Stories behind the lyrics
I started writing these songs a couple of years ago, when I was unexpectedly single again and felt lonely, and sometimes a bit pissed. Some of them have been shelved or are on hold, either because they badly incomplete, badly written, or even offensive, but I think it’s important to list all the titles, so that I don't present a synthetic, artificial image here. I have never built my reputation on manners, tact and diplomacy, as all the beardy men at folk clubs around will verify. However, copies of original lyrics are available privately, should you wish to find out just how non-conformist I can be.
Here’s a list of titles, with the odd verse thrown in for effect. The recorded ones are on the ‘Music’ tab. If you feel that you like what you see hear, and would like to contribute towards our production time and costs, then please get in touch. But with regard to buying into Millbrig, and owning this segment of my life, my memories, and my current creative spirit, you have no chance. Well, not unless you are very wealthy indeed.
Meldrum Wifeys (2015/1) written when I first came to the village as a single parent......guess I felt a bit out of sorts....
'...Single woman, single mum, Oldmeldrum's never seen the like,
There ain't no other single mama here, riding round on a motorbike...'
The Busking song (2015/2) story of leaving home at 16, and busking while travelling on the road for a year or two, in Brighton, London (when it was illegal on the tube) and around the South of France, jumping trains and winding up picking grapes in Catalonia to get the fare home again. Crazy times, but the best of times. Few photos exist from that time – so thanks to Keith for this photo of Keith and Martin, mates from my hometown, taken just before I left.
'I know a girl who left home at sixteen,
She didn't fit in, if you know what I mean,
Roundabouts this time she learned the guitar,
She wanted to travel cos she’d never been far.
Vauxhall Astra (2015/3) penned when I was as worried about the car packing up as I was worrying about my (then) relationship. The other person couldn’t handle teenagers, it seems. The car was given to me after the split, and therefore outlasted the relationship. Two weeks later it was written off by one of my teenagers, a week after passing her test. Ironic. She survived, and I’ve never worried about cars since. Or relationships.
‘What are the odds your 1600 Astra,
Won't make it past 200,000 miles?'
Skylark (2015/4) A sad song about summer, true love and it’s passing. Guess this mother got it wrong….
'Oh, the grass is always greener, on the other side of the fence
And there's many a romantic dreamer, and gambler taking their chance,
And the skies are always bluer, and he flew higher than all the rest,
This skylark sang, then she came down again, to look after her chicks in the nest'
Magpie Man (2015/5) Lament about a bygone love. A diamond and emerald engagement ring is alluded to. (I gave it back). A candid warning to other women who partner someone for years, but are then left with nothing at the end of it.
'How the July sun shone, high overhead
Life was all sunshine, and no thought ahead
And you built a house for the day you retire,
And I built a dream to lift me out of the mire'
Love is in the air (2015/6) Written at an illegal festival, when the singer of a band gave me ‘the nod’. I was very tempted, but didn’t go there as he was married…so perhaps this song puts that record straight, for the wifeys.
'Yes, you can have her, and other ones too,
One song from you and they're melting
But don't look at me, with those big brown eyes
Don't touch me or you'll get a belting!'
We’re all in this together, my friend (2015/7)
Was thinking about a young friend of a friend, who sadly attempted suicide, and I have read that men are more disposed towards this than women. Stepped off my feminist high horse, and wrote this for him (or for anyone feeling worthless). It’s a kind of invitation to everybody feeling hopeless to come be a musician, instead. Feel the love, dudes.
'This song goes out to the folk that we've lost,
To them that feel they can't make it
This love goes out to you, genuine love
'Coz I'm telling you boys, I don't fake it.'
UN Resolution 1325 (2015/8) Look it up yourself. At the time I wrote this protest song I genuinely believed that women were being allowed access to and control of post-conflict re-distribution of resources (international development funding) in their damaged communities. But now, I’m not so sure....at any rate, women are sure fed up of conflict, and all that entails. Thanks to Abiola Crown for her support at that time. We went up and sang this and other songs at the Tin Hut – two women of colour belting it out, and I was honoured to play along with them.
'There's plenty of women out there, who are suffering in the name of war
They're traumatised, half starving, raped, they just can't take anymore...'
