Toby wrote Waltz Away Dreaming in 1994. It was a love song detailing how the little things a lover can do can often become their most overpowering legacy. In 1996 Toby signed to George Michael’s new record label, Aegean, and shortly afterward recorded the song at George’s request.
The song was recorded at a studio in Shepherds Bush, London, UK and was very much a ‘demo’. Toby recorded the song as ‘live’ with 3 other musicians (piano, lead acoustic guitar and bass) playing along.
In February 1997 George’s mum Lesley died of cancer. When he left the hospital, George got into his car and the demo of Waltz was on the CD player.
“George told me that the phrase Waltz Away Dreaming just seemed to appropriately describe his feelings at his mum’s passing. He was overwhelmed but something in the song gave him comfort” (Italics are quotes from Toby Bourke)
George thought that the song provided an opportunity for him to express his grief and to give voice to the loss he felt his father Jack was suffering so he rang Toby and asked if the two could meet and discuss a possible collaboration.
“It was a more intense experience than I imagined it would be. Collaborating on a song with someone of George Michael’s stature would be daunting enough. Doing so when that man is in the fresh throws of grief was very challenging for us both but he was determined to deal with his loss creatively and he was very focussed”
“We began to write an extra verse together. I had this line ‘Every grown man cries with his mother’s eyes’ and we built it from there”
It was at this stage that he decided it was the appropriate song for George to launch his new Aegean label.
Because the song they were working on was recorded as a live demo, the logistics of adding verses with only instrumentation so that George could sing his bits became a technical nightmare. They needed to add in chunks of instrumentation for George to sing over to a song that had no guide rhythm track which is quite often impossible. Re recording the whole thing was a no no for George who felt that the original recording couldn’t be bettered.
“This was all happening the week that George’s mum had died and was being buried. George was under real pressure but he was just so focussed. He was not only recording this song that had come to represent his mother but he was also working on her funeral too and having to arrange a kind of decoy event to allow him and his family some privacy at the real thing. Can you imagine living like that?”
“I’m amazed we finished the track to be honest and that we did is a credit to George himself for his determination and strength when others would have crumbled. I’m really proud of the result and supremely grateful to George for having sufficient faith in me and my song to have honoured it so”.
Copyright TOBY BOURKE