States of Mind
Nation): 8th May 2019
This project took 12 years to write, nearly a year to record and six months to edit.
concept had been for a collection of optimistic songs titled
"Optimism". I put this off, as I wasn't sure I was ready to write it;
but it became clear that in this form it didn't appear viable. I
considered songs about optimism that weren't necessarily optimistic
(The cheerful wee song would be an example of that), but again this
still felt too limiting. It was only when I thought if the idea of
states of mind generally, not just optimism but any states of mind,
that I had an idea I could work with.
A quarter of the lyrics dated back to 2009, which I have to say
surprised me. I keep thinking there can't be any more still to come
from 2009 and then end up using another one. The cheerful wee song had
long been pencilled in as the opener, though I hadn't wanted to use it
while I was still with ex four. I don't remember writing any of the
others specifically for this project. Against the light and We can't
talk were written well after the project concept, but not because of
it. Music has often been therapy and those two clearly were. Mindless
violence may now hold the record for the lyric that has waited the
longest before being used.
recorded over 300 more guitar loops during guitar-only sessions on 9th
and 28th July and 16th October 2017, recording sessions started with
Mindless Violence in November. At first sessions were somewhat
sporadic, with What I ponder on in December and The cheerful wee song
in February 2018. It was only in March that recording started in
earnest, with 17 recording sessions in four months, including nine in
June alone. By the end of June all the main vocals had been recorded.
There was a backing vocals recording session 1st July, and (when I had
the strong feeling it was time to finish with it) one last backing
vocal recording session that took all day on 20th October. Six rounds
of edits took six months, with glitches being found and removed almost
throughout. By the time I got to the sixth round of edits I had the
strong feeling that the material was as good as it was going to get and
that it was ready. The last editing session appears to have been 4th
April 2019. The AIFs were made on 10th April.
The cheerful wee song -
This owes something to the innate optimism of ex three (who at the time
I was still with). I'm not by nature optimistic, though at times I do
try. This is a somewhat wry take on it, where the singer insists how
he's being cheerful when he's quite obviously not. It's what I call a
slow burn - it starts off plausibly, but the point of it gradually
becomes clear as it goes on. I thought it was
funny, though when I was recording I remember being moved at the breeze
talking to the trees. I didn't understand why I found it moving -
possibly the undertone of caring and affection. The flowers snoozing in
the sun added to the feeling - it was very sweet, like a cartoon
almost. I liked "The monkeys will call at the thrill of it all, till
the logging is done." I was picturing a troop of monkeys wandering
around on the ground, wondering where all the trees had gone. The
bumble bee crawling off and dying is actually true; that apparently is
what bees do when they die. This version of the song is home recorded,
though it's one of three that I
also recorded at The Crypt in London.
Lyric writtten 12 March 2009.
Orchestrated 15-17 December 2017
Vocals recorded 12 February 2018. Additional backing vocals recorded 1 July 2018.
Edited 15 December 2018 - 28 February 2019
(Just my) suspicious mind -
This was a reversal of an idea that featured in a song Elvis Presley
used to sing. I wondered, what if it was the other way round? Instead
of unjustified suspicions, what if there actually was something going
on which the person was determinedly not believing? I have to say this
is likely to have been influenced by ex three, albeit as it were
posthumously as she was long gone by then. When I recorded it, I
delivered it as sarcastic, which meant I was being sarcastic at how
naive the character was. This may amount to thinking I had been naive
years earlier. You could read the lyric as purely jokey, as
light-hearted humour; but it does also have a darker edge relating to
difficulty reading people and consequent trust issues. At the end the
character concedes doubts ("suspicious thoughts may flow") but says
that he consciously decided to over-ride them ("I'd think of them
although, it's just my suspicious mind"). What do you do if you don't
know, but only suspect?
written early 2017 (undated)
Orchestrated 9-10 March 2018
Vocals recorded 11 March 2018
Edited: 9 March 2018 - 6 February 2019
Die quickly -
the idea was to write some incidental music from a non-existent
action/adventure film. I wrote down as many (fictitious) villainous
quotes as I could think of, until eventually I came up with "Die
quickly... it's such a nuisance having to keep cleaning the blood off
the saw blades." Eureka! I thought. That's it! Once I had the feel of
what fictional moment I was writing the music for, I was then able to
Orchestrated 11 August - 24 October 2018, though this shaded imperceptibly into editing that went on until 28th February 2019.
