Life After Death

by Doug Gay

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about

Grief and loss break things and end things - hearts, hopes, plans, sometimes faith.
Writing these songs was my way of trying to pick up the pieces.
The lyrics of these songs are full of quotes:
from my Mum, in shock after Dad’s sudden death at 67,
who repeated the same phrase about ‘Tying Up Roses’ for days afterwards;
from my (then) 3 year old son asking if Grandpa’s heart would get better where he was now; from an old Plymouth Brethren man in the funeral meeting quoting Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress ‘and so he crossed over and all the trumpets sounded for him’; to my brother’s question…

So much about death is dark and hidden and buried. Hard to process and access and yet other things are right on the surface, the raw edges it opens in our minds.
From Christianity we get images, metaphors, stories, doctrines which may or may not seem to shed light and bring hope when we are deep in grief. Some of the songs show my attempts to wrestle with those, as I tried to work out how to think about Dad after his death. And to think about myself and God and faith.

Tying Up Roses is a love song for those who lose the one they love. Saturday Train is an Easter Saturday song for when grief seems endless. Things That Made You Happy was written about the framed holiday snaps around the living room in our family home. Most are of the two of them on their last few holidays, but among them is one old 1950s black and white one of my dad, young, handsome, shirt open, grinning as he drove the tractor at harvest on the family farm in Wiltshire. Mansion Town is an attempt to imagine heaven as more and greater life - it might help to know after starting life as a farmer that dad ran a shoe shop. Beyond Blue is a country lullaby, echoing all the country tapes my dad played in the car when we were kids.

It was only after we recorded them, that I realised Pilgrim No More and Things That Made You Happy are slow sad dances, at least that’s how I hear them now - like a funeral waltz if such a thing could ever exist. Pilgrim is about the visit to the morgue and then the day of the funeral and my brothers and I carrying the coffin to the graveside. Its also about all the work you have to do to forgive the hard stuff as you carry on with life after death. Keep Looking Up builds on the last ever conversation I had with my dad and tries to capture some of the things I think he was trying to tell me.

There are two new songs. One is dedicated to Rebecca Stott (who grew up at the same time as me, through the same religious sect of Exclusive Brethren - ‘the system’) for her searing 2017 memoir of her father In The Days Of Rain. The other, Some Things, grew out of reflections on other losses since that first great grief of my life, in particular the untimely deaths of my beloved friends Ali and Mark and of Robbie, my friend since week one in high school. Also, the loss of Debbie and Graham and Donna.

There is unspeakable loneliness in grief, but there can also be profound and remarkable solidarity. Whether you are a person of faith or not, if you are facing Life After Death I hope you feel and find these songs are somehow in solidarity with you.

I want to thank those who made this album possible: Al Pearson, Stocki and Boesel who kept on for many years telling me to do it; all of the lovely crowdfunders; my dear friends Steve Butler for producing, recording and playing soulful keys and Charlie Irvine for sublime guitars; Sandy Butler for additional guitars and bass; Rory Butler for additional guitar; David Dukes for drums; Suzanne Butler and Annie McCaig for additional vocals and Suzanne’s fiddle, Caroline for clarinet. Beth for artwork. Rachel for long term encouragement and for teaching me early on in our relationship some of the hard, hard lessons she had already learned about life after death.
I loved every minute of working on this project and am so grateful I got to do it.
And thanks Dad. I try to Keep Looking Up, like you told me in that last ever conversation we had down by the river… I wish you sweet dreams tonight.

All songs © Doug Gay 2017.

credits

released February 14, 2018

Recorded, Engineered and Produced by Steve Butler

Keyboards - Steve Butler
Guitars - Charlie Irvine, Sandy Butler, Rory Butler
Bass - Sandy Butler
Drums - David Dukes
Additional Vocals - Annie McCaig, Suzanne Butler, Steve Butler
Fiddle - Suzanne Butler
Clarinet - Caroline Brown

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about

Doug Gay Glasgow, UK

Doug was part of Calvin's Dream in the 1990s, who released the album 'Fanatical' on Sticky Music in 1995. These days, he teaches theology at Glasgow University.

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Track Name: Days of Rain
IN THE DAYS OF RAIN (for Rebecca Stott)

Our Fathers should have saved us
But they were in too deep
Our mothers should have saved us
But they had friends to keep
And Jesus should have saved us
But he was fast asleep

That’s why it felt like no-one ever came
To save our souls from drowning
In the days of rain
In the days of rain
In the days of rain

The system was against them
And no-one beats the house
But they should have cut their losses
And found us some way out
‘Cause we were only kids then
And they had lost their doubts - that’s why it felt like..

I think our paths have crossed once
A lifetime’s years ago
I think I caught your eye once
Before we turned to go
I think I would have liked you
But how were we to know - because it seemed like..

It all seems so unreal now
An underwater dream
A flood that rose around us
Its waters dark and warm
and I did my share of sinking
Before I learned to swim - because it seemed like..
Track Name: Tying Up Roses
TYING UP ROSES

I just feel like a day of tying up roses
Won’t you come and tie them with me
And they’ll hang in the air, til the winter finds them there
And a cold wind makes their petals fall and turn back into dust

I just feel like a night of lying beside you
Nights can get so lonely these days
I would hold you so close in that space that no-one knows
Where the secrets of our love were whispered o’ so many nights

And the days just can’t get full,
they’re filled with holes, the joy runs through
And the nights just don’t get warm, when there is no-one holding you
And the weeks just won’t go by, they crave the scent of that perfume
Another year will never come, another rose will never bloom..

