One of my settings of verse by Housman. There’s an instrumental version on Soundcloud with overdubbed bouzouki and mountain dulcimer, but in this case it’s just a one-take version with vocal and guitar.
A tale of three dysfunctional people. Actually, some of my best songs are about dysfunctional people, but I don’t want to think too hard about what that signifies. As it has a very simple chord sequence (almost literally a three-chord trick) the demo version includes a second acoustic guitar. (There’s an earlier version here where the second guitar is electric rather than acoustic. )
Years on from the explosion
Standing in the aftermath
She waits for the three minute warning
Runs the bath
And pulls the chain on another miracle
Waits (though the post is always late)
For letters which never seem to arrive
And are never worth the wait
Still the sun shines on bravely
The wind blows kisses to the see
Gulls waltz to the rhythm of the waves
And she writes
‘I wish you could be here with me’
Skips through the morning like a postcard
Spends the afternoon alone
Carries out the day to order
One eye on her horoscope
And one ear to the phone
Sometimes she wakes in someone else’s bed
Before he wakes, she’s gone
Leaving him to wonder why
She couldn’t let the evening die alone
Still he lights a cigarette
Soon remembers to forget
But he wonders where his whisky went
Wonders why his day is empty
She has dropped her life on postcards
Through a letterbox in distant parts
But the tale was shunted into disused sidings
And the unintended bombsites of his heart
And he writes “At last I’ve found a woman
Who’s noticed that I’m me,
And not just a dispenser
Of Scotch and sympathy
And maybe she’s The One
Or maybe I’m just marking time
But at least she holds her liquor
And she doesn’t whine…”
And he writes
“Go your way, taking with you
A year or two of my life
That’s all I have to offer
But don’t forget to write…”
I’ve played ‘Born In The Country’ – Judy Roderick’s rewrite of Richard (Rabbit) Brown’s ‘James Alley Blues’ – for at least four decades. Usually for other singers, though in recent years I’ve been doing a more personalized solo version which might turn up here eventually. Today it struck me that it would be nice to do the pre-Roderick version.
This is much closer to the version Brown recorded in 1927, though I’ve almost certainly misremembered the melody and made no attempt to duplicate the guitar part. I guess I should dig out the Victor recording, but I quite like it like this.
There is a studio recording of this which is more rock ‘n’ roll, but I haven’t really done it in public since the disbanding of the Flying Piglets (yeah, I know, but the name wasn’t my idea…) so I thought I’d try a new arrangement. Needs work, but I think it will be OK.
I woke up with my mind’s eye facing your direction:
I looked hard and I saw you needed help.
You’re choking on paper and tape and legislation,
But you can’t produce one thing to help yourself.
Paper city at the heart of a paper empire:
You’ve got strings to pull, you’ve got wires all over the earth.
Sky-climbing parasite, concrete and paper jungle,
You’ve got money to burn, but I know you’d rather freeze to death.
You’ve got stacks of stocks and shares and bonds:
You’ve got telephone and telex,databank and dateline too.
But you can’t produce as much as one lead pencil,
Or a bar of soap, or a rubber band to pull you through.
The media twitch at the flash of a freemason’s handshake:
Speeches are made and the punters gather round;
Paper politicians and faceless company men,
Taking the pulse of an ailing paper pound.
I bet you know just what you’re worth on paper:
When the market crumbles, what will that do to you?
A lot of cold people don’t own the earth they lie in:
Will you be all right in your green-lined paper tomb?
Paper city at the heart of a bankrupt empire:
Your towers get higher as your assets hit new lows.
Nose-diving parasite, I wouldn’t mind you dying,
But you’ll take so many with you when you go.
We recorded a version of this back in the ’80s for which I liked the arrangement, but was never quite happy with the vocals. Finally I have a version where the guitar part and vocal seem to work. Now I just have to think about the additional instruments (acoustic lead, 12-string, and electric slide on the original version). And maybe merging it with ‘Letting Go‘