Sunday, 28 March 2010

85. 10 Songs about the Coppers

Hey there, schmucks, i thought i'd ease my way back into this here blog thing, which has taken such a long winter break i can't really remember what the point is or whether any of it is good or bad. I'd got it onto my head that it was all bad but i just reread some of it and you know, it was ok. Especially the lists of songs. Those are the best bits. Obviously.

Caught By The Fuzz - Supergrass
Police and Thieves - Junior Murvin
Get Myself Arrested - Gomez
Stay Too Long - Plan B
Fuck tha Police -NWA
I Fought The Law - The Clash
Highway Patrolman - Bruce Springsteen
99 Problems - Jay-Z
I Shot the Sheriff - Bob Marley
Cop Killer - Body Count

Now, being an unnervingly law-abiding fellow, my encounters with the filth have been sickenly few. I see plenty of them about South London but I'm afraid I'm one of those people who walks past police and gives them a smug look as if to say "you're not interested in me, are you, you can take one look at me and know that i'm not the kind of person you need to bother ..." What's worse is not that i don't look like i commit crimes but that i really have hardly ever done anything illegal even to the pettiest, pettiest degree.
And i don't really have an opinion on the police in general - i acknowledge that something with such immediate power over people's lives is going to be more corrupt than anything else, that there's going be any number of nasty scumbags in it, petty tormentors, institutionalised psychos etc but i also think it's obvious it's a great and noble profession we should all give thanks for every day. I'm not the kind of person that says or thinks things like "go catch some real criminals".
I experienced the police at close quarters a couple of times a) when my flat was broken into, when they were quick, competent, pleasant, amused at what a tip my room was in ("Did the thief do this, sir?" "No officer, i'm afraid this is the state the room was in anyway." "You might want to do something about that, sir") but ultimately useless and b) when i was on a jury for a robbery and there were various cops as witnesses and you realise what a drag it must be for them to be treated like corrupt criminals by defence lawyers desperately seeking to establish an element of doubt in the jury's mind. "When did you write those notes up, Sergeant? I put it to you that you wrote them up fifteen minutes later than you said you did and therefore your account cannot be used as accurate evidence ... etc")
But, like most people, mainly i've seen police on TV, which they are never off. Police shows make up so many of the great TV shows, it's unreal. Obviously The Wire is the best one, but there really are so many others it's not worth listing. I will mention Our Friends in the North, though, which wasn't a police drama as such, but it's expose of corruption in the Met in the 60s and 70s was one of the most eye-opening things I ever saw.
So, the songs, the songs, a fair bit of reggae and hip-hop, where trouble with the law is standard fare, and I love the Bruce Springsteen song, which belongs to this beautiful subgenre of the lonely noble American hero, the Wichita Lineman, the Engine Driver. It begins "My name is Joe Roberts, I work for the state" such a bold and disarming lyric. Many's the time I've sat down to write something and just started with "My name is Joe Roberts". There's something brilliant about it in a way I can't really describe - it tells you the kind of song it is, the kind of person the narrator is, the world we're inhabiting, there's so much loaded in starting a song with that line.
The other two songs I just mentioned begin in the same way - "I am a lineman for the county"; "I'm an engine driver ...". I didn't begin this below like that, perhaps i should have done. It's that kind of verse.


The Oban ferry's two miles distant,
framed by suspicious sky of blue
but I can feel the storm from the west
conspiring to wreck the summer revels -
a tear winds tired down my cheek.

I've paperwork to do this morning
six drink/drives since midsummer's,
two small crashes, one more serious.
Work needs doing on the river road
but they can't make it till next week.

Each morning I thank the good Lord
this isn't Govan or Summerisle.
I hear there's a ceilidh band on the boat
who're making waves all over Argyll -
a long night ahead, not too long, I'm afraid.

I'm moving on to Tyree in October
then I'll be back home in the new year.
Megan turns two at Halloween,
but I can't be sure I'll make it back.
Maybe you could come visit instead.

It's hard, my dear, to be without you,
so hard to keep my thoughts on home.
You can't imagine how tired i feel.
I wasn't born to be alone -
I find it so hard here on my own.

There's more young folk on the island
than I've known before, all free and fair,
dancing, lauging, unresentful
of the tepid duties I carry out -
they're not like the young folks back home.

There'll be girls on the ferry who don't mind
the wind and the rain and wild reception.
They'll fling their bodies into the storm
and joke about the licensing laws
and what they'll do to dance 'til dawn.

I wish you'd come see me less seldom -
i don't know why the city binds you.
I find it so hard alone sometimes
I forget myself on this wild isle
just to feel human, just to stay warm.