It's been a few months since the release of my album UNIVERSAL STRANGER and I'd like to take this opportunity to give heartfelt thanks to all of you who have listened, bought, watched, streamed, stolen and/or downloaded the album so far.

Following the release of the album I'm also delighted to announce that all my earlier solo albums (some previously unavailable) have now been re-released. Recorded over the years in different places with different players I'm proud to say the albums, and the songs they contain, all sound as fresh today as they did when they were first recorded and released.

I know we often look back into our personal history through rose-tinted glasses but each album really does have a unique story behind it.  As I prepared the albums for release and listened through the re-mastered and re-sequenced versions of them, I was transported back to "that time when"..

So. I made some notes - the when, the where, the who, the how and, of course, the why!!  All are written below in the 'albums' section. Hope you enjoy.

Thanks for listening.




Universal Stranger



  1. When The Walls Went Down
  2. Each Other
  3. A Little Misunderstanding
  4. The Man Who Wouldn't Love
  5. Universal Stranger
  6. Birmingham
  7. Ghost in My Heart
  8. In The Wishing Well
  9. Mr Rock 'n' Roll
  10. First Stone
  11. Would Have Should Have

Written by Jon C Butler except 9 written by Jon C Butler/Adam Seymour
Produced and mixed by Paul Sampson & Jon C Butler


As I was writing and recording the songs for the album a subconscious theme running throughout eventually revealed itself. It was a big ask - to somehow make our private peace resonate elsewhere and try to get where we all could, and even should, be.

I know it's a truism, but apart from a handful of people who we really know & understand, we are all strangers to each other - even though we're probably closer in the basics than it feels.

We're all primarily driven by the same fundamental need to breathe, survive and make some sense of our life. But there's always a part of us that remains us. A part seen by no-one else. Which is as close to a definition of the human soul as I think anyone will ever get.

I'm sure most of us, given the opportunity, would also like to do some good in the world. After all: culture, intelligence, history, race and belief all course through our collective souls.

I also wanted to make the songs sound clear but fearless and let friendly production principles offer up twists and turns just to keep things lovingly awkward. "

You know how it is?


1) When The Walls Went Down

A sonic shoot along the decades since the Great Society. Well, my take on it at least. Wonder if we could have got things together better than we have?

I certainly think it’s a possibility but you never know. Maybe this actually is the best we can do! So, if you need a memory prompt, this song can help ease you into it.

2) Each Other

A folk song really. I bet it wouldn’t seem out of place at Aldermaston strummed on nylon strings. It chugs and bounces along with serious intent.

3) A Little Misunderstanding

There has been a misunderstanding hasn’t there? I mean we all know it isn’t meant to be like this and maybe there should be a reassessment of the deal. Stay away from that crossroad if you have to make a choice.

4) The Man Who Wouldn’t Love

I heard this phrase spoken and it stayed with me. I love listening to crafted tunes and this one is my offering in that department with the use of major sevenths and the general piano base of the song. It’s a redeemed blues sentiment in a way.

5) Universal Stranger

Written after a stay in a northern capital city. I like harmonies to be part of the sound as if they are an instrument themselves. This may come over like it's directed at an individual but its also yours to pick up and apply where necessary.

6)  Birmingham

There is more than one Birmingham on the planet and this is a spoonful of chords wrapped around a tale of escape and new beginning. Should be a book really, but I like to stay within the four-minute zone with metaphors and confessions.


7) Ghost In My Heart

Tried to arrange this in that mid-seventies style that briefly ran parallel to dear old punk.

I mean at the same time as safety-pin chic there were a few great records coming over from the East Coast which seemed to want to use quite uplifting vocal techniques married to a driving beat.

This is the album's respectable song in a way that is self-evident after a couple of listens.

8)  In The Wishing Well

It may be that whole lives are lived inside the wishing well! If that’s the case with others then it’s the case with me.

Don’t get me wrong it's not so bad down there. But it has its limitations and reality is a good teacher.

9) Mr Rock n Roll

OK, OK. I know! But have a good listen because whilst it’s a familiar tale in a familiar format it does carry experience. It’s a bit of a lark and I can handle a lark!

10) The First Stone

Who's going to throw it? Some of those rocks can cause more damage to the thrower than the target.

11) Would Have Should Have

It's an attempt at dealing with the past in order to let it go and move along. An attempt is just that and not a definite route out but it’s a clear enough retrospective.

And in case you were wondering this is how it reflects back to me.




