Quotes about flying…

I started looking for a  Leonardo da Vinci quote about flying for a song I’m rolling in my head, and have ended up with acres of quotes, which I’ve whittled down to pre-1930s. There is no doubt in my mind that some of these will sneak their way into one or two of the songs.

  • The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be? —it is the same the angels breathe.

    — Mark Twain, Roughing It, Chapter XXII, 1886

    Sometimes, flying feels too godlike to be attained by man. Sometimes, the world from above seems too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant for human eyes to see

    — Charles A. Lindbergh, The Spirit of St. Louis, 1953

    You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky.

    — Amelia Earhart

    My soul is in the sky.

    — William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V. Scene I..

    More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.

    — Wilbur Wright

    By day, or on a cloudless night, a pilot may drink the wine of the gods, but it has an earthly taste; he’s a god of the earth, like one of the Grecian deities who lives on worldly mountains and descended for intercourse with men. But at night, over a stratus layer, all sense of the planet may disappear. You know that down below, beneath that heavenly blanket is the earth, factual and hard. But it’s an intellectual knowledge; it’s a knowledge tucked away in the mind; not a feeling that penetrates the body. And if at times you renounce experience and mind’s heavy logic, it seems that the world has rushed along on its orbit, leaving you alone flying above a forgotten cloud bank, somewhere in the solitude of interstellar space.

    — Charles A. Lindbergh, The Spirit of St. Louis, 1953.

    Flying was a very tangible freedom. In those days, it was beauty, adventure, discovery — the epitome of breaking into new worlds.

    — Anne Morrow Lindbergh, introduction to Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead, 1929.

    Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: what more could you ask of life? Aviation combined all the elements I loved. There was science in each curve of an airfoil, in each angle between strut and wire, in the gap of a spark plug or the color of the exhaust flame. There was freedom in the unlimited horizon, on the open fields where one landed. A pilot was surrounded by beauty of earth and sky. He brushed treetops with the birds, leapt valleys and rivers, explored the cloud canyons he had gazed at as a child. Adventure lay in each puff of wind.

    I began to feel that I lived on a higher plane than the skeptics of the ground; one that was richer because of its very association with the element of danger they dreaded, because it was freer of the earth to which they were bound. In flying, I tasted a wine of the gods of which they could know nothing. Who valued life more highly, the aviators who spent it on the art they loved, or these misers who doled it out like pennies through their antlike days? I decided that if I could fly for ten years before I was killed in a crash, it would be a worthwhile trade for an ordinary life time.

    — Charles A. Lindbergh, The Spirit of St. Louis.

    I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things …

    — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    Courage is the price that life extracts for granting peace. The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things.
    The soul that knows it not knows no release from little things.
    Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
    Nor mountain heights, where bitter joy can hear
    The sound of wings.

    — Amelia Earhart

    [I’m] getting housemaid’s knee kneeling here gulping beauty.

    — Amelia Earhart, comment in logbook, 1928.

    Sometimes I feel a strange exhilaration up here which seems to come from something beyond the mere stimulus of flying. It is a feeling of belonging to the sky, of owning and being owned — if only for a moment – by the air I breathe. It is akin to the well known claim of the swallow: each bird staking out his personal bug-strewn slice of heaven, his inviolate property of the blue.

    — Guy Murchie, ‘Song of the Sky,’ 1954.

    Travelers are always discoverers, especially those who travel by air. There are no signposts in the air to show a man has passed that way before. There are no channels marked. The flier breaks each second into new uncharted seas.

    — Anne Morrow Lindbergh, North to the Orient, 1935

    To most people, the sky is the limit. To those who love aviation, the sky is home.

    — anon.

    They shall mount up with wings as eagles.

    — Isaiah 40:31.

    We who fly do so for the love of flying. We are alive in the air with this miracle that lies in our hands and beneath our feet.

    — Cecil Day Lewis

    Flying alone! Nothing gives such a sense of mastery over time over mechanism, mastery indeed over space, time, and life itself, as this.

    — Cecil Day Lewis

     Pilots are a rare kind of human. They leave the ordinary surface of the word, to purify their soul in the sky, and they come down to earth, only after receiving the communion of the infinite.

    — Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra, President of Ecuador.

