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The Bird has wings…

8 April, 2016 Leave a comment

I know I said this was over and done with… But I have reason to return!

For those of you who follow(ed) this blog and hoped to hear what became of the lyrics written during this process then I have a pleasant surprise for you. Having left Morpheus Rising almost 5 years ago I was unsure what would happen with the lyrics I’d written and some of the musical ideas I had. I quickly decided I wanted to continue to write the songs, I wanted them heard, but I wanted to do them justice.

Five years later and I’m finally in the place I need to be to start working on these again and, hopefully, do them justice. Of course, they’ll sound nothing like I first envisaged, I wrote them with the guitars/style of Pete and Daymo in mind and I’m now working on them with my own guitar style with contributions from across the UK and beyond.

It’s coming together! Slowly, but there’s definitely movement.

Over the last few years I’ve had little or nothing to do with any bands, or music in general, other than as a voracious listener of all styles and genres. At least that’s the public face of it. In actual fact I’ve been slowly working away on my own songs, writing notes and lyrics, sketching musical ideas, teaching myself mixing and recording techniques, learning how to improve my ability to play the guitar (after a fashion) and generally keeping my toes in the water so to speak.

I’m now at the point where I have sufficient ideas and, perhaps more importantly, the promise of more free time which will allow me to focus more on actually working towards getting these ideas in to some form fit for public consumption. I’ve spoken to a few musicians I respect regarding contributing their talents to some of the tracks and, thankfully, they’ve agreed to assist me in fulfilling my aim.

The first of these collaborations was actually completed some time ago. As a first step I wrote, and recorded, the music for the Birdsong lyrics while I was in Kenya and recorded some basic tracks myself. I contacted my longtime friend Craig Hughes, a well respected solo musician and founding member of Dog Moon Howl, to ask him if he fancied writing some lead guitar parts. He got a bit carried away! I ended up with three additional guitar parts and a couple of stunning solos to add to the mix.

You can hear the work in progress version of the song on my new SoundCloud page, but be warned, there are still some rough edges to knock off. I hope you like it and please, if you do (or even if you don’t!), do share it any which way you fancy… The more people that hear it the merrier ;o)

In the coming weeks and months I’ll be writing on the blog on the new Scaedunengan site. I’ll pop back and update you once this has been set up and it’s all systems go.

In the meantime, I hope you like the track…

Lest We Forget…

10 November, 2010 1 comment
The Cenotaph at Whitehall is a memorial to mem...

Image via Wikipedia

I must first apologise to those few of you who read this blog. I  had intended to write much sooner after my return from R&R but circumstances haven’t been favourable for various reasons.

I don’t know when I’ll get to post this, suffice to say I’m writing it the Sunday prior to Remembrance Day and Op Minimise has been in force since 7AM. It’s been a sombre day with yet another British soldier being injured. This time I know the cause, and the injuries, and I’m appalled.

It’s at times like these that I question this life, not in the personal, suicidal tense but with regards to being a member of the Armed Forces as a career. Many people when confronted with a service person questioning their employment in this time of conflict ask “well, isn’t it what you signed up for?” In many cases this is an innocent, if naive, question, on others it is meant to draw debate. I know it’s not why I joined up, yes there was the awareness of the risk it may occur, but at the time I joined the Northern Ireland Peace Process was under way (albeit in its infancy) and Bosnia was beginning to ease its burden on our forces. By the time I’d completed training I found myself in Kosovo, since then there has been a constant stream of conflicts drawing us further afield, stretching us further and increasing the toll of dead and wounded each Remembrance Day.

It’s been said that with great power comes great responsibility but that’s just it; those who are out here do not have any great power, they are simply dedicated to a task which has fallen to them for whatever reason. They are no different to you or your neighbours, friends and family and yet the Nation expects them to face what no man should be asked to. Teenagers are forced to face their mortality, and their mates, on a daily basis, and all those who support them face the knowledge that the incessant procession of helicopters approaching Nightingale mean more of us have come closer, or too close, than any ordinary man should be asked to.

In 2008 when Morpheus Rising released An Ordinary Man in aid of HELP for HEROES I was criticised by fellow servicemen for the lyrics. Their argument was that we are anything but ordinary, we were a special breed, a breed apart. They missed the point. We are not extraordinary individuals, we do not have extraordinary powers, but we do face extraordinary situations and dig deep enough within ourselves to find the strength of character with which to face those situations. It’s a matter of camaraderie, fellowship and a common bond of respect for those whom have gone before which enable us to do what we do, whatever we do.

