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Songs: We Only Ever Meet In Church

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<a href="http://mjhibbett.bandcamp.com/track/we-only-ever-meet-in-church">We Only Ever Meet In Church by MJ Hibbett &amp; The Validators</a>
Here we are again
Sitting in lines and singing the songs
That we used to sing when we saw each other every day

And afterwards we'll say
How're you doing? How's the family?
I didn't know you had another baby on the way

And when did we become the kind of friends
Who only ever meet in Church?
We only ever meet in church

Your Christmas Card arrived
And I must say I'm surprised to find
It's not from the cheapest packet in BHS

It really is quite nice
And inside is an invite to keep the weekend free
At the start of August next

And when did we become the kind of friends
Who only ever meet in Church?
We only ever meet in church

It seems like only yesterday that we were at the christening
Now somehow we're all sitting here again, laughing and listening
To you giving the speech as the father of the bride
In what seems like no time we're coming back
Far Less of us now and now dressed in black
Saying the same things we say every time
Singing the same songs sat in the same lines
And I wonder - when we did we stop asking
Anything new and became trapped in aspic
Friends for no better and for no worse
Friends who only ever
Met in church

So here we are again
Jumpered up in a country pub
Celebrating nothing, except the fact that we're all here

And afterwards we'll say
If you're going don't forget to ring
And let us know the next time you're coming round this way

And don't let us become the kind of friends
Who only ever meet in church


Published by Wipe Out Music Publishing

The very first version of this song was written just after Christmas 2001. At that time The Tinsel In My Tree was living about twenty minutes away from my flat in Leicester, and the walk between my place and hers was fertile ground for Song Ideas. On this particular occasion I had been STRUCK by inspiration and BURST into her flat shouting "PEN! PEN!" because I'd had a LOT of ideas and didn't want to lose them.

I'd been ruminating on an idea I'd had for YEARS, ever since, in fact, friends of mine started getting married, about how odd it was that the way we tended to meet was so like the way we'd meet as teenagers, when the day would start with school assembly and end in the pub. Over Christmas, however, I'd met with my two best friends from school, Robin and Mileage - he whose Dad appears spouting wisdom in The Gay Train. We always met around Christmas time, "jumpered up in a country pub" near where Robin and (separately accommodated) my parents live, and I'd been thinking how brilliant it was that we could do this for no other reason that that we still liked hanging around together.

I should mention at this point that the bit about "the cheapest pack at BHS" does not refer to their usual Christmas Card policies now. When we were at school we took great delight in getting the cheapest nastiest cards we possibly could, boasting about how little we'd spent, and usually the cheapest in Peterborough could be found in the massive BHS in Queensgate where so many of our friends worked on a Saturday. Nowadays, as the song says, they do not crimp on the festive greetings, not no way.

Anyway I worked out a way to play it and recorded it for one of the demo tapes I periodically give to The Validators but they never seemed particularly keen on it. It stuck in my mind though and every now and again I'd think of a new, more exciting, way to play it. Unfortunately when I tried to bring it up in a band practice I say things like "It could sound like Muse!" and so it was left untried.

A few months later we got into jamming at practices. It was going really well - all sorts of new ideas were appearing and we were having a lot of fun, but I was completely stuck for lyrics. I'd had a go at making up words on the spot but they were rubbish, so Tim suggested bringing in some old words.

Around this time we came up with a CRACKING new tune, based, I think, on a simple bit of violin that Tom played. Tim had been hankering to do a song with a slow build and some DYNAMICS and so we tried it that way and it worked. He also said he'd like to do something with some spoken (as opposed to sung) lyrics, and when I got home next day it reminded me that I had the words to this song in the big pile of Recyclable Lyrics I'd got together at his behest, and that it had a bit in the middle that was spoken word...

Unfortunately (again) the spoken word bit just sounded silly in this new version, so I spent several nights trying to work out a new way to do it and ended up writing the final bit stood outside Boots in Leytonstone, once again demanding a "PEN!" from the aforementioned Signature On My Prescription, just as I had demanded of her over three years beforehand.

I was surprised and extremely chuffed to find that the rest of the song fitted incredibly well with the LOVELY vocal melody that Emma had come up with, so shamelessly NICKED her bit and used it for myself. I also came up with the guitar FIGURE which I play throughout and by doing so turned a BAND song into one I could easily play on my own and pass it off as such, even though I'd actually NICKED most of it from the Validators. HA!

We played it next practice, with the STOP at the end of the spoken word bit in there from the start and got so excited about it that as soon as we'd finished turned round and played it all over again. Again Tim spoke wisely and said that we shouldn't play it too much, so as to allow it to still be fresh in the studio. I was a bit disappointed as that stop in the middle was GRATE to do, but he was right.

Recording, I seem to remember, went pretty well as we were all keyed up and eager to play it and ended up having to force ourselves to be calm, otherwise it would have started as quickly as it ends. We put our Serious Faces on, gave it some EMOTION, and played it through.

Overdubs were the best bit though. Emma didn't have anything particularly worked out to play, because somebody had NICKED the bit she usually sang. We were good with the parts where she sings with me, but there needed to be more so she and I spent a happy hour or so with her in the recording room giving it some "La"s and me in the control room grinning and asking for more. I enjoyed it, anyway.

Even more fun was doing THE GUITAR SOLO. I love a nice short guitar solo in the right place, and we all agreed that one was very much required here. Whenever I record anything I always want it to sound like "Giant Steps" by The Boo Radleys, and I think this time is about as close as I've got to it. It took me a while to work it out and SEVERAL goes to get it right, but BLIMEY when it was working out it sounded GRATE, especially as I played it with all the effects plastered onto it and so it sounded MASSIVE. I'm just listening to that bit now, in fact, and every time I hear it I want to leap on a table, switch on the wind machine and AIR GUITAR. I often DO. That bit at the end of the first solo, by the way, is the sound of me FINALLY playing it right - I think I may even have been playing it behind my head, but cannot be sure.

The greatest moment though is THE BONGS. For weeks leading up to the recordings Tim had been talking about how once, with Prolapse, they'd made a sound like a GONG by sticking matchsticks into a guitar pickup and plucking them, and he thought it'd be an idea to try them on this song. He was extremely keen on the idea, every time the song was mentioned he'd get his BONGS into the discussion and, yes, there may occasionally have been some gentle ribbing on the matter.

His declarations of intent got more desperate as the week progressed and it began to look like there wouldn't be time for bongs of any kind. It was only on the morning of the very last day in Cornwall, when most of the songs had been mixed, that he finally got his wish. Honestly, it would have been like throwing the Christmas Presents in the fire at The Orphanage Christmas Eve party if we hadn't. He was very pleased with the effect, although he did look RATHER shocked when we listened to the rough mixes that evening and all you could hear was a BONG throughout.

We sorted it out in the end when we did the proper mixes, although at one point I was presented by a version WITHOUT the guitar solo which, frankly, seemed to me to be missing out the best part of the whole ALBUM, if not our CAREER, if not WESTERN MUSIC IN GENERAL, but that was soon remedied. I'm a little shocked to see that the end product is nearly seven minutes long - that's verging on PROG - but I'm extremely proud of how it turned out. Especially the guitar solo - did I mention how much I like it?


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