Instrumentals are strange beasts and I have a confession to make that I’m not normally a fan of the form. Lyrics are the anchor that attach me to a song and without them I am washed away. But age and experience have given me the wisdom to realise that I am at fault. There are songs that have no singing and these are just as worthy as those ditties that are full up with words.
I consider myself both English and also British and I am both proud of it and uncomfortable. They are different tributaries of a river that sometimes I don’t want to traverse. As every historical proudness competes with despicable sadness and horror of what our forebears did. And in the shadow of the present there are those that seek to echo the awful, imperialist past.
So if we must have a flag then let it be a flag that everyone can stand beneath. If our nation’s teams must battle then let it be a battle where defeat is just a loss of goals. Every country is worthy and every country should be a piece of the world’s jigsaw. We should be part of the together because being alone forever is just a sign that your country didn’t work.
Questions and Answers with David Lewis Gedge:
When it comes to instrumentals, are these songs you have never been able to ‘finish’ with lyrics or do they start as lyric-free?
DLG: No, they’ve always been instrumentals from the outset. I approach the writing in a different way. I feel that the lyric and vocal melody are typically a listener’s primary focus in a song and if they’re not present I think you have to have enough ‘other’ things in there to maintain interest. Having said that, I’ve heard instrumental versions of Wedding Present and, even more so, Cinerama songs and they work perfectly well without the vocal… so what do I know?!
How do you know Simon Armitage who narrates the poem at that start of the track and gets a co-credit?
DLG: I’d been aware of Simon’s work for a long time – hearing him on the radio and stuff – but I don’t think I actually met him until he interviewed me for his book ‘Gig : The Life And Times Of A Rock-Star Fantasist’ which came out in 2008. He interviewed me in the dressing room of the Picturedrome venue in Holmfirth, which is near where he lives, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. He’s a lovely bloke.
When we were writing ‘England’ I decided that I wanted some form of narration on there but it was actually Jessica who suggested Simon. I asked him if he’d be interested and, by an amazing coincidence, he told me about his poem ‘The English’ which fits perfectly! It’s brilliant when things fall into place like that…
What do you define as Englishness? Did you try and bring anything specifically ‘English’ to this song or did it just fit a mood?
DLG: I think the arrangement is sympathetic to the feeling of Simon’s poem… so, if the words represent ‘Englishness’, I guess the music does, too. I’m actually fascinated by how we define Englishness and how it relates to the rest of The United Kingdom, Europe, The Commonwealth, the U.S.A., etc. While the English haven’t always behaved in the most honourable way through the years I think the effect that this part of a small island has had on the world is undeniably remarkable. But to answer the question properly I would need to write an essay.
Patrick Alexander was back to record guitar on this track. Was this track formed from your mutual early work on Going, Going… or did you just want to work with him again? I love the urgent guitar work at, for example, 3:03-3:33.
DLG: ‘England’ is one of a tetralogy of tracks released as the ‘Home Internationals’ EP together with, somewhat inevitably, ‘Scotland’, ‘Wales’ and ‘Northern Ireland’. ‘Wales’ is one of my favourite moments of Going, Going… and so I decided that I wanted to use it as the starting point and inspiration for three other instrumentals. When we were writing Going, Going… Patrick churned out a seemingly endless supply of ideas and so, unsurprisingly, there were some guitar parts that were never used… and not because they weren’t good enough!
We know the people who run the Primavera Festival in Barcelona and so, when they invited us to release an E.P. on their label, I felt that the obvious thing to do was to pop up to Oxford, where Patrick works as a lecturer, and assemble some new tracks from those unused Going, Going… bits and pieces.
The English (poem by Simon Armitage)
They are a gentleman farmer, living on reduced means
A cricketer’s widow sowing a kitchen garden with sweet peas
A lighthouse-keeper counting aeroplanes
Old blackout curtains staunch the break of day
Regard the way they dwell; the harking back
How the women at home went soldiering on with pillows for husbands, fingers for sons
How man after man emerged at dawn from his house, in his socks
Then laced his boots on the step, locked up, then steadied himself to post a key back through a letterbox
The afternoon naps, the quaint hours they keep
But, since you ask them, that is how they sleep
Written and published by Gedge / Layton / Alexander / Wadey / Armitage. The publishing of Gedge / Layton / Alexander / Wadey is administered outside of the UK & Eire by Fintage Publishing BV except for North America where it is administered by Superior Music.
1 – Home Internationals version [El Segell del Primavera PS033EP] TIME: 5:22
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Patrick Alexander (guitar); Danielle Wadey (bass); Charlie Layton (drums); Simon Armitage (narration)
Released May 2017
A live video from June 2017 by Kirk (8Boing).
The song debuted in 2017 and has had a fair few outings so far.