The rest of the house was sleeping when I heard a peculiar noise.
Sounded like someone speaking in a high-pitched voice.
So I put on my dressing gown and headed to the stairs
And as I quietly tip-toed down I realised I was scared.
“What’s that? Who’s there? Come out!” I cried
And prayed that they had gone.
Then right about that time I spied the kitchen light was on.
I pushed the door and was relieved to find nobody there,
Then just as I had turned to leave, saw something on a chair.
A giant piece of cheese, wrapped up in a red bow,
With a note addressed to me, then…the next thing I know…
I woke inside a cage of sorts,
Three mice sat by my head.
My head was spinning, full of thoughts,
Then the largest rodent said:
“We’ve got our retribution! Oh yes, we’ve got our revenge!
The years of persecution have finally reached an end!
You’ve hunted us for far too long
Now it’s time to turn the page!”
And then the mice broke into song
And danced around my cage, singing:
“We caught a man in a mantrap!
All mice should have one of these!
All that you need is a man that
Just can’t resist some cheese!”
When we play this live, I’ve been known to introduce it by saying that my four-year old son helped to write it – “…and it shows”. Then leave a nice awkward pause before adding “because it’s better than any of the stuff I’ve written on my own”. And that’s kind of true. At least, the bit about my son helping me to write it. I’m not in any position to judge which of my songs are better than others.
A couple of years ago, I was at home noodling with my guitar (note: NOT ukulele) and my son and I were singing about all sorts of silly stuff. I can’t remember how it happened but one of us suggested that, rather than having a mouse-trap, mice could leave a MAN-trap. I had a silly melody and chord progression and we made up childish rhyming couplets* and giggled about it for a while.
I became quite taken with the concept and decided to write a complete song based on it. I think it took me something like an afternoon to write and record it. It was one of those ‘it just came to me’ moments, though I do recall coming up with the words and melody for the outro part in the shower. I particularly liked the idea of a ‘song within a song’ (inspired, of course, by Hamlet’s ‘play within a play’). I got out of the shower and immediately tried to work the chords out. Given that it was written completely independently of the main part of the song, has a different melody AND a different time signature, I was a bit taken aback to find out that the chords it needed were… Exactly the same as the chords to the main bit of the song. Very odd indeed. But quite convenient.
So anyway – within a day or so, I’d recorded a relatively complete home-demo of the song. My son was going to be so chuffed! I excitedly told him to sit and listen. I played the song to him and… he looked unimpressed. “I preferred the original one” he said. Well – I couldn’t fault his honesty, I suppose. I posted the song on Twitter and – rather than being roundly ignored, as usually happens – I had quite a few messages from people telling me they loved it. That was all fine and well, but it was just a silly joke between me and Jack, wasn’t it? It was hardly the sort of thing you could sing onstage.
Or was it…?!
I can’t remember how we came to try it at band practice. But we did. And it worked, straight away. Even so, I refused to play it live for ages, because I thought it was too silly, Not like the rest of our straight-laced, highbrow songs, obviously. Eventually we recorded a version for our CD ‘The Kenneth EP’ (available at all good online retailers, kids!) and I had to admit to myself that it was totally in keeping with the rest of the band’s songs. The rest – as they say – is history.
Recording-wise, there’s not a lot to tell except that the sound of a mouse talking during the ‘Sounded like someone speaking in a high-pitched voice’ bit is Dave laughing and swearing (cut from another recording) and the mouse-organ bit at the end is there because, somehow in my mind, mice are synonymous with that old fairground organ sound. I suspect Bagpuss is to blame…
*He was four years old. All his rhyming couplets were childish, almost by definition. I had no excuse.