SONY ACADEMY AWARD WINNING SONGWRITER FROM COUNTY DURHAM

FIGHTING THE TIDE

FIGHTING THE TIDE (2002)

Kate Bramley’s play FIGHTING THE TIDE, with songs by Jez Lowe, toured UK theatres in January 2002, to great acclaim. The songs were sung by the actors, to an instrumental soundtrack recorded by Jez, Kate and Simon in December 2001, a mere month after the recording of HONESTY BOX. These recordings, complete with vocals from which the actors learned the songs themselves, were put aside until Tantobie Records agreed that a souvenir CD of the the “soundtrack” could be made available for sale during the play’s run.

Within the year, it was found that these soundtrack albums were being copied and sold by various sources, so Tantobie released the album semi-officially to be sold only at Bad Pennies concerts and by mail order.
None of these songs have been included in the newly released SONGS OF JEZ LOWE VOLUME 3 songbook, so we thought it would be nice to make them available here for the very first time.
Two pieces from the play, an instrumental called Old Man Muse and a slightly re-written version of Jez’s 1984 song Shippersea Bay (sung by Simon Haworth on the album) are not included here.

The story – At some time in the future, the few inhabitants of a small island watch in fear as the ocean advances upon their shores. Those who work the land are forced to leave and try to make a living from the sea, leaving all that was familiar and beloved behind. The four main characters are The Postman; his wife; Odd Job, the island’s Mr Fixit; and a cast-away.

 

INCHES (J.Lowe – Lowe Life Music)
Note – This was the opening song of the play, sung by the two male characters amid a stage full of strange props, wherein everyday objects from different places, times and cultures had been thrust together in a chaos that mirrored the times in which the story was set.

We grew this metal just from memory, We cut this wood because we know,
Things passed down from how they used to be, We build for the thrill to watch it grow,
Chorus – Inches, inches, Struck by glory, nearly masters of the day,
Inches, inches, Always only inches away.

Our fathers lived in glass and grass surrounded them. They rested then, and saw that it was good,
But something came and it dumbfounded them, And swallowed their cities in it’s flood.

CHORUS

They hauled their horses down their motorways, Watered them with diesel oil and shale,
Flew like birds across the moon they say, And sailed home on the back of a whale.

CHORUS

What land we have is food for water now, And water drinks up everything that’s dry,
We remain to teach our sons and daughters how To use the land to live and not to die.

CHORUS

 

THE LOVING AND THE LEAVING (J.Lowe – Lowe Life Music)
Note – This song was sung by the postman to his wife, who’s relationship was one of the central themes of the story, as he left home on the sea voyage, leaving her behind, pregnant and alone.

Take these rags that watch from drooping clothesline,
Dance each one like suitors ‘cross the floor,
And fill my bag of leather for a lifetime,
As full as sorrow fills me , even more.

CHORUS
Can’t we have the love without the leaving,
Can’t we have the sting without the smart,
Why d’you give as granted things I’m taking,
Like it’s nothing but the stretching of a young girl’s heart.

A shirt you stitched in tenderness and duty,
A coat that fashion can’t forgive a sin,
A towel that laughed out loud when faced with beauty,
A razor for a cheek that chafed your skin.

CHORUS

A scarf as rough and wild as wheat at harvest,
Trousers old before they’re ever worn,
Socks both doomed to argue which is largest,
A hat that fits as if a crown of thorns.

CHORUS

 

POSTMAN’S LAMENT (J.Lowe – Lowe Life Music) Note –
“The anachronistic mayhem of history turned inside out by the forces of nature was a central theme to the play. For the postman with no customers and no mail to deliver to anyone, this song summed up the futility of that ultimate bloom of civilisation, the written word.” – Jez Lowe

First there came the paper, Scraped straight from the wood,
Then came the pen and ink, Like a dagger dipped in blood,
Then came the printer, With his hammers telling tales,
Across the land by horses, Across the sea by sails,
Then came the envelope, The waxy seal and stamp,
The wind in the telegraph, The shutter and the lamp,
The curse of the telephone, The cyber dawn of day,
And then came the water, And washed it all away.
And washed it all away, And threw it at the shore,
And here it is, and here I am, Like flotsam at your door.
No-one left to telephone, No one left to text,
No-one at the last address, No-one at the next,
no-one there to write to, No-one there to call,
And me and all those slick machines, We’re nothing much at all.

