Castles In The Sky

“We built this house on solid ground
But now its crumbling, tumbling down
Is nobody here even going to cry for help
As it slowly collapses in on itself….?”

©Hogarth/Rothery/Trewavas/Kelly/Mosely, from the album Marillion.Com, 1999

A working title so far, written today.

While there is no music for it yet [EDIT: There is now!], it appears to be another one of those slow jazz, almost bluesy kinds of songs that I seem to be getting more than my fair share of lately. I’m sure theres a rhyme or reason for that, but whatever it is, I cant figure it out yet. Jazz is not necessarily a natural genre for me to write in, but it does appear that with tracks like No Getting Over You, Doesnt Matter Now and Manhattan Lullaby that those that I get the words and the melodic ideas for together, do somehow seem to gravitate quickly and decisively towards the jazz world, which puzzles me greatly.

Whether it takes a totally different turn when the music gets written, I guess remains to be seen.

The concept came from a TV drama (for a change), but as usual, I’ve kind of subverted that.

So, the story is basically that you buy a house that you live in with someone you love and you go about turning it into a home. You put everything into it and when it goes wrong, the home just ends up being four walls in which two people live. The concept that I’ve used is that the home is the castle in the sky and when it falls down or is knocked down, you dust yourself down and you try and do it again and build another home somewhere else.

Except in this case, the angle is that after having seen three homes either knocked down or fallen down, some your fault, some not, you begin to question why you bother building anything, if all that is going to happen is that it is going to fall down or someone or some other force is going to destroy it.

So, he/she loses the desire to carry on building these castles in the sky with the concept of happy ever after and just doesnt build anything and leaves the ground (an obvious emotional metaphor) barren and bare instead. The double edged sword being while you dont have anywhere to call home, by the same token, the risks of seeing what you’ve poured your heart and soul into being demolished are also reduced.

It is semi-autobiographical; theres a whole separate conversation to be had about the more spiritual issues around that perspective, but this isnt really the place for that!

Oh, and while I’m at it, there is absolutely no connection with the 1996 Japanese anime film of the same name. Just to be clear on that, before anyone asks…

Castles In The Sky

V1/
We used to have a house
Made for just me and you
Poured our hearts and souls into
Making it for just us two
Until you knocked it down with that other guy
I couldnt admit it, but deep down I knew exactly why
And I walked away to build another castle in the sky

V2/
We used to have a house
A precious place for me and you
It was nothing perfect was it?
But it was home to me and to you
No choice but it knock it down when you left without goodbye
Couldnt stay there any more, too many memories just made me cry
And I drove away to build another castle in the sky

Solo/

V3/
I almost moved into your house
When I was almost in love with you
Could have made so much of it
But it was clear the dream would never come true
Too proud to go back when you said you’d changed your mind
The chance has gone but I still think about it all the time
And I left you to find another castle in the sky

V4/
Now I dont have a house
Only somewhere to rest my shoes
Cant live alone under the stars,
But maybe thats just what I should do
What isnt built cant be knocked down in the night
And it cant leave you haunted by the cold morning light
I will spend no more time building castles in the sky.

© Words & Music Steve McCarthy-Hunt, June 2016

Update

Its been a few weeks since my last update and activity on WordPress, so in addition to putting up the three new songs that appeared unprompted in the last 24 hours, I’ll bring you briefly up to date with the album project, now that the day job is no more, for the time being.

There is still some fluidity in the final track line ups for both albums and some will chop and change as they evolve. Particularly where the No Expectations album is concerned. London Road, less so. Album cover pictures have been sourced, the design is almost finished.

Recording technology/DAW-wise, things are pretty much ready. Both studio and portable Cubase rigs are ready with all the sounds I’m likely to need to build these songs and make them real.

Just a case of packing everything ready to go to the US for next weekend and the plan is to keep writing and start recording on Day 5. I’m hoping to do some more preparatory work during the five days that I have left before I fly out, particularly on the tracks that are already on tape in skeletal form. The journey to realising this project has truly started now and to paraphrase a line from Roger Waters, I heard the starting gun sure enough. I fired the thing nearly three months ago… *grin*

Oh and the other news is that even though I said last September that I wouldnt do it, I’ve decided to go to this year’s BASCA Monnow Valley Songwriting retreat. The change of mind came about for two reasons – one, the inspiration of being around other like minds is infectious and very conducive – and two, I’ve finally managed to talk one of my collaborators into going as well and I did promise him that if he did, so would I. So, in the middle of the recording and writing process, I’ll be taking four days out on another Busman’s Holiday in the beautiful countryside of Monmouth.

More as it happens. Stay tuned, folks.

Coins In A Fountain

“….Never let your conscience be harmful to your health
Let no neurotic impulse turn inward on itself
Just say that you were happy as happy would allow
And tell yourself that will have to do for now

Darlin’, it’s a life of surprises
It’s no help growing older or wiser
You don’t have to pretend you’re not cryin’
When it’s even in the way that you’re walkin’, baby talkin’….”

