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Count Your Blessings

I wish I could remember which book it was.  It was one of those New Age self-help books…how to live a happier life sort of thing.  I read quite a lot of those.  And have become a happier and better person for it, I believe.  The particular book I refer to had a little exercise in it.  I must have known that I’d forget the name of the book, because I decided to write a song based on the exercise so that I didn’t forget the exercise.

The exercise went as follows:  Start the day – before anything else – by making a quick mental list (or physical if you prefer) of things you have in your life that you are grateful for.  10 things.  At first it can be difficult.  But there’s…water?  Electricity? A roof over your head?  Maybe someone loves you?  Maybe you have a small skill or talent?  Go through them and feel grateful.  Say a little thank you.  If a negative thought comes in, try and let it go and go back to a positive that you can be grateful for.  Then go get your breakfast or whatever comes next.

The idea is that as we consciously practice gratitude we open up our minds to the positive things in life.  Then we see positivity in more things – things we took for granted.  Things we thought were negative.

It worked for me…so I wrote this song to remind myself to keep doing it.



I would wake up in the morning
rush out of my sleep
drag a comb across my head
as I stumble to the street
morning coffee down my shirt
and sleep around my eyes
as the rain pounds down around me
into the world of fear and lies

a change of thought can shape your destiny
make a little list of things your glad you’ve got
water, food, shelter what you have not what you’ve not

count your blessings, and when you get to ten
start all over
start counting once again
And when you notice blessings that you never knew you had
Oh-oh-oh-oh count your blessings

So the silence of another night
is shattered by the dawn
but instead of pressing snooze
I now start every morn
with a tally of my blessings
what I am grateful for
count ten things that I love
and each day there appear more

a change of thought can shape your destiny
make a little list of things your glad you’ve got
the seas the breeze the trees – the birds and the bees
what you have not what you’ve not

Albums that formed me: Space Oddity

The first cassette I wore out was the second I was given by my brother…it had Genesis Live on the one side and David Bowie’s first (actually second, but the actual first is something completely different and we won’t dwell too long on that).  It is commonly known as “Space Oddity” although it was I believe originally just called “David Bowie”.  Space Oddity was, of course, the lead single from it and the song that shot Bowie into the fame he maintained the next 5 decades. 

Space Oddity is a song that encapsulates many of my favourite things: A story, acoustic guitars playing interesting chords, clever harmonies, unpredictable bassline and a great melody.  There’s even a tiny guitar solo and a bag of psychedelia.  A great song and released just at the right time, when the world was in a space travel mania.

Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed again mixes the acoustic guitar (with it’s Bo Diddly rhythm) with a rock backing, with again the bass in a John Entwistle style freestyle…generally a lot of the album sounds almost jammed and therefore very honest and authentic.  It’s a great rehearsal room sort of vibe, with blues harmonica mixing with the wild 60’s rock band freak out.

Letter to Hermoine is a beautifully written love song – and in it’s honesty manages to avoid all the clichés that usually put me off love songs…Bowie in these moments competes with even Dylan as songwriter and folk singer.

With brings us to the fantastic Cygnet Committee.   This song – for me – is Bowie at his absolute best.  Like Dylan but with more complex composition and arrangement…the story of how youthful hope and revolutionary activism becomes dissillusionment and corruption is way ahead of what could be expected of a 21 year old.  Also he taskes the time needed to complete the story…you could do that back then.  Nine and a half minutes is usually deemed too long for modern concentration levels.  It’s a work of genius and I could live on a desert island with no other music than this one song and not get bored for many years.

Janine is another guitar driven singer-songwriter song that – in the spirit of the late 60’s – let’s a rock band do what it wants behind the song.  I love the freedom of it all.  Not the strongest song on the album but still a good melody and a song that would actually sit really well on even his quite late albums like Hours or Heathen.

An Occasional Dream takes us back into the psychedelic with a Syd Barrett- like vibe along with a 12-string guitar that must surely have been an influence on the early Genesis repertoire.  Lots of harmony recorders – again…who would dare try that nowadays?

Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud was my favourite on the album when I was young.  Again there’s a good story…skilfully told.  There’s a version on a collection of recordings Bowie made at the BBC that I absolutely love…the orchestration is unnecessarily dramatic I feel and I adore his voice and the acoustic guitar and the passion he puts in – they could have kept the bass too, but the orchestra only detracts from what is a great performance of a fabulous song.

God Knows I’m Good was in the first solo sets I ever played…it was the first Bowie song I learnt to play and one what I still think fits many occasions.  Again a great little story – totally everyday stuff about shoplifting but getting the point of view of the “offender”.  The orchestration here is all acoustic guitars – at least 3 different parts…and gives it that folk feel I love.

Memory of The Free Festival is one of my absolute favourite Bowie songs.  When I first heard it I knew nothing of festivals but the joy and ecstacy in the lyrics may well be why I became such a huge fan of festivals later.  This song was one of my “signature” songs when I used to busk and play at gatherings and festivals as a youth.  It’s going to get it’s own video at some point cos it’s a classic…what a chord sequence apart from anything else!  But for now you can settle for the title track in this little performance from the studio.


Guilty Feeling

Guilty Feeling

I was playing in a band called “Whirly Pits” in the year of Our Lord 1988, and our keyboardist was recounting some exploits from a night out in Wombourne the previous Friday.  In his narrative the phrase “woke up with a guilty feeling” came forth, and I made a mental note that there could be a song in there.  I had recently discovered the Blues…I mean discovered the old acoustic Delta Blues.  Blues was familiar to me from the records I had by Rolling Stones, Canned Heat and many others.  But a friend of ours called Simon had a collection of ancient recordings of artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Big Bill Broonzy, Lead Belly, Robert Johnson and so on along with slightly later offerings by Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.  I was mesmerized by the sound…particularly the really old recordings, where it seemed they’d just managed to capture a ghost before it faded.  And I was taken away to another world – totally alien to me –  where the memory of slavery was still fresh in the memory of the singers and their voices were filled with a connection to pain and a channeling of spirit that few since had had.

So the song Guilty Feeling was always going to start with “I woke up this morning”…and so it became a delta style blues affair.  We played it with Whirly Pits, but soon after we started playing with a Simon on guitar – and to acknowledge the change in musical direction we called the band “Whirly Blues”.  This was the first incarnation of the band of that name.  We played Blues – obviously – but also mixed with psychedelia and Indie ideas – hence still Whirly.  Whirly Blues changed to a more Psychedelic Rock and Indie band after Simon left and was replaced by Rob Challenor (aka Dr. South) and Bebee…we were eventually persuaded to change the name as we no longer played blues…which ultimately was a terrible mistake.  Moody Blues didn’t.  Nor did Climax Blues Band.

The actual story in the song is a combination of many different post-alchohol situations: some of them auto-biographical, most not.  What the guilt is about is left a mystery, as it was in the original story.

It’s a fairly old recording:  from the days when I had a studio in Copenhagen with Brian Armstrong…and it’s using his SPL channel one channel strip and SE5600 microphone…which inspired me to get one.  I’m playing –  as ever – the Martin HD28V guitar, an unidentified Harmonica and there’s no overdubs  or anything.  Keeping it authentic man…


The words….

I woke up this morning with a bruise on my face

Champagne matted hair – my clothes all over the place

Lying next to a girl, I don’t think I know her name

Can’t recall last night so won’t you tell me what’s to blame

For this Guilty Feeling.  A Guilty Feeling’s what I’ve got

I’’ve got a Guilty Feeling.  Must have done something bad but I don’t know what

I looked in the mirror – bags under my bloodshot eyes

A lovebite on the neck, a shiner on the rise

Oh my God – my face is a weary white

There’s blood on my shirt – it must have been quite a night

I’’ve got a Guilty Feeling. A Guilty Feeling’s what I’ve got

I’’ve got a Guilty Feeling.  Must have done something bad but I don’t know what

I want a drink – I don’t feel so young

I want an asprin but I ain’t got none

I wanna go out but I daren’t see my friends

If they know what happened then I’ll never hear the end

I’’ve got a Guilty Feeling.  A Guilty Feeling’s what I’ve got

I’’ve got a Guilty Feeling.  Must have done something bad but I don’t know what

Albums that formed me: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan – as I wrote in the song “Carried on a-changing” – has been my hero in so many ways.

