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Boys With No Love  Albums: Private & The Automatic Eye

A young man sits in a cafe in Paris, reflects on his own failures and  realises his girl has headed off with a new suitor  but knowing it would crash and burn being an escapist fantasy.  A few French references:  Delage was a French luxury automobile and racecar company founded in 1905 by Louis Delage in Levallois-Perret near Paris; it was acquired by Delahaye in 1935 and ceased operation in 1953 but recently the marque has been resurrected amazingly. I cant remember when I first became aware of it but it rhymes with 'sur la plage' so was a sucker for the song.   Gare de Lyon and Gare du Nord are the main railway stations in Paris.  'Singsong with moon' and second verse:  I used to share a  student flat on the Meadows in Edinburgh and would stay up late in the kitchen trying to write songs. My flatmates would come in their dressings gowns telling me to shut up.



Now what makes me think that I've been here before

Is it old Dionysus back at my front door?

I'd hoped to be honest, how I'd hoped to be strong

But honey, I couldn't, I couldn't last that long



They say that all dreamers end up in a heap

Stranded in back rooms while the rest of us sleep

Forcing a rhyme into nothing to say

Oh honey, will I, will I ever end up that way?


            Dark nights in this city

            Black nights in my sleep

            Oh honey I pray of the Lord your soul to keep

            From cars with no lights

            From fiery stars up above

            But most of all, most of all, most of all

            Boys with no love


He said that he would meet you in a maroon Delage

Recite all his verse for you 'sur la plage'

He came from Gare du Lyon, you came by Gare du Nord

Hanging, hanging on his every word


Caught sight of the waves crashing down on the sand

Caught sight of the lovers walking hand in hand

They flew up and grew up to meet the sun

But they were burned up, they were burned up one by one


Now what makes me think that I've been here before

Is it the crack in the ceiling or the creak in the floor?

They say there’s a boy settling down in this room

For a singsong, singsong with the moon


Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep

The Brittle River Pool Album:  EP The Love Song of the Republic

A story song set on  the Scottish island of Skye by the Fairy Pools which are fed by the Brittle river which has its source in the black Cuillin mountains. In homage to those strong women journalists whose convictions and courage lead them into peril and like Marie Colvin sometimes pay the ultimate price. Sitting by a log fire in a ruined chapel a couple realised that their relationship can't work out as she has to travel back to her homeland in Syria to report on the war. I imagined them meeting up many years later to recall and value their time together.


Oh my lord I can’t stand here in this church any more
There’s a boy and his sister beating hard on my door

I wanted to remember, I wanted to recall
The day that we went swimming in the Brittle river pool
And in the still of evening  

In the glow of summer

As the smoke curled round the lee
We heard the river dancing and you turned and said to me
In deepest grief

You wanted to remember, in a moment of desire
How we gazed into the embers of the ruined chapel fire
You turned and spilled your secrets

You turned and shared your passions while staring out to sea
Then sang your song so sweetly saying you were not for me
In deepest grief

You told me to remember, you told me to recall
You had to take a mountain journey to the cauldron of that war
It was written in you dreams

It was written in a story of your peoples lost in shame
Overwritten by a nation who would desecrate your name
In deepest grief

So you followed foreign armies as they burned those buildings down
You raged against the cruelty set loose upon those towns
And when the stranger told you of your broken village 

You trekked all through the night
To blaze their story plainly in a bitter winter light
In deepest grief

Candide Album: Another Eden 

For all those kids who have a tough start in life. Ricky Ross has a song called 'A Week in Politics is a Long Time' on his first solo record  So Long Ago and it conjured up a scene for me which informed this song.  His creates a series of scenes  'like boats in tow' (Bruce Cockburn), just snapshots of city streets .   The best songs for me  create little movies in your head or  have a clear sense of place. It was also influenced by a couple I saw late one night in Cardiff where the guy leaned back and hit his partner square in the face and stumbled off leaving her crying in the street. I wondered what story lay behind that rage and horror and if there was a child involved.  Candide in French  can mean 'the innocent one.' It has nothing to do with Voltaire here. That said it is often just a first line that leads to a whole story being created and you fill it in from your own experiences like those mentioned here. I got the line 'The lamplight cut the young girl's face, white of dove and black of ace...'   a kind of chiaroscuro  on a face which led to the story. This recording is a demo  made one evening in Simon Jaquet's office in Leith on a 4 track cassette machine when we were  planning on The Night Visitors album Private. I have no idea why we didn't  put it on that album. One of my failings is that I don't stand back and think. Simon had a drum machine and  added  subtle wah wah guitar which was just perfect. 


