In Another Life – lyrics and notes

End of Tears

From the very first look

On the very first day

For the very first time

I was blown away

To the end of tears

To the end of time

I know I’m yours

And the world is mine

I was lost in time

I was lost in space

Till I crossed a line

Now I know my place

To the end of tears …

They tell me I’m a fool to commit myself

They say I’ve drawn a losing hand

They tell me it’s a world of uncertainty

But not for me

I know where I stand

To the end of tears …


Norman: acoustic and lead guitar

Fi: electric and picking guitar

James: bass

John: keyboards

Suzy: drums

End of Tears started life in the early 2000s as a rather pretentious mystical ramble called The Dizzying Heights. I recorded a rough version of it but just wasn’t convinced it was saying anything purposeful. I read something where Leonard Cohen talked about a similar experience with the song that became I Can’t Forget. He had something overbearing and religious and decided to abandon it and just to write very simply about a ‘day in the life’. I decided on a simple pop love song and when I tried it with the band it worked well.  It was only later I realised the lyrics could also be interpreted as coming from someone joining a political or religious cult.

Green Lights All The Way

Well I’m the type of guy who don’t worry too much
I’m the type of guy with a golden touch
Golden touch every golden day
Green lights all the way

Heading down town,  some bar or another (oooh, jammy bugger)
I find myself talking to my long lost brother
Long lost brother who just got paid

Green lights all the way
Green lights all the way 
I wake up every morning and it’s always my day
Green lights all the way

Anything I buy I know damn well
Price is gonna shoot up on the day I sell
Could be Wall Street, could be just eBay
Green lights all the way

Now I’m bombing down the M9, a hundred and ten
Speed camera fails, just about then
Shit happens, what can I say?
Green lights all the way

When I hit the dance floor, I’m not shy
Going to find that woman with a look in her eye
Look in her eye that seems to say …
Green lights all the way


Norman: acoustic and picking guitar

Fi: electric rhythm guitar

James: bass

John: keyboards

Suzy: drums

John Farrell: guitar solo

This song pretty much wrote itself in the car on a late night drive home from somewhere on the other side of Edinburgh. I kept getting green lights – it was really as simple as that – and I started making up a blues about a guy who was just lucky.

A few days later I could still remember it (always a good sign) ; I set about ‘writing’ it properly but found I couldn’t think of enough lyrics for a full twelve-bar structure so I let laziness be my muse and just missed out the section that usually goes to the fourth in a blues. I recorded an electronic version of it which I quite like but the band version is the definitive one.  The ‘jammy bugger’ backing vocals emerged at a rehearsal, I can’t recall whose idea it was. We actually recorded another version with ‘jammy dodger’ as the ‘child-friendly’ version. Honestly.

The Ballad of Bob Dylan (2017)

He flew in from Miami with a bagful of bones
I was singing in the airport bar, got to pay those loans
Two sleepless eyes in an unmade face
He saw me at the bar, he said “This must be the place!”
Said he was looking for a room for the night
He said his name was Bob Dylan, I said “Ha ha, right!”

He spent the night at my place on a couple of chairs
In the morning he was up and off and down the stairs
I found him in the marketplace, busking for cash
Playing my guitar in a rough and ready kind of fashion
A voice like a hangover looking for a cure
I said you sound like Bob Dylan, he said “Why sure.”

Twenty miles away, high security hospital
They were looking for a guy who’d jumped the wall
They were looking in the streets they were looking in the zoo
No way of knowing what this kind of man might do
They only thing they’d got on him while he was away
Was he was into Bob Dylan in a big big way.

My friend with his busking made a couple of pounds
And with a couple of mine that got a couple of rounds
We sat there reminiscing back down the line
To the sixties, how we hadn’t recognized them at the time
When this guy burst in, grabbed my friend by the sleeve And says he’s Bob Dylan – I thought Man, time to leave

They got stuck into each other, I never saw the stranger’s face
Barman’s yelling at me Get these guys outta the place
Spitting out language, they were spitting out blood
It was like watching Cain and Abel, before the flood.
Got out to the street and the stranger was gone
My friend Bob Dylan just picked up his bag of bones

(This is what he told me …)

‘That guy there used to be a country western star
Who put down his roots and never wandered far
With his Jewish mama and five kids on the farm
It had been too damn long since he’d done any harm.
His wife cut his throat, he had to get born again
I got his job, he’s been after me since then.’

What about the bones? He said ‘I carry them with me
They remind me of a guy I knew in 63
He could have been a big shot, I told him back then
But he turned into a junkie – well I ain’t no judge of men.’
That was his tale, as the evening wore on
When I woke up in the night Bob Dylan had gone.

He’d taken my guitar and my cowboy boots
My country singing tie and my country singing suit
Left me his bones, and some kinda book
It might have been a Bible, I never got time to look
‘Cause they kicked down the door, they walked in real slow
They said ‘We’re looking for Bob Dylan’ I said ‘Whaddya know?’