I eyed up my sister’s guitar that she’d left next to the piano in the living room when she went to university.  With it were 2 songbooks (with diagrams of where to put your fingers).  One was Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits.  The other was a Bob Dylan songbook.

The first song I learned on the guitar was out of this book:  Blowing in the Wind.  I didn’t learn it to be a pop star, because it was cool, to get girls or to be like Dylan.  I just loved the songs and the sound of an acoustic guitar with a voice.  And the songs spoke to me a truth I found no place but in music.  It was a truth very different to what my teachers were teaching at school.  And set in a world very different from my life in England.  But somehow I had more in common – it felt – with Dylan than with anyone I knew in real life (except my brother – it was him that introduced me to Dylan and much much more).

Bob is a controversial chap – and he knows it and loves it, I’m sure.  He has made many incredible records over the years – and some that I would consider truly terrible.  There’s something for everyone – so long as they can get past the voices he uses and that instrument of Satan – the harmonica.  I don’t dis the harp itself…only when it’s in the holder round Zimmermann’s neck.  The absolute greatest album he made though – in my opinion – is his second.

It starts with “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?”  It was the song that helped catapult Dylan to fame (mostly through Peter Paul and Mary’s version).  It’s an amazing composition.  And bear in mind the boy is 21 years old at this point (just turned 22 when it was released).  For me he was asking the questions no-one around me was asking.  The BIG questions…how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?  Dylan cared.  The grown ups in my world didn’t.

Girl from the North country was an early example of Dylan putting his words to an established folk song melody (in this case Scarborough Fair).  This he presumably learnt from Martin Carthy who he had met while in London shortly before.  Paul Simon brought the same song (though with the traditional words) back from his time with Carthy in London.  It’s a similar theme to Scarborough fair lyrically too.

Masters of War spoke to me too…it was just before my punk phase, but there was a lot of teenage anger boiling up inside me at the state of the world and the politicians who waged war for profit and killed for corporations.  The bite in the lyrics and the disdain for the warmongering leaders struck a chord in my embryonic rebel soul.  Lennon was anti-war, Dylan was anti-war…these were people to look up to when those I was taught to look up to were part of the system that create war.

Hard Rain’s a gonna Fall was another of the first songs I learnt…and performed a lot in the early days of me singing with an acoustic guitar (mostly round camp fires and at after-pub “parties”).  I always loved the poetry in this and the imagery – everything is so easy to picture and yet can be examined in so many layers.  And I absolutely love the humour of the last line…in a song so incredibly hard to remember all the words to…”I’ll know my song well before I start singing”.  Not necessarily a motto I have lived by since!

Don’t Think Twice is the Dylan song I sing most – maybe equalled by Like a Rolling Stone.  It’s cleverly written and puts a bunch of emotion in about a relationship without the slightest trace of cheesiness or cliché.  It’s fantastic songwriting.  All the songs are, of course, recorded just with guitar, voice and harmonica…this could be a time to mention the beautiful quality of the recording….I haven’t looked into what microphones and preamps were used, but as soon as I’m finished writing this I will…

Bob Dylan’s Dream is another folk tune…and one that I play.  Lord Franklin’s Lament I learned from Pentangle, but I must have known Dylan’s song with the same tune before that.  It all seems so long ago now.

Oxford Town was an anti-racism protest song, responding to an incident in Oxford Mississippi, but was still relevant to stories I heard of racial hatred from the States in the 80’s.  And even now.  Not that we didn’t have racism in the UK, but I grew up in a school with people from all over the world, in a town with a huge black and Asian population, going to church in a predominately black area and with parents who had black and Asian friends, so I never got to understand the whole racism thing.  I’ve studied it a great deal since, and have conclusions regarding tribalism and evolution that I’ll bore you with some other time, but sometimes you just have to sing that hatred away.

