Category Archives: Music

PUNK

PUNK

Walking down Commercial
On a sunlit lunchtime
I see this guy talking to this girl –

She’s got tattoos, rings, black hair,
Blonde streaks – he is leaning forward
She is leaning back

And as I pass by, he says:” I have always thought
That punk and hip-hop have more in common
Than they have not.”

The peak of his baseball cap is flipped back
like he‘s caught in a wind tunnel.
Noise cancelling head phones circle his neck.

Is that an egg stain on his cardigan?
Did he play bass once in a band called Head Lice?
Or is he just another fan?

Who knows?
He looks disheveled, disinterred,
Pale as a Pogue*.

And I want to stop
And tell him
That I don’t know about hip hop

But I have always thought that punk
Is the sound
Of someone puking pints

Outside a pub at midnight
Without implying
That is necessarily a bad thing.

*Pale as a Pogue

I shared a plane once with The Pogues on a flight from Vancouver from Chicago . I got bumped up to business class (I was flying a lot at the time). The Pogues were also in business class, on the way to Vancouver for a gig. The year was 1991, I know this because Joe Strummer was with them and according to Wikipedia he joined the band for a short period in 1991 , Shane MacGowan had left due to drinking problems.

They were the palest, skinniest, sickest group of people I had ever seen. They looked like creatures who spent most of their time at the bottom of the ocean at a depth where the sun could not penetrate, or maybe they just got up late in the afternoon.

The only thing I remember from the trip is that Joe Strummer was ordering drinks as soon as the seat belt sign went off. Vodka and tonic was his drink of choice, I think. When the stewardess brought his first drink, she said:
“ I hope that’s not too strong for you, sir”
Joe replied: “Too strong? Too Strong?” and began to laugh hysterically and continued to laugh for quite some time. As the flight progressed he would turn every now and again to the other Pogues and shout “Too Strong?” and start laughing all over again. I guess he was taking the Shane MacGowan role seriously.

Graffiti Photo was taken in Getsemani, Cartagena, Colombia.

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dverse

Michael Stipe, the Cubist

Michael Stipe, the Cubist

Netflix has a new series called “Song Exploder”. Each episode takes a famous song and looks at how it was made, recorded, the inspiration behind it. I have watched one episode so far, the song in the spotlight was “Losing My Religion” by REM. I found it fascinating, particularly because the members of REM are such engaging and willing participants in the analysis of the song , none more so than Michael Stipe . It reminded me what a great and idiosyncratic lyricist Michael Stipe is. I won’t quote the whole lyric (I have attached a video which syncs the lyric with the song), but here’s the second verse:

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough”

What struck me, on seeing this, was how each line emerges from the page like planes in a cubist painting; each line views the subject from a different angle.

Consider this, the last verse, that play between “failed” and “flailing”, the conclusion “Now I’ve said too much”. Throughout the song, he doesn’t rhyme once, he just keeps throwing out those viewpoints, those angles, those curves: pretty much a perfect lyric.

Consider this
Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much”

Here’s the video….

A Surfeit of Slim (“Bob Dylan’s Worst Line Ever” and “The Most Over-Rated Album of All Time” ) revisited.

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Last week there was a Simon Pegg retrospective at our local cinema and Slim invited me back to his one bedroom apartment after we watched an early showing of “Shawn of the Dead”. Slim had prepared dinner and by that I mean he had peeled back the tin foil edge of a take-out carton of butter chicken, removed the cardboard lid, and handed me a plastic fork and a can of Old Style lager. He then lapsed into one of his silences.

I found myself noticing the beads of condensation on the clear plastic lid of the steamed rice container. The rice was long past fluffy. The evening stretched before me like a Sunday in Ottawa. My only recourse was to ask Slim an irritating question.

“So, Slim”, I said, “who do you think is the better poet, Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen?”

Slim’s  face wrinkled in disgust. “Bob Dylan’s not a poet”, he snapped,“ he’s a poetic songwriter”.

“And Leonard Cohen is…..?”

“Leonard Cohen is a poet who writes songs”.

“Ok then, what’s your favorite Bob Dylan line, verse, whatever”

“I can only think of the bad ones”

“So what’s the worst Bob Dylan line ever?”

Slim blinked once like he was accessing a folder in his brain with an internal mouse.

“John Wesley Harding, ‘As I walked out One Morning’, third verse:

‘Depart from me this moment

I told her with my voice’.

It’s like saying ‘there’s going to be a jailbreak somewhere in this town”

“But that’s “Thin Lizzy”.

Slim looked like he had taken a sip of battery acid.

