Love is …

Elton John “Your Song”

This song has been submitted by poet Steve May. As he and his wife Pauline approach their 50th wedding anniversary he says this would always be “Their Song”. Music can be like that, totally personal. It achieves a meaning never intended by the singer.Elton-John

The music for “Your Song” was written by Elton with lyrics by his longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin. It originally appeared on Elton’s self-titled second studio album (which was released in 1970).  Surprisingly the song only got to number seven on the UK Singles Chart.

Bernie Taupin wrote the song’s lyrics after breakfast one morning on the roof of 20 Denmark Street, London, where Elton worked for a music publishing firm as an office boy, hence the line “I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss”. 

Steve told me about a time when travelling through Spain many years ago, he and Pauline camped out in a remote area. In the wee small hours of the morning, a motorbike suddenly started circling their tent and the pair of them lay terrified insideholding on to each other for dear life, when just as suddenly as it arrived, it disappeared. 

Love grows in many ways, it comes from moments of joy and tenderness and it is also forged in the furnace of adversity.

 

Love is…

Love is winter days and summer nights

Love is five star hotels and Spanish campsites

Love is a gourmet menu and beans on toast

Love is finishing last and a winning post

Love is listening and being heard

Love is rational and often absurd

Love  comes in different shapes and sizes

Love is predictable and full of surprises

 

© Jeff Price October 2018

 

 

Wet Behind the Ears

“Hotel California” The Eagles

Probably the most recognisable opening few chords of any pop song. It also featuresjukebox some classic lines like “You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave” and was released as a single in February 1977. Writing credits for the song are shared by Don Felder (music), Don Henley, and Glenn Frey (lyrics). The Eagles’ original recording of the song features Henley singing the lead vocals and concludes with an extended section of electric guitar interplay between Felder and Joe Walsh.

eagles-grammy-awards-live-2016-a-billboard-1548The song is seven minutes long which made it very popular with DJs on radio stations as it gave them plenty of time to go to the toilet and back before the track ended.

This song was requested by Miriam McCormick. Although Miriam admits that she has never been to California this song still evokes strong emotions. She says “Once heard one of the Eagles trying to explain what it’s about. I don’t think they knew themselves …. He concluded by saying it could best be described as being “a song about going from innocence to experience“. 

I spent a great part of my working life staying in hotels and although they were all comfortable, they weren’t home. You very quickly grow tired of eating alone or getting trapped in a conversation with a bunch of business men discussing their golf handicaps.

On one occasion, I had stayed in the same hotel chain three nights in a row but in different cities. Each room was identical in every respect. On the last night waiting for sleep I became very confused about where I was and I wrote the name of the town I was staying in on a post-it note and stuck it on the alarm clock. Work had left me stressed out and tired. I often spent my weekends in bed plagued by migraine headaches. The pain sometimes so powerful it would make me vomit.

When I got home and told my wife Lynda about the post-it note she said that it was time to pack the job in and find another way of making a living. 

Twelve months later at the age of 53, I was a student starting a Master’s Degree in Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University. I think Lynda supporting me in a new career probably saved my life, I certainly have never been happier and more content then I have been standing in a school hall with 30 kids all fired up and performing their own poetry on a stage in front of the whole school. 

Within a couple of years of leaving work my migraines stopped and the psoriasis that covered my legs cleared up. I have not been bothered by either since.

 

Wet Behind the Ears

 

I have thrown myself off a cliff

Plunging not flying

Stomach nerves knotted

Toes curled

A snake oil salesman

Who has slipped his skin

Demobbed from the rat race

On a tour of duty in Academe

Wet behind my student ears

Striding through the September rain

Behind me

The hotel bedroom door slams shut

 

©Jeff Price October 2018

 

Lush

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs: Woolly Bully

This weeks’s poetry JukeBox has been sent in by Don Jenkins. Don is the doyen of the Rave scene in Newcastle (can you use the word “Doyen” in relation to Rave?) and one of the hosts of “Born Lippy” an excellent night that combines Spoken Word, Rap and Hip Hop at the Cobalt Studios. His song is Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs “Woolly Bully”. Woolly Bully was released in 1965 and sold 3 million copies.Wooly_Bully

Here is some interesting info from the song’s Wikipedia entry

As the Pharaohs prepared to write their debut album, lead singer “Sam the Sham” (Domingo Samudio) wanted to write a tribute to the Hully Gully dance. His record label’s legal department feared using that title due to the existence of another song with a similar title. The song was given the green light after Sam rewrote the lyrics and replaced “Hully Gully” with “Wooly Bully”.

