The album is, as the title suggests, based around the theme of family, in particular my family, my current family rather than the family I was born into. Two songs don’t really fit the theme, but never mind…they’re good songs so
I wasn’t going to hold them back and replace them with something possibly inferior. Anyway, hear goes, track by track. As usual, all instruments are played by me.
The song was inspired by my wife Yingfeng’s late grandfather, my children’s Great Grandfather who died in 2014 aged just short of his century. It was him whom I have to thank for my having my family at all. When
Feng asked her dad if she could marry me and make the big move to England, he was understandably cautious and decided to pass the decision upwards to his dad. The Old Man gave his assent, and we were off…In China they call the head of the family ‘Big
Tree’, and this particular Big Tree was apparently very proud that his ‘branches spanned the oceans’ all the way to England. He was a fine, upright, proud old gentleman to the end, having lived a fascinating life. He was born into a family
of Landowners and grew up with servants, later being wealthy enough in his own right to support two families, one with his official wife and one with his concubine. After the Communist Victory of 1949 his land was Nationalised (and quite right too), but he
was employed to manage it and treated well, at least until the Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s when anyone from a capitalist or land owning background became politically suspect in the eyes of Comrade Mao and his youthful Red Guards (within whose ranks,
ironically, was Feng’s mum, his future daughter-in-law). He ended up scrubbing factory floors and the like, until the change to a controlled market economy from the late 1970’s opened up new opportunities for a man of his resilience and intelligence.
He made a substantial pot playing the stock market, and that is the reason that Feng’s family is relatively financially security today. I don’t go into his life story in the song, maybe I’ll do that elsewhere through another medium. The song
is lyrically sparse though, for me, a bit of a sprawling epic instrumentally.
Through the Cutting
This is one of those two songs that doesn’t quite fit the family template. It was
inspired by my thinking about some of the quirky local characters I used to see knocking around the Yarborough Estate in Grimsby when I was growing up. The Cutting was what we used to call a stretch of pavement that linked the estate with the more affluent
Yarborough Rd area. The paper shop on the right just before you reached the main road was called Gostellows during my childhood and adolescence, and it was here, inside/outside, en route to and from that characters such as ‘Mrs Memory’, ‘The
Dog Man’, ‘The Man With No Nose’ and ‘Partially Sighted Mike’ would be regularly seen, and heard. It was where I was also once beaten up, having my guitar smashed in the process, but that episode doesn’t make the song.
There Was I
I won’t say too much about this one. It’s the closest I’ve come to a straight love song to Feng. It’s basically a ‘life wasn’t very good but got better when you entered it’
kind of song. I think this was the first one I wrote (apart from the next one) for the album, and which established its theme. Melodically and in relation to the chord changes it’s reminiscent of something my good friend Michael Anderson might write.
This is actually a Golden Olde. When Feng first came to England at the end of 2007, already six months pregnant with Charles following our torrid honeymoon in Beijing, I started writing this and would walk around
our old flat with an acoustic guitar singing the first few lines to my unborn child over and over again. God knows what Feng thought she’d gotten herself into. I did record it in 2008, but I always knew that it was a crap recording, and when I went back
to it for this album it became clear that the structure needed altering, as well as some of the lyrics. The Middle Eight is completely new. Whatever anyone else thinks of it, it’s a song which will always bring back very happy memories for me.
It was Feng who ages ago observed that as I had written a Charles song it was only fair I also wrote a John song. It took me a while to get around to it, but here it is. The lyrics are pretty much an ‘as
it was’ description of the day John was born. Officially, he was due the next day, Monday December 20th. We spent the day doing normal things, me cooking Sunday dinner, me and Feng playing dominoes with the then almost four year old Charles, the three
of us watching a bit of T.V, the bag packed and ready in the hallway as it had been for about a fortnight, Feng’s friend Maria’s number on prominent display, ready for her to be summoned to carry us to the Women’s Hospital in her People Carrier
and to take care of Charles whilst I, and Feng, went through the mild discomfort of labour and its aftermath. It didn’t look like this day would be THE day, but then, as Feng was getting ready for bed upstairs in our old house in Speke, the waters broke
like an inverted fountain and ‘the plan’ immediately becaome operational.
The other none-family related song. It’s about a woman who used to be in a television soap opera and now, in
middle age, has to work at a normal, everyday job. Any relationship between the character in the song and any real person, living or dead, is of course purely coincidental. I’m not a fan of bitter songs, so softened the tone in the final verse. It’s
more than this purely fictional character actually deserves.
Hearing Your Presence
This is a song about being sick in my bed, in the afternoon, unable to sleep but also unable to summon up the energy to get up and
do something. As bad as I was feeling, the sound of Feng pottering around, ‘down in the kitchen making kitchen sounds’, was an immense comfort to me, and helped to get me through the worst of my illness.
I wrote this about my late nephew Dean, who died aged thirty from complications related to the diabetes he didn’t know he had. He liked to fish, to have a few cans and a laugh with his mates, just an everyday, uncomplicated, all round fun guy. There
is a plaque to him on a bench in the Boulevard, the park close to his mum’s, my sister’s, house, by his favourite fishing spot. After he died, another of my nephews, Paul, put the simple note ‘Gone Fishing’ on the door of his flat,
which I found rather beautiful and touching. The song started as my attempt at a Skiffle song, but this version is very different. I’ll save the other version for a rarities compilation.
Gardening in the Dark
song about how unwise it is to mix powerful stimulants with putting in work on an allotment. Sometimes one’s body keeps on going despite the objections of the rational mind, until it literally grinds to a halt, apparently. My fans will of course also
get the titular allusion to my first novel, Dark Gardening. The song concludes with my longest ever, and probably best ever, guitar solo.
Pronounce Wud-jo, Wuzhou is my wife’s home city in China. Every
Tony Green album has to have a ‘Music Hall-Macca’ sing-a-long moment it seems: Liverpool ’84; Airships in the Sky; There’s a War On; Victorian Computer, et al, and this song is this album’s contribution to that jaunty tradition.
By the standards of the People’s Republic of China, Wuzhou is an unremarkable city the size of Liverpool, though with double the population. It’s most notable feature is the ‘River of Two Colours’ referred to in the lyrics. Apparently,
when the sun hits it just right you can see both green and yellow reflected on the surface, although I’ve never actually seen this myself.
And that is that, Family Matters, my first collection of new songs in ten months, maybe my
last for another year or so. I’m very happy with it and if nothing else I hope it will survive as an interesting historical artifact within my family for a few generations.
Tony Green, May 2019