This is another one of those moments where I wish I’d kept a record of the gigs I’ve been to over the years… I saw James Yorkston & The Athletes in Bristol back in 2002. I have no recollection of the actual gig itself (I was clearly under the influence) other than coming away with a “Songs From Moving Up Country” sampler CD. I’m convinced that I saw them supporting a bigger act at the Anson Rooms but a quick Google search and the only Bristol date I can find for them is at The Louisiana. It must have been some night. Which appropriately leads us to Woozy With Cider.

I’ll admit, I had little interest in James Yorkston after said gig, but I would frequently see his name popping up in album reviews, lauding him as a songwriter of increasing importance, if not wider critical and commercial acclaim. Still, I stubbornly refused to take the bait and seek out his music. In true contrary fashion, I found my way to Woozy With Cider because I’d enjoyed a couple of remixes by electronic duo Quiet Village aka Matt Edwards and Joel Martin and I was seeking out more. I picked up a 2007 promo CD of Woozy With Cider, which includes no less than 7 remixes, based around Yorkston’s brilliantly observed tale:

Watching the park quieten from the hotel window
I hear you softly sleep amongst the cars and saluting songbirds
For a city whose size had scared me for years
Right now it’s a feeble evening roar
Not unsimilar to a beach evening ending

On the table to my left there’s a magazine with a picture of a dead monkey
Making a mockery of what I’d call art
But what would I know about the scene in the city
That has swallowed up friends, lovers and family
Just give me a village the size of a teacup

You have your hair spread out with your eyes closed
I feel I should order a drink in celebration to welcome the summer
Whose first day is ending
Should you awake you’d catch me of course
And ask me the wisdom of drinking once more

I cast my mind back to yesterday’s wedding
Where we got drunk and fell over
I did my best to be polite to a family I’d never met
But on numerous occasions, I guess, I could have tried harder
Of course by the end of the night
I was best friends with everyone and everyone’s wife
But right now I can’t remember their names
No matter how hard I try

As the sun glares through the hotel window
I wonder of our future and where it will lead to
I wonder if you’ll be laying there
10 years 20 years 30 years down the line
I’ll still be staring out at the street confused about love and life
It’ll be interesting to see if anyone ever bought those songs of mine
If anyone heard those words that I never got quite right

I think I can be honest in presuming
The world is not exactly going to be leaping out of its bed
To make me rich using my songs in adverts
Selling oranges or lemons

Who knows I may end up owning the whole street
Or more likely sleeping under tree in the park opposite
Would the runners keep me awake
Or would I keep them asleep?
I’d hope I’d have the sense to move back home
As lovely as today is
I’d imagine the winter would be rather cold

I’d been told for years that the devil had the best tunes
And that the devil lived down here
Whereas us country folk weren’t worth the salt from the road
Ex-pat magazine editors who choose to lose their temper
On the easily persuaded northern town dwellers
And sure enough 99 percent of the people I meet
Have scant regard for entertaining me
It seems I’m too old too slow too quiet and just wrong
And I’m glad

In their cocaine-fuelled electronic cabarets
I’ll be the man at the bar drinking overpriced whisky
From a bar maid who’s too good to catch my eye
She only works here two nights a week
The rest of the time she’s a singer in a rock and roll band
I bet she’d change her tune
If I told her my album had peaked at number 172
And that I also had friends who worked in bars
And that didn’t define who they are
Though it certainly helps their capacity to drink

But I’ve strayed off the subject
Now I’ll be leaning over and waking you up
And you’ll squint at me through the cracks between your eyelids
Woozy with cider
As if you’re asking just exactly where we are
And exactly what I wanted
And I’ll be happy because
We won’t be taking anything too seriously.

As usual, apologies for any misunderstood and poorly transcribed lyrics…

To avoid overkill, I’ve avoided the original version which you can find on his 2006 album, The Year Of The Leopard. I’ve limited to 3 remixes and perhaps surprisingly omitted the one by Quiet Village that brought me to the song in the first place. Steve Mason delivers a lovely minimal electronic take in his King Biscuit Time guise. I know nothing about Dusty Cabinets, but their uptempo, rumbling dancefloor mix adds an unsettling undercurrent which suits the vocals. Lastly, Jon Hopkins provides a beautifully understated piano accompaniment.

mp3: James Yorkston – Woozy With Cider (King Biscuit Time Remix)
mp3: James Yorkston – Woozy With Cider (Dusty Cabinets Remix)
mp3: James Yorkston – Woozy With Cider (Jon Hopkins Remix)

The happy ending is that by picking up this single, I finally began to appreciate James Yorkston’s music and storytelling, and made up for lost time by catching up with his back catalogue. Everyone’s a winner.


JC adds…..

I’d also have seen James Yorkston & The Athletes on the same 2002 tour, but unlike Khayem, I’ve bought a fair bit of his stuff over the years, including a boxset of the album When The Haar Rolls In which included all sorts of bonus material, including  one of the mixes offered up today.  I also highly recommend James’ book, It’s Lovely To Be Here, as reviewed on this very blog back in 2015.

I really can’t let this one go by without posting the original version:-

mp3: James Yorkston – Woozy With Cider

Finally, just a quick mention that a link to Khayem’s own blog, Dubhead, has been added to the list under the ‘Inspirations and Occasional Contributors’ section.  There’s loads of great stuff out there, but I’m ashamed to say that I somehow never make the time to do justice to all the wonderful postings, thoughts and observations.

2 thoughts on “SOME SONGS MAKE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 48)

  1. Woozy…is my favourite James Yorkston song. The imagery and performance is masterful: the phrasing is divine and worthy of any literary or comedy routine, particularly so with the pauses between ‘oranges…or lemons’ and also ‘peaked at number…172’!

    I’ve caught Yorkston on only a couple of occasions, but the stand-out gig would be at The End of The Road festival circa 2005 where, after a magnificent marquee performance, he played a semi secret intimate and solo gig in the woods that bordered that festival site. Fairy lights and smiles and quiet conversation. I remember that the EOTR always used to be patronised by the Hot Cider Company’s bus (and perhaps still is?) and so, yes, no doubt woozy with cider!

  2. The lyric reminds me of Stanyan Street by Rod McKuen – the description of the park and city equates to McKuen looking out his window onto Golden Gate Park in San Francisco: he also had someone sleeping in the bed next to him.
    Just listened to the Jon Hopkins mix – lovely melody he has put to it.

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