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Entries in Smashing Pumpkins (1)


The thinking behind Shameless Winter

It took me a while to think up a subject matter for my first blog on the new website, but as I trawled excitedly over the new pages of my shiny new medium, I realised the answer was staring me in the face. Shameless Winter - and its conception.

I’m still feeling slightly narcissistic as I write this - presuming people are actually interested – because to actually sit down and write, you’re giving in to the presumption that people will read. However, I feel a blog on ‘blogs’ coming on and I should really save that for when I’m a seasoned pro, so here it is. Shameless Winter, song by song.

Shameless Winter

February 2011, it’s snowing in Bristol and I haven’t written a song for a good few months and it’s getting me down. I sit at the piano facing the back garden where the snow is silently settling, rest my hands on the keys and the chorus just falls out of me. It’s like I’d been awaiting an unadulterated, uncensored, bitter weather front to provide me with a song.

This inspiration then prompted me to open up all sorts of memory valves, the most notable being the tour with CBP through Scandanavia, where the sun did indeed ‘lurk on the horizon’ and it felt like we were in eternal dawn before it dipped back down out of sight. The opening lines, however came somewhat later in the writing session. I’d received a distressing phonecall and was forced to reminisce on school days and old friends (all of whom I’m still very much in touch with). The ‘mirage summers’ are those of our late teens, where the threat of a distant exam was our only worry, and ‘Pokhara stories’ reflected on my travels with a good friend around Nepal a few years later. As for the rest of the references … well I have to keep some mystery in the music don’t I?!

Better Me

I make no apology for the fact I supplement my income with waitressing and various other jobs to keep the wolf from the door. It is ‘the default role’ for someone artsy! I wanted to write a tongue in cheek take on aspirations and what keeps you from achieving them. Life will always get in the way of art, because art, unfortunately, rarely pays. But before we get all Thomas Peacock about things, back to the song … it’s basically all true. I work as a waitress, secretly hoping for recognition, so much so that I once bored a local news reporter with a shameless plug about a forthcoming gig, and ultimately blame my parents for believing in me … well you did ask. Or did you?

To summarise, I often feel like I’m just doing this music thing until the waitressing really kicks off and I can go professional.

The Gentleman in 13B

Well who doesn’t want a chance meeting on a place iotas before death? Oh, and when travelling back from Germany with Chipper on Ryanair recently I thought it would be cool if I sat in seat 13B. … There is no seat 13B. In fact there’s no row 13 on any planes! Who knew?

Jealous Angels

Musically, this is my first stab at anything slightly jazzy and soulful. Double bass and drum brushes are a departure from my usual sound, but, teamed with the harmonies, this song has encapsulated everything I hoped it would. The tune was written long before the lyrics. In fact it took about a year to personify this little ditty. February 2012 was upon us and I thought it was a good idea to have another winter’s tale on an album that was now going to be called Shameless Winter. At the time, everything in my garden was struggling under the frost and frozen ground, and I thought it was a nice homage to winter and her grip over nature.

Mrs Hart’s Premonition

A lot of people have asked me what this is about, and whether it’s about the Titanic. Yes it is. There are so many incredible stories surrounding the ship, its building, its test voyage, staff and passengers and I took a deep fascination in it after the 100th anniversary earlier this year. Rather than going deep into detail –here are explanations of a few of my references.

Mrs Hart – Esther Hart was a 2nd class passenger on Titanic. She had a premonition and an eerie sense of impending doom days before setting off on the ship. Consequently she stayed awake every night watching her daughter and slept all day. When the ship hit the iceberg at night, she was of course awake and she and her daughter were one of the first passengers onto a lifeboat. Her husband perished.

Daniel Buckley – He slipped onto a lifeboat, despite men giving way to women and children. A female passenger on the lifeboat put a shawl over his head to disguise him as a woman and he was saved.

Charles Joughin – literally drank himself to life. He was reported as being incredibly drunk as the ship was going down, he threw chairs and other wicker furniture into the water for those floating to cling on to, and eventually slipped into the water himself without getting his hair wet. He’s fabled to have survived thanks to the alcohol warming his blood.

The Life of Mary May

A fictitious tale - the prequel to Marry Mary, from The Green Eyed album. Every story needs a beginning, middle and an end. This song opens and closes the saga.

The Hangman’s Waltz

I’m so very proud of this one. The main tune came to me during soundcheck somewhere in Europe with CBP. I recorded the piano tune on my phone and there it sat for a good few months. I tried to write a vocal line, tried to add lyrics, but I finally gave in to the fact that it should be entirely instrumental. Then, I watched Schindler’s List (yes, you heard me right, there was red wine and much rain that night) and John Williams’ exquisite score is the only utterly beautiful thing in such a bleak film. It was this that made me want sultry violin to play my tune. And big credit to Lizz, because she fit the brief perfectly (and even played me a bit of Schindler too when we were practicing).

A Sinner Song

I nearly called the album ‘Sinner Songs’ actually, but this one now seems to stand alone on the album. It contains my first use of ‘bell chords’ with vocals (the ‘ho’ ‘ho’s in the bridge) which work well on a looper when played live. I’d recently taken a trip to Roslyn Chapel near Edinburgh and we were talked through all the mysteries there. I recorded some of my new knowledge on a pad - the most apparent theme throughout all the carvings is that life is only ever paralleled by death, and whatever you do in life, death is the only certainty. The only control we have, some believe, is how St Peter will greet us at the gates.


After a long debate on Facebook, I think a lot of you know my history with this song. Covering this was suggested to me by a good friend, and it was such a good choice. I think most people my age, who were teenagers when the Smashing Pumpkins released this, will have sat at the end of their bed in an adolescent depression coma singing along. Whilst Corgan’s lyrics are in no way about teenage angst, you take from the words what you will, and I hope I did it justice. And my reasons for not changing the words ‘I used to be a little boy’ to ‘girl’? – well, because it’s not my story, it’s his.

The Girl in Hannover

This song broke an 18 month song writing silence of mine. I’d finished The Green Eyed and had been busy on solid tours with CBP. Then I finally get some time to take a trip to Germany, and the loneliness crept upon me like a heavy cloak –something I’d not felt in a long time travelling with 11 other bandmates. It takes a little sadness to supply me with lyric fodder, and I’m forever grateful to that gloomy night, when the gig was attended by four people – especially as now Hannover is one of my most populated gigs of a tour.

So there you have it. There’s plenty more to know, and plenty more I’ll never tell about certain stories and inspirations, but if you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll find more meaning and depth in the songs whenever you next listen to them.