Thank-You For Not Discussing The Outside World EP

Some notes on the songs by lyricist Reggie Chamberlain-King.

Track 1. Thank-You For Not Discussing The Outside World
(download piano/vocal score in PDF format)

“Do I dare
Disturb the universe?”

“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.”

A lady whom I loved sat with me some little time after our breaking up and discussed, with a smile I had not then seen for some weeks, this fruit of Mr. White’s and my own labour (a peach! But more of that later…). The first and only demo had been palmed off onto her a fortnight, or less precisely, previous and pleased her in ways that I had failed to. It understood that peculiar contrivance of love that shrinks the world so all may fit in it (“Thou (…) art half as happy as we/in that the world’s contracted thus”), that through entwinement with one person comes the freedom of all life. I wish I had understood that, but, back then, there were only two verses. And, as usual, I would do something to spoil matters.

Mr. White, in a different frame of mind, had heard the first-person-plural as more declarative than that; Mr. Stipe had used the same voice to rock the vote on Life’s Rich Pageant. And, it is true, in that first draft there was only the political ‘we’ and never the romantic ‘us.’

Perhaps guided by the charity love-in tune, I fashioned a third verse and explanatory bridge that could be perceived as a call to inaction.
But both were inspired by a misremembered quotation from Mr. Eliot, so mangled in my mind that the muddle-eight needed instantly to be replaced by a woodwind solo.

Would you dare to eat a peach
And in doing so disturb the universe?
For, if we don’t choose to leave each
To themselves things will get much worse.
Uni- may be U and I
But it means also “on its own”
It may be best for you and I
To keep U permanently unknown.

And rightly so. What a lot of garbled, old nonsense!

The final verse imagines, if one can imagine such a thing, a morally good universe, one possible only through inaction on the part of everyone. For, only through omissions can we avoid causing harm. Or do I mean taking responsibility? Either one, I think, is a far cry from the cry that sparked the whole ordeal: Thank-You For Not Discussing The Outside World – a status report from an on-line contact. I doubt that they were in the throes of such a perfect love that made their bed an everywhere; who would leave on their computer if that were the case? Rather, I think it a matter of quite the opposite, for, if the world can shrink to only two, cannot it contract further to the space of only one? Or further still? It certainly had by the writing of that third stanza.

Did I ever see her again? Yes, quite frequently, actually.

However, discovering, this late in the process, that the title was a reference to The Simpsons all along somewhat undermines the tenor of my analysis.

~

Track 3. Stop All The Clocks

Were Mr. Bricusse dead, it would be interesting to see which corpse, between him, Mr. Auden and Mr. Newley, spun the faster at the line “Stop all the clocks… I want to get off.” While he lives, we must sit and wait patiently for the cease and desist order.

The opening statement should have been reason enough to stop writing, without the added difficulty of rhyming that awful preposition. Or, at least, I should have forced the phrase into areas of the scheme where I was not required to conjure four separate rhymes. However, the first draft was hidden, from the boss, beneath a pile of official office-work and there was no room down there for a copy of Mr. Webb’s guide to song writing or a rhyming dictionary. And, after a day of busily hiding myself on the job, I was in no health to start revising.

Words and phrases that rhyme with off:   (31 results)

1 syllable:
boff, cough, croff, doff, goff, gough, groff, hauf, hauff, hoff, knauf, knauff, knoff, koff, lauf, poff, prof., roff, schoff, schroff, scoff, shoff, shroff, skoff, stauff, stoff, trough

2 syllables:
bake-off, christophe, mcgoff

3 syllables:
sloping trough

Using, instead, a piece of scrap paper with the letters of the alphabet scrawled on may explain the appearance of Mr. Van Gogh and the seldom employed quaff, both of which seem dreadfully unromantic given the circumstance. But, perhaps, the situation is not so romantic as I imagined in the writing. Is wishing to exist only in a single moment damning of life as a whole? For me, a single moment often feels more than enough.

Of course, the length of a moment is measured in no known SI units and could, if one were generous, extend from one end of life to the other. Who amongst us would want to live that repeatedly? A pop song, thankfully, has certain limits; it can be neither eternal nor static. And, though the narrator seems determined to avoid an ending, Mr. White’s slowly lolloping gymnopedie closes in under four minutes. The excision of two extraneous digressions gets us there a lot quicker too and saves drawing attention, yet again, to other writers.

The first is inspired, faintly, by Mr. Durcan:

(So) give me your big and little hands,
That the hours may never pass.
May the heat of our love turns the sands Of time to glass.

And the second expands on Mr. Wilde:

Those whom the gods love grow young; those whom they hate grow up; But we’ll stay this age ad nauseum – I will love you until I throw up

Certainly, neither would have been worth the additional thirty seconds needed to fit them. And, perhaps, without them, the song can stand up to repeated listening.

~

Track 4. Take It Easy On My Heart

I considered it a great honour when Mr. White welcomed me into his confidence, admitting that he didn’t much enjoy writing lyrics for his music. In the spirit of openness thus evoked, I confessed that, for me, the complete opposite was true: I quite enjoyed writing lyrics for his music. Although I never let on, I had been collaborating with him, behind his back, for some time now. But, thankfully, when the dirty linen was laundered, he took it all in good humour.

The first blossom of this newly-admitted partnership was Take It Easy On My Heart, a monstrous lyrical mix between Mr. Porter’s The Physician and Mr. Berlin’s Be Careful; It’s My Heart, the most adept use of a semi-colon in popular song. The lyric began life as a verse, but, under outside pressure, quickly developed an outcrop of choruses and a pronounced bridge. The success of our pairing became apparent when Mr. White composed a comic pause that was much funnier than the comma that appeared in my original notes. It is strange to think, now, that when I stamped the full stop on the last line of the last chorus, I was implying a pop chorale heaven in which Messrs Wilson and Bacharach were already dead, but that is exactly what Mr. White’s close-reading uncovered.

Of course, I was but a neophyte back then, young and eager. In the rush to make a good impression in the freshly-cemented cooperative, I sent off my end to Mr. White as soon as it had left my brain. Had I my wits about me, one of them, at least, would have advised against one chorus recurring so frequently when the verses are so short and few. I wouldn’t do it now. And Mr. Berlin wouldn’t have done it then.

Thinking that you too may wish to sing the song, with your own Machine Orchestra, I have composed some alternate refrains with which to wow and wound your enemies:

Take it easy on my heart; it’s all I’ve got.
Feel the veins and arteries start to knot.
I’ve this strange feeling inside
Like my capillaries were tied.
Take it easy on my heart; it’s all I’ve got.

Take it easy on my heart; it’s all I have.
You’re stretching ever tendon, thread and valve.
My darling, I implore
That’s not meant as metaphor:
Take it easy on my heart; it’s all I have.

Take it easy on my heart. I feel it stir.
Take if far away, if you’d prefer.
Break the fibrous strands,
Dear, my heart is in your hands.
Take it easy on my heart *cough* as it were.

Take it easy on my heart; it is so weak.
Hear it, dearest, hear it strain to speak… Hear it fumble, hear it grope… Do you need a stethoscope?
Take it easy on my heart; it’s all I’ve got.

Reggie Chamberlain-King, November 2008

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