Narrow Escape

I’m having one of my periodic obsessions with Jake Thackray – a genius operating on the Ray Davis/David Bowie level, but very much an acquired taste that sadly too few people have ever acquired. Anyway, having been marinating in his mostly acoustic, jazz-inflected fingerpicking style for a few weeks, I picked up on an old lyrical idea I had knocking about the place and conjured up this little ditty, which is very much in his style, I think. Usual rules apply: video, lyrics (and a lot of them), boring bit where I talk about the song. Enjoy etc.

Lyrics

Where has Emma Thackeray gone?
I remember spreading her thighs
One day by the riverside
I looked up her skirt
Dear god help me…

Where is my Emma now?
I remember the look in her eyes
As they looked back into mine
One night in the toilets
In the back of the pub
We were the talk of the town god help us

So one night
By the pale blue light
Of the laptop
I look her up
And it’s no good!
She’s spreading racist memes
Causing a public scenes
I’m sorry to say
She lives in Spain with a right ugly bastard

Now you might you say that I’m unkind
And I guess that I am half inclined to agree
But I still think that it was a narrow escape for me

Where is Jennifer Sixsmith now?
I remember how she would tease
Promising me that she would please
And the night that she did?
Oh dear god help me…

Where is my Jenny now?
I finally got her knickers down
On the 117 down into town
She bought a ticket
But it was only one way
So I lent her a quid and she said she would help me…

So one night
By the flickering light
Of the laptop
I look her up
And I’m aghast
She’s married and run to fat
(Although she looks better for that)
She’s trying to sell some diet pills to me, of all people!

You could say that I’m unkind
And I guess that I am half inclined to agree
But it still feels like a narrow escape to me

Then I wonder what happened to me?
I remember having some hair
And mums saying: “you’d better beware
I don’t trust that lad”

(and quite correctly)

Where do I find myself now?
Hiding from a chequered past
The hair that I had didn’t last
And I snoop on the women
That I knew as girls
And I think about them when I’m in bed – god help me!

I wonder if
They look me up
And if they crease their brows
When they see me now
Now that I’m bald
A beard hides many things
I’ve cheated and lied, I’ve stolen and I’ve sinned so many times

Now you might say that they’re unkind
And obviously I’d be inclined to agree
But you could say that they had a narrow escape from me

Thoughts

I’m not a wonderful fingerpicker by any means, but shorn of a band to play with and increasingly interested in the effects of open strings and chord inversions I’ve written a few things recently that have stemmed from idle picking – this being the most… complete.

As already mentioned (if you were paying attention earlier) this is almost entirely inspired by Jake Thackray. Having taken some time to pick apart a few of his songs recently, I’ve sort of worked out the things about them that work for me – the odd twists of tempo and sudden leaps of key. The sort of thing that One Person With An Acoustic Guitar will often do. Hence this begins in a minor key, has a very ‘jazz’ style progression and a relatively complex (by my lowly standards) harmonic scheme that has, for example, an A#7 in what is basically an E minor/G major scheme. I think that’s what lends it a kind of tonal uncertainty which nicely matches the ambivalent sense of the lyrics.

Anyway, that kind of talk is way above my pay grade, as I know basically enough music theory to bamboozle a pub drunk. I guess all you need to know is that it isn’t really related to the standard sort of rock chord changes that clog up the hit parade.

I think I also mentioned that the lyrics almost came first in this case and I’m unusually pleased with them. I remember looking up an ex girlfriend on the Facebooks, as one does, and getting a little bit of pleasure at seeing that she hated her ex-husband and was now shilling for some kind of supplement company, foisting it on her increasingly exasperated friends as is the modern idiom.

And then, of course, on reflection I thought that the real loser here was, as ever, me. I am in no position to be throwing stones in the glasshouse, and yet there I was, getting all snoopy and superior about some lass I’d had an entanglement with a quarter of a century ago. I’m a huge cunt with massive moral failings, and occasionally need to remind myself of that fact. So although there’s a layer of jokery going on, it’s also sort of self-revealing and abrasive.

