‘Record’ is still a useful noun for all acoustic media from C.D. to Cloud. This record feels as if it should be on Cylinder, so long have these seven songs have been in our standard set. Anyway, here it is at last.
We have, as it were, striven for simplicity. All the material is original. Our house style is never to use ‘impossible’ overdubs: all you ever hear is a maximum of two voices and one solo guitar. This, in other words, is how we would sound live on a very good night. How many takes and edits that needed shall forever remain between ourselves, our god and our revered studio engineer, Ali Clegg.
The guitar is, throughout, in ‘drop D’, which is to say ordinary concert tuning except for the bottom string, detuned one whole tone. No capos were used. The self-congratulatory title of the album is just the last two words of the last track.
Total running time 38mins 28secs
1. Matthew Sound (5.18)
Key: D major CLICK ON DISC TO LISTEN TO ‘MATTHEW SOUND’
The ‘Matthew’ of the title was the last word to be written. Whereby hangs a tale which goes like this if you’re bothered…
The starting point of the song was a guitar noodle in D, which became the ‘bed’ for the verses. Its rolling feel suggested something maritime, and the steady-as-she-goes phrase came readily enough. Really, the song should have been called that, ‘Steady As She Goes’, but Google told us that she would not be alone…
The chorus came next. Originally, it went:
Bring us safe to harbour before the wild wind blows; inward bound along Holme Sound and steady as she goes.
I constructed the verses from multiple rhymes for the word ‘tide’, pure rhymes like guide, ride, wide and abide alongside the assonances light, kindly, behind and wild all aiding and abetting the feel. The little twist – that this is really a love song to the girl in harbour – came in the writing. Job done. I played it all to Hilary. She liked it.
But wheels began to wobble when I offered her a variant in the chorus. Instead of the ‘bring-us-safe’ bit, I said, she could have the one word ‘home’, sung long. Hils dearly loves a long note so that’s what happened. But now the word ‘Holme’ (pronounced ‘home’) was confusing things so we had to find another name for the Sound. We eventually chose ‘Owen Sound’, a very real place in Ontario and, for us, home to many kind friends and memories. So the wheels ran smooth again.
We’d been singing the song out as Owen Sound for some months when it occurred to me that Owen Sound is on Lake Huron, which has no bloody tides at all, does it, so now the prosodic wheels on which the song had been rolling along so smoothly gave another brief wobble and fell off.
Ah, Reader! Such problems are the pitiless monsters which gnaw at the very vitals of us songwriters in the long, dark reaches of the unforgiving night. There is of course such a thing as poetic licence but this was a licence-revoking offence and, besides, a chap has his pride and I couldn’t have borne some pernickety old folkie coming up to say, ‘You do realise, don’t you…’ Grr. I might have done him a Jeremy Clarkson. Owen Sound had to go.
I settled on Matthew Sound, named for my brother and, according to The Times Atlas of the World, an entirely fictitious place, hoorah.
2. Not That Ol’ Thing (4.39)
Key: C major CLICK ON DISC TO LISTEN TO ‘NOT THAT OL’ THING’
In live performance, we do the chorus as a call-and-response, with the audience shouting NOT THAT OL’ THING back at us, as loudly as possible, in those bracketed bits. You could enhance your listening pleasure by trying this at home.
Originally, the ‘John Wayne smile’ was a Tom Cruise ditto. Then someone said that they’d thought the song was a genuine bit of 30’s kitsch until Tom turned up in the lyric. So I sacked Tom. Well, we never liked the way he treated Nicole.
3. Spencer’s Cock (8.53)
Key: D minor CLICK ON DISC TO LISTEN TO ‘SPENCER’S COCK’
You’ll see this track runs at nearly nine minutes which, when I tell you that the working title was The Ten Tasks, I call brusque.
This is our take on the familiar Lover’s Ghost songs in which, usually, a couple are granted one last night of bliss, to be sternly terminated by the crowing of the cock. Listening to Vin Garbutt sing, ‘Oh, pretty little cock, oh you handsome little cock, I pray you do not crow before the day’, I had a subversive thought. Why not just kill the cock? That way, you don’t have to rush your lovemaking and afterwards you’ll have the basis of a substantial late supper for two.
