Original Compositions

Creative Commons License
This work (8 lyric poems © Chris Naden) is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

lindisfarne-chrisBecause WordPress believes I have to have a page here to have the necessary menu elements, I decided I’d put it to constructive use and support the Creative Commons. One of the reasons I’m so invested in folk, blues and related traditions of music is precisely that they are traditions, with a canon shared between many artists who are constantly re-imagining it, adding to it, and plundering it for joyous inspiration. I’ve also been actively engaged with the Open Source Software movement since sometime in 1995, and strongly support their copyright doctrines. People started asking me if they could learn my stuff this year, so as a start I’m going to put my lyrics up. I may at some point get around to putting up chord-sheets to go with them.

There are three rules of folk club! The first is: if you want to learn my stuff, please go right ahead! I’m flattered. One reason I got to where I am now is sitting in a tent in Towersey, Oxon back in 2005 and hearing Steve Knightley tell the audience to share his work as widely as they could because more ears hearing his songs is good for him, too. Before recorded music, the only way your song could become widely recognised was other musicians being impressed enough to learn it. Plagiarism is the highest form of musical flattery.

But because I also need to eat, the second rule is: please credit the author! Much of my repertoire that is not original or traditional is obscure, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being able to bring new names and new sounds to audiences who would otherwise never hear Robin Williamson or Peggy Seeger. While I wouldn’t dare compare myself to their stature, every credit helps the good work.

And the third rule is: please don’t make money off my willingness to share my work! If you’re going to record an arrangement of one of my songs, please share it in turn! If you want to sell a cover of one of my songs, I am very likely to give you permission to do so if you ask first: and if you are an unsigned artist, I will almost certainly do so for free! So please, do record and share my music (with credits!), and if you want to use one of my songs commercially, get in touch! I’m friendly.

So, on to the subject matter! My original songs are, in composition order:

1. Celebrity: A country-rock rant about the abuses of the celebrity manufacturing industry.
2. Riverflow: A lyrical mixolydian hymn to inspiration.
3. The Ballad of Spring-Heeled Jack: a Victorian London ghost story told with a swing.
4. Climb: a parable of depression, dislocation, and determination.
5. Conversation: the best way to get your mood back up after hearing ‘Climb’.
6. Long Road Home: I needed a fingerstyle blues, so I wrote one.
7. Roll On By: a steam-train ballad for my good friend John the Signals Man.
8. The Ballad of Anne Bonny: A folk song and a sea chanty about a real-life pirate.

1. Celebrity

© Chris Naden 2011

When I was young I had no doubt I’d be a star and not sell out,
I still believed in once upon a time.
Nowadays it’s all about the X-Factor and Idol louts;
It’s all recycled tunes and vapid rhymes.
The men in suits can make your name, selling out’s the only game,
But who is selling who and for what price?
They’ll only love you ’til it’s time for next year’s winning act to shine,
You know the game is played with loaded dice.

                Empty hearts and hollow eyes,
                Sex and drugs and suicide,
                They’ll make sure you break if you don’t bend.
                Desperation eats your soul,
                Shattered lives are called rock’n’roll
                They just make empty girls and hollow men.

They’ll buy you cars and fancy clothes, swing you high then drop you low,
Weigh you down and then they’ll make you climb;
Show you high life, feed you pills, you’re dancing for your supper still,
There’s always one more desperate soul behind.
Feed your ego with their lies, let the tabloids criticize,
They’re the only ones who win that game,
They’ll burn the spark out of your eyes until you’re hard to recognise,
And yet you’ll keep on trying all in vain.

                (Alt Chorus)
                Heroin and shattered dreams,
                Are all that’s left and so it seems
                They just make empty girls and hollow men.

“Big bucks come to those who wait” but trust me, that won’t be your fate,
They’ll grind you up and then they’ll spit you out.
You wear that necklace made of pearls while fashion’s killing little girls,
They never tell you what it’s all about.
Dollar signs are all they see, when they look at you and me,
Beauty, art and passion ain’t their game.
They’ll burn the spark out of your eyes until you’re hard to recognise,
And yet you’ll keep on trying all in vain.

Celebrity is not the same as making pride in your own name,
We sell our children to the Great Machine;
What you earn is yours to keep, but let them pull you in too deep,
The only choice they’ll leave you then is which whirlwind to reap!
Once you’re in you can’t get out no matter how you scream and shout,
What they give you they can take away,
One day you may want to grow but wishing will not make it so,
The only way to win is not to play.

2. Riverflow

© Chris Naden 2012

Five a.m. sunrise, it’s time to go home now,
So I walk the Embankment and watch this old river flow in.
There’s a girl at the bus-stop, all blue hair and New Rocks;
She looks cold so I lend her my coat and something begins.

Light up a cigarette, talking in silhouettes,
There’s a bus coming round but we don’t want this moment to end,
She asks me why I smile at these grey skies,
So I look in her eyes and then I start to grin, and say…

                Draw your breath in, feel the seasons turn,
                Live in your moments, and let your flame burn,
                Wear the world on your skin, and let your heart grow,
                Write your own story, and let this river flow.