The albums. And the stories behind them.




  1. Wings of the Morning
  2. Boulevard
  3. All My Honey
  4. When it all Becomes Available
  5. Let Go
  6. Bag of Bones
  7. Maybe Tomorrow
  8. The Days You've Made
  9. Montpellier on Ice
  10. Yes I Do
  11. Billy and the Snakecharmers
  12. Leave Me With the Sinners

Written by Jon C Butler
Produced and mixed by Paul Sampson

I never intend to write solo albums anymore than I intended to write band albums. I just write and whoever is around, whatever combination of souls are intact and willing to run at any given time I can usually run with them. For me the song is what I do. It's more important than anything else, more important than who might be playing on it or what sound to use. I believe in natural selection when it comes to songs so whatever is available I use. You have got to play the hand that’s dealt you. That’s probably why there have been Diesel Park West albums in the middle of solo times. And the other way round too. Of course different methods do eventually emerge. The main one being the decision process. With a band there is basically a broad consensus thing going on no matter how dominant one or two members may be. The less vocal members still emote a vibe or enthusiasm for an idea which in turn makes a difference to the sessions and thus end up being integral to how an album sounds in the end. With a solo record virtually all the yays and nays come down to the artist and that’s something that can come as a surprise.

With The Loyal Serpent back in 1996 I had never been in a situation where everything was down to me and, even more poignantly, a knowledge that the final product would just be coming out with my name on it. The name I was born to & not a band name or, let's face it, a gang identification to hide behind. Most of the backing tracks on The Loyal Serpent were recorded live either in Coventry or Liverpool. That record, a major label affair don’t forget, was then mixed in Soho at Brewer Street Studios and came out to great reviews and minimal sales. But it's since grown in stature since and is starting to be regarded highly. Two of the songs, 'Yes I Do' and 'Billy And The Snakecharmer' literally came out of thin air. We were in the usual position, band the other side of the glass me with a guide vocal mic and acoustic guitar in the control room to avoid spillage and it was simply a count in and off we went with a drone chord for a bar to get it rolling. But then the songs just flew out - lyrics, the arrangement, the dynamics, the whole thing there and then. That was an amazing thing to do once, but it happened twice! Spooky but wonderful. Those tracks really hold up too and the so called guide vocal became the vocal. Rich Barton, Ian Michie and a guy named Ian Bramble on organ all locked right into whatever it was that was coming out of me.
Other tracks like 'Wings Of The Morning' or 'Bag Of Bones' for example were recorded more conservatively in a more traditional way but are probably all the better for it. It was a case of the right method for the right tunes. 'Leave Me With The Sinners' was chopped up, I mean incredibly chopped up. Edited by a guy known as Cheeky Paul who proceeded to turn it into the great thing it is. And all this before the technology became available to turn virtually everyone with half a clue into a bedroom Brian Wilson. Never did find out what happened to Cheeky Paul but he was a talent for sure.





  1. She Called the Cops
  2. This Time Baby I Don't Know
  3. Perfect Love
  4. Work On It
  5. The Flawed Flamingo
  6. Singing Life
  7. The Last Goodbye
  8. New Age Winners

Produced & Mixed by Paul Sampson & Jon C Butler
Written by Jon C Butler


After doing the Chrysalis album (The Loyal Serpent) and being, obviously, back in indie world I did a record which I called Worthless Bastard Rock. There are some acoustic introspective songs on it along with some groovers. Let me explain. At this point I had recently emerged from a very abrasive deep and dark marriage. The scars and legacy never quite go away but it's possible to introspectively manage the shredded emotions. In fact I had found myself stabilised and began to like it. The inner strength stabilisation provides enables freedom to concentrate on the muse with a more relaxed air. The cliché of the tortured  artist is I am afraid true in my experience because during my time in nutcase world I was coming through with some strong songs, a lot of which ended up on The Loyal Serpent while others went on band albums like Freakgene, Hip Replacement & Thought For Food.

But here I was now in a new beginning. New home, new personal situation, a little bit of money from the Chrysalis deal still hanging about oh and a great 1969 vintage Gibson acoustic I had bought for only £500 which made everything sound either like Angie or prime time Dylan guitar wise. Well, it did to me and that’s what counts. I went in and did a song called 'This Time Baby I Don’t Know' with it, singing  and picking live at the same time then dubbing some harmonica. It’s a great track and in fact in very nearly got me signed to Island via Nick Gatfield who was running the show there for a while. That didn’t come to pass but I did end up with a load of good new tracks songs like 'Singing Life', 'Ticket To Heaven', 'Perfect Love' and the piano based, again live, 'The Last Goodbye'.

