Words and Meaning. Part 1

With the album due for release in just two weeks I’m devoting the next couple of blogs to an explanation of the songs; how, why and what we recorded. First because, although you may be able to find lyrics in the metadata of some downloads and streams, in others you won’t. Similarly, when we produced the CD we wanted to make it simple. In future pressings we might go for a more sophisticated case. Until then, here are all the lyrics, and sorry if it goes on longer than the usual post. I had a conversation with an old friend who had listened to her pre-release copy of the album and she had some very insightful thoughts about the meaning of the songs as they related to me, my life, my experiences. Some of them were spot on, others I hadn’t even considered until she said it. But you can attribute meaning to any song as it relates to you. Metallica says ‘Nothing Else Matters’ is about their fans. I always thought it was about vampires! A song has different meaning to everybody so I’m going to be a little vague. Our songs can be about whatever you want them to be!

Dancing in Silence

I’ve told this story a few times over the past six months since we released this song as a single. During the first lockdown I was out one Thursday evening clapping the NHS, and listening to all the neighbours applauding, banging pans and cheering. A phrase came into my mind: “You are not alone”. I went indoors and wrote the song. We decided to release it as a single with all proceeds to NHS Charities, but the logistics of recording, then filming a video when you were supposed to stay indoors and socially distanced was a challenge. It entailed a lot of exchanges through DropBox, WeShare, external hard disks being dropped into the producer, Tom Hughes’ post box, but somehow it worked. However, the original song came out too long for a single so we cut the Bridge. When you listen to the album version, it’s restored.

Meanwhile, we had a video to make. We asked all our friends, relatives and neighbours to make a smartphone clip of them saying, “You are not alone…..We are not alone.” Then director Alex Horwood and I spent hours going through news footage and relevant open-source film. The band was shot in the course of a day. Me, appropriately in Silverlea Woods near our home in Horley, Razz in a field outside East Grinstead. You would never know he was 100 yards from a busy road. Then Rob in his back garden. The weather was fantastic and Alex got all the footage he needed. For the next three days we worked on putting it all together. If you check out the video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/li7Qlw81juE you’ll agree Alex did an outstanding job. The whole project took less than three weeks from the time I wrote the song because we wanted it to be released while it was still topical. Ironically it is as relevant today as it was last June.

DANCING IN SILENCE
There’s a cloud across the nation
As we live in isolation
Feels like we’re floating
In a sea of not knowing
We stand far apart
With our frozen hearts
Connected by our phone
Yet living all alone

We search for salvation
In this fog of desolation
Like we’re treading water
This sickness makes us falter
No-one hears our cry
No voiceless reply
Just echoes in the sky
Where only angels fly

CHORUS
Alone in the darkness
I hear the music swell
I’m dancing in silence
I do it so well
The sound fills my senses
Tears down my defences
Music like bright colours
Fills my lonely soul
While I’m dancing in silence
I am not alone

We feel a dislocation
Yet hear a faint vibration
Under the empty floor
Behind the sealed door
Nothing we can hear
But there is something near
Songs of hope in the air
Reaching in from somewhere

BRIDGE
While we live in solitude
The desert of our days
We can find the reasons
In many different ways
The persistent drumbeat
In our memory stays
We will dance in silence
Till the music remains

APOCALYPSE

I wrote this song in 1991 when I was working with the late Cameroonian musician Tom Yom’s, for an album that was never released. It still retains the soaring synth line on the chorus we originally thought of such a long time ago. It’s about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelations and horror fiction ever since. The Four Horsemen are the bringers of Conquest, War, Famine and Death. When I first read of them as a relatively devout 14-year old schoolboy, it was in a book called ‘The Devil Rides Out’ by Dennis Wheatley and it scared the hell out of me. I don’t think I slept for months! Fast forward to the 1990s and a question came into my mind. Who were the horsemen? What was their story? Why did they come to be fulfilling this horrible role? It’s not like they would be lining up at the JobCentre, is it? And I just imagined one of the riders doing it to get revenge on the guy who ruined his sister’s life. I absolutely understand anyone who says, why didn’t he just go round to the love rat’s house, or even set the tabloids on him, but you’ll need to give me some literary headroom.

