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

North and South

Labi Siffre “Something inside so strong”

Labi Siffre has a wonderful voice and his compassion and understanding of life shines through his work.

First a little background on Labi, He was born in London as Cladius Afolabi Siffre, his

Labi Siffre
Something inside so strong

mother was of Barbadian-Belgium descent and he had a Nigerian father. Siffre was educated at a Catholic independent day school St Benedict’s School in Ealing. Despite his Catholic education, Siffre has stated that he has always been an atheist. Labi’s long term partner was Peter Lloyd. They met in 1964 and they were together until Peter’s death in 2015. Over fifty years is a long time. I’ll never manage that.

The background to the poem was the weeks when there was the appalling attack on Westminster and the divisive Article 50 was passed for the UK to leave the EU. On Facebook, I see friends argue and insults flying between people who should be working together. This week, I wanted to write something that reminds us all we have different ideas but we should never forget that we have more in common than divides us.

In 1973 I attended the inaugurating meeting of the Chile Solidarity Campaign in London. The military under General Pinochet had just ousted the democratically elected socialist government  of Salvador Allende and begun a campaign of terror against the workers movement, resulting in the deaths of many thousands and the exile of thousands more.

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Salvador Allende

The campaign was supposed to bring together the left in a unified campaign of solidarity but instead the meeting descended into chaos as the Socialist Workers Party and the Communist Party squabbled over who should be running the conference. Beside me a Chilean woman was in tears. She told me that this was the problem that led to the defeat in Chile; instead of fighting the enemy the left spent most of its time fighting itself.

I draw huge comfort from listening to”Something inside so Strong”  by Labi Siffre. It is a song that gives hope and is as beautiful as any poem I have ever read. He remains as clear and incisive as ever. Labi has a blog that is well worth following called “Into the Light”

North and South

 

We all have that mental list of hurts and grievances

The memories of the bullies bitter words and fists

Lover’s parting accusations and cruel put downs

Scar tissue whose details are undiminished by time

 

We are a nation of differences North and South

We are a complex of languages East and West

We are Sunni and Shia, Protestant and Catholic

We are roasted vegetables and grilled steak

 

We all have a mental list of our mistakes and regrets

When we accused the innocent and ignored the guilty

The incautious remark and the insult we do not remember

But sits like a stone wedged in the heart of others  

 

We are a nation of similarities Laughter and Smiles

We are a complex of shared experiences

We are a stranger’s smile on a sunny afternoon

We are Curry and Chips, Sunrise and Sunset

 

We all have a mental list of what make us stronger

When we stood up to those who point the finger

When we championed the blameless against the accuser

When we held hands and not grudges

 

We are a world of divisions that need healing

We are British and Europeans, Women and Men

We are Scottish and Irish, English and Welsh

We are stronger United and Weaker divided

 

©Jeff Price March 2017

 

 

The Unnoticed Shadow

Steve Earle: Galway Girl

I decided to rewrite some of my earlier blog posts. This one has a much more comprehensive introduction than the original.

Steve Earle is a man of many talents. He is a singer songwriter, musician, short story writer, actor, playwright and record producer.2012-new-orleans-jazz--heritage-festival-presented-by-shell---day-7

Born in Virginia in the USA in 1955 he was always a rebel. He ran away from home at fourteen to follow his idol, singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt, around Texas. He eventually dropped out of school at sixteen and went to live with his Uncle in Atlanta.

He has had a very varied career including problems with drugs. He has been married seven time and lately has been an anti-war activist and campaigner against the death penalty.

I picked this track because it unblocked a poem I had wanted to write for years and couldn’t get right. To break the deadlock I decided to sit down and take notes as I listened to the track “Galway Girl” on a loop. The poem “Unnoticed Shadow” was the result and it also started the idea of using music as an inspiration for poetry which led to the blog.

I was brought up a Catholic in the West End of Newcastle upon Tyne. It is a little city with a big reputation in the far northern corner of England. 

Growing up, I would be taken by my Father on a Sunday Mornings to St Robert’s Church and Wednesday evenings I would go to the Youth Club in the church hall. The Catholic population of the West End of Newcastle was mainly of Irish extraction, as was my Grandmother.

