Saturday, 23 May 2009

34. 10 Songs by the Super Furry Animals ...

... which I have, at some point, considered the greatest, most uplifting song in the world

Northern Lites
She's Got Spies
Ice Hockey Hair
Juxtaposed with U
The Man Don't Give a Fuck
Fire in My Heart
Turning Tide
Helium Hearts
Juxtaposed with U

These wouldn't necessarily be my favourite Furries songs at this point - there are so many contenders - but these are the ones which have, at some point, been out and ahead, with the biggest chorus, the best tune, the most thrill.
My current favourite is Ice Hockey Hair - I've had a long journey with Ice Hockey Hair. It's about 10 years since it came out, and I always liked it, but it's taken me till the last couple of years to appreciate its full grandeur. I daren't even describe the whys and hows of my love for it, but those that are unfamiliar with the point 4 minutes and 10 seconds in where they first sing "Now that you're here, tell me you're a non-believer" are, for me, lucky that they still have one of life's greatest moments still ahead of them.
I read a very good review of the Furries' latest album recently, in The Word I think, where the writer really got to grips with the Furries and why they weren't the biggest band in Britain and why, though he loved so many of their songs, they weren't his favourite band. A point he concluded with was that, unlike the truly great bands, none of these songs really "meant" anything. This is where the two of us deviated. It's the same kind of point I've heard when someone says the Coen Brothers' films don't "mean" anything. To me, these works mean as much as anything can possibly mean, and if you're looking for greater meaning and think you've found it elsewhere, you've found something untrue, a feeling, a "depth" that will pass, a remedy that will be exposed as placebo (cue joke about Placebo). The Furries and the Coens, they work on the surface, they disavow earnestness, they make jokes, allusions to others and themselves, they dazzle, they can be accused of putting virtuosity for its own sake to the forefront, but for me, listening and watching, if the question is asked "Is this all there is?" the answer is Yes - humour, warmth, brilliance, hard work, humanity, eclecticism, self-awareness. This is all there is.
They are, I think, the best British band ever. I'd be hard-pressed to explain why they're better than the Beatles, I admit, and it would be even more pseudish than I'm already being to try.

Here we go for further grand statements and wanton connections. The great cultural triumvirate of modern Britain are three Welshmen of the left. Hoho, not Neil Kinnock, Nye Bevin, Rhodri Morgan. Hoho.
Gruff Rhys, Ryan Giggs, Joe Calzaghe (I think if you did a study of this blog you would find the most used word would be Giggs - how could it be any other way, really?).
These have obviously all been favourites of mine for a long time, but the similarites and links really are striking. All, like I say, left-sided (Gruff plays guitar left-handed, Giggs obviously, and Calzaghe's a southpaw), all between 35 and 40, all started their careers in the early/mid 90s and have produced consistent, undefeated quality since, with very little of the tales of darkness and trauma which usually go hand in hand with legendary status in their respective fields.
Consequently, it has become customary to write them all off as in some way lightweight, possessed of excellence but not the nebulous quality that is "greatness". Nebulous as Greatness is, in my head I have repositioned it (or given it its rightful position) exactly in accordance with this three's achievements. For me, Giggs IS the greatest footballer of the last 20 years, Calzaghe IS the greatest P4P fighter of his age, and as I said earlier, the Furries are the greatest British band of all, in as much as more obvious contenders for each post, say Zidane/Matthaus, Mayweather/Jones Jr, Beatles/Stones let themselves down by not being more like Giggs, Calzaghe, Rhys. Well, having said that, I guess even by the standards of Giggs, maybe Paolo Maldini outGiggses Giggs. Maybe ...
They have all been accused of having slumps, going out of form, not living up to early form, though what they were producing would stil have been deemed high class if produced by others. Calzaghe never lost as a pro, began as a thrilling youngster, became a World Champion with a superb win over Chris Eubank, then continued to win, year after year. However, some of these wins were underwhelming, not against the highest level of opposition, and, like Giggs, he was castigated for not seeking out fresh challenges overseas, for not performing at the highest level. (by the way, I'll mainly talk about Giggs and Calzaghe now, just cos it's easier to draw direct comparisons across sports, but similar lines can be drawn in how the Furries have performed/been viewed) Both, in these down times, were hampered by persistent injuries to their greatest asset which no one gave much sympathy or consideration for, Calzaghe repeatedly breaking bones in his left hand, Giggs suffering persistent hamstrings strains which mean he thinks he has not run absolutely flat-out since his early 20s. But they were still producing the goods, Calzaghe churning out the wins, often with excellent underrated performances (Richie Woodhall, Omar Sheika, Byron Mitchell), Giggsy still helping Man U to title after title.
Then, for both, late on in their career, vindication and the kind of universal acclaim they had deserved all along, Calzaghe with his wins over Lacy, Kessler, Hopkins, Jones, Giggs with his breaking of Charlton's record, goal on the last day of the 2008 season, and PFA Player of the Year award for 2009.
When Giggs collected that award, who was there to present it to him but a happily drunken Calzaghe - a great moment. They went for the cliche of soundtracking it with a Welsh Male Voice Choir singing Land of my Fathers. How tremendous it would have been if they'd got in the Furries to play, I don't know, The Undefeated, or Rings Around the World (changing it to Running rings around the world - see what I've done there).
So, Giggs and Calzaghe have had their Rocky moment, their grand vindication, and you mark my word it will happen for the Furries too, whether it be the Mercury Prize, a crossover Number 1 single, whatever. As I once wrote and will happily have as my epitaph as it says everything I want to justify my existence on this planet

