Without You

“Take the last train to Clarksville
Now I must hang up the phone
I can’t hear you in this noisy railroad station all alone
I’m feeling low
Oh, no, no, no
Oh, no, no, no
And I don’t know if I’m ever coming home…”
©Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart, 1966

Another track that I thought had been written up on here, but alas not. And, lyrically, it is one that I’m very proud of so in reality, it should have been put up a long time ago.

It was written on a Saturday afternoon at the 2015 BASCA Summer Songwriting Retreat at Monnow Valley with a very talented collaborator called Jess Slowen. Great piano player and a fine voice and also hailing from my home town of Coventry.

It came about as part of an assignment, as a lot of the songs written on these retreats were, from a tip sheet. We saw something referring to what turned out to be like a German version of The Shires but a bit darker and rockier and more…. well, for want of a better phrase teutonic. With darker hair and beards and stuff, LOL.

Anyway…. we basically built a scenario or a story around an idea, essentially storyboarding it like a short film; concept being that the camera follows a woman leaving a house and getting into a taxi. Nobody knows why. Who she is leaving, why she is leaving, where she is going, only that she is leaving a house with a small suitcase and thinking about her decision, whether it was the right one. The camera follows her to a station where she keeps on looking behind her, but going on her way, checking her phone, getting on her train, finding her seat and then looking out of the window as the train pulls away, again, wondering if she’s done the right thing.

Camera then cuts away and comes towards her from behind through the vestibule of the carriage, but we dont see who until the camera pulls back and reveals the person she left who couldnt bear to let her go and knew his place was beside her.

Sorry, I should have given a spoiler alert there. What I like about this is the imagery and the wordplay, how it suggests urgency but without hurrying, how it is observational without being cluttered, how it lets the listener into the mind of the protagonist without being overly dramatic and how it is a complete three minute story.

Most of all though, its that second chorus. It keeps the same vocal melody as the first one, but without blowing my own trumpet, I think its one of the best lyrics I’ve ever written as it says whats going on and what the protagonist is thinking in the clearest, most direct terms. I love it to bits. Jess’s piano part, her vocal melody and her voice brings it properly to life beautifully.

The middle eight incidentally, was meant to be sung by a man, but at the time was a part I wasnt able to deliver and another collaborator of mine wasnt able to put down. So, Jess sang it instead. Its the part where he realises he’s let the main character go without much of a fight and has been thinking more about himself rather than the decision she had faced. Luckily, he comes to his senses in time.

Without You

Verse1/
Caught the last cab to the station
Didnt want to leave, but you already knew that
Trying to deny my isolation, but its no consolation
That you’re not here with me

Ch/
One last look at this place I can see every face
Without you
One more dream, so it seems I’m the one who will leave
Without you

Without you

Verse 2/
Take my chance of a lifetime, give me a lifeline
You know you wanted to.
Now I’ve got time for reflection, to pray for intervention like I never knew

Ch/
One last look at my phone while I stand on my on my own
Without you
One more wish left to use and you’re what I would choose,
Just you…

Middle8
I made a promise and I couldnt face a single day without you here
When I saw your taxi pull away, the rest was clear
No reason to hide
I need you by my side

Verse 3/
I look at my reflection in the window, where will my dreams go without you?
Trying not to think about tomorrow, another day will follow, just like they always do
I close my eyes and I wonder why I can feel you here
I always knew I could count on your love to make everything clear…

©Music by Jess Slowen, Lyrics by Steve McCarthy-Hunt, 2015

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Escape From The Shadows

“What a fool I’ve been
Didn’t get to him in time
What’s been happening?
Its so hard to sleep at night…
Its so hard to sleep at night..
Hard to sleep at night

I don’t like to read the news
D’you know anything I’m going through

And she calls…”

© Mark Hollis, 1982, from the Talk Talk album “The Party’s Over”

Now I’ve got to the point in the KOAS project where I’m down to the last three songs to have lead vocals recorded, I checked the blog as I have taken to using the lyrics on the blog on an ipad as a cue when recording – I thought I had added this one quite some time ago, but it turns out that I had not.

Theres a bit of a complicated story behind this one. My long time collaborator and inspiration, Robert Pearce, had a set of lyrics and a piece of music which had originally been meant for each other back in the 1990s, but he found they didn’t work together in the way he wanted them to.

