Shaun Belcher Songwriter

The Serious Mr B-Side to Trailer Star

Author: Shaun Belcher (page 1 of 6)

My Father’s Trees – the story behind the song

There is a stretch of road below Wittenham Clumps in what now Oxfordshire (originally Berkshire and I consider myself a Berkshire Kid) where my father planted a row of poplars and other trees for a farmer in the early 1960s. As we’d drive past them going to builder’s jobs years later he always mentioned them. Stuck in a cold Edinburgh this is a fond remembrance of those trees. As far as I know the disused road (cut off by a bypass) and the trees still there….

I wrote this in 1996 aged 37 bemoaning being nearly 40….now as I approach 60 I don’t know what I was worried about.

The caravans comment is a connection to family history. My great grandmother was born into the Lee gypsy family and indeed it present on both sides of the family…..a rovin I will go 🙂

 

Influences? Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer.

 

MY FATHER’S TREES

WELL NOW I’M PUSHIN FORTY
AND ALL MY LUCK’S BEEN SPENT
I WISH THAT I COULD GO BACK
TO THE PLACES THAT I LEFT

I WISH THAT I COULD BE
I WISH THAT I COULD BE

SITTIN’ UNDER MY FATHER’S TREES

PLANTED THEM IN ’63
NOW THEY’RE SO BIG AND TALL
BUT THE ROAD HE PLANTED THEM BY
IT AIN’T A ROAD ANY MORE

NOW THERE’S A LINE OF CARAVANS
PARKED IN THE WAY
AND THERE’S A LITTLE KID SITTIN’ IN THE SHADE
WISH I COULD BE JUST LIKE HIM…

JUST WATCHIN THE CLOUDS GO BY…
from Black Tin Barns, releases February 1, 2017

The Factory – the story behind the song

In the 1940s men would regularly bicycle from Didcot and local villages to the Oxford car plants.
This is my song about their early morning rides in convoy which especially grueling in mid winter.

THE FACTORY

MEN ARE RIDING ACROSS THE WINTER FIELDS
BYCYCLE LIGHTS SPARKLING IN THEIR CHROME WHEELS
WORKING DUSK TO DAWN IN THE FACTORIES
WHOSE LIGHTS SHINE THROUGH THE TREES

OH CAN’T YOU SEE, CAN’T YOU SEE
THE FACTORY

NOW THOSE MEN THEY ONLY RIDE IN THEIR DREAMS
THE FACTORIES ARE GONE, ONLY FIELDS OF WEEDS
AND THOSE MEN HAVE GRANDSONS WITH COMPANY CARS
YOU CAN SEE THEM OUT RACING AROUND THE BYPASS

BUT TEN MILES OUT OF TOWN THERE’S A SCRAPYARD
WHERE FIFTY YEARS HARD LABOUR IS FALLING APART
IF YOU STARE INTO THE RUSTY CHROME YOU’LL SEE
THE GHOSTS OF MEN POLISHING HEADLIGHTS AND POURING LEAD

MEN ARE RIDING ACROSS THE WINTER FIELDS
BYCYCLE LIGHTS SPARKLING LIKE A CHAIN OF PEARLS

 

 

from Black Tin Barns & River Ghosts, releases February 1, 2017

Road is a River – Story behind the song

Strange one this.

I have lyrics for all the other songs but not this one.

Maybe a one off recording.

Fairly minimal and quite sad.

The road is a river and my windows are full of steam….

Thames Valley blues again….song about home from Scotland.

THE ROAD IS A RIVER

The road is a river and my windows are full of steam
That woman I remember walking across these muddy fields

The road is a river its taken us all away
Far from these fields of straw
These empty barns in the rain

The road is a river
Yes the road is a river
The road is a river and maybe one day it will bring her back my way
In a car of chrome and silver
It’ll slide through these fields of rain
And we’ll float away

The road is a river….

from Black Tin Barns & River Ghosts, releases February 1, 2017

Room 22 – The story behind the song

 

My homage to a unjustly neglected band The Vulgar Boatmen who I discovered in the early 1990s.

They also drew on Velvet Underground but with an academic (lead singer a film tutor later) twist.

Check out their stuff at link below.

www.furious.com/perfect/vulgarboatmen.html

I always see the old Dragon Hotel as the location ..

A GWR Railway Hotel sadly demolished to make way for the usual crap in the 1990s…

Now the council planning a ‘Gateway’ on the site utter crap…money talks..the new Reading anybody?

