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It’s out Folks

You can buy it here.

Here are some notes I noted about it…


“It’s not what happens to you / It’s how you react / It’s not what they say to you / It’s what you say back.” 

On this album I wrote each song as if they were to be the last song ever written, by me or anybody. In someway inspired by the apocryphal story of Dylan needing to write all of the songs he had in one before the Cuban Missile crisis destroyed humanity. To acknowledge this I end “Can’t promise you a rainbow /All I can say is this / We can leave tomorrow / For your vermillion cliffs.” 

The drums are meant to be a muffled echo of the Everly’s “The Ferris Wheel”.


The second single. A rebuke to Tory voters; “Who votes to be homeless / To be unemployed / Who votes for kindness / To be destroyed / They offer just hatred / Or suicide.” 

Since 2016 I’ve only listened to Radio 3 due to the brevity of their news bulletins. I grew up in the sixties and seventies and thought we were on a beautiful trajectory away from stupidity> Regardless of how abhorrent and shameful the Thatcher years were I believed that virtue and righteousness would vanquish. And however unlawful and hateful the current Conservative government is it’s crucial we still believe. 

The middle eight “You don’t have to be thin / The house doesn’t always win / And I’ve lived my life on a string / Like a stray / Don’t save anything for best / This may be as good as it gets / And don’t waste time having regrets.” Although stray dogs spend little of life on a string I’m happy to sing this advice to whoever hears it. And I hope you are lucky enough to find or to have found your tribe.


I wanted to say “Be always outward bound / Set sail the whole world round / Leave no love left unfound.” 

I used the “Julia” / “Look At Me” / “Remember Love” Lennon picking style before on “Oh God” from the “Keep Going’ album.

This was going to be the title track before the Wystan Hugh Auden’s line from the poem ‘Death’s Echo” became the obvious rubric. “Dance till the stars come down from the rafters / Dance, dance, dance till you drop.”

I’ve taken lots from Auden. He moved to Birmingham when he was one and spent three years teaching at the Downs School in Malvern which makes him practically a member of The Lilac Time. Most of his work is written to be purposefully unintelligible to those of us with an average education. Those once considered “well born” hate that they allowed the working class to learn to read and that is why our schools are falling down.

The songs of every poet past and forever / We’ll never need to know / The only row of words we need to see together / I’ll never let you go / Dance ‘till all the stars come down / Stay with me until there’s no one else around.”


Once upon a time when you could buy a 2 bedroom flat in Notting Hill for under 100,000 pounds I lived on All Saints Road. I would wander into Rough Trade on Talbot Road and see what was being released. The first time I went to Rough Trade on Kensington Park Road I think Nikki Sudden was working there and he gave me all of the Swell Maps albums. He got in touch just before his death. He was very supportive of me and the band I started with David Kusworth. Both now dead, I think of them often. Back in Talbot Road Nigel got to know my bag. One day as he cycled passed me he shouted “M Ward”, that’s the way things were before the Internet children. On another occasion I was about to leave the shop when a beautiful song came through the speakers. It was a tune I knew well and a voice I thought I recognised but not in this musical setting. It was Cat Power singing Salty Dog from the Covers album out that day. Nigel must’ve known I would turn back and buy it. 

The first Salty Dog/Candy Man I heard was on a Bob Dylan bootleg The Little White Wonder Volume 1. He sounds like he’s just woken up after smoking a million cigars. Pretty much everyone in country blues folk milieu has sang it. One day I was sitting around picking and this Candy Dog showed its face. “I got no silver spoon” I sang  “I got a candy cigarette.” I thought it was going to be plain sailing, a snap. But the simple ones can be the hardest to complete and on this album with no bass and drums the lyrics have nowhere noisy to hide. 

A taste of candy / You pay for it / Nothing  sweet is free.


The first song I wrote for the album. So first it could’ve been on the last one, Return To Us. I kept thinking I’d come up with a punchline to end every verse. I didn’t, they are all different and when I came back to the song I wondered why I’d wanted just. It sounded like something The Lilac Time would sing.

This is the one song I almost broke with the precept of no drum kits. For my sins I erred toward a bass drum, but the precept endured.