The lyrics of “Wooly Bully” were hard to understand and describe a conversation between “Mattie” and “Hattie” concerning the “Wooly Bully” (a creature which Mattie describes as “a thing she saw [that] had two big horns and a wooly jaw”) and the desirability of developing dancing skills, although no attempt is made to synthesise these divergent topics. The warning, “Let’s not be L-7”, means “Let’s not be square”, from the shape formed by the fingers making an L on one hand and a 7 on the other. Sam the Sham underscores the Tex-Mex nature of the song by counting out the rhythm in Spanish and English (“Uno! Dos! One, two, tres, cuatro!”), and the characteristic simple organ riffing. “

L7I asked Don about his choice and he tells me that he loves this song because of the simplicity of the lyrics and he says the reference to the L7 reminded him of his school days when they used the sign L7 to describe people they thought were square “uncool”. Going Home from school, he remembered, was all about the bus. Your life at school was about progressing up the bus.The little kids sat at the front and the cool kids were on the back seats. Each year you got a little closer to the cool seats in the last row.

Don also told me a story about when his 9 year old son made the loser sign at  him and it spurred him to write a conversation between him and his son. to read the story  click this link~$N RULES TO BE BROKEN

My poem is inspired more by Don’s story than the song itself.

Lush

 

Written above the back window

Of the number twenty bus

In black felt tip pen

Were the words…

“Jeff Price is Lush”

The black blazered occupants

Of the school bus high table

Were derisory

Laughing at the suggestion

That the author

Could be a girl or even a boy

That the word “Lush”

Was an epithet

That could be applied

Or even implied

About this shy and introverted boy

They all agreed that the writer

Was much more likely

To be Jeff Price himself

Sadly, they were right

 

© Jeff Price September 2018

Please Note. Any resemblance in this poem to any person named “Jeff Price” living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

Pudding Head

 

Big Star “Thirteen”

This weeks Poetry JukeBox hit has been nominated by Chris “The Captain” Moir the drummer and backing vocalist of the legendary “Dikki Hart Orkestra”.jukebox

Big Star was an American rock band formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1971 by Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel. The group broke up in early 1975, and reorganised with a new line-up 18 years later following a reunion concert at the University of Missouri.

big star.jpgThe band’s musical style drew on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and The Byrds.  Before they broke up, Big Star created a “seminal body of work that never stopped inspiring succeeding generations” in the words of Rolling Stone, as the “quintessential American power pop band” and “one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock & roll”.

Chris says the song is about that moment when you are still innocent. The cusp between childhood and adulthood. He calls it a melancholy song. He adds “Teenage Fanclub’s album “Thirteen” is named after it”.

Pudding Head

 

My Father had decided

On for my thirteenth birthday

To treat me to a haircut

At Bartie Wilson’s Barbershop

On Westgate Road

 

Bartie only one style

Learnt when scalping recruits

in his far off Army days

The short back and sides

Or Basin Cut

 

A pudding basin was placed on my head

Everything that stuck out was cut off

By the sheep shears

That ran up  my scalp like a lawn mower

My Elvis quiff hacked off

Until I looked like an escaped convict

 

On 27th November 1961

I walked through the door of

Of St James and St Basil’s Youth Club

A scalped, skinny and self conscious

Clueless teenager with spots and spectacles

 

I don’t recall the gift from my parents

For my thirteenth birthday

But I do remember the giggles of the girls

And the chorus of “slaphead” from the boys

 

On the Youth Club record player

Elvis Presley sang

“Are you lonesome tonight”

 

© Jeff Price September 2018

 

A Geordie Love Poem

Bruce Channel “Hey! Baby”

This is the first of the Poetry JukeBox. The buttons were pressed by Bristol poet David C Johnson.

David has been a regular visitor to Tyneside over the years and will be returning in March 2019 as a guest poet at the Great Northern Slam. I have also some very happy memories of performing in Bristol as part of the Poetry Vandals. During the Bristol Poetry Festival we performed at the Polish Club and the evening was memorable not only for its lovely and appreciative audience but for the large quantities of ultra strong Polish beer we drank after the show.  jukebox

“Hey! Baby”  was released in 1962 by Bruce Channel (real name Bruce McMeans). It sold more than one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. Channel had a couple of other minor hits but his career never really took off and he is considered a one hit wonder.

b7b1b283fc9c4acc813fc608d465ec1bChannel did tour Europe and was supported at one gig by the Beatles, (before they were famous). John Lennon, who had “Hey! Baby” on his jukebox, was fascinated by  the harmonica segment in “Hey! Baby” and if you listen to “Love me Do” you can hear the influence. 