In the youth club we would dance with the girls and sometimes, out of sight of the ever watchful eye of the parish priest, if we were lucky, we would have a stolen kiss. There was a look to these young girls with their dark hair, ivory skin and blue eyes.

Years later I would visit Ireland through work and later, after one of my daughter moved to Dublin, my wife and I would make regular visits to see her and our grandchildren.

Steve’s song reminded me how ideas and images are imprinted in our minds from an early age.

Galway Girl

 

I ain’t seen nothin’ like a Galway Girl” Steve Earle

 

Sunday morning St Robert’s Catholic Church 1960

She is thirteen and I am twelve and I am in love

Complete, undiscovered and unrequited love

Her crown of twisted black curls, her steel blue eyes

Have seduced me, stolen my heart and taken the strength from my bones

A glimpse of her knee socks makes my knees knock

The click of her heels is symphony on the stone slabs

The choir’s hymn a hallelujah to her beauty

She is an Angel

She is my salvation

She is out of my league

I am invisible as dust

 

I ask you friends what’s a fellow to do

because her hair was black and her eyes were blue

 

Sunday Morning O’Connell Street 2000

The airport coach drops me off by the Old Post Office

I blink in the sullen sunlight of an Irish morning

There she is walking down a O’Connell Street

She’s sitting on a bench on St Stephen’s Green

She’s serving my pint in Slatery’s Bar

Her skin still pale as paper

Her dark blue eyes still drown me

Her Guinness Black braids entice me

I am seduced again, tumbling through time

The heady smell of incense mixed with her perfume

Light dancing through the stained glass windows

Fifty years ago I lost my heart to a Galway Girl

She is still out of my league

I am still an unnoticed shadow

 

I ask you friends what is a fellow to do

because her hair was black and her eyes were blue

Jeff Price

© Jeff Price July 2018

Reasons to be Grateful

Ian Dury and the Blockheads “Reasons to be cheerful”

I did it, Hurrah, 70 poems inspired by 70 songs by 70 different artists in 70 weeks. I have reached the end of my birthday blog. Although it isn’t my actual 70th birthday until 27th November it feels good to be here. Thank you to all the people who tuned in every week ian duryfrom all over the world. There were 2000 visitors mainly from the UK but a big contingent from USA and France and a special mention to a regular visitor from Trinidad and Tobago, a grand total of 36 countries altogether.

Thanks to those who sent me supportive messages and comments on the blog. I am not sure where I am going next but looking back at some of the early posts I would like to rewrite a few and when I have I will re-post them. Any suggestions for a new blog please email me jeffpricenewcastle@gmail.com or post a comment on the blog, the link is at the bottom of the page, I would love to hear from you. 

If you have enjoyed the music on the blog I have created a Spotify playlist click spotify  of all 70 tracks

I have made a Three Score and Ten YouTube channel with all the videos and you can watch them all at  youtube logo . Apologies if some of the videos start with adverts.

What have I learned from this journey? I started off simply intending to follow the brief I had set myself but it turned out to be something a little different. The songs took me on a journey into the past and long forgotten memories began to bubble up to the surface. In the end it became a sort of autobiography, I say, sort of, because I can not swear that every story was completely factual and every anecdote was just my memory and I am sure others will have their own versions. 

It reminded me how grateful I am for my life and the people I share it with, it reminded me how much fun was mixed in with the losses and the sadness that came with it.

I want to end on a joyful note and who better than the man who sums all this up, Ian Dury. He brought joy to the world despite his struggles with it, he had a wicked sense of humour and he is one of my heroes.

Ian’s songs (written in partnership with Chaz Jankel) were full of humour, hope and love of life. His death in March 2000 a sad loss to the world. It was hard to choose a track but I have always wanted my version of “Reasons to be Cheerful” So here goes and thank you for tuning in.

