company, planning to follow the heart again.
And then Covid hit.
Much has already been written about the effect of the lockdowns on the creative industries. As Somerled explains:
“At first, I was a little lost. I started doing online singing lessons and bought myself a PC, mic and an interface so that I could record and listen to it. A couple of years earlier I’d been to a festival and joined a pop up men’s choir and we sang some sea shanties and I loved it, realised I had a very strong and loud voice.
“During lockdown I was very angry about Johnson and the government’s lack of response to Covid at the start when Asia and Italy were screaming at us to be ready for what was coming.
“Listening to music in the bath John Knacka Knacka, an old shanty, came on the speaker and I realised John Knacka Knack Too Ry Aye sounded (to me) like The Tories Knacka Knacka the UK. I had no choir or any way to make one, but I knew I have a large range with my voice. So I wrote a few verses and began recording each part just guessing at the harmonies by ear listening to the first track I recorded.
“I just improvised the Auf Wiedersen the UK and realised I could do a different language every chorus.
“I had no idea if it would work. [As a] big fan of Randy Rainbow who sings musical numbers aimed at US politics, I’d already painted the garage wall green.
“Putting the tracks together in an old copy of Adobe software I realised it really worked. Took me ages to sync them up properly but I didn’t do any effects or anything, just balanced them.
“Then I had to film something. Randy has costumes etc but I had nothing in lockdown, but I had grown a beard so I just grabbed every hat, jumper and pair of glasses in the house and mimed to each of the recorded parts wearing a different selection every time. Shaving a part of the beard off every couple as I went.
“When I finished it I thought it was OK, it was my wife who said I had to put it out there as it was the best thing I’d ever done. It took about two days in total and was only really possible as I had a very strong PC and old software. There were 17 parts in that song, five different harmonies and it’s still my favourite. A real Eureka moment that started in the bath.”
Bye Bye Boris and politics
I asked Somerled about the Bye Bye Boris song and also about his political inspiration for his songs.
“Bye Bye Boris also came to me in the bath, I put that together very fast, less than two days as I was convinced all the partygate stuff was his end.”
And of course, now we know that it went on for some time longer. And is still doing so…
On the subject of politics, Somerled says:
“I’ve always hated dishonesty in politics and politicians drive me crazy with their vague grasp on the truth. It’s only when I found out I’m autistic during lockdown that a lot of this started to make sense. Part of me wants to become a politician and I know that they’re in a battle against the media who are looking for anything they can spin to con the electorate, but I just don’t think I can do it.
“From Brexit onwards it’s become increasingly obvious that the Conservative party is really just an extension of the City and Business. The scandalous taking of money for influence reached a peak for me when the party got into bed with the Russians and their dirty money. They still haven’t come down on some of their biggest sponsors.
“I’m naturally central left politically but I dream of a PR system and would encourage people to vote for whichever party has the best chance of unseating this immoral collection of opportunists.”
Now and the future
So what’s next?
Somerled tells me:
“During lockdown I got an allotment on which I met Fred Firenczi a stand up comic, he persuaded me to take part in the Tringe Festival Rovers night where you do an eight week course and then four five minute gigs in four different venues. I loved it and would like to do more. So if you see me on a bill anywhere, come along.
“I have three songs on the way. One, about Putin, has the lyrics, second (about Brexit) is about half written and someone gave me an idea for one today (leadership fight). I’ve got a full beard, so I’m going to try to record all three in one go – big step up in complexity. The comedy has taken over a little but I know there are some folk who want more tunes.”
Here are some other links to Somerled’s music. Enjoy!