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.


It’s not that I’ve stopped reading in recent months but of late I’ve been engrossed in a couple of tremendous sports books and haven’t had time to delve into my extensive collection of those volumes related to music and musicians.

But over in Ireland for my annual long-weekend in mid-July saw me grab my copy of It’s Lovely To Be Here by James Yorkston and give it a re-read in the hours spent on planes, trains and inside terminals.

As the subtitle on the cover indicates the book is , a series of extracts from diaries written while the musician was on various tours. On the surface this might sound a bit dull and monotonous – you know the sort of thing….woke up with hangover, travelled to venue, did sound check, gig was great/mundane/OK/awful* (* delete as appropriate), got drunk afterwards and went to bed after crazy party/realising again how much I miss my family back home* (“delete as appropriate).

But this book is nothing at all like that.

It begins, somewhat very helpfully to anyone who might not know too much about the author,with a 20-page introduction explaining how he became part of the roster of the critically acclaimed and increasingly popular indie-label of Domino Records. There then follows five separate chapters for tours covering 2004-2009 in different parts of the world promoting different records to different audiences.

Much of the content of the diaries seems to centre around James  trying to convince himself that he is as good and talented a performer as everyone else is telling him.  This is not a man who is brimming with the utmost confidence and who seems to be bewildered that he is ‘making it’ as a musician. It’s also very clear from the outset that the author is indeed a true gent from his behaviour towards fellow artistes, including support acts or those above him on the bills and that he is one of life’s genuinely decent blokes in an industry where egos run rampant and you can never really be sure of who your friends really are.

The book is great at reminding anyone who is the slightest bit envious of the rock’n’roll lifestyle that much of it is mundane and repetitive with the added worry of never knowing in advance how well your performance will be received. It’s worth remembering that to musicians this is a job first and foremost…..and I don’t care what anyone says, there are days when nobody wants to go to their work no matter how different or exciting it might seem to most folk.

Other recurring themes are the need to get a decent meal – James is a committed vegan and many a promoter has failed to grasp just what that means – and his feeling that only drink and Valium can get him through the fear of flying. I know all this sounds a bit downbeat and depressing, but at no point does the author seek your sympathy. There’s a great deal of self-deprecating humour in the writing (a trait that he shares with that other T(n)NN hero Malcolm Middleton) and all told you cannot help but feel a lot of warmth and affection for the author….he’s the sort of bloke you’d be proud and honoured to call a mate.

You really don’t need to know anything about the records James Yorkston has released over the years to get something out of this book, and I recommend it highly to all and sundry.

Here’s some songs….

mp3 : James Yorkston & The Athletes – I Spy Dogs
mp3 : James Yorkston & The Athletes – Surf Song
mp3 : James Yorkston & The Athletes – Cheating The Game