YOU CAN SEE A SMILE BUT NOT ALWAYS WHAT’S BEHIND IT
Work commitments meant that our usual Thursday recording blitz was moved to Friday this week. We are now just two songs away from mixing the EP, and while we are really pleased with the output so far yesterday’s song The Smile has always felt like one of those that you can sing accompanied by almost any instrument.
Originally written on a 12-string guitar I first played the cittern version while I was deciding which songs to sing on 107FM Meridian Radio back in July. When Dave Roberts asked “So what are you going to play for us tonight?” I had six songs lined up, but selected Dry The Life from the current EP, Guns from Moorscape, and The Breeding Ground Of Vile from the album of that title which is planned for next year. The reserve songs for that day were Watergrove Farm from Moorscape, The Madness from the new album, and The Smile which I felt stood apart from the others.
The Smile is a song about dignity in illness. You probably walk past people every day whose lives have been blighted in some way by a persistent disabling illness, but in many cases you wouldn’t know it. Visibly physical disabilities are something we can all relate to because for example, we can understand that a person in a wheelchair is probably either unable to walk at all or has severely restricted movement. Too many types of disability go unnoticed, and I was originally going to call this song ‘The Hidden’ because there are too many people having to live a life within four walls and out of sight, out of mind. Maybe that is another song for another day, but think about that for a moment. Think about how you would cope with that level of isolation.
Although The Smile is more about the illnesses we can’t see, it is equally relevant to those with physical disabilities. In both cases, there is a personality behind the smile as well as a life we don’t know. In some ways a smile is a mask for what lies beneath, but this song is simply about the dignity with which some people carry their debilitating condition. It is also a song of hope for them that they will enjoy a brighter future.
So The Smile is for people with ME, for people with MS, for people with autism or Aspergers, for people who suffer from depression, for people with blood diseases, for many people suffering with cancers, for people with AIDS, for the people with any illnesses that are not immediately obvious, and for the others that are, for people whose illness keeps them behind closed doors and for the others who are still fortunate enough to walk free. I hope the song in some way helps to raise awareness and open people’s eyes to who is around them, to show more kindness, compassion and understanding in this increasingly selfish and insensitive world.
As I drove towards Ali’s studio at lunchtime yesterday, I was stopped by the lights at Lapwing Lane in Didsbury. Waiting to cross were two black women and their charge of four Downs Syndrome adults, two of whom had the biggest, happiest smiles. They were clearly being very well looked after. Just around the corner there was a dog with three legs being taken on a walk, then turning right onto Burton Road a blind lady with a white stick walked along the pavement by the shops. It felt like an affirmation of the song I was about to record. Although a simple song, The Smile was actually one of the most difficult I have ever recorded.
It was The Smile that led me to think in terms of releasing the Dry The Life EP in the first place. I had written all the other songs back in March or before that, and because none of them really suited a protest album like The Breeding Ground Of Vile I felt a need to bring them to light in a different way. We have a lot of plans for The Smile as we move from the recording process to mixing and then performing live, and you will learn about those soon enough!
The Dry The Life EP is expected to be released in November, but like all our work it will be released when it is ready.