While I’m on – and nobody’s forcing you to read this, you know – I hadn’t realised until I had the solemn job of finding rhymes for ‘crap’ that the word ‘absolutely’ is pretty much always pronounced as if its ‘b’ were a ‘p’. Those are the good moments.
4. Michael On The Moor (4.33)
Key: G CLICK ON DISC TO LISTEN TO ‘MICHAEL ON THE MOOR’
Our most-requested song. The tune and arrangement (almost) literally fell off my new Russell Wootton guitar the first time I played it. I wish it was always that easy because I can’t afford to commission a hand-made instrument every time I run out of ideas.
5. Sabrina Fair (4.46)
Key: A minor CLICK ON DISC TO LISTEN TO ‘SABRINA FAIR’
Skip this bit if you’ve seen the act. It’s the same old chat, written down. A bit more colour, maybe.
The song is about Britain’s last water-powered ferry which ran for at least a hundred years across the river Severn at the village of Upper Arley in Worcestershire. She was withdrawn as unprofitable in 1964 when I was nine years old. The ferry was essentially a big raft with a rudder which doubled her length. She was attached to a cable connected to each bank of the river and wallowed slowly across the river driven only by the power of the flow against the rudder and the cable, a gentle and lovely thing to watch. A hand-winch helped at times of low current.
In the song, I’ve invented the fares. However, back in 1931 it seems that foot-passengers paid a penny, or a halfpenny for children. Scholars and churchgoers travelled free, so I don’t think I’m far out for the 50’s and 60’s when this song is set. The ferryman used to wear an old-fashioned red military coat, which, with the cherry orchard motif below, explains the first and last verses.
About three miles downstream of Arley was Northwood Farm. There, my Nanny Baynham – a cleaner by trade and resident of Smethwick – paid an annual rent of fourteen pounds to the farmer’s wife for the use of a holiday chalet. Well, they both called it ‘The Chalet’ (Nanny had done a coach-trip Switzerland) but it was really more of a shed. Beautifully set, though, in the cherry orchard which lay between the river bank and the track of what is now the Severn Valley Railway.
My brother and I spent the school holidays there. We swam the river and ran wild in the woods beyond the railway line, defying the rusting signs promising a stern forty-shilling fine for trespassers on even-then-defunct Great Western property. We picked bluebells in May, cherries in summer, caught grasshoppers by day and glow-worms by night. Stop me if I’m getting too idyllic. For the extended family, we rigged up an army surplus bell-tent. On the same site our artistic Great Aunt Eve lived permanently with Eva her companion (right, fine) in a converted railway carriage. We envied them very much.
Grandad, Fred Baynham, came out from Birmingham to join the family on a Friday night after work, eighteen miles by push-bike. One weekend when the bike was in pawn – he was a bookie’s runner and inveterate gambler – he came on foot. Convention bids me add, ‘…and thought nothing of it’ but
7. Fred Gittins’ Conversion to the Path of True Contentment One Pleasant Evening
Some Summers Ago Outside The Old Dun Cow In Shoreditch. (5.50)
Keys: E major, F major and G major CLICK ON DISC TO LISTEN TO ‘FRED GITTINS’
I heard Caruso on Radio 3 singing an Italian comic aria whose gist was that if the singer had all the money he’d spent on champagne over the years, he’d spend it on – guess what – champagne. I don’t speak Italian and I can’t reach those top B’s, so I just shamelessly nicked the idea and recycled it as a kind of music-hall song, old Enrico not being in any position legally or biologically to do a thing about it, tee-hee. Contains the only rhyme for ‘bishop’ in the English language.
6. The Blue Lagoon Café (4.18)
Key: A major, with bridges in C major CLICK ON DISC TO LISTEN TO ‘THE BLUE LAGOON CAFE’
Balmy, of course, but great fun to perform if only for the looks of benign bemusement from our audience. We’ve provided the lyric not in the laughable hope that anybody’d be mad enough to want to cover the song but to prove that, even when the thing’s going full tilt, the words do make sense. For a given value of ‘sense’.