Someone else’s fancy tickled

An underlying principle I try to follow on a daily basis, and something I believe is of the utmost importance, is not to judge people. Try to see the good things, believe that there is a fundamental decent human being in everyone. Okay, sometimes you may be disappointed and sometimes people like Donald Trump come along but so fucking what? Better to go through life believing in people rather than groping through a miasma of mistrust and negativity.

On a handful of occasions however I have met someone who I have immediately disliked. Why? I couldn’t say, but there has been a palpable reciprocal animosity. Like the same poles of two magnets repelling each other. At the same time I’ve felt a reluctant fascination about that person, maybe in trying to identify the root of such instinctive dislike. This was the starting point of Tickle My Fancy, an immediate antipathy between two people, but that’s where my personal involvement in the song began and ended. After that I just let the characters plot their own journey. So it came as a bit of a surprise that, by the end of the song, it emerged as being about a vaguely tawdry relationship between a prostitute and a punter. But hey, that’s what happens sometimes. It’s got nothing to do with me, I just set the ball rolling. GR

From the bottom you can make your way up

Fear is a debilitating state of mind, the negative root of so much turmoil and worry, be it on a personal level, familial, societal or global. Fear of the outsider seems to be an innate human condition, similarly fear of change, anything that threatens to take us out of our comfort zone. Of course these anxieties are linked, stemming from a fear of the unknown and the potential threats they pose to our individual survival, real or otherwise. It’s the “otherwise” which led to the lyrics of The Bottom Line. I get ridiculously frustrated when people constantly moan about their lot but put up with it anyway; they’d “love to be able to change things” but can’t. What they’re really saying is not that they can’t change things but that they won’t, either because deep down they don’t actually want to or, more commonly, that they’re actually too scared to take a chance. So they put up with their status quo and carrying on complaining. To me this is a no-brainer: if you don’t like the way your life is going, then you have to change course, you can’t rely on others to do it for you. It is a fact that you only live once, that there is no rehearsal: this living performance is it, your life, and the final curtain-call doesn’t allow for any encores.

I call The Bottom Line one of my “preachy” songs. It’s a “put up or shut up” diatribe. You make your choices: if career and money are your goals, then “walking down unknown paths” is not a direction option on your life-map: if domestic bliss is what you crave, then you have to keep those home fires burning. And who wouldn’t want domestic bliss, we’re all human: you’re one of the lucky ones if adventure goes with the paid job. Nor would it do if everybody decided to just get up and go: ultimately our settled society would just collapse, I know that. So what am I going on about? Well, that not everybody does want to get up and go but that, if you’re one of the ones that does, then do it, do it now. ML

Dark intent, dark content

The idea of opening a song with lyrics referring to paedophilia appalled me when Geoff first mentioned that he was writing Stranger in the Shadows. I thought the whole thing sounded like some sort of tasteless opportunism, shock tactics made lyrical for the sake of. I changed my mind as the song progressed: the melodic catchiness echoes the easy persuasive grooming and goading of receptive people that goes on all the time, regardless of age and situation. Vulnerability or weakness, either physical or sociological, is too often readily identified then abused or used for the dark intent of the stranger, who can pop up out of nowhere to practise violence or perpetrate hatred against another person. So, despite my early reservations, it was actually me who lobbied for Stranger in the Shadows to be the first Song for the Week in the second season of our Red House Work web site. We are all vulnerable, we all have our own weaknesses: warnings to be on your guard against the strangers lurking in the shadows of society never go amiss, especially when presented in such an accessible way. ML

Homing instinct urges return to the nest

Back-packing across foreign lands is one of the greatest adventures you can undertake and one of the most proving things to put yourself through: not only does it open up the world and its myriad of cultures but it also gives a very real insight into how you as an individual can cope with the basics. I could, for example, hold forth for hours on the various toilets and “toilets” I have encountered, some with plumbing, many without, some accessorised with the ogling eyes of sad men, some with the clacking sound of massed cockroaches. You’ll actually squat anywhere when push comes to shove. (Bizarrely my most urgent of calls led me to seek scant privacy behind one of the trees lining an avenue in Pimlico, London: it was New Year’s Eve, I had no other option.) I took the easy way into back-packing. I lived and worked in Iran for a couple of years and experienced being thrown in at the deep end of everyday life in what was initially a totally alien culture to me as a convent-school educated young woman. Inevitably the most important lesson I learned was that people are just people wherever you or they happen to be. Whatever the unpleasantness I sometimes suffered in the Tehran streets as a white woman in western clothes, it wasn’t that far removed from similar incidents of unwelcome groping to which I’d been subjected on the streets of Rome: overall, I found Iranians to be incredibly warm and friendly people, living and working and getting on with stuff like the rest of us. This led to the second valuable lesson: if people are just people the world over, then seeing something of that world is nothing to fear. My apprenticeship was over, I was ready to take to the road.