Rue the day (2015/9) Protest song about the abuses of (some) oil companies, and (some) military forces. Reading about conflict f***** up my head. This song is guaranteed to exclude me from corporate funding for…. probably the whole of my lifetime. We had fun making the ‘popping cork’ sound.
' I don't know the date, that I lost my spark,
They say education, lifts you out of the dark,
But now that I see things, just how it is,
I've lost my soul, and my champagne's............ lost its fizz'
The Ferryman (aka the grim reaper) (2015/10)
Based on the ancient myth that there is a man who takes you away over the water, in a boat, to another world, when you are ‘no longer required’ in this one. I have nearly died a few times (not intentionally) and sometimes, I argue a bit about that, with whoever or whatever is out there, which I’m quite good at, especially in stress situations. But I feel that with this precious time I have left, I should have a decent run at things in the here and now. I am not interested in pretending there’s an ‘after life’. And tho I've been a bitch woman (as my kids will testify) maybe I have learned to be a little kinder to others, along the way…
'Sailor won't you take me back?’, I quietly did say
'We have to land the other side, but this time I will delay'
I gazed at him, and asked him, 'Did you have to bring me by?'
He said 'I am the ferryman' and looked............into my eyes
Fly away (2015/11) The clue is in the title. Was playing in a pub once, and had some unwelcome attention. Maybe some men assume that all women singing in pubs are 'up for it'. They're not. But I guess we all want to get away from some people, sometimes...
'I need, I need, to get out of this place,
I need, I need, to fly away'
Battlefield (2016/1) Folk ballad about a bloody battle against an ex-lover and their family. I lost. (I knew the moment I met them that they were not going to have me be part of their family).
'But as time went by, the winds did change, the people divided in two
I was facing war with the other side, and their chosen one was you
I was ill-prepared for battle as, I heard the mission bell
And then I saw the fight begin, and I knew it would not end well'
OK, these next songs move away from one girl and a guitar, and are the second phase of Millbrig. I crawled out of my duvet and faced up to the world again. Strings was the first happy song I had sung for years. And what brought this on? Oh yeah, nearly forgot. I met a tall, dark, handsome stranger…..
Strings (2016/2). Happy, flirty song about playing strings, whilst weaving (well, my name is Penelope, so this fits with Greek mythology) the threads of a musical tapestry, with other musicians. OK, with one other musician. But that's all you're getting.
Road to Dundee (2016/2016/3)
A folk song about taking the road from Aberdeen to Dundee. Sad memories, as that road was trod many times by a friend of mine as they often visited their friend to make music with him, but he is no longer around.
The Fishing Song (2016/4)
A folk song about the fishing folk in Aberdeen. I originally added the words to ‘When the line went down’ by Yorlum, then Steve took my words and re-wrote the tune. A great narrative about fishermen hauling a good catch. It reflects the culture and history of Aberdeen, before oil.
'We all hoped for a catch that day,
The men were hungry, the women did pray,
We broke the law on the Sabbath day,
When the line went down'.
Tall, dark, handsome stranger ( 2016/5) A modern folk story, penned after singing at Musa café, and encountering another musician there. Autobiographical.
'She ran away from the circus, they say she fell off the trapeze
She was tired of having, so many men to please
And just when she got away and, was well out of danger,
In walked a tall, dark, handsome stranger'
Waiting for you (2016/6) Waiting. A lot. A blues song about endlessly waiting for someone, who is not up for it. And letting them know that you won’t wait round forever. Based on Steve's recorded Yorlum tune called 'Checking the tide'. Yorlum has produced their own version of this song, but I would like to record my slower blues version one day.
'Waiting for you, checking the tide,
Waiting for the right time to travel, to the other side.'
Pulling a heavy plough (2016/7) A folk song about the toil of being a mother, (I genuinely cried for over an hour when I wrote the first line of this song) coupled with the dilemma of also being a healthy, happy woman, longing for a good time. Well, after a couple of pints, anyway. Just sometimes. In my head, that is. Sowing the barley refers to having had my children.
