Freedom’s just another word

Janis Joplin “Me and Bobby McGee”

To call Janis Joplin a legend is not an exaggeration. So many musicians and singers have named her as their role model. Sadly, her moment in the sun was only fleeting but she left a legacy that still echos today.
Janis was born in Port

janis-joplin-05

Arthur Texas in 1943. She first big break was in 1967 when she fronted Big Brother and the Holding Company at the Monterey Pop Festival and then as a solo artist in 1969 at the now legendary Woodstock Festival.
Her hits included this week’s track and “Piece of my Heart”, “Mercedes Benz” and Summertime”. She had a raw earthy blues voice and I picked “Me and Bobby McGee” written by Kris Kristofferson as a wonderful example of her work. Sadly, she died in October 1970 of a heroin overdose at the age of 27.
The song tells the story of two young people hitch hiking across America and contains this amazing line, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”. It struck me the first time I heard it and I have thought about it a lot over the years.
I was never that freewheeling spirit, travelling where the mood took me. I left school at 16 and started work straight away. Since then, I have been tied to things like my family, my kids, work and the truth is, I like that. To be truly free as an individual can mean being without all the things that have been important to me.
There is a more positive and beneficial side to freedom and that is our collective freedoms. In our country we do have many political freedoms such as the right to vote, the right to the protection of the law and to live in peace without the fear of violence and discrimination. Sadly, today I feel that these rights are under threat and we need to stand together to protect them.

 

Freedom’s just another word

A ship needs a harbour
A boat needs a dock
Trousers need a belt
Shoes need a sock

Sentences need words
You need tyres on a truck
A bathtub needs a plug
Lollies need a suck

A kiss needs lips
Nudists need the sun
Ducks need a puddle
Joggers need to run

Freedom needs limits
Floating voters need to float
Socialism needs planning
Democracy needs a vote

Children need a parent
Northern summers need heating
Problems need a solution
The Tories need defeating

Teresa May needs a backbone
Boris Johnson needs a gag
Jeremy needs our backing
He’s the only hope we have

© Jeff Price April 2018

There is an adult version of this poem Freedom’s just another word (adult version) if you would like to read it click the link

Je Regrette Beaucoup

Edith Piaf  “Non, je ne regrette rien”

The story of Edith Piaf’s life is a remarkable one. Her life amongst the poor of Paris, her rise to fame and the way men ruthlessly exploited her. The film “La Vie en Rose” which tells her life story is well worth a watch. You can watch the trailer for the movie by clicking here.

You can not help as you get older thinking of the things you might have done differently edith_piaf_8294or the things you did and regretted later.  To say that you regret nothing is to say that you have learnt nothing from life and that would be the biggest mistake of all. 

This week’s poem is a look at the things I regret from the past seventy years. Feel free to add your own regrets to the comment section of the blog.

Je Regrette Beaucoup

Missing the Beatles first gig in Newcastle in 1963

Getting married to the first Mrs Price in 1967

Going to see Van Morrison at the City Hall in 1983

 

Not continuing to learn French after I left school

Not having the courage to take up a job in London when I was 19

Starting smoking, giving up was easy, I did it hundreds of times

 

Not going to University until I was 52, I realised what I had missed

Platform shoes, a dodgy moustache, bell bottom hipster jeans and my red leather tie

Playing card games on the computer when I should be writing

 

Believing that all hippies were honest and wouldn’t rip you off

Not telling my Father that I loved him when I had the chance

Not writing a better poem than this for this week’s blog

 

©Jeff Price March 2018

January Blue

The Mamas and the Papas “California Dreamin’ “

Wonderful harmonies from this great Californian band. I have never been to America and I suspect I never will but the music of the Mamas and the Papas always take me to the west coast during a hot endless American summer.

That is how we always remember the seasons of our childhoods as either cold with

mamasandpapas

endless snow or summers of warm days and barmy nights. This winter in the UK all the talk has been about the weather and you know how we Brits like to talk about the weather.

The young people complain about the snow and we older people come back with “Well, the winter of 1964 was much colder than that and we had snow for months

This week’s poem is a celebration of our collective desire to out bid each other with our weather anecdotes.