    Until now I have never really lived! Life on earth is a creeping, crawling business. It is in the air that one feels the glory of being a man and of conquering the elements. There is an exquisite smoothness of motion and the joy of gliding through space. It is wonderful!

    — Gabriele D’Annunzio, 1909.

    Flying has always been to me this wonderful metaphor. In order to fly you have to trust what you can’t see. Up on the mountain ridges where very few people have been I have thought back to what every flyer knows. That there is this special world in which we dwell that’s not marked by boundaries, it’s not a map. We’re not hedged about with walls and desks. So often in an office the very worst thing that can happen is you could drop your pencil. Out there’s a reminder that are a lot worse things, and a lot greater rewards.

    — Richard Bach, television interview.

    Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away, and be at rest.

    — Psalms 55:6.

    When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with all other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.

    — John Muir, Travels in Alaska, 1915.

    I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty. That the reasons flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the aesthetic appeal of flying.

    — Amelia Earhart.

    The great bird will take its first flight … filling the world with amazement and all records with its fame, and it will bring eternal glory to the nest where it was born.

    — Leonardo da Vinci

    A sky as pure as water bathed the stars and brought them out.

    — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, first sentence of Southern Mail, 1929.

    What freedom lies in flying, what Godlike power it gives to men … I lose all consciousness in this strong unmortal space crowded with beauty, pierced with danger.

    — Charles A. Lindbergh

    Flying might not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price.

    — Amelia Earhart

    A man can criticize a pilot for flying into a mountainside in fog, but I would rather by far die on a mountainside than in bed. What sort of man would live where there is no daring? Is life itself so dear that we should blame one for dying in adventure? Is there a better way to die?

    — Charles A. Lindbergh

    How many more years I shall be able to work on the problem I do not know; I hope, as long as I live. There can be no thought of finishing, for ‘aiming at the stars’ both literally and figuratively, is a problem to occupy generations, so that no matter how much progress one makes, there is always the thrill of just beginning.

    — Robert H. Goddard, in a 1932 letter to H. G. Wells.

    I think it is a pity to lose the romantic side of flying and simply to accept it as a common means of transport, although that end is what we have all ostensibly been striving to attain.

    — Amy Johnson, Sky Roads of the World, 1939.

    Aeronautics confers beauty and grandeur, combining art and science for those who devote themselves to it… . The aeronaut, free in space, sailing in the infinite, loses himself in the immense undulations of nature. He climbs, he rises, he soars, he reigns, he hurtles the proud vault of the azure sky …

    — Georges Besançon, founder of the first successful aviation journal L’Aérophile, February 1902.

    Live thy life as it were spoil and pluck the joys that fly.

    — Martial, Epigrams, A.D. 86.

    These bright roofs, these steep towers, these jewel-lakes, these skeins of railroad line — all spoke to her and she answered. She was glad they were there. She belonged to them and they to her… . She had not lost it. She was touching it with her fingertips. This was flying: to go swiftly over the earth you loved, touching it lightly with your fingertips, holding the railroads lines in your hand to guide you, like a skein of wool in a spider-web game — like following Ariadne’s thread through the Minotaur’s maze, Where would it lead, where?

    — Anne Morrow Lindbergh, The Steep Ascent, 1944.

    I don’t understand these people anymore, that travel the commuter-trains to their dormitory towns. These people that call themselves human, but, by a pressure they do not feel, are forced to do their work like ants. With what do they fill their time when they are free of work on their silly little Sundays?
    I am very fortunate in my profession. I feel like a farmer, with the airstrips as my fields. Those that have once tasted this kind of fare will not forget it ever. Not so, my friends? It is not a question of living dangerously. That formula is too arrogant, too presumptuous. I don’t care much for bull-fighters. It’s not the danger I love. I know what I love. It is life itself.

    — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars, 1939.

    And if flying, like a glass-bottomed bucket, can give you that vision, that seeing eye, which peers down on the still world below the choppy waves — it will always remain magic.

    — Anne Morrow Lindbergh, North to the Orient, 1935.

    To fly! to live as airmen live! Like them to ride the skyways from horizon to horizon, across rivers and forests! To free oneself from the petty disputes of everyday life, to be active, to feel the blood renewed in one’s vein — ah! that is life… . Life in finer and simpler. My will is freer. I appreciate everything more, sunlight and shade, work and my friends. The sky is vast. I breathe deep gulps of the fine clear air of the heights. I feel myself to have achieved a higher state of physical strength and a clearer brain. I am living in the third dimension!