I was right about Ryan Giggs
it's no surprise to me.

Friday, 22 May 2009

33. 10 Songs about Festivals/Camping/Outdoor Gigs

Woodstock - Joni Mitchell
Chillout Tent - The Hold Steady
It Ended on an Oily Stage - British Sea Power
Coma Girl - Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros
Sorted for Es and Whizz - Pulp
Camping Next to Water - Badly Drawn Boy
All Tomorrow's Parties - The Velvet Underground
Glastonbury Song - The Waterboys
Festival - Sigur Ros
Memories of a Free Festival - David Bowie

Well, I must say, it has taken an extraordinary effort to muster these ten, and I should be heavily commended for it. It would not have been acceptable to just go for "festival favourites" or songs associated with festival performances, like, say, Jimi Hendrix doing The Star-Spangled Banner. Obviously the Badly Drawn Boy is just about camping, so that's not the best, and the Velvet Underground one inspired a future festival, but I allowed myself that. There was also a song I found on iTunes called Glastonbury by Scouting for Girls. It won't surprise those familiar with that band's work that, from the 30 second listen I gave it, it was simply the worst song ever. Quite impressively, Scouting for Girls have released 6 of the worst 10 songs ever. They are the worst band ever. Ever.
I've had the most tremendous fun at festivals. I don't think there's anything terribly insightful I have to say about them beyond that. The worst thing that happened to me at a festival was when I was very drunk at Benicassim watching Oasis, getting to the end of my 5th litre of Heineken - yes, I know, everything about this screams class, Brit abroad watching Oasis drinking Heineken by the litre -and my chums had decided to go watch something cooler - even Oasis John - but I was sticking it out because, you know, it's Oasis, they're going to play Live Forever and things, but this 5th litre container was just all unpleasantness by the end, so I thought I'd pour out the dregs at the bottom. So i bent down and as gently as i could poured them on the ground. Benicassim isn't, like most festivals, on soft receptive grass, but on hard Spanish tarmac, so bouncing and splashing there was. "Eurgh, what's that? Are you taking a piss?" said the angry English woman beside me. "This guy's pissing on the ground" "Are you pissing on the ground, mate? That's disgusting" "I suppose these are the kinds of animals you get watching Oasis" etc I was the Benicassim One, accused of a crime i didn't commit. I didn't at the time have the oratorial skills to depend myself beyond "I didn't. No, I really didn't" so it is sad for these people that they will go to their grave with one memory and one memory alone of me. I bet you're wondering now if I'm protesting too much and I actually did what I was accused of, and no I didn't. I'm no Gregor Wallace.
Anyhoo, magnificent memories outnumber this 100 to 1, come rain, come extreme heat, obscene hangover, kids keeping you up all night playing their own songs, booming Spanish techno till 10 in the morning, Geoff Hoon - you've got to love all that stuff.

