Lyrics – Lift

LIFT_Artwork_FINAL_BackCasablanca Face

The verses of this song came quickly once I had the idea for them in my head; the chorus on the other hand underwent a number of changes before I settled on the one here with the little mandolin runs. A bit of an upbeat countryish feel to this one, but a good one to start the album with I think.

She had a walk straight out the 50s but a Casablanca face,
And I loved it when she came around my place,
Though she’d never fold her things.

She’d had a lover in the government and one in CND,
But she never talked her politics to me,
She never spoke of such things.

Sometimes she’d come around here late,
With a fifty in her hand and telling stories of some date,
She knew that I would let her stay,

I’d always let her stay,
She’d kick around my place,
And the neighbours she would amaze,
When they saw her there,
With that Casablanca face.

She was careless with the things she said,
With what she’d let people see,
We grew careless together her and me,
She’d never cloak these things.


Slinking in, in black & white, Making shadows in the night,
I tried to temper all of her extremes,
I knew it was not, All it seemed.

The last time that we met I swear, I almost saw her cry,
When I saw that Bergman twinkle in her eye,
Ooh, ooh ooh, Ah ah.

’Til the morning came, Once again,
Sometimes she’d come around here late.

This tale of a man on the run from the police & his old cohorts in the Australian Outback was actually recorded at the tail end of the sessions for
Last Touch in 2012, but just too late to make it onto that album. However, I played it a fair bit on the tour to support LT and it went down so well that I knew I wanted to include it on Lift.
This was really the first time I’d tried to write a proper, old-fashioned, storytelling ballad with very few musical changes in it – a song which really relies on its lyrics.

They call me Thomas Gunn, But it’s a name I gave myself,
Doing such a thing is just one privilege of wealth,
When I came to this town I knew nothing would be asked,
I knew that I could tuck away my past.

Took the Stuart Highway, It’s a road you don’t take twice,
Days out in the desert like some failing Jesus Christ,
Stopped to sleep at Alice, But that’s the first place that they swarm,
So I filled up and then kept pushing on.

I had to get out there, I knew they’d be coming.

The job had been a big one, But we’d all done big before,
And 80,000 dollars isn’t easy to ignore,
But there comes a point you realise it’s too late to go back,
And at that moment someone always cracks.

I had to get out of there, Before all the shooting,
While they were distracted, I loaded the van and was gone.

This town is full of miners, And they’re all up for a fight,
And though I’ve been the sort to stay out drinking through the night,
I try to keep my head down, And fit in with all the rest,
Waiting for the day I can head west.

I need to get out there, ‘Cause I miss the ocean.

I wish that I had told her, What was going to go down,
Given her a chance to get some distance out of town,
I hope they haven’t got to her, ‘Cause she’s the one I love,
I hope she knows I did it all for her.

I need to get out of here, ‘Cause I miss my family.
IMG_20141026_153947See It Come Down
This is a song which I originally wrote well over a decade ago, and have played live with the band at various points over the years. We had planned to record it for the Into your Head album but it didn’t quite come off, so here it is…at last!
Features a great guest vocal from Andy Tucker.

If the first place that you saw them, Was the last place you expected,
And the strange way that they beat you, Was an old way, unexpected.

And the hardest thing of all, Is the moment when you fall,
And you’re waiting for what seems forever, Before you hit the ground.

See it come down just out of reach,
Through the fear just try to breathe,
See it come down around your feet and take your speech.

So you’re tired well ain’t you always, Looking outside for excitement,
But the habits that you’ve taken, Are still with you and you can’t shake them,


I hope you know no one else will comfort you,
I’m sure you know that no one else will come for you,
At the last minute.

So the last place you were spotted, Was by a hill-side off the A9,
With a strange man in a new car, That you’d stolen in the summer.

And the hardest thing of all, Is for us to see you fall,
And you left us lying like bits of paper, Blowing on the ground.


LIFT_Artwork_FINAL_InsideLeftOliver Gray  (The search for Thomas Gunn)

The riff and melody for this song date back about 3 or 4 years but – perhaps because I usually write music and lyrics together – I struggled to pen a set of lyrics for this with which I was satisfied. It was only during summer 2014 (with recording started) that I suddenly struck on the idea of writing a companion piece to Thomas Gunn, one which presented the story from the point of view of the reluctant pursuer. The line in the chorus about the star came from reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is The Night”.

Better get up and get dressed, Oliver’s been spotted,
Loading up and heading west…

Two years now since he skipped, Two long years of searching,
Two years still one more trip, To right some others’ wrong.

I see a star I recognise, Although its name I’ve never known,
And this feels nothing, Nothing like home.

Six days drive but I’ve made Broome, Parked up by the hotel,
Watching over Ollie’s room…

But this thing feels like hell, And I don’t have the stomach,
To watch men piss themselves, Pleading for their lives.