This was around 98-99 and after throwing in some tracks I had left off The Loyal Serpent like 'New Age Winners' (a hoot of a song), 'Work On It' and the painful 'She Called The Cops' I had an album. Trouble was I had no label, well not unless you counted this real throwback of a guy and his label called Mystic Rhino. I kid you not, that's what it was called, Mystic Rhino!. You would be hard pressed to think of a naffer name if you tried. 'Stale Music To Be Honest Record's' would have carried more weight. The owner (known as Dressing Room Don after showing up at a Diesel Park West gig backstage that’s how we met him) had a roster full of seventies artists who were still putting stuff out and touring. Names that used to be staples in the pre-punk Melody Maker days. Long haired progs or flabby twin guitar doodlers, that kind of thing alongside some acoustic people. So I thought ok I will give him this album and call it Worthless Bastard Rock as a statement against both the predictable styles now passing for rock n roll at the time and probably the poor guys own ethos. What a git I was, handing over an album title designed to humiliate both the music and the label. But in fairness to him he only questioned it once with the immortal words “what's he call his album that for?” and then released it. I only remember two reviews. One agreed with the title and the other suggested I was one of only a handful of English songwriters worth a dime. Split reaction to say the least. Actually, there are some good cuts on it and it does have a place in my story I reckon.

I did a tour promoting the album supporting a Don artist named Al Stewart who I nicknamed Baden after Baden Powell, the boy scout founder, for some reason. He had had a big radio song way back called 'The Year Of The Cat' which had kept him going and the rest of his material I found quite interesting at least lyrically as he sang songs with a lot of historical narrative which I found good listening. He said more immortal words too. This time it was “I'm not sure about that John Butler”. Although that didn’t stop him watching intently from the wings every night when I sang my song 'Leave Me With The Sinners' which he admitted thinking was a fantastic song. Old Baden. Nice memories. He had an American millionaire fan who came around with him but who gradually got into what I was doing. So much so that he would get up in soundchecks and do Buffalo Springfield songs with me. Al ( Baden) sometimes jumped up and joined in too…




  1. Life Full of Love
  2. Snooker, Curry & Dope
  3. Living Outside Your Head
  4.  Face at the Window
  5. Don’t Forget to Wave
  6. Diamonds & Pearls
  7. Fury of the World
  8. Thanks a Lot
  9. Stay Alive
  10. Wear it for Me

Written by Jon C Butler
1,2,3,4,5,6 Produced & Mixed by CoCo Mark & Jon C Butler
7,8,9,10 Produced & Mixed by Adam Ellis & Jon C Butler

So all that came to a natural halt around 2001 and I then enjoyed a time dog walking and being happier than I had been for ages. I was doing a lot of good gigs acoustically with Rick Willson playing DPW tunes or hippie covers and a few 'Worthless' songs. Generally enjoying things. Not too much, but enough.

However the urge to write and record was still there so I started putting stuff down with a guy named CoCo Mark. I don’t know if CoCo was the name his folks gave him or it was short for something but that’s what he was always known as. He had a local studio and I started to put tracks down. They had an electric shimmer to them this time and takes like 'Living Outside Your Head' or 'Life Full Of Love' really hold up along with other good ones like 'Face At The Window' and 'Don’t Forget To Wave'.  No acoustic tracks here but Rickenbacker twelve string stuff and a jangle fest. One song 'Snooker Curry and Dope' became the eventual title of the album that materialised from these sessions. I played everything except drums which were played by a guy who used to play with a Peel favourite band called Yeah Yeah No (good name) and later another band called The Deep Freeze Mice!

In essence I was having some fun being free from the restraints of duty to the business and in return the music flowed accordingly. But all relaxed things come to an end…

RINGSTEAD (2005 - 2013)



  1. Ticket to Heaven
  2. Travel the Earth
  3. From Now On
  4. I’m Banging the Drum
  5. I See No Ships
  6. Lost in the Storm
  7. Summer Child
  8. Let it Be This Time

Written by Jon C Butler
Produced, Mixed & Played by Lee Russell

It was at a  duo gig with Rick that a bespectacled slightly chubby guy sided up to me after the show and said in my ear “I can make you commercially viable” then proceeded to hand me a CD of an artist he had recently been recording. I put it my pocket and being slightly post gig pissed said “yeah great ok“ then carried on talking to whoever I had been talking to. After waking up the next morning I felt the CD in my trouser pocket and remembered vaguely the guy who had handed it to me. Unusually for me I put the thing on pretty much straight away and was impressed by the quality of production and the overall sound. I thought “ok let's give him a call”. His name was Lee Russell.

