Throwback Friday #59 Holding The Phone (2003?)


I can’t be completely sure when I wrote this song, but you can add it to the pile of similar stuff written following my slow and self-sabotaging exit from one particular relationship. I’m calling these efforts ‘songs’, though there is scant evidence of an actual chorus here, and they’re certainly not poetry. All I can say about this Friday’s example (and the others like it) is, whatever I was feeling at the time, I was feeling it vividly enough to sit down and write something by way of a response, be it a song, or so much dirge, or even a tiny capture of something true.


holding the phone

1

so, you’re phoning again, after all this time?
a bolt from these blues like a neon sign
i’m being real nice like I didn’t even bleed
but you ringing me, it’s like you’re ringing me
between those gentle hands no longer touching me

2
so, you’ll talk about the rain, ‘ain’t this weather grey?’
as just the sound of your voice chases clouds away
but i’m being real cool, like I never felt the heat
because hearing you, nowhere near to you
makes this day more grey even as your warmth comes through.

3
you want to hear how I’ve been? well, yeah I’ve been fine
you want to know what I do these days to pass the time?
I think you want me to lie, well that’s fine by me
as you won’t see these eyes, won’t detect this trace
won’t read the need imprinted on this face

4
i’m asking ‘how about you?’ ‘I can’t complain’ you say,
now isn’t that just great? you and me, we’re doing okay
anyone might mistake there’s nothing left here to break
our conversation clean and our chit-chat bored
my air supply cut by this telephone cord

5
I know it’s nearing the end as our pauses grow
just these few moments from now you’ll say you have to go
I have to go too, i’ve all these things I must do
like disconnect from you and repair the line
unplug this phone and that neon sign

6
we’ve been saying nothing much for nearly half an hour
I decide to say goodbye, my remaining power
you don’t seem phased at all me ending your call
so why ring me now? why ring today?
is there something more you want to say?

7
now this line has gone dead, I say out loud ‘i’m glad’
that’s over and done, and I’m sure, not sad
and in no time you’ll see I’ll no longer be
just sitting here, alone at home
me crying like this, me holding this phone
and in no time you’ll see I’ll no longer be
just sitting here, alone at home
me crying like this, me holding this phone


Throwback Friday #47 The Old Wives Had It Wrong (2003)

I’ve featured a few songs on here, songs accompanied by handy box chord diagrams, having had the discipline to commit their melodies and chords to paper, as well as to memory. Not so with this one, or indeed the many others like it. This song sits in a folder on my desktop as lines denuded of music. I remember writing it though, and I remember about whom I wrote it. I also remember really liking this song, which makes its silence all the more frustrating.


the old wives had it wrong

1

one day I flew high with a magpie
only found come the ‘morrow
he’d stolen the shine from my heart
‘cause he’d just come to borrow
first he feathered his nest
then he let me go for a song
those old wives, they sure weren’t wrong
one magpie brought me sorrow

2

once cursed and coerced by a gypsy
I let him woo me with all the sights that he’d seen
envy encouraged me to dance to his tune
sang the songs my gypsy would sing
but i missed who I’d been
became this man inbetween
those old wives, the light had seen
there’s just grass and it’s never more green

3

made hay with a stray heard him purring
and in my arms his charms basking
he had a hungering only for cream
for the salt from my warm skin
and though from house he made home
he was as happy to roam
those old wives sure knew their thing
leopards cling to their markings

4

played the fool with a jewel his eyes shining
two diamonds mining the whole of my soul
I burnished him bright with my breath
but my clasp this stone wouldn’t hold
I thought inside I’d seen fire
but a diamond is cold
those old wives they had it told
it may spark but it sure ain’t gold

5

i’ve tried, cried and died over magpies
over gypsies, over strays, over jewels
and so I say madness is love
if love, from kings, makes an old fool
what use then my heart?
is my hope something cruel?
those old wives sure change the rules
I heard them say that love, in the end, conquers all
what use then my heart?
is my hope something cruel?
those old wives sure change the rules
I heard them say that love, in the end, conquers all

October 2003


Throwback Friday #36 Choosing Kryptonite (2003)


Sometimes when a relationship ends, it doesn’t, and round and round you go together in interminable circles. This song was written in a time of circles, resolutions going broken and broken again.

I thought Choosing Kryptonite made for a suitable, if down-beat choice for January 1st – a day when we’re tempted to draw bold new lines and make solemn righteous promises… often bringing about the very conditions under which we’re going to feel worse about the unfinished business in our lives. The good news is this song is a relic – another one of my heart-felt out-pourings written without irony or much sophistication. Those interminable circles didn’t go round and round forever. The good news is you can make resolutions that stick, even if you have to break them a few thousands times on your way to making a change for the better.


choosing kryptonite

1

missing you, can’t believe i’m missing you
after all the things I said i’d never do
but i’m here again and it can’t be true
because there’s just no way your foot fits this shoe
but i’m missing you, can’t believe i’m missing you
it’ll end in tears, we always do

2

trusting you, how can that be right?
after all the grief and the sleepless nights?
but i’m in trouble deep, let the hazard warning light
i’m like superman choosing kryptonite
but i’m trusting you, can’t believe I’m trusting you
you’ll break my heart, you always do

3

touching you, even with my fingers burned
caresses black with soot, hey, you’d think I’d learned
but i’m like a moth and your like the flame
and like icarus this flight will end the same
but i’m touching you, can’t believe i’m touching you
i’m going to die a death, i’m going to fall for you

4

kissing you, you’ve re-tied my tongue
my insides in knots and my reserve undone
I can’t catch my breath, heart beat stationary
with this mouth-to-mouth I think you’re killing me
but i’m kissing you, really kissing you
I don’t care it hurts, I think I want it to

5

loving you makes a fool from me
makes me tweedledum and not tweedledee
I guess i’ll play the clown, supply banana peel
i’ll even laugh at me as these others will
but i’m loving you because I’m in love with you
but play it straight with me, i’ll come straight to you

6

leaving you, well there’s no surprise
you’re like holding snow, you’re like butterflies,
you can’t be kept ‘cause your love won’t keep
because you love to look, but you’re loathed to leap
but I’m leaving you, can’t believe I’m losing you
I came all this way but you’re still you

September 2003


MFT #9 December Will Be Magic Again (1979)


Kate Bush’s December Will Be Magic Again is one of my favourite things. Here’s why.

