View my previous blog here:

I reply to all comments except spam, no matter how old!

Please ignore any email address displayed here! My email is shamp123 AT

Thursday, 17 December 2020

My Sad Captains by Thom Gunn

My Sad Captains

By Thom Gunn, English, 1929 - 2004

One by one they appear in
the darkness: a few friends, and   
a few with historical
names. How late they start to shine!   
but before they fade they stand   
perfectly embodied, all

the past lapping them like a   
cloak of chaos. They were men   
who, I thought, lived only to   
renew the wasteful force they   
spent with each hot convulsion.   
They remind me, distant now.

True, they are not at rest yet, 
but now that they are indeed   
apart, winnowed from failures, 
they withdraw to an orbit
and turn with disinterested   
hard energy, like the stars.

 Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1994)

 “One by one they appear in the darkness”. In this rather unusual poem Thom Gunn is comparing friends and figures from history to the stars in the sky. They still shine there but they don’t serve any useful purpose. The “sad captains” can no longer have any meaningful role attributed to them. The title is taken from Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra:

“Let’s have one other gaudy night. Call to me

All my sad captains. Fill our bowls once more.

Let’s mock the midnight bell.”

But why captains? Captains could be those who steer us to our destinations as the leader of the ship. It might also be referring to these people as having once been seen as role models. There is some evidence that Gunn had in mind those such as Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Caravaggio and even Napoleon Bonaparte. Quite a mix! He was an admirer of Jean-Paul Sartre which chimes in with the existentialist attitude in this poem.

I'm listening to the original version of Walk Away RenĂ©e as written and recorded by The Left Banke in 1966! Listen here.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

2020: My Year on Spotify

I have been using the Music App Spotify for about 12 years, even before it was generally available to the public, (through a friend in the music industry). They have just sent me a list of the 100 songs that I played most in the last 12 months. 

At number TEN is Thirteen by Big Star.  Very underrated group featuring Chris Bell. Listen here.

NINE is The Kiss by Judee Sill, Listen here. Fabulous, tragic, artist. Blog post coming.

EIGHT is A Man of Constant Sorrow by Sharon Shannon with Jackson Browne. Listen here. She invited guests on her Galway Girl album.

SEVEN is And Your Bird Can Sing by The Beatles. Listen here.

SIX is It's All Over Now Baby Blue by Bob Dylan. Listen here.

FIVE is City Girls by J J Cale. Listen here. Passed away in 2013.

FOUR is Stormy Weather by Etta James. Listen here. Even beats Ella!

THREE is Memphis by Faces. Listen here.

TWO is You Ain't Going Nowhere by Bob Dylan. Listen here.

And at NUMBER ONE is Roll on Babe by Ronnie Lane. Listen here.

I have dozens of favourite songs and this list isn't necessarily the top ten just those I have played the most. My next post will be a selection from the remaining 90 tunes!