I guess this covers the aftermath of festivals in various ways

Thanks given all round for being so candid
Tents were zipped up and the fire snuffed out
leaving the throng safe with just enough doubt
that they were wise to've been so open-handed
The sun's coming on from the hilltop beyond
and we will learn to believe again.

Hip dim wits hypnotised by fake Irish folk
songs delivered with the bare cheek of a charmer
slipping his slick darts through cheap, weak armour
of campfire counsellors in on all but the joke
but the sun's coming over the hilltop beyond
and you will learn to think again.

If I could even come near to a natural high
I wouldn't look so down on your docile wanders
into sweet hereafters and mild blue yonders
that constant conscious has forced me pass by
But the sun's coming over the hilltop beyond
and you will learn to breathe again.

Ropes tripped kick in fresh paranoid tricks
of numbers and figures not for the fitting,
of truths about freedom too bleak for admitting
broken hopes, shattered schemes little can fix
but the sun's coming over the hilltop beyond
and I will learn to compute again.

Shit, it always seem so gloomy when you read it back, don't it? Not intended that way. It's really all about having a hangover. Perhaps I'll call it 'The Hangover'

Thursday, 21 May 2009

32. 10 Dancing Songs

Before I put the list, a quick definition of these dancing songs. It goes without saying that most songs ever are in some way dancing songs, and that huge numbers of them are specifically dancing songs, songs written with the hope that people would dance to. And an awful lot of those will contain the word 'dance' in its title or lyrics. So this wouldn't be a difficult list to put together ...
So, slightly Irishly, I limited it to dancing songs which are really not intended to be danced to, not exhortations to dance, but songs ABOUT dancing. I suspect one or two of them will have been danced to occasionally, but there's no accounting for some people ...

Good Dancers - The Sleepy Jackson
What A Lovely Dance - Hal
Dance Away - Roxy Music
Cosmic Dancer - T. Rex
I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance - Black Kids
Tiny Dancer - Elton John
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor - Arctic Monkeys
Dance Until Tomorrow - Lavender Diamond
Dancefloors - My Morning Jacket
Touch Me When We're Dancing - The Carpenters

I would have included Dancing in the Dark, but as this extraordinary video proves
that is a song which is very much intended to be danced to.
Clearly the Boss was going for a different kind of market in the 80s.
That's the first link I've put on this dense blog, but the plan is to stay dense and light/variation free. Don't take the easy way out!
So, dancing, some people are good dancers, most of us are pretty rubbish, and it takes various amounts of time to chill out and not care. I am still self-conscious enough to only occasionally throw my post-rock/physical comedy/Paul Gascoigne-high elbows-in-the-face shapes on any but the friendliest of floors, but I feel like I'm growing into my dancing prime. When you are an embarrassing uncle, I assume you're applauded for dancing like one.

So, this is about chilling about, not taking oneself so seriously, and not hating dancing. It's actually an extract from something longer. I wrote it ages ago, i'd like to think I've moved even further down the line to not hating everything since then.

Get a grip on the past you dirtied
with limp platitudes on ethical exploits.
All the vain things you clueslessly asserted
are no less or more useful than the next boy's
forays into a simple search for solace;
gaucheness leads where polish follows.

I found a freshness where my former
self would have seen just reckless squalor.
Grand notions and strategies now just bore me;
soul-searching wholeness seems so hollow
I just want to dance and then capture it smartly,
just want to be the sharp heart of the party.

I've spent my time deriding then chasing
CDs and e-mails, iPods and mobiles
and I went for the tune and missed out on the bassline
but it isn't too late to pass over the slow miles
and go miles in seconds with a simpler rhythm -
it's life and it's fast and it's only for living.