He’s an ordinary man
Why should he find himself doing these things
No ordinary man should be asked to do
He’s an ordinary man
just trying to do these things no one else can
He’s an ordinary man

The full lyric for An Ordinary Man can be found here. The song is currently available on the re-released single Fighting Man and can be purchased from iTunes and most online music stores as well as in CD format from Amazon UK and Morpheus Rising’s own store. Proceeds from the single are being donated to HELP for HEROES and the Royal British Legion‘s Poppy Appeal.

The personal impact however, is a different matter. What happens in this conflict and those things people see have an effect, a different one on each individual, but they will have an effect.

I remember speaking to a young Royal Anglian in hospital who explained that, despite having only served 4 years in the Army, he was leaving once he returned home. His reason? Not the fact that he had lost friends, nor the fact that he was lying in the hospital bed opposite mine having been injured by shrapnel from an RPG. His reason was the fact that he had joined the Army to be a sniper and he was out here doing just that. As far as he was concerned he had nothing left to achieve. He had joined the Army with a goal and that goal had been reached. Time to leave.

There are others who go home with a desire to return, they relish the challenge, they crave the adrenalin, they want to avenge their friends.

There are those who return home physically intact but shadows of the men they once were. PTSD, or shell shock as it was once known, is now widely accepted as a serious condition which needs treatment and care. In years gone by it has been ?? as cowardice, madness or an excuse. It is not. It is a reaction to something which has been seen, been done, even heard, which that individual’s character has decided is too much to deal with head on. It manifests itself in a different wat with each person who suffers. It is prevalent and it needs to be dealt with.

In reality everyone questions there involvement in a conflict such as this. Whether the reason is religious, moral or ethical, at some point every man jack will question the validity of the decisions made in the heat of conflict or the peaceful corridors of power. It is this journey of self discovery which will determine the type of person we are. It is the revelations we become aware of through that process which will determine the people we will become.

They ask me where I’ve been,
And what I’ve done and seen.
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn’t I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands…
Though I must bear the blame,
Because he bore my name.
‘Back’, Wilfred Gibs

On Thursday November 11th at 11AM I hope you will all observe two minutes silence. Not just for those who have already paid the ultimate sacrifice, or those who find themselves at Headley Court, but also for all those Fathers, Sons, Daughter and wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, relatives and mates who find themselves out here doing their job. After all, it’s what they joined up for isn’t?

P.S. Since I wrote this we’ve been on Op Minimise continuously…

Mid-Season Break

11 October, 2010 Leave a comment

Yes, I know I only posted yesterday, but it’s my party!

Unless something exceptionally noteworthy occurs in the next 48 hours this may well be the last post for a couple of weeks. On this blog at least. Why? Quite simply because I’m due my R&R soon and intend to spend the time catching up with family and friends.

I took the time to look over the posts on here today and have come to a conclusion; it’s been a hell of a ride so far! Emotions have run high, and low, tempers have flared, lyrical juices have ebbed and flowed, but one thing’s for certain…

I’m shattered!

So, it’s lie ins under the duvet, cuddles from the kids, cuddles from the wife, days out with the family, live music at night, and no boots for a fortnight!

In the meantime, here’s something I prepared earlier:

Flip Side

Waiting on something you don’t even know is on it’s way,
every day seems a lifetime as you wait for the call to let you know it’s ok,
you don’t want to worry but the night’s seem longer every day,
holding on to thoughts and memories of glory days

Waiting on the call to let you know it’s all a-ok,
getting back to the life you left behind you on your way,
it’s the little things that matter out here so they say,
it’s about time they called to let you know you can have your say

Different sides of life,
Balanced on a knife,
I’ll catch you on the flip side
Counting down the time
Waiting on the line
I’ll catch you on the flip side

Holding back the tears as you listen to your life fall apart,
trying to control the locomotive beating of your heart,
a simple knock on the door left you lying on the floor,
as you saw for the first time your nightmares come rushing to the fore

Guilt rides high as you balance your frustration with the cost,
it seems a small price to pay when you think of all that’s been lost,
petty little dreams take on whole new meanings in the light,
as you think of the reason you’re sworn to silence in the night

Different sides of life,
Balanced on a knife,
I’ll catch you on the flip side
Counting down the time
Waiting on the line
I’ll catch you on the flip side

And rest… See you in November.

