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Paradise Smiling

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Paradise Smiling

 How does a CD Start?

Hi my name’s Mike,

I’m the Manley part of the duo that created these songs from a concept and a blank sheet of paper. The other part of the duo is Chris who is my wife’s step mum. You may ask how someone writes a song. For us, it works by me writing the lyrics and then Chris fitting the music to the story.

This CD started at Xmas 2004. I had never written a song, as my skills lay in the Building Industry, I was a chippy by trade and now a Consultant that works 16 hrs a day behind a keyboard and monitor. On that Xmas, Chris and Tim (Natasha’s father) were visiting us. Chris bought her guitar and started playing some songs that she and Tim had written; Tim’s lyrics hold dearly the Australian Riverina area and his passion for the land. Caught up in the excitement of the music and with the festivities that went into the early hours, I was also bitten by the bug to tell a story. As you will hear by the songs on this CD, my passion is to tell a story about the amazing people that are in my life or to have a bit of laugh about the things that happen around us.

I really think there’s enough misery in the world without putting it in to a song, so the only rule I try to live up to is that the words I write celebrate the good. “Paradise Smiling” is a line from a song which I wrote for my beautiful wife Natasha. The phrase is my attempt at trying to encapsulate the feelings that come over me when she walks into the room or when my kids Sierra or Harley call me Dad and wrap their arms around me.

It is my family that makes me feel like the luckiest guy around and it is to them that I dedicate this music and CD.

 The Tracks

01 - Best Times You and MeMike Manley
March 2005 Noosa. It’s a yearly ritual with Tim and Chris (my outlaws) to rent a unit once a year for at least 2 weeks in Little Cove Bay. The times always start with one or twenty drinks at Cato’s Bar (Sheraton). Always gets the time off to a great start.

The song “Best Times”, was written for one purpose only and that is to celebrate my love for Natasha. I just wanted to express some of the feelings she gave me up to then and still gives me 10 years down the track since we were married at our engagement/birthday party in May 1998. I knew I captured this when tears started rolling down her face the first time she read the lyrics.

BEST TIMES YOU AND ME - Click Here to Download

The future is looking great and I’m sure, will be even better than the last 13 years (2011).

We have also released another version of this track . I had always heard in the back of my head a Jazz mix of this song being sung in a dark smoke filled club.

BEST TIMES YOU AND ME ( JAZZ MIX ) - Click Here to Download

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02 - Special TimesMike Manley
The first song I ever wrote. The same feeling as you have for your first born. It only took Chris one read through and ½ hr to put a tune to this. This was pretty impressive to a first time writer like me.

Xmas Day 2004 and many discussions were held all day with a lot of tall stories from the past, as you do.. One of those discussions was centred on the various things that bring back those special memories that have happened in you life.

For me, it’s the old tunes (late 80’s) that are played on the radio. These songs were hits when I was getting up to no good with a bunch of mates or laying in the back of my old FB Holden panel van getting up to no good in a different way.

It is without fail that when I hear a song I associate with someone or an event, even if just for a split second, I’m there, mind in replay mode. I’m told by others it is for them, things like photos, smells etc.

I live in hope that maybe one of the songs Chris and I have written can be one of those songs that will do this for you and others.

SPECIAL TIMES - Click Here to Download

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03 - It's Your TurnMike Manley

September 2006 at home, about midnight and the family is in bed. My mind was ticking over and I couldn’t sleep , so what better than to get up and write a song.

Natasha and I had earlier talked about the kids, Sierra (7) and Harley (4). The hot topic is how did our parents instil the values that we have or encourage us to become what we are now. What makes people who they are? Why is it that when someone tells you from experience what might happen, you don’t listen?

I’m not sure about the answer to those questions but I thought that I could at least pass on my take on life and what values I hold true. And of course when they don’t listen or make the same mistakes we did, we let them know that we’ll be there to help pick up the pieces.

IT'S YOUR TURN - Click Here to Download

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04 - Plastic FantasticMike Manley
Xmas 2004, and by now I’m a seasoned writer, on a roll with 2 other songs under my belt in the last 2 days.

At this stage Chris had worn her fingers to the bone by composing and playing the other songs and the 600 encores. Nothing like hearing your music live just after you have found how great it feels to write music and get it played. We should have invested in our recording gear before we started on this roll.

