Songs

This section is intended to cover the background and interpretation of Ricky's songs. The current information is either taken from interviews, or Ricky's own introductions to the songs from his many live performances. Any input will be added to this page. Mail it to steve@circuslights.com I'd like to develop this into people's own interpretations of songs.


So Long Ago

The Germans Are Out Today - Ricky's introduced this song a lot on his solo shows. He's described it as a memory song for his father, who joined the RAF just after the Second World War started, and ended up stationed at an RAF base close to Dundee.


Raintown

Most of this section comes from a promo tape called 'Ricky Ross introduces Raintown'. I'll add more over time.

This set of songs is generally about the way the geography of a place can affect the way you feel about yourself and people around you.

Born In A Storm/Raintown - 'The first two songs are similar in theme and opposite in style. Both are in different ways connected the working life. Raintown is a song for my missus in a job that wasn't doing her any good and Born In A Storm is about the tensions that this can bring. The slight twist in the tale is that Born In A Storm was written on one of the many lost afternoons I had during unemployment with the rain battering down at the windows.'

Ragman - 'is about the strong will and bright hope which arrests you when your approaching being an adult,and the disapointment that grown up life brings.'

He Looks Like Spencer Tracy Now - 'is a portrait of a man forty years on from what he conciders his personal zenith. It's my response to a feature in Time magazine on Harold Agnew, an American nuclear physicist who wanted to collect personal photographs of the Hiroshima bombing. Most of the detail comes from the piece in Time by Roger Rosenblatt.'

'After this song was finished I didn't like the smugness and the tone that I'd put down I honestly didn't know what I would have done if I was in the situation that Harold Agnew was in. So I hope maybe there is a regretful kind of character there, or at least a sad one. And I added the main refrain 'He cries all night'.'

Perkin Warbeck claims to have been Ricky's scientific advisor on the song. Go read the Radio-Radio section on his site for his views!

Loaded - 'This is a sad song about money. I thought it would be good to set down a song about the feelings we got when we first spent some time in London as a band last year and met a different lifestyle head on. I got really angry when I heard Rod Stewart say on the radio that 'your politics change when you've got a bob or two' he's probably right but I hope not. If we ever get better jobs than this one you can bring this matter up with us.'

'Loaded was a real awareness of a whole lifestyle we'd never even seen before. I'm not saying I was ever poorly off; I was brought up in a good middle class home but it did throw us for a while.'

Graeme: 'It really was so diametrically opposed. The first time Gordon (Charlton, A&R man) took us out for a meal, we went to Mortons. (Trés exclusif Berkeley Square establishment.) It was so far removed from the amount of money we had in our pockets. We'd all been living reasonably frugally and suddenly there were gold AmEx cards flying all over the place.'

Ricky's intro to the song from the Glasgow shows earlier this year - 'Is this song about A&R men in London? Yes'

When Will You... - 'This song is probably one of the simplest lyrics about one of the hardest things to deal with longing and rejection.'


Riches

Riches - 'This was written for a friend called Jim Punton. He was (his own words) 'youth leader, ex- Church of Scotland minister. interested in radical theology and an enthusiast for the kingdom'. He died in May 1986 after a long illness. At the time, I searched around for things he'd written or said. I found an old tape from a conference in Dundee in 1979. In talking of the possibility for better human relationships, he said 'the vision I see is greater than I am'. This statement sums Jim up better than I ever could.'

Which Side Are You On? - 'Loaded was out during the June '87 General Election. This seemed appropriate. I first heard the song by 50s folkies The Weavers. It was written for a mining dispute in Harlaw County in the 30s. Dick Gaughan re-worked it for an eighties miners album.' Last verse (on the released version) is by Ricky.

Kings Of The Western World - 'Sister song to Dignity the perennial 'work' theme of '86-'87. It was suggested leaving it off the album by Paul Russell, M.D. at C.B.S. I think he was right. as it fits in less well with the Raintown songs.'

Church - 'Demo recorded at Park Lane in Glasgow. We tried to re-master it, but the demo was better - hence backing vocals by Carole Moore.'


When The World Knows Your Name

Real Gone Kid - Inspired by Maria McKee, at the time the lead singer in Lone Justice. Ricky saw her at a gig, at the Marquee in London. The second verse is about someone was in love with at the time.

Circus Lights - Written (and demoed) during the recording of Raintown. Raintown was recorded at Air Studios above Oxford Circus in London. If you've ever been to Oxford Street over Christmas, you'll know there's always some very impressive Christmas lights, (there's a pretty poor set of photos on the front page of this site.)

This Changing Light - Written on the way back from Spain. 'The Spanish-Glasgow connection suddenly occurred to me as I was trying to find a way of dealing with the last ten years (the Thatcher era) and what's happened to Scottish people. The basic statement in the lyric, for kids of seventeen or eighteen years old who buy the album, is that I want you to know that this place you're living in is utterly changed, utterly.'

