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Behind The Song

New Song: You Know What We Need

The strongest person is the one who knows they’re weak
EveryONE Is Broken aka The basement is where the real church gets done
Download     mp3 demo     Chords (pdf)

This song was frankensteined together during FAWM 2016 from various song corpses. I had two sets of lyrics called 12 Step Religion and God Doesn’t Love Me Anymore and I bolted them to a chorus called You Know What We Need (written in 2012) and Major 6th Melody (written in 2011) became the verse. The only problem was both the chorus and the verse came with their own pre-choruses attached and neither one fitted the opposite section. But the pre choruses did work together. So this song has two – the “strongest person” pre-chorus and the “lost sheep” pre chorus.

I really like the way the lyrics just lazily run on especially the ‘Joseph’ part that just carries on into the pre-chorus. I also enjoyed the key changes I put in the bridge. I’d love to hear a children’s choir singing that one day…

Jesus in the basement working through the 12 steps
While up in the sanctuary someone records a worship CD
Down in the basement, Gloria is telling us when
She last took a drink and John says, “I think
The strongest person is the one who knows they’re weak”
And Davey, who keeps shaking and white-knuckling his seat, whispers
“Lost sheep don’t want to be found,
No matter how sweet Amazing Grace sounds

But you know what we need
You know what we need
You know what we really need”

Jesus in the basement gives away his last cigarette
To the girl with no teeth who’s been clean for three weeks
While in the basement Joseph confesses he slept
With a guy for some coke but he still ends with a joke
About a nun that had some point that I forget.
I feel the fear and panic slowly coiling round my chest.
When the prodigal son makes it home
Can he live with himself and the damage he’s done?

You know what we need…

God doesn’t love us,
God doesn’t love us any more,
God doesn’t love us,
God doesn’t love us any less than before

You know what we need…

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Behind The Song

New Song: That Takes The Biscuit

We never stop to ask why we fight over crumbs
Musical meme-based morality is the new rock and roll
Download     mp3 demo     Chords (pdf)

This is definitely the first internet meme that I’ve set to music, but hey! You can find inspiration anywhere, right? It was originally going to form the bridge section of Refugee With An iPhone, but as that song became more serious and personal it seemed to tonally out of place. So, soon after finishing that song, I wrote this tune based on the rising chord progression you find in Here, There And Everywhere, I’m Only Sleeping and Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone. At the end I kept stumbling over the words and adding random soundalikes in there and decided to MAKE IT A ‘THING’.

A banker and a worker and a refugee
All siting down for a cup of tea
A plate of jammy dodgers and custard creams
Occupies the table in between

The banker he starts grabbing bickies with both hands
Filling up his pockets as fast as he can
And when there’s just one biscuit left on the plate
Whispers to the worker “I should warn you mate,

Watch out the refugee is gonna steal your biscuit!
Watch out the refugee is gonna take what’s yours
Watch out the refugee is gonna steal your biscuit!
Somebody should pass a law

They say the economy is buckling under the strain
Too much pressure on the houses, the schools and the drains
The media fuels our anger and it keeps us dumb
So we never stop to ask why we fight over crumbs.
Do immigrants have such expensive diseases
That they brought the NHS to it’s knees? It’s
The politician’s plan but we don’t realise it
You can’t take your country back once they privatise it

Watch out the refugees are gonna steal your biscuits!
Watch out the refugees are gonna take what’s yours
Watch out the refugees are gonna steal your biscuits!
You know that’s what they came here for

Watch out, watch out, watch out, watch out etc

Watch out the refugee is gonna steal your biscuit!
Watch out the refugee is gonna steal your biscuit!
Watch out the refugee is gonna grease your trumpet!
Watch out the BBC is gonna screen your chick flick!
Watch out the novice priest is gonna heal your slipped disc!
Watch out cos Ce Lo Green is gonna need your drumkit!
Watch out the quick brew teabag will congeal your breakfast!
Watch out the SNP is gonna veto brexit!

