Sing a Sad Song

Lyrics

When I was born – oh forty years ago
We had no money and we had no place to go
The beer was weak and the gruel was thin
The guy on the church door wouldn’t even let us in

Tell yourself that you’re sadder than me
But you ain’t seen the things I’ve seen
I’m not you and you’re not me
You can sing a sad song
But I can sing a sad song too

The devil came knocking on my door
I said “please spare me ‘cos I’m so poor”
He said “I’ll trade you one soul for yours”
And you can’t really blame me for trading my soul for yours

Tell yourself that you’re sadder than me
But you ain’t seen the things I’ve seen
I’m not you and you’re not me
You can sing a sad song
But I can sing a sad song too

When I was low you left me there
Rope in my hand and standing on a chair
You washed your hands and I guess that’s fair
But don’t you turn around and tell me that you care

Tell yourself that you’re sadder than me
But you ain’t seen the things I’ve seen
I’m not you and you’re not me
You can sing a sad song
But I can sing a sad song too

Notes

While the blues is now a universal idiom, and the old question “can white men sing the blues?” answered in the affirmative long ago, I still feel a bit daft as an overweight white man from Yorkshire singing the blues…. but here we are.

I’d tuned the guitar to an open E for slide playing. It’s not my usual thing, so I’m never 100% sure where to put my fingers. Normally, I let my fingers explore the fretboard in search of the kind of unexpected open chords that have sparked many songs for me over the years.

On this occasion though I started playing in a more classically bluesy vein and the tune came pretty naturally. I’m not 100% sold on the guitar part, but I’ll hand it over to my tame blues guitarist who (I hope) will scatter it with some cigar box magic and make it approximately 44% more legit.

As ever, the tune was thing…. the lyrics quite another. I started with a kind of gentle mockery of the idea of the long-suffering blues man (a little ironic distance seems fitting as my woman hasn’t done left me, and I’ve got money and a house and a car etc). Initially, I had an idea for a kind of comedy take with escalating tales of hardship – like Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch, but once I’d started it became clear that there was a genuine bit of feeling poking through.

The third verse in particular has some particularly personal resonance. It’s hard to keep yourself out of your music. Or at least it is for me…. read it however you like. I’ve done bad shit, and been on the end of a deserved amount of bad juju… but at the same time part of me also feels abandoned and betrayed…

I’ve been off the live music scene for a while, so my voice has softened up and the chorus is at the very top of my register. I’m treating this recording as more of a sketch than a finished piece and will probably redo it with vocals top of the agenda, as the cracks on those high notes are a bit too much. I also deliberately recorded it ‘rough’ – overloading the mic for a bit of extra verisimilitude and I quite like the effect.

And that concludes this week’s news from the world of whatever world I’m in.