The Kingdom of Fife, James Yorkston and “Woozy With Cider”

A few weeks ago, right at the end of my Seven in Seven challenge, I threw down the gauntlet and asked followers to come up with ideas for future posts. Whenever I’ve done this in the past it’s been quite easy to come up with something reasonably entertaining, as a fairly mainstream song has been suggested. This time…., not quite so easy. This third reply post was always going to be tricky, as I hadn’t actually heard of the artist or song when it was first suggested by Mr Medd, whose Are We There Yet? blog is one I visit often. My proviso for this challenge was that I had to have heard of the artist, so by rights I could have wriggled out of it, but that would be a bit lame so here goes:

Woozy With Cider by James Yorkston:

Woozy With Cider was recorded by singer/songwriter James Yorkston in 2007. It’s a spoken word kind of affair and apparently falls into the electronic/folk rock camp. As I said above, both James and his “song” were new to me, so before hitting the keyboard I was going to have to do a bit of serious listening. Lots of imagery in this song but what comes across loud and clear is that Mr Yorkston is neither a fan of big cities nor city folk and their sometimes patronising attitude towards those of a more countrified nature. He kind of yearns to be back in the place he feels most comfortable, “a village the size of a teacup”. There has been a wedding though (oh no, another wedding post – I can’t get away from them), which is the reason for the trip to the big smoke, but it is now the day after where there is time for reflection, relaxation and just enough cider to cause a bit of “wooziness”.

I really liked this spoken word song right from the off, and I think I worked out why pretty early on. Once I’d done a bit of research into James Yorkston, I discovered he came from the Kingdom of Fife in Scotland, which is a peninsula situated between the Firth of Tay and Firth of Forth (and home to the ancient Pictish kings). He became part of something called the Fence Collective set up by Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote) where a group of Fife-based musicians got together and released music on their own record label with little more than a CD burner and the use of a local bar’s unused “back room”.

Looking at a map of Fife it looks remarkably like the Black Isle peninsula where I reside. From experience, these are beautiful places to live – Great scenery (water on three sides), picturesque villages, clean air and not too many people or cars. Like James, I would find life in a big city nowadays nigh impossible and find the best mix for me is kind of what is implied in the first line of the lyrics, “I hear you softly sleep amongst the cars and saluting songbirds”. It is now evening and the sound of the traffic has died down so the birds can be heard in equal measure. That’s my ideal – To be near enough civilisation to hear the sound of cars in the distance, but also to be able to hear the sound of birds (as I type I am listening to a hooting owl). It’s not for me the cacophony of city life with only the odd squawking seagull – I know where I’m supposed to “be” and like James Yorkston, I very fortuitously found it when I was relatively young, in my late twenties.

fife

black isle

So, I only found out about James Yorkston when the suggestion for this post came in but since then I have been bombarded by references to Fife and Fence Records. There is a name for this phenomenon (more than just coincidence) which currently eludes me, but we all experience it from time to time – In our house, whenever it happens it’s always accompanied by a quick burst of the Twilight Zone music.

First of all, as per my previous post, we ended up having a spontaneous wee break last week in the city of Dundee, which is just on the other side of the Tay Bridge from Fife. It was a no brainer therefore that we would head across for a visit. By this time I knew all about the Fence Collective based in the East Neuk of Fife, so what better place to visit in order to get “woozy with cider”?

Secondly, a couple of night’s ago I caught the final episode of the BBC2 documentary series Rip It Up which was ostensibly about how Scots have had to overcome obstacles, and blaze a trail, in order to make the music they love. This episode featured those independent labels such as Fence Records who decided to follow a different path and not head to London, but to remain in Scotland and be inspired by their surroundings – They would make music primarily for the love of it and not just to make lots of money. We even had a lengthy interview with Mr Yorkston (whom I warmed to greatly) and I’ll no doubt look out for him now that I know the background to his, and the Collective’s, aims.

Before I go, here is something I found when trying to find out a bit more about the man. It was from an interview he gave after having written his second book (yes it seems he’s multi-talented, also being an author – not jealous honest, grrr…).

Interviewer: James, what’s your guiltiest music pleasure?

James: I think I’ve grown out of that stuff now. When I was a kid, I was very much involved in genre, so I’d only like punk rock or dub reggae, say. Fortunately, as I’ve aged, I’ve thrown off such daft shackles and I no longer feel guilty about anything I like. I feel guiltier disliking things, especially if it’s music by people who I like as people. Guilty Music Displeasure, perhaps.

A great place to end, as since starting this blog I have had massive crises of confidence after writing about songs from my collection that others may well class as “a guilty pleasure”. I know everyone is usually very kind about it, but when James Yorkston also comes out and admits to now feeling more guilty about disliking music, I think I’m ok.