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Behind The Song

New Demo: Finger Puppet Man

He’s already wearing four
No big deal…
Download     mp3 demo     Chords (pdf)

Finger Puppet Man is obviously nothing more than a joke set to music. I wrote it during FAWM 2013 but the melody was naggingly familiar. I asked the FAWM community to help me identify it, and even though the only original lyrics I could remember were “dooby dooby dum dum”, eventually a fellow songwriter’s Dad recognised it as the theme song from the 1958 film Tom Thumb written by Peggy Lee and sung by Russ Tamblyn. So once I was definively rumbled I had to change it. It took 3 years but here it is.

The weird ‘backwards’ sound just before the vocals enter is my sweaty arm unpeeling itself from the front of the guitar twice (the guitar is double tracked). Gross. I know.

This song contains fingerpicking – which I hardly ever do (I hate the way many acoustic guitarists mindlessly fill up all available space with it) and the minor iv chord (Fm in the key of C) – which I mindlessly use ALL the time.

Musically the sweet melody with mumbly, whispery delivery reminds me of Nottingham band We Show Up On Radar (check em out)

Finger puppet man
Trying to choose the best 
puppet that he can
In the finger puppet store
But he’s not sure
So insecure

Finger puppet wife
Husband asks her if she thinks that it’s alright
He’s already wearing four
On his brightly coloured paw
But he puts on one more
And says,

“Does my thumb look big in this?
Does my thumb look big in this?
Does my thumb look big in this?”
And she says “No.
You look fine.
Can we go?”

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Behind The Song

New Demo: Sweet Baby Hand Grenade

Pretty little weapon of mass distraction
The explosive truth about the Birds and Bees
Download     mp3 demo     Capo Chords in D (pdf)     Chords in F (pdf)     Lyrics (pdf)

I wrote this song in 2013 and it instantly became one of my most popular songs, but that just made it harder to capturing on tape (well digital tape… OK ones and zeroes). Usually recording something tells you if it’s any good but the warm live response created self imposed pressure to make the recording outstanding. As you can hear I finally managed to shake that off and produce this very ordinary demo.

The initial inspiration was the birth of my eldest daughter. She was sleeping when we first brought her home and as she snoozed in her car seat on the floor in front our sofa my wife and I stared at her in shock. What do we do NOW? The next few years turned our lives upside down. Three more children followed, each with their own challenges, but nothing matched that initial terror of having a little human invade your life.

A few years later I overheard a guitarist in a local band say his partner was expecting their first child but he “wasn’t going to let that change anything.” I laughed like the veteran on his fourth tour of ‘Nam, listening to the bravado of a raw recruit.

A few years after that I heard Chris Robley of the CD Baby DIY Musicians Podcast had his first child. I said having a baby is like someone taking a hand grenade and throwing it into the middle of your life (in a good way).

And then suddenly ‘songwriting magic’ and here we are.

Musically I was thinking Elvis Costello goes a little country.

Heart-broke grin on the face of my lover
“30 weeks left if you wanna run for cover”
We must have pulled the pin one Saturday night
But how can something so small wreck your whole life?

Nothing ever stays the same
Didn’t know how much you’d change me
You’re the best mistake I ever made
My sweet baby hand grenade

Sweet baby hand grenade
Sweet baby hand grenade
Look at all of the mess you made
My sweet baby hand grenade

My best friend said his wife is six months gone
Now her biological clock (tick tock!) – tickin’ like a time bomb
She’s calling last orders at the milky bar
Now it’s time to show the world what kind of man you are

Nothing ever stays the same
You’ve no idea how much they’ll change you
But the best mistake I ever made
Was my sweet baby hand grenade

Sweet baby hand grenade
Sweet baby hand grenade
Look at all the mess I made
With my sweet baby hand grenade

Pretty little weapon of mass distraction
So cute I can’t resist this tiny terrorist
Though we got no guarantees and no instructions
There’s nothing I would trade for my sweet baby hand grenade

Sweet baby hand grenade
Sweet baby hand grenade
Look at all of the mess you made
My sweet baby

Sweet baby hand grenade
You make me smile like an unexpected key change
Look at all of the mess we made
My sweet baby hand grenade

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Behind The Song

Funeral Dirge For A Dead Ex-Girlfriend

Joe Satriani Pays His Last Respects
Download     mp3 demo

When I was 15 I had a vivid dream that my recently ex’d ex-girlfriend died. Being a highly strung youth it upset me. But 5 years later when I wrote a depressing foot dragging instrumental I was over it (and her) and decided Funeral Dirge For A Dead Ex-Girlfriend would be a fun name.