Fast forward to 2014/15 and my other collaborative partner, Dave Barnes took away Robert’s lyrics, wrote a whole new set of chords to go with it and recorded a great original track based on those words; I on the other hand remember hearing the music that Robert had got – mainly guitar, a Korg M3R being triggered by a MIDI guitar and a drum machine track and liked the structure of it and the possibilities that it gave and decided that I had to do something with it. So, a year or two back now (cant remember exactly when, but I think it was back in 2015), I decided to write some words for it.

Now, this song is in quite an advanced state in the KOAS project and my original vision for it was a sort of Talk Talk/New Order (circa True Faith) kind of feel – a sort of four on the floor, quite synth-y, but with jangly guitars and the like. As a lot of these things do, it has somewhat morphed since then. Since then, I have bought Maschine, which has a lot of options around drum tracks and use of samples and also trying to find the right synth voices was quite challenging. There is the mixture of old Roland Jupiter 8V and Oberheim and Fairlight sounds with newer Steinberg VST, Heavyocity’s Vocalise  and Native Instruments FM8 synth voices too, plus four different rhythm tracks (Toontrack’s Superior Drummer and EZDrummer2 Electronica, NI’s Maschine,  and Steinberg’s Groove Agent 4), so that side of it is rather beefy, if I can describe it that way.

So, if anything, it has gone further away from 1980’s New Order and more towards a 1990’s/early noughties club track – I guess like a Talk Talk meets The Orb kind of thing, which is a long long long way away from my comfort zone. Vocally, there have been some BV’s – usual synthetic female oohs and aah’s – that have been put down and the original intention was for it to have that Bernard Sumner kind of lead vocal. I’m not sure that’s quite how it is going to turn out when it comes to recording it for real in the next few days though. Chances are, it may take another different turn.

It is going to be challenging to mix though, that I do know because there is so much going on. The track count on this so far is up at 70, which by my standards is monstrously high and I can imagine a lot of Group and VCA tracks being used  – not to mention a whole pile of automation – to keep it under control. But, all that arrangement has been worked out already.

To get back on track and talk about the song’s words though: Its yet another one that has at its core the themes of abandonment and escape, running away, moving on, starting again. Fake Red Flowers refers to three silk poppies that I’ve had in a vase for the last half decade. A lot of the rest is thematic wordplay.

The exception being the last two lines of the chorus: The Hold Me Tight… line refers to clinging onto the memory of something precious that you know you ought to let go of, but its the only thing you have left of them – if you let it go, thats it, theres no going  back and once its gone its gone. Its a metaphor for the healing process – as a current meme says, if you can tell your story without choking up, you’ve healed. But in order to do so, you have to let that thing go that has a power over you, no matter how beautiful it was and how much comfort it gave you in dark times and no matter how much you still think you need it, like a comfort blanket. This leads onto the I Cant Escape While You’re Still Around line, which is its natural pay-off and roughly translates as: I dont want to let the memory of you go, I still love you more than you can ever imagine, but if I’m to survive, if I’m to move on, no matter how much it breaks my heart all over again, I have to do it. So, just hold me, one last time, under the stars and then… its time for you to leave.


Escape From The Shadows

v1/
Every time we kiss goodbye
The words still sound the same
Fake red flowers and darkened hours
Make me wish I’d never came

v2/
Moving On, Autumn sun,
Old Man Time says walk away
A strangers touch led to bridges burned
No matter what was said

CH/
And the lights come on to take you home
Bitter pill hid a truth I couldnt know
A promise costs while time is lost
And shadows fall to ground
Just hold me tight on this moonlit night
I cant escape while you’re still around…

Middle 8/
Another place, a different time
This vision always comes around
Hollow faces, old embraces,
The book of love comes unbound…

v3/
By and by, sunlight dries
Tears on sodden ground
Promise broken, soft words spoken
Haunted in a dark hour

v4/
Moving on, to winter sun
Time has come to fly away
A strangers touch cost me far too much
And left a bitter taste

Chorus/
© Lyrics by Steve McCarthy-Hunt, 2015, Music by Robert Pearce, 1997

 

 

 

Unspoken Words

How can I try to explain,
When I do he turns away again
It’s always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk
I was ordered to listen

Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

© Cat Stevens, from the album “Tea For The Tillerman“, 1970

These lyrics just fell together in about 20 minutes back in early September 2016, from what I remember. And then, the lyrics just ended up in the box file and nothing has happened to them since then, until I recently took a fresh look at them and thought damn, this is a really good lyric.