I heard you want to get the world dancing
to one of Bob Dylan's livelier numbers.
So find a nice box to put the past in,
then burn it and waltz round the embers.

I thought about rewriting it, cos it's a bit clunky, but i think it's ok.

Monday, 18 May 2009

31. 10 Greek Songs

Mykonos - Fleet Foxes
Girls and Boys - Blur
California - Joni Mitchell
Temporarily like Achilles - Bob Dylan
Lesbia - Lucky Jim
Oedipus - Regina Spektor
Common People - Pulp
Greek Song - Rufus Wainwright
Olympian - Gene
Helen and Cassandra - Al Stewart

Yes, there are some extremely tenuous ones in here, but, you know, she came from Greece, she had a thirst for knowledge etc. and I could have put in the theme from Zorba the Greek or Chariots of Fire if I was that desperate to make up the numbers
I don't know too much about Greece, really, though I guess I used to know a fair bit about what Greece used to be like.
There are lots of good stories from back then I remember well, lots of literary terms I half-remember. Daphnis and Chloe, by Longus, I particularly recall. It was Hitler's favourite book, worryingly enough. I still have an essay on it and in the first paragraph I use the words milieu, oeuvre, terpnon, ophelimon, leitmotif and ekphrasis. I think I know what three of those mean, if pushed.
Also, I remember the tragedies and myths pretty well, and certain characters from tragedies, like Cassandra, who always seemed very interesting. I looked up the Al Stewart song above and gave it a bit of a listen -it's really terrible and the height of po-faced singer-songwriter naffness. Sometimes the 1970s seem even further back than the Trojan War.
Also, we went on a school trip to Greece which was fun - I smoked my first cigarette there and there were some naughty but comparatively tame deeds. The teacher who took us, he was a good teacher, but on the trip, he got the balance wrong of trying to be your mate and your teacher and ended up displaying a bit of indiscretion and hypocrisy.
So we could talk him without worrying that he might pick up his name in the murmuring, we referred to him as Reg, and cos we were pretentious cocks, we spent a lot of time coming up with limericks, one of them by Wieland I vaguely remember went

There once was a fellow called Reg
who liked to live life on the edge
but like good old Janus
he really did pain us -
one day he'll be pushed off a ledge

or something like that. Not bad, albeit totally cockish.

But, I remember a few weeks later when we were watching the tape back of the trip that Ed Rubin made on his camcorder, and by this stage we'd got over our dislike of said Reg, we saw this limerick being read out, and the teacher asked us jovially "Who is this Reg?" and our embarrassed/guilty/half-arsed response was a pretty painful moment of realisation on all sides.
What a thrilling story. Really glad I told that.
My favourite place in Greece was Delphi, the city at the centre of the Ancient World, home of the Omphalos Stone, in the spectacular shadow of Mt Parnassus, really beautiful, I got drunk and rude there, then we had a race in the ancient stadium, which I won, before puking my guts up. The balance of the sacred and the profane makes fools and heroes of us all.
Most famously, Delphi is home of the Pythian Oracle, the mouthpiece of Apollo. Apollo it was who cursed Cassandra, daughter of Priam, king of Troy, to prophesy truth but never be believed, to know how her city would be destroyed but to not be able to do anything about it.
Her fate was to be taken back to Mycenae as a concubine of Agamemnon, who would then be murdered by his wife Clytemnestra in revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia - Clytemnestra would then be murdered by their son Orestes, who was pursued by the Erinyes/Furies, before finally being given pardon - thus the cycle of violence came to an end - though the Welsh poet RS Thomas wrote a poem called 'No Truce With The Furies', alluded to and then quoted by The Manics in You Stole the Sun From My Heart. Phew.
Anyway, Cassandra, bearing all that in mind, is a great and fascinating literary character, too much for me to get to grips with, though I dug this out from when I was studying 'Troiades'

I can hear the drums of victory
sounding out their tale of sorrow
from the shoreline to the city
glory leads them hence tomorrow
and I sing my song of vengeance
though of course no one will listen
cursed to win only indifference -
this curse, for once, is blessing,
As I stand outside my madness
on a platform called compulsion.
Now my triumph is my failure
I can revel in revulsion.

