Monday, 29 June 2009

Don’t mention the War

Today, my I-Pod Shuffle throws me a line I can’t resist. The running order is impeccable, moving from Elvis Costello’s majestic “Shipbuilding” into Kenny Rogers’ masterpiece: “ Ruby, Don’t take Your Love To Town” .
The two songs, written years apart ,composed while events unfurled, on the ordinary lives of common people on the conveyor belts of war. Kenny’s character is a wheelchair- bound Vietnam Vet, back in the world, ruined and impotent, watching his woman doll herself up to find a man who still has some lead in his pencil . The drama’s cruel but underplayed , with none of the kitsch C&W bathos you’d expect. The vet sitsin a lonely room, waiting to die as the lights fade and his wife gets laid. It’s a fabulous and tormenting ( but maybe not intended to be) anti-war shout.
Elvis takes a different angle, focussing on the pathetic optimism of a man battered down by circumstance, hoping that maybe the Falklands war might turn around his life & he maybe will find work in the shipyard , which could mean “ A new winter coat and shoes for the wife and a bicycle on the boy’s birthday” . For this man, war's his only sad hope of doing any better. It's brilliant. The songs are just two examples of many across every musical genre.
Which brings into focus how pathetic contemporary musicians have been over the last 5 years. We’ve seen an illegal war in Iraq which has cost massive civilian bloodshed, cost trillions of dollars and cost us our security and peace of mind. And there’s hardly been a squeak on the subject. This isn’t nostalgia , it’s regret. Sometimes the music we get is what we deserve.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Someone just sent me the Youtube link to the cover of Damaged Goods by Hot Rats, the new outfit formed by Supergrass’s Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. It's all acoustic and spooky. I like it. We never made a video for DG, or any other song on our first 3 albums. Too expensive or something. A Magic Lantern show would have been more affordable and a relevant technology, the images flitting by , all herky jerky, married to Gill's fractured guitar & attacking bass. Duh-Duh Dink! Duh-Duh Dink!

Monday, 15 June 2009

The simple man
A couple of weeks ago I was asked to write a few words for The Independent newspaper about my favourite Neil Young song . It’s always hard to do this as different songs do different things for me at different times & a choice one day usually isn’t the same the next. Or from one minute to the next. But, that said, “The needle & the damage done” has to be up there among the best of many great tracks Neil has written, and the tune sits, insistently, on my I-Pod, demanding a regular outing. Like most of Neil’s work , the words are confessionally honest ; written in the first person, it’s the great man himself, talking about himself. Maybe the things he describes really happened. They probably did. Neil's tone of voice convinces you that he’s not a lifelong millionaire rockstar , spoiled by fate’s vomited generosities, but a simple guy , trying to tell it like it is, a plain talking man who might spill out his life to you over a beer and a game of pool. I see him in checked shirt and jeans, a Schlitz neon blinking blue-white over the bar, not wanting to head home, to a lonely bed. Now that the sad story’s told, I’m not sure I want to stay; things could, I feel, kick off at any point. I make my excuses and leave.