The lamplight cut the young girl's face

White of dove and black of ace

The starlight hit her window pane

Cascaded on the streets again

The wind brushed the dust between the folds of lace

A record was sticking like an anxious face


Her doorway was cracked and bare

No colour anywhere

The stairwell was damp and cold

Twisting like a sinner’s soul

And the church on the corner cast an awful shape

The priest lit a candle, made a quick escape



           No matter what they say

            I'll throw my arms around you one day

            Candide, Candide

            Not like the boys in town

            They only want to mess around

            Candide, Candide

            For they won't let you dance away

            Dance away your tears

            They won't let you wash away

            The stained and frozen years

            They won't let you dance away, dance away your tears 

Two shadows jumped from a car

Pinned the girl against the wall

The papers said a down-town fight

Mixed blood within the black blaze night

And the face at the window no longer turned and went

To the young baby crying in the stale tenement

Change Me Like Snow  Album: Winter's Children

A song about ‘breakdown’ or ‘dark night of the soul’ or whatever tag you want to use to socialise trouble in the heart. I had a psychotic episode in my early twenties I suppose you might call it where religion and mayhem all mixed inside my head and I lived through strange fantasies, dreams and obsessions. I found out who my true friends were. Many people in my family's religious tradition thought it was the result of my 'sin' and as a punishment wreaked from the Almighty. Written about 20 years on from those days as an homage to friendship especially to Mary, Ian, Chris, Lucy, Jamie and Richard who weren't phased by their weird friend at the time. Chemical? Genetic? Environment? Who knows. It wasnt' self induced by a reckless life. It's a mystery. However soon after, I lived the through the most creative and wonderful period of my life with music, work, love and friendship. Again the song is rooted in Edinburgh especially Morningside and Churchill. I’m always amazed at how snow transforms landscape when even the most crooked and ugly objects can become beautiful. I remember seeing a car breakers yard one day full of jagged steel; the next it had become a magic kingdom after a snow storm.

' Winifred' is Winifred Rushforth who was a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who I visited and attended one of her dream groups. 'Four Sad Ravioli' is based on an invite from my friend Ian Gould who phoned up one day and asked if I would like to come round for a meal so for about 20 mins I walked along the mile stretch of Grange Road salivating on the thought of the feast that lay ahead. Imagine my delight when he reached for a can opener and a small tin from the cupboard and plopped a few poor ravioli into a pan. Mmmm. Ian drove around in MG sports cars, smoked cigars and was devouring Hermann Hesse novels at the time. He was heavily into modern jazz and his room was up this back stair in his parent's house lined with books and records. Richard is Richard Holloway ex. Bishop of Edinburgh who visited me in hospital. (The Andrew Duncan Clinic). As a patient I was subject to people theorising around me; all talk and form filling (there was a student psychologist who ran a survey on me with a huge form with tick boxes. I just made up the answers while stretching it out as long as possible as she was so beautiful). I was also the subject for a student Psychiatrist and visibly upset him as I contradicted his analysis in front of his esteemed professors in the oral exam. The weird thing was that there were all these people running round with their theories and knowledge about you which they wouldn't share leaving the impression that the whole set up was about them and not you. Richard was mainly silent and relied on symbols of the sacrament, and the 'strange shape of prayer.' The 'three stained glass windows' are in Old St Paul's Church on Market Street. I love the building because it's sandwiched around 'Edinburgh stone' and it hasn't a grand entrance which shouts about money and power but a small door which opens out into this cavernous space which to me is a symbol of the hidden world behind everything where I think meaning lives and can transform the mundane.  Landscape artist Anne Butler used the title for one of her paintings .   


We recorded the track in Dalry Ayrshire in the basement studio run  by the musicians in  the band Lies Damned Lies.   This was recorded quite a bit before the  sessions in Edinburgh for the Winter's Children album and was a great experience playing with some masterful musicians including Ewen Vernal on bass.  I especially love Charlie Irvine's double electric guitar part. I think we did one take and then some overdubs. Beautifully engineered and produced by Steve Butler who brought in a mystery player to re-do my acoustic. (I have timing issues). 



They sent for the doctor yesterday

The boy is behaving in a most peculiar way

Young men will see visions, old men will dream dreams

But not in this city, if you please


A long white low building, the house of the damned

Which one's Andrew Duncan, is that him in the underpants?

You leaned on my doorway after asking the staff

I'm looking for my old friend, I remember his laugh


            Change me like snow, Mary,  change me like snow

            The light of your friendship will always glow

            I don't think I told you, I don't think you know

            The light of your friendship changed me like snow


Oh you jazz lover, smoke your cigars

With your Hermann Hesse novels in the back of fast cars

In a circle at Winifreds, what a household of dreams

All the symbols and signs that upset the squeaky clean

Then round at your town house, up a long dark back stair

Music and books are the spoils in your lair

You said 'Come round for a meal' then reached for a tin

Four sad ravioli and an acre wide grin


            Change me like snow, Ian...


