Sunday, 5 August 2012

Judas Unrepentant

Judas Unrepentant is the fourth song on English Electric Part 1

Some of you may already be familiar with this track because of its inclusion on the cover mount CD for the July 2012 edition of Classic Prog.

Greg and I had a conversation one evening about the flow of the songs we had been working on for English Electric and we highlighted the need for a quick progressive rock song. I thought that Judas would be able to fit the bill because I already had the story in mind, Greg and Andy liked the story and I also had many of the sections sketched out so it would be simple enough to develop. 

Judas Unrepentant is a song that concerns Tom Keating. There is plenty available on the internet which will give you information about his life but here is a brief overview.

Tom was an art restorer who eventually turned to art forgery after failing to break into the art market. He was on a personal crusade to destabalise the art world by forging works to fool the experts. He deliberately planted clues in the works that would reveal them as forgeries. He also cunningly managed to falsify provenances for his forgeries.

However, eventually in 1970 an article appeared in The Times concerning auctioneers suspicions about the provenance of thirteen water colours. Tom knew the game was up and handed himself in. He was eventually arrested and charged in 1977 but the case was dropped due to his deteriorating health.  

During 1982 and 1983, Tom had his own television series in which he demonstrated the painting techniques of the great masters.  If you are interested in seeing footage of Tom paint, then treat yourself and click here.

Tom died at the age of 66 and in an interview he said that he did not consider himself to be a good painter. I have to disagree with him on that point.

I was at art college in the early 1980's and that is where I learned about the notorious Tom Keating. He was an anti-hero for me and I have often thought that his story is a remarkable one and it deserves to be heard. I also think it would have made a brilliant  HandMade film.

After his death, I am sure you will not be at all surprised to learn that Tom's paintings have increased in value and his forgeries also reach high prices. Ironically, there are also forgers out there who are now forging Tom Keating forgeries! 

Tom Keating's favourite artist was Rembrandt. The title of the song came from my variation on the title of the painting above which is called  'Repentant Judas Returning the Pieces of Silver' by Rembrandt. Tom may possibly have been considered to be a 'judas' by the art establishment for his forgeries but because he refused to disclose which forgeries he had made and put into circulation, it struck me that he was an unrepentant judas. I like the drama of the title and it sets the scene for the song.

Judas Unrepentant is a ripping yarn which is driven buy the relentless opening riff and rhythm along with a lyrical narrative. Check out Nick's complex drumming alongside Greg's crazy bouncing bass line. Andy Tillison (from The Tangent) has added boundless energy with his organ playing.

The middle 'court room' scene includes Dave Gregory's throaty 'All rise' courtroom usher vocal (a role he was destined to play). It also contains some beautiful piano playing by Danny Manners and expressive violin work from Rachel Hall (who has previously worked with Stackridge)

If you would like to listen to Judas Unrepentant, please click here.

In the next episode Greg Spawton will tell you about Summoned by Bells


  1. Thanks David for sharing this behind-the-song story!

  2. This song is excellent. Are there lyrics available somewhere?

  3. Hello Tobbe and Michael.

    Pleased you're enjoying Judas. Yes, Michael. The lyrics are printed in the booklet that comes with EEpt1 and they are also available on the internet. Just put the title in and you will find them.



  4. I had the most extraordinarily good morning today. I took the train (ha!) to work, listening to the Snap Judgement podcast episode Grand Illusion ( which has a magnificent story about art forgerer Elmyr de Hory. Inspired by the story, i had to play _Judas Unrepentatnt_ after it, and to look up whether Judas actually was based upon a real person. Which he was -- thanks David for informing!

    Elmyr de Hory on the other hand was not su much an idealist forgerer, but rather the flamboyant introvert who could turn tricks to the audience but felt alone inside. Being a starving immigrant artist from Hungary, he started out just to pay the rent and soon became the expert consult to discern the originals from the fakes -- often his own fakes!

    Would be a nice follow-up to Judas Unrepentant, should you ever feel the need for it :)

    On a different note, i love the song, and i think it's the most perfect little prog ditty, with catches, hooks and a wonderful story. Almost like a pop marble in its catchiness and clarity, but with alternating time measures and mellotron. My colleagues at work will have to endure my humming in effortless 6+5+6+7/8!

  5. Wow, saw them play this live this evening at Kings Place. David, what a great live voice you have. Forgive me, only had the recordings till now. Wonderful musicianship.

    Was great to meet you and say hello. Pete

  6. I consider "Judas Unrepentant" to be a progressive rock masterpiece, the album as a whole actually. This music and Lyric stacks up to anything ever recorded in the genre, and should be better known in the music world. I do not listen to many artists post 1980 I must admit, but Big Big Train is one of them. I love the subtle and never forced jazz element in the music, it blends perfectly.

  7. Absolutlely great song. Thanks for the pleasure of listening to this. For me it's the best thing that has happened to prog since Fish era Marillion. The whole album is awesome.

  8. Hi, I have only just found BBT. I have been surviving on the musical equivalent of crackers and beans lately. It is as if I have found a larder full of delicacies.
    I think someone posted a link on the XTC Facebook page.. I am happy, and fattening my soul on your music. Thank you.