Fergus Sings The Blues - Jim - 'we were actually, the funny thing is we were actually out in America at the time when I actually picked up on the music for it. And brought it back and it just kept going round in my head but it was definately written with that in mind you know that kind of R&B kind of feel to it'
Ricky - 'Lyrically it was a thing I'd sworn I wouldn't do, it was very serious and kind of solemn and pretentious.And I basically realised that the whole thing Jim had come up with was an R&B track which reminded me a lot of the kind of music that I like, Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett and I thought it's always an intriguing idea why Scotland has produced so many soul singer and blue eyed soul acts and R&B bluesy kind of things. And I thought I'd kind of write a song in the persona of the blues singer and the kind of R& B singer kind of waking up in the morning and having a shave and just kind of, you know, last night he was on stage being James Brown and here he is in the morning sitting the reading the sunday post and eating his cornflakes, you know what does it feel like?'

Orphans - Ricky has described this song as the Scottish national anthem. It was written on a train journey from London to Edinburgh. On the train there were a number of orphaned kids, and a drunken Scotsman who was haranging everyone who wasn't Scottish. Tactlessly he asked the kids where their parents were, and when they told him they were orphans, he said 'What real orphans?'


Ooh Las Vegas

Disneyworld - Ricky wrote this song as Ronald Reagan's farewell speech.

Long Window To Love - This song was written just after the 1987 election. So, 'Taking Down The Signs' refers to removing the Labour posters after the election, and 'Been Forgotten By The People Sent To London'. I'm sure I heard once that this song was written at Oldham Station. During the Homesick tour (in 2001) Ricky said that the band had been touring extensively in 1987, and were given a rare day off in Oldham, just after the general election. He saw someone up a ladder, scraping away at a 'Vote Labour' poster ,and this then inspired the song.

Don't Let The Teardrops Start - The bands favorite drinking song. Written after the November 1988 Govan by-election, at which Jim Sillars, the SNP candidate, overturned a 19500 seat Labour majority.


Fellow Hoodlums

James Joyce Soles - Inspired by a BBC play called 'Down Where The Buffalo Roam.' There was a US Naval base, on the Holy Loch, and the BBC Play was set there. The play was about an American who had to write a letter to the parents of a guy who had been killed. James Joyce Soles was actually performed live a few times in 1988.

Fellow Hoodlums - 'I wrote Fellow Hoodlums, which is a nostalgia song about a guy in Glasgow, and it caused two things to happen. First, the lyrics suggested a whole lot of other ideas - little things about Glasgow, incidents which might become songs - and I suddenly found I was getting back to being really happy here. Happy in this town, happy writing about it and getting deeper and deeper into the place and the relationships here. I didn't want to just skin round the city or view it from a long way off, I wanted to get right under the buildings...Set the songs right in there amongst all the ebb and flow of it.'

'And the second thing that happened with the Hoodlums track was that I found myself really struck by the arrangement: I started to hear the things that I liked about Richard Thompson's records in the '70s. The simplicity of it. A guitar, a bass, a drum, a vocal. I thought, 'when I go out to make this record, I want it to sound like that.' The title comes from a speech given by the newly elected mayor of prohibition era Chicago. His inaugural speech starts 'Fellow Hoodlums, thankyou for electing me...'

Twist and Shout - Written while the band were touring in Germany, in early 1990. (If the story I've heard is right, they were in Bonn.) Lorraine fell ill, and ended up in hospital. Ricky wrote the song after various trips to the hospital. So now you know who the 'pale girl in a blue room' is.

Goodnight Jamsie/I Will See You Tomorrow- Written after the sudden death of Lorraine's father.


Whatever You Say, Say Nothing

Your Town - Back at the time this song was released, whenever Ricky was asked about this song, he used to laugh, and say that he thought it was really obvious! There's one classic interview where Ricky is asked whether this is a love song, and he just describes it as a hate song. If you haven't worked it out, it's about 'Thatcha' (with apologies to Spitting Image).

Bethlehem's Gate - 'It's very hard to say what it's about. The starting point of it was in 1989, we were going off to tour in Australia and we were going to be away for quite a long time, and we were off to America after that. A friend of ours organised a barbecue for us up at Loch Lomond in the summer, it was one of the most gorgeous nights on the banks of the Loch and it was just brilliant, everything was possible - Lorraine and I were together, we were in a band which was really nice to go on tour together, we were going off and it was a really exciting time. Lorraine's dad was there, who died 6 months later, and it was one of those magical nights that looking back on it everyone was there and the feeling was that anything was possible. And it was just really a song about that - about the possible. It was brought together later on by a friend of mine in America. It was about my belief in the centrality of the nativity story, the Christmas story, to life - that whatever you believe in, that's a big bit of life. It was saying, well, birth is very important and incarnation's important and the fact that, if you have a God that came as a child born in a stable, there's something kind of big about that, there's something kind of incredibly interesting about that. It's not necessary the kind of message you get thrown at you if you ask 'what is Christianity?', that's not often the story that you get, but I think it's a big part of the story which to me is a very interesting bit. And the kind of faith that I got was - that was just a nice thing to do at Christmas, give presents and put up trees and all that. But this stuff was about - all things are possible. I suppose I'm a great believer in apparently lost causes, I'm a great believer in the gospel and the whole business about being a song writer is about imagining the possible.'

