Welcome to the Songs page for the VivYouell website
The following were written as song specific blogs, first published by Viv Youell as Tinkerbell on the Vaionation film and music website in 2007. "In praise of all things sparkly" covered the life and times of a singer songwriter on a roller coaster that has paused briefly at the top of a long and devilishly sheer drop that is the glorious stretch home.
The beginning of the affair "The Fisherman"
I've been contemplating The Fisherman...
“I would be a fisherman if there were no fish in the sea”
That’s what started it off. This is the song that is most possessed of myself. It is a celebration. It is a challenge. It is a 'hurrah' to the voices that say don’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, won’t or can’t. It says - if you want to then do it. It speaks of triumph for no other reason than to experience triumph.
To my mind, it comes as no surprise that the central theme is ‘Change’, and my relationship with it, because this song is not so much about living as about a mode of living.
“Change is changing”
Change is a dynamic word that arises passively or actively in a life. Often when experiencing change I have found release, but equally reluctance or resistance. Am I dancing around it or is it dancing around me?
Change has a complexity borne of circumstance, requiring a judgement call that incorporates the double-edged sword that is choice. Change, the unsettling reality, asks of me whether I need to quest understanding or to simply follow the path of acceptance.
Change is a benevolent force of nature which challenges our forgetfulness, and reminds us that decisions are rarely absolute. Change is subject to itself.
“I’m having a stormy love affair with change”
Change is the only constant. It is lovingly moderated by Time. Embrace Change suddenly and it becomes ‘impulse’ (the ‘Adam & Eve’ of momentum); caress it strategically and it becomes 'development'; lounge in the almost imperceptible dawning of Change and it becomes the grandiose ‘Evolution’. Language can disguise nature effectively but never really fools us. Change and Time are as handcuffed to each other as we are to them.
“The crest of the wave is just the tip”
Luckily, when I wrote The Fisherman, I understood Change enough to recognise it as a word, a force and a gateway. I wish I could claim it as a great songwriting achievement - that I consciously incorporated the deeper understandings of this writing and still managed to package it as a succinct set of 12 rhyming couplets which come in at under 3 minutes.
The truth is that I had no concept of the strata that lay beneath the surface of the field beyond the gate. The Fishermanhas unfolded to me as the petals of a lotus blossom.
On one of these is written …
Constancy is what I require of myself – to hold true to the intent of the dreams that arise in my heart, to uphold concepts of loyalty, integrity and the sincerity of purpose that crafts a person. In all other circumstances, and especially as the pivotal ideal for society, constancy is a wicked illusion.
And on another …
Consistency is what I require of custard.
Is the parrot a red herring "Hearts and Arrows"
The accordion music floated into my consciousness one sunny late autumn morning as I sat by a tall window, sipping sweet hot coffee from a wide-brimmed cup. Oh, how very, very Continental – only I was in Bristol to record the first demo of Hearts and Arrows with the help my friend Lucy Ray.
Lucy’s accordion-playing neighbour has a parrot, she told me, “They live a long time.” The parrot had previously been the companion of an old man who suffered with emphysema. It would mimic the hiss of the oxygen and clicking valves of the equipment that the old man needed to assist with his breathing.
On hearing that the parrot also did a great line in raucous, wheezy coughing, I couldn’t help but wonder if the old man suffered with a parrot too - you know, one starts and then they’re both at it!
So, is the parrot a red herring?
Disclosure, whilst often perceived to offer solace to the masses, can be the modern world’s anathema to priests, poets and politicians. Perhaps, regarding Hearts and Arrows, I can just say that love does not respect a separation without a battle, when we know that our needs and feelings are not being acknowledged. ...
I’ve heard that the parrot now whistles quite tunefully and has lately taken to wearing a beret.
A song is born "Love in the Afternoon"
A songwriter is a problem solver. Take this picture in your mind, these chords and that rhythm put it all together and you get… a problem. Luckily whilst the body can go a whole day of wakefulness but eventually feel the need to sleep, the mind is forever wakeful and trouble shoots in your absence. The blinding flash of understanding you experience the morning after a night staring at sheets of paper strewn with words and annotation is the product of your inner trouble shooter.
