Behind The Music! ~The Place I Used To Live.

 

Hi, and welcome to this weeks Squire Fan Club Newsletter. We are going ‘Behind The Music!’ to look at the writing and production behind the song ‘The Place I Used To Live’.

First of all thank you to everyone for buying this new release. The Yellow and Green versions are equally popular and we’ve seen some great posts on Facebook and Instagram of you displaying your copies.

If you haven't got round to ordering yet, please have a look! Here's the special page!

To answer numerous enquiries, yes we will soon be doing a special competition to win a ‘White Label Test Pressing’ - and it seems everyone expects to see Chanel pick the winner again! Indeed, I think Chanel's performance is the main reason the competitions are so popular!

The song ‘The Place I Used To Live’ has an interesting back story. It name checks various locations in New Malden, Surrey, a relatively obscure and generic suburb in Zone 4 of South West London, lying between Kingston and Wimbledon.

In 1979, Squire were regularly playing live in London and the drive from Woking took us and our van full of gear, along the A3 main highway into London which went past the turn off to New Malden. We would regularly flash past at full speed without a sideways glance. On one memorable drive home, after playing the 101 Club in Clapham, everyone was suddenly hungry for food but we had already left the outskirts of the city and were in no mood to turn back. I remembered we would pass near New Malden on the way home, and suggested we turned off the carriageway as I had ‘inside knowledge’ of this anonymous place on the road sign which had a main street I felt sure would provide some takeaway food.

Sitting in the back of the van I couldn’t see what was open on the High Street as we slowed down, but a voice from the front seat exclaimed ‘Its full of x@% Chinese Takeaways!’ There was no MacDonalds or anything that served food in a bun we could eat while driving in a bumpy van, so we turned around and went home hungry.

Nevertheless, the experience inspired a song and by the time we arrived back in Woking it was complete!

As the lyric describes, ’New Malden - It's the place where I was born’ and lived for ten or so years. Like all childhood first memories, it holds a special significance as the location of growing up, the first house, first school, streets, shops, playgrounds, bike rides, buses etc. The neighbourhood immediately surrounding the home was the geography that was taken for granted while learning to interact through the perceptions of childhood. 

Moving away from London to the Guildford/Woking area coincided with a move to the ‘big school’ and that seemed a natural break with the past. There was never a desire or a means to go back and visit, so the early years remained a 'frozen in time' episode. Indeed, I hadn’t been to New Malden in over a decade, and fully expected it to look immediately familiar. So it was not only alarming to discover the town had changed dramatically, but also jarring to hear my childhood environment dismissed with such a ‘one liner!’ I hadn’t been able to see the street clearly through the van windows but imagined a desolate and grotesque cartoon landscape of row upon row of Chinese takeaways!

I still recognised the silhouette of the High Street, and tried to remember what had been important to me there. Ketts by the roundabout where I had bought my first record, and Beverly Park where I had spent summers in the playground jumped to mind. 1 & 2 on the map.

On the drive home, I discovered a method to remember the shops was to retrace my steps as a young child on the regular routine of walking into town to go shopping. So the verses of the song trace a pre-school weekly shopping walk from home into town. The song structure emerged around the refrain ‘Where the ‘xxxx’ once was - there’s a Chinese takeaway’

 For example, on the walk into town, we would pass 3, the sweet shop called ‘Stans’,

then Ketts, the electrical shop where I would eventually buy my first vinyl single record.

4, Canning’s the toy shop came next as a particular favourite destination,

then we would cross the road to 5, the Post Office to queue up for something called ’Child Allowance’. Finally we would arrive at the grocery store of choice, 6, the Co-op (RACS - Royal Arsenal Cooperative Society!) because it gave away ‘Green Shield’ stamps which I became adept at sticking into books. Then the long walk home. 

These mundane details composed the song, and also provided the easy to remember sequence of verses that traced the actual point to point geography of the shops that seemed so important in the never changing weekly routine. Though only a decade had past, I realised I was a stranger in my own childhood memories and experienced a profound disconnection to a landscape that was now alien.

Of course these remembrances mean nothing if you didn't live in New Malden in the same space in time, and even then it is a child's impression, but in a parallel way you can relate the same geography and similar landmarks to your own childhood neighbourhood and interpret the song through the prism of your own experiences. Hence the story provides a template to recount personal memories of park, shops, school etc., in the same way The Shambles altered 'It's A Mod Mod World' for the Squire Tribute Album version, substituting their own San Diego meeting places and touchstones.

The song was completed and performed live sporadically during 1979, but later abandoned and only revisited and finally recorded in 1982 for what became the ‘Girl On A Train’ sessions. It was first released as a single on Detour Records in 1994 to coincide with the Get Ready To Go CD on Tangerine Records in 1994. 

Re-listening to the production reveals how the song was arranged for recording:

The verses are written from memory, and the rising pre choruses follow the geographic route. All the words are sung to a simple stepping melody on eighth notes stressing the breathless remembrance of detail, followed by a rising melody to the pre chorus that lands on the taunting ‘Chinese Takeaway’ on quarter notes and the final 'simple things' that ends the chorus, where syllables are stretched across two bars, stressing the uncomplicated nature of childhood, and ends on a perfect cadence to close each verse/chorus section. The middle eight bridge repeats the chorus refrain but in a minor key as a moment of reflection. The final verse lyric sung live was abandoned as it provided too much unnecessary detail, instead replaced with a repeat of the first verse. Only the original ‘Co-op’ pre-chorus remains. The coda is the song condensed into a desperate tearing up in frustration and yearning. So the finale becomes the moment of drama in the arrangement where the line is repeated relentlessly as if to conjure up a portal to the past.

The constant ‘clock ticking’ palm muted guitar on eight notes allows the explosive drums to underscore the frustration in the lyric. The high harmonies echo a child’s voice.

What triggered the song was that first time experience of looking back at childhood, a forgotten place in the rush to grow up, but nevertheless sacred spot that informs much of childhood development. Lennon’s 'In My Life' addresses the same melancholic reminiscence, while Bowie's 'Five Years' similarly condenses the narrative of a song into a desperate repeated plea for the end coda.

Reading through the lyrics is particularly poignant as I write this today, Mother’s Day, as you were inevitably holding hands with, and under the jurisdiction of your mother throughout those formative years that you spent trying to pull away and find your own feet. Instead, you are now reminded  of that irreplaceable sacred bond.

The full lyrics and song are repeated below:-

When I think about all the places I used to live
I think of New Malden
It's the place where I was born
This is the place I lived
Where are the friends I played with?
I used to spend the summers in Beverly Park
I used to buy my records
At Kett's - by the roundabout
This is the place I lived
Where are the friends I played with?

I went back for a look just the other day
Where the sweetshop was
There's a chinese takeaway...

The place I used to live
Always reminds me of the simple things

I remember all the neighbours we used to know
The smell of the traffic
The sounds on the radio
This is the place I lived
Where are the friends I played with?
We used to walk together to the primary school
Scared of the teachers
That fed us the golden rule
This is the place I lived
Where are the friends I played with?

I went back for a look just the other day
Where the toy shop was
There's a chinese takeaway...

The place I used to live
Always reminds me of the simple things

I went back for a look just the other day
Where the post office was
There's a chinese takeaway...
Nothing remains of yesterday
Nobody stayed
Nothing looks the same

I went back for a look just the other day
Where the Co-op was
There's a chinese takeaway...

The place I used to live
Always reminds me of the simple things 

Next week we will return to New Malden to discover a remarkable fact that informs the entire journey from childhood to songwriting, Squire and Hilo Records!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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