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Friday, 22 February 2013

John Prine and other favourite lyrics.

John Prine in 2012 (
I have written on previous occasions about the difference between lyrics and poetry. The primary difference, I suppose, is that lyrics are written to be sung and are often hung on to a melody and therefore become a part of some other entity whereas poetry usually stands alone.
But I do think that certain song lyrics raise themselves above the norm and can work as poetic verse alone. The obvious candidates are Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen but sometimes a song's lyrics can be deceptively simple. All this pre-amble is leading to this, the opening verse and chorus of Jon Prine's Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness:
You come home late and you come home early.
You come on big when you're feeling small.
You come home straight and you come home curly.
Sometimes you don't come home at all.

So what in the world's come over you?
What in heaven's name have you done?
You've broken the speed of the sound of loneliness.
You're out there running just to be on the run.
Perhaps read the words a few times then listen here.
I especially like the internal rhyming that matches the first and third lines. Simple lyrics that work like these are very hard to write.

Consider these lyrics too:
Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

That's from Dylan's Mr Tambourine Man of course.

These are from Cole Porter's Every Time You Say Goodbye:
Every time we say goodbye, I die a little,
Every time we say goodbye, I wonder why a little,
Why the Gods above me, who must be in the know.
Think so little of me, they allow you to go.
When you're near, there's such an air of spring about it,
I can hear a lark somewhere, begin to sing about it,
There's no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to minor,
Every time we say goodbye.

I could go on and on and maybe there will be a part two of this post but I'd love to hear about your favourite song lyrics if you feel that they can stand alone.....

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Flowers by Wendy Cope

This post is especially for All Consuming. But of course anyone is very welcome to comment!
Wendy Cope. Born England 1945.(

Some men never think of it.
You did. You’d come along
And say you’d nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts —
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

From Serious Concerns, Faber & Faber, 1992

Wendy Cope is the kind of poet whom it is easy to dismiss as lightweight or superficial but I would like to make the case that she is neither of those things. Although clothed in humour and wit, her words carry the weight of gravitas and of more serious matters. She cleverly uses the easy appeal to make a point, often about men: Men are like bloody buses-/ You wait for about a year/ And as soon as one approaches your stop/ Two or three others appear.
The poem centres around the themes of remembrance and intentions that were never carried out and there is a deep underlying sadness present. I think it is saying that the thought counts as much, or more, than the deed. The last stanza is heart-breakingly poignant.
You can watch Wendy reading this poem here

Saturday, 9 February 2013

London Monopoly (17): Leicester Square

Continuing my journey around the London Monopoly board with Leicester Square, the first property of the 'Yellow' set.
Early twentieth century view of Leicester Square
Photo used by permission. See 
These days Leicester Square is famous as the location of the best and biggest cinemas in London. Many Premiers are held there including James Bond and Harry Potter films. It is always packed with tourists and has a 'buzz' about it. However, you can gather from the photo above that it formerly had an elegance which has long gone.
Monet: Leicester Square at night, 1901 
The four corners of the park in the centre of the square have statues of Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Joshua Reynolds, John Hunter and William Hogarth. William Shakespeare stands at the centre surrounded by dolphins! The newest statue is that of Charlie Chaplin.
The square has long been a centre of entertainment and looked quite lively in the painting by Claude Monet, above, completed in 1901. I think it was painted just before an appointment with his Optician.
A useless fact: the distance between Leicester Square and Covent Garden underground stations is the shortest in the whole network at 300 metres.
Leicester Square after recent renovations, 2012

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Painting of the Month (37): Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer, Lilith, 1990. Oil, emulsion, shellac, charcoal and ash on canvas, with clay, women’s hair, strips of lead and poppy seeds, 12 feet by 18 feet, Hans Grothe, Bremen.
The vision depicted in this painting was inspired by a visit to Sao Paolo, Brazil. Kiefer was shocked by the urban sprawl and decay he saw there. He has always been fascinated by aerial views and this picture certainly looks like it was based on a photo taken from an aircraft. In fact he saw the view from a skyscraper.
The painting is definitely not pretty but the story behind it is fascinating and well worth knowing.
Firstly, I would like to say something about Lilith, whose name provides the title of this painting. According to stories of Jewish mysticism found in the Kabbalah, Lilith was a she-devil who was the first partner of Adam before Eve and was created out of the earth like Adam and not from his ribs. Her name can be made out scrawled across the top of the picture. I think the implication is that this nightmare vision is under her influence; she seems to bring devastation upon the Modernist architecture of Sao Paulo.
Now, sometimes accessing works of art is difficult, but I think that the more one has to work to understand or interpret the artist the greater the final appreciation will be. I hope you will read on and gain some insight and hopefully be interested in my ideas.
Some background to the artist Anselm Kiefer: He was born in Germany five weeks before the death of Adolf Hitler and grew up in the turbulent post-war years in a divided country. Like many Germans of his generation he has tried to come to terms with German history and guilt.
The picture itself depicts a kind of apolcalyptic haze which was created by the artist throwing dust and ash across it's surface. (Ashes to ashes, dust to dust?) He also uses tangled copper-wire stuck to the surface and has actually burned some of the surface area. The painting is huge and fills most of a wall in the Tate Gallery in London. To stand in front of it is an awe-inspiring and emotional experience. The scale is so large that it almost seems life-sized and can make you feel almost giddy.
Dresden, 1945
So, what is a very powerful image for a young German who is fascinated by aerial pictures? - Maybe it's the city of Dresden that was controversially destroyed by 800 Royal Air Force bomber aircraft followed, the next day, by 311 US bombers just to make sure. The city was pretty much undefended. This happened in February 1945 when the allies were about to win the war. I can find no reference to this connection anywhere, although it looks like a rather rather powerful linkage to me. Interestingly the Brazilian architect of Sao Paolo, Oscar Niemeyer (who died last December just before his 105th birthday) was of German descent and the Nazis were renowned for their love of modern imperial architecture - not unlike what Niemeyer created in Sao Paolo. Just saying, that's all.
Kiefer has used real woman's hair stuck to the surface of the picture. This possibly refers to a passage from Goethe's Faust. Here's a quote:
  Adam's wife, his first. Beware of her. 
  Her beauty's one boast is her dangerous hair.
  When Lilith winds it tight around young men
  She doesn't soon let go of them again.
  (1992 Greenberg translation, lines 4206-4211)
Finally, it's interesting to know where Anselm Kiefer lives now. It's in the old traditional Jewish quarter in Paris.