Another piece of film score from a non-existent film. This one was an
attempt to create a feeling of unease. I didn't have any particular
sequence of screen events in mind for this feeling. I particularly
liked the low piano notes. The timpani sounded good when it was done,
but to get the right amount of it at the right volume took a bit of
Orchestrated 18 August to 9 December 2018
Edited 15 December 2018 to 27 January 2019.
Everybody's talking -
There actually was a song called Everybody's talkin' before this one,
written by Fred Neil in 1966 although you probably remember Harry
Nilsson's 1969 version. There seems to have been an oddly
autobiographic or even prophetic quality to that song, and Neil duly
gave up music five years later to retreat into obscurity. This song is
completely different and has nothing to do with that one. It was
probably triggered by thinking about the earlier song and realising
that there was a very different interpretation of that phrase possible.
The lyric has obvious shades of ex three about it, though perhaps I
should refrain from going into details. I have an idea that when I
started writing it, the rain actually was coming down. This is a
character who doesn't understand; starting at bar 42 are a string of
puzzled questions, leading to "whatever do you need". This is returned
to with more questions at bar 92, starting "What did you do it for". At
bar 73 is "I don't know how I feel, it's just a sort of numb" which I
borrowed from something someone said. Later at bar 96 this is
re-iterated: "I haven't tears to cry". Right at the end after the
endless questions that do tend to mark out the ending of relationships
is a flash of real anger: "Don't you dare say that I'm the one to
written 4 March 2012
Orchestrated 8-18 November 2017
Vocals recorded 12 February 2018 (while Ellen was visiting Mum at a care home). Additional backing vocals recorded 1 July 2018.
Edited: 22 October to 15 December 2018.
Against the light -
This was the second of two lyrics written in Fuerteventura (Canaries)
following a family row. Having written We can't talk, I must have felt
there was still more left to say, it must have still been going round
in my mind, because this came out two days later. It's reflective, and
more aimed at underlying causes. I was thinking not so much about what
happened as why it happened. The middle section at bar 37 is specificly
an articulation of ASD which I felt was one of the underlying causes.
The main structure resumes at bar 49 with the conclusion that trying to
communicate is a mistake, but at bar 61 is an indication of defiance of
this seemingly inevitable fate: "I rage against the dying of the
light". The last verse starts with a resigned acceptance that contact
will cease, again followed right at the end with the same indication of
defiance against that resignation. One way of interpreting this is that
I knew what was coming but didn't like it. At one point this lyric was
going to be part of the
same song as We can't talk, until I decided that this was too much to
into one song and left them split. I did talk to guitar teacher Matt
Read about what sort of guitar backing this should have, but we saw it
very differently; the guitar that's on the track now is assembled from
loops rather than playing along with the backing in long takes.
written 27 March 2018
Orchestrated in one long session 7 April 2018
Vocals recorded 29 April 2018. Additional backing vocals recorded 1 July 2018.
Edited 10 October 2018 to 8 February 2019
Mindless violence -
This was the one I thought might get me arrested. It describes
terrorist violence, mostly as seen by the terrorist. That is, the
character singing it is a terrorist. I was worried that the authorities
would think it showed me as supportive of terrorism. What I was
thinking about was why someone would think terrorist attrocities were
justified - what sort of thought process might lead to that conclusion.
I was conscious that this kind of question has lingered for a while,
hence at the end "somewhere you've already heard this song". It was
moderately difficult to come up with a manifesto for violence that
fitted a lyric structure, as in "joining themselves as they look,
writing their names in our book" by which I meant joining in a purpose
or cause, and a religious book, a sort of book of life or book of
martyrs. This wasn't the phrasing I originally wanted, but it fitted
and it was close enough. Another example would be "we know we must do
radical things on you" - killing someone is pretty radical. This is
someone who understands that violence is drastic and morally
problematic but also justified, but my ability to express that in a
lyric structure was limited. I thought
about what I could do to make let's call it my editorial view clearer,
and came up with the idea of another character in the backing vocal
voicing condemnation of the terrorist. I pictured an old, battered,
dusty transistor radio, on top of a battered wall in some ravaged town
somewhere in the middle east. I tried to put effects on the spoken backing vocal to
make it sound as if it was coming from a cheap transistor radio with a
written probably early 2007, judging by where it was in the lyric book,
though it was hacked around drastically during orchestration.