ROOM 22

STANDING AT THE WINDOW LOOKING NORTH
THROUGH THE POWER-LINES AND THE RAIN AS IT FALLS
IT FEELS THE SAME AS THE DAY WE BOTH STAYED
IN THIS HOTEL ROOM ON THAT SUMMER’S DAY

SAME ROOM SAME VIEW STATION VIEW

ROOM 22

NOW THE HILLS ARE COVERED WITH SNOW
THERE’S JUST BARE TREES AND CROWS
I REMEMBER US WALKING AROUND THIS TOWN
WITH YOU UNTIL THE SUN WENT DOWN

IT’S THE SAME ROOM THE SAME VIEW

ROOM 22

THEN YOU GOT MARRIED SOMEWHERE DOWN THE LINE
MAYBE I’VE PASSED BY YOU ONCE OR TWICE
BUT TONIGHT ALL I HAVE IS THE MEMORY OF YOU
AS I STARE THROUGH THE POWER-LINES AT THE VIEW

IT’S THE SAME ROOM THE SAME VIEW

ROOM 22 WITHOUT YOU

Where Two Rivers Meet (Mary’s Dream) – The story behind the song

 

Whilst living in Edinburgh I attended the first year of a evening course in Scottish Cultural Studies.
Tutors included Murdo Mac Donald and Cairns Craig and I met Robert Alan Jamieson and Hamish Henderson.
It was fantastic. As part of it I wrote an essay on a lesser known Scottish poet William Neil and researched this song
through studying a ballad from Kirkudbright called ‘Mary’s Dream’.

This is my reinterpretation of the romantic story attached to the writing of the song ‘Mary’s Dream’. The full story too long for here so please read the extra material here:

www.kirkcudbright.co/historyarticle.asp?ID=122&p=7&g=4

The last verse is based on ‘New Eden’ in Dickens ‘American Notes’.

There is a natural vantage point in Dumfries known as John Lowe’s seat at the point where ‘Two rivers meet’.

lyrics

WHERE TWO RIVERS MEET

I WAS BORN WHERE TWO RIVERS MEET
I LEARNT TO PLOUGH AND I LEARNT TO REAP
THEN I WENT TO THE UNIVERSITY
AND I LEARNT ALL THE WORDS THE RICH MEN NEED

OH MARY, OH MARY,
WILL YOU WAIT FOR ME
WHERE TWO RIVERS MEET

WE LEFT THE PORT AT DEAD OF NIGHT
THE FULL MOON ON THE SAILS DID SHINE
WE PASSED THROUGH LANDS OF ICE AND SNOW
TWO DIED BELOW, THEIR BODIES FROZE

THEN I FOUND A PLACE IN AMERIKY AND CUT BACK THE TREES
AND A SNAKE IT BIT INTO ME
THEN I DREAMT I WAS DELIRIOUS
I DIDNT KNOW WHAT TIME OR YEAR IT WAS

AND I THOUGHT I SAW YOU IN YOUR WHITE GOWN
TRIPPING ACROSS THAT EMPTY GROUND
BUT IT WAS JUST THE WATER OF THE FLOOD
AS IT ROSE AROUND MY HOUSE

AND I WAS DEAD…

OH MARY WILL YOU WEEP FOR ME.
WHERE TWO RIVERS MEET.

 

 

Black Tin Barns – the story behind the song

As a child they were all around but as developers moved in they faded away..the last ones behind my grandfather’s house now being turned into an Eco Museum for Trees!

Musically I was listening to the Louvin Brothers and although I didn’t hear Gillian Welch and David Rawlings until years later (their first disc was released  in April 1996) there might have been something in the air 🙂

BLACK TIN BARNS

There’s an old dirt track and a muddy stream

There’s a wide open field that’s surrounded by trees

There’s an old tin barn that’s falling down

That’s where I rolled in my sweet baby’s arms

 

Oh country tracks won’t you take me back

To the farms and the black tin barns

 

Now all I can do is sit and stare

Across these fields at trees so bare

All around there’s only sticks and stones

Cos’ nothing been planted so nothing grows

 

When I was young I used to dream

Of you girl in these fields of wheat

But now the wind’s torn everything up

All that I am left is this handful of dust

from Black Tin Barns & River Ghosts, releases February 1, 2017

I also found my first copy of No Depression magazine ( the Whiskeytown cover see below) in 1997 when I back in Oxfordshire….with my barns..
nodepression.com/archive-cover/issue-10-july-aug-1997

 

 

Prodigal Son – the story behind the song

 

Another play with classic americana themes. Here the black-sheep boy returning home. Based on people I knew in Didcot very loosely. Some added harmonica and guitar. One of the strange influences here was Chris Cacavas of Green on Red and later solo fame. Not very well known but well worth seeking out. Same generation as Steve Wynn and Peter Case who also heroes. Oh and a LOT of Bruce Springsteen…I worshipped Nebraska…still do.

The Devil’s Address – the story behind the song

 

Well my mother’s father and my uncle were both truck drivers all their lives but I don’t drive which kind of sad considering how many times driving features in my songs!