“My point is they are expressing the obvious just for the sake of a rhyme. It’s obvious that the jailbreak will be at the f….ing jail and how else will he tell her except with his voice, they’re in a field, for f… sake!”

“Oh”, I said, reaching for a poppadum.

After Slim’s brief outburst, he lapsed into silence again and did his impression of a lizard sitting on a rock. The not unpleasant smell from the Indian take-out mercifully masked the usual faint odour of sour sweat emanating from Slim’s bedroom. His bedroom door was closed, a yellow light leaked through the gap between bottom of the door and the threadbare carpet. The room  pulsed  in a vaguely sinister way.

I began to panic; he could pull out his blueprints of the Star Ship Enterprise at any minute. I was about to ask him why so much depends on a red wheelbarrow, but thought better of it. I reached for my phone.

“Slim”, I said, “I was looking at Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 albums of all time, the other day, do you want to see it?”

“Not really”, he replied.

“Ok”, I tried, “what do you think is the most over-rated album of all time?”

“All right”, he sighed, ”show me the top 10 albums.”

I passed him my phone and he studied the list for a few minutes, then pounced.

“Number 7, ‘Exile on Main Street’, by the Stones”

“Really, why?”

“Because, it’s awful. It’s recycled 12 bar, refried boogie, Jagger sounds like a cat being neutered. It’s not even the seventh best Stones’ album. Creedence and The Band did this kind of thing a few years before and a lot better. This is the sound of the Stones throwing in their creative hand and saying, ‘enough, we’re tired’. It’s the artistic equivalent of taking a package holiday to Majorca. Look, it’s listed higher than ‘The White Album’ and ‘Kinda Blue’. Absolute bollocks!”

“Kind of…”

“What?”

“It’s ‘Kind of Blue’ not ‘Kinda Blue’

Slim looked at me like he was wondering why he bothered to speak to the rest of the human race at all.

“Well”, I said,”why do you think Rolling Stone rates it so high?”

“Because, it’s a Keef album and, to rock critics, Keef embodies the rock and roll spirit, the dead romantic hero, except he’s not dead. He’s the guy who would never have hung out with them at school. Plus, there’s this legend of the Stones hunkered down in a house in France recording the album, escaping from the tax man where in fact, Mick, Charlie and Bill never stayed at the house probably because they didn’t want to be around Keef’s junkie friends. Anyway, Mick didn’t think much of the album at all”.

“Really?”

“Look it up”.

So I did.

This is Mick Jagger talking about ‘Exile’ in “According to The Rolling Stones” (Chronicle Books, San Francisco):

Exile on Main Street is not one of my favourite albums”.

“…when I listen to Exile it has some of the worst mixes I’ve ever heard. I’d love to remix the record, not just because of the vocals, but because generally I think it sounds lousy. At the time Jimmy Miller was not functioning properly. I had to finish the whole record myself, because otherwise there were just these drunks and junkies.”

Exile is really a mixture of bits and pieces left over from the previous album recorded at Olympic Studios…..These were mixed up with a few slightly more grungy things done in the South of France. It’s seen as one album all recorded there and it really wasn’t.”

“So there’s a good four songs off it, but when you play the other nineteen, you can’t, or they don’t work, or nobody likes them, and you think, ’Ok, we’ll play another one instead’. We have rehearsed a lot of the tunes off Exile, but there’s not much that’s playable.”

 

Photo of detail of a Botero painting in Museo de Botero, Bogota, Colombia

Rhymin’ (Neil) Diamond – the Good, the Bad and the Internal (again)

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The great Paul Simon once said: “I’d rather be a bucket than a pail”. Ok, maybe he didn’t but perhaps he should have. Anyway, this is not about rhymin’ Simon, this is about rhymin’ Diamond who once said:

I am, I said

To no one there

And no one heard at all

Not even the chair

Implying that, in a room containing inanimate objects, the object most likely to reply would be a chair. That chair is important, not just because it rhymes with “there”. The chair suggests that Neil is in a room, and there is only one chair (“the chair”), so Neil is most likely lying on a bed and of course he is alone, so alone that he has resorted to talking to the furniture. Without the chair, he could be anywhere, it becomes the focus of his existential crisis. This is a “pop song”,  and it has to look easy and that’s hard and he does it through that one detail, the chair.