P.S. You can keep up with all that’s Morpheus Rising on our band blog and on Facebook. And, if you’ve been given food for thought by any of the posts in this blog then please pop over to this page and lend your support, I would personally appreciate it as would everyone who benefits from the charities involved.

Categories: Lyrics, Personal

Wasted Days…

6 October, 2010 Leave a comment

The whole reason for this blog was to document the writing process for material for the band I sing with, Morpheus Rising, while on tour in Afghanistan. As with all things it seems to have grown legs and formed a life of its own. I always intended to write about songs I listened to as well, and various aspects of life out here, but it seems to have been so much more than that so far. And today is more of the same.

One aspect of this life I have never been able to reconcile with my role as husband and father is the amount of time I spend away, missing birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and other holidays. and this time is no different. I’m due to miss Christmas and New Year (again), my eldest daughter’s 18th (not that she’d want me cramping her style!), my younger daughter’s 13th and today… Well, today is the birthday of the most important person in my life and, yet again, I wasn’t there to celebrate and make her feel as special as she deserves.

When I was younger I used to listen to songs which meant something to me as they seemed to echo my experiences at the time. There were loads of them, some were up beat and full of life, others not so much. Through the years many of them have continued to have meaning and I usually find one to fit my mood, forcing me further into despair (in an effort to shake myself out of it), or lifting my spirits to a point where nothing else matters. Not so today.

So, today, I found myself trying to find something to voice my thoughts, air my concerns, but instead I found myself making up my own. As with ‘Another Life’ which I wrote earlier on this tour, I’ve written something which may not fit within the Morpheus Rising stable, but nevertheless I think it belongs on this blog which has become so much more than a diary of an album’s lyrics.

Special Days

Another one passes by
Did I say goodbye?
Should I?
What am I doing here?
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Looking out over the sands of time
Who’s watching over you
That labour should be mine

Time seems to fly
Did it really go by?
But I
I shouldn’t be here
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Leaving all of you behind
I should watch over you
More of the time

These special days will never return
These special days should be the greater good
Making up under cover of cold dark nights
Time spent together putting the world to rights
These days we’re wasting should all be special days

Little boys cry
Girls starting to drive
Flying by
I should be there
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Looking out for all that’s mine
I should be there
More of the time

These special days will never return
These special days should be the greater good
Making up under cover of cold dark nights
Time spent together putting the world to rights
These days we’re wasting should all be special days

To Rose, and my three beautiful children, I’ll see you soon.

North of Nowhere

24 September, 2010 Leave a comment

I wrote in the previous entry of my recent trip and the Danes that I met there. I talked of the traits I saw in them. One I didn’t mention was their renowned fierceness as warriors. History has proven the Danes to be great warriors and their involvement in this current conflict is doing nothing to harm that reputation.

I also mentioned an ‘interesting’ flight home after my visit and said I would write of it in this entry…

Once my work was done it was time for me to return to the safe confines of our desert bastion. On arriving at the departure point I was met by the normal rag-tag individuals heading onwards to their journey home and people going back to their base after a visit for whatever reason. There was also, on this occasion, a group of Danes with enough kit between them to finish the war!*

The LPC advised that these modern vikings were to board first with the rest of following on, we’d then be ferried ‘home’ before they were forwarded to their final destination.

All that changed as soon as the ride landed and the LPC spoke to the loadie, we were bustled on first, including the working dog on his way home for a medal, ann were followed on closely by the squad of tooled up Scandinavians all grunting, back slapping and showing each other the Devil‘s Horns (a la Ronnie James Dio \m/). The lights went out, the rotors changes tone and we lifted into the moonlit night…

I don’t know where we went, I do know it was vaguely North, and after an indeterminate length of time (it’s best to snooze on these journeys) we touched down, and waited…

The rotors surged again and we were once again lifted into the moonwashed skies and heading North(ish). This leg was slightly longer and I tried, once again to doze, to no avail… Even behind closed lids the brightness of the defensive flares are blindingly bright. Given the fact they have to divert attention await from the heat of the turbine engines keeping this thing in the air I can understand it, but it was a bloody rude awakening! After watching through the domes perspex window as the pale grey landscape rushed by not too far below I drifted of into slumberland once more. I was rudely awakened by the sound of weapons, more grunts and back slapping and shouts of ‘two minutes!’ as these guys readied themselves to disembark God only knows where… I must admit to being a tad concerned when one turned to my mate and, with two fingers held in a Churchill manner, shouted ‘two minutes!; at him and looked at the two of us! (Not bloody likely was both our initial responses.)

