I learned some technical skills on this one. I recorded and edited something like 40 versions to get the balance between both of the 2 guitar tracks right; it was painstakingly tedious and I obsessed about it for weeks.
This was made with a mentor, colleague and friend of mine from Scotland. He was a guiding force for me during my time here in China, even though I don’t think he ever realized that. Not only did he bring me into the British Council, he taught me and made me a better person.
I had a cancer scare when I wrote and recorded this, and my first musical thought at that time was to move away from the boom-boom rhythms of what I had done so far and create something that would show my heart and move people with my emotional capacity. I wanted to write about love and being a human in love. My inspiration was immediate: a moment of one night out with my mentor and his wife at his favorite pub in Beijing.
The long story short is me sitting across from he and his wife, and he having just made some joke that she just loved, and I remember her look at him and her laughing response was, “you’re so stupid,” which completely revealed her glowing adoration for her husband of many years. It was such a cool moment of little meaning to anyone but me, and like I do, I froze it like a picture and then wrote this with that moment in mind.
The verse is repeated to symbolize the singer’s love for the love of his life both in 1) life, and 2) death. The second verse was echoed to give this supernatural, other-worldly sound of the afterlife impression.
For a love song, I wanted to eliminate the whole idea of a love song requiring lots of lofty, fluffy romantic lyrics, so I condensed all of those cliches into 2 lines: “You, I loved you for all time,” and “the end.” I think the simplicity of these 2 statements makes those statements–and their intended sentiment–as strong as possible because it’s what I imagine someone truly in love saying on his deathbed. There’s no time for the long-winded muddle of winding romantic poetry; I boil it down to the beginning, “I loved you for all time,” and end, “the end.” The substance between the two are left to the listener’s romantic imagination.
I suppose at the time I wrote this, I was romanticizing what I would want to say as I died of cancer; namely, that, with all the good and bad and ugly of life and a relationship, “I would do this all over again.” For a person suffering a slow painful death, that’s an incredibly romantic thing to say, and I wanted to do that (above mentioned) moment justice; I wanted to sing to you what it felt like for me.
The sadness of this song is in its ambiguity. As in all of my work so far, there is tremendous use of ambiguity and play on words and that allows the listener to peak into my very broken heart because I am rarely simple enough to say only what I seem to say. While I sing about love here, I am declaring myself in love to validate my life, which is the tragic element. There is no confirmation, no reciprocation, only myself making this pathetic declaration, as if to assure myself that I am actually worth the life I am.
As usual, I recorded and edited more than 30 versions. Getting the left-right balance and harmony just right took so much time and provided quite a technical learning curve. It was all, however melancholy, a definitely intentional labor of love.