I’m a sucker for an honest song sung with a broken voice.
I don’t have much time for new year resolutions; give me the slow, steady change, rather than the dramatic, but these lyrics have been resonating for me:-
‘Oh, your old hometown’s so far away But inside your head there’s a record that’s playing
A song called “Hold On”, hold on Babe, you gotta hold on Take my hand, I’m standing right there, you gotta hold on’.
Sometimes those words find me in tears.
I’m not in favour of grimly holding on when nothing is working, but I don’t get this New Year thing of ‘the new me’; if I exist at all, it is in community- I like the African idea of ‘ubuntu’- I am because we are.
I’ve been thinking that among the most important things to hold on to are the bonds of friendship, relationship and faith. Not rigidly or grimly, but firmly through life’s jumps, canters and falls- I’m 53 next month and I’m tired of reinvention, ‘freshening things up’ and ‘revisioning’, particularly in these important aspects of life.
I guess it is just important to hold on and notice the small, glorious stories. At least I think so.
I discovered this music a few years ago through another blogger. I have returned it to it very recently and have got the album: 6 pieces of music, spanning 70 minutes. The centrepiece is the lyric that you can hear here.
The lyric was recorded on the streets in 1971 from an unknown and long dead homeless man towards the end of his life. Gavin Bryars found the recording many years later and wrote the haunting,repetitive tune that accompanies it.
Listened to late at night in the quietness it never fails to move me, sometimes to tears. On this day of all days (Armistice Day) it is all I need to listen to.
This is ‘Marmite Music’: you will either like it or hate it.
I got to playing this as my children went to cricket training a week or so ago. They loved it for its noise and novelty value.
Not the kind of song to listen to if you want something to deeply connect with your soul; unless you have drunk 15 cups of strong coffee in an hour, listened to a road drill, had a tooth out without anaesthetic, been on a rollercoaster and then watched a performance art piece that consisted of 11 people scraping their nails across a blackboard for 2 hours.
A few weeks ago in Durham, I did my usual trawl of 2nd hand shops. This time in Oxfam I came up trumps: a pair of Tom Waits albums- ‘Blood Money’ and ‘Alice’.
It is only in the last couple of years or so that I have ‘got’ Tom Waits. Or rather, not ‘got’, but ‘getting’; he is difficult to explain or categorise and is rarely accessible. I do not think I would have begun to appreciate him in my 20s or 30s- his voice is bruised, broken and sometimes harsh. Each album is rich and multi layered.
These two cds have been by companions as I have attempted to navigate the post Christmas January drear. I hope they will be my companions for a very long time. This particular song is simply beautiful.
It is amazing. I played it this week, driving to and from a difficult meeting in the snow and was really moved by it. It sets most things in perspective.
Listen to it:- the juxtaposition of a cracked and broken voice, (depending on which version you hear), Tom Waits and a full orchestra/string quartet is the kind of music to make you stop and stare and keep staring…
Frank Zappa once said (I’ve been dying to say that for years: it makes me sound very knowledgeable):-
‘Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid’
Tom Waits has a voice that is more than an aqquired taste. To my British ears he sounds like what a seedy bar in mid west America must sound like. Sometimes he is almost unlistenable to, but he is always worth listening to…
Listen to ‘Chocolate Jesus’ and be bowled over by it’s truth, it’s insight and it’s humour. Get a whiff of what is wrong with how a lot of ‘religion’ or ‘spirituality’ in the west has become ‘me-uality’:-
‘Dont go to church on sunday
Dont get on my knees to pray
Dont memorize the books of the bible
I got my own special way
Bit I know jesus loves me
Maybe just a little bit more
I fall on my knees every sunday
At zerelda lees candy store
Well its got to be a chocolate jesus
Make me feel good inside
Got to be a chocolate jesus
Keep me satisfied’
It’s hard to pick a single track from ‘Mule Variations’ but that is my best shot.
Half term is nearly over…. I still haven’t quite got a full LP. Just two more posts..