The stiff holy people cruised round in big ships

With sin seeking missiles sticking out from their lips

A tall priest at the bedside on his knees at my death

In a strange shape of prayer, and the passing of breath

Three tall stained-glass windows, a net for the sky

Clouds chase out the winter, frost shapes melt in your eyes

The Edinburgh night creeps back under her stone

And the One is now Three and the Three are now One.


            Change me like snow, Richard...

Winifred Rushforth by Victoria Crowe. Sculpture by Chris Hall.

The Hard Road To Heaven Albums:  Another Eden

A song about the inner battle to keep negative feelings at bay by the way you can be treated by other people.  I was letting one person at work get to me in particular and it was beginning to have a really negative effect on me.  Athens of the North was an old name for Edinburgh because of all the buildings influenced by ancient Greece. I don't know where Sean is now. I was travelling across the (old) Forth Road bridge from Aberdour when I wrote the song and all the cables were snapping hence the need for another bridge. Don't know if Fink is still used as a derogatory term but I learned it when I visited America when I was 17 but its probably old hat now.




I asked my friend Sean, ‘What do you do when you’re wronged?’

‘I laugh and forgive’ was his answer

So easily spoken, but his poor heart was broken

By a girl with two faces from Stavanger

Now the old bridge is breaking, and these shards that I’m taking

To stick in some fink in North Athens

It’s a city I love, but they cull all the doves

Of desire, any fire, any passion


            But you’d better not get lost

            Better not get even

            You’ll just count the cost

            On your skin, in your soul

            On a hard road to heaven

So stare down defeats, watch the world in repeats

As the evil men ravage their valleys

And the honey tongued darlings will be  unmasked  in the morning

When Rasputin breaks loose in the alleys

             I'll be the sinner                   

            You be the saint                          

            Who’s got the faults here ?   

            Whose  got the feints here?          

            Who  lives by the light

            Of that committee shining up there

             Not so very, very  bright?

So spell out the end to your fair weather friends

For I see that the meadows are frosting

Yeah, get up and go, anticipate the snow

That's  gonna sweep in and  fill up the dead rooms


Headlong. Album:  In Northern Towns Like These

Originally a lyric with another tune which I've forgotten but it fitted perfectly with another song whose lyrics I didn't care much for so just needed to add a chorus. A song from my twenties about frustrated love where the girl cant' make up her mind but still wants to  be  close.  Abbey Strand is  a small street at the foot of the Royal Mile leading to Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. The Netherbow Port is about half way up and originally a gate to the City, long since disappeared, although some of the original walls can still be seen


Oh gentle child you turn your head
To hold me close to the life you've led
You name me here, I fall headlong
Your eyes so clear, your scent so strong
But like all the stars that appear
You're just not here

Oh gentle child you turn your thoughts
To one who's gone, to one who's bought
A gift for you that's turned out sour
That's turned your moments into hours
I lend an ear
But you're not here

And there the boy will stand
At the cross at Abbey Strand
While the girl will go
Through the port at Netherbow
And through the storm torn years
You’re just not here

Oh gentle child you turn your face
To hide your tears in my embrace
You call to me, I take your hand
Then your make it clear for me to understand that in the coming years
You won't be here

Oh gentle child you turn your gaze
To look up to the boy who's raised
Your hopes so high, your heart so light
You want to run to him tonight
And as I fear, you're just not here

Oh gentle child, who'll turn to you
To hold you fast, to see you true?
And in your search, who will you find
To give you peace inside your mind?
When he comes clear
I won’t be here

Hesitation Albums: Winter's Children & The Traitor's Kiss EP

A song about getting out of the city with a friend and driving up into the wilder reaches of the West Coast of Scotland. I was madly in love with the girl in question but never told her. It all went into the song (and about six others). At the time I was transfixed by Jackson Browne's  song Fountain of Sorrow and reading Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell, the Scottish writer who used to live in  remote Sandaig  Bay in the part of the world we visited. (The ring of bright water image is from a poem by Kathleen Raine.) Around this time I was also writing some doggerel type poetry and prose which my friend Mike Cruickshank castigated - hence the first line – and said Western civilisation needed to be protected. It actually started life as two different songs but then I wrote a chorus and stitched it all together with a new tune and chords. (So I still have two tunes without lyrics kicking their heels and giving me the eye…The EP version is a live recording at a Steve Butler concert in The Queen's Hall Edinburgh.

He has married me with a ring, a ring of bright water
Whose ripples travel from the heart of the sea,
He has married me with a ring of light, the glitter
Broadcast on the swift river.