Talking WWIII Blues.  Again, Dylan is talking about stuff I was worried about – both 1963 when this album was released, and 1980 when I first heard the album were in the Cold War period.  We were actually taught at school about how Nukes could destroy our town, and shown films of what the devastation would be.  I’m glad we were told, but it was terrifying.  I never saw us as the good guys…by the time I understood the Cold War it was Thatcher and Reagan on “our” side.  And I knew that THEY were Masters Of War.  I couldn’t understand how anyone could think we were the good guys with them in charge.  Soviet Pseudo-communism (let’s face it, it certainly wasn’t ACTUAL communism) was scary too, and the few grainy pictures of decaying high-rise blocks and military parades did nothing to make it look a better option.

Corrina Corrina is a beautiful song…though not one of Dylan’s  I didn’t realise it was a cover until recently.  The same applies to Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance, which showcases Dylan’s fun side, and reminds us how amazing a performer he must have been in the early days.

It’s a terrific album and in my view the best singer-songwriter album of all time.  And there’s nothing there but his voice, a guitar, a mouth-organ and the songs.  Amazing.


The Mermaid Of Zennor

The Mermaid Of Zennor

It being St Piran’s Day this Friday (The National Day of Cornwall) I thought I’d share with you a song I wrote called The Mermaid Of Zennor. The story is an old Cornish folk tale that I remember my mother telling me as a child. Also we visited the church in Zennor on one of Dad’s legendary “mystery trips” where a rather ancient mermaid is carved into one of the pews. I returned as an adult, and the mermaid was less disappointing –  the church is lovely and the coastline stunning. It is every bit as beautifully Cornish as you can get. Way out in the wild windy west.

The reason for writing this story as a song was that I couldn’t find any versions of the many Cornish folk tales I heard as a child done as songs, and felt that it would be a fun project to make an album of said stories. I do love a story in a song – and there are some great stories in the myths and legends of Cornwall. So I began writing the songs and now have an album worth of Cornish myths and legends ready to record and release…

This then is a preview.

The story tells of a mermaid who falls in love with a man who sings in the church at Zennor, and comes ashore to hear him. He inevitably falls in love with her and vanishes into the sea with her never to be seen again. But they say that if you listen closely when standing on the headland you can hear him singing to this day…go there and listen. It’s worth it.

Beasts Of Burden

I may have mentioned Ed’s notebook before.

It was the one he wrote the story for The Frozen Lake in.

He wrote ideas in this notebook for an album’s worth of folky songs and tunes…some were well-formed ideas, others just titles. After I wrote “The Frozen Lake” a couple of years went by before I looked at the scan I’d done of the notebook.

It was during the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. I had time on my hands and looked at my photo of a page of the notebook. There was an idea for a song called “Beasts of Burden” and a list of animals.

It said “heavy blues with hammond”…but as soon as I started playing around with it it morphed into a more strummy Neil Young kind of vibe. So I stuck with that. Sorry Ed. Well, now the lyrics are there so we can always do a bluesy version another day!

The animals included are by and large those from the notebook, although I think I added the mule and left out a bison.

Ed is doing amazing stuff that you should check out HERE and HERE

On this recording I play my Martin HD28V guitar, Musicman Stingray Bass, Fender Stratocaster through virtual amps in logic and a virtual Hammond organ (a mix of organs from the Logic standard midi library put through a Leslie simulators). Recorded at Avalon as ever and mastered at 6 Bit Deep by Joel Krozer.


And the words are:

On a mountain side no turning back
Gales around us give no slack
If we were carrying our pack
no further could we roam
Bearing our wares on its back
Ever strong our trusty Yak
Onward down the rocky track
We make it safely home

Beasts of burden – Carry our load
Horse and mule ox and buffalo
in the mines the fields on the canals and down the dusty road
Carry our load
Beasts of burden

In the desert endless sand
Rocks and stones scattered across the land
A thirst that could kill a man
With goods to sell so far away
The camel in this climate stands
Making few demands
In a place where no other can
Take the cold of night and heat of day

In the corn fields of England
The might shire horse used to stand
And pull the plough across the land
With strength and pride
These giants gentle broad and grand
Could not keep up with modern man
Will beasts of burden understand
The turning tide


Caledonia is one of those amazing songs that becomes a folk music classic within years of being written (like Green Fields of France, Crazy Man Michael, Fiddler’s Green and Fields of Athenry). It was written by Dougie MacLean in 1977, I believe, and released in 1979 on the album of the same title. It was barely out of nappies before everyone and their piper were performing it.  For 2 reasons:  It’s a fantastic melody; and it has a genuine feeling of longing to the lyrics.  An authenticity that cuts to the heart.

