Fifty Bob


Officially he’s known as Simon
But he calls himself Si (with a ‘P’)
There’s froth at the corners of his mouth
He’s spent the last fortnight on E

His hair’s going grey at the temples
And his life’s going down on the skids
He just about pays the bills
Throws down bottles of pills
Just to keep up with the kids

What a life it would be
To freeze the frame in 1993
And never have to change a single thing…

Look who’s living the dream
Is it everything it’s cracked up to be?
Cut your hair, get a job
You could sell your soul for fifty bob
Staying clear of the law
So you can piss your last at 54
Isn’t that what people fought and died for?

Why does it have to be this way?
(You know what they say: tomorrow’s another day, but sometimes it feels like we’re living in yesterday)
Why does it have to be this way?
(The faces and places and names might have changed but the winners and losers are always the same)
Why does it have to be this way?
(Where have you been and where are you going? Is there pleasure in asking or pleasure in knowing?)
Why does it have to be this way perhaps tomorrow’s your lucky day?

Julie’s Monday is just like the last one
She’s chalking it off on the wall
She keeps her head down
‘Cos if she makes a sound
Maybe no-one will hear her at all

She spent a nice weekend in Brighton
Took some nice selfies there with the kids
She sent them to Si With a text saying ‘hi!’
But he was too busy feeding his id

What a life to be free
To pay your tax and VAT
And never have to deviate from a plan at all…

Are you living the dream
Is it everything it’s cracked up to be?
Go to school, get ahead in your job
You can buy your piece for fifty bob
Staying clear of the law So you can die in bed at 84
Isn’t that what people fought and died for?


I’ve spoken at dreary length about my struggle with writing lyrics in these pages, so I am going to give full credit to my mate and occasional collaborator Den for the opening verse – which he came up with a couple of years ago. I remember filing it away in my mental notebook for later use and here, just a couple of years later, is the result.

The main tune was actually in place ages ago. I’ve probably mentioned how much I love Madness (they are criminally underrated) and the third-person perspective of that opening verse put me in mind of a Madness character piece such as One Better Day or Mr Apples.

The verse/bridge came easily, but the chorus took a lot of chamfering to remove the rough edges. At one time it shifted pitch to a higher register. And then it seemed far too close to another song, but I could not for the life of me remember which one. And then finally it arrived in the form you hear today. I’m a little bit unsure about the recording of the counter melody backing harmonies, but I like the concept of them. Might revisit at some point. There’s a couple of vocal leaps throughout that I find difficult to sing so you might notice some wavering pitching if you have keen ears.

The ‘middle bit’ (decency prevents me from describing it as a middle 8, as there are actually 22 bars) was actually intended as an outro – but while recording an acoustic demo I lost my place and played it early in the song, only to discover that I liked the effect. Again, I have some issue with the recording of the harmonised backing parts and the spoken/rapped phrases, but I’m in a phase where I have a burning need to get onto the next song.

So: I’m pretty keen on this, although it’s way outside my comfort zone as a vocalist, arranger, and songwriter. I have a strong suspicion I’ll circle back around it in a few months for tweaks. For now, however, it’s chalked off my to-do list.