Boy 40

Andy White Buy Now
Year: 2003
Label: ALT Recordings/Floating World


Featuring ‘Italian Girls On Mopeds’ and ‘Tell Me Why’, Andy’s first album written in Australia mixes innocence and experience, acoustic songs with ambient electronics.

Boy 40 is also available as part of Andy’s Studio Albums 1986–2016 twelve-album box set, available through our web store.

“Tell me why would you hurt someone? I remember writing “if you want to get out there, you’ve got to take a walk.” That’s what I did. Starting over, feeling Australian sunshine in my hair. Every time I begin again I know I am diving into something deep. I was burning incense and playing the guitar on my own. Started recording this song in London after playing way down the bill at a festival from Neil Young. I was standing side of stage with a non-smoking Kate Moss and a pregnant Mike Scott (or was it the other way around?) watching After The Goldrush and thinking how amazing it was – thousands of people in a rainy field in England watching an old American guy with a guitar and a harmonica. Hanging on his every word. I finished the song in Melbourne with the 2003 Gulf War starting. The innocence of the chorus became more powerful – are you going to get out on the streets to protest with me, or are you going to accept what is being done in our name.

Autumn 2002 and the London recording sessions were cancelled due to Stuart getting sick. I was staying in Ellingham Road, W12. A big empty terrace house with only a coffee maker, my guitar and Radio 4 for company. I bought some red wine, Jonathan from Floating World had left me music manuscript paper and a pad of yellow legal foolscap. It was a case of suing someone or writing an album. I was wide open to my muses. The world was marching towards war. I had been at Ground Zero in December 2001. I was approaching the songs from both those places, and from the WOMAD stage, where all nationalities come together in music. Tom Robinson asked me to appear on his radio show, and I finishedwriting the first song in the car on the way to the session. Asked the engineer for the title. Faithful. The song was recorded in Melbourne, with memories of Bernard and Phil (two WOMAD friends unfortunately no longer with us) and set the tone of the main album sessions. Serious, committed, peaceful.

Our Japanese translator Iku asked me to explain ‘skimming stones’ and the meaning of the date 12th July. This is what I wrote to her: “It is a public holiday in Northern Ireland which commemorates a battle fought in 1690. Because the Protestants beat the Catholics, the Protestants use it as a celebration. But it is a nightmare. It is used as an excuse for violence by everybody. Most people go on holiday if they can, to avoid being in N. Ireland at this time of year. However when I was a child I only knew that the day is a holiday from school and that bands march up and down the street and you get ‘lucky bags’ (with sweets and lollies) at the corner shop. You wave flags and the music plays loud. As a child I knew it was too loud and too violent. Something in the marching, the feeling the Lambeg drum gives you in the stomach. Today 12th July is a troubled date. Everything surrounding it is bad except for … childhood memory. See also my song ‘St Patrick’s Day’, the other side of this national coin. The song Twelfth of July came to me in Brighton, and walking through a field in Victoria Canada at Rootsfest 2002.

I played WOMAD Palermo in the middle of a UK tour. From Birmingham at midnight to Sicily, 6 am. Back to the glorious land of desserts and italian girls on mopeds. The songs write themselves every time I go there – I only have to add the capital letters. Eating pasta by the seafront in a stormy Mediterranean wind. The beauty and drama of it all. A concert, a taxi ride. I started scribbling the words on the way back to the airport and played the chords through the UK tour and into Ireland. One evening in Dublin at my sister’s, the song arrived in a blurred vision. In London the words, and in Melbourne the recording were finished. I remember the morning after the first day of recording, when we had laid the tracks of ‘Faithful’, ‘Twelfth Of July’ and this song. A November Melbourne morning, warming up towards summer. We played the rough mix loud, and I knew the album had arrived.The sun blazing into the front room. I chose Italian Girls on Mopeds to show where the album was coming from and where it was going to. Santa Lucia!

