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Robb Johnson, A Break in the Clouds

Happily Ever After

IRR083: Happily Ever After

We are really pleased with this album. I think it complements "Once Upon a Time" nicely, being generally a happier set of songs. Initially, we recorded sixteen songs and decided to release them in two albums:  the first, "Once Upon a Time", to have the more negative songs, and the second, "Happily Ever After", to have the more positive, life-affirming songs. But then the first album seemed a bit short, like it lacked a song, so we moved "Feast of Fools" from the second to the first album. That left the second album with only seven songs, so we decided to record three more songs in November on our way to a benefit for the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham. I wanted to include "Dreams", "Rupert Says" and "Tottenham", which I'd written over the summer. The album is darkened a little perhaps by having "When Tottenham Burned" on it. Thematically, that probably belongs on the first album. But then again I hope "Happily Ever After" always has an undertow of irony and qualification about it, so perhaps the songs just adds to the complexity.

Although I know that what I do is often thought of in terms of being political and/or lyric-based, I have also always enjoyed very much playing electric guitar in noisy bands at gigs where complete strangers have a good time and get up and dance, which is what happens with the Irregulars. Some people complain that they can't hear the words, and it's true that more people laugh when I play "Rupert Says" acoustically than when I play it with the band, but then that's why I do both, because more people dance when I play "Rupert Says" with the band....

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TRACK LIST

  • Roll This Stone
  • Hey Abbie
  • When Tottenham Burned
  • Rupert Says
  • Dreams
  • Cinderella
  • All I Wanna Do
  • Takeaway Girl
  • The Rendezvous Des Artistes
  • Happily Ever After

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BACKSTORIES

Roll This Stone

I wrote this the morning after a really lovely gig in a really lovely pub, The Square and Compass in Worth Maltravers. I stepped out of the doorway of the pub, and there was this song waiting for me. I finished the first draft of it over a very nice vegetarian breakfast in the Little Chef at the St Leonard's roundabout just before you get to Ringwood.

Hey Abbie

Abbie Hoffman - inspirational. I read his books when I was researching my bit of the Yoko Ono biography. The film about him is definitely best avoided though.

When Tottenham Burned

We were at Broadstairs Festival. One day suddenly all the newspapers have bright orange front pages and headlines like "Anarchy in the UK".

It was .... interesting ... to see how the events of that weekend were presented and understood in the media and by the politicians, how "society" and those people who preen and pride themselves on being "our leaders" fell over themselves to accept no responsibility whatsoever for the obvious fact that large sections of society feel so alienated. No-one seemed to want to acknowledge that, to quote Martin Luther King, "a riot is the language of the unheard". I spent a lot of time on this song. At one point it was supposed to be very loud, and it had a riff that sounded a lot like "Gimme Danger" by The Stooges, but then I thought that it would sound better if it was a little more like a tragic, narrative ballad.

Rupert Says

I actually wrote this in 2011, when Rupert got custard-pied, and here we are in 2012, and the Leveson Inquiry rumbles on, and surprise surprise we actually do have a Sun on Sunday (vast numbers of which seem to lie around unsold).

Dreams

I started to write this on an aeroplane from Seattle to San Francisco. It was based on a dream I had, about coming home to my family, then a couple I saw on the train to the airport finished off the first verse. I was looking down at the planet, and thought about all the dreams going on, little dreams of people like me, big dreams of people like Martin Luther King. I was reading a fine book about Johnny Cash's commitment to Native American Rights, and which set this against the wider civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, and that's how Rosa Parks came in to finish off the second verse.

Cinderella

This is sort of a companion piece to "Prince Charming" from "Once Upon a Time".... the Wall comes down, but nobody quite lives as happily ever after as they thought they would.

All I Wanna Do

We played at the Dunkerque Festival, which starts off as a lovely cheery family event and then evolves into a lovely cheery beery with much urinating in the streets event. There are lots of different stages for different bands. We'd noticed that our audience had been somewhat transient, a steady stream of people coming, watching, then moving on. Only a small group of Bangladeshi seafarers stayed for most of the set. Was it us? No, the same thing was happening at all the stages. But we did notice that the sort of music that held people's attention the longest had a very steady four-square beat and encouraged clapping along. So, in the event of ever being asked back, I decided we should have that sort of a song in a repertoire, just in case we needed something inebriated French people could obviously clap along to.

Takeaway Girl

Another fairly cheerful song, that sounds like it's a simple three chord trick, but actually there are four chords and it doesn't start with the chord I'd normally start with.

The Rendezvous des Artistes

I wrote this in one of my favourite Paris bars, Au Rendez-Vous Des Artistes in the Place de Clichy (and I've just realised I've been spelling the name wrong all this time). I like it partly because of where it is; it's a good place to sit and watch the night fall all the way along the Boulevard de Rochechouart (indeed the song did once have a middle eight to that effect, but when we did it with the band, a middle eight just seemed to hold it up rather than add anything), but also because of its pinball table, and also because of its traditional "Turkish" style toilets. When I first started going to Paris, both these were standard features in the vast majority of bars. Sadly, last time I was there, the pinball table had vanished. Next time I'm there, I shall check the plumbing with no little trepidation...

Happily Ever After

Another dream kick-started this. I dreamt I had stopped off at a motorway service station, which may well have been Heston Services on the M4, and there was my old mate Huggy Harewood, who'd played bass in the band I'd worked with for most of the 90s. Instead of his usual battered old transit full of battered old band gear, he was standing next to a small family car, which was full of his family. Special mention should be made of John Forrester's splendid vocal harmony at the very end. "It's a bit Westlife," he said when he first came up with it - but it does sound rather lovely, so we kept it anyway.

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