January Blue

My childhood winters were a wonderland
Each November brought the soft white snow
That stayed until the first daffodils of spring
We would build igloos on the green
Jump from the yard wall into newly fallen snow

Every June brought the summer
Warm balmy nights and sun drenched days in Nuns Moor Park
Sundays swimming in the sultry waters of the North Sea
Building sand castle on the shore line
Rolling down the dunes my underpants full of sand

Of course, it isn’t true it just seems like it now
The reality was snow blackened with soot after a few days
A sea cold enough to cause my testicles to retreat
We rarely went to the coast as it was too expensive
The park was a playground for bullies and perverts

But these are the stories I told my children
Now they long for the glory days of their childhood

© Jeff Price March 2018

Down to the Dozens

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band “Big Eyed Beans from Venus”

The first question I always asked myself about this track and Captain Beefheart in

captain beefheart

particular is “What?” I know the lyrics really well and even after listening over and over again I have still no real idea. There are some obvious sexual references. for example:

Men let your wallets flop out,
And women open your purses

(If you want to read the full lyrics click here)
or just bizarre… how about:

Distant cousins, there’s a limited supply.
And we’re down to the dozens, and this is why:
Big Eyed Beans from Venus! Oh my, oh my.

clear spot

Either way I still loved his albums and “Clear Spot” and “Trout Mask Replica” are two favourites. I like the idea of stitching phrases together or just saying things because you like the way they sound.
Like a lot of writers the Captain (real name Don Van Vliet ) didn’t like to give too much away about the meaning of the lyrics and as he died of Multiple Sclerosis in 2010 we will never know. He was also universally disliked by nearly everyone he worked with and band members would often not get paid or receive credit for song writing. Being talented doesn’t make you a nice person.

The BBC had a program on Radio 4 recently hosted by Jim Moir about Captain Beefheart. Here is a link to the BBC Radio Iplayer or search your BBC Radio Iplayer app.

This song also means a lot to me because it was the name of a wholefood shop in Corbridge run by two friends Hil and Mel McHugh. The shop didn’t last long and then they both left the UK to live in France. It is a long time since I saw either of them but thanks to Facebook I can see that they are both still alive and well.

Down to the Dozens” is a line from the song and I always took it to mean that supplies are low or things are running out. When I was a young man, time seemed endless and ideas and ideology were there to explore, experience and I was trying to gain some understanding of the world I was living in. As I approach seventy, the world is so much more unsure, confusing and full of doubt. Time is running out and I am down to the dozens, I do not want to end up as one of those cynical people who mock the youth for their idealism. I want to be one of those people who still “rage against the dying of the light”

Down to the Dozens

When I was young man
I poured over books
Discussed history and politics
Tub thumped and protested
Waving my clenched fist at the world
But sometimes mistook knowledge for understanding
Now I am an older man
I still scour books for answers
Search web pages for understanding
Marvelling at science and progress
Despair at political indifference
But sometimes I mistake cynicism for wisdom
©Jeff Price March 2018

They Affirm

Peter Sarstedt “Where Do You Go To My Lovely”

Listen to the words of this song, they are extraordinary. It is a story, a poem and a song all in

peter

one. It tells the tale of two people brought up in similar circumstances whose lives turn out very differently. There has been much speculation about who the song was written about and was thought by many to be about Sophia Loren, an actress who was brought up in Naples but Peter always said that this was not the case and he had no one in particular in mind although he had based part of the lyrics on his then girlfriend Anita.
The song owes much of its style to the music of Jacques Brel and it sounds very french (I know Brel was born in Belgium but it still sounds french to me). Peter Sarstedt was born in India but moved to the UK with his parents in 1954.
The lyrics reminds me that fame and fortune do not always bring happiness. A theory poets rarely get to put to the test. Peter died in January of this year aged 75.

I remember the back streets of Naples
Two children begging in rags
Both touched with a burning ambition
To shake off their lowly-borne tags, they try

When people talk about immigration they seem to forget the circumstances that force people to make a new life in a different country. A few years ago I went along to a citizenship celebration at Newcastle Civic Centre. I watched as people from many different cultures and countries declared that they were now British citizens by reading out a declaration of citizenship. It was a very moving experience.
Afterwards, I talked to a few of the new citizens and their stories were as diverse as they were amazing. It seemed to me that these people represented a very positive addition to our country and by welcoming them we enriched not only their lives but ours as well.

