I received an email today from someone in Australia, asking me what on earth the story behind MSTU’s Gravestones is. I remember when The Casket Letters was released Kev’s dad saying something along the lines of ‘I really like that Gravestones song but I’ve got no idea what it’s about.’
So this was my reply to Australia. I thought I would share in case it was still bothering anyone else after all these years. I did sometimes force Kev to tell the story on stage but he would inevitably cause trouble and do it wrong.
“It’s based on a (not particularly good) ghost story I was told when I was about 11. The story, in its shortest form – I can’t remember the long version if there ever was one – was:
“In a graveyard in a village, a ghost would appear every night beside a particular gravestone and would repeat to whoever was there to hear him (or to no one presumably) ‘It’s not me’. Disturbed local residents eventually decided to try and get rid of the ghost by moving the grave away elsewhere and proceeded to dig up the coffin. When they did so, they took a look inside. Where there was nothing but stones. The End.
“So the song is written from the ghost’s point of view and is speculation on what might have happened here. The ghost knows that his body isn’t here, where his name is on the gravestone. He knows his body is somewhere else but he doesn’t know where. He also doesn’t know why whatever happened to him has happened – there’s nothing worse than to not know. His ultimate punishment for doing something while he was alive, whatever it was, is to not know what he did but to know it must have been something so awful that he has been left in this limbo, not even being able to find his body. Why are the stones there? Who put them there? We don’t know. The ghost dreams too; the people I see in my sleep – they know something. Are they the people who did this to him, or the other villagers? Or are they people living now? We don’t know.
“I’m sorry this isn’t a more satisfying explanation, but it’s deliberately vague with the intention of giving the same sense of unease and fear of the unknown that the original story gave me. For an extra bit of trivia, in my mind’s eye it’s set at a particular spot in Beeston Parish Church, Nottinghamshire.”
Whilst I’m being nostalgic, I was thinking recently (perhaps because of starting out on this new adventure with Without Feathers – more on that shortly) about one of my favourite things in my MSTU scrapbooks. It was fairly early on, we had done a couple of gigs as a five piece but Kev and I were still mostly playing as a duo. On this particular occasion Kev and I were playing in a bar in Derby and after our set, someone from one of the other bands handed us a folded piece of paper, saying that someone who had had to leave before the end of our set had asked him to give it to us. I unfolded it and it was this, now taped into my scrapbook along with the set list:
This remains one of my most treasured possessions. What a touching and thoughtful thing to do. If I ever have to leave during someone’s set that I really like, I plan to do similar. Thanks, whoever you were!