Can’t Hold Back was written and the original tracks recorded in London. Fulham with the girls on mobile phones. The kids were into trading cards – they’re all gone, but the phones linger on. Deep and meaningless in a groovy kind of way. Reminds me of that song – the way the images and thought came together. I have an old Rickenbacker 12 string guitar, a red one. It is like an art deco ‘objet’ and the 60s riffs just flow right out of it. It is on every album since Kiss The Big Stone – Daisy, The Pale Moonlight, Between A Man And A Woman and now Can’t Hold Back. Playing the electric again on this albumhas been great. I started off playing bass and electric and took up the acoustic after the flat I was living in in London was robbed. I wentt back to Belfast and, walking along University Street, was hit by a 12 string acoustic a friend had just thrown out of a first floor window. It was love at first strike. Can’t Hold Back is true – turn to the East and get your meditation mat out. Spark the innocence and experience the innocence. Life is just a roundabout.

Where do I start with The Fortune Teller. The last song to be written on an album often is the keynote song. The chimes in the wind. I wrote ‘The Fortune Teller’ one night in Melbourne, with summer in the air and revolution on the streets. Anti-war rallies attended by tens of thousands you won’t have seen on TV. A government which nobody you know agrees with or votes for (anyone who lived in the UK during the 80s has been there). Talking about , thinking about Nostradamus and the Age of Terrorism. Carrying the Australian uniform of guitar, old T shirt, jeans and ancient car. Finished it staying over at Ian and Jean’s house in Northcote, playing the Maton 6 string which you will see on the album cover and which holds the secret sound of the album, along with the baritone electric guitar. I have to rely on instinct where guitars are concerned, I have to look at them and ask if the songs are inside. Fortune Teller was. I loved recording this one in dear old Laundry Goat with Simon. So much that the next song emerged from the last chord.

We were listening to Selling England, me for the first time in years. Bowie and ambient music. WOMADelaide was in the air. News of the war machine was a continuing story in The Age. We had finished all the songs when one more appeared. When Will You Learn To Live With Each Other. I was calling up the spirits – from my family and my ancestors. My country is your country. My people are your people. Sometimes I think we will never learn, but looking out from inside this music, I prefer to ask the question not to make assumptions. This land will be your land. I have to learn too – I am a distant descendant of Burke (of Burke and Wills) with all that brings in this country. We have to learn or else the future is certain and it is all going to fall apart. All traditional music is the same, it comes from the same place. Arabic and Irish and the voice coming from the soul. Catch it while you can, and then you will belong to the land. Not the other way around.

It was in a town in Ontario, not that far from Toronto, where I spent the memorable summer of 2002. In a lot of ways Guelph is my spiritual home. I believe in everything the moment I walk past the city line. Shapeshifters and female spirits everywhere. My friends who live there I have known since 1990 – and in the last couple of years some of them have become The Tall Friends, a band with an average height of 6′ 1″. So now we play music together too. A real peace dividend. Last summer the Venusian energy of Guelph was overflowing. A visionary told me he saw a dark angel in a jagged sky. There was a shapeshifter turning into an elderly Russian man, and a good friend of mine in pain. The Pain Behind Your Heart has to leave and this song had to come out. We recorded it in Melbourne and I was back in the double bass section. Rocking it up. I started this song late at night on a yellow sofa and finished it on a red chair a never-ending Friday away. And now Mars is the closest to Earth it has been for 55,000 years.

Hunger For Your Love is a Melbourne song, a heart song. Walking the CBD in the evening. Remembering a lake in the middle of Europe, clocks and a dream coming true. I started it after looking up from a city basement through a window in the ceiling, seeing the shoes of people walking above and the stars in the sky beyond. All of this late in the evening. I have an old record player and you can hear it on the album. After recording the album I found myself a couple of weeks later surrounded by LP covers reading the sleeve of Rock’N'Roll for the millionth time listening to ‘Electric Warrior’. There is a new CD version of this album out, but I don’t want it. I like the vinyl one with the dodgy hippy inner sleeve drawings. There is a grain in this music, and another level which part of this song goes too. A meditation and a different place for the brain to take a break. The album is motoring on its spiritual search by now, and nothing is going to stop it.