On the other hand with Love in the Afternoon I was prepared to stay up for as long as it took even if I went insane with sleep deprivation. It had been a beautiful couple of weeks filled with inspiration to divine for the picture already in my head and slowly as my vision defined words were found, as sure as Google Earth hones in on the target destination, the song was coming together. Yet it remained as dispersed as feathers in the wind.
Sat on the front step stroking a stray cat that I later took in, I contemplated the overwhelming fear that these feathers were not going to make a wing and that I myself had it within my power to ruin everything. I was flying into chaos instead of the song flying through the pivotal portal of existence.
Jim, my neighbour’s child, was born in their living room next door at the very moment the song emerged to take its maiden flight. I heard his first cry and no the sleep deprivation wasn’t having me hearing things. In the middle of the night I made a birthday card and popped it through the letter box first thing the next morning, all the time wondering if I was intruding on their privacy.
Aptly, that is exactly what Love in the Afternoonis about. The listener is a third party to the moments before a lover arrives. The scene is set and the experience is of sensuality rather than sexuality. It is Italian Renaissance, it is Film Noir and it is most definitely Venus.
I have always loved singing this song and delivered it in one take for Firelogic. My mind focussed on the listener lying prone and relaxed on a bed as I became the disembodied voice that came from the radio. My voice, a mere vibration of the particles in the air, arrived as the invited guest stepping lightly into the world of another.
The Earth Moved "Smile"
Surrounded as we are by a huge visual conundrum that we quite happily stroll under every day, it’s not surprising we forget that the scale of a single life is set in sharp contrast to the larger experience around us: a broken heart means nothing to the Aurora Borealis.
This song also seeks to embrace an idea that ‘Murphy’s Law’ is itself subject to ‘Murphy’s Law’. So instead of, ‘whatever can go wrong will go wrong', we get something along the lines of, 'whatever can go wrong will go spectacularly right (even if it appears to be wrong)', and other variations on that theme.
I wrote Smile as an opener for live gigs, so in a way it's there to remind me that free fall - technical hitches, a ‘hot pepper sauce’ audience, forgotten lyrics etc - is often only a moment away and can be a blessing; as natural creativity takes over to 'rescue' the situation and in doing so brings, at least, a memorable gig if not release.
‘Nothing ever happens the way you plan – and I smile’
Maybe, the Aurora Borealis can mean a great deal to a single heart.
The Breton "We Don't Touch"
The man had been away a little too long. Time had passed yet nothing in the village had changed. The old men playing dominoes in the bar would be drinking cider until well into the night.
The sea thundered against the sea-front, the squat sea-wall stood firm; resistant to the pressure of being consumed. That’s what they were for and because of it, the reason why he left.
He stood, frozen into his thoughts, in the shadows, his felt fedora low on his brow, the collar of his gabardine top coat raised against the cold: only occasional pulses of smoke from his cigarette gave him away. Rain had fallen with dull rhythmical persistence ever since his arrival.
The Breton music, filling the alley way, still lingered as a force in his soul.
She listened too, from inside the cottage; unaware that they shared the same experience.
* * * * *
This is the picture in my mind which formed the brief that I gave to Martyn, Nic and Richard when we recorded We don’t touch. It’s a different story from the one that inspired the song or perhaps, it’s more accurate to say, it is the same story from a different angle. I hoped they would be able to find the inspiration to interpret something so close to my heart; from a brief that had a high visual content. Certainly, they had no problem, so either my story-telling was effective, their imaginations vivid, or their tolerance to the rambling woman, admirable.
We don't touch is not a song. It is a pledge, an oath, a map and a specific set of directions. To follow it you need only believe and remember.
The man I wrote it for knows who he is and why I wrote it. I told him, "Next time, it's up to you to recognise me." But that's not strictly true. Next time, I hope we recognise each other.
So, where do you start? "Dear Darling"
Without entering into too much philosophical debate my first thought was of the end. The theme has been “how have I arrived at where I am now”.