Orchestrated 28 October to 5 November 2017
Vocals recorded Saturday 11 November 2017, while Ellen was at a training day.
Edited 25 November to 28 February 2018
This is clearly an ex four song. It's a satirical version of what she
said to me, though there is also some of my own (albeit retrospective)
frustration shaded into it. So for example "Look there's the door,
guess what it's for" (showing the person the door). This comes after
"why can't you work it out" suggesting dim-wittedness, an inability to
see what should have been obvious, or even outright stupidity. This
point is emphasised at bar 15 with "My God, you're slow... it's time to
go", and again at bar 19 "I tried to be polite at first".
The singer proceeds to say that this luckless character should be
launched off into outer space, but more than that says it was a mistake
ever getting involved with them ("now I rue the day our paths were
crossed", bar 37, and "you got in my way" at bar 41). Near the end is a
sly suggestion that the person themselves also wants to go, that's it's
their idea as well: "You wouldn't want to stay". This is trying to talk
around the fact that this person is being dumped (whether deservedly or
not we don't know as this is only one side of the story). The signs of
retrospective anger are more subtle, for example "I hate those games
you play" at bar 43. All this was of course a long time ago,
though when this was written it was still relatively recent (about a
year earlier). You'll notice this song has an unusual structure. I'd
four verses and two choruses. To me it seemed obvious to put the two
choruses back to back in the middle and the four verses two each side
of that. It did occur to me to put the same two choruses at the end so
it would be double verse, double chorus, double verse, double chorus.
But that seemed to be repetition for the sake of it. I thought what I
had already said it, so I left it as it was, and didn't worry about the
fact that it was less than two minutes. I did um and er a bit about
exactly how the guitars should sound, and on the finished version
they're more effect-driven and less pure-tone than they had been on the
mostly written 1 October 2011, though it isn't clear when it was started.
Orchestrated in one long session 1 January 2018, at Newquay, while Ellen was snoozing on the bed, lulled to sleep by a war film.
Vocals recorded Monday 5 March 2018, between about 2pm and 4pm, just
after booking the Crypt session. Additional backing vocals recorded 20
October 2018. I didn't use the Crypt vocals on the finished version.
Edited 31 October 2018 to 10 February 2019.
This is obviously strongly Hugh Laurie influenced: a failure singing
about how he was a failure at everything except singing about how he
was a failure at everything. I thought this was funny, though as usual
I tried to do it absolutely deadpan. In the background you can hear his
backing singers singing that they were all useless failures as well.
middle section probably had the most work done on it - only quite
late on did it finally start sounding right. There are probably
overtones of ASD about some of this, for example "I don't have any
friends" at bar 4, "they never like me much" at bar 16, or "they're
avoiding me" at bar 24. There are also signs of low self esteem, such
as "They all say I'm dull and boring" (bar 23) or "how naff I am" (bar
36). The kicker is at bar 35: "I sure make a lot of money" though this
is followed by "They still say I'm a failure" (bar 53). Written down
cold it does look like an awful lot of gloom, though when I actually
wrote it I wasn't intending to be introspective. It was meant purely as
a joke and as the kind of lyric I imagined Hugh Laurie might write.
Although I wrote all of it, in that sense you could almost say it was
'his' song. There have been other 'Hugh Laurie' lyrics, such as Banana
and his electric dog, but at time of writing they haven't all been used.
written 12 October 2013 (though not all of it was used)
Orchestrated 2-7 January 2018
Guitar recorded 17 March 2018, though as they appear here they're composites assembled from several takes.
Vocals recorded 18 March 2018.
Edited 24 October 2018 to 28 February 2019.
