“Zero She Flies” is the title track of Al Stewart’s third album. The liner notes give no clue as to its genesis, but a live version – running to some 7 minutes 49 seconds – appears on Volume One of the unofficial triple CD set Oceans Of Delphi. (Previously released as Meridian XVII, this collection includes recordings made between 1970 and 1996). Before performing the song, Al explained that it was inspired by his love of obscure writers of fantasy fiction in the fashion of Tolkien. Mervyn Peake was not as famous as the good professor, but said Al, in its own way, his body of work was just as good as The Lord Of The Rings and similar epics.
On the dust cover of Titus Groan – part of Peake’s Gormenghast Trilogy, it was stated that he was a “Gothic surrealist writer”, which impressed Al immensely, even though he wasn’t sure exactly what that was, so he went away and “thought Gothic surrealist thoughts to myself”, and the result was “Zero She Flies”, his Gothic surrealist song. Peake (1911-68), published the first of these books, the aforementioned Titus Groan, in 1946.
On this particular recording, which was just Al and his acoustic guitar, he stopped after the second verse saying that he intended to recite the last verse because it was written almost as a poem.