In 1989, smack in the middle of the neoclassical virtuoso shredder boom (Flying In A Blue Dream had just come out), I was stuck in an extremely lightweight rock band, but listening to anyone with big hair and a floyd rose. Drummer Mark Nelson and I spent extra hours in a rehearsal room in Grimsby (where the band was based) jamming through ideas for this and another tune called Disney X.

Later, out of the band and back in my hometown of Sutton In Ashfield, I worked with virtuoso bassist Phill Danks on the tracks that would make up my solo guitar debut album (including the original instrumental version of Shang Ding Hong Song called Verbal Gerbils). And then, just like that, I put my prospective shredding career on indefinite hold.

Funeral Dirge finally got an airing in 2005 when I arranged it for the Advanced Guitar Group I taught on a Saturday morning at Brunts School in Mansfield. For the next two years various budding metalheads (including Sarah Kerry and Joel Peat, I think) wrestled with release bends and chromatic melodies. When I left the kids even performed it in my honour along with a medley of Tequila, Mr T‘s Mother, Treat Her Right and The A Team Theme that they shoehorned my name into. And it was as bizarre as it sounds.

So in 2016, looking backwards to go forward, I recorded the first demo, 11 years after the first public performance and 27 years after I wrote it.

I really do have to pull my finger out.

Musically I can definitely hear the influence of Joe Satriani on the main melody (it’s in the same ballpark as Hill Of The Skull) and solo (3:41 and 3:55), Randy Rhoads-era Ozzy (clean dissonant arpeggios 2:04), Cliff Burton-era Metallica (lead bass at 2:20), Steve Vai (wide intervals in the solo at 4:00) and maybe a bit of Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring peeking through at 2:40.

The main point of interest is how many keys it goes through from Am and A harmonic minor to Cm and Ebm, Em and finally F#m. There are some interesting harmonies to parallel 2nds in the chromatic melody (2:50) and parallel 4ths shortly after (3:02). In the solo I play a lot of 7th (3:31) an idea I got from Izaak Wierman.

The inspiration for the pre chorus came when I realised in A harmonic minor you could have F major and F minor – but if you only heard the power chord you would assume it was major. I liked playing with that assumption.

The freak out right at the end (5:26) was from the guide track which I’d recorded before I dialled in the ritardando (slow down). It sounded so gnarly I flew a rough mix back into the finished session.

Samples

Rain – rain.mp3 by soundman9826
Bell – S: 111013 – Sirmione – Kirchenlaeuten.WAV by aarom
Snare drum roll – snare – Premier Artist Maple – loose – buzz roll x3.wav by bigjoedrummer
All from freesound.org under a Creative Commons license
Laughter from Flight Of The Bumble Bee (Spike Jones), Sunday’s On The Way (Take 6) and Moonglow (Chet Atkins and Les Paul).

Meaning I got to jam with two legends of the guitar on this track!

Categories
Behind The Song

NEW SONG: The Kindest Person I Know

Your mercy burnt bright in the darkness
She’s a keeper
Download     mp3 demo      Chords (pdf)      Lyrics (pdf)

I’ve been married 23 years. Want to know my secret? I found an amazing woman and married her. Easy. One of her many good points is she’s so kind. And I think kindness is underrated today. I was going to write her a note saying as much but the note turned into a poem and the poem turned into a song. The bridges betray the poetic origin as they’re just verses sung to a different tune but I think (hope) the words do enough of the heavy lifting for it not to matter. I think the image of love going to the vanishing point might appear in The Message translation of the Bible.

Having written the song on acoustic guitar with top E dropped to D (and then everything dropped a semitone to suit my vocal range) I didn’t know to how to arrange it. So I used it as a lab experiment on my menagerie of instruments. I dug out the uke and cymbala and violined (volume swelled) a fuzz bass (through a Mesa Boogie Sans Amp). I also used my sister’s old accordion and my godfather’s alpine zither. I’ll never be able to play the latter properly but, holy moley! What incredible bass notes you can get.

