Shaun Belcher Songwriter

The Serious Mr B-Side to Trailer Star

Category: Oxford

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

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

 

 

The rain pours through the roof – The story behind the song

 

Latest addition to the Black Tin Barns album on bandcamp.

This song is about the slow decline and eventual closure of the British Leyland Rover factory in Cowley.

My Uncle John worked in the spray booths there and my father would drive past it almost every day .

By the early 1990s the once proud Morris Motors and Pressed Steel plants were either crumbling or being demolished or sold to BMW.

Thatcherite propagandists in the press had a field day destroying its reputation and shoddy working practices at all levels produced a series of bad cars but it also had a long history of union activism and government opposition meaning it like the mines ripe for closure by a right wing establishment.

The early 1990s were marked by a series of ‘joyride’ incidents*. Basically disenfranchised youth venting anger at no jobs and no hope. Cars would be stolen, joy ridden and burnt…it happened everywhere but nowhere more poignantly than in Blackbird Leys estate…the side of Oxford that never seen. I was more interested and attached to that part than any dreaming spires.

So this is my sad elegy to a now destroyed community and way of life.

Ironically I have never learnt to drive but write a lot about cars….maybe if I had I’d be Bruce Springsteen now!

Here images of it as it was..

HERE wikipedia on the Joyriding days..seems I spot on sadly…
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackbird_Leys

1991 street disturbances

Following a crackdown by police on joyriding in September 1991, some 150 youths stoned police officers. Two women suffered stab wounds and two men suffered other injuries during the riots.[8]

Around this time, Blackbird Leys was infamous for its joy riding. Young men from the estate would steal cars and ‘display’ them (with a variety of high-speed stunts) to an audience gathered outside the estate shops (known locally as the ‘top shops’), eventually gaining worldwide media attention.[9][not in citation given] Politician Andrew Smith stated in 1991 that the extensive national media coverage of confrontations with the police in August and September left many of the wider public with a distorted picture of the problem.[10] Some say journalists visiting helped encourage some of the action for filming.[9] Various measures were brought in by the local council and police to stop the displays. Police often found it difficult to catch joy riders, whose stolen cars were faster than the police vehicles, though eventually a faster police car was introduced. Chicanes were built around the shops area, and an anti-skid surface applied to the road, making it difficult to execute handbrake turns and other stunts.