Category Archives: song lyrics and meanings

Songs of loss and pre-emptive mourning

My new earworm is Joey by Concrete Blonde.  It’s a brilliant song, with astonishing vocals from Johnette Napolitano.

It sits alongside other songs of mourning for lost friendships, lost loves (something Paul Kelly and Billy Bragg do well).  That sense of hoping to reconnect with someone who has their own battles to fight is something of a thing for me (not that I’ve a lot of personal experience).  The Whitlams did a great one in ‘Blow Up the Pokies‘.


Two of particular note are

Bruce Springsteen Bobby Jean

Maybe you’ll be out there on that road somewhere
In some bus or train traveling along
In some motel room there’ll be a radio playing
And you’ll hear me sing this song
Well, if you do, you’ll know I’m thinking of you
And all the miles in between
And I’m just calling you one last time
Not to change your mind, but just to say I miss you, baby
Good luck, goodbye, Bobby Jean

(you’ll be shocked to hear that Clarence Clemons crushes it on the sax solo)

and there’s always Pink, of course. In this case ‘Who Knew?’

Stuff it, shove it… where the sun don’t shine… lyrics for the #apocalypse

In ‘The Future’  (1992) Leonard Cohen sings
“Take the only tree that’s left
And stuff it up the hole in your culture.”

In   “I, Spy”,  (1995) Jarvis Cocker of Pulp sings
“Take a year in Provence,
and shove it up your ass.”

Do I have anything to add? No. Just I suppose that this thing of darkness, we don’t want to acknowledge. We want to throw it away. But as the ecologists keep telling us, there is no ‘away’.


Vale Erik Petersen – “Old time mem’ry”

Just found out that Erik Petersen, of Mischief Brew died earlier this year. I never saw him perform, and have only today been listening to his (excellent) work.  Al Baker had covered one of his songs (co-written with Robert Blake), which he kindly played at my wedding.  It’s a corker; beautiful to listen to, the lyrics so powerful, constantly questioning, probing, undercutting wishful certainties.

Here’s Al

Here’s Erik

And here’s those wonderful lyrics

When Father bought the farm, we sold the farm
Mistook his blood for rustic charm
Sold his ghost as an antique
To the city

Kids today can’t hold a spade
Rest in peace your weary trades
In this world there is no place
Such a pity

Well, the barman shakes his head and fills my glass
Says ‘We’re living in the past.
Why preserve a dying craft?
End its misery.’

We sigh and see another modern man
One of property, not land
So I hold out this battered hand
Will you listen?

Come sit down, we’re lamenting about yesterday’s sad ending
‘Bout the water in me whiskey
The brass passed off as gold
Another round, we’re descending into old tyme mem’ry
Of a day when wood was wooden, silver-silver, gold was gold
Sweet home was home

So you say you got a wooden stove in your second home
Runs on gas, but looks like oak
Hell, it even gives off smoke and glowing embers

There’s a quilt hung on the wall, reads ‘Home, Sweet Home’
Below some wise words from Thoreau
And they call me throwback; when I cry I remember

Come sit down, we’re lamenting about yesterday’s sad ending
‘Bout the water in me whiskey
The brass passed off as gold
Another round, we’re descending into old tyme mem’ry
Of a day when wood was wooden, silver-silver, gold was gold
Sweet home was home

Son, these tools are artifacts
Endangered species left its tracks
So lock me up behind plastic glass in the city

There’s no going back for me
This antique’s rustic eulogy
Shall be sold as folk artistry, such a pity

But I’ll never understand why they all only use those hands
To build a stead that will always stand
In old time country

But settle for white rooms and hollow doors
Paper ceilings, padded floors
Luxury boxes where you’re stored; and what was country?

Come sit down, we’re lamenting about yesterday’s sad ending
‘Bout the water in me whiskey
The brass passed off as gold
Another round, we’re descending into old tyme mem’ry
Of a day when wood was wooden, silver-silver, gold was gold

Another round, we’re lamenting about yesterday’s sad ending
‘Bout the water in me whiskey
The brass passed off as gold
Another round, we’re descending into old tyme mem’ry

Of a day when wood was wooden, silver-silver, gold was gold
Sweet home was home

TV Smith – “Buried by the Machine”

I described TV Smith as “Chomsky with a Guitar” the other day. That was before I’d listened properly to the two albums I bought at his gig.

Having now done so, my opinion…. has not shifted one little bit.