I was drowning the day that you found me
Embraced in death’s dark undertow
You held onto me for dear life, dear
You’re the kindest person I know

Never once did I wear out your patience
Or your flame of compassion burn low
Your mercy burnt bright in the darkness
You’re the kindest person I know

There is love that can touch the horizon
That will follow wherever I go
Your care keeping pace to the vanishing point
The kindest person I know

Through channels of sister and motherhood
To strangers both highborn and low
To creatures and children and elderly
You’re the kindest person I know

Wouldn’t trade for a much younger model
I don’t care how fast newer ones go
They don’t make em now like they used to
You’re the kindest person I know

There is love that descends many fathoms
To the depths that can crush a man’s bones
Where the air and the light cannot reach me at all
Your kindness will reach me I know

From what boundless underground river
Does the life-giving fountainhead flow
The source of your stream undiscovered
I bless for the kindness you show
You’re the kindest person I know

 

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Behind The Song Nottingham Sounds

Race To The Top

Stunning MCs like taser shocks, I got a jet pack flow, I’m taking off
A breathless hip hop sprint to the finish line. A collaboration between The Afterdark Movement and Deeper Than Forever ft. Bru-C and Kayfficial

Download      mp3 demo

Behind The Song

All credit to Afterdark’s Bru-C for the concept of trading ever shortening lines with DTF’s Kayfficial. Afterdark sax player Ed Reisner came up with the initial riffs and chord sequence. I suggested stretching out the chord sequence for the bridge to build tension and made a few tweaks here and there. Former pupil Sarah Kerry produced and played live drums and Nina Smith added and arranged backing vocals.

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Behind The Song

NEW SONG: Kiss Me Beneath The Mistletoe

Let’s both be bad tonight
A Christmas romance with hidden depths
Download     mp3 demo     Chords (pdf)     Lyrics (pdf)

I grew up on the beautiful wordsmithery of Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin as mediated through the golden voice of Ella Fitzgerald, so this kind of thing was bound to come out at some point. Musically it started as something like a victorian hymn but once I hit on the ascending major scale of the chorus I boarded the jazz train and never looked back. In the verses I’m obviously trying to channel Burt Bacharach.

The initial idea, based round the concept of the chorus having a completely different meaning when set up by verse 2, has been hanging around my notebook forever, but it’s only recently that I had the guts (and ability) to turn it into a song. It’s one of the few songs that I’ve written entirely on the piano.

Kiss me beneath the mistletoe
Come press your lips to mine
You’ve been a good girl all year long
Let’s both be bad tonight
Don’t you want to go down this road?
See where a kiss may lead?
Head over heels? Perhaps. Who knows?
Let’s start with a kiss under the mistletoe

The end of a year
I’m drinkin’ and singin’ with people from work
She’s standing so near
Her perfume is drawing me in
Her breath so warm on my skin
She presses close to me whisp’ring…

Kiss me beneath the mistletoe
Come press your lips to mine
I’ve been a good girl all year long
Let’s both be bad tonight
Don’t you want to go down this road?
See where a kiss may lead?
Head over heels? Perhaps. Who knows?
Let’s start with a kiss under the mistletoe

I leave her unkissed
Make some excuse and go home to my wife
My true christmas gift
I find her unwrapping herself
Mistletoe on her belt
She presses close to me whisp’ring…

Kiss me beneath the mistletoe
Come press your lips to mine
I’ve been a good girl all year long
Let’s both be bad tonight
Don’t you want to go down this road?
See where a kiss may lead?
Head over heels? Perhaps. Who knows?
Let’s start with a kiss under the mistletoe

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Behind The Song

NEW SONG: Refugee With An iPhone

Safer to be where the bombs come from than the city on which they’re falling
A short walk in another man’s shoes
Download     mp3 demo     Chords (pdf)     Lyrics (pdf)

I can’t remember who it was (probably just as well) or where it was, but I remember seeing the news reports and someone said to me “if they’re poor refugees, how come they all have iPhones?” I’ve had some contact with refugees so I tried to answer their question. But I think I’ve answered it better here. Verse 3 is true though it’s hard to be totally literal in summing up a life in 8 lines.

Refugee with an iPhone, where are you all coming from?
I’ve a sneaking suspicion you’re pulling some kind of con
Refugee with an iPhone, iPhone that’s newer than mine
Would you jump the queue while I’m stuck here standing in line?