'This story began, so many years ago,
When I worked the fields, and handfuls of barley I sowed
The seasons went by, and I pulled such a heavy plough
So forgive me if, I seem a little crazy, right now'.
Midnight train (2016/8) A loud rock/blues song about missing the midnight train (aka not getting one's oats). Fiesty, and liable to offend faint-hearted Presbyterians.
'Now I don't care if people try to warn me,
They say 'Back off!' and 'Hurry on your way!'
He's really cool, yes I'm the one overheating, (Oh Lord!)
And I'll be back to ride that midnight train'.
Flowers and bees (2016/9) Floaty little ‘girly’ song about flowers, their beauty and their short lives. I was thinking about my youngest daughter. A new style, using the fret board for a change.
Fox and Hare (2016/10) A folk song about a mythical village in Scotland, invaded by the English, but this time the villagers come out on top. The foxes, to this day, remain hidden in their dens. Kind of reminds me of living in N Ireland in the 1970's. Is it safe to mention that the foxes remind me of the IRA? A complicated tune, that keeps changing beat more times that Mr Darcy at a ball.
Shadows of Summer (2016/11). My favourite song. Written after spending a happy, summer day mucking about with friends. On a very small boat. While trying to film a backing video to another song. Tricky to balance guitars and cameras, whilst rowing. (Thanks to Sue and Ali for taking us out to the lake at Dunecht). This one’s about being happy when you are breaking inside.
'Music gives me all the answers that I need
So what if it's a little off key?
Summer, gold and bright green sunshine on the trees
Ain't gonna, let the shadows bring me to my knees'
Dark Shore (2016/12) Picture the beach on a dark, moonlit night. An owl swoops right past your head. It happened.
'Long is the night, beside the dark shore
The light barely shows from the moon
A boat is nearby, all around is dark sky
And I won't move anytime soon'
Old Soldier (2016/13) Anti-war song. Not without some empathy for ex-soldiers, though. The peace talks refer to the UN.
'And there are many who are angry at the harm
Time for all of you to lay down your arms
And there are many who prefer to hold peace talks
When has anything been solved by war'
Village Hats (2016/14) A mystery box is delivered to the village hall – and much fun ensues. The most unlikely people try on the clothes in the box. A policeman looks particularly fetching in a basque….hahaha
'The frilliest hat was grabbed right away, by an overweight dry-stone dyker,
And the rainbow belts were snapped up then and there, by some hairy leather-clad bikers,
The vicar he shouted 'I'll have the bonnet, get in touch with my feminine side!"
And the man from the second-hand shop, he brought a mirror - they laughed so much that they cried'
After the dawn, cometh the light (2016/15) Mood song. Hope, where is no hope. There is light, I just can’t always find it?! Damn vapes….bring back matches.
'Never been able, to say how I feel,
But this mess I'm in is, becoming unreal,
Tougher than leather, getting by with a grin
Gotta hide my emotions, keep it all in
It’s gonna be alright, it’s gonna be alright,
Cos after the dawn, cometh the light'
Endlessly drifting (2016/16) The clue is in the title.
'Endlessly drifting from shore to shore,
It would have been so nice, if he'd given a little more'
Motorbike riding (2016/17) Very racey little number. I want a motorbike! (The kids won’t let me)
'Don't know why, I come by, feel like falling to the ground
Motorbiking, I'm liking, steer my big end right around'
Time for you (2016/18) Long and slow. In a life of chaos, it's important to make time for people, places and things that matter.
'You'll never know, just how much trouble I am in
Coz you live apart, from all the confusion and the din,
But I want you to know, before you go,
That any time you call me, I'll come running'
On the run (2016/19) Think foot stomping and banjo. Good girl hangs with bad boy. Bit like me n Steve.
'Trouble maker, one risk-taker, modern day Bonny and Clyde,
When we ran off in that truck, we laughed so much we cried,
Guess we got away with it, crossed over the state line
He knows where the gold is hid, but he says that half is mine'
Goodbye song (Ricky) (2016/20) Written for a great chap, another musician and best acoustic guitarist in Aberdeen. Apart from Steve of course. He went away for a while, to be a dad…..we miss him at Musa café.