By this time we could feel the bird dropping fairly quickly and I glanced out the window again to see… nothing. There was a huge vista of  pale grey with light and dark patches here and there but no light, no activity, and more importantly to my defensive mind, no cover.

As we pulled a hand-brake turn (I don’t know how else to describe it) and  touched down they launched themselves into the great unknown (although I’m sure they knew where they were!) and dispersed themselves into defensive positions. We them lifted off and headed back from whence we came. This leg of the journey was far less eventful with little or no chaff or flares and a far greater height being reached. Having embarked on a 15 minute ride on a Chinook I arrived back safely over 80 minutes later.

I mentioned last night that this flight had spawned some lyrical musings. Here’s the bare bones…

Day’s over, the job’s all done
High time now to hightail it home
Light of day in dark of night
Full moon’s overhead

We’re not alone, there’s more to come
For some work’s just begun
Light’s out, head down
All Hell’s gonna let loose soon

Dark of night, flares so bright
We’re headed North of Nowhere
All tooled up, let’s stir it up
We’re headed North of Nowhere

Moon rides high, light’s up the sky
Washing sand and village white
Signs of life show down below
Dropping down, it’s time to go

Dark of night, flares so bright
We’re headed North of Nowhere
All tooled up, let’s stir it up
We’re headed North of Nowhere

* I know we’re not at war, but I hope you’ll allow a little poetic license!

Lords of the North (The Vikings are here!)

23 September, 2010 1 comment

Three years ago I found myself the guest of the Danish Battalion (DanBat) deployed to Afghanistan. Having moved forward from Kandahar before it was actually achievable we found ourselves without any of the life support necessary to accommodate a Squadron Headquarters and, to their credit, the Danes went out of their way to put us up the best they could. We had a roof over our heads and beds to lie on and that was about it. There was no aircon or other comforts and that continued until we managed to wedge ourselves into the camp of a British infantry battlegroup.

My memory of the Danes from that period is of a group of very tall, very calm and very likeable individuals. Nothing seemed to ruffle them, they were industrious, determined and, in our case, very welcoming. They seemed to epitomise my vision of the Scandinavians and only strengthened my opinion that the people of Northern Europe are how we should all hope one day to be, polite, focussed and proud.

Fast forward three years and I’ve walked into a well established rear location which allows a Squadron Headquarters to function in what many out here would consider luxurious conditions. Air conditioning, a ‘real’ office environment for work, and salubrious accommodation for sleeping in.

From this gilded tower I flew (slightly) North a day or so ago to touch base with one of our detachments. And once again I was to find myself a guest of the Danes.  The last 24 hours have been one hell of an education for me.

The DanBat are responsible for an expansive and important swathe of land in this area and yet, in the safe confines of my everyday environment, despite knowing the equipment I had deployed and the work our guys were having to do to maintain the existing infrastructure and their efforts to accommodate the plans for expansion I had no idea just how dependant they were on our assistance. It’s nice to know that, in some small way, I am able to repay their benevolence of three years ago. Promises of effort, and little advances in their aspirations, resulted in genuine platitudes which initially seemed slightly overdone until it was explained just how dependant on these they actually were.

This visit has done nothing but cement my opinion of three years ago, but it has also added a new dimension to it. As well as the traits they showed before I now know how much they deserve the respect they so rightly have earned. Despite their equipment shortcomings, and their dependence on our help they as forging on, punching above their weight, in a fashion reminiscent of the Danes we came to know as Vikings. And their countenance does nothing but reinforce that image. Tall, blonde, muscular and square featured describes more than a majority of these proud warriors (and more than a few had the obligatory beard!). Towering men, statuesque women, who carry themselves in a manner which portrays strength and pride.

