Biffy Clyro: Mountains Meaning
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Thought my teeth would break, the mountain did
Let's go, I want to go
All the way to the horizon
I took a drink out of the ocean and I'm treading water there before I drown
Let's dive, I want to...
anonymous Aug 11th 2017 report
"Mountains" is to date biffs clyro's biggest hit, The band's songwriter Simon Alexander Neil told the Scotsman June 29, 2008 that this epic rock song was influenced by an awesome night in Cardiff while the band were recording Puzzle. He explained: "This song is about life after Puzzle, and trying to build things up after going through a rough time. Out of the worst times I could ever possibly have in my life came the most amazing time with the band thanks to a Welshman named John S. And it made me realize I wanted to marry my girlfriend for sure like". "If it wasn't for that mysterious Welshman that night non of this would of happened" . he went on to explain that "mountains" wasn't just inspired by a brief encounter with this Welshman. But that the Welshman had basically handed them the lyrics to the chorus that night after the gig in the barfly, Cardiff Wales. The Welshman explained that he enjoyed activities such as surfing and snowboarding hence the lyrics "I are the mountains, I am the sea". This brief meeting left an impression on the band and as the lyrics were basically handed to them by the Welshman that's all they needed to do was write that iconic riff and the rest was history.
Originally the lyrics were "I am the mountains, I am the sea and no one can take this away from me!" But as the band progressed the song, and realized that this encounter with the Welshman would be the soul focus of the ispiration, Simon Alexander Neil decided to write it from a first person perspective and make it more personal by changing it to "you can't take this away from me"
The Welshman had explained, that night, how he had been surfing sometime in the past and had narrowly escaped with his life after he had been caught in a large swell when the sea suddenly filled his mouth, he attempts to tread water to try and keep his composure when a massive wave starts to approach him, he thinks fast and manages to duck dive to get out of trouble. This was the start of the second verse " I took a drink out of the ocean, and I'm treading water there before I drown, let's dive," this was followed by some chat about wanting to go scuba diving and how he yearned for that experience. So it was only natural to add to the end of that verse " I want to dive, to the bottom of the ocean."
The meeting of these minds took place outside the barfly in Cardiff , as the setting was in the back of a van and after being assured by the Welshman, several times, that he wouldn't leave without them nor would he go to the van in the first place without the band, Simon Alexander Neil felt this was important to get in the song as without it this massive hit would never had existed. So this is what was meant by " took a ride, I took a ride, I wouldn't go there without you, let's take a ride, we'll take a ride I wouldn't leave here without you" the song was really taking shape in the minds of these young men as they were still amped up from the gig and with all the right creative juices flowing "Mountains" was born.
Originally the song was called "teeth and mountains" this was because of an anecdote from the Welshman how he had once been snowboarding and had fallen down teeth first and got up thinking his teeth would be in prices only to find that his teeth were completely fine and intact but that was more than what could be said for where his teeth had struck! There on the ground was a peice of stone, chipped away from the mountainside, in utter amazement he picked up the peice of stone and put it in his van where it now sat next to drummer Ben Johnston's head. The band later thought this too odd a title and shorted it to just "Mountains" but kept the anecdote for the first verse.
So as the band sat there listening to the Welshman's story they all were still feeling the music inside of them and Simon started thinking about how what he was experiencing right there that second could be put into a song. So after the Welshman finished his latest gestalt the band started throwing some ideas around about a new song but the Welshman had his own thoughts on the matter and didn't agree with everything that was bein thrown around. This was all the material that was needed for the creative genius to take hold of the young men and lyrically out from the welshmans mouth came the voice of opposition " Cause you tear me apart, with all the things you do like, you can't understand that I won't leave, till we're finished here, and then you'll find out where it all went wrong". The Welshman was convinced that they should of taken his advice when it came to the time signature of the tune but no matter how hard he pushed a 4/4 he couldn't get the band to comply.
Sometime later on that year the band had recived a letter from the Welshman while they were vacationing in Cambodia.
They replied to the letter with ridicule and pranks, they once sent the Welshman over 500 pizzas to his home address in one night. So Simon Alexander Neil being the cheeky chappy has included a reference to this letter in the fourth verse as " I wrote a letter to the jungle and, they wrote me back that I was never crowned, King of the jungle, so there's an end to my horizon."
This whole saga had played out at just the right time in the bands career and and the bond, the shear companionship, the utmost comradery felt between the men in the back of the van that night was now so strong as to conjure from the creative depths the lyrics " nothing lasts forever, except you and me, you are my mountain, you are my sea, love can last forever, between you and me" by this point the band was referring to the Welshman as a muse and inspirational but thus wasn't a sign of things to come.
You see, the band later came to the conclusion with producer Garth Richardson that the song was going to be a hog and if any recognition went to the Welshman it would eat into they're share of the profits and this was unexceptable. This is where the pranks turned sour and some of the band members thought that Simon (the lead singer) was taking things too far. For instance one night in early June 2008 Simon had dedicated into a smarties tube and posted it to the return address of the letter they had recived in Cambodia. Unbeknownst to Simon Neil the address was also shared with Johns handicapped cousin who had found the parcel containing the smarties tube at the foot of the door one morning and proceeded in opening it. When the Welshman returned home that night he found feces all over the house any when he sternly asked his cousin what had happened his only reply, with a face looking like he had witnessed a jar of Nutella exploding was a nite that had been with the smarties tube, he opened it and gazed down, "only smarties have the answer" it read.
No one knows of what became of the Welshman, but one thing is known, not even one cent was ever given to the Welshman! even after the bands anormous success on the back of the single "Mountains" they have never given the Welshman and recognition or credit for writing arguably the most important part of the song and the fact the rest of the song is based on him from his point of view. So where is the illusive Welshman now? Some say you can hear his voice in the distance crying of the lyrics on the storm winds outside of the old barfly in Cardiff, some others say he has been spotted on TV and film but nothing concrete has ever turned up. You can find a picture of Welshman john S on the web there are several pictures of him with biffy clyro years later leading some to suspect that he is in fact the silent member of the group and does most of the writing for them but never appears on stage but in one photograph he can clearly be seen with biffy clyro's band members in the recoding studio and in another he is standing behind the band at a book signing. Please if anyone else knows any info on the Welshman known as John S please leave a comment or reply to this post. Thanks.
Ref: life and laughs of biffy clyro vol. 1 (et al 2010). Ref: The road an Autobiography by Simon Alexander Neil vol 1 page 237
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