Tag Archives: music

Willie’s Oasis (Looking for drink in all the wrong places)

Punam over at dverse asks us to “Write about your favourite drink (alcoholic/non-alcoholic), write about getting drunk, use drinking as a metaphor, in short: write a poem in a form of your choice with a drinking connection”. (Update: I omitted to link this to Punam’s prompt, so I am now linking it to Open Link Night at dverse)

Willie’s Oasis

Houses hunker in the heat
Out on highway 82
The landscape sweats and saunters
Billboards block the view
And this is not New York City
This is not Saginaw
This a dry county, son
This is Arkansas

And I need a pack of Pauli Girl
I need a bottle of wine
I’m heading for Willie’s Oasis
Outside the county line

There’s a woman in line waiting
Someone’s girlfriend, someone’s wife
Says she wakes up every morning
And asks:”Is this my life?”
Beef jerky on the counter
Pickles in a jar
This is a dry county, son
This is Arkansas

And I need a pack of Pauli Girl
I need a bottle of wine
I’m heading for Willie’s Oasis
Outside the county line

Good ol’ boys are chugging out
Storm clouds on the horizon
The water looks like iced tea
Birds are improvising
And this is far from New York city
Far from Saginaw
This is Ashley County, son
This is Arkansas

My friend John Mitchell turned the lyrics into the song above (that’s Ben Mink on violin, look him up!).

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.

This poem was previously posted in Open Link Night over at dverse

What I’m Listening To (Hey Mister, that’s me up on the Jukebox)

“Hey Mister that’s me up on the juke box” is on James Taylor’s third album, “Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon”. I have always thought it is the best track on the album. James has a reputation as a soft rock crooner (You’ve Got a Friend) but his earlier stuff , like this one, could have an edge to it, e.g ….”I need your golden gated cities like a hole in the head”…..or these lines …”Let the doctor and the lawyer do as much as they can / let the springtime begin/ let the boy become a man”.

The musical structure of the song also has an unsettling quality to it. It starts with the chorus , followed by a verse , followed by another chorus , then a second verse . But the second verse has a completely different rhyme scheme and chord structure to the first, and it’s followed by a bridge, then the chorus then a coda to end the song. So the song has five distinct lyrical and musical sections.

Chorus (A), Verse 1 (B), Chorus, Verse 2 (C), Bridge (D), Chorus, Coda (E).

Combined with the elusive, conversational tone of the lyric this makes the song one to return to, again and again….there’s more to James than that aw shucks persona!

(It’s also an example of metasongwriting in the songwriter acknowledges that he’s in a song).

Relatives

Relatives

Slim* has an aunt and uncle
who fight all the time
like Simon and Garfunkel

they have a son
who looks like
Russ Kunkel

the session drummer
who played with,
among others,

Joni Mitchell
and, yes,
Art Garfunkel.

Slim also has a cousin
who likes to snorkel,
at the local swimming pool.

She is constantly amazed
at how pale the human body looks
when viewed under water.

I’m amazed at how pale
the human body looks
when viewed under water

she says,
every time she returns
from the pool

her name is Rachel
Rachel, who likes to snorkel.

*aka Slim Volume, real name Reginald Dwight…..not really, think that’s Elton John’s real name. For more about Slim, see here.

Savannah (extended version)

Savannah

At night, the rotund tourists
roam the street below
drinking light beer from plastic cups
and watching the river flow.

And Chuck, he’s in a restaurant
playing his guitar
for the plaid shorts and polo shirts
and salesmen at the bar.

And life is neither good nor bad
it’s somewhere in between
Chuck thinks that one day
he should leave this river scene.

Time’s a slowly burning fuse
time’s a disappearing muse
in time you feel every wound
time’s a slowly burning fuse.

Karla’s in the house again
trying to catch his eye
her hair is blond and crinkled
makes Chuck think of frozen fries

and when he hits another chorus
she stands upon her chair
chugs back her mojito
and punches the empty air

and he knows that in this deck of cards
we all can’t be the ace
and if you’re going to take a fall
then try and fall with grace.

Time’s a slowly burning fuse
time’s a disappearing muse
in time you feel every wound
time’s a slowly burning fuse.

Jane, the late shift waitress
her husband’s out of town
Chuck thinks that later
he might ask her around

and he’ll forget about alimony
and the rent that he owes
he’ll forget just about every thing
if Jane comes around.

Time’s a slowly burning fuse
time’s a disappearing muse
in time you heal every wound
time’s a slowly burning fuse.

This is based on a short poem I had published in Cyphers magazine. There are other versions of it, even a sonnet, but I think it’s finally settled down.

Taking part in OpenLinkNight over at dverse.

A Lai for Bob (Tangled Up In Blue)

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A Lai for Bob 

adenoidal snarl
it’s about a girl

mostly

but sometimes, the world
and how it turns, or

maybe

it’s a frantic swirl
of images, words

let fly

with venom and spite
an angry prophet

raging

but he’s more than that:
clown, joker, poet,

snide sage

in a feathered hat
an imp at sunset

dancing.

I thought I would give this poem yet another outing, as an excuse to post this excellent version of Tangled Up In Blue by KT Tunstall

(Taking part in OPen Link Weekend over at Earthweal)

Existential Boogie Revisited

Existential Boogie

I’m sitting in a café
smoking a Gitane
yes, I’m sitting in a café
smoking a Gitane
I’m reading Jean Paul Sartre
and wondering who I am.

