The Train Song
It didn’t happen overnight. It’s not like I went to bed one night a perfectly well-adjusted person, and woke up a train nerd. And I’m still resisting going to Crewe to take down numbers of locomotives.
Nevertheless, the fact remains I’m now more obsessed with trains than I should be. It’s not just trains – I’m also partial to trams, monorails, hovercrafts, and stallions – but public transport as a whole and trains in particular have always fascinated me. As someone who doesn’t drive and thinks that freedom of movement should be a human right, public transport provision – and privation – will always be a subject close to my heart.
I never, however, expected to write a song about it. I was reading Matthew Engel’s Eleven Minutes Late, which chugs around the history and current state of the British railways. It is full of stand-out moments* and depressing revelations. That the process of privatisation itself was a botch job – almost an afterthought in the death throes of a fading era – is unsurprising in of itself, but the complicity of New Labour is one of the more shocking aspects. It shouldn’t be: we all know they’re neoliberals now. But their abject cop-out on this issue was a harbinger for all the horrors that were to come. We didn’t realise it then, of course. It was sunny on May 2nd 1997.
Anyway. There’s a bit of the book where some of the many stations cut by the infamous Dr Beeching in the 1960s are listed, and they sounded (to me) quite lyrical and endlessly evocative of a lost world, where every town and village had a rail link to the rest of the country. There were many shite things about the past – I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed living through an age where the most exciting treat was jam – but the rail network, for all its faults, was a remarkable thing. And now, largely, it’s gone. We live in the era of the motorway.
So yes. Myself and our band**’s chief scientist (guitarist) sat down with some bourbon and this is what we came up with. I’m pretty happy with it – it’s just a demo and not of wonderful quality, and it’s a bit wonky, but then so is the British transport network.
* Remember the infamous ‘good day to bury bad news’ email by Jo Moore on 11th September 2001? Sir Richard Mottram – The then permanent secretary to the Department of Transport – is reported to have responded to the crisis as follows : “We’re all fucked. I’m fucked. You’re fucked. The whole department is fucked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely fucked.”
** We’re currently called The Leytonstone Shitkickers. I think.