'Never the right time, to say goodbye
We all wish you well, as you go along your way
I'm singing for, those who live so free
Playing songs and writing words, that speak so easily'
Would you like to run away?(2016/21) I keep threatening to run away….but nobody takes any notice anymore...
It’s the same old story (2016/22) Man’s going away. Woman is sad. I tell the man that the woman is sad. He doesn't go away after all.
Not giving up on you (2016/23) Even when you push me so far away I nearly fall off the fucking earth (yes, it is flat) I will not give up on you. So there.
I come from the islands (2016/24) Recorded onto Yorlum site with Steve’s own tune and lyrics, as he didn’t like mine that time.
Song for Syria (2016/25) ‘Song for Syria’ was written after hearing Dr. Samer Attar interviewed by Eddie Mair on Radio 4 (26.07.16). Dr. Attar is one of many medics who volunteer to help in conflict zones, at considerable risk to themselves. An mp3 copy of the song was sent to Dr Attar in Chicago as a world exclusive, as a gesture of thanks and appreciation for his work and for that of his colleagues. He was rather chuffed.
Steve and I were pleased to tell this story on Keith Community Radio recently as guests on their ‘live lounge’ programme (an hour of chat and music).
Update - Jan 2017 - After the bombings in Aleppo leading up to Christmas 2016, I contacted Dr Attar again, as we were concerned. He said he was OK, and added 'most of my colleagues got out alive'. Maybe one day we can go to Chicago to meet him, and play there. That would be cool.
Footsteps (2016/26) Slow and haunting. A woman lies asleep, and hears the footsteps of her man going out in the middle of the night...she's half asleep and half awake....she feels pain inside her heart but falls back to sleep….was she dreaming?
'Sometime later, a vixen calling, part of Nature, hear her scream
Waking me and, then I can't sleep, maybe it was, just a dream
I look around and, you are lying, like a baby, fast asleep,
Can't make out what, time it is from, the carriage clock on, the mantle piece.'
Mother's not well (2016/27) Too sensitive an issue to work on this right now….and was done on an out of tune mandolin, so may be impossible to recreate anyhow.
Bound for America (2016/28) Proud of this tale about a Scottish couple emigrating to America aboard a ship, about 80 years ago. Think Titanic. Written after attending a Scottish traditional session at the Blue Lamp, one Monday evening. A lot of shit was going down then….so it was a good escape, in more ways than one.
Smugglers Cove (2016/29) Great story about smugglers over 200 years ago. Based on fact, but adapted to incorporate Downies village, near Portlethen, Aberdeenshire. Hard to sing at 200 words per minute….hell, was riding on a wave that day!
Insanity (2016/30) The craziness of war. Our first psychedelic music blend.
'Somewhere far, the protest cries
Evidence discarded, lies
Somewhere far, a mother cries,
Deep, in the vale of insanity'
Here I go again! (2016/31) Jazzy, schultzy, schmoozy blues. Sexual references. A mate from Stonehaven folk club played live clarinet alongside us on this one.
‘Someone light me a cigarette, please
This one’s gonna bring me to my knees, (rude!)
Oh no, no, no, no, here I go again!'
Ballad of Ed (2016/32) Recorded as ‘Bar room blues’ by Steve at Yorlum. And a bluesier blues you will never hear. My lyrics are being considered, but 180 w.p.m. is hard to sing! A new clarinet has appeared in the studio. We’ve both had a puff.
'So drive up to Virginia, you'll find an old shack
Two creaking chairs, on the porch at the back
Sometimes Jolene dances, in her pretty red shoes,
As old Ed's singing, the bar room blues.'
Girlpower (2016/33) Written for my teenage girls. Fingers to the ex, girlfriends. Nuff said.
Brick Wall (2016/34) Unfinished. Because I hit a brick wall. Really.
Shattered (2016/35) This song is from the woman’s perspective after I heard about a woman whose son unexpectedly died, aged 19. Drugs? His father owned a nightclub. I changed it to reflect any woman in the kitchen who gets bad news or is just plain weary. We've all had those 'dropping a plate’ moments, I guess.
'The plate slipped out my fingers
Onto the kitchen floor
Too tired to pick up pieces of the plate that is no more
The fragility of love, is what cuts me to the core
And I am shattered'.
