Tag Archives: The Waterboys

Literature as Song, Song as Literature

28 Jan

The brouhaha surrounding Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel award for literature reinforced my belief that songs were as much about story-telling as any novel or poem (will films ever be considered?) So I amused myself this afternoon by picking some of my favorites…

 

KEEP IT SIMPLE – KEB MO

Nobody is better than this guy for framing contemporary life in a  blues form…

 

Two cars, three kids, six phones
A whole lot of confusion up here in my home
Five-hundred stations on the TV screen
Five-hundred versions of the same ol’ thing

Y’all know it’s crazy
And it’s drivin’ me insane
Well, I don’t wanna be a superman
I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands
And keep it simple
Oh real simple

You know I called my doctor on the telephone
The lines were open, but there was nobody home
Press one, press two, press pound, press three
Why can’t somebody just pick up the phone and talk to me?

Y’all know it’s crazy
You know it’s driving me insane
I don’t wanna be a superman
I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands
And keep it simple
(Yes I do)
Real simple

(Play the blues)

Well I went down to the local coffee store
The menu went from the ceiling all the way down to the floor
Decaf, cappuccino, or latte said the cashier
I said gimme a small cup of coffee and let me get the hell up outta here

Y’all know it’s crazy
Oh it’s driving me insane
Well, I don’t wanna be a superman
I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands
And keep it simple
Oh lord, real simple

Well now I don’t wanna be a superman
I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands
And keep it simple
Real simple
Real simple

Warren Zevon – My Shits Fucked Up

Zevon bad a penchant for the perverse  ,  Werewolves of London, Life will Kill You , Gorilla |You re A Desperado…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbhYqV17CoQ 

.

Well, I went to the doctor
I said, “i’m feeling kind of rough…”
“Let me break it to you son,
you’re shit’s fucked up!”
I said, “My shit’s fucked up?!
Well, I don’t see how!”
He said, “The shit that used to work,
won’t work now!”
I had a dream; aw shucks, oh well
Now its all fucked up, its shot out to hell
yea-eah, my shit’s fucked up
It has to happen to the best of us
The rich folk suffer like the rest of us
It’ll happen to you.

 

 

Warren Zevon Excitable Boy

 

Well, he went down to dinner in his Sunday best
Excitable boy, they all said
And he rubbed the pot roast all over his chest
Excitable boy, they all said

He took in the four a.m. show at the Clark
Excitable boy, they all said
And he bit the usherette’s leg in the dark
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he’s just an excitable boy

He took little Suzie to the Junior Prom
Excitable boy, they all said
And he raped her and killed her, then he took her home
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he’s just an excitable boy
After ten long years they let him out of the home
Excitable boy, they all said
And he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he’s just an excitable boy

But I Was Cool -Oscar Brown Jr

Chicago’s Brown was uber talented, A great voice , impeccable phrasing and , well ;listen to this …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88FdqYkxe1A

I’ve always lived by this golden rule
Whatever happens “don’t blow your cool”
You’ve got to have nerves of steel
Never show folks what you honestly feel
I’ve lived my whole life this way
For example, take yesterday

I breezed home happy
Bringing her my pay
Her note read “so long sappy
I have ran away.”
I threw myself down across our empty bed
And this is what I said

(shrieks, screams, hoots)

But I Was Cool

So I one-for-the-road it
At an all night bar
Wound up so loaded
I tore up my car
The judge threw the book at me
And when I read his sentence there I said

(shrieks, screams, hoots)

But I Was Cool

So I said she’s the only one I have to thank
So I found her and pulled my gun and fired point blank
The shot whistled straight passed that woman’s head
And killed my hound dog dead

(shrieks, screams, hoots)

But I Was Cool

As they carried me away
I was overhead to say
Be cool, stay cool, keep cool
Play it cool
C-o-o-o-o-o-l

I Don’t Worry About a Thing –Mose Allison

Easy going , smooth tenor, great sense of humor ( Your Mind is on Vacation)

 

