Category Archives: Songs

A Song for Valentine’s Day

Playing Maggie's song in the BBC studios

I was a guest on Sue Marchant’s Big Night In radio show the other day and took the opportunity to play this song live and dedicate it to my wife Maggie in time for Valentine’s day! I wrote it for her a few years ago and its on my new CD Dancing Through the Fire. Ironically its the only song of mine in which the movie industry has ever aken an interest, And for a while it looked as if it might be part of the sound track of a romantic movie. but the movie never got funding and the plans were dropped so I guess the title of the song turned out to be true after all!

I hope you enjoy it.  You can hear the full CD version with Oli Smith’s wonderful sax solo by pressing the play button or clicking on the title and the lyrics are posted below:

Movies s3 t3 m2

They Don’t Make Movies (Out of Love Like This)

All those people in the movies look so healthy young and tanned

And I know there’s nothing that they wouldn’t sell.

I can see their words of promise run like water into sand

So I draw my water from a deeper well.

When we wake up in the morning you can hardly face the day

And I see the courage other people miss,

As you spend yourself for others, as you keep the dark at bay,

But they don’t make movies out of love like this.




There’s no glamour like the magazines, no glitter like the stars,

No putting on the make-up to impress,

But we still stand together love, for all our battle-scars,

We hold each other’s hearts and still say yes.



You cant photograph fidelity, or merchandise restraint,

Your inner beauty wont be selling soap.

And sometimes from the outside it might seem that love grows faint

On the inside its renewed each day in hope.

So there’s nothing on the surface to attract a stranger’s gaze

There’s not photo-genic posed romantic bliss,

Just two people staying faithful through the darkest winter days,

But they don’t make movies out of love like this.



And its been a long day’s journey just to get us up to bed,

But we’re not too tired to share a loving  kiss,

And the truest and the deepest things are more than can  be said,

And they don’t make movies out of love like this.


Filed under imagination, Music, Songs

Dancing Through the Fire -My New CD

An invittion to my CD Launch

As I start gearing up for the launch of my new CD Dancing Through the Fire, at St. Edward’s Church on Wednesday 23rd November 7:30pm. I thought I’d take a moment to give you an overview of the themes and feel of the whole Album. In subsequent posts I’ll be putting up the lyrics, and links to the recordings of individual tracks. The physical CD will be available from the day of the launch and I am hoping that downloads, from CD Baby, iTunes, etc will be available by that time or fairly shortly after. I will keep everyone posted from this blog and on Facebook. I have already posted some of the lyrics in earlier posts on this blog and I will put hyperlinks to those posts in what follows.

The CD is a collection of 13 new songs, my first ‘release’ since 2007’s The Green Man, and is out on the same label, Cambridge Riffs.  The CD’s eponymous opening track sets the theme for the rest of the album; ‘dancing through the fire’ alludes to some  lines in TS Eliot’s Little Gidding;

From wrong to wrong the exasperated sprit proceeds

unless restored by that refining fire,

where you must move in measure, like a dancer’

Those lines in turn refer to the great moment in Dante’s Divine Comedy, when having been through Hell, and climbed mount Purgatory, Dante comes to the last circle of fire which will purify his love and allow him to return to the garden of Eden and be reunited with his beloved Beatrice, so that they can make a further journey together into Heaven. Dante’s whole poem is about the intimate interlinking of earthly and heavenly Love, and its own smaller way, that is also the subject of this album. After the opening song, which sets the story of Dante’s pilgrimage and ours, to a driving, danceable rocking blues rythm, all the tracks are in one way or another songs of earthly and heavenly love. they cover a pretty wide range of musical styles too, everything from rocking blues through folk to rootsy country, basically all the music I love! An amazing bunch of musicians showed up to help me make this album adding upright bass, cello, mandolin, banjo, trumpet, sax, even hurdy gurdy! i’ll rell you more about them and post some pics in subsequent posts. meantime heres a rundown of the tracks that follow on from the opener Dancing Through The Fire.

Love in the Red tells the story of a couple’s love for each other surviving the present financial crisis,  a crisis which is itself the wreckage of failed love in the earthly city.

A Song For Ruth tells the story of the welcoming love for the stranger, and the solidarity in grief that brought Ruth and Naomi together, in an economic crisis in biblical times.