Lee lived at the time in Maldon way down near the estuary coast but he was a native of Leicestershire. He told me that when he was about seventeen he used to hide behind a wall at the Diesels rehearsal place and watch us. He became a fan and having everything we had ever done up to that point he was also really into me as a singer. He said he had been looking for a vocalist with whom he could implement his production values and ideas and thought of me. So sometime in 2003 I went down to his place and did a lot of acoustic backing tracks with a guide vocal and click, virtually an albums worth, and left them with him.

The first track he finished was the song 'I See No Ships' a tune from the DPW album Freakgene which had also been covered, bizarrely, by Belinda Carlisle for one of her B-sides. Lee put in a lot of effort and was very proud of it and excited to play it me on my next visit to Maldon. I wasn’t that enamoured at first which must have pissed him off. It was only later that I realised he had given the song a whole different seductive and clear production which holds up to this day.

After 'Ships' he moved to Northamptonshire and set up shop in a converted chapel in a village named Ringstead. I had to wait until 2005 before he was able to start finishing the album and that meant the longest period of waiting and basically doing nothing much creatively I had just about ever known. There were gigs of course. All kinds of gigs. But no recording. I didn’t mind that much because he was really vibing me up during the wait with what we were going to do with the songs.

When eventually we did start it proved to be a different experience to anything I had known before. Lee played all the instruments so apart from my original guitar everything is him. Some marvellous lap slide and organ playing with bass and drums too. A real craftsman a work. It gave the songs an entirely new slant and I loved them. When it came to doing the vocals he got me to sing them with a more laid back approach than normal and was a bit of a tyrant but a benevolent one. Tracks like 'From Now On', 'Let It Be This Time' and 'Travel The Earth' are among the best I have written and he brought something out of them which hadn’t been shown before. There was one song called 'Headfirst In The Mire' which probably was the one that didn’t work too well in the end but it had  the line “I may have the potion but I spill it from the bottle“ which he said summed me up. Well, maybe sometimes yeah, but I can deliver though when called upon and we did some great stuff. 'Lost In The Storm', 'Banging The Drum' another couple of good ones.

Lee had a definite rule that he would never let me take a rough vocal mix home to listen to and work on, he insisted that the tracks stay in the studio. I don’t know if that was creative or business paranoia or not paranoia at all but just how he liked to work but it did cause some friendly friction. I used to sneak recordings of playbacks out on a dodgy old cassette player I took with me just to have something. Well after a wait of three years I felt justified. Anyway eventually an album emerged and then he got busy with other projects and we sort of drifted  so I got into other things like a new DPW album which became Blood And Grace later on.

It was only around 2013 I revisited the Lee album and realised how good it was so that’s how Ringstead, named after the village, came about…


Ticket to Heaven

You see me standing here stripped of my lucky seven, Yes yes yes  I was wrong I guess, Buy me a ticket to heaven

My cloak is battered and torn, Even my own people can see through my mask, I was wrong I guess, Yes yes yes, Now all I can do is ask,  Yes yes yes I was wrong I guess, Buy me a ticket to heaven, Yes yes yes I was wrong I guess, Buy me a ticket to heaven

I was a prince of men just before I was crowned the king of delusion, I was wrong I guess,Yes yes yes, Help me out of this confusion, Yes yes yes I was wrong I guess, Buy me a ticket to heaven

You know Heaven's a place, Where there ain't no race and there ain't no beginning, I was wrong I guess, Yes yes yes, All I could do was think about winning

I wouldn’t wait for you, while you you hung on forever, I was wrong, Yes yes yes, Now buy me a ticket to heaven, Yes yes yes I was wrong I guess, Buy me a ticket to heaven

Travel The Earth

Making me nervous, Getting me gutless, And it all seems so absurd, Trawling for business, Fighting off sickness, When you just wanna to travel the earth, Travel the earth, I wanna travel the earth

Making me slow down, I don't want to slow down, To just wind up in reverse, Rain snow and hail, With a spirit in jail, I just wanna to travel the earth, Travel the earth, I wanna travel the earth the earth