I started writing in 2015 when three year old Alan Kurdi drowned with eleven others trying to reach Kos and was photographed being carried off the beach his corpse had reached.

The second verse was in response to the Syrian civil war that seemed to involve so many non Syrians and is still going on. Alan Kurdi was Syrian so this seemed to be logical direction. That children fleeing chemical warfare are being demonised and drowned and that such tragedy is being used to exacerbate racism to serve as a distraction to and garner support for a morally and politically bankrupt Conservative party is the tragedy we are living through.

The third verse came when Trump became the Republican party presidential candidate. I chose Allen Ginsberg to be the obverse to Trump . I have each volume of Ginsberg’s poetry as well as his journals and three copies of his collected poems around the house. That America. And that this country is being defamed and poisoned by a sex offending swindler is not the Fall Of America I imagined in 1973 when I bought the poems of those states.

Because of my love of Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie The Lilac Time have become used to my yodelling. Unfortunately the key A Makeshift Raft is in hamstrung any demonstration of elite yodelling.

The last verse was written just before we recorded the song. I felt we needed some transcendence after such trauma: Invent the sky to house the stars / Invent fingers and guitars / I’ll see you on my handlebars / Sing me songs of love. 

Adiós & Goodnight 

I lived in a twinkling glow in the distance / In words and music the glimmering nights / I looked for sounds and I magically found them / Appearing like stars through the branches of trees.

I’ve been writing and performing songs since 1978, before that I was trying to write songs and writing songs has always been a protection from what else has been happening personally and in the wider world. To be able to get lost in the world of songs and making albums of songs and to be able to sort out the mechanics of a song, when other things are harder or impossible to work out, has been the greatest good fortune, especially as fortunes are few.

I wrote this thinking of the almost perpetual California wildfires. Of the twenty most destructive wildfires there’s only one not in this century and that was in 1999. I’ve written songs in California and seen the smoke and flames on the hillside a few miles away and this song is about when the wildfire meets the twinkling glow.


I wrote a song called So Far Away for the Keep Going album that came out in 2003. So this is the second one. Carol King only wrote So Far Away once, but there is still time. My first one may have been about the ideals of the counter culture being so far away. I’ve always been drawn to places that have ties or surviving settlements of those times. #2 is related but focuses on how easy it is to feel alone and alienated now. A perhaps wishy washy wish that we could all live “In a world that holds you near / So you don’t fall away if you’re lost / Or are so far away that you’ve gone.” 


This is a companion to the previous song. To make the world that holds you near you have to engage and be involved and help create it. That it doesn’t always work to just live in a twinkling glow and that if the trains don’t run, the key doesn’t fit and the open road stops you can live in the filtered world of let’s pretend or go and find your tribe. 


From where wild strawberries grew. It’s about us and every band. “That was our time in the shade / No one but the driver got paid.” I had a dysfunctional relationship with touring. I saw it more as  an extension of my social life. Or just a more out and about version of my life. I never saw it as work and as many will attest I didn’t really see myself as an entertainer. I would only want to sing the songs that I was enthusiastic about which were mainly the new ones. We tried to do one of those band plays album all the way through things at the Port Eliot Festival a few years ago. We chose the first eponymous one. But I had to bail on the concept as the person I was then began to depress me and the idea just felt so constricting. I can’t imagine how bands tour their old songs night after night. Well I can, it’s a job and nicer job than most. I of course have concentrated on the loss making part of the business; writing and recording new songs.

The last verse describes how it was for me on the road; “I loved how it felt / Between towns / And all  the ups and the downs / The acrobats dropped by the clowns.” It wasn’t even being out there on stage, it was just being out there, thinking about the next deal and the next album. This is our next deal and this is our next album. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did making it.

The Astronauts triple vinyl and cd re-issue should be with you early 2024. We start putting it together next week.

I’m working on a vast tour d’horizon of my work since I wrote Aztec Moon in 1978. Many unreleased songs, live albums and radio sessions. We are aiming for October 2024. But I have a lot of finding and listening to do before we’ll know.

That was also when we intended the book to be published but I’ve only got to 1991. Everyones contributions are very fascinating, at least to me, as our evaluations and conclusions are, of course, quite individual. It’s happening. Really.


That’s all.