They Dont Make Movies (Out Of Love Like This) is a song of Married Love and a personal tribute to my wife Maggie

Numbers, comes to grips, as Dante did in the inferno, with the sheer wastefulness of casual violence and the wreckage it makes, so easily and so quickly, of all that Love builds over the years.

Lente Lente, is about the need for peace, rest and playfulness, the slow, beautiful times and places an friendships where Love can be healed and renewed.

Fade Away is a little blast of vintage stonesy rock on the perrenial theme of lost love

Bridegroom Blues; in this song the Bridegroom sings to the Bride he wooed and won and gave his life for. He loves her in all her colours, He knows she’s in trouble, but He is going to pull her through and bring her to her to the Marriage Feast.

The Messenger. I’ve taken another leaf out of Dante’s book for this one.

Moonlight. This is a poem I wrote when I was 17, and set to music when I was 53. The seventeen year old who wrote this romantic, moonlit lament is still in me somewhere, and still needs to voice that mingled sense of love and loss. It seemed only fair for the fifty three year old to give him a chance.

Recipe for Love. a little lightening of the tone here. I sat down to write ‘a song of great social and political import’ but instead this cheeky little song popped out. Love and good cooking always go together.

Rolling in the Hedgerows/Old Tom of Oxford. Now here’s a love song to language and landscape. A poet’s song to his muse who is always a mixture of language and landscape, though in her mystery she is so much more besides. In some ways this is a companion song to The Green Man, with its love of the fields and hedgerows of the English countryside, the place of my earthly pilgrimage. It leads into  the birdsong from the hedgerows and Ferdia Stone-Davis’s beautiful rendition of the English Folk Tune Old Tom of Oxford, on her Hurdy Gurdy

Tiger Love; I close with another poem-turned-song. I wrote the poem late in 1978, when the most powerful love I knew, the tiger in my poem, was intimate human passion, the overmastering passion Dante knew and wrote about in the Vita Nuova. But, like Dante, I didn’t know what was coming next, or who would meet me in the woods, in the middle of my way, the following spring. As Old Tom said :’In the Juvescence of the year came Christ the tiger’!


Filed under Songs

St. Francis drops in on my gig!

St. Francis Jongleur de Dieu

This is a poem for Francis the poet, a song for Francis the singer. Indeed its a sonnet that started life as a song!

St.Francis loved the Jongleurs and  Troubadours that passed through Assisi. As a young man he played and sang for his friends. After his conversion and calling he carried through that joy of making verse and music, and his canticle of the sun composed and sung towards the end of his life is testimony to that. When I was a novice in the third order it happened that I was ofered a set of pub gigs that clashed with some of the third order prayer meetings. Without a moment’s hesitation the novice master sid to me “Play the gigs Malcolm, thats where Francis would be.”

Here’s a poem/song that arises from playing a pub gig on St. Francis’s day.

“Hard-core Troubadour” is the title of a great song by Steve Earle (but its not about St. Francis!)

As always you can hear it by clicking the ‘play’ button if it appears. Otherwise click on the title of the sonnet and it will take you to the player on the audioboo page.

St. Francis drops in on my gig

I didn’t think I’d find you in this place

I guess you must have slipped in at the back

I’m lifting my guitar out of its case

But seeing you I nearly put it back!

You smile and say that it’s your local too,

You know the ins and outs of inns like this,

The people here have hidden wounds like you,

And you have bidden them to hidden bliss.

‘Francis I’ve only straggled after you,

I’ve never really caught your melody,

The joy you bring when every note rings true…’

But you just laugh and say ‘play one for me!’

This one’s for you then, on the road once more,

The first, the last, the hard-core troubadour.


Filed under christianity, imagination, Songs

Happy Birthday Bob

As Bob Dylan celebrates his seventieth birthday I’ve been reflecting all day on how much I owe the man; more than I can say, more than I can pay. Even though sometimes buying his albums almost beggared me as a poor student, I have been repayed for my teenage scrimping and saving a thousand fold. What I’ve been given is a sound-track, a commentary, a critique of my life, but also an invitation to step beyond it, again and again into ways of being, seeing, and knowing I could never have otherwise imagined. Thanks Bob. By way of small tribute I am posting here a cover of Slow Train I recorded with my Band Mystery Train and an article on Dylan, the bible and poetry I wrote for the Tablet in december 2008. So here goes. Click on the tablet link at the bottom of this page to go to a pdf of the article: “Think Twice, It’s Alright”