I cant describe it any other way. A conversation led to it just toppling out where five minutes previous, it hadn’t existed and I had no notion of it coming from anywhere.

I had been spending a writing and recording weekend with one of my dearest friends and closest collaborators and the conversation came round to probably something that I only understand tangentially; I have been a son, but I’ve never been a father and I never will be. I didnt have much of a relationship with my own father, being estranged from him for 40 years before being reconciled two months before his untimely passing in 2012 but the perspective I’d never seen was that which my friend was going through; that is not only watching what was happening to his own father as he was getting older but how he was dealing with the responsibility at the same time of being a father himself to his only son, a job for which I’ve heard so many of my friends say that no handbook has ever been written – you can only do what you believe at the time is right and if you allow yourself to worry about whether you’re doing something right, or what you did ten or fifteen years ago, whether it was the right things – it will eventually eat away at you and you spend years questioning your own judgement with the benefit of hindsight. And that was before he began to think about what kind of a world was he leaving for his own flesh and blood… How much, if at all can he protect his son from the world he and his peers have made without much of a care, compared to the world his own father and his peers left for him, which he previously never gave a thought to, until now? I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like.

So, thats what led to these lyrics. A father in his autumn or winter years talking in reassuring tones to his son who may, or may not comprehend the wisdom that is being imparted to him in genuine sincerity at the time they are being said.

These were not words I heard from my own father, nor my friend from his, not that I am aware of, anyway.

They are words that I guess, if I were ever to become a father that I would like to say to a son of mine, but thats not going to happen.  Its one of those subject matters that is tricky for an artist to take on from another writer, I guess. I haven’t written any music to it yet, but as I develop as a lyricist I have learned to recognise particularly good words that say all the things that I want them to – so this one will be recorded and when the KOAS project is eventually complete, this one will see the light of day. In quite what form, I don’t know yet. But I’m very happy with these lyrics and what they say and how they say it. It deserves to take on a life of its own and go on its own journey.

A few notes on individual lines; “you’ll learn to fit in where you’re meant to stand out“, I think I heard the idea for this from an online life coach. So many of us spend so much time trying to be something or someone we’re not meant to be, in somewhere we’re not meant to be, instead of just finding our place in the universe where we’re meant to stand out and shine and be all we’re meant to be. “All of those old records and songs I dont understand“; my own father was a damn good jazz musician and I am not the worlds biggest fan of the genre to put it mildly. Tracks that would have meant the world to him, I just couldnt get a handle on… but I’m now starting to learn and see them through the eyes he gave me. “Little Man, I’m so endlessly proud of you“… Not something I ever heard said to me, but I’ve seen it said so many times in the mediums of film and TV; I guess every son is always going to be a little man to their mother or father in one way or another, no matter how old they grow up to be. I guess they are words that I would have liked to have heard when I was younger but now, when I hear them its almost as if its a little too little a little too late to be absorbed as anything more than a platitude. Again, I’m kinda putting words into my own mouth that I’ll never say, and they might be slightly cheesy and schmaltzy, while wearing their usual scarf of darkness, but hey… sue me. It gives it the effect to the song that I need it to. You’re doing good, kid. No matter what it is, so long as you do it from your heart, I’ll always be proud of you.

All of the things you are will never be undone“; we all write our own life story, our own legacy and everyones life is an inspiration to someone. What we do with this short time on earth, the legacy we leave behind, is what defines us. The goal is not to live forever: its to create something that will.

The rest of the words, I dont think need any explanation.