Fall So Freely Down - 'There's a lot of songs on that album about expecting a baby. When we made the album, Lorraine was 6 months pregnant and literally she was singing all the songs looking very pregnant and so it was very much part of the writing process of that record. Birth was a big thing for me at that time and 'Bethlehem's Gate' was one of the first songs at that time and subsequently I started writing more and more songs like that and 'Fall So Freely Down' was very much a song about expecting a child.'


Our Town

Still In The Mood - 'Sometimes you take ages to write a song and sometimes you're literally 5 minutes from home and your just singing something in the car. I was literally in the car, got home went straight upstairs put the cassette recorder on and sang it into the microphone. And then the next day tried to find more intresting chords to go with it, but, had to admit it's just three chords! I put a key change in it and a little harmonica solo but it was very, I mean its a very simple song but I'm very pleased with it.'


What You Are

Good Evening Philadelphia - 'It was basically about a Scottish rocker from a band who I met in Los Angeles when we were on tour in America and he'd just become the kind of rock cliché - eating bagels and being 'Yankee Doodle'. The basic principle of that song was to try and be quite honest and say people get into pop music and rock music because they love it, they don't get into it because someone said to them - 'you should get into rock music'. And if you loose that as the essence of it, that's when it becomes., the whole thing is the fact that I need you more than you need me and that's the reality of it. If people get fed-up with Deacon Blue or when we split up, people just moved onto something else. It's like whoever's the biggest star in rock and roll at the moment - if Oasis don't make another record they'll be a time when people say that's a real shame but eventually someone else bigger will come along. The need is really from the people who actually make it, you love music so much that you want to make it. 'Philadelphia' was actually a joke, I was basically saying that if we disappear off the face of the earth, the only way that the traffic's going to stop for us, is if an angel comes down and miraculously makes it happen - we're not any big deal.'

Jack Singer - Written about the stage fright Ricky suffered (and I find this hard to believe) when Ricky first performed after the breakup of Deacon Blue.

Wake Up And Dream - Written on the 1994 Deacon Blue tour. The band were at Sheffield, staying in the same hotel as Torvill and Dean, and Ricky met them in the evening. The following morning, Ricky woke up to the news that John Smith (the Labour Leader) had died.


New Recording

Blue Horse - Ricky's dedicated this song to Georgia at least once, so I'm guessing that many of the lyrics are things that she's said.

The Further North You Go - There's two people in this song. The female part is a right wing student, on her way up to St Andrew's University. The male part is a Dundonian. This song was originally recorded by Deacon Blue, but never released.

I Love You - 'Boo Hewerdine - who was in the band 'The Bible' said to me one night - 'I've got this pal of mine that said to me - I bet you could never write a song called 'I Love You' because it's such a cliché'. Boo said he bet that he could and went away and wrote one. He thought that's a great idea, let's ask loads of people to write songs called 'I Love You' and we'll release a charity album of songs called 'I Love You', so he asked if I fancied doing one. So I wrote one and I recorded it and I was so happy with it that I didn't really want to tell Boo about it, I really liked it and as it happened it was getting towards the end of Deacon Blue's life and it was becoming irrelevant to what we were doing so I demoed it for the last album but it didn't fit into the album musically with the rest of the songs on 'What You Are', although it would have fitted in lyrically perfectly, it was a real cruel, child killing album. This song would have fitted in perfectly with that, it's really a song about a woman who takes a child down to the river and puts the baby in the river. But I've done it more 'up', it's the only vaguely 'up' thing on the whole record and I might make a film with it because it's perfect for it.'


Walking Back Home

Walking Back Home - Written about Hogmanay 1980, in Dundee. Warbeck (namechecked in the song) is the owner of the "unofficial" website. The place names in the spoken section at the end of the song are all in Dundee.

Jesus Do These Hands Still Feel The Rain - Originally written and recorded for the Jeff Bridge's film "Blown Away" in 1994. The film company moved it to the end of the film, and then cut it out all together, so it basically sat in the vaults. The band re-recorded it for the album.


B Sides and More

Long Distance From Just Across The Road - 'An attempt to rewrite Shore Leave by Tom Waits.'

Golden Bells - Ricky won't tell anyone what this song is about - all he says is that it is very personal. I'm guessing it's related to Goodnight Jamsie.

