Kelly was still chronicling the life of the young man Joe and his estranged wife Rita, who had split in To Her Door in 1987 when his wife took the kids and told him to “shove it Jack, I’m walking out that f…in’ door.” He was last heard of riding a silver top taxi through Melbourne to see his estranged wife and kids, he was still aimless and drifting and she had sent him the money to make the trip down, would they reconcile, could they be a family again, “Did they have a future? /Would he know his children?/ Could he make a picture and get them all to fit…”
Love Never Runs On Time was lifted off the Wanted Man album, recorded at Clearlake Studios, Los Angeles with co-producers David Bridie (keyboards), Kelly, and guitarist Randy Jacobs and mixed by Tony Cohen at Metropolis Studios in Melbourne. Local talent included Peter Luscombe (drums), Bill McDonald (bass), Shane O’Mara (guitar), Kelly on harmonica, and the sweet harmony vocals of the Bull sisters Vika and Linda.
In Kelly’s book How To Make Gravy his profile of this song becomes a dissertation on the quality of coffee around the world and in the song our young protagonist Joe, possibly a truck driver now, makes some observations about the turgid roadside café version of what passes for a decent brew “” I followed the old river till morning/I stopped, I don’t remember the name of the town/ But the colour of the coffee was a warning/ It was the colour of the river but not nearly as brown.”
His life is spiraling down, he can‘t connect with his former partner and kids, “You’re lost in the traffic/ I’ve been asking around but you haven’t been seen/I never thought we were perfect/ Oh, but darling- what we could have been.” 1997’s How To Make Gravy was the last in the trilogy of songs about Joe and Rita, he is in prison and separated from his family on Christmas Day, Kelly has hinted that we may learn more about this couple in the future.
Deeper Water was the title track on Kelly’s tenth studio album released in 1995, it was a poignant rites-of-passage memoir, a moving autobiographical narrative of a young Irish/Italian boy growing up in Adelaide in the 1950’s and 60’s. Kelly sees water as a metaphor for life, it is beautiful and strong, resilient, and ever-present. The tides ebb and flow, the water can be smooth and glassy, or violent and stormy, just as life is rich with experiences that are joyful, turbulent, serene, and dangerous.
Songs like Roy Orbison’s Blue Bayou, Bruce Springsteen’s The River, Otis Redding’s Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay, and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, have all beguiled and fascinated us, and like water, seeped into our consciousness. Deeper Water is an elegiac, slightly tragic song, that Kelly invites the listener to immerse themselves in, to better understand the world in which we live, and the world in which Paul Kelly lives.
The song is a loving memory of Adelaide, Kelly’s home town, the same town that he had scorned in an earlier composition, “All the king’s horses, all the king’s men/ Wouldn’t drag me back again…”, but here nostalgia and sweet reminiscences prevail “On a crowded beach in a distant time/At the height of summer, see a boy of five/ At the water’s edge, so nimble and free/ Jumping over the ripples, looking way out to sea/deeper water, deeper water, deeper water, calling him on.”
So we begin with a childhood memory of a young boy being carried by his father’s strong arms above the crashing waves of the Southern Indian Ocean, a folksy electric guitar accompaniment gives way to the hymnlike chorus “Deeper water, deeper water, calling him on.” Then the mood changes and the country-folk arrangement segues to a more strident guitar riff, as though Kelly has been dragged under by a riptide, as he describes the analogous experience of falling in love with a woman only to watch her waste away from a disease.
Throughout the song Kelly contrasts deadpan vocals with more exuberant tones, but all the while he sings the beautiful melody of the chorus in the same restrained manner, and encourages the listener to interpret the meaning and connotation of the verses, so elegant and understated.
In those seven beautiful verses Kelly takes us on a journey that it is equal parts poignant, playful, joyful, tragic, and ultimately deeply moving, the water was certainly an inspiration for Kelly, as described in his memoir How To Make Gravy “the sweet, dangerous, dazzling deeper water, the ever-calling unknown”. Recorded at the Platinum and Periscope Studios in Melbourne and produced by Karl Moeller and Paul Kelly, Linda Bull’s plaintive harmony vocals were sublime, below left with sister Vika.