Musically, for me it’s all about the bass line. I had always wanted it to be strong but Rob really takes it to another level. You can’t dance to many of our songs but this one definitely has a beat to get you on your feet. As long as you don’t think about the lyrics!

APOCALYPSE
Face of an angel
Smile of a saint
As pure as light
A vision in white

Choirboy face
Cupid’s lips
Evil heart
Soul of the damned

Fateful night
Lust at first sight
No resistance
She fell in your arms

Passion spent
Threw her away
A smashed up heart
Broken life

Well wait til you see me coming
Riding on a pale horse
Coming after you
Riding (riding, riding)
That’s when you’ll know your future
When you’re standing at the abyss
Looking in horror at your apocalypse

Thousand foot cliff
She stands alone
A final tear
A silent fall

A fresh-dug grave
Mother’s tears
A family torn
Vengeance sworn

Stormy night
A blasted heath
A bargain made
A lightning flash

One of four
Endless ride
Famine and War
Damnation calls

Wait til you see me coming
Riding on a pale horse
Coming after you
Riding (riding, riding)
That’s when you’ll know your future
When you’re standing at the abyss
Looking in horror of your apocalypse

THE FIRE

No messing about with this one, it’s dedicated to my Long Suffering Partner (LSP) and the love of my life. It’s out now as a single. Feel free to listen to it here https://ditto.fm/the-fire-lavender-hill on your preferred streaming/download platform. And as Jan is my muse, my support, a backing vocalist and contributed a lot of the photography to our CD cover it’s appropriate this should be about her. I wrote the song in 2018, sitting on the terrace of our home in south-western France, as the sun was setting on the Pyrenees. The lyrics were probably the easiest I have ever written and there is nothing allegorical, complicated, no hidden meanings. They just came out, and what you read below is unchanged from that evening. After I’d finished the lyrics I went inside to get my guitar and worked out a melody as the stars started to come out.

THE FIRE*
Standing beside you after all this time
So close so strong it feels so fine
This is the way it’s meant to be
Two of us with one heartbeat
Every minute I ‘m thinking of you
Of words you say and things you do
These are the days of us together
Two of us linked now and forever

Gazing in your eyes as we lie in bed
As your look of love fills my head
This is how I could spend my days
Two of us bound in so many ways
Finding your face in a crowded place
When I see your smile I’m still dazed
This is how I always saw our life
Couldn’t cut our bond with a knife

CHORUS

We jumped into the fire
Passion hot as the sun
The very second I saw you again
I knew you were the one
Two parts of a single soul
A dream finally come true
The fire of love that feeds us
The unbreakable me and you

Every moment we spend apart
There’s a black emptiness in my heart
Then I look forward to see you again
And straight away my heartbeats gain
There will be no end to this our love
Till a day when the bright stars fall above
Knowing we are bound forever as one
I feel as if my life work’s done

ELECTRA

This one, the last we’ll do in this post, has a couple of levels. On one it’s about the figure from mythology, Electra and her father Agamemnon, the general of the Greek forces in the Trojan War. The actual story is a little complicated but the important part is his pride in his daughter, and her love for him in spite of his many flaws and faults. On that other level this is dedicated to my daughter Allie, an avid reader of history and mythology, who I’m very proud of.

The stand out feature of this song is the flawless vocals of Chantelle Bartlett. She only sings a single word, ‘Electra’ but she does it with passion, feeling and su much strength it still gives me goose-bumps when I listen to it.

ELECTRA
We may be in different worlds
A million miles apart
But still I feel you close to me
You are in my heart
When all about is deep despair
Your voice seems so near
Your words are all so clear
They give me comfort
They’re all I need to hear

Remembering another time
When our days entwined
It was you who turned to me
And the fault was mine
But you never let the fire go out
And the memories remain
Kept on a golden chain
Recalled all the time
Keeps you close again

CHORUS
Electra
You are the brightest star
Shining in the darkest night
A beacon seen from far
Electra
You show the clearest road
Standing tall and seen by all
Sure in what you know
Electra
Electra

Now I’ve moved beyond this life
I watch from another place
I see you take this world by storm
You win this mortal race
My pride in you is always strong
I will always belong
To the one who gave me reason
To always carry on
Beyond that fatal dawn