These days I don’t work much, guess I’m past my prime
I’m growing me a beard, that passes the time
I’m living in the country but I’ll get across the wall
When I get a better grip of my short-term recall
Some days I feel bitter, some days I feel worse
I just write another song and play it to the nurse.


Norman: acoustic guitar

Fi: electric guitar

James: bass

John: keyboards

Suzy: drums

Phil Ramsay: trumpet

Why another version? The song had evolved a little over the 13 years since the Wolf version. Dave Watson made a great arrangement on that but it was largely MIDI and I’d often thought a band version that captured the live energy of the song would be worth doing one day. I’ve played the song with every band I’ve had, but the Heaven Sent, in particular John Lawrence, brought something new to the first couple of verses which we developed over the months of playing it. We’d often play it at Pressure Valve events where Phil would sit in on trumpet, so it was a no-brainer to ask him to join the recording, and he gives it even more drive.

Bamboo

You take a stick of bamboo
You take a stick of bamboo
You take a stick of bamboo and you
Drop it on the water
Oh, Hannah

River, oh river, she come down

We travel on the river
We travel on the river
We travel on the river
We travel on the water
Oh, Hanna

River, oh river, she come down

My home’s across the river
My home’s across the river
My home’s across the river
My home’s across the water
Oh, Hannah

River, oh river, she come down


Norman: acoustic and lead guitar

Fi: electric guitar

James: bass

John: keyboards

Suzy: djembe

Phil Ramsay: trumpet

The only cover on the album, I discovered this song on the second Rogue’s Gallery compilation of sea shanties, Son of Rogue’s Gallery, exquisitely sung and arranged by Beth Orton.  I assumed it was traditional, maybe from Africa or the Caribbean. On YouTube I found an odd calypso-like version by Dave van Ronk in the early 60s, but it wasn’t until pretty late in the development of the album that I discovered the song’s actually accredited to him as his composition and I had to get a licence to record it.  Who’s Hannah? No idea.

The Goodbye Song

It’s time to say goodbye, you know the reasons why
It was always going to end like this
Oh darling
Don’t make this harder than it is

Don’t try to stall for time, don’t try to change my mind
Let’s leave out the parting kiss
Oh darling
Don’t make this harder than it is

I got a sinking feeling, when you said that we needed to talk
I guess that was the signal it was time for me to walk

I still care for you but what else to do?
When the champagne’s lost its fizz
Oh darling
Don’t make this harder than it is

I didn’t come to argue, I just came to collect my stuff
No need to prolong it – don’t you think enough is enough?

I see you’re still upset but let’s not forget
It was never exactly bliss
Oh darling,
Don’t make this any harder than
It needs to be,
We’re in a prison but we’ve got the key
So let’s just slip out gracefully
Don’t make this harder than it is


Ged Brockie: rhythm and lead guitar
James: bass
Suzy: drums
John: piano

This song was probably inspired by my purchase of Diana Krall’s album of vintage jazz covers, Glad Rag Doll. I knew I couldn’t provide the jazz chording the song really needed, so Gerry asked Ged Brockie to do it. Ged laid the track down very quickly and even left me three solos to select from. John added piano that beautifully complemented the guitar. Now I’m getting guitar lessons from Ged!

In Another Life


You see that girl? In another life she’s with me.
But now it’s time to say goodbye

You see that house? In another life I live there.
But now it’s time to burn it down

Doo-doo-doo, woh

You see that screen? In another life I’m up there
But now it’s time to turn away.

Norman: acoustic guitar
Fi: electric guitar
Suzy: djembe, percussion
James: bass
John: keyboards
Phil Ramsay: trumpet

Parallel universes, or wish fulfilment? I don’t know. The verses are all real life wishes – a girl passed in the street in London, a farmhouse seen from a train in Yorkshire, a music programme on the TV in a pub. Followed by ‘grow up, wake up!’.  But speculating about the multiple universes theory makes it all sound a bit more grand, doesn’t it?

Love (As When)

As when a man
After a night of beer
Ascends the stairs
The unforgiving stairs

If such a man
Should stop for a moment
He’d let his pumping heart
Fill the walls with song

                I looked round
                I saw where I was
                I was in love     

As when  a man
With a bitter wound
Sees friends and family
As enemies

                I looked round
                I saw where I was
                I was in love     

Here in love,  you laugh like a baby girl
Here in love,  you’re sober like a cat
Here in love,  you can’t say what it is
If you say what it is, it isn’t that

                I looked round…

                Held there  by love
                Swept along by love
                Embraced by love
                Made strong by love
                Spilled empty by love
                Resplendent in love
                Spinning dizzy in love
                The stupid face of love
                The empty hand  of love

Where’s the old man gone?
He’s on the mountain side
Cloud-hidden
Whereabouts unknown


Norman: acoustic guitar, tongue drum (intro and outro)
Fi: electric guitar
James: bass
John: keyboards
Antoine Edery: drums