    — Henri Mignoet, L’Aviation de L’Amateur; Le Sport de l’Air,1934.

    Many wonderful inventions have surprised us during the course of the last century and the beginning of this one. But most were completely unexpected and were not part of the old baggage of dreams that humanity carries with it. Who had ever dreamed of steamships, railroads, or electric light? We welcomed all these improvements with astonished pleasure; but they did not correspond to an expectation of our spirit or a hope as old as we are: to overcome gravity, to tear ourselves away from the earth, to become lighter, to fly away, to take possession of the immense aerial kingdom; to enter the universe of the Gods, to become Gods ourselves.

    — Jerome Tharaud, ‘Dans le ciel des dieux,’ in Les Grandes Conferences de l’aviation: Recits et souvenirs, 1934.


Promises, Promises…


This song is about the end of Amy’s marriage to Jim Mollinson. Amy was never happier than when up to her elbows in grease tinkering with the engine of a plane, or soaring above the clouds off on an adventure.  Jim was a bon viveur, a playboy, a freeloader and very much the party animal, frequenting seedy nightclubs and all-night drinking bars. It didn’t take long for the magic of his lifestyle to wear thin on Amy.

I’ve been listening to women blues singers of the 1920s and 30s, and particularly love Bessie Smith. This song is an unashamed nod in the direction of ‘Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out’ – I’ve used the same chord progressions.

In this video, I’m at the piano – I’m no piano player, and it won’t feature in any of the concerts, I was mapping the lyrics out and sitting at the piano as I was doing it, so I filmed myself first time I tried to put the lyrics to the chords. As with all these blog vids, they are me working the songs out, making a note of them, so I know what sort of idea I had in my mind. I make no apologies for them being rough and ready – what you see on the blog vids is not the finished product, but me giving birth to the songs, pushing them into being. If I ever work out how to attach another page onto this blog, I’ll film the songs, cleaned up, wrapped up in a blanket, and ready to face the world. Here, I’m only the midwife.

          C     E7      A7
You're a glory-leggin' good-time guy
     F            A7                Dm
You wouldn't look twice at me if I didn't fly
          f                 F+               C (Gbass)  A7
But your words dripped like honey, and your kisses were sweet
          D7                            G
And the way that you loved me swept me off my feet
          C     E7      A7
Ah.. Promises, promises, made to be broken 
          F               A7         DM
But the cheating and the lying cuts deep 
          F           F+        C(Gbass)       A7 
You're a philandering Rover, we both know it's over 
     D7                   G            C
But I ain't crying and I ain't losing sleep. 

You wanted the high life, you wanted it all 
You showed me the heavens then you let me fall 
And when I was down, you wasn't around, 
You were drinking and womanizing all over town 
Ah.. Promises, promises, made to be broken 
But the cheating and the lying cuts deep 
You're a philandering Rover, we both know it's over 
But I ain't crying and I ain't losing sleep. 

You're selfish, resentful, argumental 
And pretty women still fall for your song 
But I ain't falling no more, 
I've shown you the door 
Those seedy nightclubs are where you belong 
Ah.. Promises, promises, made to be broken 
But the cheating and the lying cuts deep 
You're a philandering Rover, we both know it's over 
But I ain't crying and I ain't losing sleep.


I’ll fly away – a song begins

I’ve had a music motif in my head for a while – I tried to post it on my very first blog post on here, and couldn’t work out how to post…

here’s the original video – I had an idea and I put it down:


And here’s the bigger idea piece:

… apparently I’m not as up to speed as I thought I was, it needs down/up? loading onto youtube first, and it’s taking forever. So I shall write down my musings on how this song may take shape. I like the idea of a pentatonic scale improvisation to convey that flying feeling – despite all the glory and adventure, part of the calling of the early pioneer aviators must have been that feeling beyond words they experienced when flying… I want this piece to be an improvisation, but I have an idea to base it loosely around the old folk song ‘I’ll fly away’. So, here’s some widdlings, in their embryonic state, it’s ropey, I’m literally playing it as I’m thinking about it, without rehearsal, floating ideas as i play.