Sit on a hilltop, with the flags as a backdrop,
See the festival girls dancing by in the summer sun.
Music surrounds me, my moment has found me,
So I open my heart and I let the soul-river sing on:

Tell a new story, of heartache and glory,
Call up the past, for I know that we carry it still.
Heal me of old wrongs, sing out my heart song,
As echoes of heroes rise up from the old poets hill, and I …

Woodlands in autumn wind, dead leaves are whispering,
Secrets and memories I had forgotten were true,
Long nights of winter dreams, when nothing is what it seems,
Legends and mysteries speak of what our fathers knew:

Wander the islands, from mountain to sea strand,
I look to the skies and I watch for the hawk on the wing,
Call up the riverflow, look inside for what I know,
I’ve got tears in my eyes, but I’ve got a new song to sing, I say…

3. The Ballad of Spring-Heeled Jack

© Chris Naden 2012

The sun goes down over London town, and the nights are closing in:
The river runs low as the crowds ebb and flow, and then my time begins.
Such a treat to watch them scurry in the street, it’s quite a sight to see:
They won’t stand on the corners, they lock up their daughters and it’s all for fear of me!
This dirty old town is my killing ground, so you better watch your back,
Oh you can’t catch me, I’m quicker than thee,
                And they call me Spring-Heeled Jack!

                Fear in the dark, shadows in the park
                And I always make my kill,
                I’m just too quick for you to trick
                And you know I’m hunting still:
                There’s mobs on the street and coppers on the beat
                And they think they’re on my track,
                Oh, you can’t catch me, I’m quicker than thee,
                And they call me Spring-Heeled Jack!

I am no ghost and I am no clown, whatever men may say,
When the lights go down then you know I’m around, at the dark end of the day.
My arm is strong, my shadow is long, and the whole town knows my name;
Whistles sound, there’s a body been found, and you all know who’s to blame.
Without my cloak and my climbing rope, I don’t stand out from the pack:
Oh, you and me and a knife makes three,
                In the dark with Spring-heeled Jack!

Some say I’m a joke, some say I’m a story, but you all know that’s a lie:
While you’re asleep through the alleys I creep, and you know someone must die.
I’m still free though you’re hunting me, for the night is all I know,
A knife blade gleams, and I’m in your dreams; you’ll never let me go.
This dirty old town is my hunting ground, and you know I will be back,
Oh you can’t catch me, I’m quicker than thee,
                And they call me Spring-Heeled Jack!

4. Climb

© Chris Naden 2012

Jack’s in a hole and he don’t know where he is,
Got a ringing in his head and he don’t know what it means,
Tries and he tries and all he can remember,
Is that he sold his life for a handful of magic beans,

He stares at the wall as the thoughts chase round his head,
As the beanstalk grows, and he knows he ought to climb,
But no matter how he tries, no matter how he sighs,
He’s gonna start tomorrow cos today there just ain’t time,

                Wooooo – oooo – oah Every day you’ve got to climb
                Wooooo – oooo – oah Every day you’ve got to climb
                Weeping, all the while,
                For something that you just can’t find,
                Seeking, all the while,
                For a meaning or some kind of sign,
                And so you climb…

Now the bean-stalk’s grown and he know’s it’s time to start,
But it’s safe down here and he’s just too scared to try,
He can feel his chances slipping through his fingers,
And he just can’t seem to grasp the reason why,

He climbs till his toes are raw and he’s blisters on his hands,
The drugs don’t work and he keeps on slipping back,
But he hates this pit and he just won’t quit, he can almost see the sky…
This beanstalk won’t beat Jack, if he just climbs.

                Wooooo – oooo – oah Every day you’ve got to climb
                Wooooo – oooo – oah Every day you’ve got to climb
                Weeping, all the while,
                For a heartache that you’ve left behind,
                Seeking, all the while,
                For a reason or some kind of rhyme,
                And so you climb…

5. Conversation

© Chris Naden 2012

Memories of lazing on a sunny afternoon,
Playing pool and skipping school and breaking all the rules,
Ice-cream, sneaky cigarettes and playing at the fool,
When things were simple, and we had nothing, better to do…

Now we’ve all got jobs and bills and then the rent to pay,
Never take the time to hear what our mates have to say,
Rushing on with life as if there was no other way,
When conversation, is such an easy thing to do!

                So pass it over, pass it over, the night has just begun,
                Pour another whiskey, let the conversation run,
                Pass it over, pass it over, while the spark is still alight,
                Keep it passing, and we’ll set the world to rights.

Chatting over dinner or a bottle at the bar,
Talking on the bus or in the street or in the car,
Watching films and playing games and wishing on a star,
These conversations, are what tell you who you are,

Oh don’t you remember when we’d talk all through the night,
Argue over nothing, learning how to heal a fight,
Talking through our problems and our joys and our delights,
For conversation, can often make you feel alright…

                So pass it over, pass it over, don’t you hold it for too long,
                We may not be philsophers, but we know right from wrong,
                Pass it over, pass it over, while the spark is still alight,
                Keep it passing, everything will be all right!