I like the one about the poohsticks better.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

30. 10 Songs by the River

River Man - Nick Drake
Find the River - REM
River - Joni Mitchell
Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks
Tales of the Riverbank - The Jam
River of Dreams - Billy Joel
Moon River - Audrey Hepburn
Many Rivers to Cross - Jimmy Cliff
River - Dennis Wilson
Ole Man River - Paul Robeson

Again, this is an excellent collection of songs, though certain people may take issue with the Billy Joel song. Moon River is an all-time classic, as is Ole Man River in its way. It's good to have this Jam song and this Nick Drake song, as 'River Man' is, apparently, Paul Weller's favourite Nick Drake song. Tales from the Riverbank is an unusual and strong Jam song, though I remember being mildly disappointed when I first heard it, as I'd read it was a real classic - i don't think the chorus or the lyric are strong enough for that, but it's definitely one of Paul Weller's prettiest songs, and preempts some of the best pastoral stuff of his solo career.
River Man is seen by many as the definitive Nick Drake song, though I would personally put a couple of others above it. It has a beautiful string arrangement and is well known for it's 5/4 time signature.
A lot of consideration has been put in to what The River is that Nick Drake is referring to, whether it's as banal as the River Cam from his university days, and just looking forward to idyllic summer days once exams were over, or whether the River Man is the guardian of the Underworld, and the song is about suicide/death. I don't think that's the case.
Pretty complex theories have been put forward about The River bring the rush of modern life forever moving forward and 'Lilac Time' is a place and time of escape, of freedom from conventions etc. Lilac Time has come to be one of the main phrases associated with Drake and his type of music - indeed Stephen Duffy (who also founded Duran Duran and co-wrote for Robbie Williams, for his sins) had a critically acclaimed band in the 1980s called The Lilac Time.
Anyway, enough of such conjecture. I'm going to be true to my word and avoid getting too heavy. I could write about my own version of a river idyll growing up, as my school was right by the Thames and I crossed Hammersmith Bridge every morning to get there, and though it's hardly the most beautiful place in the world, I did spend some happy minutes gazing on the river at school and even happier days in The Rutland, The Blue Anchor, The Dove, The Old City Arms on the other side of the river learning slowly how to drink.
The pints I had at the Blue Anchor after A-Level results a particularly fine memory - I say pints, I'm being nagged by my conscience to admit that I think I actually had four Hooches. O good lord ...
But, instead of that, my piece of whimsy refers to one of our most popular river sports. Everything about this speaks of a more innocent time, but I confess, I considered filling this verse with all manner of cuss-words, just for a giggle ...
It's called


There's a breathless rush of adrenaline
up and down the banks tonight,
they've come from east, they've come from west,
they've come in joy, they've come in spite.

The games they are afoot, my friend,
the fight is on its merry way,
they're taking bets along the towpath -
it's time to pick up sticks and play.

Here come the men, all shapes and sizes,
and round by round, they vie and fall
till we're down to the final two
Old Bobby McGee and Young Billy McCall

The battle's fierce, the words are bitter -
"Old man, it's time for your final bow
For you were once the King of Poohsticks
But I am the King of Poohsticks now!"

The old man's heard it all before, though,
he smiles at every taunt and pop
"Maybe you're right, son, now, let's see" -
he kisses his stick then lets it drop.

The boisterous crowd falls suddenly silent -
two sticks, one bridge, one invisible line.
The old man's held the cup for decades
but who'll be WPA Champ this time?

They needn't doubt, nor worry a second.
The famous twig sprints to a win
and with one voice they rise once more
to hail the All-time Poohsticks King.

Magnificently, since writing this, I've checked to discover that this event actually does take place near Dorchester-on-Thames in Oxfordshire and does gather large crowds of Poohsticks pilgrims.
Also, You'll no doubt remember from my very first list of songs that a band called The Pooh Sticks released a none-more-indie single called 'I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well'. Excellent.