I just feel like a day of tying up roses
Won’t you come and tie them with me
And they’ll hang in the air, ‘til the winter finds them there
And a cold wind makes their petals fall and turns them into dust
Track Name: Mansion Town
MANSION TOWN

Nobody needs shoes
Nobody gets those rambling blues
Heaven’s streets are easy on your tired feet

Nobody needs light
Nobody needs to hold back the night
There is light enough for all you need to find

Home in Mansion town
Your friends stay all around
Folks keep stopping in to talk
Here in Mansion town

Nobody needs time
Nobody here gets left behind
So tell your stories long and as slow as you like

Nobody needs love
Every last soul has more than enough
Peace has broken out, no-one can take it back

Home in Mansion town
Friends stay all around
The folks keep stopping in to talk
Here in Mansion town

Nobody needs faith
Every one here sees face to face, well
Glory, Hallelujah, let those trumpets sound!

Home in Mansion Town
Children running round
Wearing golden crowns
All the lost are found

Home in Mansion Town
There's no tears falling down
No holes in the ground
Here in Mansion Town

Home in Mansion Town
Where the lambs and the wolves lie down
On the holy ground
Home in Mansion Town.
Track Name: The Things That Made You Happy
THE THINGS THAT MADE YOU HAPPY

every American
Should see the Grand Canyon
Something to look upon,
Before you're dead and gone

And it’s a long, long way
From this town to LA
Visiting at their place
Gave you your place to stay

The things that made you happy make me cry
The things that made you happy make me cry
You with your back to the Hollywood sign
Was this the time of your life?

Las Vegas from LA
'Cause it was the cheapest way
Never a gambler’s stay
You didn’t live that way

Two for the canyon – hey..
You should have seen the way
They loaded the breakfast trays
Oh but it seemed a waste?

The things that made you happy make me cry
The things that made you happy make me cry
You with your back to the canyon light
Was this the time of your life?

Now you will never know
You won’t see the children grow
You won’t watch the river flow
The angels swung too low

If I could hold your hand
Tell you this man to man
The way I always planned
I hope you’d understand

The things that made you happy make me cry
The things that made you happy make me cry
You with your back to the Canada skies
Was this the time of your life?
Or..
You with your back to the harvest behind
Was this the time of your life?
(to fade..)
Track Name: Saturday Train
SATURDAY TRAIN

I’m in a tunnel of grief
On a Saturday train
Hurtling along
In the echoing dark

Til it slams to a stop
And the train powers down
So they dim all the lights
And I wait in the gloom

While it stops for too long
and all I can hear
Is dark water running
And rats on the track

What if I never get out of here?
What if I never can reach the light?
What if this Saturday train never moves again?

I’m being buried alive
In a tomb made of turf
The weight of the earth
Is crushing my chest

I can hear my own heart
I won’t trust it again
It’s beating too fast
It’s beating too loud

If I let myself sleep
I might never wake up
I might drown in these tears
I might drown in these tears

What if I never get out of here?
What if I never can reach the light?
What if this Saturday train never moves again?
Track Name: Pilgrim No More
PILGRIM NO MORE

The trumpets will sound
And you will cross over
Walking on water
Over that river
You're pilgrim no more
Safe on that other shore

I touched you cold
Reaching from my own life
But you were gone
Over the other side
You're pilgrim no more
You left by that other door

and my brother’s question, do the dead miss the living?
Or just keep forgiving – endlessly,
all that was ever left unsaid, left undone?

We carried you
Into the sunlit air
Bone of your bone
Wept as we laid you there
You're pilgrim no more
And all you were hoping for..

These brothers’ burden, to be borne by the living
Is to just keep forgiving – endlessly,
all that was ever left unsaid, left undone

My brother’s question, do the dead miss the living?
Or just keep forgiving – endlessly,
all that was ever left unsaid, left undone?

(la la la da na na)
Track Name: Beyond Blue
BEYOND BLUE

I tell you I am beyond blue
So I believe are precious you
I cannot talk to you again
This life will never be the same

What will you dream about tonight?
Your sleep is deeper than the darkness
Your place is further than the distance
I wish you sweet dreams tonight
I wish you sweet dreams tonight

I can imagine where you are
A long, long way beyond the stars
Where there is heaven brightly shining
A universe of silver lining

Will you get better where you are?
And will they mend your broken heart?
Are you with God and with the Lamb?
Healed by the sorrows of the Son of Man?

I will not even try to tell you
How much we all are going to miss you
I pray that God will keep this from you
I would not wish such knowledge on you

What will you dream about tonight?
Your sleep is deeper than the darkness
Your place is further than the distance
I wish you sweet dreams tonight
I wish you sweet dreams tonight
Track Name: Keep Looking Up
Keep Looking Up

I have not been
The witness I should be
I’m glad that you
Believe in spite of me

CHORUS
Keep looking up
Keep Looking up
Keep Looking Up
Keep Looking Up

I have not lived
The dreams I always dreamed
I am so proud
Of what you all achieved

I am ashamed
Of what we put you through
I think you know
The system hurt me too

Keep looking up
Keep Looking up
Keep Looking Up
Keep Looking Up

If I’m spared I’ll walk and talk with you
If I’m spared I’ll make it up to you
If I’m spared I’ll walk and talk with you
If I’m spared I’ll make it up to you

Keep looking up
Keep Looking up
Keep Looking Up
Keep Looking Up
Track Name: Some Things
SOME THINGS

time heals some things
but other wounds remain
like a shadow or a stain
you can’t paint over
some things you don't get over

time brings some change
but some things stay the same
like a funny kind of game
you just can’t win now
you can’t get change from some things

I do forget you now some times
you’re no longer at the raw edge of my mind
I start to laugh again without you some times… some times.

time takes some pain
calls you back to life
like a river deep and wide
it takes you downstream
some things move out to the sea

time heals some things
other wounds remain
like a shadow or a stain
you can’t paint over
some things you don't get over

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