© Paddy McAloon, “A Life Of Surprises”, from the album “Protest Songs”, 1989

This is the last of three that came along at the same time. I supposed on reflection all of them have a common theme – wishing, hoping, looking for answers to be anywhere but here right now. Maybe thats a theme for another album, who’se to say…. *strokes chin*.

As to what it is about…. well, I’ve always been struck by the following question whenever I’ve been in one of the worlds beautiful cities where there has been fountains, there are always coins – either bright and shining or dull and tarnished and I cant help but think – “Who puts them there and why? How long ago? What happened?”

People don’t just follow this old superstition for no reason at all, no matter how blithely they may do it – every one of those coins is a wish, a hope, a prayer, a plea, maybe. Every single one of them. And when you look in any of the big, more famous fountains, there are hundreds of them. And then the workers come and clean them away… and then even more come back to take their place.

Every single one of those coins has a back story that no one else ever gives a moment’s thought to. What if those coins could tell their stories?

The “songs written, in a shoebox” line comes from a pastiche (written by devout fans who know the following writer very very well) of a potted history of one of a writer who has a command of imagery and words that I would kill for, Paddy MacAloon.

Legend has it, the young, barely known Paddy just wrote and wrote and wrote song after song after song… and kept all the finished lyrics in shoe boxes and thought nothing of it – when he and Thomas Dolby (Producer of the utterly gorgeous Steve McQueen album) finally met, the pastiche likens the occasion to Dolby stumbling on Tutenkhamen’s tomb, a somewhat chaotic treasure trove of wonderment.

The Producer in me, however amateur, can really relate to this – sitting there talking to a writer you barely know but have an inkling about, asking “this looks interesting – how does this one go?” and as soon as you hear it for the first time, the mind starts to conjure arrangements, string parts, the whole thing, and in your minds eye, you can picture the finished track.

And when you think what you heard in the beginning was good, then the writer starts getting emboldened and pulls out the more personal stuff, the stuff they keep closer to their chests… and you just end up with with multiple eargasms. I’ve been there and bought the T-shirt and know exactly how it feels.

If that really happened to Thomas Dolby, hearing tracks like Moving The River for the first time, just voice and acoustic guitar… my god, what I would have traded to have been a fly on the wall on that day, just for that moment… Limbs and vital bodily organs, thats what.

Anyway. I digress. While I don’t have shoeboxes, I do have my boxfile, although it doesnt quite have the same romanticism and neither is it full…. yet. *wry grin*.

But, although this might sound a bit cheesy (so shoot me.. *grin*), my pages of lyrics are my coins and the boxfile is the fountain.

“The world might know you’re ready, but only if you’re still around/Show me where to look, but don’t tell me what to find” comes from the notion that so many of us think that we’re not quite ready to do something, to achieve something, or even to have a go – expecting that somehow the world will give us a sign when we’re really ready for it – and maybe it will.

But you still have to do so much of the searching for yourself to find the answers. Being ready is as much about starting the journey under your own steam as it is finding the grail that you search for – even though you might not know what exactly it is that is going to bring you the most joy. And, too many of us end our days in this realm with the final thoughts of “…but I’m not ready… I’ve still got too much to do…”

The middle 8 came from a Facebook post where there were a number of six word stories. Yes, only six words. Its amazing how people can sum up such powerful images in so few words.

So, lines like “Bought roses home… Key didnt fit”, ‘I jumped… then changed my mind” and “Its our anniversary… table for one” I had to borrow and adapt for their sheer poignancy and imagery. I’ll never know the original authors or their reasons for summoning this imagery, but I’m glad they did. Using words to paint pictures and tell stories, however condensed is like manna from heaven to me.

Again…. yep, you guessed it… No music yet. Its a work in progress.

Coins In The Fountain

V1/
Ruined on an escape from the real world
Counting coins in a fountain in a square
Dozens of wishes, glinting in the water
Dreams, hopes and promises from heaven on earth knows where

V2/
Songs written, left in a shoebox, waiting to be found
The world might know you’re ready, but only if you’re still around
Show me where to look, but don’t tell me what to find
This all just has to stop now, just leave me somewhere for someone to find

CH/
All that I needed from the start was you
The only thing worse than getting it wrong
Was getting it so right that theres now too much to lose
I cant drag myself away, but I know, I know that I should
My words are the house that I live in
And all I needed was you.

Solo/

CH/

M8/
Table for one by the window on your anniversary
You jumped in, then changed your mind
Brought you roses home and then I watch as you threw away the key

Solo/

© Lyrics by Steve McCarthy-Hunt 2016

*The picture was borrowed from another WordPress account – ReflectiveMaths – and is of Cribbs Causeway in Bristol.

All That You Wanted

“Give me a story and get me a bed
Give me possessions
And love luck and money they go to my head
Like wildfire

It’s good to have something to live for you’ll find
Live for tomorrow
Live for a job and a perfect behind
High time

And did you know desire’s a terrible thing
The worst that I could find
And did you know desire’s a terrible thing
But I rely on mine

And it’s my life
And it’s my life
And though I can’t be sure what I want any more
It will come to me later”

© Wheeler/Gavurin/Brindley/Hannan “Can’t Be Sure“, from the album “Reading, Writing & Arithmetic”, 1989 

Another one of the three that came along at once on a June evening, like late running London buses. The difficult bit with this one was getting it started, which is why Verse 1 is completely autobiographical. From being stuck, a first step has to be taken and the first step was “well, what is going on around you, right now? What are you doing, right this second? Write what you see…” … so I did. I wrote what I saw from my lounge.

