Songblog: St. Paul's 8th Floor Farewell Blues

I have no idea what sparked this one off, or indeed who Saint Paul may be. I remember playing the guitar chord introduction late one night in the kitchen of the house we rented on Hillfoot Street in East Belfast, when I was on my own and Andrea was away somewhere.

And the words ‘the last time I saw Saint Paul…’ came to me out of a bottle of red wine that was keeping me company. I liked the idea that St. Paul was someone you could have met a couple of months ago, someone you could be talking to your friends about… I had a hard time leaving the ending so open-ended, but the more I listened to it, the more I came to trust it. 'That's how we left it'.

20130424_085856.jpg

One of my oldest friends came to see one of the shows recently, and he and I talked afterwards about the song. He said that he had a feeling that he knew who St. Paul was, but couldn't pin a name on him. And that was exactly the same kind of disembodied compassion that had driven the song to the surface, I think. It’s hard to tell sometimes. I might never work out who St. Paul is or was, but I love him just the same.

I think the 'block of flats' may have come from my own childhood - the first proper home that we had as a family was one of the maisonettes at Harpur's Hill. I remember very little about the time, as we only stayed there for a few years. I went up there yesterday and took this picture.

MUSICIANS: Anthony Toner – vocals and guitars; Clive Culbertson – bass; Peter McKinney – drums; John McCullough - piano

LYRICS:

St. Paul’s 8th Floor Farewell Blues

The last time I saw Saint Paul,

he was living in a block of flats.

You could see the world for miles around.

He said, ‘there’s nothing worth the looking at.’

I thought, ‘he’s gone...

so long, so long. Come back now.’

The last time I saw Saint Paul,

he was refusing everybody’s calls.

He had a sign that said ‘Closing Down’

blu-tacked up on the kitchen wall.

He said, ‘I found it,

with demolition all around it.

That’s why I like it’.

My mother said ‘you should stay clear

of that damaged boy.

He’s been reducing you to tears for years and years.’

The last time I saw Saint Paul,

he was living on jam and bread.

He said, ‘I feel like just letting go.’

Then I reminded him of what we’d said.

He said, ‘I know...

but change the subject, or go.’

That’s how we left it.