The Story Behind the Song: The Grim Reaper

Gary Borland

Way back in 2018 the world was out and about and we had things to do. One of those things was to think about the year ahead and plan how to spend precious time between jobs, other bands, family and life, to play live. So when time is limited a big consideration is always how to reach the maximum number of people. A good weapon to use is to have kindred spirits, i.e. other great bands who play great songs with guitars. What a superb waste of time a night out drinking beer at a gig is. Watching two or three great bands is even better, which is why festivals are so popular and why the big boys like Stiff Little Fingers always get a great line up together for their tours.

And so it was that in July of 2018 I was in regular contact with Garry Alexander Borland.

Garry Alexander Borland

We’d first played with Garry’s band, Heavy Drapes, a year or 2 earlier at Audio in Glasgow. They were good but quite early on in their path. By the time we played with them again at Sleazy’s, a year later, they had improved tenfold and were quite rightly making a name for themselves, with several Rebellion slots under their belts. Check out just how good they were here:

Logical then to be speaking with Garry to plan the year ahead together. But suddenly there it was: He was dead from a heart attack the day after we had been putting the final details in place for a joint bill at the 100 Club.

Jezz Saxton

Jez was one of those people who seemed indestructable. Bass player with Sheffield’s The Fuckwits, Jez was to be found, cider in hand on stage, talking complete and utter giberish. And I mean total gibberish. He even wrote songs in gibbersh including this fine example:

Jez delighted in gibberish. It was his raison d’etre and gave him an ever greater air of indestructability. Shocking then, in mid 2019 to hear that Jez was no more. Heartbreak for his nearest and dearest in Sheffield.

Neil McNaughton was someone I liked to argue with, preferably loudly in public over a bottle of wine making the rest of the restaurant stop what they were doing and stare. You see, Neil was an expert in Politics and Economics. He wrote text books for the A level syllabus, set the exams and taught the stuff. So Neil was a Liverpuddlian with an opinion. No one better to argue with. But he was also great fun and kind. As if that wasn’t enough he ghost wrote autobiographies like this one with Leslie Cavendish who cut all the stars’ hair in the 60s:

Neil McN
Neil McNaughton
Cutting Edge

One day, at around the same time as the news about Garry and Jez broke, Neil’s wife called to say he was in hospital with a rare brain tumor and didn’t have long.

I mean, this was getting a bit bloody regular. I couldn’t help thinking of the old cliche about life: “This is no rehearsal. This is it.” And the image occurred of the Grim Reaper, always there, always waiting beneath his hood, biding his time, but one day coming. After all, I might look fresh faced but I’m no spring chicken.

Then I thought: “Bugger that”. This time of life is like the last days of the school holidays. We might all be going to hell in a hand cart so lets enjoy it. Let’s all raise a glass to Garry, Jez and Neil, throw a party, put on “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult and tell the subject matter of that song to either join in or get lost. 

Maybe the partying has been a bit difficult in this strange year but we’ll get back there, and when we do we’ll make up for lost time. One day we’ll party like it’s 1999 and not 2020 and as per the lyrics of the song he inspired: “Jez would say. What a day”

Musically the song has been marmite. The more rock orientated of our admirers have been baffled. During an interview with Armitage Smith of the Paranoid Squirrel Show, a great supporter and presenter, he could barely contain his displeasure and desire to see the song off the album. Perhaps he picked up a little of the flavour the rest of the band use to rib me about it, calling the track my “Take That” song. The track does reveal a little of my inner Boublé but I love it. Great lyrics (as ever 😉 😜), a combination of 2 similar parts on the piano made distinct by a wonderful arrangement, including backing vocals from a cast of 1,000s. An arrangement we will never be able to reproduce live until we are as big as Coldplay and can afford some of those georgeous backing singers in mini dresses. 

And to cap it off, a vocal which is probably the best of my career.

You can do us a favour by hitting the button and listening to the song on Spotify (and following us while you are there if you’ve not yet) or, failing that, listen on our Bandcamp page:

If you must, you can also hear it via those “Do no Harm”, Google owned, pay a pittance if you’re lucky, cheapskates YouTube who will show you some ads first, tell no one how much they receive from them, nor how much they are sharing with the content owners whose videos have been used to make the money :

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