Friday, 15 May 2009

29. 10 Songs about the Crash

Leader of the Pack - The Shangri-Las
Lucky - Radiohead
Crash - The Primitives
Plane Crash in C - Rilo Kiley
In My Hour of Darkness - Gram Parsons
Packing for the Crash - Tom McRae
M.I.A - Emmy the Great
I Want My Baby Back - Jimmy Cross
A Day in the Life - The Beatles
Always Crashing in the Same Car - David Bowie

Goodness, it's been a fair while since I've posted anything, not just because I've been busy with beer and weddings and work and illness, and not even because I'm running low on ideas, believe it or not - that time is yet to come, though come it will. It's more because on looking over my posts, I found them uncomfortably eager to search for poignancy, or whatever you call it, and I felt particularly chastened by an excellent interview with the genius Gruff Rhys in The Independent, where he talks about hating earnest songs. All this shit is maybe a bit too earnest, a bit too gloomy.
So, this one's about car and plane crashes ....
But, in my defence, you should listen to I Want My Baby Back by Jimmy Cross, and tell me that's not a funny song. We used to listen to it when we were kids and i've recently rediscovered it.
So, people obviously have a fascination with crashes and collisions and disasters, I remember we used to be shown old Pathe clips of things like the Hindenburg and Sir Donald Campbell when we were at school and i don't think there was any reason but for entertainment. Some people, as in one of the recent films named 'Crash', take that fascination to disturbing extremes.
To be honest, I find both 'Crash' films very unsatisfactory for differing reasons, I thought the Paul Haggis Oscar-winner was lots of great scenes which amounted to total nothing.
Nowadays, each crash will be more and more likely to be recorded for posterity from every angle and they'll be the most watched clips on youtube, for sure.
What I write below was about that car that blocked the East Coast mainline a few years ago because the driver fell asleep at the wheel, resulting in a terrible train crash. It put me in mind of the book The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (Party Liaison), which I remember my friend Wieland directing me towards many many years ago, suggesting it said a lot to him about the way God works in the world - mysterious ways and all that. It's about a friar seeing a bridge collapsing and then enquiring into the lives of all the people who died in search of cosmic significance. It's a fine book, and explains why I, rather grandiloquently, called this

If God Guides, He Guides Like This

Any other minute
of any other day
Any other driver
of any other car
Any other bridge
like San Luis Rey
Any other fireball
on some other star

Sunday, 3 May 2009

28. 10 Songs about somewhere , sometime, something, someday over the rainbow

Something Changed - Pulp
Speak to me Someone - Gene
Somewhere - Tom Waits
Someday - The Strokes
Some Jingle Jangle Morning (When I'm Straight) - Mary Lou Lord
Over the Rainbow - Judy Garland
I Must Belong Somewhere - Bright Eyes
Someday Soon - Wilco
Something Good - Bic Runga
Somehow, Someday - Ryan Adams

This is a thought that has come to me fairly recently, which all these songs touch on in some way. It's about some moment in the past or in the future, memory and hope, how much is enough to live for, that kind of thing.
These songs are about a moment/person/place which is ineffable, which gives hope and meaning when there oughtn't be any.
I guess, bookwise, I had on my mind The Road by Cormac McCarthy (again) and Straw Dogs by John Gray, which both paint a powerfully bleak picture of mankind's future (one fiction, one philosophy) but end with some kind of light, which, when summed up, isn't that much different from how Gone with the Wind ends i.e. you've just got to keep on keeping on. I do a gross injustice to all works with that summary.
I also had on my mind, as mentioned below, The Great Gatsby and the film American Beauty, not that I'm suggesting they hold comparable places in American culture, but they both end with the protagonist having their brains blown out, and yet, and yet, we are meant to see some beauty, some meaning, something about what these protagonists saw and experienced towards the end or at the every end of their lives which made everything worthwhile.
I've explained all this wretchedly, I'm sorry. In truth, I'm dizzy like Ricky from a pretty paltry portion of white wine, and am also trying to concentrate on MOTD2. Tough times