The Lighthouse -
This was an old and very personal lyric that I'd baulked at before. I'd
always wanted to do it, but I kept putting it off. When this project
came up, I thought that now was the time. Though the lyric describes
people being drawn
to the lighthouse, the actual function of a lighthouse is to warn
people to keep away. Hence the ambiguity - "And do you feel for you
it's right" (i.e. not for other people), "darkness making sense / is
never so intense" - and at the end, "I wished I couldn't see to the
lighthouse." Looking at how this all fits together, you can see it's
not conventional verse/chorus - it's more a classical-type structure,
written in sections. There's a philosophical section starting "Where
are you going" which continues until the lighthouse gets
mentioned at bar 26. There's then a string of questions around
motivation and intention until the lighthouse gets mentioned again at
bar 39. This second structural element then gets repeated, but this
time with a series of statements about people and the world, revolving
around behaviour, again concluding with the lighthouse being mentioned
at bar 52. We then get the third structural element, describing (albeit
obliquely) the reaction of people to the lighthouse itself, again
concluding with the lighthouse being mentioned explicitly at bar 72.
Finally we get the last section describing the narrator's reaction to
the lighthouse, concluding with the final mention of it right at the
end of the lyric at bar 83. The implication of the whole lyric appears
fairly clearly to be that the lighthouse is influencing people and
behaviour, not necessarily in a good way, though it isn't stated how or
why. I don't know why I picked a lighthouse, though it might have been
because it's hard to ignore a lighthouse beam if it's shining right at
you. There's an awful lot of me playing guitar on this one, for
a while five of me at once.
written 21 July 2009
Orchestrated 18 to 24 February 2018
Vocals recorded 12 March 2018, while using up leave as instructed by my
then line manager (sore point). Additional backing vocals recorded 20
Guitar recorded 11, 12 and 16 June 2018.
Edited 28 October 2018 to 13 February 2019.
What I ponder on -
This was influenced by the Kris Kristofferson song Sunday morning
coming down, which with its description of being unable to fit in with
ordinary life reportedly moved US troops in Vietnam to tears. I thought
I'd had enough experiences, and lived enough, suffered enough, that I
ought to be able to write something along somewhat similar lines, so I
set to work, and this was the result. I tried to make it as heartsick
and miserable as possible, so it features Father Christmas dying, Mr
Happy being shot, etc. The first part of the lyric describes
interactions between the narrator and an unnamed woman who seems to
abruptly disappear after bar 11, saying almost as a parting shot that
the narrator will never understand. We then get the description of the
death of Father Christmas, leading to what could be read as the
narrator's dread of death and an odd comment of being "sick of trying
to be somewhere else instead", though the way this section is phrased
isn't clear and appears to be describing feelings more than facts. We
then get my favourite part of the lyric: "Though the women turned up
sometimes, I just never worked them out; and it wasn't lack of vigour,
I just never got to figure what it was they were about." I thought that
was brilliant. We get the picture of these women coming and going,
leaving the narrator continually baffled, and this ties in with the
woman at the beginning telling the narrator he will never understand.
We then get Mr Happy being shot, leaving the narrator pondering how
he'll never be happy again ("all my happy days are done", bar 55). In
the middle section the narrator fairly miserably sums up his life; but
the song isn't quite done yet. This wretched review spills over into
the last verse, where it leads to despair and an apparent wondering
about suicide ("I could ponder if I'm staying", bar 87), though the
narrator is still thinking about it and hasn't decided yet ("That's
what I ponder on" right at the end, bar 93). It's worth pointing out
that all this miserableness didn't come from things that were happening
in 2014 when the lyric was written. It was triggered by hearing someone
else's miserable song, and I was actually mostly thinking back to (and
drawing on) my teenage years. You could say this is the echo of long
Lyric written 12 November 2014
Orchestrated 18 November to 8 December 2017
Vocals recorded Friday 8 December 2017, while Ellen was having a meal
out with some bikers. Additional backing vocals recorded Saturday 20
October 2018, while Ellen was at an adoption event.
Edited 12 November 2018 to 4 April 2019.
Kitty Coleman -
This was written for the slides of the Canadian wedding. The original
version had effects on it to make it sound as if the music was blowing
around in the wind among the trees, but it sounded overdone on the
actual slides. It didn't sound right. So I toned the effect down later.