They Affirm

From the four corners of the globe they come

Dodging the assassin’s bullet

The dark despair of the political dungeon

Gnawing hunger rising like dust from a parched field

For others, it is new opportunities

Wrought from hard won qualifications

The freedom to hold a partner’s hand in public

To open doors rather than have them slammed in their faces

They affirm that right with a firm handshake

They answer with a grin that begins within

And spreads across their faces

Like a summer sunrise

©Jeff Price March 2018

Goodbye Mary Jane

Panama Red: New Riders of the Purple Sage

This song was a favourite of dope smokers in my younger days. The New Riders of the Purple Sage original line up featured the legendary Jerry Garcia and toured regularly in the early seventies. The video is a later one, when the band were a lot older. If you want

new rider of the purple sage

to watch a version from when they were young click here . Warning. The quality of the video is quite poor.
Some clever lines like “Searching all the joints in town for Panama Red” and “Nobody feels like working because Panama Red is back in Town”. Watch and enjoy as you read the poem. Full lyrics here.

new riders
I don’t think I ever tasted the delights of Panama Red but there were many other varieties with equally exotic names such as Nepalese Temple Balls, Durban Poison, Acapulco Gold and Mary Jane. In those days being a dope smoker made you feel like a rebel and it was also part of the counter-culture I identified with. It was also a reward at the end of a working day when everything was sorted and you could relax with a spliff.
Eventually, I tired of the weed and was also keen to stop smoking the tobacco that also went in to a joint. It is a decision I do not regret except having been through the process of quitting two things became obvious, one it was not the dope I found hard to be without but the tobacco. Secondly, it was the ritual and reward aspects I missed much more than the effect.

Goodbye Mary Jane

Meeting you for the first time
Made my head swim
My heart beat faster
My pulse pound in my veins
At first things were awkward
My teenage fumbling embarrassing
Soon I became an expert at turning you on
My fingers working up an expert rhythm
We would meet at hippy parties
Chilling out with stoned friends
Passed around as casually
As a packet of biscuits
In the end, it was just the two of us
It crept up on us like old age
I was eager to meet you after work
Winding down after the graft of the day
We were settled in our routines
But we weren’t good for each other
After a night in your company
I could feel you in my body
My lungs heavy as a thunder cloud
My mind plagued by paranoid ramblings
When it finally happened
And we parted
I expected that I would miss you
Yearn for you in the still long night
However, it turned out to be a relief
The paranoia passed, I felt better
Walked taller, breathed easier
My only regret is that I didn’t do it earlier
I would have saved myself a fortune

©Jeff Price November 2017

Tsunami

Muddy Waters “Mannish Boy”

What an amazing track, I must have been about fourteen when I first heard it. There is something organic about the rhythm of this track, the way it seems to reach deep inside and still today when I hear the Da De Da guitar refrain I am taken back in time to the

muddy waters

1960’s.
I don’t know where I first heard it. It could have been in the record shops of Newcastle or on Radio Luxembourg but it was probably on a pirate radio station. There were a few of them around and the most famous was Radio Caroline but for us Northerners it was Radio 270. This was a station based on a ship off the North East coast at Bridlington and I could pick up the broadcast on my transistor radio.
It closed down in 1967 when the Labour Government, under Harold Wilson,

270SetCover

banned pirate stations. In August 1967, Radio 270 went off air and the ship came in to Bridlington harbour and myself and a bunch of mates went to welcome it back. We lined the harbour wall as it sailed in and in the evening we had a party on the beach. It was a spontaneous thing, no one in particular organised it, just a lot of young people having the same idea at the same time.
My Facebook pages have been filled recently with people demanding change. The #MeToo campaign has brought down the power brokers of Hollywood. #neveragain after the Florida school shooting became a spontaneous movement of young people demanding changes in the American gun laws. In the UK tens of thousands have been joining the Labour Party to demand changes here. #AboutTimeTo

