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.


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


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.