Robert James Ray
ONLY A FOOL: BACKGROUND STORY
This song was written fairly quickly one afternoon (yes that sometimes can happen!) and I remember thinking it had an unusual but appealling quality. In some ways it mixed a combination of my influences I’d not really explored before.
As a Roy Orbison fan I'm drawn to sad songs, but I think sad songs are often written (and sung) from the perspective of the person who is on the losing end of things. In ‘Only A Fool' I wanted a slightly different view. One where you can watch someone else struggle with the heartache and make the same mistakes over and over. However old habits are hard to break and by the end of the song you’ll realise that both characters in the song are as miserable as each other!
On that positive note I’ll move onto the musical influences of the song, one of which I’ve already mentioned. Roy Orbison is a constant source of inspiration for me but another influence that is less obvious is David Bowie. He challenges what we think of as pop music and pushes boundaries not just with style but musically too. His melodies and chord progressions are easy on the ear but there’s often something odd going on if you look closely. It's a trait both Bowie and Orbison share. Odd bar numbers, modulations and unusual chromatic melodies all slip by without the listener even noticing. One example that came to mind when writing was ‘As The World Falls Down’ from the film ‘Labyrinth’. It's a great example of pop music being both engaging and a bit surreal proving that a song doesn’t have to have a sing along chorus or a repetitive hook (although Bowie does that easily too!).
With the song taking shape I also imagined ‘Only A Fool' was the kind of song you could hear Bobby Vinton crooning to in the mid 60s, while bands like The Stones and The Beatles were busy making music that was hip and culturally relevant. The likes of Ral Donner, Terry Stafford and Bobby Vinton are often overlooked compared to other artists of that time but they made some great records. That 'forgotten' era of crooners is a not so secret pleasure of mine!
Hopefully the cocktail groves and exotic instrumentation of ‘Only A Fool' will take you to a slightly surreal and melancholic place where somebody else is the fool this time.