 

THE SUN AND THE MOON AND ME (J.Lowe – Lowe Life Music)
Note – This song appears three times in the play, and twice on the CD, each time with different lyrics. Jez himself now performs this song in concert, and this is his version, encompassing a collation of the all three original versions.

Oh the sun and the moon and me,
We work together like we never knew better,
For they shine where the fish run free,
They guide with light and we cherish each other,
Let the wide blue yonder yawn,
But there’s not much sleep you’ll see,
It’s a long night’s watch ‘til dawn,
For the sun and the moon and me.

The sun and the moon and me,
We keep an eye on the wind and water,
But don’t trust that sly old sea,
She’s quick-silver tricky and twice as bitter,
She guards this crop we reap,
With fearsome jealousy,
It’s a long night’s watch we’ll keep,
The sun and the moon and me.

Oh the sun and the moon and me,
We gaze far off at the glittering cities,
We nod like we all agree,
But our hearts beat hard with their own pity,
We stare with cheap emotion,
At their wealth and majesty,
And we’re just a drop in the ocean,
The sun and the moon and me.

The sun and the moon and me,
We thought we shone but we’re only shadow,
Drifting from sky to sea,
With rust as cover, and cloud as pillow,
How long must one man wait,
How hard can one life be?
Is this to be our fate,
For the sun and the moon and me?

 

LIGHTNING MAN (J.Lowe – Lowe Life Music)
Note – This song was dropped from the play during rehearsals, and was replaced by another song, the very different NET MY FATHER LEFT ME. No recording of this exists, so the lyrics appear here for the very first time.

My grandfather he was a frightening man,
And he told me tales of the Lightning Man,
Scared a child nearly half to death,
He’d watch me shudder and catch my breath,
Then laugh like a clap of thunder,
He’d laugh like thunder.

My grandfather he was a fisherman,
And he sailed to the land of the lightning Man,
He swore those black-skinned buggers all knew
That their myths and tales were nothing but true,
Though they’d tell them and laugh like thunder,
They’d laugh like thunder.

They’s say beware of the Lightning Man,
With his clubs and his spears in his lightning hands,
His knees crack together and his elbows too,
And for a man to see him, it’s God help you,
He’d snap you clean asunder
Then he’d laugh like thunder.

No-one can call me a fighting man,
But guide my eyes you Lightning Man,
And lead me away from a watery grave,
And call me a fool or call me brave,
I’ll slap you back like thunder
And I’d laugh like thunder

‘Cos I don’t want to die a frightened man,
I’d rather follow that lightning man,
Sail through his anger and his fearful scorn,
And tell the tale like a man reborn,
I’d laugh in the face of thunder,
I’d laugh like thunder.

 

BLESSING AND CURSING (J.Lowe – Lowe Life Music)
Note – This song was a duet between the two male characters of the play, as they tried to justify their decision to leave the land for the sea.

Blessing and cursing the ground beneath me boots,
Blessing and cursing, me anchors and me roots,
Blessing and cursing the shell upon me back,
Blessing and cursing this freedom in your pack.
This way that way, life’s for blessing and cursing.

Blessing and cursing this water all around,
you drink or else you drown,
another working day,
you’d only waste away.
This way that way, life’s for blessing and cursing.

Blessing and cursing your neighbour and his noise,
the playground girls and boys,
the chiming of the hour,
the sweet and then the sour.
This way that way, life’s for blessing and cursing.

Blessing and cursing the world you’ve come to know,
the need to up and go,
the twitching of the thread,
the life you never led.
This way that way, life’s for blessing and cursing.

Blessing and cursing the time you’ve left to go,
the friends you used to know,
the chance to start anew,
the things you have to do.
This way that way, life’s for blessing and cursing.

 

SIREN MUSE (J.Lowe – Lowe Life Music)
Note – Jez’s favourite song from the play, sung on the album by Kate, and capturing one of the most atmospheric scenes of the play, as the sailors are adrift and about to meet with a shipwrecked visitor.

Smooth water run as smooth as skin,
Blue as a young girl’s eye,
White foam dripping on a wisp of spume,
White as a young girl’s thigh.