If this life is driving
You to drink
You sit around and wondering
Just what to think
Well I got some consoloation
I’ll give it to you
If I might
Well I don’t worry bout a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright
You know this world is just one big
Trouble spot because
Some have plenty and
Some have not
You know I used to be trouble but I finally
Saw the light
Now I don’t worry ’bout a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright
Don’t waste you time trying to
Be a go getter
Things will get worse before they
Get any better
You know there’s always somebody playing with
Dynamite
But I don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be all right

 

“Now I don’t worry ’bout a thing ‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright”

The Waterboys – Strange Boat

This Scottish ensemble led by Mike Scott produced this gem…

We’re sailing on a strange boat
Heading for a strange shore
We’re sailing on a strange boat
Heading for a strange shore
Carrying the strangest cargo
That was ever hauled aboard
We’re sailing on a strange sea
Blown by a strange wind
We’re sailing on a strange sea
Blown by a strange wind
Carrying the strangest crew
That ever sinned
We’re riding in a strange car
We’re followin’ a strange star
We’re climbing…
We’re living in a strange time
Working for a strange goal
We’re living in a strange time
Working for a strange goal
We’re turning flesh and body
Into soul

 

GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY Bob Dylan

In a long career Dylan has written more than a handful of great  songs …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CwHby-YTNo

You may be an ambassador
To England or France
You might like to gamble
You might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight
Champion of the world
You might be a socialite
With a long string of pearls
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Might be a Rock-n-roll addict
Prancing on the stage
Money, Drugs at your command
Women in a cage
You may be a businessman
Or some high degree thief
They may call you doctor
Or they may call you chief
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes you are, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Might be a Rock-n-roll addict

Prancing on the stage
Money, Drugs at your command
Women in a cage
You may be a businessman
Or some high degree thief
They may call you doctor
Or they may call you chief
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes you are, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
*
*
You might be a young Turk
You may be the head
Of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor
You may be blind or lame
Maybe livin’ in another Country
Under another name
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes you are, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Maybe a construction worker
Workin’ on a home
Might be livin’ in a Mansion
You might live in a dome
You may own guns
And you may even own tanks
You may be someone’s landlord
You may even own banks
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
You may be a Preacher
Preaching Spiritual Pride
Maybe a City Councilman
Takin’ bribes on the side
Maybe working in a Barbershop
You may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress
Maybe somebody’s heir
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Might like to wear cotton
Might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey
Might like to drink milk
Might like to eat caviar
You might like to eat bread
Maybe sleeping on the floor
Sleepin’ in a king-size bed
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
You may call me Terry
You may call me Timmy
You may call me Bobby
Or you may call me Zimmy
You may call me RJ
You may call me Ray
You may call me anything
No matter what you say
You’re still gonna have to serve somebody
Yes, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
And it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Ohh Yeah
Serve Somebody

Early Roman Kings Bob Dylan

All the early Roman kings
In their sharkskin suits
Bow ties and buttons
High top boots
Drivin’ the spikes in
Blazin’ the rails
Nailed in their coffins
In top hats and tails
Fly away, little bird
Fly away, flap your wings
Fly by night
Like the early Roman kings

All the early roman kings
In the early early morn
Coming down the mountain
Distributing the corn
Speeding through the forest
Racing down the track
You try to get away
They drag you back
Tomorrow is Friday
We’ll see what it brings
Everybody’s talking
Bout the early roman kings

They’re peddlers and they’re meddlers
They buy and they sell
They destroyed your city
They’ll destroy you as well
They’re lecherous and treacherous
Hell-bent for leather
Each of ’em bigger
Than all them put together
Sluggers and muggers
Wearing fancy gold rings
All the women goin’ crazy
For the early Roman kings

I can dress up your wounds
With a blood-clotted rag
I ain’t afraid to make love
To a bitch or a hag
If you see me comin’
And you’re standing there
Wave your handkerchief
In the air
I ain’t dead yet
Ma Bell still rings
I keep my fingers crossed
Like them early roman kings

I can strip you of life
Strip you of breath
Ship you down
To the house of death
One day
You will ask for me
There’ll be no one else
That you’ll wanna see
Bring down my fiddle
Tune up my strings
I’m gonna break it wide open
Like the early roman kings