Kathleen Raine

I watch the miles, you watch the stars with every signpost fading



A friend has been saying
My words are too dense
It frustrates me sometimes
That he can’t see my sense
But I respect his opinion
He was a man rich and true
Through all of the dangers
When I didn’t know you
But I blame the truth
Its broken loose in you

So what are you thinking
Am I word heavy to you
Am I just a wayfarer who’s got caught in his blues?
The evening is late
I won’t get complex and tied
I just want to say that
You’re a beautiful child
And I've blamed the truth
It's broken loose in you

Escape the town
We took the car
Your tapes stretch from playing
I watch the miles
You watch the stars
And every signpost fading
When Camusfearna lies so still
Jackson’s fountain of light
A ring of water so bright
Bursts like a lost dream
In my memory tonight

I want to reach to find you
But I tremble at the cost
If I built my world around you
I know I would be lost
You speak of love with hesitation
I feel a broken edge
It conjures up a mystery
Of some girl hanging on a ledge
But I blame the truth
It's broken loose in you

Now the birds are migrating
The frost spirit has come
And I am reminded of the death of a son
And these words spring up in me
And I’m born in love
And he is on my mind
But it’s you I’m thinking of
And I blame the truth
It's broken loose in you

So I feel that I must answer
I feel I must explain
To make it quite acceptable
You've got to socialise the pain
But how do you douse a fire
If it rages wild within
I don’t know what I’m after
Am I just trying to take you in?
But I blame the truth
It's broken loose in you

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You've known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You've had to struggle, you've had to fight
To keep understanding and compassion in sight
You could be laughing at me, you've got the right
But you go on smiling so clear and so bright

Jackson Browne

The Love Song of the Republic Albums:  EP

The charlatans in religion and politics seem to come from the same mold though not exclusively an American phenomenon but boy do they have some thoroughbreds of the breed who come from the long line of snake oil salesmen  in the travelling shows. 

The Love Song of the Republic

Franklin's up at the crack of dawn
To feed his flock on the gospel song
He's got his words down pat and his black cassock
But I'm on the outside, I'm looking in
On the work of grace and the wage of sin
That's when my shakes come back

The story starts in a little shack
With a cross-shaped chapel on a plot out back
I've got my list of chores, they're snagging on my skin
And when the preacher snarls like the judgment day
I'm telling you boy, you'd better change your ways
That's when my shakes come back

Oh  my sweet Angeline
When you sweep the altar clean
You paint a holy scene
Of limbs and light and love lit nights
I fall

The song is pure but the song is sour
The song is putting my soul in a stour
I got the hobo's chills by the second verse
And when the chorus swells and the people sway
And the glory train sweeps them all away
I get my shakes right back

Now four winds storm from every pole
And the ice caps melt on the plastic shores
And a wild cat gasps in its last death throes
And the truth gets murdered on a white house lawn
And some blond fool chants a victory song
I get my shakes right back

© David Heavenor PRS/MCPS

For Joe Slovo    Albums : Private The Night Visitors & I Wanted To See Him (Compilation)

This song was inspired after seeing the film A World Apart about the family  of white South African activist Joe Slovo and his wife Ruth First who were exiled from their country for long periods during the apartheid regime. It coincided with an interview with him in The Guardian where I lifted the quote about Christians and Communists.(Joe was leader and theorist in the South African Communist Party (SACP), a leading member of the African National Congress (ANC), and a commander of the ANC's military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). After writing the song I wrote to the ANC in London who put me in touch with Shawn Slovo, his daughter  who wrote the film script, and who took out the CD to South Africa to give to Joe. As well as documenting the vicious apartheid regime during the Pass Laws period and the Sharpeville massacre it recounts the emotional effect their circumstances had on Shawn in particular as a young girl growing up with such disruption of their family life and their being ostracized by the white Afrikaners community.  Their letters are attached here. Simon with whom I made the album had lived in Botswana for a year  and had recorded  a group of young children from Gaborone which is very near the SA border,  which fitted well with the line 'Lay down a bed of ashes for our children's' feet...' We recorded the album with Andy Thornton in his home studio in Glasgow and stayed with our friends Kenny and Sharon in the Southside. I remember I didn't have the last verse and was struggling until I found an atlas in their house and looked at the map of South Africa. There was False Bay which is formed by the land masses around Cape Town. It seemed an apt name for a country steeped in injustice.

For Joe Slovo.JPG
For Joe Slovo.JPG

For Joe Slovo

When the man walked in we said welcome
The Fatherland had thrown another son into a foreign land
When the man sat down, tears glinted in the shadows
Now his children stare at photographs,
A woman walks into an empty room

When the man stood up, he said 'Remember this
Only trust a good Christian or a good Communist
But now my life becomes a hall of mirrors
For my words are full of violence
But in my heart I am a peaceful man

So let me take you there
To Tambo's dream,
Mandela's hope
Sisulu's street
The buildings that we burned
Lay down a bed of ashes for our children's feet

When the man walked out, we heard the sound of thunder raging
A comet sped across False Bay, the sea returned a million lights
And the blood of Christ fell from a black child's temple
And the names of slums were famous
Before a watching world

In memoriam Jossel Mashel Slovo (Joe Slovo) 23 May 1926 – 6 January 1995

The Green Drove Road  Albums: The Innocent's Eye & Darling Charlotte,Dearest Jack (EP)