Existential boogie
do that existential thing
you can do it in your armchair
summer, autumn, winter, spring.

If you’re looking for an answer
don’t ask Albert Camus
yes, if you’re looking for an answer
don’t ask Albert Camus
that dude’s been dead a long time
he can’t tell you what to do

Existential boogie
do that existential thing
you can do it in your armchair
summer, autumn, winter, spring

And don’t talk to me
about Immanuel Kant
yes, don’t talk to me
about Immanuel Kant
well I know that you want to
but you can’t

Existential boogie
do that existential thing
you can do it in your armchair
summer, autumn, winter, spring

and some people like to quote
Martin Heidegger
yes, some people like to quote
Martin Heidegger
well, all I can say is
go figure

Existential boogie
do that existential thing
you can do it in your armchair
summer, autumn, winter, spring

Rene Descartes said
I think therefore I am
yes, old Rene, he said
I think therefore I am
well, I call that a beginning
I sure don’t call that a plan.

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

What I’m Listening To (Down South by Tom Petty)

This is classic laconic Tom from his Highway Companion album. The song was produced by Jeff Lynne of ELO and that’s Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers on guitar. It’s an uncluttered production and a simple enough song, but ,of course , “simple” is hard to do well. What makes it for me is the lyric.

The first line of each verse ends with the phrase “down south” and the next three lines rhyme with each other. It’s what Tom Petty does with those rhymes that makes the song stand out. For example:

Create myself down south
Impress all the women
Pretend I’m Samuel Clemens
Wear seersucker and white linens

Women, Clemens, linen…..that’s about as witty and clever as lyric writing gets. Or this:

Spanish moss down south
Spirits cross the dead fields
Mosquitoes hit the windshield
All document remain sealed

So take a listen and look out as well for Mike Campell’s tremolo guitar figure

Poem in Leonard Cohen Anthology “Before I Turn Into Gold”

My poem “Driving Home with Leonard” has been included in David L O’Nan’s anthology, ” Before I Turn Into Gold”, a collection of poems inspired by the work of Leonard Cohen. That’s the cover artwork above by Geoffrey Wren and the book contains some very fine poems and more wonderful illustrations by Geoffrey Wren.

Thanks to David for including me. The book is available here on Kindle and in Paperback. Check it out.

Also check out David’s Fevers of the Mind Poetry and Art Blog here.

What I’m Listening to (Jazz on the Autobahn by the Felice Brothers)

Here’s a lyric sample:

The sheriff disagreed
He tried to make the distinction between death and extinction
They stopped off at a place called Hamburger Heaven to grab a bite to eat
But Helen had no appetite, she just drank a 7 Up
while the sheriff tapped his coffee cup to a distant beat
Kind of like
Ooh ooh-ooh
Ooh ooh-ooh
It won’t look like those old frescoes, man, I don’t think so
There will be no angels with swords, man, I don’t think so
No jubilant beings in the sky above, man, I don’t think so
And it won’t look like those old movies neither
There will be no drag racing through the bombed out streets neither
No shareholders will be orbiting the earth, man, neither
It will be hard to recognize each other through our oxygen masks
The successful sons of businessmen will set their desks on fire
While 5-star generals of the free world weep in the oil choked tide
It won’t sound like jazz
Jazz, jazz, jazz
Jazz on the Autobahn

Now isn’t that something to aim for…

The Felice Brothers are from New York City.

“The band has two main members, Ian and James Felice. Former members include their brother Simone Felice, their friend Josh “Christmas Clapton” Rawson, frequently described as a traveling dice player,[9] fiddle player Greg Farley, and drummer David Estabrook. At other times, they have featured a horn section in the band, composed of local Hudson Valley musicians. Ian is the main vocalist and plays the guitar and piano. James contributes vocals and plays the accordion, organ, and piano. Christmas plays the bass guitar. Dave Turbeville played the drums from 2009-2012, performing on Celebration, Florida, Poughkeepsie Princess, Mixtape, and God Bless You, Amigo. Simone Felice was the drummer as well as a vocalist and a guitarist. Simone is also an author, having released books entitled Goodbye Amelia, Hail Mary, Full of Holes and Black Jesus. Simone Felice left the Felice Brothers in 2009. He now leads his own band – The Duke & the King (named after the duo of con-artists in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) with Robert “Chicken” Burke. They released their debut album – Nothing Gold Can Stay on Loose / Ramseur Records August 4, 2009, followed by Long Live the Duke & King in 2010. Simone released a self-titled album in 2012, followed that up with an album titled Strangers in 2014, and then released his third album titled The Projector in 2018.” ….from Wikipedia.

What I’m Listening To (Chocolate Jesus by Tom Waits)

From the album, Mule Variations. Written by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan. That’s Charlie Musselwhite playing the blues harp.

This whole lyric is hilarious but these 4 lines get me very time:

“When the weather gets rough and it’s whiskey in the shade
It’s best to wrap your savior up in cellophane
He flows like the big muddy but that’s okay
Pour him over ice cream for a nice parfait”

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.”

This first appeared in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal.

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dverse

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

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.