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Liner Notes 1-3

Here are some notes on the songs, plus the lyrics as they were intended to be (not always as they were sung), for those who have pointed out that you can’t always hear what I’m trying to say on the recordings.

DECEMBER
Originally written for my brother and sister when they were very small. They aren’t small now. Inspired in part by a friend leaving Edinburgh at the start of the Autumn academic term – just as the winds turn chilly and martens gather on telephone wires, preparing to migrate.

December, close the door on the night / December, wrap up warm and keep the cold outside / When there’s snow ploughs on the B-roads and the Great Bear in the Sky, /You need cocoa in your tummy and a warm fireside.

December, what have you done to the light? / December, morning slips quickly into night / November’s cold rains seemed so unwelcome at the time / Now it seems like a dream that we ever walked in summertime.

I watched the daylight’s last rays light the tops of the trees / Felt June and July departing with the martens on the breeze / I felt the North Wind rise / And it clears the skies / December in the star light is where we all are tonight.

FRENZY ON THE HIGHSTREET

This one just popped out easily, making me think that maybe I would be able to manage this songwriting thing after all. York had some pretty severe floods at the time; and then I realised I could use the song to introduce the theme of Santa Claus’ curse, which I knew I was going to come back to later.

Could anything be bleaker than an evening in December? / And the frenzy on the highstreet makes it worse. / Shoppers, like the river, have flooded York town centre / Buying into Santa Claus’ curse.

And as the daylight dwindles to a ghostly grey / It seems as if the sun god turned her face away, / But the truth is that the Earth has turned its north face from the sun, / and it won’t start turning back til Christmas Day.

OBAMA TROOP SURGE

Then, on the 1st or 2nd of December, Obama announced the massive increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan; K.A. and I were watching Democracy Now as these really young, innocent, boot-faced young guys threw their massive packs into the holds of DC-10s, making vacuous statements about why they were going. The boys themselves seemed to merge into their own packs: Which was the luggage, pack or man? I wondered. Which bit of kit was designed to use the other?

I had to try to write something about this event. But what angle? The betraying of out ill-thought-out hopes for peace under Obama? The hideous cognitive dissonance that sustains the war? The next morning I roamed York, muttering lyrics to myself, and everything I came up with seemed too shrill, too pompous, or too sentimental to bear. I needed a concrete and specific concept to underpin the song. As the working day slipped past, I remembered a conversation I had overheard in a train to Leeds (on the way to a Firey Furnaces gig) between two soldiers who were certainly not yet out of their teens. So sweet, the two of them: decidedly not talking about war; more interested in sharing their school and family life, hedged by uncertain bravado. Once that came back to me, the song wrote itself. The final bits to come together were the key change under the words “failing schools”, and the gimmicky Amin riff at the end.

There were two little boys on the night train to Leeds / Talking about their families and the lives that they lead / I guessed that they were going to Iraq / But their conversation never touched on that.

One said my teachers kept hassling me / To stay on and take all my GCSEs / When I told them I was going to enlist / You should have seen them nearly have a fit.

You really stick it to authority / When you join the military / When you join the military, boys / And all those damp and failing schools are the army’s best recuiting tools.

And there’s plenty more boys being trained to do harm, and packaged and sent off to Afghanistan.

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One comment

  1. […] January 11, 2010 I’ve posted lyrics and notes to the first three songs on the Liner Notes […]



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