Unspoken Words

v1/
Dont you worry, son
None of this is your fault
Just try to be honest about all the things in life you want
I know that this is not what you want to find out
But you’ll learn in good time to fit in where you’re meant to stand out

v2/
Playing all of those old records and songs I dont understand
And there are others that are familiar like the back of my hand
Dont wait for that song that may never come
Because all of the things you are will never be undone

Ch/
Ah, it all comes down to this, this day near the end
I’m not just your father, I’ll always be your friend
Little man, I’m so endlessly proud of you
You remembered to yourself you should always be true
But I know it was never easy

v3/
Pressure seems so relentless, you cant catch your breath
You feel chained to a treadmill, walking in a wheel without end
It seems no one’s listening when it makes you cry out
But dont you forget son, this is not what your life is all about

Ch/

Mid8/
Time will come for your children to raise little ones of their own
Dont forget that they could reap the seeds of all the things you’ve sown
Please tell me son, when the weight of the world gets too much for you to bear
Just close your eyes, think of me for a moment and I’ll promise I’ll be there

Ch/

© Lyrics by Steve McCarthy-Hunt 2016

Elia

This one came about originally (as the more regular readers may recall) from a track that was going to be called The Last Dance, which was conceived some time back in 2013. And while I had an idea for the music, what I didnt have was any way of really making that real. So far, so me. *grin*

So, on the trip to Long Island last year one of the  main objectives was to try and talk to my uncle Angel to see if he could help me find the right music to go with it, given that he had far more exposure to the kind of music that I was hoping to develop. What transpired was that he and a very good friend of my late father, a vibraphone player and close friend called Paul Oves (who played with my father in a New York function band called The Jewels in the early/mid 60s and who had passed away some time ago) had written a track that had stayed as an instrumental because they hadnt developed any lyrics for it.

The story that Angel told me goes that they (by whom I mean the band Intensive Heat – who were akin to an NYC based Toto who deep down aspired to be Earth Wind & Fire) were rehearsing the track in Atlantic studios in New York City (I understand they were using some downtime in the very late hours) some time in 1975, in the company of a then barely known engineer who who subsequently went on to achieve great things with Foreigner (and lots more big artists since then!), called Jimmy Douglass and while they were playing around with this particular track and into the control room walks the great Arif Mardin (check out his discography, its staggering – suffice to say “George Benson” or “Aretha Franklin” or “The Bee Gees“. He’s a record producing legend, sadly no longer with us) who stands behind Jimmy with a growing smile on his face, nodding in approval as the track goes on.

The end of the track comes along and Arif pushes the talkback button with a big smile on his face – “Hey guys, that was great!” to which Mr Oves on Vibes turns, looks up at one of the world’s most pre-eminent record producers and drawls (possibly a little too smugly)

“…yeah…. I know”

… at which point, Angel recalls that the smile melts away from Arif Mardin’s face as fast as it appeared and in pretty short order he says goodbye to Jimmy, he turns and walks towards the control room door and leaves. Never to be seen in the company of Intensive Heat again.

Talk about how life can turn on a sixpence.

It is so easy to look back and say if only, if but for just a little humility and a thank you that their lives may all have been different. But, these things happen and these are decisions that we have to live with. When Angel told me the story, my chin was on my chest and the question “how did Paul make it out of the city alive after that?” sprang to my mind, but… I wasnt there. Its not my place to judge and history always wears 20/20 spectacles.

So…. for the best part of nearly 40 years since that day, the piece of music recorded that day as a basic two track instrumental, known as Elia has lain on a cassette in my uncle Angel’s house in Long Island and had hardly ever been heard by anyone outside the band.

Until the day I turn up asking for help in putting together The Last Dance. Angel played me a ProTools recorded wav file of this recording and its simplicity (only three chords in the entire thing, pretty much) was exactly what I was looking for, without having to make any kind of structural change at all. I was bowled over thinking:

“….s**t… talk about synchronicity.. how strange is this.. a forty year old track somehow is a perfect fit for a song I couldnt find music for, for the last 4 years….?!”

Anyway. Over the course of the next 10 days, I recorded ten guitar track takes with Angel and put together the backbone of the track and then on my return to the UK started to build the rest of it.

And, as it built, two things came to my mind. One, it was still different enough from The Last Dance for that track to still have another chance to be built anyway, in its own right and secondly, I had a lot of lyrics floating around that could bring Elia a life of its own.

So, I elected to write some lyrics specifically for Elia so that she could come to life after nearly 40 years and these were written to the tune itself, as opposed to my usual way of working which is lyrics first, music later. And here it is.

Musically, the track is in a very very advanced state (just needs vox), is true to the original but with my own bridge sections and the only thing that has been kept musically is Angel’s guitar parts. Everything else is yours truly. I hope it will appear on either the London Road album or quite possibly No Expectations.