Like Heron's Ghyll this was written in sections (my notes say six),
depending on what the slides were showing at that point. I liked the
last section so in the final version for the CD I lengthened it, by
repeating it with variations. This means that this version is longer
than the original.
Orchestrated 14 July to 9 August 2018
Edited 9 December 2018 to 13 February 2019.
I believe (in you) -
I wanted to write a song for Ellen, and this was to be it. I wanted it
to say that I understood she had her foibles and quirks, and I
understood what some of them were, but I loved her anyway. I read out
the original lyric at the Canadian wedding as part of my speech,
because (I said) she never listened to my music and would never hear it
any other way. Later she told me she didn't like it, possibly because
she didn't want what sounded like faults sung about. I therefore wrote
an all-new lyric which is what I ended up recording. The lyric opens
with a plea to be listened to, probably born of a somewhat frustrated
feeling that I don't always feel listened to. I was aware of the fact
that I upset people, and consequently that what I said might be
upsetting ("words may hurt or not sound good", bar 9). The first thing
I therefore said, on the hypothetical assumption that I was now being
listened to (though Ellen is unlikely to ever hear it), was therefore
the most important: "I still believe in you" (bar 15). Starting at bar
19 are a series of snapshots of memories I had of us being together.
The nudge on the
dotto train, like other things mentioned, did actually
happen. I then say that these memories are precious "because they were
with you" (bar 31). Starting at bar 36 I acknowledge what she left
behind (her life in Canada). I then wonder whether there is some ideal
configuration of our lives that will make us happier, that we haven't
figured out yet ("Is something waiting, yet to be... and do I hold the
key", bar 45). Starting at bar 51 I acknowledge what she has done for
me ("You organise and lend a hand in ways I may not understand").
There's a clear indication of frustation at being autistic ("I wish for
things I cannot do", bar 61). The lyric then moves towards a fairly
philosophical conclusion, as "perfection always has to wait" (bar 69)
before delivering the punchline: "The ring I gave says this to you: I
still believe in you" (bar 77). The harp was a late addition - I kept
thinking the whole thing
sounded too depressing, almost dreary, and it needed something to lift
originally written 1 August 2017, and read out at the wedding. However,
Ellen didn't like it. I therefore wrote some notes for a new lyric that
she would like, and she liked the notes, so I went ahead and wrote the
all-new lyric on 23 April 2018 (after orchestration had started).
Orchestrated 23 April to 6 May 2018
Vocals recorded mostly 30 June 2018; completed 1 July 2018. Additional backing vocals recorded 20 October 2018.
Edited 20 October 2018 to 15 February 2019.
Thoughts of home -
This is yet another from the epic and seemingly almost inexhaustible
lyric writing year of 2009. The character in it is based on ex four's
brother, who had a large house with a pool in the states. I never saw
this house (which ex four stayed in at intervals), but I gather it was
very comfortable. Ex four quoted him as being wistful about not being
back in the home country, leading to this slightly barbed lyric to the
effect that he'd made his choices and they weren't entirely without
their compensations. There is a short introduction, to the effect that
he'd gone there for the money, had made his own choices and hence if he
didn't like them was the author of his own misfortunes (thus neatly
summing up the song). There is a series of rhetorical questions
starting at bar 14, including "are you misty-eyed each time you hear a
homespun song". These questions are essentially answered
(matter-of-factly rather than sarcastically) in the chorus - he doesn't
really regret what he did, he just thinks of home (i.e. his homeland)
sometimes. The second verse says firmly that the people he left behind
will manage very well without him, before the final chorus (again
matter-of-factly) comes back to the point made at the beginning that
his choices had their compensations, but that for better or for worse
his homeland isn't his home any more ("somewhere in your life you
changed your home", bar 73).
written 16 June 2009
Orchestrated 3 and 4 March 2018.
Vocals recorded 5 March 2018. Additional backing vocals recorded 20 October 2018.
Edited 11 November 2018 to 4 April 2019.
