The song, as first written, was a crack at one of those classic blues structures, a structure that has one line repeated three times and then a rhyming line at the end. It's one line longer than yer typical 12-bar blues and the first example that pops into my mind is Leadbelly's take on See See Rider. There are hundreds of others.
The blues is like that with structures - there are common ones that crop up over and over. Like many songwriters I have a "bucket list" of styles I'd like to write songs in and this was a good chance to knock that one off!
Since we were planning an album of blues songs - as much as we plan anything - this seemed like a real winner, since it required very few words, which suited me fine. I have always been a sucker for songs with a lot of words but after all these years I know just how much work that takes (or at least takes me). I am a very lazy writer. That made the idea of an "quick" song without a lot of words very appealing... each verse would effectively be only two lines (one repeated three times then the rhyme) – easy!
And, actually, it was. Of course when you're working in such minimalist territory you want to make sure all the lines are good ones but, hey, that's just basic quality control, par for the course.
So not long afterwards I happened to be out at Richard O'Brien's place of an afternoon. Richard is a friend; we often try out new songs on each other.
And of course Richard likes his rhymes. Fair enough too. Without exaggeration I regard him as one of this planet's most agile and imaginative rhymers when it comes to poetry or song. So when he offers opinions I tend to listen.
Long story short, Richard was unimpressed. He pooh-poohed all those repeated lines as being, well, what they were really - laziness. In the nicest possible way of course. And deep down I knew it too but I hoped I could get away with it.
So I asked him to help. After writing it one way the last thing I wanted to do was start again.
“C'mon Richard” I said, “You could whip out a few fun rhymes and clever lines.”
I had another crack at it, but I really couldn't think of anything interesting so I asked him again. No dice. So I did what I knew (and he knew) I needed to: knuckled down and spent a couple of weeks actually doing the work.
And, as he usually is, Richard was right. It's much better now. Nothing lazy or throwaway left - I reckon it's a fine lyric and I'd be happy to take it anywhere.
I sang it originally, in that first version, way back during lockdown in 2020 – here's a verse from that, with the simple lyric, and the same verse, rewritten, from the new recording due to be released on May 14th.