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Songs: The Gay Train

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In Peterborough was where I was raised
And in my bedroom was where I spent most of my days
On a ZX Spectrum, as I've previously mentioned
So I did my 'A' Levels and I moved to Leicester
Well, I met a few people, I made a few friends
And this is the story about one of them
So come with me now on a journey through time
To when he moved to London, near the Northern Line

I was going down to Balham
When somebody said Let's go to Clapham
And see the Gay Pride Festival there
I got on the underground
Didn't really understand
The scene I'd see before me down there

And there were lesbians to the left of me
A gay choir to the right
And two terrified tourists quivering with fright
On the Gay Train
On the Gay Train, in 1994

The carriage guard looked very frightened
He wasn't being quite as enlightened
As I was trying to be
With Liberalism writ on my face
Looking very hetero, just in case
But no-one even tried to get off with me

And there were lesbians to the left of me
A gay choir to the right
And two terrified tourists quivering with fright
On the Gay Train
On the Gay Train, in 1994

Then they let off all these balloons
Each representing someone who
They knew who had died of AIDS
Everybody stopped acting quite so camp
And I remember thinking to myself that that
Was the most moving thing I'd seen all day

And there were lesbians to the left of me
A gay choir to the right
And this terrified tourist suddenly felt all right
On the Gay Train
On the Gay Train, in 1994

As my mate Mileage's Dad would say
It doesn't really matter if you're straight or gay
All that matters is love
And it's all love

Published by Wipe Out Music Publishing

When we started work on this album we decided to have a go at jamming some new stuff. I hadn't done this for years, (Jamming on your own tends to be a bit difficult) so was looking forward to it. This was our second attempt - the very first jam we had turned out a bit too GOTH. It is the First Rule Of Jamming that this will ALWAYS happen. My main memory of this bit of the process is asking to play a b minor, just for a change, and then getting all excited about the fine work the rhythm section were putting into it.

I sang some frankly appalling lyrics about wanting to stay home and watch Sergeant Bilko and The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air - I have always tried, when JAMMING, NOT to make up words as we go along as they always come out awful, and obviously things hadn't changed in the years since I had last jammed. Tim suggested that in future I could bring in some words from old songs or ones we hadn't already recorded, so that I wouldn't have to make such a tit of myself, and with this in mind I went into the archives and dug this one out.

The song was originally written in 1996 and appeared on my cassette What's So Bad About Being A Grown-Up with a completely different tune and without the start and end bits that are on it now. As the lyrics say, it was based on a time when I'd been down to London to see Mat from The K-Stars, and he, his girlfriend and I had trooped over to nearby Clapham Common to visit the Gay Pride festival. The trip on the tube happened exactly as stated in the song, including the carriage guards. That bit especially makes it all seem like very long time ago...

When we got there we had a fantastic day. We strolled around getting drunk, found that a Gay Indie Disco is almost exactly the same as any other Indie Disco except that there are slightly more women there, and discovered that the novelty of drag queens wears off very quickly indeed. One of my favourite parts of the day was when the three of us wandered into a tent, only for me to be barred from entering. When I asked why they told me it was a Lesbians Only Tent. The fact that Matthew had been accepted was something that has caused me much delight ever since.

The other, perhaps more worthy, part of the day was, again as stated in the song, when they released thousands of balloons, each one marking a death from AIDS. The field had been full of shrieks, screams and laughter all day and when it suddenly went quiet it was incredibly moving. We all stood together and watched all those white balloons float up into the sky each one like a symbol of love. Goodness me there were some tears at that point.

So yes, it's always been a song I'd liked and I was more than happy to get it out and get it working again. We thoroughly enjoyed playing it, as it was so nice and raucous, and once I'd got the idea to go "Whoo whoo whoo!" it was even better, although it took me a few weeks before I was brave enough to remind everyone of my first set of lyrics by singing the new "Fresh Prince" intro I'd written.

As for the "My Mate Mileage's Dad" bit - I knew we needed to have something extra for the final part of the song, as it felt right to keep on playing for a while but just yelping "The Gay Train!" again and again didn't seem to work. On the train home from Derby one morning I remembered a conversation I'd had with my good friend Mr Paul Myland in a pub one night. He was talking about how much he admired his Dad's outlook on life, and pointed out that while many men of his age and upbringing would bridle at homosexuals, his Dad always said that it was just another example of love, and that that, in the end, is all that really matters. I'd always thought it was a wonderful way to put it, so, frankly, nicked it.

It was one of the first songs we recorded when we got to Cornwall, as it's always been one of our favourites, and all was well. We had a policy for overdubs of always making sure at least one other person was in the control room with Mark The Engineer, just so that the person doing the overdubs didn't feel lonely, and always had someone to look to for help and ideas. We called it "Driving" and along with "Beer O'clock" it became one of our catchphrases for the week - such larks! I left Frankie driving the session when Emma did her vocals, whilst me, The Mesh On My Microphone and Tim and his two daughters headed off to the beach. When we returned I found Frankie and Emma both grinning gleefully about the huge bank of vocals they'd recorded for the end, and LO! when I heard it so was I!

Mixing was a bit of an exercise, as the violin had been recorded "dry" and the effects we'd used in recording hadn't carried across, so Tom had to go and record them again on his own. This worked out rather well, especially as it meant he got to visit our old pal Mr Kev Reverb in Memphis Studio, who did a sterling job. Mr Machine also did some excellent work with the Additional Production - all week in Cornwall we kept an ideas book, where we could make notes of possible additions to each song. I'd asked for a "low keyboard note" at the start, which I got, and for some sort of cheering over the Extra Bit we'd done - we'd stuck in a quick change of tempo halfway through, just to break things up a bit, and I thought it might sound like a bit of an old-fashioned Rave Tune if there was some applause there. It doesn't, not really, but still it sounds pretty good.

This, then, was probably the most complicated song we recorded - I thought jamming was meant to be easy?

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