Trips track by track
Aunt Who Went To France
Originally, I had an idea for a ‘China’ themed album. All that survives of that idea is the opening two tracks.
The ‘Aunt’ of the title of this opener was an aunty of my wife Feng’s who met a Frenchman who was working in China before the Japanese invasion in the 1930’s, and who returned to France with him in order for them to marry. Obviously
travelling from China to Europe was a much bigger deal back then than it is now. She didn’t return to China until the death of her husband over fifty years later, and when she did she said that the thing she had been looking forward to most was the eating
of one particular vegetable which only grows in the province where Feng’s home city of Wuzhou is situated. This story provided the musical basis for the song. Musically, it’s a bit of a rocker with the funky guitars in the background of the chorus
putting me in mind of something I may have recorded with my friend and collaborator Mike Anderson circa 1987. I’ve used a lot more altered vocals on this album than previously, and they make their first appearance here.
2) The Long March The Long March was the of course famously undertaken by Mao’s revolutionary forces during China’s civil war. The song is more about China’s post-revolutionary march towards becoming a
(perhaps soon THE) world super power. There is also a family connection element in that Feng’s mum was a Red Guard during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the 1960’s’; and she really does, as it says in the song, keep her old
Red Guard uniform wrapped ‘in cellophane like a wedding dress’. This is perhaps the catchiest broadly pro-Maoist songs ever written.
3) Iona Sound The ‘sea’ was another aborted theme
for the album. This is Broughton-Green composition, developed from a finger-picked melody that my work colleague/friend and sometimes Open Mic accomplice Terry had had kicking around for ages. We worked out the chords together and I went home and wrote the
lyrics. Lyrically, it’s based on my trip to the Scottish island of Iona in the spring of 2017. The very fact that the water around the island is called ‘The Sound of Iona’ simply begged me to write a song about it. Whilst there, I heard the
sad story of four young men who decided to take a boat from Iona to a party on a neighbouring island. As islanders they had grown up with the sea and were obviously experienced seafarers. The waters’ that night were apparently calm, and yet a freak wave
(‘the wave from nowhere came’ in the song) led to four of the five young men never returning (one managed to swim ashore to tell the story of what happened). This was back in the ‘90’s, but the wound in the community still seems to
be pretty raw. When you have a population of less than two hundred, the loss of four men in their early teens/late twenties is a big deal. It’s a straight Folk Ballad story song.
4) Last Train
One of the latter songs written and recorded when the theme of the album had become one of ‘journeys’ in general. In late 1989 0r perhaps early 1990, me and my friend and comrade
Richard Farr went off to the village of Ulceby in Lincolnshire to speak at an Anti Poll Tax Union meeting, just the two of us, he chairing the meeting, me speaking. It was a decent turn out for such a small village with maybe 40 or fifty people turning out
to listen to us. Afterwards the two of us lingered in a country pub chatting to two attractive older women (maybe in their early to mid-thirties, I was then twenty seven, Richard six years younger). The pub was right next to the train station, but we left
it to the very last possible moment before dashing off to catch the last train, only to see it disappearing into the distance as we reached the platform. It took more than an hour of increasingly dispirited tramping down the hard shoulder of the motorway before
we managed to hitch a lift back to Grimsby. ‘You saved us’ said Richard as we clambered into the car. ‘Only Jesus saves’ said the Jehovah’s Witness lady driver. We were both pretty anti Christian at the time, so the rest of the
journey home was conducted largely in silence.
5) Same Bridge, Different Time
The most experimental track on the album, a sort
of free-flowing jazzy piece built around a simple piano motif. Lyrically it’s based on the two occasions that I have walked across the Humber Bridge: the first timeback in 1989 with Mike, his then girlfriend Bev’, fellow Militant comradeJohn Rathbone,
and a woman called Sue Arnold whom I can recall little about, after a Militant event in Hull; and the second time with my family (baby John in his pram) almost a quarter of a century later. It’s lyrically oblique, with the Bridge, I suppose, being used
metaphorically as a bridge across time.
6) Song of Home
The last song written and recorded for the album. It’s one of
my vague ‘life as a spiritual journey’ type songs. Musically, it’s perhaps a descendent of Where oh Where off Roctober One back in ‘84, if only because both are in A Minor and ¾ time. I once again used the technique of recording
the same acoustic guitar part twice on separate tracks that I put to good effect on a couple of tracks on Origins, the slightly out of sync playing having the effect of thickening the sound.
7) Cambridge 2002
This is about as close as I’ve ever come to Heavy Metal. My relationship with Hilary began as my relationship with Val ended late in 2002, and within a month or so I was
on a coach to Cambridge to spend Christmas with her delightfully dotty old mum in her cold, rambling house. The story is all there in the song, including my wandering alone in the cold around the area of Grantchester in search of one of my musical heroes,
the reclusive Syd Barrett.
8) Forty Thieves
An acoustic Folk-Blues written from the perspective of an old Grimsby Fisherman looking
back regretfully on life. My dad told me that the fisherman used to call the trawler owners the Forty Thieves, presumably because there were once forty of them and, inevitably it was they who made the bulk of the takings from the fisherman’s arduous
and dangerous trips out to sea. A song that makes good use of a recent addition to my musical arsenal, a roll-up electronic drum kit.
9) The Crossing
The idea of the crossing of a river in order to reach the after life after death has existed in many cultures, from the Ancient Egyptians to the Vikings. This concept forms the basis of this song. Musically, I took the hook from a classic jazz ‘turn-around’
progression I learnt from Terry. This could be played at my funeral.
10) My Return
The basis of this song was my rather depressing
return from Shetland in January 1981, seasickness on the St Claire ferry and being left penniless (through my own youthful stupidity) in Darlington and all. In the end it’s an upbeat song though, about not knowing then the great days that were still
ahead of me, about always coming back from adversity, and perhaps even from death itself. It contains the sort of guitar solo I might have come up with at the time, as well as references to a couple of my 1980’s songs. As an artist grows older, the more
self indulgent and self-referential he is allowed to become.
That’s it really, that’s
Trips. It’s a mixed bag, half autobiographical songs, half not, half acoustic, folk influenced tunes, and half more electric, Garage-Psyche-Rock type tunes. I hope your ears find it agreeable.