Yeah I know this guy who goes to work, Works hard and thinks the Quo are brilliant, If that's what he thinks who am I to tell him anything different, We've got pop star wannabes in government, Drinkers in bars telling everybody what should have been, Seekers of easy solutions getting ever more desperate, If you wanna stay in the spotlight do your homework, And then travel the earth

Making me see things, Where there ain't nothing to see, And no one left to fix the hurt, Pulling favours 'til you run out of favour, When you just wanna travel the earth, Travel the earth I wanna travel the earth, the earth, the earth

You come with me

From Now On

I've been losing my hair, Putting on weight, Going for walks through the country gate, Stick with me baby there'll be summers of love, Things could get interesting from now on

Out on the road same as before, Only difference this time when I stop people shout for more, Stick with me baby there'll be summers of love, And things could get interesting from now on

I've been chasing moons paying rent, Stick with me baby there'll be summers of love, Things could get interesting from now on

I've been walking round with the radio on, It doesn't matter to me now how long it runs, Let it pour out from a big cloud of rain, Vive la difference it's all the same

I'm ok with that glass of wine, The one I have here well it's going down just fine, Stick with me baby there'll be summers of love, And things could get interesting from now on

I've been working hard doing the clubs, Yeah drinking a bit but I ain't doing any drugs, Stick with me baby there'll be summers of love, And things could get interesting from now on

All those things we thought were new, Well I'm gonna talk to the fantastic Jew, Walk a mile in those shoes, Gonna have to someday when a little comfort's due

I've been listening to people, Seeing what they have to say, Staying up all night wondering, What happened to the day, But stick with me baby there'll be summers of love, And things could interesting, From now on

Banging The Drum

She knows how to write letters, I read them I don't forget them, It's been such a long time, But it hasn't made no difference to this heart of mine, I'm still banging the drum, I'm banging the drum the drum for you baby

This land can be desert land, Where even good people don't understand, What went on underneath your eyes, Silent prayers trying to survive, But I'm banging the drum the drum for you baby yeah yeah yeah, I'm banging the drum the drum for you baby, Well I'm banging the drum the drum for you baby, And I wish that you could see me banging the drums for you baby

When we met I was a virgin boy Hung up and hungry playing hardball, But you don't have to worry, It will be alright I'm gonna get the money, For a miracle tonight, I'm banging the drum the drum for you baby, And I wish that you could see me, Banging the drum the drums for you

I See No Ships

It's been a beautiful day, Can't wait for tomorrow to call, Don't see no problem, Nor writing on the wall

Just gets easier, Just gets better and better, Well I see no ships, I see no ships

Oh the distractions on a night like this, Which do you want? Choose one from the list

Are you gonna push the button, Do you know who's looking now, Well I see no ships, I see no ships

What you don't know it can't hurt you, Toothless wonders they can't bite you, I see no ships

You're really in front, Everything you do hits, The crowds gathered, Standing at your hips

Don't need a credential, Ah maybe your invincible, I see no ships, I see no ships

What you don't know it can't hurt you, Chinless wonders won't defend you, I see no ships, I see no ships

What you don't know it can't hurt you, I see no ships.

Lost in the Storm

I know you think about it I can tell, You haven't quite got over it well I haven't as well, But you were so young, And I was so young, And together we got lost in the storm

You told me that you would never leave, I know that's what you felt, that's what you believed, But you were so young, And I was so young, And together we were just locking horns

Yeah you were so young, And I was so young, And together we got lost in the storm

Just for the entertainment let me tell you how it all began, I can just about remember Christmas in the sixties and the faces on everyone, I later slept in cat piss basements later still at the best hotels, I shook the hand of the famous and those I didn't know too well

But you were so young, And I was so young, And together we were just locking horns, Yeah you were so young, And I was so young, And together we got lost in the storm

I told you that I would always try, If my eyes were tired they were never blind, Well you were so young, And I was so young, And together we got lost in the storm

Let's bless the lost republic, Let's bless the last show on earth, Grant me a righteous face, Make me the head of my own network, Some devils last forever some time fades away, While the whole of the future moves to the past someday

I got nothing against religions I say give God a chance, Don't let them tell you it's all flesh and blood and dance, You can say it's me, I can say it's you, Let's turn the page over go to someplace new, Remember you were so young, And I was so young, And together we were just locking horns, Yeah you were so young, And I was so young, And together we got lost in the storm, Lost in the storm

