“….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
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
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
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
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.
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
© Lyrics by Steve McCarthy-Hunt 2016
*The picture was borrowed from another WordPress account – ReflectiveMaths – and is of Cribbs Causeway in Bristol.