Three Nations mourn... Flags at half mast in Afghanistan

A mark of respect.

The day I arrived the Danes had lost one of their soldiers and the flags in camp were flying at half mast when I arrived, they were still flying at half mast as I left.

I’m glad they’re on our side.

I’m now safe at ‘home’ despite an interesting flight back*, I think I’ve found inspiration for the next new lyric, but in the meantime one of the lyrics from Morpheus Rising‘s back catalogue seems more than fitting. To the ‘Lords of the North’:

Born of these Northern lands,
Tracing the line back to the time when the Gods of old still roamed
They’ve come here before, they’ll come here again
With an iron hand

Destined to rule these lands
The blood in my veins is the blood of kings
I’ve come here before, I’ll come here again
With an iron hand

Out of the mist they came,
Sailing across the sea from the land where the Gods of old still roamed
They’ve come here before, they’ll come here again
With an iron hand

Leaving the land in flames
Riding across the plains to the place that I call home
They’ve come here before, they’ll come here again
With an iron hand

I am a Lord of the North
I am a Lord of the North

This land will always belong to me
This land will always be free
It will always be free

This land will always belong to me
This land will always be free
It will always be free

I am a Lord of the North
I am a Lord of the North

I am a Lord of the North
I am a Lord of the North

Lord of the North
with an iron hand, Lord of the North
Lord of the North
I’ve been here before, Lord of the North

Written & Arranged by Harwood/Tennick  © 2008

* I’ll write about the flight ‘home’ the next time, just now I need to get some notes down for the lyric…

A Little Inflammatory Rhetoric

22 September, 2010 Leave a comment

As far as I’m aware Jesus and Mohammed were great advocates of peace. As were most prophets through the ages.

Not the peace we forge in these days of Government funded conflicts in the name of global stability and world peace. Peace in the true sense of the word, ‘love thy neighbour’ and all those sayings which are paid lip service the world over in quaint old buildings in villages and suburbs as people search for meaning to their existence.

Peace of the kind promoted by the very Gods that armies wage war in the name of.

The World Peace monument in a pond next to a s...

Image via Wikipedia

This is not a new occurrence by any means. All through history nations and alliances have waged war in order to prove their Faith is the one true religion. And they have done so with the impunity only secured by the knowledge that their belief is justification in itself for their actions.

Okay, enough already!‘ I hear you cry!

Yes, I know it’s all a bit heavy but, as I’ve stated before, it’s the whole premise behind this blog’s title. (Look closely…)

Despite the premise that this is a ‘War on Terror‘ everywhere you look there are religious icons to be seen. Crosses made of wood or brass shell casings, Stars of David, Crescents, you name it and you’ll find it here. Each of the sides have their religious elders along for the ride and they hold religious services to glorify the sacrifices made, on both sides.

This, in my Devil’s Advocate of a psyche, raises the question: Are we on a crusade? It was this question that raised its ugly head late last night while I struggled to get to sleep. It was this question that rattled around the empty space that I had been trying to fill with some words to put to the latest track I’d received from Pete. And it was this question which grew to form the lyric I have been searching for, for weeks.

This is not the peaceful, introverted or reflective lyric I’ve produced of late. To be honest I’m a little surprised by its anger, but I’m also pleased with it, as I am with everything produced so far…

Down through the ages they’ve answered the call, they’ll answer again
In history’s pages the worthy stood tall, will they stand there again?

The soldiers of freedom with faith as their guide, they’ll answer the call
Taking lands from the heathen regardless of right, their armies will fall

Holy Wars, fought in whose name?
Holy Wars, always in vain
Holy  Wars, who counts the cost?
Holy Wars, humanity’s lost
In the name of the Cross
This is the Last Crusade
Is this the Last Crusade?

Facing down evil at every turn
This is the reason you answered the call
Seeking redemption through others demise
Can’t you see reason? It’s all just a lie!

As hordes stand against them they’ll fight to the end, no matter the cost
When the world stands against them it’s time for the end, we can’t pay the cost

Holy Wars, fought in whose name?
Holy Wars, always in vain
Holy  Wars, who counts the cost?
Holy Wars, humanity’s lost
In the name of the Cross
This is the Last Crusade
Is this the Last Crusade?
This is the Last Crusade
Is this the Last Crusade?

Answers on a postcard…