Since the advent of internet shopping you can buy anything you want,  when you want. There’s only one catch; you need a credit card, or better yet, ten.

The frenzy about how easy it is for people to get these cards and then max out and move on to the next one is plastered all over the TV. Why wait anymore, lets just spend, sounds like a great plan to me?

This one took Chris a while for her to put a tune to as it was her first left field song that I wrote. Very distant from the Australian Folk that she had done previous to this tune. I rate this as one of the best we’ve done, so left field didn’t really cause any issue after all.

PLASTIC FANTASTIC - Click Here to Download

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05 - Terminal BluesMike Manley

Xmas 2004, I’m a consultant, self employed, so there’s no such thing as a Xmas shutdown.

My work involves generally 14 to 16 hrs a day behind a computer screen. Most of our work involves massive amounts of data, big spreadsheets, formula’s, macro’s and all those impressive things. We even got into the technology so much that we started our own IT company. (Please shoot me for having that idea.)

Anyway, during this Xmas the spreadsheet work we were doing would get done between all the meals you gorge yourself on at Xmas and the following days. As I sat there waiting for the recalculation to happen which would take nearly 15 mins to do, I would repeatedly get crashes happening at 14.55 mins. What else would you expect after spending $$$$$$$ on current cutting edge technology.

All I can say is well done Bill, love your work, and you are very lucky we don’t hang out in the same circles. If we did I would have delivered my Terminal Blues personally that Xmas. Got to laugh about it, as I don’t look good in padded white suits and the buckles around the back would leave terrible scratch marks.


TERMINAL BLUES - Click Here to Download 

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06 - Perfection by the SeaMike Manley

March 2005 Noosa, after writing Best Times You & Me, I was enjoying a great weekend with the outlaws and the rest of the family. It was getting close to twilight, the BBQ was fired up and we were discussing why we love Noosa and what brings everyone back year after year.

I think people are not valuing the small things and look more at what things cost.

I’m not saying I’m perfect in that respect either, but every now and again it’s great to smell the roses and enjoy what we have around us. I know Noosa has these simple things, but don’t tell anyone as it might change it for me.

What’s amazing about this song is how it’s really evolved since we wrote it? Bringing other musicians into the mix has brought a completely different flavour to this song. I call this our elevator song; bring out your floral lays, hula skirt and big umbrella cocktail. I still can’t listen to it without being blown away by how it sounds now.


PERFECTION BY THE SEA - Click Here to Download

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07 - A Better PlaceMike Manley
September 2005 “Pittfour”. Pittfour is the SHEED family farm near the NSW / VIC border. The geography is very, very flat, it’s a treeless place, where the rain doesn’t fall. Luckily it is gravity irrigated from the Mighty Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers. The other claim to fame for Jerilderie and the Riverina district is that Ned posted a letter there, you know the guy, Mr Kelly. I should also mention that the rightful “King of England” also lives in the town (long story, won’t go in to it).

It seems that over the past few years, we have packed up the gear, kids etc and headed down the Newell Highway on a 14 hour drive to a BIG family celebration. By the way, do you know how many times a 6 and 3 yr old can say “Are we there yet” in 14 hrs? It’s 666 times! The get togethers here are Huuuuge, mainly because the old farm house was once a restaurant run by Natasha’s Grandmother Sheila Sheed. This means big dining rooms, not to mention a well stocked cellar.

As part of the festivities, it is customary for each family unit to put on a skit or performance during the wining, dining hours. On this occasion the party was all about Natasha’s Aunt Jennifer, someone that I had met a couple of times but never really understood how she worked in the scheme of things.

After setting my mind to coming up with a song for the occasion, I put on my investigative journalist hat and began questioning all the guests and relatives. The odd part about this is that they knew just about as much as I did, as Jennifer was a very reserved person (not into accolades or tooting her horn). In fact Tim told me once it was only by chance that he found about her PHD in teaching. It really wasn’t a big deal in Jennifer’s eyes.

Jennifer Sheed has done some amazing things throughout her first 60 years, however I’m sure there’s much more to come. I’m glad I got the time and had the opportunity to learn a little more about her


A BETTER PLACE - Click Here to Download

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08 - Scottish War BrideMike Manley
March 2006, We are at Noosa once again, another great time to be had at our favourite weekend holiday destination. On this visit Chris had brought up an article she had written about her parents Rex and Sylvia Tate who were about to celebrate their 60th Wedding Anniversary. Wow 60 years! That in itself is a great story; however what did stand out about their story was how it began. War years, a young woman in a Scottish village, meets an Aussie pilot at a local dance.

