Song eight on the DVD is “Sheilagh”, a song I wrote for my best friend when I was about 16 years old. It’s one of my earliest songwriting attempts and it’s nice to see it’s survived the test of time.
There is a story on the DVD, which obviously I’m not going to re-tell here so instead let me give you some background about how this song came about.
As I mention in the sleeve notes of “Troubadour”, I worked in a local hotel during my summer holidays. The not-so-nice part about that was I’d have to leave my mates lying around at the lake shore to get ready to go to work. The nice part about it was I got to meet lots of very interesting people from other countries, which was great for a teenager living in a small town.
One summer a family arrived from Canada; father and mother and four daughters! They were very friendly and as it was a small hotel we kept running into each other. I happened to mention them to my best friend and so he made some excuse or other and ended up at the hotel bar one evening when the family came in for an after-dinner drink. They all seemed to hit it off and somewhat to my surprise he told me the next day that he’d arranged to meet one of the girls again. Her name was Sheilagh and they ended up seeing each other at every opportunity for the entire holiday. I think it’s safe to say holiday romance was in the air.
As we all know, summer holidays come to an end and this one was no exception. The family left Virginia to spend a night in Dublin before heading out to the airport the following morning. Sheilagh told us where they were staying and my best mate and I decided to hitch-hike down to the city so he could see her one more time before they left.
We got there and met up with them and then later we went out to a music bar to have a few drinks. After the club closed we all walked back to the hotel. The girls went up to their room and the deal was we’d follow them up a bit later. We were quite scared about getting stopped and were busy working out all sorts of plans as to how we’d get in when we hit on the brainwave of just walking in as if we were staying there. I know, sounds simple enough now but back then we’d probably have gotten out butts kicked at best and reported to the police at worst, so we were scared!
Anyhow, we made it and we felt like real ‘daredevils’ when we knocked on the girl’s door upstairs. For some reason I remember Sheilagh washing my mates socks (he had smelly feet a lot of the time) and putting them out on the window sill to dry. It was all very innocent stuff and at one stage we lay down on the floor to sleep.
I remember the next morning the door opening and who should walk in but their father. I was scared s***less and just lay there making out I was still asleep and I kept waiting for him to shout at us or give us a good kicking or something but thankfully that didn’t happen. He was coming to call them for breakfast and as soon as he left we scooted out of there as fast as we could.
We made it back up home without any further incidences but as we travelled back up my mate got more and more despondent. By the time we hit Virginia there was no cure for him. We had one very lovesick boy on our hands.
After days of sitting around and him doing nothing but talking about Sheilagh, Sheilagh, Sheilagh, the outline of this song started to take shape. I wrote it fairly fast because in one way it’s just recounting some facts plus me observing how he was feeling. Oh man, after I sung it to him the first time I had to sing it over and over and over after that. I think it did bring him some solace and for me it was my first experience of seeing the effect a song I’d written could have on someone. I guess we both got something out of it.
I recorded a studio version of this song, which appeared as a bonus track on one of the Albatross Years CD’s – and Ralph played slide on it, so once again this shows he’s no stranger to some of my work. On this version he’s basically updating his own work.
You can view the video here
I’ll talk to you next week when I’ll be writing about the next song on the DVD – In The Dead Of Night.