The (other) wild child -
I was listening to the song you probably know as Real wild child,
though it was originally titled Wild one. Johnny O'Keefe sang it in
1958, and may or may not have co-written it. This song is usually
quoted as the birth of Australian rock and roll. It occurred to me that
it sounds somewhat youthful, maybe too youthful for Iggy Pop who also
recorded it, and that there ought to be a pensioner's version with
bedtime drinks, zimmer frames etc. This is an all-new song, but it's
kind of what Real wild child might have been had it been written for
pensioners. The Pokemon trainer was a reference to someone at work who
plays Pokemon. The riot looter was a reference to the London riots and
the looters who took advantage of them (apparently this was in August
2011). Andy Peebles I'd only come across because he'd interviewed John
Lennon two days before he died. Weebles were a range of egg-shaped toys
launched in 1971 (apparently there are over a hundred of them). I
actually do have a back problem, but the drastic colon problem was my
father. The zimmerframe was my granny. I did have trouble with one line
- I wanted him to say
he was a head banger, but it didn't fit, so he had to say he was a
headache banger. I convinced myself that because it had overtones of
old age, it was better. I liked the way it ended: "I'm a Saga tourer
baby, and I'm really really wild!"
written 23 August 2016
Orchestrated 13 to 21 March 2018
Vocals recorded 23 March 2018 - the day before Fuerteventura, while
Ellen was out shopping. Additional backing vocals recorded 20 October
Edited 30 October 2018 to 6 March 2019.
We can't talk -
This was an articulation of a realisation. It was the first of two
written very directly
in response to a family row. You could say it was letting off steam,
and none of it ever got said - it was written in the lyric, and that's
all; because (as the lyric says) "we can't talk any more". There are
very strong indications of ASD - "I'm communications poor" and
"something's always in my way" at the beginning. In the second verse we
get "What's communication for" (bar 19). In the third is "Is
communication war". Only at bar 53 do we get the first sign of anger:
"As you're laying down the law", which is returned to at the end ("it
seems I'm just a bore, and there's nothing on this earth from the
moment of my birth that to you has any worth", bars 86-93).The middle
section re-iterates the futility of communication ("I'll just think the
stuff instead", bar 73) though there is still some sign of a
questioning tone ("is my silence overdue", bar 77, and not say 'with my
silence overdue'). The overall message that comes across is that trying
to communicate is pointless and it's better not to even make the
attempt, which is how I felt at the time. I was still thinking about
this though, and there are further thoughts in Against the light
(further up this page, written two days later).
Lyric written 25 March 2018, in Fuerteventura, shortly after a family row.
Orchestrated 1 to 18 April 2018
Guitar recorded 15 April 2018.
Vocals recorded Sunday 29 April 2018, while tea was cooking downstairs.
Initially a backing vocal was assembled from parts of the main vocal
plus effects. Additional backing vocals were recorded 20 October 2018.
Edited 11 November 2018 to 6 March 2019.
The sorry song -
This has shades of ASD about it, though at the time I didn't know I had
it. It was triggered by something a work colleague said. The punchline
is at the end of each verse... for example "please stop snarling
'Great' and stop the marching up and down". There are a number of
mishaps detailed, which the narrator is apologising for, though I
didn't actually do all of them. The car getting scratched on the gate
mother many years ago. The fire was borrowed from a film. The grout was
probably the kitchen installer. The angel fish was
probably from school. The rest of it appears to have been the product
of my imagination. I had to look up Medusa - I was after the one with
the snakes that turned people to stone, hence "stop glaring like
Medusa" (bar 98). The middle section was written with Ellen in mind. I
had great fun with the spoken outro - I
particularly enjoyed "I wasn't to know your mother's father actually
was a circus clown". I imagined he'd probably made a derisive reference
to her grandfather being 'a bit of a clown' leading to her thinking
he'd insulted her grandfather's profession which she could have been
very proud of. As it fades you can just hear that it would have
been a great holiday if... and the missing bit that got faded was, I
hadn't driven to the airport on the wrong day (which did actually
happen, but not with Ellen).
written 23 October 2016
Orchestrated 21 May to 3 June 2018
Vocals recorded 3 June 2018. Additional backing vocals recorded 20 October 2018
Guitar recorded 6 and 10 June 2018
Edited 8 June 2018 to 6 March 2019
You hurt me -
This was a bad day at the office, which had been preceded by a long
difficult period. I felt very disillusioned at the time. I deliberately
recast it as though it was about a relationship, though in the spoken
vocals at the end you can hear references to work-related subjects.
