THIS IS THE LIFE - The Korgis 

One morning somewhere in 2018, I was just about to get in the shower when a groove appeared in my head. By the time I had exited the shower I had all the lyrics for both verses. Later that day I went into the studio and wrote the chorus.

As we began writing Kartoon World I suggested this song as a good fit. James had always liked it and it seemed to fit with Magic Money Tree. Later on we ended up with too much material but for some reason this song stayed.
The lyric 'hold on' kept coming back and it seemed to me that this was a theme in many people's lives… they were just holding on. A lot of these lyrics are self-explanatory and they seemed to flow without too much thought. I simply liked the sound of some words and intentionally made some fit where they didn't quite work!


I had in mind Peter Karrie (Phantom of the Opera) to voice the middle section. I had previously recorded an album and he would slip into voices. This section would be his rather old-fashioned New York Jew, who simply couldn't stand anything in the world anymore. He even rants about credit cards and mobile phones! 
It remains a song I am quite proud of and being the first song written for Kartoon World it became something of a blueprint for a new Korgis style - more syncopated and rhythmic than anything the band had done before.
This is how The Korgis version ended up.

One step forward 2 steps back
just a breath away from a  panic attack [aren't we all?]
there’s a  horde of lawyers on your back [you know the ones that call you up?]
trying to hold on, can you hold on [re-iteration becomes a catch line]
One step forward 2 steps left [perhaps subconsciously thinking 'clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right]
wrap it up with red tape and tax it to death
thirty thousand junk calls making me deaf
can you hold on please? [re-iterations but with a different meaning]

This is the life, stupid and blind
Here is the life that we are living             
if this is the life, then stand up and fight for love
the love you should be making? [unashamedly Lennon]
if this is the life


One step forward 2 steps back [a straight repeat of this line as another catch]
gamble with your life put it all on black [sometimes a tough decision is like that]
Funny how the rich get the bigger stack [when are we going to close the wealth divide?]
to hold on, to hold onto [re-iteration]
One step forward 2 steps right [Gerry Rafferty again]
never gonna beat this this hypocrite [a squeezed rhyme that I love!]
nothing that you touch seems to turn out right
but you hold on


All the bankers in their greed
Politicians in their pens
Dictators on the make
Distorting religion for their own endS
Staring at Your mobile phone
Buy it on your credit card
Everyday a thousand children die
And you think your life is so hard?

This is the life, stupid and blind
Here is the life that we are living             
if this is our time? then where can we find
all the love we say we’re giving?
now is the time, to put down the knife, 
and ask, whose is the life you’re taking?
if this is the life, then stand up and fight for love
The love you should be making?
if this is the life

THIS IS THE LIFE    x 1000000

Here is what the song sounded like as I wrote it…

LETTER TO GEELONG - The Korgis & Joe Matera 

In the days of the £10 Poms many families emigrated to Australia. It had opportunities, work and sun.
My family, while not strictly £10 Poms (especially as they were Scottish and the term Pom refers to English) they certainly went in search of a better life after the war. So when Australian born Joe Matera sent me a guitar tune to work on, I thought it would be nice to explore our heritage, as his family hailed from Italy, with a similar story.


At this point this was not really to be a Korgis song but perhaps an Al Steele/Joe Matera solo release. I began writing it while on holiday in Northern Spain with my younger half of the family - usually working it out when the others had gone to sleep and playing the fruits of my labours in the morning. I

t was apparent that this was a story about multiple family members, so my daughter Lorna suggested we make it a family Christmas project. Leah and Ceri agreed after many positive encouraging noises from Lorna and myself!
So in the Christmas period in 2022, Ceri added to the chorus (set back in the UK) and  Lorna, Leah and myself filled in the verses.


It sounded great so I put it up on The Korgis group chat and everyone loved it.

I asked whether perhaps John and James families may want to pitch in and everyone seemed to like that idea. The actual recording went better than we could have imagined and all of a sudden it became a Korgis song, with Joe Matera, Danielle Nicholls, Paul Smith and Elaine Gilmore getting in on the chorus'.


