Track-by-track: Rick Redbeard reveals No Selfish Heart
From its genesis eight years ago to the finish line last spring, Rick Redbeard presents a personal tour of his debut LP
I got a funny little electric shruti box for Christmas one year that looks the way that Orange guitar amps would if they were made by Tomy. One day I started singing over it while trying to record something else and this is what came out; musical stream-of-consciousness recorded for posterity. I tried sequencing this track in a number of places on the album and it only ever worked at the start. It feels like a proposition: “Are you with me? Okay, welcome aboard…” and with hindsight I can portray it as such, but really this whole song is just a happy accident.
2. Old Blue
This song is both old and new: the main part has been around for ages, but I wrote the chorus just before I recorded it. You could say that it’s about using love to try and ward off death; or you could say it’s about the sad realisation that no amount of love can stop time passing. You could say both those things if you wanted to be a miserable bastard, but you could also say that it’s about sex and that seems like more fun for everyone whether it’s true or not. To be honest I just wanted to have a song with a colour in the title.
3. Any Way I Can
This and Now We’re Dancing are about as close to ‘pop’ as this record gets. Another old one – this was my most played track on Myspace in 1986 or whenever the hell it was that people still used Myspace. The chorus fell into my lap one day fully formed and it’s so sweet and hopeful that I had to lash some strange morbid verses to it to stop it from floating away.
4. A Greater Brave
I tend to dislike things like lalalas, handclaps and finger clicks, especially when it’s just a guy walking down the street doing all three at once, but this track was born with the lalala backing vocal locked in place so I couldn't very well take it out. I always liked the central repeating phrases, but getting a song to hang around it was a pain in the ass and there was a point where I wished it was a human being so I could've punched it in the mouth. Still, these problems get ironed out; you learn to forgive and now we're friends again.
5. We All Float
I was worried this might be a little sad with a capital S, but it really grew on me and I was keen to include a piano track on the record for a bit of variation. The recording on here is maybe the third or fourth time I’d played it and there are a lot of accidental little noises on here that wouldn’t have happened had I recorded it in a studio. I like it when you hear incidental noises and mistakes on records – it anchors the music to a specific moment and place and reminds you that you’re listening to a human being.
6. Kelvin Grove
This is an old folk song I learnt a long time ago and the tune is one that's also used in the song The Shearin's No For You of which the late Jim Reid does a great rendition. I dropped the final verse from this take for reasons that escape me now and, with hindsight, I'm not convinced it was the right thing to do. Still, it's best not to dwell on these things; what's done is done, and it's fair to say that the horse has not only left the barn, but managed to kick over a kerosene lamp on the way out.
7. Now We’re Dancing
This is the oldest recording on here – done sometime in 2007 in a small bedroom on West Princes Street with orange walls and a repulsive carpet. It was my friend’s flat and you’ll be pleased to hear he’s since redecorated. A loveable pair of buffoons (Gerry Loves Records) released this as a split 7" with Adam Stafford’s great Vanishing Tanks track that I think you can still buy. Well, actually I know you can because I still have a small pile of them in my car.
8. Cold as Clay (The Grave)
I wrote this sometime in the mid 1970s just when disco was really starting to take hold… and, oh sorry, that’s for something else. This is another country-tinged track about sex and death. When I used to do this on the acoustic-hell circuit in the bars and cafes of the West End I would introduce it with a story about burying my girlfriend in the woods. It brought some funny looks, but at least it momentarily got their attention away from all those expensive fashion-beers.
I wanted to write a really traditional sounding song – something that feels very familiar; something with really simple lyrics like a lullaby, and stripped of some of the more overt darkness. The accompanying guitar is one of these things you play that imbues any conversation spoken over it with a slight poignancy, no matter how mundane – ‘Pass the biscuits’ ‘There’s none left…’ ‘ Oh…’
10. No Selfish Heart
I wanted the album to finish as it started – with a really stark track of nothing but a voice and an instrument. I initially recorded this with melodica and glockenspiel and all manner of shit cluttering it up until it just totally lost the feel – like someone trying to improve an oak tree by painting it pink. I stripped it all back, added the end section and suddenly it made a lot more sense. Songs are like kids – you shouldn't pick a favourite but... once this was written I knew it had to be the title track.