The world will keep on turning, and there’s nothing we can do:
So take the time to keep the conversation turning too,
Spend a day on strengthening a friendship that is true,
For conversation, is still an easy thing to do…

                So pass it over, pass it over, while the spark is burning bright,
                Pour another whiskey, and we’ll talk til it gets light,
                Pass it over, pass it over, and we’ll set the world to rights,
                Keep it passing, everything will be all right,
                                Keep it passing and we’ll talk all through the night,
                                                Keep it passing… and we’ll set… the world to rights!

6. Long Road Home

© Chris Naden 2013

Been a long time driving to bring me to this place,
Got a full tank of gas and a smile on my face,
I been playing my old guitar, around these country lanes.
Feel like I was destined to roam,
        Takin’ the long road home.

New town every night and every day,
Got nothing but my songs to pay my way
I’ve been searching for a place where I can stay
But I feel it in my bones,
        Gonna be a long road home.

                But I still hope and I still pray,
                That I might find those peaceful fields some day,
                A place where I at last my weary head can lay,
                Some day, some day…
                Gonna find my home some day.

I need an open road to give my heart free rein,
Sunny skies and this undiscovered lane,
I got miles and years of rhythm all still rattle round my brain,
Echoes from a lonely stone,
        Rollin’ a long road home.

Moonlight at the end of another long drive,
Bare my heart and soul in another country dive,
Day’s end’s a-comin’, I’m just happy to say I’m still alive,
An’ rolling down this empty road,
        You know I was destined to roam,
        Yes I can feel it in my bones,
        I’m takin the long road,
        Takin the long road

7. Roll On By

© Chris Naden 2013

Pounding wheels are rattling across the county downs,
Silver clouds and billows mark the track for miles around,
Steaming from the open fields back into London Town,
Will the Driver’s looking at his watch now with a frown,
Roll on by…

“Two minutes down” he cries, and he wipes his sweaty brow,
Ted the stoker’s shoveling as fast as he knows how,
“That bloody wheel!” (on carriage three) sets up an awful row,
“Keep that head of steam up, lads, you know it’s not far now!”
Roll on by, roll on by,

                Hear those navvies as they sing,
                Can you hear the hammers ring,
                Drive that nail, lay that rail, roll on by,
                We’ve got many miles to run,
                And the night is almost done,
                Smoke and steam, iron dream, roll on by…
                Smoke and steam, iron dream, roll on by…

Here comes John the signals man, his lamp upon his head,
He’s always got his thermos, he’s got keys to every shed,
Working through the night while you’re all sleeping in your beds,
As the railwaymen go rolling by to bring your daily bread,
Roll on by…

“The interlocks at Sandy need to be wholesale replaced,
It’s late and dark and bitter, and the tool shed’s a disgrace,
Hard enough in day-light let alone a midnight race,
But the heavy freight from York is on the way: more speed, less haste!”
Roll on by, roll on by,

Jennie Driver kneels beside her cold and empty bed,
And whispers up a prayer upon her husband’s weary head,
“Bring him home, and safe, and sound, too many railwaymen are dead”,
While the fat controller’s sipping wine a bare ten miles ahead,
Roll on by…

The railways built the future out on every dale and hill,
A web of steel and steam, the rails wander where they will,
Forging one great, black and sooty, dark satanic mill,
Britannia’s fair country, is it green and pleasant still?
Roll on by, Roll on by…

8. The Ballad of Anne Bonny

© Chris Naden 2013

Ballad: alternating and harmonising.

M: My hearty lass ’tis time t’was said, too long have you run free
      Time you were wed and settled in a bed, then happy you will be…
F:  A poor man’s life of toil and strife, that’s not the life for me,
      I’d make some lad a troublesome wife, oh, who would marry me?

M: Here’s young Tom Stock the farmer’s son, he said he’d marry thee…
      The land is his when all is done, then happy you will be…
F:  Tom drinks too much as well you know, that’s not the life for me…
      Hitched to a plough and bred like a sow, I’d run away to sea…

M: Then there’s Dick Smith to you I’ll own, he said he’d marry thee,
      The forge is his when he’s full grown, then happy you will be.
F:  Yon little Dick’s but twelve years old, that’s not the life for me,
      To wilt on the wall til he’s full grown, I’d run away to sea…

M: Then Harry Clerk, now, he’s alright, he said he’d marry thee,
      A fair young lad his future’s bright, then happy you will be.
F:  You know he’s neither young nor fair, that’s not the life for me,
      I’ll stand no more of his hungry glare, I’ll run away to sea….

Chanty: F leads, all respond.

The navy saw through my disguise (heave-ho, me hearties)
So I raised the crew and damned their eyes (blow, me bully boys, blow)

With a brig to steer and the wind set fair / I’m the merriest lass with windblown hair…

We came upon a Yankee scow / With gold and silk all laden down…
We fired two salvos then they struck / Mainmast gone and out of luck…

                With a way-hey-hey wherever I lay (heave-ho me hearties)
                The winds will carry me where they may (blow me bully boys blow)
                With a yo-ho-ho wherever I go (heave-ho me hearties)
                Time and tide will bring me home (blow me bully boys blow)

I’ve sailed the seas for ten long years… / Swabbed my decks with dead men’s tears…