Up there’s a star I recognise, Although its name I’ve never known,
And this feels nothing, Nothing like home.

Oliver steps on the street, Sees me sitting waiting,
Glances down towards his feet, We’ve both had enough.

Up there’s a star we recognise, Although we’re miles away from home, And this is somewhere that, I’ve never known.

All Through The Night
The first of two piano / vocal songs on the album, this track is a lovely one to play with its mellow, almost discordant chord change in the verse which then gives way to a more obvious descent for the chorus. Some of my fellow Mutual Slating Society members said it reminded them of Queen, which pleased me no end. 

This doesn’t look like my front door,
And he doesn’t look like my friend,
But he’s saying, On him I can depend.

And how I got back here, I just don’t know,
But now that I’m standing, It’s on with the show.

I watch them as they are leaving,
Never knowing that it’s for good,
‘Til it’s too late, To do what I should.

He no longer holds me, All through the night,
But I’m quite convincing, When I tell everybody I was right.
And how I got back here, I just don’t know,
But now that I’m standing, It’s on with the show.

The days go on clinging together,
Trying to repel the weeks,
But we’re failing, To find what we seek.

The Flag
Unusually, this one saw me transfer a riff I’d written on the acoustic guitar to the electric guitar. I found it worked really well with a delay on it and added to the atmosphere of the song. Swaziland is there in the images contained in the lyrics, despite the fact it’s over a decade since I was last there.

The flag blows, As the darkness stretches out and yawns,
The night grows, And will keep us company,
Until the dawn…

And the dry grass waits the spark,
To illuminate the dark,
And clean things up again.

The hill flames, As the truck just rattles down the road,
And old names, Are just burned away, burned away, burned away,
Like paper scrolls…


You say we will stand to defend this land,
You say we must stand to defend this land,
But why should we stand to defend this land,
But I know we’ll stand to defend this land,
And clean things up again…

The flag blows, As the darkness stretches out and yawns.

Once I’m GoneDK_LiftAlbum_EMUBands_Artwork
One which definitely appeals to my rockier side, this is probably best described as a slide-guitar driven, bluesy stomp with some wailing harmonica thrown in for good measure. I deliberately wanted a repeated refrain for the choruses, which feature some great backing vocals from Martin Philip and Alan R Davison.

Once I’m gone there’s nothing,
So don’t ask me to invest,
Once I’m gone there’s nothing,
So don’t ask me for redress.

Takes enough time keeping all these things in my head,
Takes enough time keeping all these things in my head.

When you go there’ll be nothing left,
Just a handful of rumours ‘bout an early death,
When you’ve gone there’ll be nothing left,
Just a handful of rumours ‘bout an early death.

All our days no turning,
It’s just head down moving on,
Day to day fires burning,
As they’ll still do when I’m gone.


On the way no stopping,
So I’ve no time to sit in,
Once you’ve gone I’m leaving,
And I’m leaving all my sins.


The Date
A song which started with the guitar riff. I love that the fiddle and whistle (by Kari Paul and Dianne MacKenzie respectively) give it a bit of a traditional folky feel, and I wanted the instruments to be quite prominent – hence the slightly unusual structure which has a long instrumental after the first chorus. Lyrically, the song was inspired by seeing a couple sitting in the window of the worst bar in Edinburgh…  

Well she’s finding herself funny, And that’s good news for him,
All it took was a bottle of Sancerre, A tonic & a gin,
Though he didn’t want to meet here, It’s the worst bar in town,
Things are looking up, It looks like she’ll go…

And nobody gets younger, Dancing up on tables after dark,
No-one gets any younger, Saving themselves for the spark,
But when it’s there the Devil cares, And time is on your side,
So go on take it…

So he’s still talking running, Like she can’t see he’s fit,
It’s a good job she decided to get drunk, Given how he’s going on about it,
But she’d not been out in ages, So she figured she would go,
And if he’d just shut up, She’d probably take him…home.

And nobody gets younger, Dancing on tables after dark,
And nobody gets younger, Saving themselves for the spark,
But when it’s there the Devil cares, And time is on your side,
So go on take it…

The title track from the album is a little different from most of my other songs, a very simple thing with a lot of space but a sing-along chorus. I really enjoyed playing with the delayed electric guitar on this one, it allowed me to stick in a couple of little African-inspired runs.

You’ve got to get yourself ready,
You’ve got to get yourself set,
You’ve got to get yourself prepared,
For the finest guy, You’ve ever met.

You ought to find yourself a lover,
Or you ought to find yourself a friend,
You ought to find yourself someone,
Who’ll stick with you, Until the end.

No use watching your life pass on by,
When you can go out and get high.

Lift it up again, Lift it up again oh baby,
You know that we’ll be there beside you,
Lift it up again, Lift it up again oh baby,
You know that we’ll be there beside you.

