Tag Archives: music

So Long, Halong (Redux))

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So Long, Halong

As we ride out of Cat Ba

through a valley circled

by limestone crags,

a compilation of pop ballads

from the seventies and eighties

oozes from the speakers

and the affable English backpackers

at the back of the bus

groan in faux horror

as Aerosmith follows Bryan Adams

follows George Michaels

follows Michael Jackson

but when the Bee Gees launch

“How Deep Is Your Love”

the backpackers quieten down

and the driver stops honking his horn

at the dogs, children, women

in cone hats and cyclists

with finely balanced cargos

who drift carelessly

in front of the bus

as if it was an invisible

visitor from the future,

and we all strain against

the tug of the song’s chorus

far too cool to sing along

except for one backpacker

let’s call him Nigel

or Christian, or Jason, or Justin

who, in a high piping voice

declares his oneness

with the song’s embattled lovers.

This poem was first published in Oddball Magazine, and is a re-post from 2016.

 

The Parrot in the Liquor Store (Wild Thing)

The Parrot in the Liquor Store (Wild Thing)

I’m standing in the liquor store
staring at a bottle of Pinot Grigio
when Wild Thing by the Troggs
comes on the store speakers
and I’m thinking, to quote Leonard,
that song is a shining artifact of the past
and just as I’m thinking that
one of the Troggs launches into
a bizarre ocarina solo
and I turn around to find myself face to face
with a large blue and yellow parrot
perched on the leather-gloved hand
of a lady who has seen hippier times
never at a loss for words, I say,
“that’s a nice parrot”
and the lady says
“I have three more at home
one of them is a real man-hater
but this one here is my favowite
he’s a vewy, vewy, vewy nice pawwot”

she says, nuzzling the parrot, nose to beak
the parrot inflates its technicolor plumage
let’s out an almighty squawk
and displays its full wing span
and I’m thinking
Wow, there’s a ocarina solo in the middle of Wild Thing,
who’s that on ocarina
I think it’s the lead singer
what was his name,
Reg Presley, I think,
yeah, that’s it
Reg Presley.”

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal.

Desolation Row Revisited

Desolation Row Revisited

A guy from Northern Ireland
introduced me to this song
Bird’s Eye Frozen Food Factory
he sang it all night shift long.

Highway 61 Revisited
last track, second side
I’ve still got it on vinyl
but now I listen on Spotify

the reedy wheeze of harmonica
Dylan’s laconic drawl
Charlie McCoy on Spanish guitar
the lyric’s surrealistic sprawl

and the melody is quite simple
but that doesn’t matter, no
as Dylan weaves his tapestry
on Desolation Row.

Taking part in Open Link over at dverse.

Willie’s Oasis (The Mitchell Feeney Project)

(Willie’s Oasis…a song about looking for drink in all the wrong places)

This a song from my collaboration with John Mitchell (The Mitchell-Feeney Project).

I wrote the lyrics and John did pretty much everything else (except the violin)

The lyric was adapted from a poem I wrote called “A Dry Country in Arkansas”. The poem was published some time ago in Cyphers,  a long -running Irish literary magazine. When I gave the lyric to John, I had no concept what kind of song would emerge, I couldn’t have been happier with what he did. I’ll let John explain…

“Willie’s Oasis” turned out to be quite a challenge musically. I loved the feeling of the tune, that southern heat out on Highway 82, but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t hear the music. I tried using my electric guitars, my acoustics, I even tried my piano, but no matter what key I played in and what chords I used, I couldn’t make it work. So I decided to use technology, and I searched through some of my pre-recorded samples and found this rough sounding, bluesy guitar riff. As soon as I started to work with it and edit the sample, add a few more samples, voila, “Willie’s Oasis” appeared.The only live things I put on this tune were my handclaps and my vocals. 

