Editor’s Note: We are absolutely thrilled to put the frontman back at the front today with the first Nativology post by Mat Hutt. Please give him a warm welcome, and if you enjoy this post, make sure to give his blog a gander as well.
Rover is a story about abandonment and confronting demons of the past and future.
It became a song that always felt to me like it wielded tangible power. Here’s the story of James MacKinlay…
Rover was one of those songs that kind of wrote itself. It just happened.
Now, there are quite a few elements that led up to writing it, so Iʼll do my best to keep things moving.
This is how I remember it –
I was visiting my Dad and family in London whilst on a quick Native break.
My Scottish Granny told me this weirdly sweet little story.
My Granny: My grandfather was a wee little man, very sweet you know Pet, but he liked to have quite a few nips of whiskey. I would say to my Nana ʻWhy is Granpa walking like that?’ and my Nana would say ʻOch Pet, he’s just got sore feet.ʼ His name was James MacKinlay, but everyone called him Rover. Rover MacKinlay.
On this trip, I had two really cool/intense/cool conversations with my Dad.
My Dad is an accomplished songwriter and musician, and he told me to “write a story song.”
“Songs can’t always be about feelings, Mathew. People want to hear a good story from time to time.” I logged that advice away, because he was right.
The second conversation was a bit heavier. We talked about my Mum and Dad’s divorce, and about why he wasn’t around for a while when I was a kid. Big stuff, ya know? Tears, hugs, laughter and a long time coming. It was a milestone in our relationship.
This is where it gets a bit, well… cosmic. Stay with me.
The conversation took place at the top of an Iron Age earth works fort. It was a powerful place. Full on Celt action.
We were staying with some old school hippie friends. At the inevitable after dinner jam session one of the old hippies showed me this incredible chord that oozed Celtic goodness.
Old Hippie: You can move that form up and down the neck, it’s one of my favorites. Pass the spliff.
The next day, I sat down with a guitar and everything clicked – the story, the name, the lyrics, and the music. Like it was supposed to happen. I know, I know. But I was raised by hippies.
When I got back to New York, I showed it to the band. And again it just clicked. Everyone played the part that the song called for. It was really cool.
From Dave, Woody and Mattʼs driving, hypnotic rhythm, the wonderful pads of organ from whomever was gracing the ivories for us at the time, and finally to Mike’s raw, powerful, and other-worldly guitar work, Rover just… rocked.
There were times when we played live that Mike would grab the song with both hands, and wield it like a mighty Celtic battle club, his slide work literally bludgeoning the audience- and his band mates – with itʼs power and beauty. He brought tears to my eyes on many a night.
Rover was about the fear of being left alone, of having the one you love leave you. It was about the fear of becoming “that” person who leaves and causes the pain – we often become what we know. These are fairly universal feelings, we’ve all felt this way before.
Maybe that’s why Rover carried so much weight. Maybe that’s why it was a band and fan favorite. It sure is one of mine.
Here’s a tale from long ago
Of a man who lived to roam
He liked his drink he liked his song
He always left to be alone
He had a wife so young and fine
He didn’t only drink her wine
Story of James MacKinlay
And Roverʼs blood is pumping in me
Man, it’s really cool to be back on another Cornbread Wednesday! Big props to Dave Thomas for bringing us all this vaulty goodness!
Hey, come check out my blog at huttsez.com – life, kids, wife, sex, kids. Yeah, that pretty much covers it.
Drinky Drinky, Smoky Smoky!