I came to the song quite late.  I’d heard it performed by many people, and loved it, but didn’t have it on my list of “must sing” numbers…mostly because I felt I had enough Scottish repertoire, and more songs about Scottish people missing Scotland were low priority – particularly as I was mostly performing upbeat stuff for pub audiences or else rock-based covers and originals.  I finally learned it about 4 years ago, and coincidently just before I got together with a group of musicians from my local area of Fyn in Denmark.

We drank coffee on Tuesday mornings and played folk music.  Folk music is a broad term, and – as we came from very different musical backgrounds –  we took material and inspiration from everything from Americana to Irish trad and from blues to ballads.  Suddenly there was a place that Caledonia belonged, and I can’t remember who suggested it.  But I had been playing it the same as Douglie MacLean’s original: in open C tuning, but with a capo on the 6th fret (as opposed to Dougie’s 4th) so that I was singing in G.

Doing it this way in a band set up meant either tuning the guitar or having an extra guitar handy, and that was too much effort, so I made a version in standard tuning, with captures the essence of the song (hopefully) though without those lovely open string timbres.  This has become my “go to” version, as it means I can seamlessly throw the song in at solo gigs without a major retune before and after…and this is then the version I have played on the following video.

Albums that formed me: Selling England By The Pound

Selling England By the Pound

The first music I ever owned was Pinapple Poll – the music of Arthur Sullivan (Of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) on an LP.  I played it on my sister’s Philip’s Stereogram with it’s auto-change function and 4 speeds (16, 33, 45 and 78) that was passed down from my music-loving grandpa.  This and my 2nd LP (The Wombles – Mike Batt’s novelty project and still a great album to this day!) were presents from my sister (I’m guessing I was 6 and 8 years old).  I would sit in her room and listen to these and some of her records (Leo Sayer, David Essex, Abba…and stuff handed down like Pinky and Perky – thank heaven for the 16RPM button which played Pinky and Perky at the speed it was recorded…ah…google it!)

From the room next door (or when I was in my room, the room upstairs) came a very different sound:  Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Caravan, David Bowie, Jethro Tull and much more.  My brother was (is) a music enthusiast and appreciates music and lyrics with depth and quality.  It was him who introduced me to the music that would soundtrack my life…starting with The Beatles (he gave me a cassette player and Beatles tape when I was 8) and then a year or so later another 2 tapes:  Genesis Live with David Bowie’s Space Oddity on the other side and Nursery Cryme with Selling England By The Pound.

I know these 4 albums inside out and upside down.  A short while later he gave me his entire cassette collection…many many amazing albums, a lot of which I still listen to (though not on cassette!).  I will always be grateful.

Selling England was made when Genesis were at their absolute peak.  The 3rd album with Steve Hackett on guitar and Phil Collins on drums, and when the band was really creative and still enjoying what they were doing.  When I briefly worked with Steve Hackett in the early 90’s he said it was his favourite Genesis album and that he enjoyed making it…his playing is absolutely sublime on it.

It starts with Peter Gabriel’s voice a cappello – like an unaccompanied folk song: “Can you tell me where my country lies?”…Dancing Out With The Moonlit Knight is a perfect example of how Genesis in those days played with words – something that has profoundly influenced my songwriting.  Here too is a way of describing the disintegration of England and the infiltration of American culture in a way that is both tragic and fun.  Uplifting even.  The complexity of the composition and the stunning guitar solo – more a composition than a solo – are the epitome of mid 70’s Genesis.

Next comes the sound of a lawnmower.  Genesis up to this point had never had a single in the charts.  Since the awful Jonathan King production of the first album they had become an album band – most songs were too long to get on radio anyway.  “I Know What I Like (in your wardrobe)” became their first “hit”…something I’ve always struggled to understand.  Not the hottest track on the album, but it is pleasant and quirky.  And it’s hard to say “it’s one o’clock” without saying “and time for lunch umdidumdidum”.