I was up on black mountain
The day Detroit fell
They killed ’em all off
And they sent ’em to hell
Ding dong daddy
You’re coming up short
Gonna put you on trial
In a Sicilian court
I’ve had my fun
I’ve had my flings
Gonna shake em all down
Like the early roman kings

“I ain’t dead yet… my Bell still rings”

Woodstock by Joni Mitchell

Camille Paglia included the 60’s anthem, Woodstock in  Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World’s Best Poems   which moved me to reconsider the song and Mitchell… “But you know life is for learning”

By the way, John Legend has a new version of Woodstock which is spellbinding…

 


I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm *
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am
But you know life is for learning

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden

“God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)” Randy Newman

Probably best  known for his Toy Story score and theme song, Newman has a mordant sense of humor, as the following tune exhibits…

Cain slew Abel, Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel were to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord
And the Lord said:

Man means nothing, he means less to me
Than the lowliest cactus flower
Or the humblest Yucca tree
He chases round this desert
‘Cause he thinks that’s where I’ll be
That’s why I love mankind

I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
From the squalor and the filth and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
That’s why I love mankind

The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said, “Lord, a plague is on the world
Lord, no man is free
The temples that we built to you
Have tumbled into the sea
Lord, if you won’t take care of us
Won’t you please, please let us be?”
And the Lord said
And the Lord said

I burn down your cities-how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You all must be crazy to put your faith in me
That’s why I love mankind
You really need me
That’s why I love mankind

Anthem Leonard Cohen

There is a crack in everything,  that’s how the light gets in …”

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THE BLACKEST FRIDAY

21 Jan

 

 

 

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Illustration courtesy of Anthony Russo

 

 

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”*

Paying attention to the shit stream of information, polls, false news, Facebook hysteria and hand wringing and thankfully, eloquent opining on the forthcoming Bedlamite Reign (which is now at hand) it would seem that a great many of my fellow citizens are dismayed.

Include me in.

HL Mencken’s apparently prescient observation not withstanding, that such a nightmare should come to pass is a shock to the system. As it happens I have
spent some time (when not diverting myself from the impending darkness with literature (textual and filmic) watching the confirmation hearings ( being extremely thankful for Senators Warren, Franken and Saunders) and attending to the small circle of observers who I count on for spirited (and yes, humorous )commentary. That group includes Charles Pierce,, Chris Lehmann, Keith Olbermann, Andy Borowitz, Barbara Ehrenreich, George Scialabba, Rebecca Solnit, Henry Giroux and on occasion, Gail Collins. One wonders what Molly Ivins and Christopher Hitchens would have made of the evolution of neoliberalism.

 

Theme song for Dark Times

There is also Howard Zinn’s half century of dissidence  which offers many clues as to how he would view current events. One of the principles he held dear is expressed in this articulation of  Edmund Burke’s remark on activism.

History is instructive. And what it suggests to people is that even if they do little things, if they walk on the picket line, if they join a vigil, if they write a letter to their local newspaper. Anything they do, however small, becomes part of a much, much larger sort of flow of energy. And when enough people do enough things, however small they are, then change takes place.

 

Keith Olbermann has been cvertainly been around the media block. Currently, he is affiliated with GQ ( yes, the slick Conde Nast glossy) and his outpost in cyberspace is entitled The Resistance (which is a good a rubric as any, I suppose). Forgoing his penchant for bombast, Keith recently offered this bulletin to Trump supporters

 

William Greider, in the Nation in a piece called “Donald Trump’s Presidency Will Be a Fiasco for Donald Trump” mordantly suggests a note of hope;

… If Americans wanted a performer to run the country, why not pick George Clooney? Instead, we got a slightly demented carnival barker with gilded hair and a bloated ego. The fright and gloom are understandable, but I have a hunch Donald Trump has already peaked. He won’t go away, of course—he will be Mr. President—but the air is already seeping out of Trump’s balloon. The president-elect has amassed a huge inventory of dubious promises, and I expect this powerhouse of American politics to get smaller and less influential as the broken promises pile up…

…his governing vision, it was usually limited to 140 characters. His longer speeches, if you listen closely, are always about the same subject—the greater glory of Donald Trump. We still don’t know how much Trump knows about governing. Or how much he cares…

 

 

 

