Mathews might be better known for the ballad My One And Only but what
with rising prices and increasing GST, his High Cost Of Living has certainly
come into the limelight. The song was voted as one of the Top 100 Singapore
Songs in BigO #200 (August 2002) and has been available as a free MP3
download on www.bigo.com.sg. Since then, more than 150 readers have downloaded
the track. Here, Kevin Mathews takes another look at The High Cost Of
Living. Questions by Michael Cheah.
Are you surprised that The High Cost Of Living is the most popular download at the BigO website?
Very. Considering that the song was recorded 10 years ago and presented (in its Democracy version) with an upbeat Motown rhythm. Not very punk rock is it?
As I recall, you submitted the song as a home demo (in 1993) when BigO was compiling the Death Valley 92328 CD. I can't remember why this was so. But I do recall we were all surprised at the activism of the song it was the first Singapore protest song. Care to enlighten how you came to write the song?
I had done the Savage Garden demo a year before and I suppose the song was a hangover from that. It was either that or The Offender (about the introduction of the Corrective Work Order) which remains unreleased. Funnily enough, there had been strong rumblings about a recession in 1993 and the song was a reaction to that. I would never have anticipated the way everything inflated in the next few years as the prices of cars and properties ballooned. I guess we're all paying the price for that now! The inspiration for the song was basically The Clash's Cost Of Living and the Style Council's Speak Like A Child.
Like John Lennon's Merry X'mas War Is Over, The High Cost Of Living is general enough to always be relevant. Why haven't you written more of such songs?
That's hard to say. I tend to like more personal lyrics rather than the general. Taking an objective viewpoint, I can certainly understand its appeal grumbling about the cost of living is always going to be with us especially during these financially depressed times. But the real message behind High Cost isn't just the fact of high prices and increased expenses but the "greed is good" mentality that permeates our society. This has never been an issue when the going was great but when times are hard, then we feel it more as evidenced by the recent furore over increased GST, transport costs etc etc etc.
It's 2003 now. Have you ever wanted to "refresh" The High Cost Of Living? Which version do you prefer the home demo found on Death Valley CD or the studio version on The Watchmen's Democracy album?
Not really it being a case of "been there, done that." Twice in fact! If pushed, I would say I prefer the home demo as its Dylanesque style befits the protest folk medium. Also, the recording features my sons Wesley and Zachary (then five and two respectively) and carries some sentimental value.
Finally, how do you deal with the high cost of living and what's your advice to all of us?
A day at a time! I would never presume to advise anyone but will say that as a Christian I put my faith in God's provision and His promise that if I seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, all that I need will be provided for and God has never let me down.
And thanks for your continuing support!
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