Filed under Current affairs, Music, Songs

A Weaving Song

weaving on the loom

Here’s a little song I wrote a while back and recorded with a friend, a fine violinist, out in the fens. Its a fairly lo-fi recording I made myself, which I’ve only just discovered I still have,Its a song about the connections and textures of love and friendship. Its on soundcloud so I’ll post their player and then put the words below. If no player appears then just click on the song title.

silken patternings

A Weaving Song

The shawl you wear is soft and warm

and, cast about your shoulder,

it wraps around your beauty

as the autumn nights grow colder.

What cloth have we to clothe our souls

against a dark world’s weather?

O take these tangled threads with me,

we’ll weave that cloth together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

What threads have we between us love

to offer for the weaving?

Some bright with joy, some silver-grey

and some are dark with grieving,

some green and blue as earth and sea,

some soft as cloud and feather,

but side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave them all together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together


we bring each other single threads

in joy or sorrow spun

and with a word, a glance,a touch,

our weaving has begun

was ever there a softer bond

or such a treasured tether

as is the one you weave with me

that binds us both together?

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

Whatever colours fleck your thread

the same are seen in mine

but friendship interweaves them both

into a new design;

a common cloth that wraps us round

against the dark world’s weather,

as side by side, by warp and weft

we weave that cloth together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

The checkered cloth of nights and days

Is threaded through with gold,

it shines within the steadfast gaze

of love that can’t be told

The clothes you wear are soft as silk

and mine are tattered leather

but still our souls are clothed as one

in cloth we weave together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

single threads in joy or sorrow spun


Filed under imagination, Music, Songs

The Old Revolution

Three days of peace and music

In my last post I was reflecting a little on Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock. continuing in that vein I thought I’d post a little reflection in Ottava Rima about what went wrong with those dreams, prompted partly by a sense of hope and ferment in the air again. I think the real problem was that consciousness-changing insight somehow crumbled into consumerism. People felt that they could deal in and purchase bliss and joy, chemically manufactured, rather than letting it flower and fruit from deeply planted spiritual roots, but maybe next time it will be different. Anyway what follows is a kind of  ‘confession’ for a generation (not enirely and privately my own confession you understand, I was a little too young at the time for some of that stuff) but a confession of failure which can, I believe, be put right and begun again, but this time with prayer and meditation rather than easier and more delusory substances. Here it is ‘for what it’s worth’ (As Stephen stills would say)

As always you can hear it by clicking on the title or the play button.


I fought in the old revolution” Leonard Cohen

When I turned teen in nineteen-sixty-nine
I heard of revolution in the air,
Or on the air, in fact on ‘Caroline’.
Lennon and Lenin had so much to share
A change would come and change would be benign,
A fairer world, and all the world a fair.
‘Here comes the sun’ we sang to blissed-out skies
And thought the bomber jets were butterflies.

We conjured faeries out of every flower
But something wicked slipped out with the weed
Stoned circles never yet spoke truth to power
And groovers were grasped soon enough by greed.
For, after Altamonte, our world turned sour
And self-consuming souls turned onto speed.
The times were out of joint,oh cursed spite!
We thought that one more joint would set them right!

Now revolution’s once more in the air
Will we repeat mistakes we made back then?
We took a lot of everything but care
And we were just consumers in the end.
My counsel is no counsel of despair
It may not be too late to try again!
Our trips could never switch an institution
But just one crank can start a revolution.

someone started this

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Filed under Current affairs, ecology, economy, imagination, Poems, politics, Songs

Dancing Through The Fire

CD cover for Dancing through the Fire

CD Cover for Dancing Through The Fire (thanks to Karen Wells for the design, and Lancia Smith for the photo)

My new CD Dancing Through The Fire should be out this summer and I have begun to play some of the songs on it at gigs. The title track has provoked quite a lot of comment, so I thought I’d make some brief remarks here, give you a sneak preview (or should that be prelisten?), if you havn’t heard it live, and post the lyrics for you to read.