Written after looking back at some pictures of Iona when I visited with a friend many years ago and musing on the land and seascapes on that coastline.  I was also re-reading Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson where Davy Balfour starts out on his  fated journey to  the ominous House of Shaws to claim his inheritance from his evil Uncle Ebenezer on a 'Green Drove Road' . The drovers' roads were the tracks  on which people corralled their livestock to market towns like Crieff back in the day. Many of my songs emerge  years from the experience that forged them and in this regard I love this piece by RLS called Memoirs from an Islet  'setting and resetting little coloured memories of men and scenes'  and his description of a time spent  near the Isle of Earraid off The Sound of Iona where his father was working on a new lighthouse and the site where Davy was washed up on shore in his story.  His descriptions of the landscape and seashore are just sublime.   Onliness is a word a got from Tim Hardin's If I Were a Carpenter but I'm not sure it is a word.


I walked the green drove road
Past lochans lined in mist
My map was cracked and torn
I didn't care, I just kept on
A village cast in stone
History in ruins
Now the island lies ahead
Some secret there I'd read


I never took your name in vain
Iona lies here in my arms again


The truth gets hard to face
But it frees you in its grace
Beyond the dogma's stain
Upon your Christian name
You don't know who you are
Nothing ever is conceived
Where everthing's received from someone else's star

So many roads are crossed
To raise a pattern from the dust
And love through loneliness
And stars through storms
If I give you my onliness
Will you lie here dreaming in my arms?

A name now etched in stone
To know as we are known
A figure scopes this hill
A serpent spins around the well
How can you ever grasp
How can you ever own
The mercury of love

Deep riven in your soul

The Holy Lands  Album: The Innocent's Eye

Written when I was 22 and volunteering for an organisation called The Edinburgh University Settlement which placed students in the community helping mostly elderly people down at heel or unable to shop or do tasks around their homes through illness. I visited an old man who was on his last legs and living alone in a very sparse, inhospitable flat. It was the first time I’d ever experienced such infirmity and deep need being a naive middle class boy. He was originally a tram driver on the Edinburgh Trams which ran until 1956 and there were a few sad mementoes on the wall showing groups of colleagues in uniform. He died soon after and I still can picture the scene and the fear set in his eyes as he lay in bed and sucked on his pipe. I suppose I was at the age when you start confronting all the big questions in life rather than deflecting or just not thinking about them. Then the song sort of morphs into a rant against religious dogmas and the so called faiths which are supposed to help us cope with the big existential questions in life but seem to mostly set one person against another.


I’m so glad to see you’ve managed to come
I thought that you’d flee, go back on the run
But now that you’re here have you anything vital to say
About the day and its passing away?

I stood by the bed of a diseased dying man
I caught his last breath in the cup of my hands
To give to a child at the instant of womb and of birth
And he cried ‘Am I here for the earth?’
And I cried ‘Am I here for the earth?’

I know I’ve got the mind of a dreamer
I go the way the fool understands
I know the light is striking somebody
But I can’t see for my hands

I know that the days should be filled up with praise
I know that the time has been released to be mine
But I’m caught in a storm
I’m fighting with death to be born
A storm that I see every dawn

I’m so glad to see you’ve got religious concerns
You build all your towers
In your fenced off holy lands
To give to a child at the instant of womb and of birth
And he’ll cry ‘ Am I here for the earth?’
And I’ll cry ‘Am I here for the earth?’

Horizon Blessed   Not yet recorded

Written when I was about 24 and on my travels in search of who knows what....I stayed at a manor house which was part of the L'Abri  community after having also visited their community chalets at Huemez Sur Ollon in Switzerland. There were so many people of my age around this time looking for 'the deeper meaning' (Joni Mitchell) and hooking into these alternative groups. In the manor house they had a huge open fire where I wrote this.



Late in the evening I’m feeling my breathing

Relaxed as a breeze through the trees

I know that I’m needing, know that love’s leading me

Down to your house by the sea

And taking time to make a rhyme

This gift once lost, at such a cost

But through the pall, one time for all

Some barrier has been crossed


 I want to reflect this, want to detect this

Spinning song in my sense

Now there’s no need to bother to seek any other

For there is truth in this tense

And I find the truth does really soothe

The jangling pain of unease

Exposing all against a wall

The storms, the sleights, the pain, the fear


 Now there’s no need to borrow the road to tomorrow

Time is the day to be lived

And through all my contriving, I was really deriding

The full wide world that I’d sieved

And in the joy,  I’m just a boy

Discovering a hidden hoard

Horizon blessed, I now address

A blue, blue sky where I just soar


 Now things are not random, they’re one for a kingdom

That makes you reply from your soul

It’s the way it’s been made, it’s the way it’s been laid down

But I was lost in a hole

With that dark print I’ve just seen since

This binding light came to my world

And in that fright, I saw that night

Keeping me from the world.