And while the video thingy is down/up loading (note to self: record it on the phone cos when you record it direct onto the computer, it takes forever to down/up load), here’s the progress report on Lament for Amelia Earhart:

In my original research note taking (the ones lost with my stolen laptop), I had found some gorgeous quotes from AJ and AE about flying, and a lovely epitaph from AJ about AE’s disappearance. Couldn’t find the quotes the other day; they must be in the one book I haven’t re-borrowed. But I did read around the relationship between AJ and AH – the media portrayed them as bitter rivals, but they were in fact close friends, and very much kindred spirits, both were dedicated pioneers, neither flew for the glory, but accepted that they needed the glory in order to fund further missions. When Amy and Jim Mollinson crash-landed on their flight to America, the first thing  Amelia Earhart did was to send Amy some clothes, and she invited them to stay at her house. Jim didn’t care for Amelia, thought she was too down to earth, intelligent, and impervious to his charms, but (probably for the very same reasons) Amy and Amelia bonded and became close friends.

So, no, m’lud,  I’ve not put that song to bed yet, but in my defence I’m waiting on the book to surface, because I want to use the quotes as the backbone to the song.

Aaaaand it’s down/uploaded! so here you go – the beginnings of a songwriting process – That Flying Feeling (and I reserve the right to completely change the title, and everything about it).


Working methods

office essentials – pint cups of tea, e-cig, Amy books and a book of Bukowski poems for when i need mental refreshment.

This is my office. I’m like a hamster when I work, I scurry myself away in my bedroom, surround myself with everything I need and decide on the song for the day. I generally have a starting point for a song – it could be a bit of a melody,  a line of a chorus, or even a basic theme, and everything evolves from that point.

Today’s song will be Lament for Amelia Earhart – I’ve let the idea roll around in my head for a while now – I did have it all mapped out on the computer that was stolen, so I kind of know where I’m heading with the song, but it could all change during the process. Often I write directly onto the laptop, with rhymezone at the ready if I get stuck for a word, but I am more cautiously writing onto notepads, then photographing the scribblings, then transcribing it here onto the blog page. and when a melody comes that might work, I record that, and I’ll stick it on here. Usually the words arrive first, but the melody is always sneaking around somewhere, begging to be released. The recordings I’m posting of the songs at the moment are usually first time through, working out how words and melody fit together. I’m not one for manuscript writings, I used to jot ideas on those handy little staves, but I’ve totally embraced the immediacy of clicking ‘film’ on my phone, and using those embarrasing little sketches as my reference points.

All this blogging (and this is a totally new thing for me) is actually deferring the start of my songwriting today, so I shall open my books, and write  Lament for Amelia Earhart. Maybe i should find some tissues… i think this one might be a weepie.

Off to Austral-i-a

Not sure if this needs a chorus… although the last line is a sort of refrain. Amy had been flying for around 18 months when she decided to fly to Australia. During this time, she had also qualified to become an aeroplane mechanic – she was the first woman to become qualified. Amy wasn’t a tub-thumping lead-the-parade feminist, she saw no reason that she couldn’t do things because she was a woman.

I could be wrong here, but researching around Amy’s flight to Australia, I got the impression that one of the reasons she embarked on the journey was to show the guys at the aerodrome that she could do it, and that she would able to get a job working in aviation, (and she didn’t mind if it was in the mechanics dept, or piloting, or anything) based on her abilities, rather than not getting the work because she is a woman.

Amy spoke of how she imagined flying to australia, then turning round, flying back and sneaking back into the aerodrome at lunchtime, so that when the men came back from their lunchhour, she’d be in her overalls, checking out an engine, saying, ‘Well lads, Johnnie’s back, and she’s done it,’ they’d all have a laugh, and a bit of a back slapping session, and life would return to normal, and people would start taking her seriously. I don’t think that she realised the enormous impact of what she was attempting to do, how her life would change afterwards, or the amount of planning and preparations that was needed before Amy could jump in her plane and fly off to Austral-i-a.