(I'm tempted to put this into really small type, cos I wrote it in really tiny letters, but I fear that would set a crazy-fonted precedent which no one wants)

You didn't believe me when I told you
there were choirs of angels at my command
or at least some London soul-pop scene
You wouldn't believe me if it was just one kid
playing old folk songs on an old recorder
I don't know what I can do to persuade you

that a moment happened, somewhere, sometime -
pens stopped scribbling and ears stopped burning
There was no depression and no Nashville country
this moment is somewhere in someone's memory
and it makes everything that will happen ok
It's a kiss, or a song, or a smile, or something

It's a family offering a coke can to a stranger
while an old jukebox plays a young Van Morrison.
You know, we joked about coins behind cushions -
but it matters now, every ten pence upwards
Cos' they're coming to just rip that shit up
and burn it down in the same sad instant

You don't believe anything I tell you
You don't believe me when I tell you my tombstone
should read 'I was right about Ryan Giggs
All of this is no surprise to me' but
if i can just persuade you to believe that something,
that something's there inside of someone

A winter sun on a hospital ward or a
calendar ticking over and freezing in time -
this is just me stiffening my resolve
cos that look in your eyes makes me doubt myself
but you've read books - The Great Gatsby, whatever,
you've seen films, say, American Beauty.

Fat lot of use we both are to anyone.
Do I have to tear myself open to see
streams of gold, or some weak CGI?
If I have to, I'll tear myself open to you
for you to just have the start of a feeling
that something once happened worth carrying on for.

Pretty much as explained, wasn't it? Not much more to say on the matter ...

Friday, 1 May 2009

27. 10 Ship Songs

Slaveship - Josh Rouse
Ship Song - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Boots of Spanish Leather - Bob Dylan
Paper Ships - The Young Republic
Shipbuilding - Elvis Costello
Sloop John B - Beach Boys
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot
The Mariner's Revenge Song - The Decemberists
Proud Mary - Ike & Tina Turner
Boat Song - Jeremy Warmsley ft Emmy the Great

Again, this is a topic which is pretty widely covered - I've left off one of Bob Dylan's greatest songs When the Ship Comes In, and a range of Liverpool songs, from The Coral's Spanish Main, through Shack's HMS Fable, The La's and the Beatles even, to Ferry Cross the Mersey. Then there's Randy Newman, David Gray, Crosby, Stills & Nash, all kinds of stuff. These rock'n'roll folk like their boats.
These are all pretty great songs, though I used to think Sloop John B was out of place on Pet Sounds. I remember hearing the Nick Cave song on Home & Away once - a beautiful moment for a lover of both these jewels of Australian culture.
Something tells me we haven't seen the last of water as a topic, but these ones do pretty much stick to naval travel, so I think I'll be able to find a new idea within that.
Obviously, sailing used to be more than a leisure activity, and all those folk who set off down the centuries not knowing what on earth they would find, if anything, is pretty intense. Even now, there are some pretty unknowable things that can happen at sea - you should look up the story of Donald Crowhurst, who took part in a round the world race at the end of the 60s - one of the weirdest and saddest things you'll ever hear.
Anyway, thinking back to all those conquistadors

I've got a feeling I've been here before, you know,
wherever I am, squinting whichever way I look,
drawing breath - for wonders I may never find,
new lines on maps, old lines in new books.
I miss my home, I think, though I can't recall it
but I've pain in my guts for something I've lost
and the nameless victims of ageless kingdoms
are just marks on the map of the lines I've crossed.

I must be wearing a new skin by now
but maybe I'm closer to where I started.
Soon I must choose to fly or to freeze,
to embrace or dismiss the spaces I've charted.
I must be forgotten now where I'm from -
I can barely recall myself these days.
I've got a little something to soothe this headache -
I'll save my decisions for a sombre haze.

New territories are for the taking, I'm sure
and new glories are mine, my right to claim
and my name and its versions will cover this map,
if I can but be sure I remember my name.
Logic dictates there'll be land before long
was the last thing I wrote three weeks ago
but that wave is mine, and this thought is mine,
this mind, this form, this little I know.