It has to be said that Neil is perhaps not at the same level as Paul Simon when it comes to poetic, sophisticated lyrics, but he has his moments. Take the first verse of “ Cracklin’ Rosie”:

“Aw, Cracklin’ Rosie, get on board

   We’re gonna ride

   Till there ain’t no more to go

   Taking it slow

   And Lord, don’t you know

   We’ll have me a time with a poor man’s lady

There’s that internal rhyme happening – board, more, Lord, poor -and all those ‘O’s’, fifteen in total! And the assonance in the chorus of

“Cracklin’ Rose,

You’re a store-bought woman”

It goes a bit downhill after that – “you make me sing like a guitar hummin’” – hummin’ and woman – ouch!

But, for my money, Neil’s finest moment when it comes to writing lyrics is in “Sweet Caroline”. The song, admittedly, is not without some absolute groaners:

“Where it began,

I can’t begin to knowin’”

And that’s the first two lines.

Even the chorus, which contains that finest moment is a syntactical nightmare:

Sweet Caroline

Good times never seemed so good

I’ve been inclined,

To believe they never would

Oh, no, no

I have wrestled with this for some time and the best I can come up with is this: ”I’ve been inclined to believe that good times never would never seem so good”. Think about that too long and I guarantee that steam will come out of your ears. But it doesn’t matter, because all that matters is that rhyme between “Sweet Caroline” and “I’ve been inclined”. He could have gone for “fine”, “wine”, “mine” etc but there is something about “inclined” that is so unexpected, so colloquial, so conversational. It surprises every time you hear it. And of course, the acid test of any chorus is how well it does in a pub or bar late in the evening and everyone is a little hammered and some skinny guy on acoustic guitar hauls out “Sweet Caroline” and everyone is just waiting to belt out that chorus and I guarantee you that the volume will perceptibly increase when they reach that line and everyone takes just a little credit for recognising how clever it is.

What I Did The Day Gord Downie Died (Canada day re-post)

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Thought I would reprise this post for Canada Day!

Opiated….The Tragically Hip

This is the song I went looking for, the day Gord Downie died. I couldn’t remember the title, all I had was the phrase “over-opiated” which had been stuck in my head for years. Why? I don’t really know but maybe it was the triple iamb and the repeated ‘o’? Unlike a lot of The Tragically Hip’s music, this song was never in heavy rotation on Canadian radio, but I knew the song that contained the phrase was on the album ‘Up to Here’ and I knew I had a cassette tape of that album which I had bought back in 1990.
That was the era of the cassette tape and over the years, as tapes became extinct and compact discs, then streaming, took over, I stop listening to the album. So on the day Gord Downie died I found myself looking everywhere for it, eventually finding it in the storage space between the front seats of my red 98 Ford Taurus station wagon. There was some serendipity to this, because the only tape deck I have left is in the Taurus station wagon. A cassette and a Taurus sound system – not exactly high fidelity, but then the Hip were never really about high fidelity; put the vocal and drums on top of the mix and let the rest take care of itself. Besides, the sound system isn’t bad. There are 4 speakers , 2 front, 2 back, and if you switch everything to the 2 rear speakers and the bed of the station wagon is empty, the sound is actually pretty good, good enough for a bar band with 2 guitar players that sound like Keith Richards and Ron Wood but not as sloppy. I don’t normally drive the Taurus except occasionally to take stuff to the dump, but on the day Gord Downie died, I drove it around Vancouver all day listening to “Up to Here”. Yes, I was one of those guys you see in a parked car with the windows closed, beating time on the steering wheel.

And it struck me what a good rock lyricist Gord Downie is. Much has been made of his talent as a poet, and he is a talented poet, but writing lyrics for rock music is a different skill. For me, both rock and blues are all about the set up and the punchline. Take this for example:

“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog
Cryin’ all the time
You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog
Cryin’ all the time
Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit
and you ain’t no friend of mine”

….Leiber and Stoller

Simple maybe, but deceptively hard to do well. Here’s Gord Downie from Boots or Hearts:

Fingers and toes, fingers and toes
Forty things we share
Forty one if you include
The fact that we don’t care”

Or this from the same song:

“I feel I’ve stepped out of the wilderness
All squint-eyed and confused
But even babies raised by wolves
They know exactly when they’ve been used”

In fact, I could quote the whole song, because for me it’s as close as anyone has come to a perfect lyric. Or how about this from “New Orleans Is Sinking””

“Ain’t got no picture postcards,
ain’t got no souvenirs
my baby, she don’t know me
when I’m thinking ’bout those years”

But Downie is also at heart a folk singer, a teller of tales. “38 years old” is about a guy serving time for avenging the rape of his sister; the story is told from the view point of his younger brother. I don’t think there’s a more devastating chorus than this one, anywhere in popular music:

