02 Learning Notes

The songwriting becomes a little more prolific. I had a room on my own, fairly isolated from the rest of the house I was staying in, so I could bash the guitar without anyone minding much. Also recording, into a small but robust cassette record (with a brilliant built in condenser microphone). There were the usual fantasies about ‘making it’ but there was a deeper need to record for posterity or whatever. I would have forgotten them otherwise.

1. Party

This is largely true. Somehow I got invited to a party. I am not good at parties, never being able to judge when to small talk or when to go a bit deeper, never knowing when to move on, afraid of being stuck in the corner with no-one to talk to. I don’t remember her name or what she looked like and I doubt if we ever met again. But we connected and I enjoyed the conversation. As those doleful words ‘Is she the one?’ were forming in my head, she was gone.

2. You and me

A rueful look book at my ‘childhood sweetheart’. With not much of a love-life I was wondering why I’d let go what I once had. Technically a descending bass line on the acoustic was about as much as I could manage (and still is). When this was recorded at a local studio I particularly liked Chris’s honky-tonk piano.

3. I knew a girl

For a local show. I like the chord sequence and the harking back to innocent times.

4. Funereal

About myself largely. It was taken up enthusiastically by the band and became a sort of ironic anthem. I think I was getting at the most people’s ambiguity about death: sorrow and ‘glad it isn’t me'. It works a lot better with electricity and drums than a bedside acoustic.

5. Fresh as a daisy

From my bedroom window I saw students going by, some of whom were freshers. A little nursery rhyme, made ironic by my being a fresher myself (albeit a postgraduate one).

6. If only I could

Another gazing out of the window song. From my work room I could see a blonde lab assistant (or so I guessed) going about her work. She wasn’t greatly attractive but more than enough for me.

7. Never forget you

This is a love song, written when I needed to say something about being strong in the face of separation. But it also had an in-built sense of failure. Which is typical. The truth was that due to my inhibitions the relationship didn’t really have a chance anyway. It’s much easier conducting a relationship from afar than actually having to commit yourself in any way.

8. Never let you go

I’m always in two minds about this one. Intended as a reflection on clinging on to what you’ve got, I never convinced myself that the repetition worked. But I liked the middle bits and am particularly fond of the coda – hence it's here rather than quietly buried.

9. Never written a song

1) Never start a song title with ‘never’.

2) I have written a song.

10. Not enough

Another half song saved from (even more) obscurity because I liked the chorus. New verses have been added.

11. Blessed are they

This is a rarity. The words come from an edition of a church parish magazine, ‘found amongst the papers of…’. I don’t know who wrote the words but they obviously made an impression. And still do: the writer finding grace in the trials of growing old.

12. Sundays

On a soapbox. Shot through with hypocrisy as well as I am more than familiar with routine and don’t exactly welcome strangers into my midst. The song illustrates my tensions with the church: can’t live with it, can’t live without it. How can/should the spirit be organised?

13. The song with no title

Once again I tackle the fear of complacency, not that I had a lot to be complacent about. But I hated being shut out - as a child the tag of ‘cry baby’ meant plenty of exclusion. Not wanting to be left out means a sensitivity to not leaving others out. There’s little worse than ‘you can’t be in our club’ mentality. It’s probably the root of all evil.

14. Sarah's song

I went on a holiday with friends and it became the first occasion that Chris and I played and wrote together. So it was an important moment (I don’t think the others thought so – they got fed up with us shutting ourselves away, especially for the recording on the last day). Although there were collaborations this one was written by me. The chorus was taken from the instructions for opening a milk carton and the whole thing was based upon our friend’s motherly concern about the current cup of tea situation.

15. Pump out song

Written on the same holiday it was a little lavatory humour based on the practical reality of waste disposal on a boat. The all male band loved it and it was a nice 12 bar structure so it was played live and recorded.

16. Boats that pass

Very poor quality sound because this is the actual recording on the boat. I'm playing rhythm and Chris lead. There are only two chords and these intermingle as the imaginary boats pass and are reversed as they recede.