Firth of Fifth is one of the best things Genesis ever did in my opinion.  The classical piano intro is a work of art in itself, but the way it explodes to life when the band come in, dips, dives and develops, as if following the river it describes is fascinating and symphonic.  Then there’s the guitar solo…possibly Hackett’s finest?  Tony Banks said he wasn’t happy with the lyrics, but I think it’s a beautiful piece of poetry.

Then comes “More Fool Me”.  I think the less I say about that song the better.  Suffice it to say that I always stop the record before the start.  In retrospect it shows where Genesis were eventually going to head, and makes some of the 80’s material less surprising (particularly Collins’ and Rutherford’s solo material).  Anyway…

Side 2…

I was once asked what my favourite song on the album was, and I replied “The Battle Of Epping Forest” much to the amazement of the questioner.  I wouldn’t give the same answer again – Moonlight Knight, Firth of Fifth or Cinema Show definitely beat it – but the fact is that it is an amazing piece of work.  It tells a story (as many Genesis songs did) about a fight between 2 rival London gangs, and for it Gabriel invented characters and plots and added stacks of humour, whilst the band went full on fusion in one of the most complex arrangements they ever made.  The ending is simultaneously hilarious and poignant.

After the Ordeal is classic Hackett and a beautiful number.  I discovered that the band weren’t keen on including it, but I think it fits perfectly and ties together “Epping Forest” and “Cinema Show”.  Also it kind of signals the emphasis on the folk music element of the album.  And it has great melodies.  Both guitar styles: the acoustic and electric parts have been a huge part of where I come from as a guitarist…although I only gently scratch the surface!

Cinema Show is the archetypal Genesis song of this era.  The 12 string guitars in the soft build up.  The classical mythology references.  The flute link up.  The keyboard solo over 7/8 rhythm – as Prog Rock as you get…but yet very melodic.  The ending was one of the few pieces from the Gabriel era that the band played when I saw them in 1981.

Aisle Of Plenty brings back the themes and melody from the opening song, along with more of the playful puns.  And creates the feeling of a concept album…just in time for “The Lamb Lies Down” to take it all the way.

I never tire of this amazing record, because no matter how many times you hear it, something new pops out.  On top of that it has the vibe of a band that is bursting with creativity and enjoying their first taste of large-scale success…and are keen to remind themselves of their British roots as they conquer the world.  It’s a beautifully English album…in a thatched cottages and cream teas sort of way…and is a “go to” record for me when I want to feel my own roots.


Another One Knocking

It’s February!  This time last year I was in Finland having just got back to Europe from the Indian tour…different times huh?

Anyway…It’s a new month, and that means a new single is out.  Nr 6 so far and the penultimate in the series of monthly offerings.  There will be more releases this year but not every month (cash flow!)

Another One Knocking

When I was around 24 years old I moved in with my girlfriend at the time into a flat in Ettingshall near Wolverhampton.  It was a flat she rented from the council, on a housing estate comprised of a great number of “low-rise” blocks of flats.  Each block was 3 stories.  The ground floor was (in our block and many others) uninhabited…except for one very feisty lady who  refused to admit defeat.  The others had boarded up – with steel not wood – windows and doors.  It was the early 90’s, and the United Kingdom was yet to know the optimism (and consequent disillusion) of the Blair government…we were shortly post-Thatcher, and unemployment, inequality, desperation, crime and disrespect for the system were at all time highs.

The next door neighbour had broken into the flat shortly before I moved in…the telly was in their hallway when my girlfriend went round to ask if they’d seen anything.  Burglary was his main business.  As a side-line his wife was on the game.  As were the 2 girls upstairs from us.  A couple of flats away was the local drug dealer.  The song just wrote itself.

At the time I was playing bass in a funky rock band that I think had other names, but that I remember as “Stress”.  It was shortly after the break up of Whirly Blues and I was demotivated…busking alone or with whistle player Geoff was main source of income, but I’d got a gig as singer with a Blues band called “Bogus Dago”.  The guitarist was fantastic – very authentic blues player with a lovely tone, and the drummer was properly groovy…a fan of Greatful Dead.  We did blues covers, mostly stuff no-one else was doing…and at that time there were quite a few blues bands around.  Also quite a lot of gigs for blues bands.  What we hadn’t done was any original songs.  So when I wrote the song about the neighbours I made it a blues based number.

