This Is the Story…

Background:
I met Bridget St. John in the south of France in Spring 1967. Bridget arrived in April to stay for three months; I’d been living in Aix-en-Provence since the previous September, studying at the university.

Actually I have only a vague memory of attending classes; mostly I remember playing guitar and singing in clubs or with friends late into the night. Evenings spent swapping songs with Bridget usually went on so late I’d end up sleeping on the floor rather than ride my tiny Velo Solex home through deserted streets.

Nick Drake was a friend, also living in Aix when Bridget arrived but they didn’t meet there. Later they would share gigs at Les Cousins in London, be lumped together as introspective folkies, and release albums throughout that remarkable period of British folk music, 1969 to 1974.

bridgetEven then, Bridget had that distinctive and very memorable voice, smokey and deep. We quickly became friends and when the school term was over, she invited me to stay with her family in London. We took the train to Calais and I remember trying to sleep on the cold, wet deck of the Channel ferry. Since that was impossible, I spent the night working on a song I’d started earlier in the day, “Can You Think Of Any Reason For This Train,” a song John Martyn almost recorded on his first album but opted, instead, for one I’d written about Nick Drake called Sandy Grey.

We arrived at Bridget’s house the next day to find all the doors locked and no one at home. She’d forgotten to tell her mum we were coming. Even though it was summer, it was a chilly, fogged-in London day. We sat in the boiler room to keep warm.

Summer 1967

I spent that summer in London, mostly at John Martyn’s flat. Bridget and I continued to play music together. John and Bridget met. People floated in and out of the flat. Everything was paisley and psychedelic.

The world was changing so fast and every dream promised it would come true. John was recording his album London Conversation. Bridget didn’t have her record deal yet. I returned to California to finish school. End of story… almost.

The vast distance between the California redwoods and swinging London seemed unbridgeable in 1967. We lost track of each other. there was no Skype back then. An international phone call cost a small fortune and connections were fuzzy at best.

Who knew someone would invent the Internet. And email. In 2001, I found a fan site devoted to Bridget and wrote to the owner asking him to forward a message to her. He did and it wasn’t long before I heard from her. We picked up the conversation where we’d left it thirty years before.

A short while later, she sent me a demo of a song she’d written in response to 9/11, called “The Hole In Your Heart.” I was completely blown away. Not only was it a great song, emotionally moving, honest, and raw, but her voice was even more compelling than I remembered. I immediately asked her if she’d sing a duet with me and she agreed. I didn’t know what it would be – a duet for two female voices is unusual – but I set out to write something just for us.

The song…

“This Is The Story” seems at first to be about a pair of lovers who elope, but in the end it’s really about the two women who are telling the story. For me, there’s something about this song that evokes a medieval time – the streets and the alleys where the lovers meet are narrow, cobbled, and dark. I can easily imagine the singers as a couple of gals leaning over an ancient, thick stone wall between their gardens, gossiping endlessly about it all. Perhaps it reminds me of Aix.

Bridget’s voice is especially wonderful when she sings in the lower part of her range so I wrote the melody line to take advantage of that. It also makes the song sound conversational. I had no problem visualizing Bridget and I chatting over some medieval fence.

But in real life, Bridget lives in New York and I’m in Los Angeles. That’s a pretty wide fence. I assured Bridget that if the studio where she liked to record had digital audio capabilities, it would be a breeze. They did and it was. I sent a file to New York with the instrumental track and my vocal, along with a guide vocal so Bridget could learn the song.

When she went into the studio, the engineer muted the guide vocal and Bridget sang her part. The engineer put her vocal on its own separate track and sent it to me in Los Angeles. I put Bridget’s vocal track into my computer and mixed it with my original vocal and music tracks. You’d never know we weren’t chatting across that medieval fence!

This Is the Story – Lyrics

Album: Blue Flame

Vocals: Bridget St. John & Robin Frederick
Guitar: Grant Geissman
Words & Music by Robin Frederick

This is the story
Old as love
These two people
I can remember
The streets and the alleys
Of the town where he waited.

Standing alone
Looking up at her window
Still as a stone
What did he do?
What did he do?
Wrote the letter
“My heart is for you.”
Afraid she’d never know

A voice that tells you hold on tight
With a grip of steel and a heart on fire
And a voice that tells you this can’t be right
Which one is true and which the liar?

He had no future
She was a rich girl
He tried to see her
They kept her away
For he who had nothing
Had nothing to offer

In the still of the night
She read his letter
Swore on her life
Then what did she do?
What did she do?
Sent him a dove
Slipped from her room
And they sealed their love at dawn

A voice that tells you hold on tight
With a grip of steel and a heart on fire
And a voice that tells you this can’t be right
Which one is true and which the liar?

This is the story
Old as love
These two people
I can remember
The streets and the alleys
Of the town where he waited.

Where are they now?
Are they still together?
Did it all work out?
I never heard
I never heard
If they lived in the sun
I only regret
The things I left undone

A voice that tells you hold on tight
With a grip of steel and a heart on fire
And a voice that tells you this can’t be right
Which one is true and which the liar?

Copyright 2002 Robin Frederick. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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Robin Frederick is a professional songwriter, music producer and recording artist. Nick Drake’s recording of her song “Been Smoking Too Long” appears on the FAMILY TREE album. She is also a contributor to the album notes in the re-release of the FRUIT TREE box set and FAMILY TREE CD.

Over her 35 years in the music industry, Robin has written more than 500 songs for television, records, theater, and audio products. She is a former Director of A&R for Rhino Records , Executive Producer of 60 albums, and the author of “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” and Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV.”