I decided that it needed something else, so I called a wonderful violin player friend of mine named Ben Mink and asked if he would put some fiddle on the tune. Modern technology allows me to send him my tracks, he puts on the violin and sends it back to me via e-mail. We were never in the same room. I expected him to put some real down-home fiddle on, but he completely fooled me and played the most smoking electric violin parts that took the song over the edge. 

(A note about the violin player, Ben Mink: Ben co wrote “Constant Craving” with KD Lang. The song won KD Lang a Grammy in 1993. Ben and KD Lang also got co-writing credits on a Rolling Stones song, “Anybody Seen My Baby”, because the Stones noticed that the chorus of their song had similarities to the chorus of “Constant Craving”).

Jim Hendrix in East Vancouver

The Left Hand of God

Industrial Strife

The Big Picture

Artist: Nelson Garcia and Xochitl
Year: 2007
Location: 1030 East Cordova


I came across this Jimi Hendrix Mural in East Vancouver, close to Container Brewing (that’s why I was in the area). Apparently Jimi Hendrix had a strong connection to Vancouver, his grandmother lived on 827 E. Georgia Street . The area around the mural is quite industrial, so it was a surprise when I stumbled on it!.

The Note

Here’s a video of a live performance of a song I wrote with my friend John Mitchell. I wrote the lyrics and John did the rest, the hard part! That’s John and his band down in Olympic Village (Vancouver). I was in charge of taking the video (no self-respecting musician would let me near a stage and with good reason) and as you can see Martin Scorsese has nothing to worry about! Listen on headphones, this was recorded on an iphone! John and the band sound great.

Here’s the lyric:

The Note

Earl sailed up the Belize coast
In his brand new custom built boat
With the mother of all hangovers
No water and a note

And now he’s sitting drinking
In an ocean-side tourist bar
Trying to get a jump on happiness
In the hour before happy hour

Chorus:
And the note read:
Our love has lost its flavor
There’s no point in hanging on
No Doctor Phil, no savior
We’re done,
Yes, we are done.

And the people standing ‘round him
Have been on Caye Caulker far too long
They‘re talking about Paradise spoilt
And how it all went wrong

Well Earl knows that Paradise
Is a very, very temporary thing
And this little piece of heaven
Feels like hell to him

Chorus:
And the note read:
Our love has lost its flavor
There’s no point in hanging on
No Doctor Phil, no savior
We’re done,
Yes, we are done.

And Earl can’t put a finger on it
Why it all went up in smoke
He’s feeling like a punch line
In someone else’s joke

And he don’t believe in karma
Instant, good or bad
He’s drunk and lonely on the beach
With a bucket full of sad

Chorus:
And the note read:
Our love has lost its flavor
There’s no point in hanging on
No Doctor Phil, no savior
We’re done,
Yes, we are done.

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal

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….

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

 

 

Top Posts 2019 #2: The Beautiful Game (The Lads’ Poetry Project 2 )

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I’m including this one mainly because the subject matter of the poem – sport and the level of discourse associated with it – is somewhat neglected in the world of poetry. When you read the poem you may conclude that that is actually a good thing.

The Beautiful Game

Me and the lads are warming up
for our Sunday morning kickabout,
the weather’s not so good:
a black cloud loiters over head
spitting occasionally;
there’s a chill in the air.
Not that we care.
We are here for that moment of magic:
those three short passes
that raise life above the ordinary.
It’s all going well.
We’re stretching, squatting
sprinting, jogging, popping
Esther and Abi*
when up steps Paul
all sanctimonious-like
and starts to rattle on
about how this is a family park
and we should watch our language
and surely we can play a game of football
without accusing each other of onanism.
The lads are confused, gobsmacked even.
My face adopts an expression
which would later be described as quizzical
Onanism, I inquire,
what is that wanker talking about?

 

*Esther and Abi (Ofarim): rhyming slang for ibuprofen, a popular anti-inflammatory. Esther and Abi Ofarim, an Israeli singing duo, had a hit with “Cinderella Rockefella” in 1968.

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!