The main appeal of “Hey! Baby” is probably the sustained first note, with a rhythmic pattern in the background. This device was used in 1962 for “Sherry”  by the Four Seasons

Coincidentally Bruce’s  birthday is the day after mine on 28th November.

A love song leads to a love poem and in this case a Geordie love poem.

 

A Geordie Love Poem

 

She’s a diamond, that lass of mine

There were days when she lost her shine

Still the light shone through the dirt and the grime

The difficult days and the uphill days

But we were always rooted in trust

And if you must, in the way we talked

About it all

Until the small hours

On summer’s nights and campsites

In bars and clubs and seedy pubs

Sulks and silence accomplish nothing

But words set us free to be

Who we are

She is better than me in so many ways

I learn to be better when she shows me the way

She is more important to me

Than football

 

© Jeff Price August 2018

Norman

Lambchop “Soaky in the Pooper”

This strange and melancholic song tells the tale of a man dying alone in a toilet and wasjukebox requested on the Poetry JukeBox by crime writer, poet and retired turkey inseminator Alfie Crow. In Alfie’s email he said ” It contains a line about a man’s funeral that ‘all the mourners travelled in one car...” A terribly sad song about a lonely death can be achingly beautiful at the same time.

lambchopLambchop, originally Posterchild, is an American band from Nashville. Never a band with a core lineup, Lambchop has consisted of a large and fluid collective of musicians focused around its creative centre, frontman Kurt Wagner. 

The song reminded me of a guy I knew years ago who was one of the “cool” people of Newcastle but heroin addiction cut his life short and he died a pauper’s death. Although in his last few years he had few friends, there was a large turnout for his funeral. He was not the first and would not be the last to have his life cut short by heroin and to die a lonely death like Soaky.

 

Norman

 

You were always the cool one

With your long black coat and dark hair

You were debonair

With a flare for the outrageous

And a penchant for dangerous drugs

 

“Norman” is not the coolest name

But you gave it mystery

You were dismissive and disdainful

Of those too eager to please

Indulgent and generous to those

Who you considered a friend

 

Years later someone said they saw

You begging on the High Street

Asking strangers for change

Your hair grey and dirty

Your good looks stolen

 

When they buried you

The man from the homeless shelter

Said he was surprised

That so many people turned up

“Usually” he said with a puzzled look

“The mourners come in one car”

 

© Jeff Price August 2018

 

Poetry JukeBox

Blog Update Part Two

It has been a few weeks since I finished my Blog of 70 poems inspired by seventy tracks by seventy artists. Since then I have been doing a bit of editing and have created a book jukeboxof the blog. I am hoping a publisher will take it up.

I also got the chance to perform some of the poems to a select audience (ie not many people turned up) at a venue in France. It occurred to me that if I could find a way of incorporating the music and video into a stage show it would make for an interesting evening.

Lots to think about but in the meantime, I have been missing my Friday morning posting and I’ve given some thought about what to do next. I am going to take inspiration (steal someone else’s idea)  from my friend and fellow poet Rowan McCabe. Rowan is the world’s first Door to Door Poet, he knocks on people doors and asks them what’s

rowan
Rowan McCabe

important in their lives and then he writes a poem about it. Check out his website by clicking on his photo.

So here’s the thing…

What is your favourite track and why is it important to you. Let me know and I will attempt to write a poem based on your track and artist. I will then post it up on the blog.  Like a Juke Box where you request your record but this way you get a poem back. Or do you think there is a classic track I have missed out that deserves the Three Score and Ten treatment? 

Just email your request to me at jeffpricenewcastle@gmail.com and lets see what happens.

 

You look like a man who knows about football

“Home Newcastle” Ronnie Lambert

Ronnie Lambert was 18 when he returned to Newcastle after spending a year in London working as a brick layer. Ronnie said he never forgot the emotion he felt when he came home and he tried to capture it in this song. I think he did a brilliant job, it’s a bit cliched in parts but for a Geordie it says all it needs to say. This song is regularly played on match days at St James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United.

This poem and the quote that is used as a title came after I was watching an England match at a bar in the South West of France. A few of the English locals had gathered to watch the game and a woman sat next to me and said “You look like a man who knows about football”.

Afterwards I thought about what she said, I wasn’t wearing an England shirt and didn’t look any different to anyone else there that day. The only thing I had that was different to the other people in the bar was a Northern accent.
I have been a football supporter all my life. At times, a very halfhearted one and at other times a season ticket holder. Being a Newcastle United supporter requires a lot of blind faith and a certain level of stubbornness but if you are a Geordie it’s in your blood and there is nothing you can do about it.

To celebrate the start of the football season here is a footy poem.

