Lyrical analysis of No Footprints

You may have noticed I wrote and recorded yet another song – it was originally entitled Footprints in the Sand. It was angst-ridden and full of random allusions and imagery, as is my wont. I added the word “No” to the title having used a photo of  beach on which there were no footprints and I thought that would make it even more angst, suggesting that the song’s protagonists were hankering after the beach but unable to be there for whatever reason.

As I mentioned earlier, the song started off in my usual way, simple chord progression over which I ad libbed a few words…I tightened the words up after I laid down a quick demo so I wouldn’t forget the tune I’d come up with. It started out as being about coping with grief following the death of a loved one. But, it somehow morphed into thinking about the kind of grief that migrants suffer in leaving their homeland in search of a better, safer life. Their attempts to reach foreign shores and to land on beaches from flimsy boats. There is also a kind of allusion to regrets migrants might feel in reaching that foreign shore.

Anyway, let me spell out what I think I thought I meant in the song, I’m reverse engineering it really, as many of the words arose spontaneously and from my subconscious.

The days are colder and the nights drawn in
No barricades of comfort, now the aching will begin

After the clocks go back in October, my mother would often remark on how quickly it seemed “the nights are drawing in”. I made the phrase a finite point, the nights are “drawn in”, in perpetuity, you might say, it’s always going to be dark from now on. The warmth of the summer, a kind of psychological barricade definitely long gone and the pain of the cold, dark days now starting.

I'm running down an unlit corridor
The pain can chase me, but I head out through an open door

This was a nightmare image of the fear of death, I think, and the possibility of somehow getting away from that pain and emerging into the light.

And you won't find a clearer path today
If you turn your back on the future, try to run away

Basically, don’t dwell on the past, try to look to the future, but also live in the present, which brings us to the next couplet

And, there are times when you can plan your day
But the tide will turn and wash your wishes away

Moving through grief it seems very hard to think of getting on with normal stuff, but you have to, but it’s worth remembering that your romantic dreams written with sticks and stones on the memory of a beach are always washed away by the rising tide.

But I can see the warning signs ahead
They don't deter me, they draw me on instead

This sounds like being well aware of the psychological damage that might occur in the wake of trauma but being pulled along by it instead of finding a safe haven.

And I should say that we can choose a tougher path
The path of least resistance was never going to last

I think this line in the pre-chorus is where the notion of it being about my grief morphed into something broader about migrants and people escaping. Always easier to stick to the well-worn track, but even they don’t offer an escape a tougher route has to be forged in some circumstances.

Now, we’re at the chorus:

Walk with me, I'll take you by the hand
Can't promise anything like a promised land
But, I’ll give you love, though nothing's planned
Walk with me, leave just our footprints in the sand

Offering a helping hand, partnership, promising something but not necessarily the dream, maybe just a chance to walk in the sand, which would be a bit of a dream at the moment, to be honest.

The summer comes around and the days are long
I thought I'd moved on but something feels so wrong

What if time isn’t a healer, what if there’s still pain long after the dark winter days when the summer clicks into view again? That was me worrying for my future self, I think.

And there you're kneeling with your head in your hands
Still can't believe we found ourselves in this foreign land

An allusion to the despair felt by those hoping for a better life reaching that new world, but struggling when the reality is not what they thought they had promised themselves.

Like I said, angst-ridden and grim. But, else would you expect, I’ve written and recorded dozens of songs over the last few years and they’re almost always a bit depressing lyrically even if the tunes sometimes get a bit funky. Any questions? No? Good. I’ll let you have a listen to the song (also on Bandcamp) and you can comment at me on Twitter.

Incidentally, it struck me after recording that at least two of those lyrics are half-borrowed from a couple of other songs. “I can feel the warning signs” is in Half the World Away by Oasis, while “eyes cast down on the path of least resistance” is in A Farewell to Kings by Rush. You can check out this page for a very incomplete list of what I’d call my musical influences.