I’ve always been a big fan of Joni Mitchell’s song Woodstock which I first heard sung by CSNY. I loved the lines “We are stardust, we are golden, we are caught in the devil’s bargain, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden” but at the same time it seemed a little simplistic and naive to think that we could simply wish ourselves back to Eden, that we could simply dream ‘the bomber jet planes turning into butterflies above our nation’ and it would just happen. Well it didnt ‘just happen’ and for all the good dreams of the Woodstock Nation, human evil and everything that is anti-Edenic seems as deeply entrenched as ever. However, not long after I heard Woodstock I began to read a great poem in which the poet also recogised that we needed to get back to the garden but with this difference; he recognised that we needed to grow, to be purged and changed, to be made ready for the garden again. He saw that we would have to go through hell and recognise it for what it is, that we would have to climb a holy mountain and pass through water and fire before we got back to the garden. He knew that we could only make that pilgrimge if we had grace, good friends, and the love of God in Christ as our companions. That poet was Dante, and at the end of his Purgatorio (the second book of his Divine Comedy) he describes how he was enabled by his love of Beatrice and the love of Christ shining through her, to dance through the last circle of fire and meet her again in the garden. Dante’s desription of that moment was also crucial for TS Eliot in his life journey and he wrote in Little Gidding

“From wrong to wrong the exapserated spirit proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire where you must move in measure like a dancer”

Here’s Botticelli’s beautiful image of that moment

I guess Joni Mitchell and Dante and Eliot were all in my mind when I decided to write my own song about life as an acompanied pilgrimage, through which we are trying to break free from ‘the devil’s bargain’ and ‘get back to the garden’

I’m very grateful to members of Mystery Train who play on this track, to the wonderful Sophie Davies, who sings with me on this one, and to Mike Boursnell of Cambridge Riffs who plays on it arranges, and produces the whole thing.

so just click on the play button or the link below to listen to to an early mix (3.8) of my song and you can also read the lyrics below


Dancing 3.8

You were born to be a pilgrim.
born to walk the dusty road
born to scan the changing skyline
born to haul a heavy load
you’ve got friends to walk the road with
you’ve got music to inspire
and you will get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire

you have crossed through many rivers
left many memories behind
you have followed many footsteps,
gone down pathways you cant find
all the sirens on the sidewalks
cannot sell what you require
you will get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire

Br: And for all the hell you been thru
theres a mountain still to climb
and all that’s happened to you
can be seen there as a sign
at the summit is a garden
all encircled by the flame
where they burn away your burden
and they call you by your name

So you came out to the cross-roads
but you’ve got no-where to turn
you followed all the best roads
tried to read the signs and learn
theres an easy road goes down ward
but the true roads climbing higher
you will get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire

When you make it to the border
You’ll have nothing to declare
Just a heart that kept on beating
on the far side of despair
its time to give away your burden,
burn it on your funeral pire
so you can get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire.

When you finally climb the mountain
you’ll see the river through the flame
you’ll remember where you came from
you’ll hear the sound of your true name
on the other side of heart-ache
lies the heart of your desire
and you’ll get back to the garden
just by dancing through that fire


Filed under imagination, literature, Songs, Theology and Arts

Letting Go for Lent

Van Gogh’s painting of The Sower

Sing a song of sowing, of carrying the seed

A song of hopeful planting, to meet a future need,

Sing a song of letting go, and falling to the ground,

Of burying that feels like loss, still waiting to be found

These are the opening words of a lyric I wrote for Redemption Song, a play about the story of Ruth and Naomi, but they have come back to me as I turn my thoughts to the late Lent that starts this month. It seems fitting that Lent, a season for ‘letting go’ should coincide with spring, a season for sowing seed. Perhaps we should see our Lenten observance as the ‘letting go’ of a Sower of Seed, and not just the ‘giving up’ of an Abstemious Pharisee. If there are things we choose to do without, perhaps we should let them go into God, drop them as seeds, into the good ground of His Love, so as to receive them back at his hand, in another form and another season. This is what Jesus did for his forty days in the wilderness. He let go, and said ‘no’ to the temptation to make stones into bread, to make a private feast in the desert. But God took the seed of what he had ‘let go’ and it bore fruit a hundred fold when he broke bread in that same wilderness and shared it with five thousand. God gave him back what he gave up, but in a newer and better form, made possible by that first letting go.

And that was true of the deepest letting go of all. When it comes to Holy Week and Passiontide we shall see Jesus let his whole life go into God; “into thy hands I commit my spirit” he says from the cross. But that Good Friday ‘letting go and falling to the ground’, that ‘burying that felt like loss’ was the prelude to a glorious finding, and giving back on Easter Day.

