The Last Of Laura’s Children

The first verses and chorus of this song were written at the time of my father’s death, some of it as I sat by his bedside, some as I walked beside the River Usk in Brecon a few hours later. (If you are interested you can read my version of those events here.) The people named are his brother Don, sister’s Joyce, Joan, Hilda and May, mother Laura, father Charles, and wife Mary.

The rest of the song followed quite quickly, apart from the usual tweaks and alterations that happened during the recording, a few months later. As well as the sadness of the death and its impact on me, I wanted to capture the joy of nostalgia – stories and memories of his life, both his own early memories, and some of my later ones. The river Nene runs through Wisbech, where Dad lived for almost 80 years. As a child he lived right on the riverbank but the river featured throughout his whole life and was the obvious place for his ashes.

Writing songs is clearly how I deal with things – I wrote two when my mum died … ‘Do you still walk?’ and ‘Before time‘.

White River

About a time and place I knew in South Africa 1977. And an incredible event.

I had been hitch-hiking through the night from Johannesburg to White River (Witrivier) in the Eastern Transvaal. Dawn was just breaking as I was walking towards the town, in sight now but still some distance away. In the first light, I could see a figure moving, coming towards me. It was a man, running slowly, in full Zulu regalia, with spear and shield. He passed without a word … going … I know not where. I remember the beauty, the strength of the man, my amazement, and also my fear.

Pretty much all of the sounds on this are from the Yamaha TG55, with RX11 drums.

Island Heartbeat

Dance version of ‘Island heart’ from Music from Holy Vale. It’s very laid back but with the piano mantra of the original supported by a drumbeat the whole thing feels much lighter.

The vocals are by Amy Clapinson, Ruth Egglestone and Louisa Page from Crediton.

Swan Plane

Sorry about the quality of this recording, but nevertheless I wanted to post this song as it means a lot to me. This tune has stuck with me for years and surfaced in several different ways – this recording is the second version. It was originally written on a harmonium in the South Africa Hare Krishna Temple where I stayed in 1976/77. 

A few years later in London I went into a studio with some friends to make this recording. It’s hard to imagine, but that was really the only viable way at the time – no portastudios existed and home recording was just a dream waiting to happen.

The friends:

  • George  Mitchell on guitar, who really gave me the confidence to make it happen.
  • Warrick Sony on tabla.
  • Pippa Hardman on vocals.

I already played with George in the fabulous Fighting Pigeons – somewhere there are other tracks with him singing which I would dearly love to find, but they may be lost to time now. Warrick was on holiday from South Africa after finishing his national service, emerging from the army as an amazing musician. Pippa, I had heard sing in The Rocky Horror Show (she played Janet at Kings Road & Comedy Theatres), and I just knew her voice was perfect for this song. I don’t think I’d  have the gall to do it now, but I just asked if she would sing and … she said yes!

You can hear my other takes on the theme here – ‘Breathing the city
and here: ‘Cherry Blossom

Before Time

I created this for my mum’s memorial service – she died in 2011.

For me, writing the song was a really good way of sorting out my feelings and helping me to focus on my grief, when there were so many other pulls on my time and attention. Sorting through old photos and adding the slides has given the song another dimension, and invites me to come back, listen, watch, remember …

The “Before time” phrase, and a few fragments of the lines first came to me some years ago on a retreat, but I’d never found a place for them.