Here is the second write-up of the ideas and influences behind the songs on my forthcoming album, plus insights into the remaining seven tracks following my earlier post, Album Notes 1.
Firstly, I should explain why Waterloo Sunrise is the album’s title.
Waterloo has always been a special part of London for me. Ever since I was young, when my parents would take me to visit their old haunts (Mum grew up in Harlesden and Dad in Muswell Hill and Barnet), I have travelled through the area and the mainline Station has proved a central hub for many a journey. I have also spent hours and days exploring the streets, eateries, clubs, markets, and meeting local people since the 1960s.
Whenever we went over Waterloo Bridge, mostly by bus, my Mum always referred to it as the “Women’s Bridge”. I never knew what she meant when I was very young, until she explained one day that women completed a great deal of the work in its construction during the War, whilst the men were on active service. My mum was a great believer in women’s rights and I now agree with her that its name should be changed permanently!
Having been born in Bournemouth, and usually travelling to the ‘Smoke’ by train, Waterloo was always the gateway to the heart of London and its magical allure has never faded for me. It just felt right to centre the characters, action and experiences just south of the River.
So, onto the songs themselves.
Falling off the edge of the world
That moment when your everyday life is swung off course by someone you meet. It can be fleeting or long-lasting, but it’s emotional and impactful. The first reference to water features here, a theme which rises on occasion throughout the album. Total credit to renowned flautist Andy Findon who delivers a perfect accompaniment and lead, superbly giving the opening track the feeling of a summer’s sunrise.
Head above water
I always think of the tunnels and bridge arches around Waterloo when hearing this. It was meant to illustrate urban loneliness and dreams of escape, while standing alongside those who face life’s heavier challenges. The reference to magazines gives a hint of its origin time wise. The key line comes at the end of the first verse, when the man is “just one of her dreams.” Make of that what you will!
The girl I never had
I had a sketch of this song for years and I was very keen to deliver lines that reflected the subject matter. I felt it a special idea, namely thinking of the child you could have had with someone – if you had stayed together. I am also aware the lyric could describe a child who you have tragically lost, or regretfully had little contact with as they grew. My thanks to string arranger Pete Whitfield and cellist Simon Turner of the Hallé for a perfect setting.
Love on a summer’s day
My stepdaughter was born profoundly deaf and I came into her life when she was turning three years old. She is now a wonderful, courageous woman in her thirties. She taught me so much about patience, understanding and communication. It is her I am thinking of here. This song also includes the first reference to sand, which could be Southbourne beach, but perhaps is more likely the stretches exposed at low tide along the Thames. You decide!
Farewell to your valentine
When we finished this track, it quickly struck me as an opening for a side of the vinyl release. With the vocal kicking in early and the superb understated swing of drummer Ralph Salmins and bassist Geoff Gascoyne, plus the excellent contributions of trumpeter John Thirkell and saxophonist Snake Davis, it frames those tricky moments towards the end of a passionate but rocky relationship.
As a lyricist, I am always looking to incorporate some of those classic elements from standards. On this occasion, it’s the inclusion of three triple rhymes – one in each verse: e.g. down, drown, gown. Producer Greg Fitzgerald offered to create a solo piano arrangement based on my guitar chords and he certainly set the scene for a heartfelt recording. We subsequently recorded a performance-based video at Rimshot Studios of the song.
In the comfort of strangers
I imagined a gathering of the characters in the Sunrise story coming together at the historic St John’s Church, close to the main Station, to remember a friend or relative who had passed away. It felt like a conclusion, lyrically and thematically. Greg and his daughter Emily brilliantly compiled the choir chorus with numerous vocal parts captured by moving the microphone around the studio.