I always tell myself it's not about ME it's all about THE SONG... But try as I do, somehow I still keep getting in the way.
I hope you like some of my songs. You can hear a few more and also see my paintings at: www.robert-donovan.com
Many thanks for listening
Here's some background about the songs:
I wrote this song in 2002. I'd been living in France for 8 years. Leaving the UK had been a big upheaval in my life. The changes were dramatic. I think I was going through the proverbial mid-life crisis but on top I had a different home, a different vocation, different friends with a different culture and also a different language to get to grips with. I was having strange dreams at night and, at a glance, faces on French TV or in the local newspaper seemed to look just like people I'd known in the UK. I was suffering long term deja-vu! I thought it appropriate that a French word described the condition. I wanted to write a song about it. I based the chorus and hook on a strange chord shape I'd discovered on the guitar (almost Em7 but without the 3rd). The chords to the verses, I later realised, are Hendrix's "Purple Haze". That seemed pretty appropriate too.
I wrote this song in 1985. Television at breakfast time had just started up on the BBC with Frank Bough and Selina Scott as presenters. I'd heard a song called "John Ketley is the Weatherman" played on TV by a group of young hopefuls and thought it was really good. I wanted to do something in a similar vein and came up with this. I put the song on a cassette and sent it to Frank and Selina at the BBC but it came straight back to me with a nice note from their secretary saying they were far too busy to listen to it.
So my song is still around and getting some good reviews on Broadjam but whatever became of Frank and Selina, eh?
I originally wrote this song in 1986 and revived it with some altered lyrics in 2006. It's about the glitzy rolling news media and its desperate attempt to find or create news to fill the allotted air time. Years ago the news on TV used to be the boring bit at teatime when some anonymous bloke in specs and a sports jacket sat behind a pretty ordinary desk as he read out the days events from a few sheets of paper. I really liked it that way, it was cosy and unthreatening. Today it's a whole entertainment genre with a 24 hour channel to itself and the power to frighten you half to death.
A Time For Dying
I must have been mad thinking I could write a James Bond theme tune and then get the production company interested in it. Nevertheless I tried. It was about the time when there was talk of Pierce Brosnan dropping out as 007. In my wistful spare moments I found myself conjuring up a possible final plot. And then to go with it I wrote the theme tune. I suppose I was really just testing myself to see if I could write the kind of ballad that someone like Tom Jones could sing. Anyway, I heard Barbara Brocolli talking on Radio 4 and so I sent the demo to her in London with a very nice letter describing the idea I had for the film. Not surprisingly I got it all back three months later with a starchy letter from her Hollywood lawyers covering their arses and informing me that nothing I had sent their client had been listened to or read. Honestly, a simple "No thank you" would have done, Barbara.
In the Dead of the Night
I wrote this song in 1989. Em7add9 sounds complicated but is a surprisingly simple chord on the guitar. I discovered it has a startling melancholy beauty when followed by A7sus4 and then A7 so I made this the basis of a song. The lyric came from the melancholy feel. It's about loneliness and uncertainty.
Ballad for Dixie
My wife bought me a five string banjo and to learn to play it I'd listened to a lot of country and western music. It took me back to when I was a kid and "Rawhide" and "Bonanza" were the best things on TV. We used to play out the American civil war in the woods. I always wanted to be on the Confederate side for no other reason than I had the same first name as Robert E. Lee. I wrote this song in 1988 and had in mind a young Confederate soldier about to go into battle. In the waiting moments before the fray I imagined he might be considering his fate and the way things were in his past.
A Simple Way of Life
I wrote this song before I moved to France. My lifestyle was more complicated and stressful then and I yearned for something simpler. The mood of the song is a nice prelude to Le Châlet au Fond du Jardin which came after the move.
My Old Kentucky Folk Song
I didn't do much of a job of recording this song. It's a daft little tune that would regularly pop into my head as I chopped wood in the wood store on a dark winter's morning. I later worked out some simple chords to it which, out of habit, I jotted down in my notebook. I turned to them after I'd been recording something else and played the song while there was still some tape left on the machine. At the time I thought the poor recording quality helped the humour? Oh well.
(By the way, much as I would like to, I've never been to either Kentucky or Mars in my life. Honest.)
I worry that the lyric of this song could be misconstrued as sycophantic in view of the current obsession with fame and celebrity. I wrote the song in the 1980s having been inspired by a book called "The Moon's a Balloon" written by the actor David Niven. The book is his reminiscences of the film industry in Hollywood during the late 1940s and 50s. It's an interesting read about the great, the famous and the powerful people in movies who he met there and worked with.
Inspite of the decadence and mindless gore and violence occasionally portrayed on screen these days I still can't deny my appreciation for all the enjoyment, inspiration and emotional highs watching great movies and movie stars has brought me over the years.
Le Châlet au Fond du Jardin
This song is all about our place here in France. My wife is a mad keen gardener and in the 13 years we've been here she has created a miniature Garden of Eden around us. In Spring the big old apple trees blossom, the flowers bloom and the garden is filled with life. We have chickens, ducks, a goose, two small black sheep and a couple of cats in addition to all the visiting wildlife.
I wrote the song in 2003. The melody is in the style of the many Breton folk songs and sea shanties I've heard here and the 3/4 timing seems to help the images waltz along. I would liked to have recorded a Breton biniou or pipes in place of the whistling so if there's anyone out there who can play such an instrument and is interested, please get in touch.