You know these times aren’t easy,
You know that nothing seems straight,
But you must know things won’t get better,
While you sit around, And bitch and moan and wait.


(You know that you can find somebody…)
Who’s going to drive you home, Who’s going to guide you home,
When you need it.

Man I Wish I Was
Another song which dates from the Last Touch sessions, but which I opted not to put on that album for fear of it being overloaded with downbeat piano songs! I like the simplicity of this though, and love the way the double-tracked vocal on the bridges turned out.

I’ve watched them all come out the woodwork,
Treated them all with disdain,
I’ve sat and watched the big boys lumbering into the fray again.

I’ve set myself above it, Like a cloud ready to rain…

And you sit crying, While I’m craving the applause,
’Cause I’m not the man I wish I was.

I’ve spoken to the men I thought,
Were unfit to lace my boots,
I’ve limited the damage,
And killed rumours off right at their roots.

I set up my my defences, With a gun that always shoots…

And you sit bleeding, While I justify my cause,
’Cause I’m not the man I wish I was.

I’ve stood alongside equals and discovered,
I was something less,
I’ve stood up on the stand,
And sworn that I was ready to confess.

I’ve been laid on the train tracks, Like a damsel in distress…

And I am breaking, While you point out all my flaws,
’Cause I’m not the man, I wish I was.

The Artist
Another story-telling ballad, this all began with the opening phrase – from which point I then had to decide what had made the protagonist “precious & morose.” Notable for featuring me struggling (and just about coping) with the accordion.

He was the worst kind of artist, Precious and morose,
And had a strange pre-occupation, With Capt. Scott and Oates,
He said that they’d been lovers, And he swore that he’d seen proof,
But no-one thought he ever told the truth.

He had a cabin in the mountains, Through winter there he’d work,
He’d boarded up the windows, And lined the walls with furs,
He sculpted by an oil lamp, ‘Cause he’d shut out all the light,
He longed to sense that long Antarctic night.

Time had shown him early on it wouldn’t take a side,
It had neither its favourites or its foes,
Though sometimes it would flatter and often be polite,
To time we’re all just Ordinary Joes,

His mother’d been a dancer, His father trod the boards,
Together round the world, Taking high culture to the hordes,
They’d agreed they’d take him, When he was old enough to know,
It wasn’t fair to leave the boy at home.


But one night in the southern skies, A plane propeller froze,
As the pilot lost control, The plane came down into the snow,
Weeks on they found the two who’d volunteered, To go for help,
Just miles from town the dancer and the actor fell.

He began work on his masterpiece, His story it would tell,
A full scale Terra Nova, With the captain at the helm,
They came from miles around to see, The wonderful bronze boat,
And when they stopped he wandered out like Oates.


This Ship
A sombre, rather sinister little track, I came up with this in a very short space of time and thought it would make for an interesting interlude on the album.

If this ship’s going down, I want to see all hands up on deck,
I want to see everybody, Working this old wreck.

If this ship’s going down, I‘m going to take everyone with me,
I’m going to take everybody, Down into the sea.

If this ship’s going down, I‘m going to put holes in all the rafts,
I’m going to watch everybody, Scrambling on this craft.

If this ship’s going down, I want to see all hands up on deck,
I want to see everybody, Working this old wreck.

You Shone
Having bought a new classical guitar at the end of summer 2013, I spent the next while going back to playing that particular style (I had studied classical guitar through school) and during that period ended up writing a number of classical-style pieces. The intro to You Shone was one of them, but it felt as though it worked particularly well as the lead in to something. Thus it became the first half of this, which I immediately thought of as an album closer.

When you walked, You shone,
But in a moment, You were gone, gone.

But it’s still there,
Yes it’s still there,
And you are coming,
To me again, Again.

When you walked, You shone.

DouglasKay_FB_Banner1On Christmas Day  (2014 extended version)
Not really an official track on the album, but with it being released in late November I thought I could get away with including it as a bonus. The original version of this song came out in 2011, and I added the school choir (from Gylemuir Primary School, Edinburgh) the following year for a special mix which was one of the “12 Downloads of Christmas”. This one is quite different however, with the addition of bass, drums and electric guitar making it a bit more “pop” than before. Sleigh bells are still on it though…

Now the leaves,
Have deserted their trees,
Just as you,
Were deserted by me.

But surely this can change,
I will make amends…

On Christmas Day, On Christmas Day,
On Christmas Day, On Christmas Day.

Trees stare out,
From cold sunken eyes,
Just as you,
Stared out right through my lies.

But when the choirs sing (when the choirs sing),
Christmas bells will ring (Christmas bells will ring),
No matter where I lie (wherever I),
To you I will fly…

For Christmas Day, For Christmas Day,
For Christmas Day, For Christmas Day,
For Christmas Day, For Christmas Day,
For Christmas Day, For Christmas Day.

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