All of which proved to be fertile ground for lyricism. So much so that originally there was a fourth verse, but I found the jazz/folk feeling intensely irritating when stretched out for that long, and I thought I could make the point more succinctly. I changed the names to protect the innocent (including a little nod to old Jake in the name of the first verse’s subject) and that was that.

Performance wise, it’s all a bit of a shit show. The ‘quiet’ bit that precedes the chorus should really be slower than the rest of the song, but you can’t do that in Garage Band. And I couldn’t for the life of me work out keyboard parts, so I used auto play parts, which is shockingly lazy, but I think they just about work enough to add some interest to the backing. Fingerpicking’s not great, and nor is the singing.. But sometimes I prefer the sort of…. charm(?)… of these rough recordings, so mixed it, mastered it and here we are.

Blah blah blah blah. I do drone on don’t I? Why aren’t you outside with a frisbee and an ice cream. Go on… run along now. I’ll still be here when you get back. Tea’s at 5 though and it’s bath night.

Going Insane

Because sometimes it feels like it.

Lyrics

When you are younger
Full of colour and wonder
They tell you that you are insane
They make you straighten your hair out
Sit up and play right
Of else you will end up insane

The lunatics run the asylum
So lock all your windows and doors
I don’t know what goes on inside them
Except that they’re dangerous fools
I guess that what I’m trying to say
Is that they’re gonna try to fuck you anyway
It’s enough to make you fall to the floor
Curl up in a ball
And make yourself small
But it’s no answer at all

Take what you’re given
For the life that you’re living
Or else you will end up insane
If you don’t fill the hole
That they want you to fit in
They can always just say you’re insane

They claim that they’ve got all the answers
They claim that there’s only one way
And when they’re revealed to be chancers
They claim you’re the same
I guess that what they’re trying to say
Is that they’re going to get to fuck you either way
It’s so hard to keep your eye on the ball
When they make you feel small
And they don’t take your calls
And you’re left with fuck all

They say that they’ve locked up
The doors and the windows
To keep you from going insane
The outside is frightening
But look! The inside’s inviting
They want you to stay insane

Nobody knows where they’re going
But they still keep you lashed to the wheel
They say it’s considered opinion
That it’s you and not them who are fools
I think that what they’re trying to do
Is make sure that you don’t feel like you
Keeping you down in your place
And out of the race
Because of your face

They killed god and put themselves in his place
They killed people and then called them a race
And look out your window you can see it’s still there
A sky full of drones and yet nobody cares
Entertaining lies just to fill up your screens
Drowning out truth and what it might mean
Money is pouring straight out of the sky
Too much to share so people must die

I guess that what I’m trying to say
Is that they’re gonna try to fuck you anyway
It’s enough to make you fall to the floor
Curl up in a ball
And make yourself small
But it’s no answer at all

So now that you’re older
And if the world seems much colder
Be happy if you are insane

Thoughts

It’s been a gloomy week, chez Freud. Why? Who knows. For a long time now I’ve been persecuted by the black dog – but it’s certainly been worse over the last decade or more, during which time I’ve had a brain tumour and destroyed most of the network of friendship I’d built up as a support network over the preceding 25 years – damage that can’t be undone.

But while happier times on the personal front seem to be hoving into view, my underlying condition remains unaltered – and, frankly, the world is doing a shit job of helping out; what with its wars, atrocities, venality, general pestilence and people voting for Pringles as the nation’s favourite crisp.

Eventually, this sick-of-it-all, pox-on-everyone’s-house milieu was bound to make itself felt in the form of a song. And here it is.

Originally, I’d planned to make a full production of it with bass and drums and such, but when I heard back the raw backing track I thought: fuck it. Sometimes the song can stand on its own. It’s not polished. I stumble over the words. The guitar tracks are out of time with each other. My voice creaks and breaks everywhere… but I think I like the effect. I suppose this unvarnished effect, coupled with the waltzing, folksy feel and withering anger puts it in the ‘protest song’ genre.

As ever, there’s a chance I’ll revisit this later and buff it up – arguably the repetition is a verse too long (especially in the absence of other instrumentation) but for now it’s a pretty authentic expression of feeling so I’m going to go with it.

You still here? And reading this? What’s wrong with you? Go to the park and play frisbee or something. Love you.