The fourth line “loose fitting life tightens with time” was one that I have borrowed from a professional writer friend of mine, Raymond Daley – and I’ll gladly credit him with that line too, because I think its brilliant and says so much in so few words. Unlike me.

The third line is a tad more unusual and is an obtuse David Gilmour reference. I remember seeing a programme about him and his life and family and his upbringing – and also a subsequent interview with him and his wife, Polly Samson from this year’s Hay Festival – which, not to put too fine a point on it, not really knowing how to express emotions, except through his fingers as a musician, a talent that he has taken to virtuosity. Its almost as if it has become a standing “in-joke”, although somewhat barbed, between him and Polly that all his emotions are in his fingertips and nowhere else. Whereas, I on the other hand, have no problem expressing emotion at all, all except in one way, which for a musician is a bit of an Achilles heel.. through my fingers. Hence, “wishing my emotions into my fingers”.

I suppose the common theme is that the subject is on his/her own, surrounded by empty rooms that they’ve dumped old memories into and locked the door on, rather than facing them (not usually a good way of dealing with problems) and is still holding a torch for and had given themselves over to this controlling external force – but had suspicions all along that something that seemed too good to be true invariably is. And, as the coda implies, the person is looking for answers and thinks he/she can see them – but never really understood what the question was.

Again, no music for this one yet. But, it is still evolving.

All That You Wanted

V1/
Staring out of the window in the dead of the night
Leaves blowing in the dark breeze, dancing under the streetlights
Singing without words, wishing my emotions into my fingers
This loose fitting life tightened with time and the heartache still lingers

V2/
Love isn’t the only empty room on the ground floor
Theres hundreds more in the house, all closed behind locked doors
I don’t know what I should be sorry for, what else needs to be said
But you stuck a bookmark in my heart and chose to walk away instead

CH/
You’ve got to loosen your grip, trust that the pieces still fit
Nothing left in this house of love, just a sweet memory of it
You’re beautiful, brave and vulnerable, all the things I loved about you
But all that you wanted, it wasn’t exactly true…

V3/
You promised me you’d follow, like a shadow that’d never leave
But you danced around like unfinished business, under the stars, below the trees
Word gets out so easy these days, no matter how hard you try
And I preferred the sting of the cold hard truth to the lovers kiss of a lie

CH/

M8/
What ever happened when the well of good days ran dry?
Premonitions of leaving, but never knowing when or why?

Solo/

(CODA over Verse chords/ to fade)
You left me searching so hard
You left me searching for answers to questions I cant find
You left me searching so hard
You left me searching for answers to questions I cant find

© Lyrics by Steve McCarthy-Hunt 2016

©picture by Jungeman’s Bucket (Photobucket)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burning Bridges

“Looking beyond the embers of bridges glowing behind us
To a glimpse of how green it was on the other side
Steps taken forwards but sleepwalking back again
Dragged by the force of some inner tide”

© David Gilmour/Polly Samson, High Hopes, from the Album The Division Bell, 1994

This song came about as one of three that all pretty much came out on the same evening from a collection of lines that I had written in my old grey notebook (which is now full, no more space to write anything more!) which were too good not to use.

They were drawn from a variety of sources, mostly the usual suspects (too much TV and social media commentary). But in my defence, I’m happy with the imagery that I’ve used.
It didnt necessarily start either with a particular concept around it at the time of writing, but the song is about the aftermath of an infidelity; with the singer’s POV being that as much as he/she doesnt want to let the other person go, that the trust has been so eroded that they dont see any other real choice – hence the analogy of someone being stranded on the wrong side of a burned bridge, when they were not the ones who started the blaze… regardless of how much they may have contributed to the other person playing with matches in the first place though…

But I digress. No music for this one yet.. but it is still evolving.

Burning Bridges

V1/
You read to me pages of your soul, one night at a time
But you must let me let you go, just never ask me why
All I wanted was to be buried under your landslide
I don’t expect you to understand
Burning bridges, but not from a fire from my hand

V2/
Lonely bottles of wine, shivering empty in the dark hall
They’re like you and I, separated only by such a thin, thin wall
Don’t just dream about your future, you’re right in the middle of it all
And you’ll never learn to get up, if you don’t learn how to fall

CH/
What you do speaks louder than what you say
And where theres a will, theres always someone in the way
Pick up your tears off the floor
Walk away sweetheart
You don’t live here anymore

M8/
This is the best I can do for you now
Never thought I’d find out who or where or how
Whatever you do, its time to face it on your own
You burned your bridges and ended up on your own

CH

Solo/

(Verse chords to fade)

© Lyrics by Steve McCarthy-Hunt 2016