recorded on 10 February 2018 at St John's Methodist Church, Northgate Street
recorded by George Moorey, Matt Sharlot & Rose Harrison
film-maker: Chris Watkins, Chris Watkins Media
left to right: Eden Saunders, Lavinia Hedges, Erica McCarthy, Ria Wadha, Alex Chapman, Charlotte Ayrton, Emily Loveridge, Matt Sharlot, George Moorey, Duncan Forrester, Amy Hennesy, Shane Young, Chris Watkins, Nishal Mark Wijesinghe, Mia Hennesy, Alice White, Rose Harrison, Matt Moorey
This is the only song that I wrote alone, finished at 4am in the morning after a couple of weeks battle with it and a little help from Jenny providing the brilliantly poetic two lines of the chorus (Riches under rags, Rich dark veins I hide). It has the feel of Aimee Mann or Neil Young and I’m more than pleased about that.
It’s about Jemmy Wood, the miser of Gloucester, a character who’s life spanned across the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. Apparently he was the inspiration for Charles Dickens’ Ebeneezer Scrooge and was infamous for being the richest commoner in the Land. There are lots of tales about him and the one that captured my imagination was the notion that this wealthy banker would visit the docks to save money by picking up coals from the roadside dropped by the coal merchant’s carts. There are other threads of urban myth including being beaten up by a labourer for taking turnips from a field he was the landlord of, which I’ve included in the song.
I get that surreal feeling again when I stand outside McDonalds on Westgate Street because that was where the building that his haberdashery and bank occupied once stood. It seems appropriate that a corporate entity of McDonalds’ ilk occupies that spot now.
Picking up pieces of coal
And dropping them into my pocket
Wiping my hands down on my shirt yeah
Lost another piece of my soul
I have no problem you see
With a wealth of 900 thousand
More than one man should be proud of
Pick up another little piece of coal
Riches under rags
Rich dark veins I hide
Witness the public throwing stones at my dead muscle, skin and bones
In a coffin on a hearse in southgate street
I got beaten for pulling up roots
They didn’t know I was the master
Said I looked like a vagrant disaster
Not the owner of a turnip plot
What became of my gold?
Was I the inspiration
For a seasonal Dickens creation
And a philpot with my profile bold?
How will my story be told?
A miser mean and cold
At the roadside looking for dirty little pieces of coal
I remember this session for the existing camaraderie amongst members of the team as well as the new friendships that were formed that day. Alex’s performance as the lead singer is just right for the song and the arrangement. He struck up a lovely rapport with my talented cousin Matt who played piano and his girlfriend Lavinia who provided backing vocals. The string section made up of talented young musicians Eden, Emily, Amy, Mia and Ria with 1st violin and cello duties by my go to string players Erica and Alice respectively is particularly rich and I am proud that I composed and scored those parts myself. The rhythm section of Duncan and Mark is a beautiful old friendship based on mutual love of playing music together - it was wonderful to have them feature, there’s a brilliant photograph of them that captures something of their relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of an acoustic guitar duo with Charlotte. Matt Sharlot from the university of Gloucestershire deputised for Josh as my recording assistant with help from Rose Harrison who’s efficiency and pro-active organisation skills made me realise I probably need to budget for a production/location manager on my next ambitious project.