When the Rouble Sinks Write a Sea Shanty

Davy Jones - the story behind the sea shanty

Song art for Davy JonesThe original name of the song was "The Rouble Song". I never meant it for the final title, and so it isn't. I can't recall without research the date when the inspiration hit - I think it might have been in 2015. What happened was that one day the value of Russia's currency took a major hit. It was not the first time that had happened during my 2 decades living there. My first thought was, "Well, here we go again - headed for Davy Jones!"

I had guitar in hand as I was watching the news reports come across the internet. It was looking like the Rouble (RUR) and the King of the Deep were about to have one thing in common... hence, in the first line: "...the bottom of the ocean is my home".

Decisions, decisions...

I toyed briefly with the idea of having the song be about the currency. Something like, "The Rouble has sunk to join me here, on the bottom of the sea all dark and drear..." But there were several reasons why I scuttled that idea:

  1. Well, it was tacky!
  2. Things have a way of changing, even reversing course. What if in, say 5 years, the U.S. dollar were in the dump and the Rouble were king of the hill? It would be just my luck, and there I'd be with a song that showed me up for the idiot I am. Plenty of other ways to do that without butchering a potentially good song.
  3. If one is going to do a sea song about some kind of money, well, it's got to be gold: doubloons, pieces of eight... stuff like that, doesn't it? These days, the value of the Rouble is linked to black gold, not gold gold, so that was out.

Once that got sorted, the rest of the writing was quick and easy and I was done in 20 minutes. What was less easy was that right from the start I felt that the song needed the sound of Irish Uilleann pipes. One of the members of the Shanty Choir Mir that I perform with occasionally plays them, but he's a sailor and travels a lot, and the logistics were difficult. So the song sat around in several versions, unfinished, for several years.

Searching for the right sound

Fast-forward to 2017 when I landed the first festival gig for my original music: the Harwich International Sea Shanty festival in Essex, England. I wanted to release a new single to coincide with that, and I felt that Davy Jones would be the best from my back catalog. About that same time I was looking for replacements for some of the virtual instrument sounds from the old version of GarageBand on my old Mac, which is not going to last forever. I happened across a thing called Kontakt Player which had a free sound library that included... WHOA! ...Uilleann pipes! And some nice world drums. And a nice sounding upright bass. Not long before I had found a library of squeezebox sounds, and the Bandoneon had the perfect edgy tone for Davy Jones. All are present in the final production.

Things come together when the time is right!

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