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Background

Major Peter Labilliere is best know these day for his grave on to of Box Hill in Surrey where he is buried head down. But there was a colourful life that preceded that, much of which I have woven into this song.

This is another collaboration with Simon Gardner that has resulted in a second song for prog rock band The Prognosis.

It's an example a lyric that had to be reworked as the music developed. In this case the verses are delivered at a pace which meant that some of the original lyrics turned into tongue twisters and had to be ironed out. Also the band felt that some of the allusions were too obscure. Finally the last two verses were to a different tune and metre. The eventual and original versions are reproduced here for comparison.

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'Topsy Turvy'                                   by Martin Day

Final Version

The horrors of a war can turn a young boys mind.
The army (refuge of the poor) the man defined.
Rising through the ranks came a man so rare.
And so the English Army thanks, La-bill-i-ere.

In retirement, Major Pete, now advocating peace
Politicking in the street, defiant of police.
He’s the talk of Dorking Town, a prophet and a sage,
Eccentric gent, smelly clown, on a different page.

        Major Pete Labilliere, a gentleman trust-worthy
        Upon the hill, in time of prayer, saw visions so unearthly,
        “Nine months will pass and then I’ll die.
        Don’t wonder how. Don’t ask me why.”
        Beneath Box Hill, head down, go I. 
        This world is topsy turvy"

Was it love of Hetty Fletch', or for the love of God
He’d give his shoes up to a wretch? How odd.
On the hill he wrote his book as lightning filled the sky.
Escaping through the wood mistook a branch and lost an eye

“On Box Hill my vision's clear. The future comes to me.
Seeing wonders not yet here, and when my end will be.
A world where carriages can run, but needless of a horse.
I'll bury here when I am done. I'll go feet up of course."

        Chorus

(He says,)
"You might think me mad, but your dementia's blind.
From seventeen-ninety-nine I see your modern mind.
You talk alone, out loud. You say your tooth is blue.
You stumble with your eyes downcast, and miss the view."

“I see for miles from here, to Brighton and the sea.
I see for miles from here, to eternity.
On my coffin dance, you children, stamp your feet.
Be sure I’m right-ways-up just like Saint Pete.”

© M Day 13 Oct 2013 & 12 Jan 2014

Original Version

How the horrors of a war can turn a young boys mind.
The army (refuge of the poor) leaves childhood far behind.
But one lad rose up through the ranks, with qualities so rare.
And so the English Army thanks, Major Labilliere.

In retirement, Major Pete, now advocating peace
Was politicking in the street, defiant of police.
He was the talk of Dorking Town, a prophet and a sage,
Eccentric gent and smelly clown, and on a different page.

        Major Pete Labilliere, a gentleman trust-worthy
        Upon the hill, in time of prayer, saw visions so unearthly,
        "From seed until the baby's cry
        Will mark the days until I die.
        Then bury me head down, on high. 
        This world is topsy turvy"

Was it for love of Hetty Fletch', or for the love of God
That Major Pete would give each wretch his coat, and see him shod?
Astride the hill he wrote his book as lightning filled the sky.
A dark path through Boxwood he took. A branch did pierce his eye.

He said, "I see for miles from here, to Brighton and the sea.
From on Box Hill my vision's clear. The future comes to me.
A world where carriages can run, but needless of a horse.
I'll bury here when I am done. I'll go feet up of course."

        Come little ones with your clogs and a jig.
        Come dance for joy on my coffin's lid.
        Stamp down the chalk on the soles of my feet.
        Make sure I rise right-way-up, like Saint Pete.

        Chorus

"You might think me mad," says he "but your dementia's blind.
"From my eighteenth century I see your modern mind.
You talk alone, out loud, so fast. You say your tooth is blue.
You stumble with your eyes downcast, not noticing the view."

“I can see for miles from here, I can see for miles from here, 
I can see for miles from here, to Brighton and the sea.
I can see for miles from here, I can see for miles from here, 
I can see for miles from here, to Brighton and the sea.”

© M Day 13 Oct 2013

 

 

 

 

 

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