“Same pattern on the table, same clock on the wall
Been one seat empty, eighteen years in all
Freezing slow time, away from the world
He’s thirty-eight years old, never kissed a girl
He’s thirty-eight years old, never kissed a girl”

Not all song lyrics look good on paper and Downie is an idiosyncratic singer who stretches and bends words to fit the song, but here’s a few more random samples from the album:

“In my dreams, a candy coated train comes to my door”

“Pumping hands and kissing all the babies
Ain’t no time for shadowed doubts or maybes”

“Pulled down his birthday suitcase
Brown with dust from no place
Said, “I think it’s time we made a start”
They danced the waltz of charity
No car garage, two kids for free
They were pissing bliss and playing parts”

“Up to Here” was the Hip’s first album, they want on to make many more, to become Canadian icons. Downie even wrote songs about hockey. When he died he was eulogised by a tearful Justin Trudeau and Canadian radio played Hip songs all day long. All deserved of course. Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Gord Downie – not a bad list to be part of. But Downie, was different. The rest of those artists came out of the folk music tradition, but Downie’s genre, modus operandi was bar band rock and his genius was that he succeeded in blending poetry with bar band rock. Just scroll  back up and read that last verse, a short story in six lines. Rave on Gord. Now take a listen.

 

Who’s That Knockin’

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Who’s That Knockin’

It’s early in the morning
you’re sitting on the can
who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
at your front door, man.

Well it could be Jesus
it could be the Pope
it could be Barrack Obama
carrying a message of hope

who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
at your front door, man

It’s early in the morning
you’re eating some raisin bran
who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
at your front door, man

Well, it could be Angela Merkel
or it could be Miley Cyrus
it could be Sanjay Gupta
with a cure for the virus

who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
at your front door, man

 

Taking part in open link weekend over at earthweal. check them out below:

earthweal open link weekend #25

John Prine……Four Lines That Kill Me Every Time (1)

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There’s flies in the kitchen I can hear ’em there buzzing
And I ain’t done nothing since I woke up today.
How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say.”

This is from “Angel from Montgomery” by John Prine……a life in 4 lines, says more than some novels.
There are many versions of this song but one of the best is by Bonnie Raitt and John Prine.

 

Haiku and Poem written in a pub somewhere in Kitsilano

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Poster

poster on the wall
Lennon at a piano
deconstructing Paul.

 

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Perspective

imagine,
you, a frog
down a well,
above you
only sky.

 

Taking part in open link over at earthweal.  This is obviously a re-post, I have not been inside a pub in Kitsilano or anywhere else for a few weeks. I was working on a few pandemic-related poems but it’s hard to keep pace with events.

Bathos (A Whiter Shade Of Pale)

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Bathos

The moon hung
like a searchlight
in the spangled sky
and we hung
out on
the deck.

 

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

By the time ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ was recorded in 1967, Bob Dylan had already raised the bar very high in terms of what the public expected from a song lyric; song writers were now expected  to be poets. This was a heavy load to carry as few songwriters had Bob’s poetic gift; as a result, bathos was everywhere.

Bathos: “an effect of anticlimax created by an unintentional lapse in mood from the sublime to the trivial or ridiculous”.

There are, as I said, many examples from that era, but the one that always stands out in my mind is from the last four lines of the first verse of ” A Whiter Shade of Pale”:

The room was humming harder

as the ceiling flew away

when we called out for another drink

the waiter brought a tray.

I have to admit that when I first heard this song I had no idea what it was about. Why are sixteen vestal virgins leaving for the coast? What is a vestal virgin anyway? Who is the miller? I still don’t know,  but I don’t think it really matters.  It’s best  to sit back, listen to the song and let your brain feed on the images and in no time at all the room will hum harder, the ceiling will fly away, you’ll think about maybe following the vestal virgins, you’ll skip a light fandango, turn cartwheels across the floor, all the time trying to avoid that waiter and his tray.

Notes:

The recorded version of the song has only two verses, but if you google the lyrics you will find four verses. Procol Harum sometimes included the extra verses in live performances but wisely left them out of the recording; they are not very good and diminish the song’s impact. As Bob Seger once sang:

Well those drifters days are past me now
I’ve got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out

Bob Seger, ‘Against the Wind’

“What to leave in, what to leave out” – whether you are writing a song, poem, novel, short story, if you can solve that one you might be on the way  to something good!