In Northern Towns Like These Albums: In Northern Towns Like These & Another Eden

A song about childhood growing up along the Forth Estuary in the East Lothian town of North Berwick living a rather protected life. The Bass Rock teamed with Gannets (Solan Geese) and the islands seemed like secret places and Fife was another universe with its town lights twinkling at night.
Nicola took a shine to me in primary school and required love notes written on all occasions. I would pass them to her in class. I failed before  too long. I used to have a black bible embossed with gold  letters with a zip round the edges and impossibly thin 'India' leaves with every line numbered with annotated. Church services were excruciatingly boring conducted in a foreign language. Dirge like  organs, ladies in florid hats, stiff collars and kilts.



In northern towns like these the town clock has been stopped

Since nineteen sixty-three when a cub shirt was on his back

But he’s so shy, he’s so dumb

He’s leaning out his window to wait for kingdom come

For he’s never learned to feel

Or reach for the joy

Where the light on this river

Is much more forgiving than light on steel


In northern towns like these he drags a stick along the sand

To trace the Ferris wheel that burns and turns within his mind

Along the May, around the Bass

The Solan geese etch silence on a sea of glass

But he’s never learned to feel

Feel for the joy

That the light on this river is much more forgiving

Than light on steel


So reel him in

Reel him out

Holy River


In northern towns like these the lovely  Nicola will pout

And mind her Q’s and P’s at least until the class streams out

‘My lovely boy, my loving boy

Write me secret letters using active verbs’

But he’s never learned to steal

Steal away to the joy

Where the light on this river is much more forgiving

Than light on steel


In northern towns like these black bible spines unzip

And the whispering India leaves fill up his world with doubt

‘Your name in vain, your name in vain’

He’s dreaming of  the hills  in the blessed rain

For they’ve never learned to feel

And reach for the joy

Where the light on this river is much more forgiving

Than light on steel.

NICOLA  Love note 7

I'm Watching Rosanna Albums: Winter's Children & I Wanted To See Him


I went travelling a lot in my early twenties feeling out of sorts with the world  and  a friend of my father told  him about  this religious  community in Donegal, Ireland  which  had been a great help to him. For some reason I hooked on to this as a kind of panacea and  visited for a couple of months after a journey through the north teaming with soldiers and road blocks.  It fitted the classic pattern of religious groups, headed by a controlling figurehead who dispenses wisdom and blessings on all the seekers who drifted in (like me). Her granddaughter was the only clear light in the swirling mass of psychobabble. Her beauty was a result of a slight imperfection in her features  with such a natural joy in simple uncomplicated things. Looking back many years later I wondered whether she had succumbed to the mumbo jumbo or jumped clear as she got older. Her name was Myfanwy but I chickened out using her real name for some reason and locked on to  the name Rosanna as I was writing a story at the time with this name. A little footnote to the song was that just before I recorded it with Steve Butler we  did a concert in Lutton Place Church, Edinburgh and I made a mistake on the last chord which actually created a great ending flourish so we kept it in.  A lesson in life ....

I'm Watching Rosanna

'Enough of lies ...' she said to me
'I'm going to cast my fate upon this sea
The creaking chapel on the cliff
Is bound by stones that rot and shift'

The howling preacher strokes his hands
Proclaiming dust and dirt and sand
My lifeblood sleeps, my pale skin tight
My dreams embark on sails of light

And I'm watching Rosanna
Walk the steps down by Brendan’s Bay
Watching Rosanna
Walk these hills a hundred different ways

The choirs chant the purple hymns
Black bible fate is what they din
A shadow circles on the street
The house of God the wolf's retreat

Poor lamb of God, forsaken Christ
Love's fire and wisdom fixed in ice
The traveller asked 'What's here being sold?'
A whited sepulchre, bones painted gold

Dive, dive, dive, my girl beloved,

Fly like the falcon, face the flood'

Her body arced, the bright waves curled

Her burnished skin lovely as the world
The chapel doors disgorged a cry
And fists, mad-waving, cut the sky

'She swims the untamed brine' they spat
'How dare she show her naked self like that'
Then Mary's boy rose, silver fish
He laughed, and kissed death dead with love's strong wish

Jenny and the Cold Caller Albums: Private & I Wanted To See Him

One from the vast catalogue of breakup songs.  Usually jargon switches me off especially in the world of  business and marketing where they dream up ridiculous concepts. 'Perhaps we should consider the strategic staircase when we meet al desko and touch base offline as long as we don't punch a puppy.' However the concept of The Cold Caller has always been more lyrical for me conjuring up the the cold north wind or an unwanted figure in your life. Neil Armstrong's famous phrase has also entered the language and appears in  Bruce Cockburn's song  You Get Bigger As You Go also about a breqk-up which informed this song. 