We did a recording of it – along with an album’s worth of stuff – in Guildford.  Whole album recorded in a night.  I don’t think I ever heard the finished recording.  I got a day job at a heat-treatment factory and had to drop out of the band…in the worst possible way.  I couldn’t make it to a gig one night as I couldn’t get off work.  They played without me and I never played with them again.

The Bogus Dago version may have had some other verses.  I know I wrote one about Jehovah’s Witnesses coming round.  I think the lady on the ground floor had a verse too.  But nowadays I keep it short and sweet…I didn’t play it for about 20 years so it was a bit like starting from scratch.  Anyway, here’s what we ended up with.


I’m playing:

Martin HD28V acoustic guitar

Musicman Stingray bass (DI’ed)

Fender Stratocaster through Vox AC30 (no effects)

Harmonica (not sure which one I used on this)

It’s recorded at Avalon (Denmark) and mastered (as everything since “Kettle” has been) by Joel at 6BitDeep.


Lyrics go….

The girl upstairs she works through the night – see the fellas stop at the shade of her light

Between her and her girlfriend they get through six or maybe more

As soon as one man leaves another one is knocking at the door.

The lady next door – her brown eyes blue – her drunken hubby beats her but there’s nothing we can do

He’s out robbing houses, won’t be back til half past four

As soon as he leaves another man’s knocking at the door.

There’s another one knocking (another one knocking)

There’s another one knocking (another one knocking)

There’s another one knocking – another one knocking at the door

This guy 3 doors down’s got all kinds of gear.  Everyone knows what they want they can get it here

Punks and skins and hippies come round to see what they can score

As soon as one leaves another one’s knocking at the door

There’s another one knocking (another one knocking)

There’s another one knocking (another one knocking)

There’s another one knocking – another one knocking at the door

Black is the Colour

Black is the Colour is one of my favourite folk songs, with it’s haunting melody and sense of longing…and Strong Ale recorded it (with a lovely slide guitar part from Brian Armstrong) on the “The Beaten Track” album. When I was playing duo gigs with Jim Fox, this was a song that he used to sing, and it was inspired by Jim’s version that I decided to learn it. I have been introducing it for years as a “Scottish love song” – and usually I do a deal of research before committing to folk songs – it tends to be quite an interesting pastime for a nerd like me…for some reason I didn’t research this one very thoroughly until now.

It turns out that it IS of Scottish origin – I always thought it was based on a Burns poem but that isn’t so, and I’ve no idea where I got that from – but that when collected by Cecil Sharp it was in America, presumably brought over by Scottish immigrants (although Sharp has it as part of his collection of English folk songs of the Southern Appalachians).  The first version I remember hearing is the Nina Simone one – a very different  melody from the one I sing.  This American melody was introduced to the song by John Jacob Niles in 1941 (or at least, that is when it was first released), and is the melody that all the jazz versions and the many country versions have stuck to.

The other melody – the one I sing – I know through Christy Moore, who in turn learned it from Hamish Imlach.  Hamish’s version is the earliest released version of this tune that I know of.  If anyone knows more about its origins I’d love to hear.  I assume that this is the traditional tune that predates Niles’ American version.

The words are sweet but without being cheesy (apart from maybe the line “I love the ground whereupon she stands”).  Songs about missing those one loves somehow seem to resonate better than most romantic composition…this one gets me every time:

Here’s me performing it..


and here’s Strong Ale’s version (on Spotify)


The lyrics as I sing them are:

Black is the colour of my true love’s hair,

Her lips are like some roses fair,

She’s the sweetest smile, And the tenderest hands,

I love the ground, Whereon she stands.

I love my love and well she knows,

I love the ground, whereon she goes,

I hope the day, it won’t be long,

Til she & I could be as one.

I’ll go to the Clyde and I mourn and weep,

For satisfied, I ne’er can be,

I wrote a letter, just a few short lines,

And suffer death, a thousand times.

Black is the colour of my true love’s hair,

Her lips are like some roses fair,

She’s the sweetest smile, And the gentlest hands,

I love the ground, Whereon she stands.