Rock star Guy Garvey was inspired to write smash hit ‘One Day Like This’ in the bath, where he came up with the opening lines. The song went Double Platinum in the UK, spent more weeks in the charts than any other Elbow record and won the Ivor Novello Award.
The proud Mancunian and son Jack – who is already writing songs at just four years old – still come up with lyrics in the bath. “I radiate deep satisfaction and love for him whenever he does that,” said Guy, 47, who started out with Elbow after meeting at college in Manchester more than 30 years ago.
“Jack loves ‘School of Rock’ on TV – I have recognized the voices of Louis Armstrong and Robert Plant. We write songs, he and I, in the bath. I wrote ‘One Day Like This’ in the bath. I have the recording somewhere.
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“That one came from the rhythm, ‘bomb bomb, ting ting’, then the line ‘Blinking in the morning sun’.” Band members, brothers Craig and Mark Potter helped him. “I took it to Craig and Mark and we grew it really quickly, in about two days.”
Guy, a visiting professor in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, played the audio files of the song for his debut lecture. He added: “It showed where it nearly went, and it brought the house down, it just sounds so wrong when you know a song so well.”
The band’s love of anthems grew from the first time an audience sang their lyrics in Brighton, when they played to a crowd of 300. Two years later, Guy invited tens of thousands at the Glastonbury festival to sing along with them.
Around 4,000 of them were credited on their next album sleeve. Guy recalled: “We came off for the encore in Brighton, but the only thing we talked about was ‘did you hear them singing along?’
“Within a couple of years, we were playing Glastonbury and I said to the crowd, do you want to be on the next album? It was before the Blair/Bush invasion of Iraq, so I got them to sing.
“We wrote a song called Grace under Pressure, we did that all on account of the Glastonbury audience singing along with us. We appealed to anyone who was there to write in, and we got 4,000 names on the album sleeve.
“Then we started to write anthems so they could join in, and of course that culminated in ‘One Day Like This’.” The audience ‘singalong’ shaped a ‘large part of what we do musically, and probably what we will be remembered for’, he added.
Describing the feeling of leading the audience, he said: “It is overwhelming, and also the most fun. I am completely aware of what a lucky b****** I am. Being a radio presenter, and doing that. One of our videos ends with a piano falling on me, and if there is any kind of balance in the universe, that is how I will go out.”
Inspired by his late father Don, a Manchester newspaperman and proofreader, Guy loves a story, whether it is a joke from poet Simon Armitage about The Last Supper, or a tale of his early days busking in an underpass in Bolton, ‘where the wind whistled through, so people felt sorry for you’.
“In the Simon and Garfunkel song ‘Sound of Silence’, after the line ‘the rain like silent raindrops fell’, there is a gap and we used to sing ‘f****** hell’ because it was so cold, “I have recalled. The late, great DJ John Peel gave Elbow one of their first big breaks when he played Elbow on his show.
Guy has a show on Sunday afternoons on BBC Six Music, the station where John’s son Tom Ravenscroft is also a popular presenter. Guy can still remember exactly what John Peel said when he played Elbow on his show:
“He said ‘This is a song called powder blue and in a few years I will be eligible to wear powder blue slacks which I am looking forward to a great deal. Then weirdly, he added ‘our son Tom has just started university and he is missing his mum and dad. He played Van Morrison’s ‘We were born before the wind’.
“Now, I have been playing on a station dedicated to the spirit of Tom’s dad for 15 years, that circle is closed, it is an amazing thing. Tom has the most beautiful show, playing his dad’s music collection. I am proud to be in the slot, every week, after Cerys Matthews and before the legend that is Iggy Pop.
“I am a listener, stop myself texting them just how good it is, Lauren Laverne is ‘Auntie Lauren’ to my son Jack because we listen in.”
Catch up with the highlights from the BBC Radio 6 Music Festival in Cardiff shown on BBC Four on iPlayer.