Home Music Articles Forums Blog Chat More...      

Better Times

No artwork

Get Flash to see this player.

This is a song about the people who used to travel the railroads through the Depression. It's a basic raw recording and I'd be happy to hear any ideas for arrangements
Leave a Comment
You must be registered and logged-in to comment.
Better Times

(Standard tuning, capo at the 5th fret, starts off in the Am shape; please see my notes on the song at the end of the lyrics)

(Am) I remember we were bound for (C) glory
(Am) I remember better (G) times
(Am) Everyone had their (C) story
(G) An' a buddy could spare a (Am) dime
(C) I loved you like a (Am) brother
(C) I loved the trains and the (G) wine
(F) The cheaper the (C) better
(G) Oh I remember better (Am) times

When you heard that whistle blowing
She was coming to the bend
The train would get to slowing
An' you could help some other friend
An' you could treat him like a brother
You could share the bread and the wine
But he could be the Devil
Just jumping trains to Perdition's line

There'd be one man with a Bible
An' gamblers at his feet
He'd raise Cain and Abel
An' those boys would start to cheat
And they'd fight just like brothers
They'd fight in Jesus' name
And all of the others
Bettin' on who would win

And there’d be a story about a woman
That every one could share
We’d all remembered loving her
An' combing her long black hair
An' some would call her sister
She was everything and more
She was a mother
A sweetheart and a whore

An' when we could go no further
We'd jump the rails and run
Lookin' for a job that had no worker
Was the hardest work we ever done
And those nights were cold and lonely
You could die just tryin' to keep warm
Dreaming of glory
An' that woman's loving arms

I remember we were bound for glory
I remember better times...

Copyright © Better Times 2001 words and music by Tom Fairnie.

I had this melody for a long time but the idea for the song came from my continuing interest with attempting to write a song that would sit naturally in an American Folk Song Book. The musical influences (Guthrie, Paxton, Dylan et al) are fairly obvious so I won't spend time on that but I'm proud of the lyrics and I'd like to try and give you an insight into them here.
Like a lot of writers I use biblical imagery, not only because of it's obvious meaning but also because it's a great way of taking an issue like brotherly love for instance and making a complex point in a kind of shorthand.
Better Times is set in a boxcar during the Depression and the cast of characters tell stories, recall loves, gamble and fight. The ironic part is that the human spirit is such that we can often look back to the hardest of times and see them as being the best of times.
I like to personalise my songs, not only because I think it gives them a feeling that helps listeners relate to them, but also because I'm more assured writing from personal experience. The sub text in Better Times is about the relationship between my brothers and myself. We shared experiences and memories of a Scottish working class upbringing in the 1950s, laughed together and fought like all brothers do but there's always the trust and, I guess, the bond that never leaves you no matter what.
In terms of the lyrics I particularly like the verse that begins "There'd be one man with a BIble" I think the wordplay is interesting and hopefully, it's also thought provoking.
My final comment would be that when I sing it I really try to see those characters and hear their voices. It's a case of "there but for fortune" if I can quote a far better poet.

Song Stats
Hits: 2376
Comments: 5
Fans: 3
Plays: 126
Downloads: 121
Votes: 3
Uploaded: Aug 12, 2006 - 06:07:24 PM
Last Updated: Aug 12, 2006 - 06:07:24 PM Last Played: Jan 23, 2018 - 06:22:40 AM
Song License
Creative Commons License:

Creative Commons

Song Actions
share on facebook share on twitter download song
stevel said 4211 days ago (August 12th, 2006)
Great song and performance
I just got a box set of Townes Van Zandt and this track would fit right on
there....great folk track, lovely vocal/guitar performance. Thanks for
sharing it
Check out my latest song called Broken Toy
Feter said 4211 days ago (August 13th, 2006)
No Depression !!
this is not a raw at all Tom ... I can see how lyrics
meat all in this song ...which the best thing in a folk
song .. a classic as always ....thank you for sharing it ..!

Check out my latest song called Roll with it
hellaz said 4207 days ago (August 16th, 2006)
nice folk track
i like the lyrics, they dont tell a story in a literal sense but they do allow oneself to contemplate on a story as the see fit. if that makes sense. good musical content, nice mix.
said 4207 days ago (August 17th, 2006)
The best folk song I've ever heard on MJ (and I've written a few myself).
Evocative lyrics sung with conviction and nostalgic feeling. Nice guitar
accompaniment. Kudos!

Be well!

Tea And Salmon: http://www.macjams.com/song/23644
TobinMueller said 4196 days ago (August 28th, 2006)
Woody would be proud
From the opening line it reminded me of Woody Guthrie, and it never disappointed. You are a spectaular writer. Excellent song. Keep dreamin. 2001 was a great and necessary year for them.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Artist Info
artist photo
Name: Tom Fairnie
Location: Edinburgh UK
send a note
I was born in Musselburgh but I now live in Edinburgh. In terms of the music...I attempt to write lyrical, melodic and intelligent songs and try to make the best use of my guitar skills to provide sensitive uncluttered arrangements. I occassiona... [see more]

Check out some of my other songs:

Who's Online
Invisible Members: 0
Visitors: 94