“God help me” is such an abject stream of consciousness to have hanging over me that I couldn’t leave it like that, so I’ve written something positive and upbeat for a change. The great thing about having been so prolific in my 20s is that I left heaps of unfinished songs or scraps of ideas lying around for my older self to develop and complete. Inspired by The Screaming Blue Messiahs, I began “My Blues Tomorrow” many years ago. I started writing it on my bass guitar, but it was little more than a rough sketch – a bass guitar part and a vocal melody without lyrics – by the time I gave up on it. However, I never forgot it and, in March 2020, I picked up my acoustic guitar and worked out the chords for it. These chords reminded me of a hyper-melancholic Johnny Cash record called “Hurt“, which was released shortly before his death. The words “A man of constant sorrows” * immediately sprang to mind and I began to build the song from there.
My first complete draft of the resurrected “My Blues Tomorrow” was an American wild west story of a man who falls in love with the sheriff’s daughter (Sarah Jane McGrath) in Rexburg, Idaho. Foolishly, he boasts of this dalliance, and her furious father drives him out of Rexburg and then out of Idaho. Sheriff McGrath and his posse track him down and lynch him from a tree after a “kangaroo court martial”. When I told our drummer Tony about this, he asked “Have you lost your mind, my friend?” I had a good think about myself for a few days, pleaded temporary insanity (it’s actually more frequent than that!), and changed it into a more universal love song lyric which I hope almost everyone can relate to.
The first Coronavirus lockdown was immensely frustrating for me as I’d worked very hard on this song and spent weeks practising singing it and playing all the guitar parts ready for some March/April recording sessions……..and then the world shut down. You have to keep reminding yourself that there are two million (and counting) poor souls out there who will never again get the opportunity to be frustrated. So the main message of the song is to be grateful for what you’ve got and tell the world about your blues tomorrow – ie – NEVER. Stop whingeing and move on.
I finally managed to get into the studio at the end of July but, due to draconian quarantine laws, Tony (who now lives and works in Qatar) spent March through to August effectively in solitary confinement in his apartment. After all those months of uncertainty, it became clear, by October, that he wouldn’t be able to come back to the UK to record his drums as hoped, so the engineer Simon Denny trawled through some past performances and, using other songs with a similar tempo, managed to piece together this drum “performance”.
I’m almost certain that this is the very last decent unfinished song from my youth, but I suspect that I’ve forgotten a fair few other good ideas over the passing years, and that’s a shame. Many years ago, I threw away dozens and dozens of “worthless” cassette tapes containing hundreds and hundreds of bits of songs and some almost complete ones. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been able to memorise some of that material and to marry it to lots of new ideas for my recordings over the past decade or so. The collaboration between young me and older me has been priceless for us both. It’s almost like having the song writing partner that I always wanted, but never did find….in fact, it’s EXACTLY like that. I’m very proud of what the pair of us have achieved, I really am.
The long wait for Tony gave me the chance to write another new song “Che“. He eventually managed to get home to Liverpool and recorded the drums for it in mid November. It’s not the best song I’ve ever written, but it shows that I’m still capable of doing something half decent at least – if I can be bothered. This isn’t intended as a eulogy for Che Guevara. I’ve attempted (probably ill-advisedly) to give a light but balanced view of this very contentious and violent character. One person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist. It seems to me that he fought tyranny with tyranny, but he wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last to do so; such is the way of the testosterone charged alpha-male.
Stop Press: I have written and recorded another new song “If Only” which will be released soon along with The Vow’s 5th studio album “Igloo”.
I’ll bash on as best I can producing new songs as and when inspiration hits, but I doubt I’ll be inundating the world with fresh material; it’ll more likely be a trickle – if anything.
*This expression comes from a very old hymn quoting the Book of Isaiah, 53 – “The abasement and exaltation of Christ:”
“He slighted and rejected is
Ev’n of the men He came to save:
A man of constant sorrows full,
And intimate with heavy grief” https://hymnary.org/hymn/PHSS1758/I.LIII