Tsunami

On the ocean floor, deep beneath the waves
One tectonic plate pushes against another
At first it creaks and splutters unsure of itself
New to the world that sits on top of it
For the casual observer all there is to see
Is a small shift in the surface of the sea
But it is discovering it’s moment
It is gathering strength
It’s power does not dissipate but grows
First as an injustice
Then a hashtag
Then a movement
© Jeff Price February 2018

Daggers Drawn

Dixie Chicks: Travelin’ Soldier

What amazing voices these woman have. Their harmonies give me goose bumps. It was a difficult task picking a Dixie Chicks track and in the end it came down to a toss up between this one and ” Goodbye Earl”. Have a listen yourself to the other choice and let me know what you think, link

dixie-chicks-1999-billboard-1548.jpg Travelin’ Soldier was written by Bruce Robinson and released as a single in 1996. It is another of those story songs I love so much. It tells the tale of a young soldier who strikes up a conversation with a young waitress in an american diner and they become pen pals. It is set in the time of the Vietnam war and gives a voice to the ordinary squaddie.

One Friday night at a football game

The Lord’s prayer said and the anthem sang

A man said “Folks would you bow your heads

For a list of local Vietnam dead” …

One name read and nobody really cared

But a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair

Unless you are some deranged bigot the idea of waging war makes little sense and rarely leads to any resolution, instead it usually increases global tension and creates a generation of embittered and volatile young people who are easy prey to the aforementioned deranged bigots. In the political rhetoric of war the impact on individuals is usually forgotten or simply ignored.
When I was very young maybe seven or eight, I found a box in our house and in it were two daggers. They had very intricately engraved blades with ivory handles. At the top of

eickhorn-luftwaffe-dagger-a.jpg

the handle was a swastika. Along with a few medals it was my Father’s war booty.
I remember threatening my little brother with one of the daggers and he held up a rubber hot water bottle to protect himself. Unfortunately it was still full of water which then leaked out all over the bedroom floor. When my Mother saw what had happened she was furious.

The box disappeared and I never saw the daggers again. I presume she told my Dad to get rid of them. After my father, died I couldn’t find his medals but did come across a record of his battalion’s part in the Normandy landings and it’s struggle up through France , Belgium and in to Germany. After every encounter with the retreating enemy was a list of casualties and deaths. Every one a shattered life and a family deprived of a loved one. It was very sobering reading.

Daggers Drawn

Along the dusty road are the scattered uniforms of a fleeing army
Soldiers have scoured the homes that lined the road of their retreat
Taking jackets, trousers and coats so they can melt into the countryside
Gone are the goose steps and lines of raised arms, only chaos remains
Their masters have left them hungry, disillusioned and disappointed
They sold them the dream of making Germany great again
But they were only interested in making their profits great again

© Jeff Price February 2018

Farewell to the Jazz Heart

Bob Marley and the Wailers “Jammin”

Reggae Part One

I was always a fan of Reggae music including Bob Marley’s laid back sound. I once had a fantastic bobmarleycollection of 12 inch reggae records including many white label imports. In the 70s I used to run a disco that was mainly used to raise money for left wing causes, named appropriately “The Red Flag Disco”.  I had three versions, a very punky version, a very laid back reggae night and a party big hits night.

I remember doing a night at a farm near Hexham and my friend Mel and I doubled up on the decks. We played Reggae to a bunch of stoned hippies until three in the morning. It was a fabulous night.

After my first daughter was born I gave the equipment and all the records away to a local youth club. Some of those singles would be worth a fortune today.

Reggae Part Two

In September of 2008 I went to see my Doctor and asked him to listen to my heart. Something didn’t feel right. I was quickly diagnosed with Tachycardia and Atrial Fibrillation and rushed into hospital.

What followed was nearly ten years of hospital visits, so many Cardio Versions I have lost count and two heart operations called a Cardiac Ablation. The last one was in December 2016.

A Cardio Version is that scene in a hospital drama when the sick person’s monitor flat lines and the Doctor puts two paddles on a patient’s chest and zaps their heart. You see the body arch and then hopefully the monitor begins it’s reassuring beep. That’s basically a Cardio Version. I like to think of it as the Control Alt Delete thing I do on my computer when it refuses to work properly.

