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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Sometimes mistaking 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
Sometimes mistaking cynicism for wisdom
©Jeff Price March 2018
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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