The stories are all true, but not necessarily chronologically accurate! After many revisions, here is how it panned out!

We're both sending our love to you   The first letter from the UK to Oz
We're mailing a parcel too
Things we hold dear
As we can't have you near
Things you might cherish,
Should we not meet again       Back in those days there was only a slim chance of seeing each other as travel was nowhere near as common as it is today.


The sun is fierce and hot
Ewen says the schools are strict   Ewen is the middle brother (but we call him Bruce as he is Australian!) and the 3 of us were born in Oz so this is bit of a white lie!
Dad got laid off from Fords       Outside of Geelong was a huge Ford factory. My father had about 5 different jobs while I was growing up
But he, says he's trying to fix it

We had to get towed
On the Great Ocean Road       My first memory of a breakdown was when we 'blew a gasket'… the first time I had heard that term
But looking on the bright side

The old house is finally sold     We had just moved to 25 Weller St, but in truth I have no memory of the old house.



We're both sending our love again
Nan is glad that you've made new friends   Time has passed and we have moved on a couple of letters - otherwise this song would be 20 mins long!
You say your dad works now
At the cement works near town    There were two cement works outside of Geelong and my Dad had worked at both of them
It may not be the best 
But at least a job's been found      The idea that he had no job,, would be a disaster. People took whatever work they could find.

Dad has bought a new car
Claims it turns on a sixpence     I don't remember the old one but this new car - a Triumph Herald claimed it had a very tight turning circle
The last trip to Adelaide
It didn't seem to make a difference     We often went on holiday to Adelaide and it should be a 9-hour drive, but my Dad was not the fastest. 14 would be a good guess.
The sandstorm it came
That was, after the rain     Ewen remembered this - I just remember it being so hot that we had to run from the  shade of one lamppost to another to get Coke from the shop the next block over.
Cold hungry tired
Then it was hot again     

We're both sending our love again
Please be careful where you choose to swim

Those octopus you saw
Washed up on the shore     Blu-ringed Octopus were deadly, and around 1968 the beaches in Geelong were all closed as there were a LOT of them clearly visible. Not sure it ever made the news in the UK.
They made the news back here
Thirty deaths or more


Joe is learning guitar     Joe probably had a similar experience to us. My brother John was learning guitar, while Ewen and myself played piano. 
Dad doesn't much like it     My Mum thought it was great, but Dad never saw the worth in it. It wasn't a 'job'

Dodged a brown snake on the beach      The brown snake was at Byron Bay but actually from a holiday in 2017, when Lorna was at Uni in Melbourne.
My clothes don't fit like they did
Spider bit my arm
Burned from the start
Doctor said good job
The poison didn't reach my heart     The spider bite happened to a friend at school. You could clearly see the line of red stretching from the bite entry up his arm.

We're both sending our love and care

Strange you're in Torquay, but way out there     British names are EVERYWHERE in Australia. New South Wales being an obvious one. Torquay was a beach resort down the coast just as the Great Ocean Road begins.
The weather back here
Seems really cold this year
Or maybe your nan and gramps 
Are getting old I fear     Much time has passed and the folks at home are becoming old and frail

Hope you're ok back there
The post's been slow here
In your last letter you mentioned
A cough that won't clear
We send you our love
And although times are tough
We're planning to see you
We've almost saved enough    These last two letters cross in the post. We are not sure if they ever received the news of the planned trip back home.

We're both sending our love to you
We're mailing a parcel too
Things we hold dear
As we can't have you near
Things you might cherish,
Should we not meet again 

…Cause we won't meet again     An intentional straight repeat of chorus 1 - with the exception of the last line.
This was not meant to be maudlin,, but more just the way things were. In truth they probably never expected to see the children and grandchildren again


Of course this is a song, so we had to find a way to musically make 5 Choruses and 4 Verses work! To show the passage of time, more instruments join the verses and the rhythm becomes more complex to reflect the growing diverse interests of the 'New Australians'. The chorus always pulls back to the simpler rhythm but also changes over time. The exception being the very last chorus where we return to exactly the instrumentation of Chorus 1.
As far as Korgis songs go,, it is unique, but we tend to embrace that rather than run from it.
New songs coming up include a Brazilian style song called 'Born Under a Full Moon' and also a classic American soul tune called Coffee in New York.