I'm going to fly to Australia
To show them I'm no failure
I only need a set of wings and I'll be on my way
A solo flight as far as I can
Will prove I'm equal to a man
I'll set my sights and compass on Austral-i-a

If I can beg, steal and borrow
I'll set off there tomorrow
I'll pack my bags and wave goodbye, there's nothing more to say
I'll show them I can do it
I'll prove there's nothing to it
I've set my sights and compass on Austral-i-a

Flying halfway round the world 
is no challenge to this girl
I'm fully trained and ready for whatever comes my way
I've got permits and fuel stops planned
A ransom note, in case of bandits
Nothing will get between me and Austral-i-a

I've packed propellers, tyres and spares
And things to make repairs
A parachute, a knife, a gun and maps to show the way
My cockpit looks like a village store
There's food and clothes and so much more
But I'll need the lot to get me to Austral-i-a


next song -Jimmy & Johnnie

song scratchings for Jimmy & Johnnie
jimmy & johnnie page 2

This song is about Amy’s short-lived marriage to Jim Mollinson. Together they were the darlings of the air, and their combined celebrity status afforded them a life filled with all the fabulous people of the day. Brace yourself – this little vid is what happens when i first come up with an idea. If I can’t write it down, I get it down on my phone. And this way, if I get my phone stolen, or my computer pinched (again), this time all my workings and meanderings are locked into pixelworld.

We're going to smile for the cameras
You're handsome and I'm pretty, 
Smile for the cameras
You're charming, I'm witty
A match made in heaven, 
The Daredevil Duo
Up in the clouds 
in a plane built for two, oh
Can you see the crowds smile and wave when we're in town
We are popular people to be around

Oh oh oh, there's nothing can stop us
Oh oh oh, on our way to the top
We're Jimmy and Johnnie, and we don't care
We're King and Queen of the Air

You fly, I fly
Reporters want our stories
We both fly together
And double the glories
We are fabulous and fearless
and we're nobody's fools
We're taking the risks
And changing the rules
We're moving in circles where there's glamour and style
With wall-to-wall fun and excitement by the mile...chorus

We've got a lifestyle to envy
A whirlwind of pleasure
A lifestyle to envy,
We're media treasures
We're gorgeous and crazy,
We're smoking and hot
I'm the Angel of the Sky, 
You're the Flying Scot
The invites keep on coming, the fun never ends
With the royalties and celebrities and fair-weather friends..chorus

Momma says
You're abandoning your roots
Momma says
For your fashions and your suits
Momma says
You think you're being so clever
Momma says
Nothing lasts forever
But I know she's only jealous of my life of fun and daring
Cos she's stuck at home while my Daddy's selling herring... chorus


Lyrics -head in the clouds

I’m writing the lyrics for ‘head in the clouds’ here – it’s a first draft. technically it’s a second draft because they were completed on the laptop that got stolen. But as all i could remember was the title, and the song has pretty much been totally transformed, its a first draft. Which means the lyrics will get honed and tightened. I promise. The tune is sorted, just need to record a simple version of it. Watch this space.

The men are out on the North Sea, trawling, 
The children in the back streets, brawling 
And the women, hanging washing, calling
The kids home for the night
There's a whisper on the damp sea air,
Telling of a whole new world out there
Beyond the daily grind and cares, 
lift your head up, see the light

Sundays are for singing hymns
Praying to your god, atoning sins
If you keep your faith, you'll always win
Penny in your pocket for the words in your heart
But times are changing, tides are turning
She's stoking the fires, there's a passion burning
There's a wide world waiting and she's yearning
For life and adventures to start
and oh...the living could be so easy
If you'd only step in line with the crowds, 
And oh... your life could be mapped out for you
Amy... you've got your head in the clouds

Bible stories and fairy tales, 
H.G. Wells and pirate sails, 
Action, adventures, and holy grails
There's more to life that calls
More to life than breathing and dying, 
More to life than not ever trying
More to life and she wants to be flying
Rising above it all

lost in a story, take me away
I'm making my own adventure one day
And I won't listen to a word you say
When you tell me I can't chose
Because I'm a woman, because I'm a girl
Because I come from the wrong kind of world, 
I'm not going fishing, I'm hunting for pearls
And I've got nothing to lose
And oh...the living could be so easy
If you'd only step in line with the crowds, 
And oh... your life could be mapped out for you
Amy... you've got your head in the clouds


This is my working sketch for the song, so I don’t forget how it goes – It’s in the wrong key, I’m playing it in D and I may transpose it to G, and it’s the first time I sang through it, so I’m sort of making the tune up as I go along – the word scanning is all over the place, and the tune will change as it gets honed and refined.