In physics, the observer effect is the disturbance of an observed system by the act of observation. Put more simply, our own efforts to apprehend something can skew the outcome, rendering it invalid or void. Something similar happens when we try and apprehend Christmas, seeking to embody the season’s ambience through popular music or ‘Christmassy films’.

Most secular Christmas music is an appalling backfire, the way those pre-decorated straight-out-of-the-box plastic Christmas trees are appalling, in how so very wide of the mark they fall of the sensorial experience they’re straining to (re)produce.

Likely I’m just a po-faced old misery guts, but when I hear Slade or Wizzard or Band Aid or Wham or Mariah Carey, I envision a sort of festive rictus, the grinning tinseled skull of experience excarnated of hope. These ubiquitous songs tell me it must be Christmas again, but it’s never the Christmas I want.

Anyway, I find myself increasingly confused by Christmas, not least because I’m an atheist, but an atheist who went to a very nice Church of England school in a largely picturesque village. I find it near impossible to separate my intellectual position on the subject of the nativity from my nostalgia for all those Christmas assemblies, when my teachers did silly, unexpected things, or handed around chocolates in coloured foil, or we sang carols in the lovely old church up on the hill. The First Noel makes me ache. When it catches me unawares, Silent Night can even make me cry. Guilt soon follows, as I’m aggrieved by my own sentimentality, and for appropriating filmic moments of pathos from a culture I otherwise struggle to understand. Meanwhile, hearing I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day makes me die a bit inside, allergised by its artificiality and deficit of mystery, its unwillingness to admit to all the dark green shadows of winter.

Kate Bush’s ethereal December Will Be Magic Again rarely features on any of those well-worn compilations of ‘Christmas hits’ or Spotify playlists. I’ve never once heard it playing over supermarket speakers as an accompaniment to the sound of huge frozen turkeys clanging into trolleys. I’m certain no one sings along to it in pubs – how could they, given the swooping virtuosity of Kate’s vocal performance and the meltingly indistinct shapes of her lyrics?

Always with the music of Kate Bush, there is a final ‘unknowability’ at the heart of her song-writing. We understand her scheme of words well enough, but something remains abstruse and hidden from us lesser mortals, something intimate and surreal. I feel all of it anyway, as December Will Be Magic Again draws up the hairs on my arms in a quick silvery wave. Yes, there are sleigh-bells, that sonic shorthand for Christmas, but a cold, bright darkness is at work in the heart of this strange song, returning me at once to the chill of the old village church of my school days, with its cold stones and candle light. I feel it again, the thrill of seeing my breath, of the pooling of shadows under the pews, and that small dangerous electricity generated by a whole community of people coming together in some ancient rite of magical thinking, a beautiful seance.

I’ve always found the effect of December Will Be Magic Again to be like someone dialling down the thermostat, ferns of ice unfurling to etch the glass of my windows like elaborate William Morris wallpaper, Kate’s voice doing that, as clean and clear as starlight.

The snow, Kate sings, the snow is coming to cover the muck up, and so it does, this song drifting down from somewhere higher-up to efface the worst of those flashing plastic trees and quieten my misgivings.



Throwback Friday #28 Weak Kneed (2003)


It’s a lesser known fact about me that I’m sometimes known to write a song or two when the mood strikes. That mood used to strike much more often, I think because I didn’t second guess myself as much as I do now. I’m no musician after all, so what gives me the temerity to write music and think musically? Good question! Regardless of my innate abilities or otherwise, song-writing is something I’ve done and continue to do, only now it is usually in the service of some bigger, visual ambition.

Back in the early 2000s, my heart was sore and broken, and I wrote a number of songs as a means to move on from one thing or another. They make for quite a collection now. Weak Kneed is one of those songs from that period, a wistful, melancholy little ditty about unrequited love (of course).


Weak kneed

1

If life’s a cabaret and all the world’s a song
then meet the guy with two left feet, whose notes are often wrong
and if life is not a song then the world is but a play
but one in which I’m corpsing or drying or pratfalling
or hissing prompt and stalling and forgetting what to say

But I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees

2

If life’s a circus tent and a carnival of chance
I think I’ll sit this routine out, let the acrobats advance
‘cos you need a winning act for successful vaudeville
and I’m not so great at singing or keeping the plates spinning
or levitating women or topping any bill

but I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees.

3

If love’s a magic trick, a clever sleight of hand
my magician’s hat is empty, my best performance panned
‘cos they want a bigger flash, more glitter for their buck
but my repertoire is thinning and my face aches from the grinning
and my hopes I am unpinning from the whims of lady luck

but I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees.

4

If love’s the leading role, I’m in the chorus on the right
I’ve been singing just as loudly, I think my face was out of sight
so I don’t know if you saw, I wasn’t on for long
but Shakespeare I was quoting near the spotlight, and emoting
no claim to fame supposing distinction from the throng

but I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees.

April 2003