This song was recorded at Edinburgh College a year before the album project began, and was the first song I’d recorded with Gerry Callaghan. It harks back to a Zen retreat I had done in Wales.  Near the end I was exhausted and demoralised – Zen retreats do that to you in order to break down mental and emotional habits. I’d been working for the week on the koan ‘What is love?’ trying to come up with my answer. As I leaned on a fence overlooking the valley, the wind brushed my cheek and I suddenly thought of love not as a thing to be found, but as the context my life was held in – the love of family and friends, musicians and the wider world of generally good-hearted people. The song developed from some notes in my journal from that day, followed months later by the verses, which I guess try to tie the philosophical musings down to everyday life. 
The final stanza about the old man was adapted from a poem from the 9th century by Chia Tao, much loved by writer Alan Watts:

“I asked the boy beneath the pines.
He said: the Master’s gone alone
herb picking somewhere on the mount,
cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown.”

You Made Me Do It

I slashed our pictures, I trashed our flat
(you made me do it)
It’s not like me to do shit like that
(you made me do it)

Anything, under the sun
I’ll do whatever needs to be done
Just to keep you one more day
You made me this way

I walk the streets every night
(you made me do it)
It isn’t pretty, it isn’t right
(you made me do it)

What can I do, to make you wake up?
I’ve got too much poison in my cup
I’m a dog, a dog at bay
You made me this way

A reasonable man would just turn and walk away
But there’s no reasoning how it feels  to crawl through
One more day without you

I told your friends, your sister too
(you made me do it)
That I was coming, coming for you
(you made me do it)

Anything under the sun
I’ll do whatever needs to be done
In my defence, all I can say is
You made me this way


Norman: acoustic guitar
Fi: electric guitar
James: bass
John: keyboards
Suzy: drums
Phil Ramsay: trumpet

Hmmm. A nasty piece of work. Written for fun one morning. Later I realised I’d been drawing on unpleasant memories of a bout of jealousy in my very early 20s. Most people seem to agree I’m a ‘nice guy’ so I think a lot of my writing is just my shadow side getting its fair say.

Damn Grey

Damn this grey, damn this grey
Too much thinking, nothing to say

Damn this grey, and damn the way
It takes all you have to push it away

I wanna fight another day

Wires are down, lights cut out
The music goes round but nothing comes out

Damn this grey, and damn the way
It takes all you have to push it away

I wanna fight another day


Norman: acoustic guitar, bass, lead guitar
James: backing vocal
Fi: electric guitar
John: electric piano
Suzy: djembe, triangle

The oldest song on the album, dating back to the mid 1980s. I’ve never suffered from clinical depression, but at a few points I think I’ve come close enough to get a taste of it, and the song tries to express that. Grey, no colour, not even music helps.  For me, one of the highlights of the album is where the lead guitar and triangle enter together. Triangle! Who’d have thought?

Had

Had
I had a picture of you but I lost it
I remember you well, you were beautiful
And I had you but now you’re gone

I’ve lost a lot of things in this life
But I never thought I’d lose the one thing
That meant the most to me
But I guess that’s just my fate
To wait forever for a date
With the ghost that lives in my mind

Had
I had a memory of you but I faked it
From a photograph of someone else
And I had you but now you’re gone

I used to get lost in your eyes
Tell you that I’d never lie
But I lied, right now, about that
The truth seems to hurt me so
I never could let go
Of just how bad I treated you

Had
I had a dream of you whispering
Unclear words, you meant everything to me
But now you’re gone
Gone, gone
I had you but now you’re gone


Norman: acoustic guitar, lead guitar
Fi: electric guitar
James: bass
Suzy: drums
John: keyboards
Phil Ramsay: trumpet

This was written by John and his brother Andrew, and offered to the band when we were short of songs. We all found it great fun to play and, if the final version isn’t quite the country blues style John imagined, I think he’s forgiven us.

Until I Found You

The only song I sang was Yesterday
My only colour deepest blue
The only path I took was down, down, down
Until I found you

I thought my useful life was finished
And nothing to look forward to
With every day I was diminished
Until I found you

Until I
Until I
Until I found you

And I was living in my memories
But they could not see me through
I knew it had to come to them, them or me
That’s when I found you

I know you won’t be here forever
Nothing good can last for long
But in this age of pointless talking
You have given me my song

My only skill was in evasion
The only strategy I knew
I’d never heard, never tasted, never felt, never seen
Until I found you

Until I
Until I
Until I found you


Norman: acoustic guitar
Fi: electric guitar
John: keyboards
James: bass
Antoine Edery: drums

Like Love (As When) this was recorded before the album project started, but at home. The song dates back to 1996.  When it says ‘you’ it’s referring, not to a person, but to a band!  I was expressing my gratitude to my first Edinburgh band Hungry Ghosts, for lifting me out of a sense of being a total failure!