Ironically, unlike half a dozen of the other tracks on this album, the music for this wasn’t conceived at the Anglesey retreat for which it is named. It was the last song that Jon wrote before we started recording, an afterthought in 12/8 inspired by a late-night session listening to Ron Sexsmith. I find the time signature irresistible, and I do think Jon has captured some of Sexsmith’s musical honesty. It’s a gentle, effortless rhythm with a melancholic backbone of piano that recalled to me, when I first heard it, the coastline of Trearddur Bay, the way words get caught in the wind and on bright days you have to shield your eyes from the sun. Listening, I was thrilled. My head was full of idyllic images from last February. I scribbled musings over the past few months, equally tender and kind. They didn’t quite fit, but I told myself I would have plenty of time to complete the lyrics upon our return to the Headland this year, and that this would be apt. I waited patiently.
Nothing really takes shape as you imagine it will, though. Not the return journey, not the memories, not the way the ink flows on paper. Or doesn’t flow. Sometimes it just bleeds into your mind and dries there. Sometimes you have to pick the crusts of ink out with a razor and hope for the best. It may be that when I listen to From the Headland that tension will always be there: the effort of excavation, the phrases that I abuse and criticise through the subsequent post-natal angst, juxtaposed against the apparent ease of 12/8. This is the song that has taken up the most pages in my notebook and has the greatest number of scribbles and cross-outs. It is a storm. I hope that something gentle and true has emerged from the destruction; I’m still not sure. In the end, the vocal melody walked off on its own and the tone became darker than I expected, less celebratory. It emerged not in colour, but in grainy black and white.
Like song lyrics, the stories of the coastline, too, are elusive. Maybe sometimes the binoculars are best left untouched, and words written with eyes closed….Last week I spent ages staring at the sea, trying to decide if the object that the waves kept covering and uncovering was a piece of granite that had come to life with the tide, or a mythical creature disguising itself as part of the landscape. Parachutes landed in the water from a circling plane – a clandestine delivery? Hostage negotiators swarming to the naval ship that sat, stolid and silent, miles from the shore? Bottled messages that would get dashed against the rocks before they had a chance to be read? We never found out, and went home imagining.
Jon’s highlight musical moment at the current stage of recording: “Thure’s guitar solo, where the first note comes in, ‘weeeaaaaaaaaa’…it just sits…and then goes…”.
My highlight lyrical moment: “The window panes moan/like a Theremin played in a minor key”.