Lisa loves this song. Phew. As usual, every word is true. It is a ‘homage’ of many kinds – to a friend, and to a smell of incense in the summer; waking up to the sound of Essence playing; to an Egyptian goddess and her muse; to a young boy listening to Desire in his first floor Belfast bedroom. The boy had been given a copy of the album by a Viennese painter friend of his mother’s, who had arrived in a cloud of smoke and red wine. He arrived to paint, to holiday in Donegal, to fall in love with a viola player. Diether taught boy 14 chess, and played him Desire for the first time. I hear he is listening to it still. On the recording you can hear the sounds of Laundry Goat, Sandringham by the sea. Where the wind chimes are made of forks, the birds are vocal in their support, the native frogs croak protected, possums balance on telephone wires and the washing up is in the sink. Oh – and I know this story of Lisa isn’t order. Promise.

Back to the porch at Stephen Fearing’s house in Canada. Sitting in the sun listening to minidiscs I made in Australia, going through words of songs I will never write and then discovering this one in an old guitar in the front room. I got the title If I Catch You Crying and a guitar pattern when Stephen rolled up. We drank coffee and beer round the kitchen table and finished the song about four times and kept going back to it. It felt fab from the very first time and kept getting better. I had read an article about a model whom a local painter worshipped and adored. She was a masterpiece, it is true. Our close friends’ emotions were being hung out to dry daily in the hot summer sun. Thoughts of the heart everywhere. Everything was rushing into this song. And we would finish the night after another few hours of tales round the fire outside, by going back to this song. I recorded it in Melbourne and Stephen recorded it with Blackie And The Rodeo Kings in Lousiana, for their BARK album. A great and different version. This one shimmers for me, it sums up the mood of the whole album. Even the rough mix sounded complete.

Everything You’ve Got was written one evening in Ellingham Road, London W12, just after the Bali bombing of October 2002. Listening to the radio reports, I could feel the innocence of the Australia we had grown into loving, being shattered by this event far away. The bodies, the grief, brought me to freeways and blood. The world moving in the wrong direction as its souls moved in the only direction possible. Everything is temporary, everything will be swept away. The spirit is the thing and the soul which is eternal. The song ends up moving towards heaven. The harmonica has an important place on this album – it calls and it rallies large numbers of people with the thinnest of voices. The fretless and the acoustics and above all the echoplex repeating and building the layers of heaven at the end of the song. ‘Everything you’ve got will soon be swept away – all we need’s a lot, a miracle today.’ Taking us towards dawn …

Morning Star is a song of freedom. Innocence for the experienced. It was written for the souls on earth who know where they want to go but are not allowed to go there – yet. For the certainty is, that ‘freedom comes to those who wait’. For the meek shall inherit the earth, and they aren’t given room to move in this world of war, macho posturing and a mixture of triviality and crazy versions of religion. I was asked to be part of a concert celebrating West Papua and their movement towards independence. After East Timor became world’s newest country, West Papua strives to be next. Their flag? The Morning Star, of course. Just another example of the synchronicity and coincidence which has guided this whole album, its writing and recording. There is a plan, of course, as we will soon find out. I played this song for the first time at Melbourne Concert Hall in front of thousands of people. Since the concert was named after the flag, it became the theme song. There were inspirational speeches and great performances by WP bands. Roll on. The performance on the album is the definitive one, you can even hear the stars at the end.

Trying To See God was born in Canada, again from a universal feeling I have been going through for most of my boy 40 years. I was focusing in on the spirits which surround and help me, I met people who saw them too. I was at a festival talking to people about the jagged sky. The ‘dipper’ means the stars in the ‘plough’, although Iku in Japan asks if it means ‘extravagant’. Searching for a meaning, I demoed the song at Monastereo, Andrew McPherson’s studio in Guelph. Didn’t know where it was going until again and again I came back to it in London and Melbourne, reaching for the words and the atmosphere. Solo with the orchestra was the answer. I played in an orchestra for years when I was young. Double bass, as those who have read the poetry book will know. I now could see the journey of the album – starting off singing on my own again with my guitar, ending up with an orchestra Trying To See God. I could see a signal coming through. You just got to open your ego – it’s a window – and you will hear it. And don’t turn the album off or you will miss the message. Remember – t’s cool to care. Love, Andy”