Is there a way forward
You’ve the will
Technology and the skill
They tell you to sight your target
Move in for the kill.
And stop complaining that you’re being
Buried by the machine

Up and running
It’s great!
Puts my meal
On your plate.
Prepare for hard labour
Trying to keep up to date
Snowed under – about six feet
Buried by the machine

I could get angry
Blame you
But you were just a dog
Jumping through their hoops
And you lost too
You got used
Blue collar
On a floor full of suits
Looks like you’re being dismantled
Instead of improved
Well that’s progress
We’re all being
Buried by the machine

The immovable object and the State

On Monday night Manchester was the scene of a crime. It was a crime committed, as the tabloids would always tell you most are, by a young(ish) Black Man, the son of one of those immigrants allowed to come to England decades ago. It was a serious crime, a crime against the state….

If, that is, by “state” we mean the blood-thirsty, looting empire-in-tatters that is the British State, (and pretty much every other state is or would be, given the opportunity.) It was a crime against compliance, a crime against complacency.

It wasn’t a crime against music and thought, it was a crime for them. It was committed by Akala, who gave a blistering set at Gorilla.

So much would be so unexpected to anyone who (unlike me) has followed the man’s career over the last ten years (all of the grime I’ve ever encountered has been before I left the house). Akala knows what he can do with words and a microphone, and he did them. Passion, mimicry, rhythm – all deployed with far more precision than the fucking bombs the British state is itching to drop on a bunch of people like you, me, your friends and acquaintances in Syria. But I digress.

So much so easy. But now for the stunt blogging part of the programme. Who did Akala remind me of? He reminded me of… wait for it…. wait for it…. Pink.

  • There’s the acute self-awareness, willingness to name and own their own hypocrisies and insecurities. (e.g. Leave me alone/I’m Lonely and Find Your Enemy).
  • There’s the understanding that the music industry wants you in a small and clearly labelled box, (as everyone knows), and the willingness, luck and  ability to, if not play the game by their own rules, then to bend them outashape.
  • There’s the general level of live performance (I’ve not seen her, more’s the pity) – Akala has her self-assurance; (according to his wikipedia entry he had a promising football career cut short by injury. Toe marbles’ loss is music and politics’ gain, I’d say.)
  • There’s the ability to name some of the enemies (Akala seems more willing to be just blunt about it, though Pink’s “Dear Mr President” probably got her removed from the Bush family’s Christmas card list).
  • There’s the real name/stage name thing (this is common of course). Pink is Alecia Moore, with the teenage nickname sticking. Akala, which is a Buddhist term for “immovable”.
  • There’s the obsession with the causes and consequences of violence (I was struck recently by just how many of Pink’s videos involve her in physical conflict with people, including herself.) See here.

There are differences of course – although both are cashed up in the “erotic capital” department (as in, smoking hot), Pink’s videos are, necessarily, a lot slicker (I shudder to think their budgets).

Also, I’m going to be able to have Pink as my music-to-do-grunt-PhD-work by. Akala, not so much. I defy anyone to cut and paste word documents while vaguely humming along to “Murder runs the globe”…

“The Girl in the Mirror” – 80s pop and #feminism

Today on Youtube, while doing grunt work on the PhD (goes quicker with a soundtrack), I stumbled on something I don’t think I’d ever heard – a political (feminism) pop song from the 1980s. You can watch it here, followed by my attempt at lyrics and a John Berger quote that seems to fit….

“Following Jo Jo Zep Clifton once again collaborated with Joe Camilleri in the recording studio on her first solo single ‘Girl On The Wall’. The Camilleri produced track was a fantastic pop-rock song with really clever lyrics, which took a sharp edged look at the whole question of self image for women. The inspiration for the song came from Jane Clifton’s role in the Robyn Archer penned cabaret show ‘Pack Of Women’.”

Lyrics (if anyone can figure out the bits I couldn’t, lemme know please)

Every time I go to catch a train
An image stares down at me
Oh every time I buy a magazine
An image stares out at me
And I feel so insecure
Cos I know one thing for sure
That the girl in the mirror
Ain’t the same as the girl on the wall

Baby’s….. to know
He says that it must be love
In bed when he closes his eyes
Is it me that he’s thinking of?
Because everything I say and do
Is all from his point of view
And the girl in the mirror
Ain’t the same as the girl on the wall

Cos I’m overweight, underweight
Too strong, too frail
I got lifeless hair and dirty finger nails
Too dry, too greasy
I’m a prisoner locked in a body cage

Flat chested big busted
Flat footed flat face
Big-bottomed short-legged and my nose is out of place
Too pretty too ugly
Too forward too shy
I got no self-image and I wonder why

Every day I’m walking down the street
I feel every eye on me
Everyone that I meet
I wonder who do they see
Perfection in disguise
With regimes and alibis
And the girl in the mirror
Ain’t the same as the girl on the wall

The girl in the mirror
Ain’t the same as the girl on the wall

“A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another….