Summer Child

Now listen to me you’re under arrest, There are too many things I ain't over yet, You ran away with my heart, Took it right down the road, While keeping everything I could have took from you under your control, You know what I like and what I won't stand, Those permanent smiles, Those grins without end, Winter comes round so soon, Straight after summer, Don’t seem to be nothing in between these days, Not like I can remember

Oh summer child don’t ever let your heart beat like mine, Oh summer child don’t ever let your heart beat like mine

Mine is black and so downhearted, Just kind of grew that way I think, Sometimes maybe I like it, Trying to be good can never be a fault, But trying always comes a poor second to the end result, I've got baggage scattered round on every branch line station, Even my memories now are under close investigation, Hypocrisy and fecklessness have always been a target, But that ain't the way it is now, That just ain't the way it is

Oh summer child don’t ever let your heart beat like mine, Oh summer child don’t ever let your heart beat like mine

So many ways to get screwed, Especially as time goes by, Watch your friends and their friends too, In the heat of the dead of the night, I've rocked and I've dropped and I've blown it, Though ain't that a familiar story, Still got that hunger for a lump of meat and glory, But there is an empty room full of spirits like living ghosts, Wonder how I look to them must be funny like some kind of dope

I can't find my way through, I don’t have a lantern light, Probably wouldn’t work anyway, If my cars anything to go by, Now times not really a healer, It's just something you can do nothing about, You can't ride it like a camel or hide it in you’re mouth

Oh summer child don’t ever let your heart beat like mine, Oh summer child don’t ever let your heart beat like mine

Let It Be This Time

Well you, you know too much, I told you all those secrets that year we were really in touch, Anyway what I really mean, If it's gonna be, Well let it be this time

Life's a beam you know what I mean,It's like perpetual motion 'til you get to the end of the dream, Anyway what I really mean, If it's gonna be, well let it be this time

Yeah if it's gonna be, Let it be this time

Oh that river just keeps rolling along, Well well let it be this time, If it's gonna be let it be this time

We gotta get out of here, We've gotta grow like a tree, I'm gonna make you so happy, You're gonna be happy you're with me

Didn't you know to be a star, You're gonna have to wake up one thousand mornings, Not really knowing who you are, Anyway what I really mean, If it's gonna be well let it be this time

Yeah if it's gonna be well let it be this time, If it's gonna be let it be this time



Jon C Butler & John Knapp - BUTLER/KNAPP

  1. The Dealer
  2. Your Time Ain’t Long
  3. I Can’t Stop
  4. Good Enough
  5. Bring it to Your Door
  6. Space For Rent
  7. Across This Land
  8. Freddie Don’t Know
  9. At Least She Got to Dance
  10. First You Got to Walk
  11. While the Light is Sleeping

Produced by Jon C Butler & John Knapp
Mixed by Jon C Butler & Adam Ellis
Written by Jon C Butler & John Knapp

If there is a most unlikeliest yet at the same most inevitable record to describe out of these choices, it has to be this BUTLER:KNAPP album. Where to begin? The Knapp here is John Knapp, a guy who I have known and known about for most of my life. I first became aware of him when I was about thirteen years old and he, being six years older than me, was playing electric piano in a local band who had a massive influence on my tender psyche. They were called Legay which was the name of their drummer, he himself being named after a wartime French surgeon. They later became quite a revered pub rock band on the national circuit even releasing two albums in the seventies before disbanding under the punk onslaught. Knappo (sic) was someone I sort of kept in touch with over the ensuing years and although there would be large gaps in us meeting up we always seemed to do just that somehow someplace every now and again.

In 2009 he gave me a CD of backing tracks he had done with machines and keyboards and home studio stuff which had no acoustic instrumentation, no lyrics or vocal or topline melodies. I think I sat on them for a while but when I made a start it quickly became obvious that I was going to see it through because what he had done was very inspiring and brought out a lot of soulful vocal based ideas and lyrical flow. The first finished song I called 'Good Enough' and it sure was. The music and the eventual songs themselves were a million miles away from 'Like Princes Do' or the DPW style in general.