15977967_1218764194825648_5813405063410089400_n-1

The Fortiefifth President of the United States

 

…President-elect Trump doesn’t seem to understand that governing is a team sport. It requires complicated cooperation and fluid policy arguments. Small details produce awesome differences. In other words, for Trump, it’s boring. Trump is a big-picture guy who treats the politics of governing like it’s high-stakes mud wrestling. And it’s all about him. He shows little interest in or knowledge of policy specifics and spews gratuitous scorn and ridicule on his opponents…

…Now he is to be our president, and Trump’s “magical realism” is about to collide with the hard earth of mortal politics. The president-elect and his staffers are already busy trying to distance themselves from some of his more explosive promises, hoping they get forgotten in the excitement of a new party’s taking power….

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Rebecca Solnit in the London Review of books (From ‘Lying to Leering”:

Trump was the candidate so weak that his victory needed the disenfranchisement of millions of voters of colour, the end of the Voting Rights Act, a long-running right-wing campaign to make Clinton’s use of a private email server, surely the dullest and most uneventful scandal in history, an epic crime and the late intervention, with apparent intent to sabotage, of the FBI director James Comey. We found out via Comey’s outrageous gambit that it is more damaging to be a woman who has an aide who has an estranged husband who is a creep than actually to be a predator who has been charged by more than a dozen women with groping and sexual assault.

The pride of Providence Rhode Island Henry Giroux warns (warning Henry uses big words explicating a dense theory of pedagogy —he is nonetheless worth reading)

The United States stands at the endpoint of a long series of attacks on democracy, and the choices faced by the American public today point to the divide between those who are committed to democracy and those who are not. Debates over whether Donald Trump was a fascist or Hillary Clinton was a right-wing warmonger and tool of Wall Street were a tactical diversion. The real questions that should have been debated include: What measures could have been taken to prevent the United States from sliding further into a distinctive form of authoritarianism? And what could have been done to imagine a mode of civic courage and militant hope needed to enable the promise of a radical democracy? Such questions take on a significant urgency in light of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Under such circumstances, not only is the public in peril, it is on the brink of collapse as the economic, political, and cultural institutions necessary for democracy to survive are being aggressively undermined. As Robert Kuttner observes:

“It is hard to contemplate the new administration without experiencing alarm bordering on despair: Alarm about the risks of war, the fate of constitutional democracy, the devastation of a century of social progress. Trump’s populism was a total fraud. Every single Trump appointment has come from the pool of far-right conservatives, crackpots, and billionaire kleptocrats. More alarming still is the man himself – his vanity, impulsivity, and willful ignorance, combined with an intuitive genius as a demagogue. A petulant fifth-grader with nuclear weapons will now control the awesome power of the U.S. government. One has to nourish the hope that Trump can yet be contained. Above all, that will take passionate and strategic engagement, not just to resist but to win, to discredit him and get him out of office while this is still a democracy. We can feel sick at heart – we would be fools not to – but despair is not an option.”[1]

Trump’s willingness to rely upon openly fascist elements prefigures the emergence of an American style mode of authoritarianism that threatens to further foreclose venues for social justice and civil rights. The need for resistance has become urgent. The struggle is not simply over specific institutions such as higher education or so-called democratic procedures such as the validity of elections but over what it means to get to the root of the problems facing the United States. At the heart of such a movement is the need to draw more people into subversive actions modeled after the militancy of the labour strikes of the 1930s, the civil rights movements of the 1950s and the struggle for participatory democracy by the New Left in the 1960s while building upon the strategies and successes of the more recent movements for economic, social and environmental justice such as Black Lives Matter and Our Revolution. At the same time, there is a need to reclaim the radical imagination and to infuse it with a spirited battle for an independent politics that regards a radical democracy as part of a never-ending struggle.

ap-gloria-steinem-womens-march-jt-170121_4x3_992

Women’s March 22 January 2017

I could, of course, go on. Hopefully  you have overcome your despair (to which more than a few of my acquaintances have succumbed )and availed your self of useful social media and serious activist organizations to contribute to  coalescing resistance, Otherwise, to quote Edmund Burke:

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.

Power to the Peaceful

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  • HL Mencken