I had a house and a car and a job
Before the secret police, the riots and bombs
But it’s safer to be where the bombs all come from
Than the city on which they are falling
So I gave a man all the money I had
In exchange for a space in the back of a van
And all that I had in a bag on my back
Was my phone and a few bits of clothing

Refugee with an iPhone, where are you all coming from?
I’ve a sneaking suspicion something’s gone horribly wrong
Refugee with an iPhone, they say you have terrorist links
There’s no room on the lifeboats, if we take anymore then we’ll sink

Is it a sign that I’m radicalised
If I don’t want my wife and my daughter to die?
I’ve seen the fear in a little one’s eyes
That her daddy soon will be taken
So I call her now at the end of most days
To tell her I love her, tell her I’m safe
And we both send pictures of our scariest face
And she holds the phone while she’s sleeping

Refugee with an iPhone, exposing uncomfortable truth
We can’t bail out the bankers and afford to look after you too
Cos bankers have friends so high they own the Sun and the Sky
And refugees just like iPhones never take too long to die

In January ’48 Steffie arrived
From the wreckage of Austria to build a new life
Practiced her english late into the night
Reading out loud from the papers
Married a soldier, a practical man
He built a home for them with his own hands
Raised children and chickens and took any job
And one of her children is singing this song

Refugee with an iPhone, how can I deny you the chance,
Deny you the same opportunity my mother had?
Deny you the basic compassion I hope I would find
If the fire that fell on your country was falling on mine
Refugee with an iPhone, a symbol, as two worlds collide
Let’s take a selfie and you can ‘friend’ me if you like…

Here’s another take on the issue from The Independent

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Behind The Song

New Song: John Lennon Blues


Pray for a man to put the ‘fist’ in ‘pacifist’
The good die young. Or they just die.
Download     mp3 demo

I’ve never really written a 12 bar blues I was happy with but John Lennon Blues is the closest I’ve got so far. At first it may seem like a pro-gun song but it’s anything but. I was trying to explore the paradox that those who promote peace are often the ones who die violent deaths and the resulting dilemma: if they hadn’t have been so committed to non-violence they’d have survived to preach peace another day, but then their message would have lost it’s potency. So would you rather the men (and women) survive at the cost of their message?

Verses 1 and 2 started with leftover lines from my song Guns. “The lone gunman is not alone” and “put the ‘fist’ in ‘pacifist'” came from my random lines folder and verse 4 borrowed a phrase from Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller“Hold our palms against the wound” (p.114).

“That coward Caulfield” is a reference to Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger‘s novel The Catcher In The Rye, a character that John Lennon’s killer Mark Chapman strongly identified with (in fact he read the book outside the Dakota Building whilst waiting for the police to arrest him after the murder). There are biblical references, Jesus refused to “call down fire from heaven” on those who didn’t welcome him (Luke 9:54), promised “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52) and said “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7). I also liked the ambiguity of juxtapositing the blues holler “whoa” with the biblical curse “woe”.

Musically it owes something (maybe an apology?) to The Beatles Yer Blues and Helter Skelter and Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe. When I wrote the track during FAWM I had a really heavy cold and knew my voice wouldn’t be up to multiple takes so I decided to record guitar and vocals at the same time. Sure enough by the end of the first take I started to cough uncontrollably (I managed to mute the mic but you can still hear it in places) and the coughing fit lasted another 10 minutes until I tore a muscle in my chest. And that’s why there’s no take 2.

Whoa If John Lennon had a gun
Whoa If John Lennon had a gun
He still be singing “all you need is love”

Oh if he’d given peace a chance
Oh and pulled a piece on each crazy fan
And shot that coward Caulfield in the back

Woe if Gandhi had a knife
Woe if Reverend King took a life
If Jesus Christ had enough and just rained down fire

If you live by the sword you’ll die by it – that’s gospel truth
But the sword of a sinner can pierce a righteous man too
And you’ll die holding innocent hands against the wound

Woe, the lone gunman is not alone
Woe, the lone gunman is not alone
And every man without sin has pockets full of stones

Woe that the world should come to this
Woe that the world should come to this
And pray for a man to put the ‘fist’ in ‘pacifist’

Whoa if John Lennon had a gun
Whoa if John Lennon had a gun
Those Dakota steps would have been stained with another man’s blood