Sleep gentle on a deep sea sheet,
As deep as a young girl’s rest,
Swell subtle in the evening sun,
Like the swell of a young girl’s breast.

How you ever gonna leave me now,
How you ever gonna go,
Now you’ve seen what you’ve seen my love,
Now you know what you know.

 

THE NET MY FATHER LEFT ME (J.Lowe – Lowe Life Music)
Note – A last minute addition to the play, and a song that Jez very occassionally includes in his solo set, most recently as an unaccompanied vocal.

A tortoise might be cautious and a snail won’t win no race,
But just like me they’re often seen with a smile upon their face,
I don’t let material wealth or poverty upset me,
I keep my home and all I own in the net my father left me.

CHORUS
Oh the net my father left me, the net he left behind,
You must agree, it’s plain to see, no better could you find,
Wherever I may wander, nobody can forget me,
I’m known by all both great and small by the net my father left me.

It has a suit of clothes, a deckchair and a candy-floss man’s bell,
Pears and limes, the Radio Times and a reading lamp as well,
A mandolin, a siamese twin and a stranger’s guide to Stepney,
Some Shredded Wheat and a lavatory seat in the net my father left me.

CHORUS

I thought I was a handsome man, but all the girls ignored me,
But these days I have something that has worked such wonders for me,
Where once they would neglect me, now they hug and kiss and pet me,
They blink their eyes when they see the size of the net my father left me.

CHORUS

Late one night I beheld a sight that very few fishermen get,
I hauled away and found I’d caught a mermaid in my net,
You can take me home she said, but every day you’ll have to wet me,
There was quite a dish of meat and fish inthe net my father left me.

CHORUS

I met this man Da Vinci, once, and frankly he was glum,
He said he had to paint a girl with a smile like a mackeral’s bum,
I said said, I’ll stop Mona Lisa moaning, how much would you bet me,
I won the cash with one quick flash of the net my father left me.

CHORUS

So let the rain come pouring down and let the sky grow dark,
No matter yet how wet it gets, we won’t need Noah’s Ark.
There’ll be quite a queue when two by two those animals stroll gently,
And take their place, face to face in the net my father left me.

CHORUS

 

ALL TRAWL AND NO TICKLE (J.Lowe – Lowe Life Music)
Note – This song is another that has gained a life after the play. Jez used it briefly in his solo set a couple of years ago, but since then it has been a regular feature of the Bad Pennies’ gigs, sung by Kate. The lyrics have been altered slightly from the original, and these are the new words.

My last dry smoke just wished me well,
All trawl and no tickle,
And waved goodbye on an eight foot swell,
No more tickle for me.

Seven full sets of seasons, an ounce of tickle a week,
Last rub gone to the ocean where you don’t play hide and seek,
And it’s all trawl and no tickle,
No more tickle for me.

This home-port fever soon takes hold,
All trawl and no tickle,
But these days it just leaves me cold,
No more tickle for me.

Picture me on the quayside, bare-headed Sunday best,
With nobody there to meet me, to drink to my success,
And it’s all trawl and no tickle,
No more tickle for me.

These men who’ve shared my life so long,
All trawl and no tickle,
To home and heartstrings they’ll be gone,
No more tickle for me.

But my tickle tin is empty, my slate is sea-washed clean,
Thinking of where I’m going to, not where I’ve been,
And it’s all trawl and no tickle for me.

 

FIGHTING THE TIDE (J.Lowe – Lowe Life Music)
Note – The last song of the play, sung by the postman’s wife, after years of waiting for her husband’s return. The “message in a bottle” motif is another central theme of the play itself.

One tide pulls my hopes to where your heart is,
The next one throws them back to where they started.
One tide laps around my love and thrills it,
The next on esplashes anger at me and kills it.

CHORUS
And if this letter reaches you, then there’s nothing you can do,
For this loneliness inside me, Forever fighting the tide,
And it’s coming ever closer,
One more wave and it’s all over.

Inch by inch I take this wool and shape it,
But time grows the child we can’t escape it.
So I pull it back to yarn and start it over,
like I pull apart the life we had together.

CHORUS

Year grows long, the days grow only shorter,
And those that’s left are merely lambs led to the water.
So we build feeble defenses to the ocean,
It’s on her, not me you’ve squandered your devotion.

CHORUS

 

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