The Cardiac Ablation is a lot more complicated but basically it is a laser blasting the misbehaving bits of your heart from the inside in the hope all will be restored to perfect working order. I am pleased to report that since the last CA in 2016 there have been no more problems. I did a rough calculation based on a price list for a hospital in America and found out if I live in the USA it would have cost me over $700,000 for treatment.

Now you are wondering what is the connection between reggae music and Jeff’s dodgy ticker?

Farewell to the Jazz Heart

 

My heart had a case of the Heebie-Jeebies

Beating out a scat tune like a jazz guitarist on speed

Shaky fingers rattling out discordant chords

 

In hospital my heart is wired as a washing machine

As well connected as a coming out debutante

Paparazzi eyes scrutinising its every peculiar pulse

 

When the Doctor’s drugs don’t do the trick

They charge me up like Frankenstein’s monster

Zapping my chest with a thunderbolt

 

My Reggae heart returns with its stoned Caribbean rhythm

Marley’s ghost pounding out the Rasta man vibration

Beating out the drums of the rhythm of life

 

©Jeff Price February 2018

Slipping in the Sun

Paolo Nutini “Candy”

A beautiful love song from Paolo. It has a wonderful poetic quality which I like and also paolo nutinihis voice lends an extra dimension to the song. When I first heard it I assumed he was much older and was surprised when I saw a picture of him for the first time.

I found this article Link from a fan site. There is much debate about the lyrics, Paolo gives two explanations, one was he wrote the song after an argument with his girlfriend and having realised he was in the wrong, wrote the song as an apology.  The second is much darker.

Here is a clip from the article.

It followed a meeting between Paolo and one of his all-time music heroes, US singer-songwriter Rodriguez. Paolo explains: “When we were teenagers, me and one of my friends would listen to him constantly.

“His stuff was very overlooked, we didn’t know where he was or whether he was alive or dead. But when I played in Detroit, his hometown, he came to see me and we did his song Sugar Man together.

“After the show he gave me a DVD of the film Candy, which features Sugar Man on the soundtrack.

“It stars Heath Ledger as a heroin addict. It’s quite a desperate tale about his addiction, very dark but somehow very beautiful and moving too. Watching it got me thinking about the way that love can be an addiction too. You get hooked on somebody so much that, even when you’re away from home – or on tour – something keeps that person at the forefront of your mind.

“The night I wrote the song, I called my girlfriend and I was about to tell her about the film and what it had meant to me when she told me the news that Heath Ledger had just died, [22 Jan 2008] apparently from an overdose. It was a weird coincidence. Very uncanny.”

It reminds me that when you write something, the reader can put their own spin on the words. People tell me things they have read into my poems that I never intended. We all see what we see depending on our point of view. To slightly misquote Paul Simon “A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest”. I have sat down with my daughters and discussed some incident from the past and other than the names of the people involved nothing else can be agreed on (even the names can sometimes be in contention).

One incident springs to mind. We were on holiday when the girls were small, in a little fishing village in Spain. We were crossing a seaweed covered concrete slipway that was used by the fishing boats to enter the harbour.  My oldest daughter slipped and fell. The water was only inches deep but as she fell she saw a small shoal of fish that scattered as she entered the water. I  grabbed her hand and immediately pulled her up, she suffered no more damage than a wet sun dress. Now, over thirty years later she still claims she has a fear of fish after being attacked after I pushed her into the sea.

 

Slipping in the Sun

Along the harbour tattered bunting sways in a soft Mediterranean breeze

Sun shines indiscriminately on holiday makers and fisherman alike

The harbour slipway is festooned in bladderwrack seaweed and dark green algae

An incoming tide has turned the concrete into a greased water-slide

She is four years old and as bold and brave as a firefighter

Striding along mesmerised by the garish colours of the harbour cafes

She steps onto the slipway and slips into the inch deep water

In an instant I grab her arm lifting her up as a dozen silvery fish scatter

 

Years later she recounts the story of how I pushed her into the harbour

To be attacked by hundreds of hungry man eating fish

She claims she has a fish phobia because of my negligent parenting

I recall how on our way back to the hotel I gave her my t-shirt

To replace the soggy slime covered summer dress she was wearing

I remember thinking how beautiful she was even in a purple man size top  

 

©    Jeff Price February 2018