Thinking ‘bout my baby (2016/36) Feeling blue, and missing my baby. (He doesn't miss me, though)
Fly away, spread my wings (2016/39) Took shelter in someone’s home for a winter. I was worried about the world. They showed me great kindness. Not ready to fly away, yet. But I will, one day
'You let me sleep upon your sofa,
And at night we watched the moon,
I drank wine, from a broken coffee cup
Shared your dinner with a spoon'
Planets Collide (2016/40) This song is more than plate tectonics, and more forceful than a seismic event. This is a shifting paradigm. Psychadelic or what. David, eat your heart out.
'I've crashed into, planet you,
You're intact, but I am shattered,
In outer space, where darkness reigns,
I will never be of any matter
My orbits skewed, and I am far away,
From planet Earth, from planet Earth,
I made it through the escape hatch,
But it's single berth, single berth'
A small Ray of Light (2016/41) Written whilst hovering outside somebody’s home, wondering whether to go in or not. It's a sort of feeling I also get being a peace activist, when other people aren't. They view you as an ‘outsider’, which can make you feel uncomfortable.
'I know that you say, your door's always open
There's days when your smile, keeps me alive (God knows)
But how can I keep, these things within me any longer?
Maybe it's best, if I stay outside'
Cold, cold town (2016/42) Good old railroad blues. I am a tramp.
'Gotta keep on moving, along the winding road,
Gotta keep on singing, until my story's told
No explanation necessary, see it's all gone down
Can't remember how I ended up, living in this cold, cold town'
Medieval March 2016 (43)
After laughing with Steve about how bad Christmas songs are, yet incredibly they are played year after year on the radio, I sat down in the studio, honked the clarinet and banged a drum, and wrote some cheesy lyrics about a king. Steve said he wouldn't ever record this one as it's so bad. I said 'Exactly!’ (which is why it will probably be a Christmas hit, one day) ha ha ha
Ode to a poet (2016/44) In memory of John, Mackie, poet and peace activist, who died December 2016. On a personal note, he was very kind to me when I was battling with a bitch of a problem, and stopped me feeling like shite, even though others in a small group in Aberdeen constructed an alternative narrative and openly humiliated me. It took me a year and a half to stand up to their main man in public, and say what I had to say. John drank wine with me, one time smuggled into St. Andrews cathedral by the percussionists, at a peace concert. John and I were working on a spoken word project together, when he died. He had asked me on the phone 'What do you need, to come over and work on this?' and I replied 'Champagne, smoked salmon and a helicopter' at which he quipped that the first two were not a problem. I regret we never did have that brainstorm session. He had also asked me to join him on holiday for Christmas 2016, to work in a remote cottage on the west coast, and I had declined, because of stuff......but I wish I had gone, tho.
'If I brought to you a tall ship, would you sail across the ocean,
If I was drowning in the dark waves, would you throw to me a line
If I played to you my tune now, would you help me, using your words
If I handed you a blank canvass, would you paint it, would you have time?'
Thanks but no thanks (2016/45) I watched a guy tempted by the main singer of a band over a period of a few months. He sweated and squirmed, but rejected her advances. As far as I know.
'Yes, you've got lovely hair,
And yes, you're sitting on my chair,
And no, I will not sit down on your knee.
It's clever how you play your song,
Get everyone to play along,
But you cannot pick me up, that easily'
Man against man (2016/46) Unusually, it is sung or chanted to a drumbeat only. Omar has kindly been over to the studio to record this, so we will add stuff to it, when we have a moment.
'Man against man, and family against family,
Village against village and town against town,
City against city, and nation against nation,
All jump on the war machine, round and round'
Was it something I said? (2016/47)
'Was it something I said, that made you turn?
You walked away from me, I guess I'll live and learn
No stopping now (2016/48) Cynical look at guys who use women in bands, to get what they want.
'He likes the touch of something new, he'll gently show her what to do, oh how
No stopping now.
Soon as he gets her concert trained he won't even remember her name, oh how,
No stopping now.
Run for cover, hero soldier (2016/49). Unadulterated, anti-war song. This time not so empathetic to ex-soldiers.