“You look like a man who knows about football”

Football courses through our city like the Tyne in flood
It is tattooed in black and white on our hearts and knuckles
We hold memories of sepia tinged glory days
As a child on the cramped terraces of St James’s Park
I crowd surfed to the touch line
When in 1968 we won the Fairs Cup
I danced in the Leazes End to the sound of “The Blaydon Races”
At school I was the runt kid with bottle glass spectacles
Whose lack of coordination and spatial dyslexia
Led to our ten nil defeat to our protestant rivals
I was not picked again
Newcastle United is owned by a bully with too much money
Our players are overpaid egos in a football strip
Our stadium prostituted for corporate advertising
Littered with over priced bars and indigestible snacks
But every victory is a lump in the throat
Every defeat a stone in the shoe
I loved the comradery of the terraces
The shared identity and common purpose
The power of the crowd on match day as we surge through the city
Buses,cars and lorries grind to a halt as we stream past
It reminds us that we the people have power
If we choose to exercise it

© Jeff Price July 2018

The Shackled Tongue

Writing can often be a strange journey. Most of the poems I write have a conscious beginning. Some event or random thought will be its starting point. I will make notes or create a rough draft that I can mull over and then rewrite a few times until I am happy with it.

Sometimes a poem will come unbidden. It seems to come from nowhere and is as complete as a poem can be. It is sometimes blocking another poem that I am trying to write and sits there in my subconscious as a defiant gate keeper.  My only course of action is to write it down and then I can move on. This happened a couple of weeks ago when I was writing the final blog poem based on Ian Dury and the Blockheads song “Reasons to be Cheerful”.

Here it is and it’s an odd little poem but I like it.

The Shackled Tongue

 

Words have imprisoned me

Escaped me when I needed them the most

They have danced before me

And slipped from my grasp

Embarrassed me

Shamed me

Given me access to meaning

Then denied me the truth

They have shackled my tongue

 

I have tried taming them

Putting them to the whip

They always fight back

Struggle for their freedom

I can never be their Master

 

© Jeff Price August 2018

 

The Tally Man

Silver Thunderbird by Marc Cohn

This wonderful song by Marc Cohn brings back lots of memories of my Father. Although his car was not a Silver Thunderbird but a Standard Vanguard, it was his pride and joy.

Standard_Vanguard_-_NOX_569_at_Armley_Mills_2011_-_IMG_2817
Standard Vanguard

He was a hard working man with a very strong sense of family values. The Standard Vanguard belonged to a time when we as a family were doing well but hard times were to come. My Dad was an agent for a woman’s clothing firm, he had a special designed Van to take to

Morris-Minor-Gown-Van
The Gown Van was like this one but painted without writing on the side.

his clients as well as a car and we lived in a nice semidetached house. When I was 11 one of his major customers went bust owing him lots of money and leaving him in debt to suppliers. He had to close the business and eventually sell the house to pay off his creditors. After that, he had a succession of jobs with periods of unemployment in between

One of the less appealing jobs he had later in life was as a “Tally Man”. He worked for a loan company in Newcastle and his job was to go door to door and collect the weekly payments from the customers.

I remember one Christmas Eve he was leaving the house and I asked him were he was going and he told me he was going to collect the weekly payments. “But, its Christmas!” I said. He told me that if he didn’t collect the payments this week then they would owe double next week and the firm would add extra interest and it was best for the customers to pay now and that he was doing them a favour. In this piece I imagined what happened next.

The Tally Man calls

Even on a good day, kids would be sent to shout through the letter box “Me Mam’s out” but no one expected him to call on Christmas Eve. So, Ada Johnson didn’t think twice about flinging the door open and saying “Merry Christmas” actually she never got further than the “Merry”. Then a “What the fuck are you doing here?”

Before her stood a slight figure of a man dressed in a brown suit. His hair thin and pressed close to his scalp with Brylcream. Out of a briefcase he pulled a small leather ledger.

“It’s a Wednesday, Mrs Johnson and I always call on a Wednesday, and sometimes on a Thursday if you are not in and then a Friday and a Saturday until your payment has been made.”

“But it’s Christmas Eve” she protested.

“It’s a Wednesday, I collect on a Wednesday, there are no exceptions for holidays. If I don’t collect this week it will mean you owe twice as much next week and then extra interest will be added and you will end up paying more. I’m doing you a favour by coming today.”

Mrs Johnson was stunned none of the other collectors had called this week, she went back into the house and got her purse.

“Here, you heartless bastard.” She thrust her last few poundnotes into his hand.

“Thanks Mrs Johnson I’ll see you next week, Merry Christmas”

©Jeff Price April 2017