Ricky Ross gives a track-by-track insight into Raintown 25 years after he wrote it, and reveals the stories behind new LP The Hipsters
Born in a Storm: The lyric was stolen from a friend of mine, David Heavenor, who had a song with those three words. It was written on a long rainy afternoon in Glasgow, a period which went on for ever, and had a second verse which was never used. I think’s about someone difficult I knew at the time, possibly myself.
Raintown: It’s about work, not good work and weather compounding that, and things bringing you down. The ideas in Raintown came first and the theme came back in Dignity. Everyone was going on about unemployment at the time, but thee wee also a lot of people unhappy with the work they were in.
Ragman: It’s that dissatisfaction again. There was a general feeling of self loathing around.
He Looks Like Spencer Tracey Now: I wrote that in Crete on holiday as a partner to Dignity. I thought it sounded smug when I wrote it (about the man who pressed the button that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima). I liked the idea that he had public bravado but private regrets.
Loaded: I’d left the keys to my flat in Glasgow to the guys in the band and they did a backing track on an old 8 track. I came in and started singing stream of consciousness on it, about some of the people we’d met in the record business. . Part of the lyric was lifted from an old evangelical children’s hymn, Christ Is The Answer.
When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring): It’s so hard to remember. I think that song is actually about waiting to be discovered, spurred on by the unrequited love of an old girlfriend.
Chocolate Girl: It’s about someone’s relationship which sounded bad. I don’t really like sexist love songs, that awful song by Eric Clapton, Wonderful Tonight. There’s a song by Prefab Sprout which says the same thing, called Cruel, which I love.
Dignity: I have no idea why I started writing a song like that in Greece, but that’s why there’s a reference to raki in it, the local firewater. I was sitting messing around with lyrics, bored on holiday, in a far away scene. There were men from the Glasgow cleansing department depot who walked up and down the street with brushes outside my flat in Pollokshields.
The Very Thing: It’s about looking into the future and not knowing what’s happening, a sense of foreboding. I think it’s my favourite song on the record.
Love’s Great Fears: It’s probably the best song Jim and I ever wrote together.
Town To Be Blamed: In a sense, this is me tying things together a little bit. You love the place you come from, but when you’re young all you want to do is escape and lay the blame on that place for everything that’s gone wrong in your life. When I first met Graeme Kelling, he wanted to get out of Glasgow. But really, we wanted to stay in Glasgow, just on different terms. We wanted to be king of the hill.
Here I am In London Town: I wrote it in Jamie Cullum’s studio after we wrote I’m all Over It Now for his album. It’s about how I felt when we were starting out down in London 25 years ago.
The Hipsters: It’s about that sense of longing to be one of the cool guys, guys I remember seeing at seaside towns like Bournemouth when I was on holiday with my mum and dad. They’d have faded 501s on and a tan and there I was, a wee guy from Dundee, just longing to be them.
Stars: We wanted to write something big and poppy, a song we lived. It was written for someone else originally, but then we kept it. It doesn’t follow any rules of conventional songwriting. It’s just a song about entertaining.
Turn: It’s a song I wrote with Eg White, who writes for Will Young. We wanted it to be a song for a really sassy woman. But we decided to do it. If people think it’s a song about Lorraine and I, I honestly don’t care.
The Rest: We wrote it for McIntosh Ross and then changed it. It’s kind of like Real Gone Kid. A straight love song from the heart, and my heart is on my sleeve on that song - it’s about the woman I love. There’s the rest, and then there’s you.
The Outsiders: It’s a song about Deacon Blue. Never quite fitting in, never quite working it out. It’s a chance to reflect on being in this odd club I was in for the last 25 years.
That’s What We Can Do: It was written about one of my daughters. It’s what happens when you love people, you do things for them because you’re able to. The oddball things of being a parents. It’s an extension of changing the nappies. You never wake up and think they’re gone, you just keep going.
She’ll Understand: It’s a breakup song, but written when Lorraine was away a lot with work. A very Scottish story about a guy who makes a fool of himself, drinks too much, fights, but his woman still ‘gets him’.
Laura From Memory: It was written about my cousin Laura, a wonderful woman who took her own life. We were very close growing up. She loved music. I had a couple of cracks at writing it, and I was so happy when I got it.
It Will End In Tears: It started life as a Jackson Browne-like song. I deconstructed it. It’s another fatalistic Scottish song, and I think it’s about us.
Is There No Way Back Toy You: Lorraine wrote the chorus. I’m speaking for myself here, but I think she wrote it about when she lost her mum when she was very young. I think it’s about connecting with people who have gone before, and how you get back to them. It’ a theme that pops its head up a lot, with Graeme and Laura’s story. Having it at the end of the record is a very strong story.