'Maybe when they decide, they will use the words of peace,
You will sleep - for the first time in your lifetime, be released
Until then, sorry man, your way and mine won't be aligned,
Until then, I ain't gonna give you, any of my time.'
And into another year.......2017. Ding Dong.
Chicago Blues (2017/50) (Recorded on phone when pissed - work in progress - Jazz club blues)
Soliloquy (2017/51) No words yet - work in progress
Dooo diddley dooo (2017/53) - No words yet - work in progress
Chicken wire (2017/52) Brains all in a muddle - hill billy banjo style. Conor!
''I have to jump over the field gate,
Coz I can't work out how to use the bolt,
My ball of string is tangled up in knots, and I
Can't remember where I tethered up my goat'
What's the use of crying? (2017/54) Note to self. Pull yersel’ together woman.
'The future lies before you, the past behind....
Pushing out the boat, into uncharted seas,
Let your hair down, feel the breeze,
Rolling up your jeans, wade out from the shore,
Don't look back there, anymore'
Don't wanna cause no trouble (2017/55) Ever wonder what on earth you saw in someone? He’s welcome to her.
'Spose you thought I'd thank you,
For the credit cards you used,
All the sparkle that they bought, but I just felt abused
So take your fancy lady, far away to another place
Don't ever want you breathing in my face'
Dancing on the beach (2017/56) Hey, remember dancing on the beach, barefoot, when you were a kid?
'Put a shell in, to my pocket, to remember, happy days,
Cast away the, weights I carry, and return to, yesterday.'
Feeling the rhythm of the beating drum (Omar) (2017/57) Chant - enhanced by Omar playing drums etc. on the recording.
'Feeling the rhythm of the beating drum
The weak amongst us shall be strong
We'll lift each other and we'll carry on
Feeling the rhythm of the beating drum.'
(Shite - I have lost the verse lyrics - but will write them again and sing along to the recording. Thanks to Omar for spending another evening with us)
Oldmeldrum folk club (2017/58) A folk song to celebrate good old local folk clubs, and the mixed bunch fo folk who attend, including us. A song I am happy to have bandied about, with no restriction.
'I cannae wait to see some familiar faces,
And we'll come down to Oldmeldrum folk club again
For we know it doesn't matter where you are from
The best whiskey is made from mixed grain.'
It's all gone down (2017/59) I admit I am a moody musician. Some of us creative types get very low, sometimes. It comes with the territory. Anything in E minor is good. Labelling me as bi-polar would be an insult. I have many moods during the course of one single day, and prefer multi-polar! That's plobbly why I can write many different kinds of songs.
'Chasing away the shadows from my mind
Chasing away the bitter memories I've left behind
What is there left to say?
You can't hear me anyway,
I am.....to tired to speak
I walk the empty streets,
It's all gone down'
Better keep quiet, if you know what I mean (2017/60) Known as the parapet song. A suggestion that women that speak their minds publicly will not be received well, by men. Especially scientists. Most of which are men. This is also a little laugh at how environmental scientists make us recycle rubbish (environmental science appears to be the new religion) whilst manufacturing arms that kill and maim people en masse. They also take most university research funding , citing 'sustainability' for full emotional effect to appease the women/vegetarians, while sociologists have no funding for peace processes research, and the wars carry on.......but don't get me started. That would be a whole musical for what’s his name five wives phantom face......hahaha
'Stick your head above the parapet,
I'll watch as they shoot you down, down
Better keep quiet if you know what I mean
'Til your time comes around, round.
There are also lines in the song about a local radio interview with this woman peace activist that was never broadcast.....and a local folk club (run by men of course) has apparently banned her, although refused to put it in writing.....but I will leave you to investigate that rumour. Or to come and ask me in person.
The Unicorn (2017/61) Fantasy tale made up after seeing some of Mike's extraordinary art, one Sunday afternoon. (Mike - you are one of the few lucky people weird enough to be mentioned on this site!)
Update September 2017. Now up to song 80.....need more time…….
Very busy editing, mastering and using an aggregator to start uploading tracks onto Spotify, i-Tunes, Amazon etc......watch this space !