12th January 2011
"If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living." Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth.
So why on earth did I potentially make myself look like a complete airhead (okay, you thought that already) and decide to include the above quotation on the CD?
"Follow your bliss" is a popular quote and I think many believe it's an aphorism from the drugged-out hippy era culture. However, it's actually from the late mythological scholar Joseph Campbell. (You can see Campbell being interviewed here from the TV series The Power of Myth). The quote has resonated with me for many years, pulled me along, kept me afloat with respect to doing what I'm doing now. Indeed it was a key in my decision to resign, finally and foolishly, from the day job three years ago.
In a way "follow your bliss" is much of what "At The Water's Edge" is all about. Certainly the story and the set of songs: "You've Got The Magic Back"; "Get Up!"; "Can't Let Go", and to a lesser extent "Crackerjack" all touch on the idea,"You've Got The Magic Back", manifestly so.
I have always had high hopes for the song, "You've Got The Magic Back". Stupidly, and I guess perhaps a little ironically, it was the song that "broke" my ears last year as I worked late into the night after a full day of already editing guitar and bass lines, attempting to get it right. Maybe there's a clue there that I'm doing something wrong or alternatively I should stop beating myself up about it and accept it as a war wound.
I first started trying to write the lyrics way back when I was a schoolteacher. I spent nearly a whole summer holiday (and if you're a member of the Anti-Teaching Brigade, you know how long they can be!) trying to write it. I felt like I almost went mad in the process. Fairly early on I came up with the lines: "You're on the right track, You've Got The Magic Back" but then nothing. Zilch. The two lines felt right but everything else was so way off the mark. Two lines in six weeks. Not a particularly good work rate.
It must have been about four years later, around the turn of the century that I started working with a guitarist, Andrew. In hindsight, was there ever a less likely musical collaboration? I think even now if we compared music collections there is very little overlap apart from the old pre-remastered Roxy music CDs I off-loaded on to him. Nevertheless we decided to try working together. He had this demo of a song without any lyrics and I said I'd try to write some.
It was like cracking a nut (writing the song, not working with Andrew). I knew I wanted the song to be "'Magic Back" and was determined to write the lyrics one Saturday morning. I remember it clearly. I went back to bed, all my notes from the previous attempts strewn everywhere. The Jonathan Ross Radio Show (the only radio show I've made sure never to miss) playing in the background, which was unusual, as I tend to prefer to work in silence but Adam West, of Batman TV fame, was a guest that morning and I wanted to hear the interview. (And what a bizarre interview that turned out to be).
Anyway, I got nowhere. The same old story. I was just in no man's land. Becalmed. I couldn't get anything to work. It was like the school holidays all over again. And then WHAM! POW! ZAP! It was written. All the words had fallen into place bar for a few edits and rearrangements.
I like the lyrics, they sum up what I was trying to say far better than I ever imagined I could, though I'm not sure I can really take credit for them as they seemed to just "materialise". I think the only credit I can take is for not giving up and throwing my arms up in despair. For me, the best lyrics seem to happen like that. I'm not saying I'm in the same league but I could understand what Keith Richards was saying recently about his guitar being like an antennae. He doesn't think he writes those fantastic guitar riffs, he just picks them up out of the ether.
Anyway, I didn't think the lyrics were half-bad. Job done.
Well not quite. I spent many of the following hours, days, weeks of the next decade trying to get the arrangement and production of the song right. I'd regularly send or take demos round to Andrew's place. It was a good job my skin had been thickened from trying to teach teenagers maths as his reaction (or lack of it) often felt like a kick in the groin. The problem was I think we both had such high hopes for the song. In addition, and in hindsight, what I had done in the early days was really not good enough and we were both naive to the aberrations of recording and listening environments. In the meantime we did some more co-writes and he also played great guitar on some of my own compositions (all of which can be heard on "At The Water's Edge").
So ten years later, countless iterations, arguments, a significant change in direction (which I will own up to as my own unilateral unpopular decision), and "You've Got The Magic Back" is done. Well again, not quite. Out of all the songs on "At The Water's Edge", it's the one I'm least happy with, though many listeners have been complimentary about it. If I didn't think it was finished why did I include it on the album? Well, I think its sense and sentiment are key, so much so that not only did I want to include it I also wanted it to be the first song on the album. (Notice the singing bowl at the beginning? I threw everything including the kitchen sink into trying to bring this enterprise luck!) Also, I have spent long enough on the song now that I need to let it go. I think it's a good song but unfortunately I don't think the recording reaches the potential Andrew and I had hoped for. Hopefully another artist might recognise its qualities, cover it and do it the justice it deserves.
So there we are, for me there went the "Magic Back" decade! What's left to for me to say but to wish you Happy New Year? Happy New Decade! And if you don't already have it, to wish you luck in getting the magic back into your life.
With Best Wishes,
PS Thanks to all who have so far bought the album and the good wishes you have sent.