The Patron Saints of Dysfunction
Release Date: 2012
The Patron Saints of Dysfunction
The second album, follow-up to the acclaimed ’10 cents’ contains songs about a collection of losers, both famous and unknown. Looser in feel it contains blues, jazz, funk, hip-hop and spacey grooves, songs to the Devil, Arthur Lee and the writer himself!
Genre : Pop: Beatles-pop
Release Date: 2012
About The songs From This Album
This album is much more personal than the previous (’10 Cents Above A Beggar’). I didn’t plan it so, it was accidental or unconscious. The last album had songs about imaginary situations (Every Night, If You Want To Stay, The Only One, Palm Trees, But I’ll Miss You More, Every Shade of Blue) songs about more realistic situations or people (Under The Mushroom, The Silent Gap, Blues For Billy Strayhorn, Romantic Warrior). The only songs which sprang out of my own experience or feelings were Big Prize and Moments In A Life.
This time it’s much more about me or, to be more accurate, situations, which I have experienced. As I said above, sometimes when you plan a project like this, unforeseen forces come into play. The album’s theme is loosely about people who manage to make a mess of their lives. I do not think I am a loser. I am very happy in my life but I have myself done or have known people who have done dumb, dysfunctional things. The theme was really a comic, unifying device to help with the song selection. Sometimes the concept is pretty stretched!
Love Can Die.
I wanted to write a song about how love can suffer in poverty, having been in this situation myself once. It’s kind of anti-romantic; like, which would you choose, love or money? I wanted to show how poverty can cause relationships to fall apart under pressure. In spite of the claustrophobic subject matter, the song itself is a jaunty, upbeat thing, reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’. I wonder what happened to the handclaps we were going to put on it?
I Can’t Help Myself.
A title which has been done before, I think. This song does refer to events in my life – my (younger) partner always jokes about the risky things I have done in my life and how I have never lived particularly safely. The implication being that I need some kind of watchdog! Considering the jokey subject matter and origin, it’s serious and plaintive. Musically, it’s a joke (like If You Want To Stay) based on the oft-used chord sequence of Hit The Road Jack. I was trying to use something old in a new way.
Don’t Go With Him.
This arises out of my memories of my youth (well, childhood) and my mother getting ready to go out. The child who watched her was nowhere near as insightful, I hasten to say. It has oedipal overtones (which I was trying to play down) arising out of a child’s desire to protect his mother. The purple dress is a bit of family lore! The song takes personal experience as starting point.
A Sailor Out of Grace With The Sea.
The title, which is a private joke, references a short story by Yukio Mishima. The song describes pretty accurately an ex-sailor I knew years ago. What I like about songwriting is how it is possible to make the humdrum or everyday sound poetic or symbolic. This is pretty much what I tried to do here by investing in a quiet, rather unassuming, man slightly epic or archetypal qualities. It also makes me sound like a saviour. I can’t claim that quality! For the sake of rhythmic variety we gave this song a soft hip hop groove which I’ve always felt when I played it solo on acoustic guitar. Unusually, it has no solo. I’ll probably rectify that omission in performance.
Like The Pretty Things
The first of the real patron saints of dysfunction on the album, the original hip losers, the Pretty Things. I always loved them for their outlaw stance (check out all those moody and sullen yet dandified shots from the 60s!) and still listen to them regularly. I thought I’d cop the groove from Rosalyn but it turned into a rockabilly rhythm. Absolutely fiendish to play for any length of time! I do play it alone but, on the sessions, my fingers were so tired that I relaxed my own rule of playing rhythm guitar and let Tristan do it. Even he struggled! But he did a great job. That’s him screaming in the middle, by the way. I’m far too polite to do that – anyway my voice is too weedy. The name checks in the break are the names of the original (and still the best) incarnation of the Pretties – as we devotees call them.
An imaginary song built out of a composite of several women I know. Not sure whether she’s dysfunctional or merely too much of a dreamer but she’s waiting for the perfect man (if such a thing exists!) Many women I know have been disappointed in love or have unrealistic expectations. She’s a modern day Miss Havisham, crossed musically with Van Morrrison influences, borrowing its rhythm and the major sevenths from ‘Wild Children’ (like Moments in A Life’). It’s a jazz waltz which I like since it lilts nicely.
Small Town Blues
The dysfunctional entity here is not one person but the population of a town, in this case the small west of England town where I grew up and from which I was desperate to escape. I illustrated it with events which happened to me while I was an adolescent. I love the blues so many of my songs borrow from blues idioms, forms or structures. It’s a much more flexible form than many people think and it always amazes me that so many people only equate the blues with the tedious 12 bar format. The bridge springs from my memories of the fairs which used to come in the summer months when youths in pointed shoes and greased hair used to romance girls in tight skirts and beehives on the fairground rides.
Another patron saint: Arthur Lee, from Love, definitely a willful soul who colluded in his own obscurity in spite of his gifts and talents. Again, he was a personal hero of mine as is clear from the lyric. The mood is half admiration and half frustration. Musically, I tried to pastiche Love’s Que Vida (and either Tristan or Aaron caught that perfectly with the descending organ chords) and Nothing. I’m not sure the latter came across though.
The most complex song on the album in terms of history and derivation. Its genesis goes back to Athens in 1982. I saw the words Radio Stranger spray-painted on a wall while I was traveling to work. I had no idea what it might mean but it was suggestive. Then I remembered two things: a sarcastic radio DJ in Wigan or Ormskirk in North West England who used to talk to people about their relationships and a BBC DJ who broke down and cried when his wife left him. They all came together and the story was born. It had never been played in public in all that time but I am more proficient now than I was then.
Great Wall of China.
Something of an interloper, it really doesn’t belong in this collection except under the most specious of reasons. If you think that feeling too much love is dysfunctional then I guess it might belong in this collection! I liked the image of the Great Wall being visible from the moon and I wanted a love song on the album so I combined them and this is it. It is another homage to Billy Strayhorn via the opening chord which is the opening chord of his ‘A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing’. It all fell in to place after that.
The ultimate dysfunctional hero, or antihero, if you like. The gist of this is that the devil, an aging hipster now resident in surburbia, is pissed off with people dissing him through the years and wants to put the record straight – rather unconvincingly. It’s another blues song – again altered – with the appropriately sleazy rhythm of a stripper’s music. The devil, while trying to project a down-homey persona is actually being disingenuous and explaining away his crimes. It’s possibly a little too long but stick with it and you’ll get to the pay-off.