There are also odd clues elsewhere, such as "propaganda rubbish" and
"all the hype on some fantastic place we're at". There are clear
indications of anger, including "you could never bloody see" (bar 11),
"how I've had it" (bar 19, and repeated at bar 21) and "I'm bored
stiff" (bar 23). There is further swearing later: "Your contorted,
mangled logic makes no bloody sense at all, as you never bloody listen"
(bars 26-29). At bar 49 is "I'll never forgive the things you did to
me": I thought at the time about whether I really wanted to say that,
and decided that I did. There's more anger at bar 58 ("your phoney
words"). Of all the lyrics I've
written in more than 13 years, this was probably the easiest to write -
as I remember it, it just came rattling out, more or less as a bitter,
angry stream of bile. There was only one line I
really had to think about. I wanted something incongruous, and my first
thought was a giraffe up a tree, until I realised that wouldn't fit the
rhythm of the lyric. I then tried to think of something large that
would never go up a tree, and my next thought was a hippopotamus, but
that was too complicated a word. Then I thought, well how about hippo
then? and that worked, so that was what it ended up being. My favourite
part of the lyric was, "I'm only still here from accident because / You
thought you could live with who you thought I was". This was a
reference to now distant days when I was an apprentice, and the company
wasn't sure whether to confirm my permanent employment after two years
there. "Tell me sorry, and goodbye" meant I wanted some expression of
regret and was thinking ahead to when I might be able to leave.
Lyric written 21 September 2016, at the height of troubles at work. Additional material was added around 8-9 April 2018.
Orchestrated 10 to 18 April 2018.
Vocals recorded 30 June 2018, while Ellen was getting her bike serviced. Additional backing vocals recorded 20 October 2018.
Edited 25 October 2018 to 23 January 2019.
What you could have done -
Another old lyric, and it's an oddly opaque one. I'm not sure even then
that I understood it. It starts in the third person, describing
somebody else; but then at bar 21 abruptly switches perspective by
aiming directly at the listener ("Your death is what you'll be" and not
'his death is what he'll be'). At bar 33 it goes back to third person -
"He trembled with the inner word" and not you (or I) trembled. At bar
51, it shifts again - "You really need to understand". This switching
back and forth of perspective continues, finally concluding again aimed
at the listener "In time you'll know what life will show is what you
could have done instead." This apparent attempt to comment on life at
large sounded as if it needed to go near the end of the collection, as
the last lyric in it. I wasn't sure about "His common sense was lodged
in his ear" - I thought it sounded like an earwig, but let it go. I
seem to recall having to hack this around a bit - I particularly liked
"Although he'd pondered life he'd found the meaning wasn't clear /
Though pointless led religion with the rest all drowned in beer".
Lyric written 26 December 2009
Orchestrated 14 January to 17 February 2018
Vocals recorded 17 June 2018, while Ellen was having an extended nap upstairs.
Guitar recorded 24 June 2018.
Edited 24 October 2018.
Heron's Ghyll -
This was written for the UK wedding. Like Kitty Coleman this was
written in sections to match the slides (my notes say five sections).
There are only four parts to this - harpsichord, violin, trumpet and
mandolin / guitar. The guitar is me, but it's loops.
Instrumental. Orchestrated 22 July to 4 August 2018
Edited 23 January to 6 March 2019.
I'd been doing the CAGED chord system in guitar lessons. Despite the
guitar teacher's claims, I haven't been able to find any previous piece
of music starting with the chords C-A-G-E-D in that order, which this
does. The false start was artificial - I added it in later. I wanted it
to sound as if a group of musicians had recorded it (which they really
didn't). I called it Optimism as a nod to the original project concept,
which had been a collection of optimistic songs. I kind of liked the
idea of something optimistic at the end.
Instrumental. Orchestrated 31 August to 19 November 2018.
Edited 24 January 2019.
Lyrics written (one each year unless otherwise stated):
2007, 2009 (4), 2011-14, 2016 (3), 2017, 2018 (3). The other five are