One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”
― John Berger, Ways of Seeing

Misognynist pop lyrics, no comment required

It ain’t rappers who invented misogyny in popular music, is all I’m saying-

Who wants yesterday’s papers
Who wants yesterday’s girl
Who wants yesterday’s papers
Nobody in the world

Rolling Stones “Yesterdays News”

and that “happy” In the Summertime –

You got women, you got women on your mind
Have a drink, have a drive
Go out and see what you can find

If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal
If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel

Mungo Jerry “In the Summertime” 

If only there were a word that described the relentless assault on the worth of women…. No, wait….

We live in “Powdertown” #police #corruption – Cyril Smith coverup etc

The second verse goes like this;

Frankie looks like a nice young cop but he’s got an old cop’s face
He believed in truth and justice till they took him off the case
Now he’s walkin’ the beat on the wrong side of town, bustin’ drunks and shakin’ them down
Don’t ask him who he’s working for, all he says now is “the law’s the law
And it’ll be like this for evermore here in Powdertown, in Powdertown.”

It’s from an album track of the Australian band ‘the Skyhooks‘. In the course of a few verses we learn of enforced prostitution, police coverups, drug dealers. The motif of ‘powder’ – a white fluffy blanket that makes everything look clean and pure – runs throughout.

The Hillsborough stuff -96 dead because of police incompetence, followed by decades of smear, intimidation and cover-up, of course angers me, since I am a functioning human being. [For excellent coverage of Hillsborough, the undercover cops in the labour and environment movement and much else, see “Bristling Badger“.]

The Jimmy Savile stuff;  I have nothing to add.

cyrilSmith_2398434bBut this latest – that some brave (naive?) cops – thought that they could build a case against an MP, a secret service clown and some top cops,  and then  were swiftly disabused of the fantasy that they lived in a state with something within in spitting distance of the rule of law – just, well… I am scared, of what members of my species are capable of.

Powdertown ends with an advice lyric;

So if you’re driving through one day and you see that exit sign
You might slow down and take a look, maybe risk a parking fine
But if you’re smart you’ll pass on by, get where you’re goin’, kiss this place goodbye

Good advice. Anyone know if it’s too late to sign up for the Mars colonisation thing?

Song lyrics and meaning: “Grey Seal” by Bernie Taupin (performed by Elton John)

Got me an ear worm.  Heard this on the stepper at t’gym on Sun 18th January.  Googled it, read about it, loved it. Lyrics in italics, my version in square brackets.  Apparently Taupin says he doesn’t know what the song means.  I think his unconscious was hard at work…

Why’s it never light on my lawn
Why does it rain
And never say good-day to the new-born

[Why is nature unfair to me? Why am I not recognised?]

On the big screen they showed us the sun
But not as bright in life as the real one
It’s never quite the same as the real one

[Crucial to understand the distinction that Taupin sets up in the song between “life” (what actually is) and the “real” – what the state/society version is.  Think William Blake on this too.  And think U2 – “even better than the real thing”. Think “nulture“. The “real” is the state/society sanctioned version. They “steal your dreams and sell them back.” In Leon Rosselson’s words, “The clergy dazzle us with heaven or they damn us into hell.”]

And tell me grey seal
How does it feel
To be so wise
To see through eyes
That only see what’s real
Tell me grey seal

[The seal, – his school teacher, a performing preforming seal – barking, will get his fish. The word  “wise” is (at least semi- ) ironic. The seal can perform, he can clap and bark and he’ll get the fish. But he can only see (and force others to “see”  what is “real” – the state/society sanctioned version.  “How does it feel?” See Dylan from 1965.  Or this from Pink Floyd]

I never learned why meteors were formed

[Declares his ignorance, his inability to jump through the hoops.]

I only farmed in schools
That were so worn and torn

[Autobiographical line- Taupin’s parents were itinerant farmers, not wealthy.]

If anyone can cry then so can I

[Declares his actions and emotions as valid as those with state-sanctioned educations]

I read books and draw life from the eye
All my life is drawings from the eye

[He declares his skills. He draws life (the second use of the word, earlier contrasted to “real”) without the goggles that the seal wanted him to wear.]

And tell me grey seal
How does it feel
To be so wise
To see through eyes
That only see what’s real
Tell me grey seal

Your mission bells were wrought by ancient men
The roots were formed by twisted roots
Your roots were twisted then

[The music (bells) you (the seal and those who obey the seal) answer to are ancient, twisted. You are twisted.  (then again, crooked timber and all that).]

I was re-born before all life could die

[Religious line – I am my own saviour.]

The Phoenix bird will leave this world to fly
If the Phoenix bird can fly then so can I

[I will create my own mythology. To hell with your state/societal salvation myths. I prefer the phoenix.]

This song, to me, is a declaration of independence, a “ya basta” to those who had sought to crush him and conform him into a box, and to grey seals everywhere…

There is a real tie-in with William Blake, and the whole songs of innocence/experience thing here.