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Antecedent Jonathan Swift???

Sometimes an idiom, a proverb or commonly-used expression can be the catalyst for writing a song, which was the case with Sight for Sore Eyes. It started with that phrase - incidentally first recorded by Jonathan Swift in 1738 - and was built around the expression and its sentiment. There are plenty of songs anchored to an idiom or a saying: I Heard it through the Grapevine, Bat out of Hell, Like a Rolling Stone, Lust for Life, Walk on the Wild Side, Heart of Gold... their titles immediately provoke a mental picture for the listener. It doesn’t matter if the picture doesn’t correlate to the lyrics, the imagination has been stirred and imagination is a great accompaniment to music.
This is a simple song and there’s not much to say about it other than the sight of someone you love and know intimately and all your shared experiences ultimately transcend any shit you might be going through. GR

AFTERWORD

Apologies to people listening without the benefit of a woofer as there is a fair bit of sub-bass going on and it might sound a bit distorted but don’t worry there is a solution: go and buy a woofer. GR

Goggle boxed

What has happened to television? Gone are the days when you’d search the schedules for a decent film rather than having to sit through a banal medical drama or some clichéd police show if you were thinking of a night in in front of the box. The end of the nineties and the beginning of the noughties brought us three ground-breaking series. The Sopranos: ostensibly a Mafia soap-opera but with intelligent dialogue and a degree of graphic content not really seen before. There was 24 which, before it descended into farce, gave us an original story, a tight plot and high production values (walls didn’t wobble if a door was slammed) and perhaps crucially it opened the door for established film stars to appear on television. The first series of The Wire opened a window on a different world: the low-life Baltimore streets rather than international terrorism or organised crime but, most importantly, the quality of the script-writing exhibited a respect for the viewer and set a new bar. HBO, the channel responsible for two of these shows, had already aired a series called OZ, set in a maximum security prison, but the series remained fairly marginal perhaps because its no-holds-barred content was a little too much and so in the UK was shown after midnight.

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Doing it my way – up front with the words

There are two things immediately noticeable about me: I have red hair and I’m a Scouser, from Liverpool, born and brought up by the docks. Together the two things suggest a particular stereotype of personality: perhaps temperamentally volatile; prone to a verbal directness that can come across as witty at the expense of being rude; good sense of humour; opinionated but fond of a good argument. I hate such stereotyping but in this case I have to admit: “That’s probably me.” None of which suggests the raw material for a song of the emotional stature of My Way yet that’s where the motivation for this song came from, listening to the radio one morning in bed and musing on how fantastic it would be to pen such an anthem. Immediately the line “I can only be me” came to mind then it was just a case of saying who “me” is. I bare my heart on my sleeve.

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Making capital out of a waste of time

London is a magnet, tourists and itinerants from all over the world are drawn to it and understandably so. It’s buzzing, exciting; it’s full of life, full of interest, a melting-pot of fashion and music and arty farty creative and cultural this and that. No wonder it’s full of people. Ah but there’s the rub. It’s full of people, so full of people.

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Cold night had me heading for the bottle

We’ve all been there, psychologically on the floor, emotionally heart-broken, moody and miserable as shit but still clinging on to a shred of blind optimism that the person so deliberately not there with us might relent and at least give us a call, even as we cling to a glass of whatever is our warming poison. Whiskey in my choice, preferably Irish. That’s the starting point for this song. Too cold, too alone, too down and out. Things can only get better. You wish.

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I’m all right, Jack, so screw you...

One of the most popular and successful British movies of the late ‘50s was a comedy about the bosses and the workers in a missile factory, each side bent on making the most out of its labours. It was a hoot, a parody on the clashes between management and trade unions, on the privileges and protectionism on both sides. Made by the Boulting brothers in 1959, I’m All Right, Jack had a cast-list which told a generation of cinemagoers immediately and exactly what to expect: Peter Sellers plays the shop-steward, Dennis Price the factory owner and Ian Carmichael is the upper-class innocent manipulated between the two. Add in toothy Terry Thomas and droll Irene Handl and belly laughs all round were guaranteed.

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About

Red House Work is the body of music, songs and videos written and produced by the band, Red House, based in Pinzales, Gijón. Here we also give you a flavour of our cultural and musical interests and those of others. Contact us on: redhousepostbox@gmail.com

Red House Work es el conjunto de la música, las canciones y los vídeos escritos y producidos por el grupo Red House, con base en el pueblo de Pinzales, Gijón. En esta web os ofrecemos también una muestra de nuestros gustos culturales y musicales y los de otra gente afín a nuestro proyecto. Podéis contactar con nosotros a través de:redhousepostbox@gmail.com