I imagined it as a kind of folkier version of ‘Return to Sender’!

The last lines are a straight cop of a Raymond Carver idea in his wonderful poem (Deschutes River) where he ends up trying to disentangle a snagged fishing line and then drops the line about his wife in another man’s bed…..pure class..so now you know….

This track was performed wonderfully by Ronny Elliott in a Johnny Cash manner on Moon Over The Downs disc. That has become the definitive version but here my original.

An important track for the reason that it started the whole ‘Trailer Star’ concept. The tale of a down and out singing from a mobile home idea is down to this song.

At the time I was just trying to copy typical americana tropes of a letter home and for some reason there some Everley Brothers in the mix.

The Devil’s Address

I’m in heaven that’s what the sign says
This bar’s more like hell, everything painted red
Every once in a while a truck goes by headed north
Headlights flashing across these smoky walls

If you want to find me
Post a letter to ‘Happiness’
Mark it care of the devil’s address

I started driftin’ when I couldn’t pay the rent
That mobile home was more like a shed
I spent every winter watching the rain
Turn that gravel path into a lake

Now I’m fine and dandy but I’m all alone
Just me and the sparkle of the tarmac road
Thousand miles behind me, wife’s in another man’s bed
Thousand miles ahead before I’ll ever rest

Ronny’s version  here:

Ronny’s website: http://ronnyelliott.blogspot.co.uk/ 

 

Man with no name – The story behind the song

‘Unknown man with my step-grandfather’ Photograph Long Wittenham 1920s. Aubrey my step-grandfather is on the right.

 

This song goes way back. Probably mid 1980’s in first version . This 1995 rendition probably as good a take as I had of it. A lot of Leonard Cohen in it.

It is a difficult subject and one that explored more fully in the Coppard web page and in the poem there ‘The stone code.

http://www.shaunbelcher.com/coppard/

Everything you need to know there. My father never knew who his father was. He was abandoned along with his mother in 1932.

He was affected by it all his life and it transferred to me.

I will probably never get a conclusive answer but the evidence has mounted over the years.

But as the song says I remain a ‘Man with no name’

Man with no name

 

 

You kick at the tyre of the tractor
That hasn’t moved since the snow last came down
You pull at the chain-link fence blow a dandelion over the sow
And wonder whose hand on your arm could lead you now

Well it’s the middle of summer and clouds cover the sun, you feel cold

You run for shelter, find your father with a halter and he’s staring at the ground

 

Oh why can’t I tell you why can’t I say

I feel like a man with no name

 

In a dark pantry a dog panting, tired from running under this August sun

On the kitchen table a dripping pheasant shot down by a farmer’s gun

And you sat in your armchair reading news of a war that had hardly begun

Whilst all the berries your wife picked in summer turn blood red in the cup

 

And you told me I could break down all the fences put around me
And set my own pace

I feel like a man with no name

 

Well your stepfather fell in that kitchen and the dog sat and waited there all day

Whilst the silent river rolled on and on and the clouds blew over the hills and away

So father and son two years later we stand in this graveyard in the rain

If I could show you the answer written in stone I would
If I knew it I wouldn’t have to say

 

I feel like a man with no name

 

Oh why can’t I tell you, oh why can’t I say

I feel like a man with no name

 

In an unmarked grave

 

 

Here Aubrey Didcock and Daisy and son Albert Didcock in better days…

These Three Rooms – The story behind the song

A love song to poverty or those three rooms in South Edinburgh..our tiny flat…we somehow survived two years in and were still together. It took Oxford and a bigger flat and more money to split us up….c’est la vie.

Listening to this again I can taste the dust and hear the cars but it was a beautiful city which kept us going..62 Causewayside picture on right..third floor right hand side..that the one..three windows and three rooms twenty feet across at most..another world..recorded all these songs in the tiny bedroom on left.

Had a cassette tape collection ( photos on blog link below) as could not bring vinyl and no cds. Taped off library stock which was excellent my taste formed by the Central library Edinburgh folk and blues stock 🙂

These Three Rooms

These three rooms are worn and badly lit
Decorated with paint inches thick
And behind curtains where the dust sits
The frames rattle, never made to fit

Stay with me through the night
Stay with me until the morning light
And you will see these three rooms shine

The carpets are dull and tenant-stained
Maybe they were brighter in better days
Now the lino slides across the floor
And the bathroom paper’s peeling off the wall

Forgive me all the poverty I bring
This cheap box, this bed and sink
Hold fast now like these plants that cling
To our windowsill as they twist and jink

Trust me when I sat things will improve
That these are not our destined views
As these three plants outgrow this room
So this small flat will be outgrown too

 

Some of the tapes I recorded off library material..still got them 🙂

 

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