Bedlam Days


This is possibly the hardest song I’ve ever had to write in my career thus far.

I never anticipated in my wildest dreams that I’d one day end up writing a song about the abuse of a child. I almost discarded the idea as something to big to confront but quite by chance, I was listening to a podcast where the members of the band Big, Big, Train (BBT) were talking about the creation of their album English Electric Part 1 and one particular comment I heard, helped change the song’s fortunes.

During the interview, BBT’s vocalist David Longdon talked about their song 'A Boy In Darkness' in which he mentioned that when it comes to issues like this, you should not be afraid to shine a light into dark places.

This really resonated with me and even though I still hesitated for a long time about including such a track in what is essentially a record designed for entertainment, I felt there was a narrative to serve and for better or for worse, that aspect was part of the story I wanted to tell.

Let me state for the record that I have never directly suffered such abuse, but I had come scarily close during at least two points in my childhood and it was only much later in my life that I realised just how narrow my escape had been. As a result, I felt compelled to confront the issue.

The lyric was written by Robert but again because of the subject matter, I kept asking for redrafts which I suspect frustrated him immensely. However in this case, and possibly more than any song I had worked upon, I wanted to imbue the message with as much power as possible without being overly descriptive or graphic. The subject matter had to have a presence but not a stranglehold over the writing.

After around five months or continual changes without success, I decided the best way forward would be to collate the best lines from the previous versions which Rob had submitted in the hope that it might create the complete lyric I had been looking for. The strategy worked and the resulting lyric advances the story while (I hope) retaining the correct perspective for the subject matter.

On the music side, the situation was entirely reversed. The song was technically challenging but never a chore to write. In addition, I made a conscious decision to employ a technique I had heard Butch Vig use when he was producing Nirvana’s album Nevermind. During the studio sessions, Vig hit upon the bright idea to crank up the poppy elements of the music and production to offset the darkness of the subject matter. This method worked well and helped to keep the narrative wheels turning in the right direction.


The more immediate the song is, the easier I find it to write lyrics for. This time, although I liked the song, it wasn't really immediate enough for me, and this, coupled with the subject matter, made it incredibly hard to write. I did, as Simon says, have three or four goes at it, and we spent at least one pint trying to thrash out a compromise between us before the final version was arrived at. I think it would be an easier job if I had to do it a second time.


The thing about songs that try to tackle difficult or uncomfortable topics is that you do not want to in any way at all appear to be condoning or somehow glamourising the events. Detailing the actions of Dora's father as she remembers it would have been out of the question, and you need to get the attitude of the music right. You really can't write a song about something terrible only to then back it up with a bouncy pop rock groove and happy melody. It's inappropriate. This was the track that I was most worried about, personally, but in the end, I believe that Simon and Robert got the balance spot on. The music is relentless – violent, aggressive, fast. The lyrics are vague enough to have resonance with someone's own personal experiences with long ago horrors, whatever they may unfortunately be, but also, when put into context of the album's storyline, it becomes quite obvious what the song is about without having to describe in grotesque detail what happened to our protagonist. Alfred Hitchcock's most effective directing came when he let the audience's imagination fill in the gaps in the scenes they were witnessing on screen. Maybe the most effective aspect of Bedlam Days is that the darkness is of the listener's own making.


Time after time at the door
My feet are fixed to the floor
Now I am empty like a page
Is there no-one left to save?

Consequence, makes no sense

All I've seen before
Returns to surround
Words and memory
Grip their hands 'round me

I hear the ghost on the stair
I feel its hands in my hair
Without a map in this maze
I taste the words that it says:

'Here I am. Back again.'

All I've seen before
Returns to surround
Words and memory
Grip their hands 'round me

Glass walls, glass in hand
The shards stay inside
Small then, tall now
Bedlam days, walking