Elia

Verse1/
Elia
Do you still remember our favourite song
Those summer nights are gone
And I’m left wondering just where I belong
We stood on every rooftop
And fell in love in every town
And the wonders of the world mean nothing
Without you around

Verse2/
Oooh, Elia
I miss you so much, so much now you’re gone
Was there nothing I could do to make you want to stay?
Ooh, these city streets are so empty without your love around
And all that I wanted was just one more day
Just one more day…

Ch/
Oh my Elia,
Oh you’re like a bird on the wing,
I got you under my skin
And I dont know where you stop and I begin
Oh, my Elia,
My sweet Elia,

Bridge/

Verse3/
Oh Elia,
Sing your song like a bird flying home
Just remember, you’re never on your own
Now you’re gone I’m left feeling blue
I’ll always remember my last dance with you
My last dance with you.

Ch/

Bridge/Coda

© 2016 Lyrics by Steve McCarthy-Hunt
    Music by Angel Paniagua/Paul Oves/Steve McCarthy-Hunt

The featured picture is a publicity shot of the band Intensive Heat and is used courtesy of my cousin, Cynthia Paniagua.

 

 

 

 

 

Five Years

“…And now it’s all over,
You’ve paid your money and you’ve taken your choice
And I don’t know if we’ll ever meet again
But…. I just wanted you to know
I remember every…. single… thing….”

© Cocker/Banks/Mackey/Senior/Doyle/Webber, “Disco 2000” from the album Different Class, 1995.

Just before I make a return to my day job for a while in order to sustain my procrastinated passion (thanks Dad, at least I know where I got it from), I’ve decided to rewrite the lyrics to The Wishing Game.

While I was relatively content with them as they were, I wasn’t convinced that my collaborative partner Robert’s music really suited them and had thought for a while that I could find something better for the minimalist melody that he came up with. Well, that was nearly three months ago and it has taken a while for inspiration to arrive.

In fairness there has been quite a lot going on around here what with devoting time to getting back into work before I end up in penury, giving an old friend somewhere to run to temporarily when his world and his routine came to a grinding halt and the re-emergence, albeit somewhat temporarily, of someone important from my recent past who I never thought I would see again. And it is that person who has inspired these lyrics.

The goal for this track is still to be a song that has a feel very much like George Michael’s A Different Corner – although its three times as long nearly (weighing in at 5 minutes plus)  it is quite minimal in its sonic soundscape, giving the lyrics room to breathe but with a simple softer melody that couches lyrics that are anything but soft. Reflective, yes. Somewhat regretful, yes. Maybe some might say harsh in places. Well, maybe they are.

To explain: Five Years is basically about how I felt about someone right now as they unexpectedly came back in and almost immediately out again of my life, right this moment as I type, five years after one of my most important anniversaries  to the day. Its kind of akin to burning a bridge that someone is in the middle of rebuilding, even though you never asked them to – and wishing that you didn’t have to, but knowing that deep down, there was not really any other option.

As the lyric implies, despite all that has happened, ultimately I was still the wrong man for her, for a plethora of reasons. And, whenever we touched or kissed, I knew it deep down, as well. Some things you can’t hide, no matter how well you think you can.  Some of the lines I had already, but most of them have come about over the last 2-3 weeks in isolation, but in the knowledge that they’d fit together when the time came, because they were borne from the same subject matter about the same person.

Anyway. For a change, I digress. The track itself, is almost finished. Melody, bassline, rhythm part, arrangement, everything bar the vocals and some other overdubs (maybe synth or sax or strings). Will it make it onto one of the KOAS project albums? Arguably it will. Its likely to be on No Expectations instead of Never Be Mine as the closing track.

 

Five Years

v1/
So now we can’t even talk on the telephone
How did I become so jaded with you?
Maybe I’ve spent too much time here on my own
To think I needed anybody new

So now you reached out, right out of the blue
Could you tell that I’d been thinking about you?
I should have known some things were too good to be true…

v2/
Its nearly five years since I caught your eye
Wouldn’t have made it, if it wasn’t for you
Learning to live with watching my best friend die
And I was lost but you knew just what to do…

But when you said you can’t do this any more
I didn’t fight it, I just walked out of your door
Did you really think I’d ever come back for more…?