As I turn my face against those winters

As the cold North wind in her billowing gown

Steals round my door

I never dreamed, I couldn't contemplate the view

That I might hear your voice on the phone again

As the line came through


I close my eyes when I think of you

I see a lonely face in a downstairs hall

You don't want me any more

One small step, one giant leap for freedom

Into an ugly house on a desolate plot

On Cold Caller's Avenue


            Oh, Jenny how I miss you

            How I miss the island of your tenderness

            The colour of your skin

             Oh, Jenny there's a long road down

            Past the back streets of this bitterness

            Through the shallow beauty in this town

            That turned us upside down


             Soured blood, sallow skin

             A dark and purple cloak to hide you in

             Back rooms, body heat

             A stranger's soles snapping on the street

             Hollow cough from the juggernaut


The crowd leans back and gasps in wonder

Another rocket speeds out to the stars

Another planet is explained

Your parachute returns with plunder

Broken rocks and videotape

Full of light from undreamed of views

Latvian Lantern Nights Albums: Another Eden & I Wanted To See Him

A song for Juris Greene who I met when I was 22 and volunteered for The Edinburgh University Settlement which placed students in the community to help people in need - usually older folk. I used to read for  him in his house on Lauder Road as he had lost his sight. He had come to Edinburgh  after the Soviet Union annexed Latvia and worked here for many years as a lawyer. He married a Russian woman who taught their Literature at Edinburgh University and plied me with books by Dostoevsky and others. He used to write out Latvian poetry and give me translations into English; a couple attached, and passed on a deep sense of his nation's folklore and culture about which I knew nothing. I wrote the song many years later after  I watched a news report  of Soviet tanks  rolling  out of Riga  and I realised that  he never saw  his home country regain its independence. He's buried in the Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh

Juris Poem 1.jpg



While you grew up behind closed doors

A red star spread its stain across your floor

The town clock cracked, you caught your breath

The cobbled streets were jammed with noise and death

In sight of blade and belching gun

You fled your house, your land left in a ruin


          Lament your sky

          Lament your home

          Oh, my dear Juris, I've always known the cost

          Of you lying out here in the frost


With heart still warm in Riga's chill

You made your life in this ragged citadel

This city of the seven hills

Its cobbled stones scuffed up your shoes

The Scottish haar swirled down your office flue

Right down the office flue

And when dark scales closed down your sight

You dreamed in lore amid Latvian lantern nights


          There you were standing by the railings

          Standing by the railings               

          Blind eyes smiled at me

          And now a death has made me see


Now salt-flecked breezes rot your stone

The Northern sun's dark cloak lies on the ground

So Juris, come, rise from your grave

You have a sight to see, a flag to wave

The old flag to wave

And when we meet in my dream's store

You'll walk me through the portals of an open door


Round the hill glides the sun

Wishing long days

Round the hill the stranger rode

Looking for a pretty girl

I started as a small boy

To walk the road in the dark night

Open God this road of mine

Make eloquent my tongues

Oh come slander carrier

Make yourself at home

(Come to the gathering)

I shall raise the rust chair

And the cup of tears


A shot partridge whistled once

At the end of the field

A scorned girl cried

Each morning and evening

Marmion Road Albums: The Automatic Eye & Another Eden

I used to walk back and forth to primary school (and briefly secondary) along Marmion Road in the Scottish town of North Berwick. Rosanne was a friend who used to chum me on her bike when I did my cub 'bob a job' round the town houses. It's a kind of love song for the house and town where I used to lie awake at night listening to the murmur of the sea and the plaintive cries of the gulls. A boat was actually washed up one night after a storm and we used to go and play on it and one of the boys even thought we could start the engine... it gradually disappeared into the sand over time as no one took responsibility for it. The picture is from an Estate Agent 's brochure when they were selling the house a few years back. The view is from my bedroom window looking out towards The Craig in the Firth of Forth and seeing this along with other pictures of the rooms was incredibly eerie after all these years. It was one of four songs I've written on the piano. Two arrangements of the song recorded.



A house by the sea, a child tossed on his sleep

The shale shifts under the bay, shapes rise up from the deep

The Hallow's Eve Ship paints white sails on the indigo blue

Midnight Captain's grim face shows a storm will break through


The ketch beached in the night, her dog howled for the crew

The Saturday boys cried out 'She's in one whole piece too..'

'Let's  all sail away' shouted Bill, 'Blabbermouth' we all bawled'

And by Spring tide she was lost to Flot and Jetsam's crab claws



           And her long white gown tumbles down this Autumn evening 

           And the lightning cracks, interrupts our breathing    

           And all the words I lack

           Fill up all the space between the stars


Sparkledark, sparkledark, who tailored your gown?

Just like my Taffeta girl, your sequins light up this town

See Rosanne float like the moon, lonely as sin

What a lovely cradle of light for my dark to rest in


And her long white gown tumbles down this Autumn evening …

Have you lilies to crush, a  dead arms to break through?