MUD HUTS - The Korgis 

There are many remnants of high civilisations in the short history of man. The Inca Cities, the Pyramids of Giza, the mighty ancient cities of Rome and Athens. Standing in the ruins of our ancestors we made somewhat surprising decisions such as 70's tower blocks and a bewildering array of car parks. They called it progress…
As Joni once said... You pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

While on holiday in Greece I had two ideas. One was inspired by our plane as it suddenly broke free of the cloud layer - this became 'Always a Sunny Day' based on an acoustic tune Joe Matera had sent me.
The 2nd turned out to be the opening number for The Korgis UN-United Nations BLUE album and was born as I wandered around a 2000 year old city on Corfu.

Many people ask that age old question - which came first. With The Korgis we like to keep each of the processes quite random, gradually refining both musically and lyrically.

So here is how this one worked its way out.

I wrote the words and rough tune for the chorus while actually wandering round a Greek ruin. I fleshed out the chords and fine-tuned the chorus lyrics when I got back home. It probably sat for 8/9 months until we started working on UN-United Nations. We knew we wanted it to be quite Beach Boys, so James and I worked on the verse chords and tune. James is brilliant with this kind of tune. This may have been the very first thing he sung. We intentionally used altered bass notes for the chords to sound  like Brian Wilson. James sung the repeated motif leading into the chorus and I found some chords in a different key to lead back to our home key. [The basic chords were Ab to F, but in order to make it more Beatles we changed to F7. Subconsciously  your ear will hear the Ab easily lead up to the home key of C as it is an abbreviated Ab Bb C!] I think I put in the middle 8 [I love to use unusual chord sequences] including lyrics later the same day after James had gone. I just used words that I liked the sound of. At this point all the verse lyrics were gobbledygook! I believe I wrote them later that night. It took about an hour. Usually the first half hour is slow as my brain tosses around ideas… then they seem to tumble out.

…and here is my train of thought, mixed in with the lyrics.

When the world began  [I liked the idea of beginning an album with this line!]
Fish on legs we crawled out from the sea
we're free
Now it's down the pan [how to cram the evolution of man into one phrase]
Two thousand years ago we held the key [Fast forward to Pyramids, The Colosseum, The Parthenon]
    Majestic creations
    inspiring greatness in nations
    Senseless relentlessly we've

Been building our mud hutsover their palaces [In modern Greece and Italy they will happily build car parks over ancient monuments]
To all of their challenges, we did rapidly fall [we should of course 'rise' to a challenge, but I love to turn the language on it's head]
Yes we're still building our mud hutsover their palaces 
Look at all we hold dear
and It's perfectly clear
How we've grown so incredibly small [another phrase inverted]

Big machines roll in [Beginning with the industrial revolution… the lie that machines would gave man more leisure time was born] 
Ignoring all, ten thousand hungry men   
Then the beast it came
Silently it grew and spun it's web [this particular beast was the World Wide Web]
    Not so easy to reason
    The genie back into the bottle
                            Redesigning the grand plan [A.I. will decide what is best for us]
    With his flawless perception of man 

Building our mud hutsover their palaces
To all of their challenges, we did rapidly fall
Yes we're still building our mud hutsover their palaces
though we try to defend, It's a hollow pretend
We've grown so incredibly

Tense and cruel [the disconnection with fellow man via Social  Media means we can say anything we like, be that degrading or just downright stupid]
Content to be foolish
Wide-eyed and wayward [like a kid in a candy store with too much choice]
And blindly, happy to live in our..  [believing there is no other way] 


Maybe we should find a cave
And hide so no-one sees [there IS another way!]
The ones who once were tall are now
Just standing on their knees [sounds like some politicians we all know]
Can we just stop and take a breath...
Please?  [this really was a plea to keep A.I. in the box just a little while longer]

My advice for anyone with lyrics is don't rush to commit to paper… let your brain play with it and ideas will formulate.



