What the Songs Mean – I think?
“YELLOW” is a collection of songs with connections to the past and present. Most of them were unfinished demos from the 1990s when I was living in a run down flat in north west London (UK). It was a bad time. Unemployed. No money. Bad food. No girlfriend. No marriage. No prospects. But I had my little sound studio – early 90s style. Lots of cheap bit connected together. Using old four and two track tape recorders who reluctantly synced with my Atari 1040. I sketched a whole lot of songs, mostly without words, recorded onto cassette tapes. Lots of them. There were also a whole bunch of Atari floppy disks containing the MIDI files of the songs. It is a very long story, but I transferred them over to my Cubase PC system and went to work. To keep the 90s patina on many of the songs, I used the original 1988 Roland synthesizer modules I had in London – the U110 and the D110. It’s taken me about three years to complete this project. I like it a lot. I hope other people do.
In This World
At first I didn’t know where the words were coming from. Then I guessed it. It was triggered by an experience when I was living in southern England. It was my birthday and my parents were there. Eating birthday cake. Watching TV. There was a sharp knock on the front door. Opening the door, a glum faced middle-aged man was glaring at me. “Have you got a television set?” says he. His bizarre question left me staring back . We exchanged stares for a few more seconds, then he barged by me right into my living room and my open mouthed parents. “Is this your television?” he said. I thought this must be a prank. So which of my devilish friends had cooked this up? “We have a television license detector outside. We know you do not have a license for a television. I’ll see you in court,” says he. Then left.
The song is inspired with that incident then slides out of control into fantasy and absurdity. The chorus says that it would be nice not to have an army of middle-aged TV checkers us all over the country. And wouldn’t it be nice if people all over the world got along together. And wouldn’t it be nice if we could all live in harmony. Wouldn’t it … well, you know the dream.
My father wasn’t a social sort of man. He often pretended to be, but wasn’t. So we didn’t go to many places or go on vacation much. But there was one wonderful day when he borrowed a car from a guy at work and we all went to the seaside. It was sublime. It was simply freedom. The roar of the breaking waves drowned out the buzzing of town life and for all the world I was alone on an island. There was so much to do. So much to see. The seagulls wondered if I was friendly. The crabs knew I wasn’t. I made sand castles. Threw sand and water and stared at the horizon. It was the best. Then we went home for “tea”. An English word for an early evening meal. Probably corned beef sandwiches with little bits of onion. Mother would have been too tired to cook a meal. But I loved those sandwiches very much. Still make ’em.
The story of the two young people chancing upon each other one night is total fiction. However, many times in my younger days I fell for the promiscuous trap. And it’s a trap that hurts. Not when well worn door swings shut. That feels great. It’s afterwards. The terrible afterwards. There is no conclusion to the story. I meant it that way. They decide to have sex in a car to make them feel better. For a moment they did. Then the afterwards catches up. Man, that’s painful. Do they find each other and go real? Or do they miss each other in the night and go home alone? Both happens all the time. And always did. And always will.
A guitar song with my peculiarly de-tuned strings. The lovely chord sequence was there and the words came out of nowhere. Why she was caught in the middle of a sentence I do not know. Just why the people have to fight the saber toothed tiger I do not know. Perhaps it will be clear soon. But we cannot allow ourselves to be dragged down to the fast flowing river. That would be bad.
This is in the fine, long tradition of American nonsense songs. I had the weird chord sequence and mad bass line. So I just listened. One pocket sized dream came along one after the other. Who am I to object. Just write them down, Sam. But I was determined to say something that wasn’t mad. So I said it. Here’s the chorus. I love you. Yes, you know who I mean.
A song from quite a while ago. A warning to get myself together. Don’t just sit there. Do what you are supposed to do. Get out and take a chance. Oh dear. It didn’t go well. There were several songs like this. As if some spirit was shouting out some obvious advice. Astonishingly, back then, I simply wrote down the words and paid not the slightest attention to the meaning. I was really dumb. Not much better now, but at least I know if someone is looking out for me. I can’t remember who I was talking to at the time but it was a woman. A friend. Maybe a lover. Maybe both at the same time. But she evaporated from my life. Don’t blame her.
Ah, yes. This was quite real. Apart from my absurd fantasies. I met her in a theater bar and walked home with her. I was fascinated. She was bright, funny and beautiful. Instead of going into her apartment complex we sat on the steps to the front door and chatted. I remember looking at some sort of light array while we were talking. The lights and her voice and my imagination mingled and sparkled. It was quite lovely. We did not become an item which I found very frustrating at the time. But she was right. It would not have been a good relationship. So I wrote this song. And sent a cassette copy to her. Not a good thing to do. Emotional blackmail comes with the territory of loneliness. Perhaps she’ll read this one day. Perhaps not. But if she is, I’m sorry.
Probably the strangest song on the album. Some six or seven years before I met my wife I wrote this song. Turned out she was Canadian-Dutch. Her grandfather actually lived in Holland before moving to Canada. Where this song came from, I don’t know. And I’ll leave it right there.
Rise to the Sun
This song is what it says it is. There am I laying in a warm bed and my mother is calling me to get up, have breakfast and go to work. Work was a naval shipyard. Why I took that job is still a tragic mystery. So I would doze and dream a little longer and imagine the things I would rather do that work in the bowels of a naval destroyer. It was usually a beautiful woman. That would do just nicely. However, the tag was that picnicking with lovely ladies and wrestling with shipyards was not what I should be placing at the top of my to-do list. And there comes that familiar warning once more. Who was speaking? I still don’t know.
Stand Up Now
Loneliness is no fun. Had my share. So what does loneliness look like? Pick a daffodil on Parliament Hill in London’s best location, Hampstead Heath. Belongs to everyone. Get to the top. Look out of the city. Then climb down, way down the inclined streets that leads to my poor apartment when night awaits. Night isn’t my friend either. But faintly in the shimmering distance a voice is heard. You have a brain. You have a future. There is courage deep inside you. Stand up now. You can do it.