Where the old house gathers dust and memories fasten like glue?

Now hush child, don't you cry, don't fret any more

Your Moon-Ship waits for you just off the lee shore

And her long white gown tumbles down this Autumn evening… 

            Rosanna you’re warm, Rosanna I’m  cold    

            Go on chum me back home down Marmion Road

My Edinburgh Picture Albums: Winter's Children & I Wanted To See Him

A song with many Edinburgh associations and based on the death of Anne Clark who was a good friend of my sister Fiona but who I knew and had met many times. She died in a car accident on the A9 travelling home to Wick one Easter. She had just graduated and landed her first job teaching at a girl's school in Edinburgh. She was beautiful, vivacious and funny and had a secret admirer (that everyone knew about.) I’ve directed the song to him as he will have been affected in a much deeper way. (His name changed).

Many years later I was staying in a flat in the Comiston area close to where Anne used to live and I found myself reflecting on those days. The characters and incidents are not always literally true. Caerketton is one of the Pentland Hills which broods over the City ( look for the scree above the artificial ski slope.)  Blackford Braes comes from Blackford Hill, site of the City Observatory to the stars. Edinburgh of course is dominated by church spires and is the home of Robert Louis Stevenson who I constantly think of as I walk the streets. The line ‘My evening vigil’ is a direct lift from a song 'Mandala' by my friend Mike Cruickshank who wrote fine lyrical songs many drawn from his days living in Edinburgh.

At Anne’s funeral in Wick we all filed past her body to pay our last respects and I found it impossible to believe she was gone forever and that her spirit somehow lived on. Not a rational moment of course. A kind of epiphany where the empty shell of her body somehow confirmed life.
Lovely comments from Charlotte Pache in response to Anne's picture on my Facebook page: 


Oh my dear Michael, I’m sorry that I’m late
The framer cracked Anne’s photo
He said I’d have to wait
Her expression is shocking
She stares as if she knows
The place where we come from
The place we all must go

Oh, my dear Michael I won’t trespass on you time
You knew her differently
Your memories are not mine
But your sadness is curling like smoke around this house
Your silence throws pictures of rage
At God’s black farce

Talk to me now, Anne I long to know
Who got it right?
Whose truth gets up on show?
Talk to me now, I scarce can say your name
Beyond a throat that cloys
Beyond the words that blame

Oh, my dear Michael do you remember Guy Fawkes Day
When the embers gleamed and cracked against the Blackford braes?
I remember you laughing when she called to me
To watch the moon rockets that blaze
Then fall in to the sea

My dear Michael, I found my evening's vigil hard
So I climbed Caerketton against a panoply of stars
The city lay dreaming our futures in fire
And Scotland was wrapping a wreath around Robert Louis’ s spires

For I blamed you for being born
I blamed you for knowing that your face against this shroud
Would make me bold….

Blackford Hill Edinburgh


City of spires

My Heart Beats Like a Dream Album: Winter's Children

Songwriting basically pulled me out of quite a disturbed time in my life psychologically in my early twenties when I couldn't complete my medical studies and I wrote this song about that inner world but it  then turned into more of a dream like passage about war and informed by the writing of Wilfred Owen especially his poem Strange Meeting where he meets the German soldier he killed . My friend Ricky used the title in his song The Undeveloped Heart in his band Deacon Blue  which is a very strange haunting song almost like a surreal film sequence.  We used to do some gigs together  way back in the late seventies /early eighties and became very familiar with  each others  songs although he rarely does anything from his writing in those days!    Painting by Paul Nash



My heart beats like a dream

Shadows thrown on calico

A juggernaut wheels out the creed

We won't stoop any lower

Your face takes me by surprise

I cant open up your eyes

‘The pity war distilled, the pity war distills'

Pours like an ether from your fixed eye pools.


The earth is dust beneath my feet

The sea breaks on a blistered shore

And I'm stranded on this street

Of houses without doors

And faces stare from windows bare

A sign sticks out  ‘Keep Back  Beware’

And a shell screams down the alleyways

Kills the mother, leaves the child to pick the wall away


            See the girl calling 

            See the girl falling down a sparkling cone of storms


I'm going to lie upon this bed

Lose this disease in vacant dreams

But this shape inside my head

Keeps me awake with empty screams

And they pour a potion bare through brain

To keep us from the wild man insane

And I am the willing desperate fool

That clings to every dreamed up rule


What kind of seed is this

That sprouts but will not stand?

Is this the fruit to kiss

That rots right in my hands?

You've made us here to live our days

You said you wanted us to praise

What kind of game is this you play

That loads the dice to squander all our love away?


            See the boy turning

            See the boy burning with Pandora in his arms

            Rest my boy, my bliss

            Drink deep carmine rivers of my kiss 



'The pity war distills...'    Wilfred Owen

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