AND YET SO FAR

How’s your Christmas been in this strange year? We had our final rehearsal a couple of weeks ago. LSP brought mulled wine and mince pies to Barnstorm for the band, we exchanged presents then we went our separate ways into forcible isolation. We miss playing, especially because all the new songs were coming together so well. Unfortunately, having found a (legal) way to record an album and shoot a video during lockdown number 1, having practised religiously every week since we were allowed out, Tier 4 has slammed the door on our development as a band until further notice. It’s not the end. No way. We haven’t come this far to let a little old global pandemic derail our plans. If anything, life is getting more exciting. The album is coming out on 1 February. One of the tracks, ‘The Fire’ is released as a single on 10 January. We’re in business; and we’ve been writing new songs, probably enough to record another album in 2021. And if that’s not enough, we’re re-releasing our original EP on Ditto Music, also out in early January. And in a few weeks time we will be announcing our two new members, a keyboard player and another guitarist. They’ve been practising with us for a few months. We’re looking forward to announcing them.

I may have said before, but the past few weeks have just emphasised how difficult being an unsigned, manager-less band can be. Any ambitious would-be Peter Grants or John Reids out there wanting to take us on, apply here. In all seriousness we’re not looking to be the next Led Zeppelin or Queen, but certainly the administration and operations of the tiniest, most unknown band is complicated and, I’d have to say, unwelcome. We want to be in the studio, rehearsing, recording, writing. If I can persuade Razz to work on a video that will be a miracle! Let’s say the man hates photo- and video-shoots much more than, I don’t know, going to the dentist. I guess if I’d wanted to arrange and promote an album release or book a gig, I’d have become a manager and even then I’d probably have been fired after 10 minutes. You need very different specialist skills for it, and if you don’t have them, navigating your way through a music distributor’s registration and uploading process is not easy. Plus, we…I took a decision to switch distributor and take down our existing releases from our previous partner. I don’t think you can call an EP and a single a back catalogue without sounding like a complete w***er but we took the decision to move to Ditto Music, principally because they have a really good promotion package, they’re not so big as to be monolithic and cumbersome, and you get responses from real people in a time frame you can work with.

When someone says in a radio interview, “we’ve got an album coming out,” there’s one of two possibilities: 1. They’re signed to a record label, they’ve recorded the album, and their involvement in promotion is personal appearances, interviews etc; 2. They’re not signed to a record label (and in this case they don’t have a manager, see previous paragraph), so they have to do all the above, plus get their music on to playlists, write personal letters to reviewers and radio stations, boost their tracks on online A&R sites, all the while keeping up a constant stream of social media posts. How great is that? Fun, no? No. Trust me, there are people who are really good at social media. They enjoy it. While we love to interact with our friends on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and this blog, in normal times we may not be so assiduous or prolific. Same with promotion. If you have enough financial resources you can shell out the money for a ‘plugger’, someone who knows which radio stations will play the kind of music you make. I mean, we’re not going to be on Classic FM any time soon. But it’s really very expensive and our budget for the album went on recording and production. We want to make music. That’s why we’re in a band. But getting the music heard is all about getting it out there, increasing reach, as the term goes. And for the moment this is what we’re all about. It’s never too late to learn new skills, and as we look towards another month…two months….three months in lockdown what else have we got to do? So if a Facebook ad for Lavender Hill appears unannounced and unexpected on your news feed, be kind and say something nice.

If you want to get your music heard, one of the best ways is to get playlisted and over the past few days I’ve been trying to understand how it works. A lot of unknown artists have managed to increase their profiles by getting their songs on lists, predominantly on Spotify and Apple Music. It isn’t easy and you need a degree in the subject to figure out where algorithms and influencers come in. If you have an opportunity to get on one, you need to jump all over it because it increases the chances of getting on others. There are people and sites who do nothing except get their clients on playlists and trying to do it part-time is enough to try the patience of a …saint? But along with all these other skills, once you’re in the loop it can only be an asset.

As we close in on the release of the single this Sunday, and in spite of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades and emphatically a master of none, we can’t help but feel satisfied at having produced and released our music, in a lockdown under the most difficult of circumstances. The wonder of it all is, we’re getting ready to work on a follow-up album. Don’t they say madness is repeating the same mistake! I’ll take that definition. You have to be more than a little crazy to be in this business.