Bridge/
Why are you back, just like a long lost pet?
Did you think I’m as good as you were ever going to get
But you tell yourself you haven’t sunk that low just yet….

All of those battles fought over old ground
You spend my time and drink my money all over the town
We think we’ve both changed, but is that really true?
I’m still the wrong man for you.

Solo/

Bridge/
Skin warm like gold, but a cold heart just like steel
I fell out of your hands and under your heels
And just like the last time you said it was over
You thought I’d still be thinking of you.

v3/
Maybe its my turn to decide
Not to follow you so blind this time
Maybe its you who should be left alone wondering why…

Maybe it proves I’m right not to trust you yet
Because when I kiss you, its clear that you’re not pissed enough yet
How do you churn me up inside when I thought there was nothing left…?

Bridge/
Tomorrow its five years since I last looked in her eyes
Life wasn’t easy, but at least I know I tried
Despite the wounds and all the sacrifice
Through it all I still think about you…

Solo/Coda/

©Words by Steve McCarthy-Hunt, Music by Robert Pearce, 2016

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

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

This Time

“Behind our eyes,
Calendars of our lives.
Circled with compromise.
Sweet bird of time and change.
You must be laughing, up on your feathers laughing.
Golden in time.
Cities under the sand.
Power ideals and beauty fading in everyone’s hand.
Give me some time, I feel like I’m losing mine
Out here on this horizon line with the earth spinning and the sky forever rushing.
No one knows they can never get that close.
Guesses at most.”

© Joni Mitchell, from the album The Hissing Of Summer Lawns, 1975

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while and recently been ruminating on adding it to the KOAS project list. Some of you may remember from previous posts about the Monnow Valley BASCA Songwriting Retreats that this was a track that was developed between myself, Nicky Kelly and Alan West on the Saturday of that weekend.

Given that we couldnt really find anything on the tipsheets that we’d been given that we could settle on, we decided to go off-menu. I remember suggesting a form of protest song, along the lines of Both Sides Now. My long term collaborator Robert Pearce and I had come up with something based on an idea of writing a protest song or an environmental song that wasnt preachy. Thats a whole other story and we did put together some really good lyrics for that, but thats on the backburner for now.

This Time, on the other hand, is a song where I contributed about 50% of the lyrics and most of the 2nd and 3rd verse. So, its a proper 3 way collaboration. The music is all Nicky and Alan who are far better musicians than I will ever be. I think the interpretations that we have of it and the visions that we have of this song are quite different. The vision that I’ve got, production-wise is almost like a Joni Mitchell song being sung/destroyed by Bob Geldorf, or even better, a young Edward Tudorpole – I think it needs that punky angry-ness, but without losing control.

It could be argued that it might contain a lot of lyrical cliches and is maybe a bit too clever for its own good. Well, for what its worth, those buzzwords are deliberately used as lyrical hooks for precisely that reason. I think its the closest I’m ever likely to get to a full-on protest song. Certainly for now anyway. I’ve always seen music as an escape from politics, not a means of demanding and pushing for social change. I know a lot of people, including artists that I’ve admired, do like doing just that, but its not me I’m afraid.

This Time

v1/
Dirt tracks buried away
by hot tarmac’d motorways
Old boots that tread old roots
They’re not getting you where you wanna be
Cobbled streets now paved away
Starry night leads to foggy days
Old trees? Tear ’em down
To build another new town…

CH/
This Time is getting me down
The ladder’s pulled up, I’m left on the ground
The low hanging fruit has already gone
Nothing left for me but the morning sun…

v2/
Your messages are hard to trust
Theres nothing to gain from speaking up
TV begs you to heed its call
On a thousand channels of nothing at all.
Broken windows you leave behind
Splintered doorways hide selfish minds
You left your children a loaded gun
When are you gonna think about what you’ve done?

CH/

Mid 8/
The change is coming, no matter what you say
Your chance to care is fading away
You sit on your thrones in your kingdoms of rust
I’ll be the one to clean up your dust…

Ch ad lib to fade.

© 2015 Music by Nicky Kelly & Alan West, lyrics by Steve McCarthy-Hunt, Nicky Kelly & Alan West.