Check out this version by Annie Lennox

 

 

Leonard Cohen’s Final Album (plus Poem)

 

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Fascinating Interview (in The Guardian) with Adam Cohen on completing his father’s final album.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/nov/24/leonard-cohen-adam-thanks-for-the-dance-interview

A poem from the past:

Driving Home with Leonard Cohen

Despite what he says
not everybody knows,
not everybody knows
like Leonard knows.
Not everybody knows
that the best songs
are about loss,
about endings;
about so long
ways to say goodbye
closing time,
and that age
can be laughed about
but not at,
if I had a hat
I would raise it to Mr.Cohen
perched up there alone
in his tower of song.

Limbo Blues (aka Existential Boogie)

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Limbo Blues

today I remembered limbo
you can’t stand too far from the track

today I remembered limbo
you can’t stand too far from the track

the first line is about memory
the second is a disconnected fact

Bob Dylan mentions Rimbaud
Van Morrison does too

Bob Dylan mentions Rimbaud
Van Morrison does too

today I remembered limbo
Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus

existential boogie
do that existential thing

existential boogie
do that existential thing

you can do it in your armchair
summer, autumn, winter, spring.

 

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dVerse.

Good Song Blues

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Good Song Blues

there’s a distance between a good song
and one that’s just okay

there’s a distance between a good song
and one that’s just okay

you can travel that distance in a minute
you can travel that distance in a day
but sometimes it takes forever
sometimes you can’t find the way

there’s a distance between a good song
and one that’s just okay.

 

and while I’m here i’d like to give a shout-out to one of my favourite music blogs – Zoolon Hub.  Zoolon is George Blamey-Steeden, a very talented singer, songwriter, guitar player, composer and a witty and engaging blogger. Check out his blog ( for all you guitar players out there, he offers backing tracks to jam to, and for you poets, he will put your poems to music for a very reasonable sum).

Sunshine on Goodge Street (Donovan mash up)

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Sunshine On Goodge Street (Donovan mash-up)

in the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty
a violent hash smoker shook a chocolate machine

and sunshine came softly through my window,
thrown like a star in my vast sleep
I opened my eyes to take a peek.

Yes, I could have tripped out easy
forever to fly, wind velocity nil

but I decided to stay.

(Donovan Phillips Leitch
Superman and Green Lantern
ain’t got nothing on you)

This is a found poem using lines from 5 Donovan songs: Catch the Wind, Sunny Goodge Street, Sunshine Superman, Hurdy Gurdy Man and Mellow Yellow. I’m sure you can figure out which line came from where, but just a note on the second line:

“a violent hash smoker shook a chocolate machine”.

This line is from Sunny Goodge Street and is my favorite Donovan line because of its inherent music –violent, smoker, shook, chocolate, all those o’s, that recurring ‘k’ and the internal rhyme between hash and mash. Say it out loud a couple of times and it will stick in your head!

Sunny Goodge Street appears on Donovan’s second album “Fairytale” and , according to Wikipedia, it “foreshadows the jazzy feel and descriptions of life in urban London that Donovan would continue to explore over the next two years”. There are a few covers out there (Judy Collins and Tom Northcroft), but they are little too earnest and none match the sludgy stoned feel of the original. The recording of the song is almost perfect, except for Harold McNair’s flute solo in the middle which nearly derails the whole thing. Take a listen:

 

Taking part on Open Link Night over at dVerse!

Rhymin’ (Neil) Diamond – the Good, the Bad and the Internal (music on Monday)

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The great Paul Simon once said: “I’d rather be a bucket than a pail”. Ok, maybe he didn’t but perhaps he should have. Anyway, this is not about rhymin’ Simon, this is about rhymin’ Diamond who once said:

I am, I said

To no one there

And no one heard at all

Not even the chair

Implying that, in a room containing inanimate objects, the object most likely to reply would be a chair. That chair is important, not just because it rhymes with “there”. The chair suggests that Neil is in a room, and there is only one chair (“the chair”), so Neil is most likely lying on a bed and of course he is alone, so alone that he has resorted to talking to the furniture. Without the chair, he could be anywhere, it becomes the focus of his existential crisis. This is a “pop song”,  grab the attention of the audience or they are gone and it has to look easy and that’s hard and he does it through that one detail, the chair.

It has to be said that Neil is perhaps not at the same level as Paul Simon when it comes to poetic, sophisticated lyrics, but he has his moments. Take the first verse of “ Cracklin’ Rosie”:

“Aw, Cracklin’ Rosie, get on board

   We’re gonna ride

   Till there ain’t no more to go

   Taking it slow

   And Lord, don’t you know

   We’ll have me a time with a poor man’s lady

There’s that internal rhyme happening – board, more, Lord, poor -and all those ‘O’s’, fifteen in total! And the assonance in the chorus of

“Cracklin’ Rose,

You’re a store-bought woman”

It goes a bit downhill after that – “you make me sing like a guitar hummin’” – hummin’ and woman – ouch!