Knappo, whilst partial to guitar rock in some ways, was at heart a soul boy. Or more specifically a Motown head. The Temptations were a big touchstone for him and he is a very gifted artisan. Maybe he isn’t a writer in the fullest sense but he always was a great craftsman provided he had a vision and inspiration for where he wanted to go. As a musician he wasn’t particularly proficient but he always made sure that what he did play ended up sounding great and in the end that’s worth a thousand seasoned musos. Pretty soon I had finished an albums worth of songs from his backing tracks then went into the studio to flesh out his already great keyboard stuff getting Dave A in for the drums and then onto vocal and vocal harmony. On a couple of the songs, namely 'While The Light Is Sleeping' and 'Across This Land', I figured his original drum machine tracks were more appropriate to use so they were kept in the final versions but all the others have real drum parts. I played bass and guitar on most of them but brought Rich Barton in to play with me on a couple which was fun and a guy called Dave De Suza played bass on two others. One in particular where he is outstanding is called 'Your Time Ain't Long'.

It was however the vocals which provided the most pleasure to record and mix. Because the songs were of a different style I approached them from another angle vocally and dug into both Knappos original approach and my own reverence for singers like Smokey Robinson to try and deliver. Tracks like 'I Cant Stop' might bare this out as does a real humdinger called 'The Dealer' also an all time personal favourite 'Space For Rent' which never fails to take over the emotions.  

It really is a worthwhile record and worthy of being included in any line up of what I have done over the years. As I said it's a most unlikely inevitability of an album.





  1. Mystified
  2. Thanks a Lot
  3. Light at the End of The World
  4. The Streets of Leicester
  5. Nothing But Everything
  6. Long Hair and the Cities of Europe
  7. Wear It For Me
  8. House of Love
  9. Two Bit King
  10. Something Sad in the City

1,3,4,5,8,9 Produced by Butler/Willson | 2,7 Produced by Butler | 6 Produced by Willson | 10 Produced by Butler/Ellis

To accompany the limited-edition CD version of Universal Stranger I was asked if I'd be interested in compiling a separate retrospective album of some of my favourite songs. Not a 'best-of' per-se, just a quick backward glance into history.

A Backward Glance? Where to exactly? At what point do you start looking back and where do you look back to and in what direction? Truth is, only a random glance can really convey anything like a non-contrived retrospective.

I don’t see it as a case of deliberately picking something from a certain year or era then painstakingly picking others to create some sort of decades long balance. Instead what's here is a clutch of songs that hopefully demonstrate the shape of my writing in the way I like to think of it at its most comprehensive.

It’s the writing here that’s my own but not necessarily the performances as Rick plays a lot of what you hear here. Always loved 'Streets of Leicester' as a tale song with more than a pinch of reality. We tried to give it that middle ground rocky feel but with a definite emphasis on the lyric. Which is not as easy or predictable as it may sound. Rick played his Fender Jag on this, which he has never used much but always works when he does. Lyrically it's about maybe the only relationship taboo still left but curiously whenever we played it onstage you could really feel it connect with the audience on their own personal level.

The trippy lush fantasy of 'Long Hair And The Cities Of Europe' recorded in late '92 is something we were pointing to after the Decency album. Probably as a result of working with Laurie Latham and our own sense of production values which we were starting to understand. Who knows, if Decency had been a big major label hit via 'Fall To Love' or one of the others we may well have gone down that route. Could have worked I think - although it would have been totally against the grain given the subsequent Britpop/Grunge era. We'd certainly have enjoyed getting into it with an unstoppable wilfulness and two fingers stuck firmly up at the opportunists of the day.

As if to confirm this, 'Nothing But Everything' with its statement of emotional demand highlighted by some great Willsonian strings, was part of a bunch of songs we put down together ten years later in 2002 at Adam Ellis's studio in Ratae (that’s Leicester folks). The others being 'Streets', 'Light At The End Of The World', 'Mystified', 'House Of Love' and a track called 'Revelation Calling' which you will find elsewhere.

It was the first time we had been in that particular studio and the first time we had worked with the (then) young kid Adam. It was also around the time Blair Bush and Cheney were getting ready to implement their new world order with all that sexing up dossier crap and basically getting their rocks off at potentially emulating Churchill and Roosevelt. So there was a lot of societal tension in the air.

'Light At The End Of The World' is a good one with its harmony-laden chorus. It’s a song with a “don’t worry“ sort of message. I remember singing all the harmony parts and thinking that this young guy really knows how to record vocal layers which British engineers don’t always pull off, unlike American ones.

'Mystified' is a mixed metaphor and basically a claim of being happy not to understand the great consternations of life and just get into being intelligently dumb. I always liked the verse about the old guy waiting in the nursing home who once was "clearing the islands of the Emperors sons “.