Until next time…

Woozy with Cider Lyrics
(Song by James Yorkston)

I watch 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 row, not un-similar to a beach evening ending.
On the table to my left there’s a magazine with a picture of dead money, 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’re happier here 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 wake you’d catch me of course and ask me the wisdom of drinking once more
I cast my mind back to yesterdays 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 a best friend with everyone and every ones wife but right now I couldn’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 every 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 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 loose 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 whiskey 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 exactly where we are and exactly what I wanted.
And I’ll be happy because we won’t be taking anything too seriously.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

16 thoughts on “The Kingdom of Fife, James Yorkston and “Woozy With Cider””

  1. His first book It’s Lovely to be Here – The Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent is well worth a read.
    Entertaining and funny.
    He lives up across the road from Vic Galloway and features in his book Songs in the Key of Fife.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He was new to me until very recently but now he seems to be omnipresent – Think I’ll get a copy of that book if you recommend it then. Of course I thought of my Scottish blogging buddies when I watched Rip It Up – You were all just the right age for that Glasgow scene of the late 70s/early 80s.

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  2. I have a little James Yorkston in my library – I suspect liberated from one or two of the fine members of the Scottish blogging community – but I wasn’t familiar with this one. A great talky song. Reminds me of Arab Strap. And yes, I agree with him about the Guilty Pleasures. Although I don’t feel guilty for hating Bono.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No I wasn’t familiar with this one either so amazing that I managed to write anything about it at all but a fine talky song.

      His line about guilty pleasures has pleased me – I feel a post about Charlene’s Never Been To Me is due to make an appearance around these parts!

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  3. Beautifully written Alyson. Our friends run the East Neuk Hotel in Pittenweem and it’s a part of Scotland I really need to get to know.
    A lot of the Fence Collective are dotted around there too.
    A good friend of the Medds also lives in the area but I don’t want to blab names and places on here.

    James Yorkston is a bit special, isn’t he? I think your piece would whet anyone’s appetite who fancies discovering a few more gems of his.
    (I should throw the gauntlet down more often…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you approve although as ever I went way past the 500 words mark (and not perhaps one of my “wittier” posts) but having just been to Fife, I got side-tracked by the geography of it all. I’m still reeling from how similar the peninsula is to the Black Isle peninsula, with all the towns and villages in pretty much the same places – How it evolves I suppose because of the relationship to the sea on the east coast but hadn’t spotted it before.

      If your friends run a hotel in Pittenweem you should go and visit – Such a picturesque village but only I suppose if you appreciate such surroundings and aren’t a city boy at heart. Mr WIAA once had colleagues drive all the way up from Essex through the Cairngorms and they hated it, couldn’t wait to get home again – They couldn’t stand how quiet it was, so not for everyone!

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    1. Gosh sorry CC, just checked the spam folder and this link had landed in there (WordPress does that if only a link in a comment) – That’s a great set of posts involving both James Yorkston and the other artists from Fence. Love that title though, Songs In The Key of Fife!

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  4. Easy for me to relate to James Yorkston’s song, especially the calmness of his music. Not really into big city noise myself either although I like going on holidays to capitals. Seems he got inspired by the location in Scotland. You’d think Yorkston’s debut album The Year Of The Leopard is a direct homage to Al Stewart’s The Year of the Cat.

    For me, it depends regarding the sound of birds, if they jump around on my roof at 5am and wake me up it’s not ideal! But bird song can be relaxing 🙂 I’ve been in the north of England, just not to Dundee.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It certainly is calm music isn’t it. Like you I like visiting big cities for a short time but prefer living somewhere with less traffic noise and more bird song – Think we’ve got just the right balance here. Fortunately we don’t get birds on our roof at 5am although I do remember a holiday in the centre of Edinburgh when that happened every morning for a week – Argh…

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  5. Lovely testament to all the positives of blogging – you’ve just written a great post about someone whose music you didn’t know beforehand and thanks to the challenge from another blogger – isn’t it brilliant how it works?
    Compelling lyrics there from JY. And Fife sounds like somewhere I’d like too. I used to drink cider all the time as a young teenager – many a woozy night spent and school next day too 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have found out about so many new artists since discovering all your lovely blogs. I do like these challenges as well as you end up going down avenues you wouldn’t normally have thought of. Funny how I just happened to be in the right neck of the woods as well whilst I was trying to work out how to tackle it.

      As for the cider, yes I was going to mention that it used to be the tipple of choice when I was a teenager, but didn’t really fit the piece. What I remember however is that we used to drink Cider and Babycham! Is this something you remember as I can’t seem to see it being classed as a drink nowadays? Very odd that we added even more cider (Babycham was pear cider I think) to our cider. It had a kick anyway and as you say a bit too much wooziness for a school night!

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      1. Ooh, I’ve not heard of the Cider and Babycham combination – I’m going to have to try it now (just the once probably!) The power of advertising was never more potent though than in a memory I have from when I was very young – maybe 5 or 6 – and on one of the very rare occasions when we watched ITV (!) – must’ve been Christmas, and I was completely enamoured by a Babycham advert because of the cute little cartoon Bambi character. I begged and begged my parents to let me drink some purely on the strength of that ad. (And they did. Just a couple of sips…)

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