In 2021 I ended up writing a lot of the lyrics for The Korgis. In this series I will analyse some of the lyrics on Kartoon World and who knows what else?!  I have often said that the world does not need any more love songs, though I still do occasionally write one if there is something eating at me! Instead I would prefer to find something more relevant  or at least more interesting.

We were just coming out of Corona Virus lockdown and we were itching to create. On a late night Messenger chat with Chris Hopkins (aka Exhibit-1) we suggested writing a song by relay. We would send an idea and not have a say on the other person's input - just let it go somewhere wild. Well I knew that James Warren was going stir crazy so asked him to join in. MAGIC MONEY TREE was the first track to appear. 

I wrote the music and lyrics for the first segment and it is no surprise, coming from the time period, that it is quite anti-government! The idea was also more analytical in that I figured phrases that were in common use already would resonate with the general public, who had already been bashed over the head with them! 'Dead in a Ditch' was another. 

I was incensed that after all the years of hearing 'There is no magic money tree', the minute Covid struck there WAS a magic money tree. Suddenly the homeless were put into hotels and everyone was paid to stay at home. Remember this was also just post-Brexit with the division that caused.  I did check with the other guys that we were all singing from the same hymn sheet here!

Check it out on YouTube with the accompanying video - and that's another story! 

Here is the basis of the lyrics for this song. If you didn't get them already there are references in the relevant places. 

Because there is no, no magic money tree [UK Tory slogan] 
You just can't pick those, those homeless off the streets, [what seemed impossible suddenly happened] 
We got first-rate medicine, and Corporate sponsored pills 
It's not like the whole world, will suddenly get ill ['it could never happen here'] 
No no there is no, no cure for poor man's curse 
Give him a cycle, so he can ride to find some work [Norman Tebbit proclaimed 'When my father wanted work, he damn well got on his bike and looked for it!'] 
And stop the spongers, who come from overseas [refugees had been hatefully targeted by Nigel Farage and UKIP]
Bringing their hate Gods, [since Isis some saw any Muslim as hateful] and their overseas disease [The lab in Wuhan perhaps has a lot to answer for!] - Please 

Then James wrote this bit!... I tweaked the lyrics to make them fit. 

No no magic money tree 
to believe in build our dreams in 
No no magic money tree 
the wind is turning do you smell burning? [reference to the Australian bush fires out of control at the time] 

Then Chris wrote this really off-kilter section! These are all Chris' lyrics. 

We’re lost , Somewhere down the line our wires got crossed 
Tossed around by storms in overdrive  
Punished for the crime of being alive  
Like a ship without sails  
Off the grid and off the scale  
Not by chance but all by force  
Hopelessly lost and way off course [The whole section refers to the great unheard British working public and how out of touch they felt their representatives in London were] 

Back to James 

No no magic money tree 
Has love ended?  They say we've spent it 
No no magic money tree 
Fruits of our labours Go to rich neighbours [reference to the tax cuts on the rich and remembering the feudal system of rich landlords up to the 15th Century] 
Do you think they'll save us?  Or enslave us? [don't think they will save us!] 

Back to me but becoming biblical - always good for overblown symbolism! 

I made my millions, stealing from the poor man's purse 
We trashed our neighbours. and blamed it on the Turks [Turkey wanted to join the EU and the scaremongering of 3 million Turks arriving in the UK fuelled the Brexit argument] 
Didn't see the horsemen [Horsemen of the Apocalypse], aiming at the mark 
Didn't see the serpent, and the locusts in the dark [Revelation] 
I hid my fortune, I hid it  in a dead man's chest 
I saw the sunset, suddenly go west 
I felt the wind rise, my sails were torn and tossed [All Pirates of the Caribbean references!] 
And in that moment,  I realised that I, was lost [Quoting Chris' passage to bind it together] 

Thus the first song written for Kartoon World was born… and for quite a long time it was to be the first track on the album. That was until Bringing Back the Spirit of Love' came along… 

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