I’m yet to meet Rex and Sylvia but from all the stories that Chris passes on they sound interesting. I did get a letter from Rex in an envelope that had Alexandra plastered all over it. I wasn’t sure how to open it as it didn’t have an open email icon anywhere to press. It just proves that I’m really living in a different generation, one that never writes by snail mail (anyway no spell check doing it that way).

Did you also know that Bagpipes come in only 2 keys? Well they do! You may ask why? Well after writing this song, Chris and I wanted to add something from Sylvia’s homeland into the mix. However, Bagpipes just couldn’t work. Some of you may be happy about that, but we weren’t. At the end of the day, it was through some masterful thinking by Matiss (CD music director / fiddler + more). Matiss got the right sound by layering fiddles, throwing in a snare drum and flute, and you can almost see Mel Gibson running over the hills in Brave Heart.

Chris does a wonderful rendition of this on the Harp which is how she first played this song to her parents. Apparently they sat in the lounge room gazing at each other, giggling and ended up with a nice glow of red on their faces.

Rex can dance, even 60 yrs later. I’m lead to believe that if you see some old guy jumping around the dance floor like a kangaroo, that will be him.

SCOTTISH WAR BRIDE - Click Here to Download

09 - Reality ShowMike Manley
It’s December 2004 at home. It’s 5 am and I’m sitting on the floor beside the bed in our guest room playing a recording to Chris and Tim that I had made about an hour earlier. What sounded so great during the night while I was making it, sounded now like a person being tortured by the rack, back in the days of the Spanish Inquisition. I bet it sounded even worse to 2 people who had barely opened their eyes. I think their awakening might have also had something to do with me sitting there looking at them snore (not sure about that).

I was so excited about this song and just wanted someone to hear it. The reality check came when Chris clearly stated to me that she wanted to sleep till at least day break. One thing I’ve learned about Chris, is that she requires a full dose of sleep or you’ll get a dose of something else following the lack there of. After breakfast, she started on the tune and the result is what you hear now.

As I work through many lonely nights, punching away at my computer, I have the TV on most of the time in the background. Not sure which show was the first, but it seemed like in the matter of 3 months the only shows you could flick between on TV were Reality Shows. Big Brother every night and even after Midnight til 3am, you could watch a bunch of strangers snoring in bed while a lunatic host would yap on about nothing.

Why do all these shows centre on people getting tortured or looking like fools? I know that at the end there can only be one winner; Murdoch, followed closely by Packer. Looks like most people are enjoying being “Peeping Toms”. Wasn’t that once illegal? You know, no matter how much I watch Biggest Loser, I still weigh now as much as I did when I started.


REALITY SHOW - Click Here to Download

10 - My Happy SongMike Manley
In 1988, I was a young foremen looking after the Fitout of 3 pavilions at World EXPO 88 Brisbane. This work was crazy as we were working 24 hrs a day trying to get it ready for the big opening. We walked out the back gate as the first visitors came in the front.

All those memories about crazy hours, stupid subcontractors, and impossible clients have more than faded into obscurity. Funnily enough some 20 years later, what has stuck about that time is a single saying, “Happy Days”.

Gary was a guy who worked beside me. He also had the same pressures as me to get everything over the line on his jobs. He was a lot older than me and far more experienced. I still don’t know how he did it, but he never stopped smiling, no matter how bad the situation. At least 15 times a day I would hear him say “Happy Days” Mike!

Oh, another small detail about Gary was the fact that he was a father of, wait for it, 8 kids. Not only did he have to contend with the work challenges, he then would go home to relax with another 9 people. To anyone with more than one kid, you can just imagine what this must have been like.

If you really listen to most of the songs around, forget the tune and hear the words, you will find that there’s not a great deal of happiness to be found. In memory of those days in 88, and to pass on Gary’s philosophies, I thought that it would be a good thing to get something a bit different played. Hopefully your smiles are abundant, may you live long and just remember to keep singing the Happy Song.


MY HAPPY SONG - Click Here to Download


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