I was in Japan and I was reading a newspaper – I think it was like the Tokyo Times, Japan Times or something – and there was something about climate change and it’s typical, you know, the way people are kind of not doing anything about it. ‘It’s all gonna be fine, don’t worry. Oh yeah, sure there’s icebergs melting but it doesn’t matter – it’s not melting in London, so don’t worry about it’ you know.
And the phrase was in this article, it started off: ‘Despite repeated warnings they’re not listening,’ you know. It’s the idea. I like that phrase, ‘Despite repeated warnings.’ I thought, yeah, that sums up a lot of people’s feelings.
And then thought, well, what I’ll do is I’ll do a kind of song where I use symbolism, and so the person will be symbolic of certain politicians, and people who argue that climate change is a hoax, and we know a few. So I’ll do it about that and I’ll get somebody to symbolise one of those people.
So I thought, OK, it’s a sea captain, and he’s steering a boat, and he’s gonna to go towards the icebergs, but he’s been warned, and he’s going because he thinks he’s right, and he thinks they’re all making too much of it. The usual arguments, you know.
So that’s what it’s about. It’s a sort of story like the Titanic. If they’d have been warned, hey, you’re going to sink from icebergs, and if the captain says, ‘It’s doesn’t matter, it’ll be fine.’ So it’s that, using that kind of idea, so that it’s a sort of mad, daft captain, and then there’s all the people on the boat who know he’s got it wrong.
So it’s very symbolic for what’s going on in some areas of politics, in my mind.
So it’s one of those songs like ‘Band On the Run’ or ‘Live And Let Die’ that’s kind of episodic, and it’s kind of an epic production. That is it. And it’s hopefully trying to remind people that climate change is not a hoax, and that we should avoid having a mad captain steering us towards the icebergs.
As we began recording ‘Despite Repeated Warnings’, in Henson Studios in Los Angeles, the whole thing started to get a little bit operatic in my mind. I was imagining the words as if they were a scene on stage, like a Gilbert and Sullivan opera with the ship’s crew dressed in striped shirts and the mad captain with some kind of gaudy, extravagant gold on his hat.
‘Despite Repeated Warnings’ is something of an epic, and it goes through a number of changes, both in tempo and in key. It’s a form of medley similar to ‘Band On The Run’ and the b-side of Abbey Road. I really like the challenge of putting together these songs that go on a journey. And I’ve always quite fancied actually seeing this song staged. It was almost taking place in a church hall in my head, like a little school production singing in chorus, ‘What can we do?… this foolish plan’. That was really, ‘What can we do with the drunken sailor?’ The tune gets very similar to that.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present