Perhaps we can so ‘let go’ our lives into God this Lent that we may find that God has let his life go into us too, has planted his Love, His Son, as a spring-sown seed, to grow in our lives from Easter and Beyond.

Oh and by the way the lyric I mentioned above is from a song, also simply called Redemption, which I hope will appear on my next cd. Meanwhile the full lyrics are here and you can hear an early ‘mix’ of the whole song  here, or by clicking on the ‘play’ button below.


Filed under christianity, imagination, Music, paintings, Songs

Old Guitar, New CD

Old and Worn

Also Old and Worn

We’re at the mixing stage with my new CD Dancing Through the Fire and I thought I’d experiment with sharing some early mixes here Here is a link (or player I hope) for a track I may include called Old and Worn. If the button doesnt appear below you can try clicking on the song title where I give the lyrics below. This is an early take with just me playing both guitar parts and no other accompaniment.

Old and Worn

I was round rockin with the boys, they showed me all the latest toys,

They got gizmos now that could almost play the gig.

They like to tell me money talks, they sure can make those boxes squalk,

They say by spending out they’re bound to make it big


Chorus: But my Guitar is old and worn, made the year that I was born,

You could put it down as only wood and string

But when I open up that case and blow the dust from off its face

And lift it up, sometimes I swear I can hear it sing


Well I know the likes of you, you must have everything brand new

And you will trash it on the day its lost its sheen

And you know the likes of me you can leave me standing like a tree

But I’ve got roots and rising sap to keep me green


Chorus : And this Guitar that’s old and worn, made the year that I was born,

But its grown a tone that’s more than wood and string

And when I open up that case and blow the dust from off its face

And lift it up, sometimes I swear I can hear it sing


Now as I watch my life unroll, I read the poems on the scroll

And I do my best to savour every line

And every year that takes its toll, is laid down deep within my soul

But I can draw it up again like vintage wine,


Like this guitar etc.


Now this box of mellowed wood, sounds every bit as good

As the day its maker blessed it with a string

I can see it lying in the shade, remembering every note its played

And waiting for the day that’ll let that music ring


Cho: So I don’t mind my touch of grey, I’m not fearing for the day

When every buried seed is bound to have its spring

When Someone opens up my case, I’m gonna see Him face to face

And when I’m in my Makers hands He’ll hear me sing!

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Filed under imagination, Music, Songs

Collateral Magic!

malcolm and noel sing 'Blowing in the wind"

I’m just back from the CS Lewis Foundation‘s writers retreat/CS Lewis conference in Texas at which I was speaking on the subject of CS Lewis’s great sermon The Weight of Glory, and also singing and reading a little poetry. It was a truly extraordinary weekend. First up was a session on the  friday night called “Collateral Magic: a revolution in word and song, which I did jointly with the amazing Noel Paul Stookey, the ‘Paul’ of Peter Paul and Mary. He is a fabulous musician, a witty raconteur, but also, as I discovered over the weekend, a very gracious and spiritually grounded person. He is in a wholly different league from me, a million times better known and, musically far more articulate and experienced, so he could so easily have made me feel nervous, inadequate, or simply out of place, instead he made me feel completely at home, as if I really belonged up there playing at his side, just naturally as a fellow musician and songwriter. And that generous spirit was something that just deepened as the weekend unfolded. We opened by singing ” I shall be released” together and then alternated playing and discussing our own songs before we finished with “Blowing in the wind ” as a duet. To join in singing that particular song with someone who had known Dylan from the outset and had a hit with it before he did, and to sing it together in a context in which we both knew that the wind in which the answers are blowing is the Ruach, the Pneuma, the Holy Spirit of God, was unforgettable. Among the songs I sang were ‘The Green Man’ and ‘Angels Unawares’, and hearing his familiar voice sing the chorus on a song of my own was indeed a piece of ‘collateral magic’. In fact the whole weekend was magic and thronging with angels unawares, I’ll write more about it, and about what Lewis called “The inconsolable secret” as time allows, but meanwhile, if you have facebook, this should get you to a video of our rendition of The Green Man: Malcolm and Noel sing The Green Man


Filed under christianity, imagination, Music, Songs