But, for my money, Neil’s finest moment when it comes to writing lyrics is in “Sweet Caroline”. The song, admittedly, is not without some absolute groaners:

“Where it began,

I can’t begin to knowin’”

And that’s the first two lines.

Even the chorus, which contains that finest moment is a syntactical nightmare:

Sweet Caroline

Good times never seemed so good

I’ve been inclined,

To believe they never would

Oh, no, no

I have wrestled with this for some time and the best I can come up with is this: ”I’ve been inclined to believe that good times never would never seem so good”. Think about that too long and I guarantee that steam will come out of your ears. But it doesn’t matter, because all that matters is that rhyme between “Sweet Caroline” and “I’ve been inclined”. He could have gone for “fine”, “wine”, “mine” etc but there is something about “inclined” that is so unexpected, so colloquial, so conversational. It surprises every time you hear it. And of course, the acid test of any chorus is how well it does in a pub or bar late in the evening and everyone is a little hammered and some skinny guy on acoustic guitar hauls out “Sweet Caroline” and everyone is just waiting to belt out that chorus and I guarantee you that the volume will perceptibly increase when they reach that line and everyone takes just a little credit for recognising how clever it is.

 

 

Sgt. Pepper Mashup (Art, pop and found poetry)

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Sgt. Pepper Mashup (a found poem)

Made passively tolerant by LSD, he was happy to sit back
endlessly recombining like some insoluble chemical compound
all he really wanted was the cyclic cloud drift of his verse.

The song never relinquishes this staccato dominant
played by Harrison on his Stratocaster with treble-heavy settings
making the most of McCartney’s rich ninth’s and elevenths –
a brilliantly whimsical expression of period burlesque.

It is impossible to conduct a revolution without picking a side
like a comic brass fob watch suspended from a floral waistcoat
objectivity is illusory and all creativity inescapably self –referential.

The track is whipped to a climax by a coruscating pseudo-Indian guitar solo.
Lennon grinned sardonically, as he walked past Aspinall,
requesting from Martin a sound like the end of the world.

 

I have always felt that found poetry is a form of theft. Yet, here I am with my first found poem. It all started with listening to the remastered copy of Sgt.Pepper, ( a vast improvement on the snap, crackle and pop of my old vinyl version) and in particular, the guitar solo in “Fixing a Hole”. Paul McCartney played lead guitar on a number of tracks on the album, but the style of playing on the solo sounded more like George Harrison. So, I consulted the bible – “Revolution in the Head”, by Ian MacDonald, a track by track analysis of 241 Beatle tracks and essential to any Beatles nerd. Yes, it is George’s solo!
I read a couple of other track analyses and found myself enjoying MacDonald’s writing style, a number of phrases jumped out from the page and the idea of a found poem formed. The result is the above poem. It has, believe it or not, a structure: each line is a direct quote from an analysis of an individual Sgt. Pepper track, and the lines are sequenced in the same order as the tracks appear on the album.
Buy Ian MacDonald’s book, you won’t be disappointed and I will feel better about stealing his stuff.

The subject over at dVerse is Pop Art, I can’t think of anything more pop art than Sgt. Pepper from the cover to the content (the Beatles turned pop into an art form) plus found poetry is a form of collage, so I thought I would link this one!

 

 

Lines randomly composed while listening to a band from the Maritimes in the Dubh Linn Gate Pub, Whistler, British Columbia

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Lines randomly composed while listening to a band from the Maritimes in the Dubh Linn Gate Pub, Whistler, British Columbia

Oh. the herring were running wild and fast
as we sailed out from St. John
and the cod were plump as Mary’s arse
on a Sunday morning after early mass
with sausages on the griddle, rashers in the pan
with a whack fol de diddle dairy oh
with a whack fol de diddle dan.

(my first and, hopefully, my last attempt at a seafaring song…a note to my readers:
please drink responsibly or you will end up writing rubbish like the above…)

Listening to Carlos Santana in Kitsilano Gym (quadrille)

 

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Listening to Carlos Santana in Kitsilano Gym.

listening to Carlos Santana
in Kitsilano Gym,
his guitar solos
leading always
to that existential wail
on the top fret
above the cutaway
takes me back to Asbury Park
walking along the boardwalk
having watched Woodstock
my head an unsustainable mix
of idealism, hedonism.

 

This is a response to Quadrille #82 – Fretboard of Poetry, the prompt from Kim at dVerse, which is to use the word fret in a 44-word poem that does not require meter or rhyme.