'House Of Love'?  Ah leave me alone in my harbour of peace and seclusion “sleeping on her in the house of love”. I had been through the mill - to put it mildly - but had found an era of relative calm and peace and just didn’t want disturbing basically. Mind you that didn’t stop me writing, recording and gigging. All of which are activities which guarantee disturbance, but how else can you really breathe unless you give vent to the devil muse. Good refrain.   

'Thanks a Lot' and 'Wear it For Me' were both songs I had initially written for someone else but put my own vocal onto. We are into 2008 by now just before the financial crisis thing. Most of the people I know have always been in a financial crisis so it didn’t seem a big deal at the time. 'Thanks A Lot' is only one of two songs in existence where I play a drum fill (right before the end section phew!) Dave A had done his usual great driving beat thing but he had left the studio and we needed a fill. Made me realise that those drummer creatures actually do work for a living!  I played all the other instruments and remember plugging into a huge Fender Showman cab with jbl 15" speakers to get a certain sound from a Gretsch Country Gent. Same thing with 'Wear it For Me' which is not as chauvinistic as it may seem. In fact it isn’t at all, you just have to dig a little deeper.

Then we are further down the line in 2009 with 'Sad in the City'. This track is part of the last DPW album to date, which I called Do Come In, Excuse The Mess (long story). We recorded it at a little place in Crystal Palace called Good Luck Studios. It's demolished now so I don’t know how the luck held up. Anyway Chris Kimsey, yes him the one who recorded Shakespeare Alabama way back in the mists, showed up to oversee the initial laying down of the track. It went well and we knew there was a good song in there. But the guy who engineered it was a bit of a double–edged sword. He'd recorded some things (drums for instance) really well but there were other elements that were a bit dodge. So I took the track back to Adam's and set about cleaning it up and making something of it. People really seem to like this song with its major sevenths and lyrically I think it's amongst the best. Martha Bean came in to play some great cello on it to really give it an understated drama, which along with the text really works.

And, finally, on to 'Two Bit King'. “It's like working with four fucking Keith Moons” said the guy who produced the You, You, You and You Diesels EP that this track is taken from. We all sat round in this great old converted church studio in Northamptonshire in late 2012 and played live together. That’s really the truest way for any band to record. We got into it and it felt like a really natural experience to record that way. 'Two Bit King' is about some guy who used to be a rock notable but the fickle hand of fortune pushes him down into the dark corners of the mine where he finds himself still being highly creative and raring to go but his realities won't stay away long enough to give him succour. Nevertheless “ he snaps out of his downer and puts some trousers on”. Who could it possibly be about?  It’s a good tale and the band really plays like it means it. Well that’s because we do. Always did.

JCB. Leicester, April 2017


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Jon C Butler (aka John Butler) is a writer and singer from leicester, england who first came to attention with the classic album 'shakespeare alabama' by diesel park west at the dawn of the nineties.

With a particular awareness of the beauty and richness of sixties American west coast rock n roll, the band were responsible for a clutch of highly invigorating albums from 1989 to 2011.

Butler is acknowledged as being a writer who has always furrowed his own path delivering songs that seem wilfully not to pander to the norm and yet display an easy charm and clarity.

The depth and quality of his back catalogue confirm him as a song-writer and performer of whom we should take note. The jagged beauty of his songs remind us why such artists are worthy of our interest and just might provide a soundtrack to our lives.



Praise for Jon C Butler

‘Universal Stranger’ is a great listen from start to finish. So many of the shimmering chiming guitar tracks on offer are brilliantly infectious’
— Americana UK
‘Charming and lyrically mature, Universal Stranger sees Jon C Butler ruminating on the state of the world and furrowing his own path. Rather than beat you over the head the songs caress.’

— Fireworks Magazine
‘There is an immense pleasure in allowing the songs on Universal Stranger to warm the bone marrow. A highly accomplished veteran with hints of a Memphis soul troubadour Butler deserves a resounding thumbs up.’

— Emerging Indie Bands
‘Nobody, I mean Nobody, writes songs like these.”

— Chris Kimsey, Producer
Not only is he a great songwriter, but a commercial one to boot.

— Nick Duerden, Q magazine
Butler’s album contains all the high calibre material that we’ve now come to expect.

There’s no other current British artist who integrates the pivotal elements of exquisite songwriting and laudable performances into such appealing packages.

A rare talent that has gone unrecognised for too long. Quintessential listening.
— Rich Wilson, Record Collector


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