The Friends Of Billy Bear - About a larger than life Glaswegian, who strolls around the streets after chucking out time, rattling windows, and kicking over bins. Ricky says that these characters usually end up floating down the Clyde.


This Is The Life

Ricky has described the theme of the album as being songs written about his friends. He said he liked the idea of playing songs to his friends while they were still alive - unlike many of the songs on What You Are, written about his father, after his death. Most of the information below has been stolen from the e-card - a few extra snippets will be added from interviews.

Northern Soul - I realised soon after I came up with this idea that the chords were the same as "This Is The Life" but in different places. I played it to my pal Charlie (Dore) and she encouraged me to go on. Eventually she suggested some changes (mainly lyrical) that really made it work.
Without being over specific it's based on every parent's nightmare - a missing child. I'm more than aware how corny it is to start writing songs about your offspring. At the same time I'm resolutely determined to write about what is now not then or might happen soon. So this is love defined by loss.

London Comes Alive - Originally I wanted to write an album of songs for my friends. I also wanted to put things down which wouldn't get left until after people died. I'd spent so much time talking about my late father I thought it wrong I hadn't written something for my mother. So here it is. Inspired by a rail journey into London one July morning in 1999 as I came into London and realised how beautiful and exciting it is as you get close and closer to the centre.

Rodeo Boy - This was a guitar based work-out I'd recorded on a walkman. I brought the rough idea to rehearsal where we just played it through then Davie added a great hook in the chorus which really makes it.
Lyrically it started with an idea based on one of my favourite films; Bus Stop with Marilyn Monroe. The tale is live with nearly everything kept.

Angel & Mercedes - Angel and Mercedes are two people (I think I can now call them friends) I met in 1997. I was doing a gig in The Mean Fiddler in Dublin the night after I'd played the worst show of my life. I'd been booked (by my now ex-agent!!) to play the most inappropriate gig in Manchester. It was wrong, there was hardly anyone there and after it I thought I was making a big mistake playing shows on my own. I got to Dublin and was scared at the idea of doing a show as bad as the night before. As we sat downstairs in the bar, however, we were aware of people coming up and chatting and saying they were coming to the show. Two of these people were Angel and Mercedes from Madrid who seemed to symbolise the healing that night offered me. It was one of the best shows I've ever done and was a real turning point in my life.

I Sing About You - This was written with Mick Slaven and recorded a couple of different ways before we got this version down. It's another song of loss but I firmly believe you can never have too many.

Nothing Cures That - This is a quote on unrequited love from a man who knew - Philip Larkin. The full quote was in Martin Amis biography of his father ... People dream "of all they might have done had they been loved. Nothing cures that." This song will be used in a forth-coming ITV TV Series.

This is The Life - This idea ran through my head throughout 1999. I had a great year in '98 and realised I was enjoying life despite it being different to how I'd imagined it going. Suddenly I was doing a variety of different things and I was happy without ever having the "big popular event" we've come to associate with "success" in the music business. I remarked to a friend on holiday in that summer that this was now my axiom: This is the life......i.e. there is not another one waiting in the wings. It expresses the belief that happiness is not possible without first embracing the reality of where you now are. It's (hopefully) not smug but honest.

Threatening Rain - Written the day before the eclipse in the summer of '99. Dedicated to two good friends who were going through a painful separation.

Starring Love - There is really nothing I can say about this is that isn't obvious from listening to it!

Hippy Girl - For my eldest daughter, Caitlin. When she first went to Disneyland aged seven she remarked that it was the happiest day of her life.

My Girl Going to Town - I think it's important to write lots of songs about parenthood. That's why I deliberately put the last song and this one beside each other. If you only write one you'll end up creating a version of Dumbo's "Mother of Mine." And let's face it - great as it is - we don't need any more!
A few years ago a woman was interviewed on the news after the murder of a prostitute in Glasgow. The woman was a voluntary care worker in the red-light area of the city. When she talked about the murdered woman she described her as "like a daughter to her." In all the mess of this story and in the criminal way these events are reported this phrase cut through like a knife. I guess that formed the background to a song which is one of many I continue to write about being a father.
Ricky has described that he was given the title to this song by one of his daughters. He wrote it, played it to her, and saw the look of disappointment on her face when she realised that it wasn't a song she could dance to wearing sparkly dresses.

Looking for my Own Lone Ranger - This is a beautiful song written by Charlie Dore. She played it to me when we first met and despite my moaning she couldn't finish it. In covering the song I've managed to get her to complete it and let everyone else hear it.

The Way to Work - My favourite song on the album. As soon as we cut it I knew it had to be the final track. I suppose it is the song representing one of my recurring themes: the exotic transcending the humdrum. The possibility that imagination and beauty can allow any of us to experience the extraordinary; that in some way is what enjoying music is about.