 

Saturday Morning in Idabel (Sunday Morning Coming Down)

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Saturday Morning in Idabel

There’s a dead armadillo
On the side of the road
Empty beer can in his claws
That joke just never gets old

There’s a dog on the shoulder
Trying to bite his own tail
I’m in the motel parking lot
Watching that dog fail

And I can’t remember
When I ever felt this low
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
And I ain’t got no place to go.

Down at the Piggly Wiggly
There’s no one in the aisles
No one at the check-out counter
Hasn’t been for a while

There’s a big box store sitting
Out of town, someplace
People are moving towards it
Like it came from outer space

And I can’t remember
When I ever felt this low
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
And I ain’t got no place to go

And Cookie he is worried
His wife’s leg has turned black
He’s got a concealed weapon’s license
A shotgun and a rack

And he has no idea
How he’ll pay the hospital bill
He says: guns never hurt nobody
only people kill

And I can’t remember
When I ever felt this low
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
And I ain’t got no place to go

 

Amaya, over at dVerse has asked for a poem about or based on a song to which we have a strong emotional connection. The above piece is a song lyric I wrote thinking of Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down”. I used to travel in my work, and I got stuck in strange towns and cities on Sunday mornings quite a lot. Being away from my family was a depressing experience at times and Kris Kristofferson’s song lyrics resonated. On the upside, being stuck in Idabel, Oklahoma, generated a poem, and a song lyric which my friend, John Mitchell wrote music for, (I have previously posted about that process).

 

 

“On a Sunday morning sidewalk
I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’
That’s half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleepin’ city sidewalk
And Sunday mornin’ comin’ down”

Little Richard (a quadrille)

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(the prompt from Kim over at dVerse is to write a quadrille -44 word poem- using the word “rich”)

Little Richard

Richard Penniman
Little Richard
not just any man
a pioneer of rock and roll
twelve bars and no holds barred
and all about that one thing:
Molly likes to ball
Sally has everything that Uncle John needs
Sue knows just what to do
a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom.

 

 

 

Found Poetry – Theft or Tribute?(Sgt. Pepper Mashup )

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Sgt. Pepper Mashup 

Made passively tolerant by LSD, he was happy to sit back
endlessly recombining like some insoluble chemical compound
all he really wanted was the cyclic cloud drift of his verse.

The song never relinquishes this staccato dominant
played by Harrison on his Stratocaster with treble-heavy settings
making the most of McCartney’s rich ninth’s and elevenths –
a brilliantly whimsical expression of period burlesque.

It is impossible to conduct a revolution without picking a side
like a comic brass fob watch suspended from a floral waistcoat
objectivity is illusory and all creativity inescapably self –referential.

The track is whipped to a climax by a coruscating pseudo-Indian guitar solo.
Lennon grinned sardonically, as he walked past Aspinall,
requesting from Martin a sound like the end of the world.

 

I have always felt that found poetry is a form of theft. Yet, here I am with my first found poem. It all started with listening to the remastered copy of Sgt.Pepper, (issued last year, and a vast improvement on the snap, crackle and pop of my old vinyl version) and in particular, the guitar solo in “Fixing a Hole”. Paul McCartney played lead guitar on a number of tracks on the album, but the style of playing on the solo sounded more like George Harrison. So, I consulted the bible – “Revolution in the Head”, by Ian MacDonald, a track by track analysis of 241 Beatle tracks and essential to any Beatles nerd. The solo was Harrison’s.
I read a couple of other track analyses and found myself enjoying MacDonald’s writing style, a number of phrases jumped out from the page and the idea of a found poem formed. The result is the above poem. It has, believe it or not, a structure: each line is a direct quote from an analysis of an individual Sgt. Pepper track, and the lines are sequenced in the same order as the tracks appear on the album.
Buy Ian MacDonald’s book, you won’t be disappointed and I will feel better about stealing his stuff.

 

Having a Pint with Adele (and the meaning of post modern) (redux)

It’s open link night over at dverse and I thought I would link to this post. It’s not  a poem but it involves poetry and contains poems!

Having a Pint with Adele (and the meaning of post modern) 

It is late afternoon in The Post Coital Beetle and Slim and I are starting into our first pitcher of Blue Buck Ale, nachos have been ordered. On the television screen on the wall in front of us, a baseball player is attacking a dugout water cooler with his bat. The television is on mute. Adele emotes in the background.

It’s been a while since Slim and I have got together and although nothing has been said, I sense that he has a beef of some kind. Not that this is unusual, having a beef is Slim’s default mode, but at the moment he seems relaxed. He has just finished a three hour practice with his band “Bad Complexion”. Slim plays bass and does background vocals. The armpits of his faded Clash T shirt are wet with sweat and the T shirt has been washed so many times that it no longer fits, leaving a gap of bristly pink flesh above the belt of his jeans. The image of a pig’s cheek pops into my head.

He’s smiling.

“She’s really just an old-fashioned British pop singer, isn’t she?” He says.

“Who?”

“Adele, you know…somewhere between Lulu and Shirley Bassey.”

“I guess…she also has that girl next door thing”

“Exactly,” Slim says, “like Cilla Black.”

“That name brings to mind a small black and white television set”

“You could have a pint with Adele,” Slim says, wistfully, and we both fall silent thinking about sharing a pint with Adele.

The pub door opens and closes. Cold blast of January air. Skunky whiff of over-hopped ale. Or is that Slim’s armpit? The silence lingers a little too long.

“I’ve taken up cooking, I’ve become a devotee of Wolfgang Puck.”

Slim does an owl blink, I can almost hear his brain working.

“Who the fuck

is Wolfgang

Puck? And why

should I care?”

He intones smugly.

“You’re doing that 12 syllable slimverse thing again, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” he says, “and that reminds me, I have a bone to pick with you.”

Ahh, not a beef but a bone.

“Shoot”

“This lame-ass blog of yours, I thought it was supposed to be devoted to my poems, but lately it’s all your stuff and you’ve taken stories I’ve told you and used them for your poems and created this character called Slim”

“I’m being post-modern”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“You know, there are many ways of knowing and many truths to a fact.

“Crystal clear then, how can anything be post-modern? ‘Modern’ means ‘of the present’ – ‘now’, the only possible way a work could be post-modern would be if it was written in the future, for that we will have to wait for the invention of time travel.”

He folds his arms, discussion over.

“You have a point. Anyway, you haven’t been giving me much to publish lately.”

“Ok, how about this one, it’s called ‘Rasta’:

It’s a fact

all Rastas

are born out

of dreadlock.”

“Amusing, but a bit thin, we need flesh on the bones, Slim, flesh on the bones. Besides, I’m not so sure about this slim verse thing.”

Slim drains his half full pint glass and refills it.

“Go on.” He says.

“Well, you know, the haiku has got a headlock on internet poetry and it has seventeen syllables to work with, that’s five more than a slimverse. Now I hear that someone in the north of England has come up with a new form – the ‘anchored terset’ which is essentially a three word/four line poem, the fourth line being a punctuation mark, for example:

Sky

Field

Cow

.

It’s a race towards nothingness.”

Slim drains his pint glass and leans forward, his finger poking in my direction.

“Here’s an anchored terset for you….

You

Fuck

Off

!”

He tries to storm out but because we are in a booth he has to slide along the bench seat, his stomach rubbing against the table’s edge. His T shirt rides up. At the same time the waitress arrives with a plate of nachos shaped like a volcano, a volcano spewing molten cheese lava. The waitress stares in horror at the sinkhole that is Slim’s navel. Slim shouts at the waitress:

“I thought I said ‘hold the jalapenos’!

We watch him leave, on his back Paul Simonon slams his Fender Precision Bass into the stage at The Palladium in New York city.

“He seems upset”, the waitress says, and I’m thinking:

I can’t see

the pulled pork,

she forgot

the pulled pork.

 

After all

that bother

she forgot

the pulled pork.

 

 

Reference:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/feb/04/a-brief-guide-anchored-terset-poetry

 

 

 

Driving Home with Leonard Cohen (4)…Poem

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Driving Home with Leonard Cohen

Despite what he says
not everybody knows,
not everybody knows
like Leonard knows.
Not everybody knows
that the best songs
are about loss,
endings,
so long,
ways to say goodbye,
closing time,
and that age
can be laughed about
but not at,
if I had a hat
I would raise it to Mr.Cohen
perched up there alone
in his tower of song.

 

I have posted this a few times before, but since this week is turning into music week at stopdraggingthepanda, I thought I would give it another outing

A note on the genius of Leonard Cohen:

Below is the first verse of “Suzanne”. Notice how he doesn’t hit a conventional rhyme until the chorus where he rhymes ‘blind’ and ‘mind’ and creates a tension and release which runs through the whole song (he repeats that pattern in the next 2 verses). 

“Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night forever
And you know that she’s half-crazy but that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer that you’ve always been her lover
And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind”

Participating in OpenLink Night over at dVerse.