Goodbye…

Reasons to be Grateful

 

Indian curries, French Red Wine

All my daughters, Art Nouveau design

Northumberland seashore strolls

Match of the Day, Alan Shearer’s goals

 

Mo Mowlan, Tony Benn

Nelson Mandela, News at Ten

Trade Unions, Dennis Skinner

Poached Eggs, Sunday Dinner

 

Woodland walks, Wainwright’s Bitter

Rafa Benitez, Whatsapp, twitter

Double glazing, Voting rights

Saturday morning, Friday nights

 

Grandchildren’s constant chatter

Chip shop chips, fish in batter

Storm clouds, lightning Flashes

Curly hair, long eyelashes

 

Brothers, Sisters, Nephews Nieces

Bose Speakers, Backgammon pieces

Cardiac Surgeons skillful hands

Country Western, Rock and Roll Bands

 

Audiences who like my poems

Happy Valley, Sherlock Holmes

Fresh croissant,  Duck Confit

Summer Holidays, Duty Free

 

Spell checkers, Space age

Live Theatre, Northern Stage

Netflix, Iplayer, ITV Hub

Friday nights down the pub

 

Hi Fi, WiFi, lightweight laptops

Jeremy Corbyn, Friendly Bookshops

Ten by Ten, Poetry Vandals

Legal Aid, Political scandals

 

Lynda Price, Keats and Shelley

Taylor’s coffee, Late Night Telly

Foreign Travel, Bus Passes

Central Heating, NHS Glasses

 

Seventy Years is not that bad

I am grateful for all I’ve had

Dyslexia, my left brain

Given half a chance I’d do it again

 

© Jeff Price July 2018

 

 

Every day can’t be Sunday


Ry Cooder “Trouble you can’t fool me. “

Apologies if some of blog followers received a notification of this week’s blog earlier in the week rather than the normal Friday morning. This was due to a technical error (I pressed the wrong button when I was saving the post).

This track is from the fabulous album “Bop till you drop” one of my favourites and it’s hard to find a duff track on the whole album. He combines blues, country and even a 220px-Ry_Cooder_playingsprinkling of gospel in this track. The lyrics say to watch out for trouble coming and that  for a lot of people it can disrupt their lives but we have to press on and not let it stop us.  Look for the positive.

Well, you know, everyday can’t be Sunday …and you know one thing, behind every silver lining, there isn’t a dark cloud

Listening to this album always makes me feel positive. I love the way music can lift you in much the same way that poetry can. I have met many people over the last seventy years who are like that. They don’t look at the negatives in their lives but the positives. In a contradictory way they are also often the ones with the biggest burdens to bear. It might be because of their background (read Benjamin Zephaniah autobiography) or a disability that rather than hold them back has spurred them on.

One of the things I have learned from life is that every day can’t be Sunday and that on those days you just have to suck it up and get on with it but also steps backwards can often be just as important as steps forward. You learn more from failure than you do from success.

Every day can’t be Sunday

 

Weary to work, scraping the Sunday memories from your eyes

Another Monday morning of cold starts and crowded buses

Standing room only for the passengers who bury their faces in screens

Holding the world in the palm of their hands ignoring the world around them

 

There are shelves to stock, records to update and reports to file

There are boxes to deliver, screws to turn and lines to draw

There are streets to patrol, wounds to heal and children to teach

There are sods to turn, crops to pick and cattle to milk

 

Count even the smallest victory and keep the losses in perspective

In your blood are generations of survivors, honour their fortitude

Sweet sleep will come when a hard day has been put to bed

No saviour Friday without a treacherous Monday morning

 

©Jeff Price July 2018

 

 

Across the Pond

Alabama 3 “Woke up this morning”

This is what happens if you fuse Acid House and Country music, you get the Alabama 3. Strangely the band are not American but from the UK but this song made them famous as it was used as the theme tune for the TV series “The Sopranos”

Their Wiki page says “The band is notable for their fusion of styles, ironic lyrics, alabama 3intentionally humorous personae and outrageous live performances. Every member of the group has an alias, the band’s founding members adopting the personas Larry Love (Rob Spragg) and The Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love (Jake Black).”

If you have not discovered this band then check them out.

Well, you woke up this morning
Got yourself a gun
Your mama always said you’d be the chosen one

In the 1970s I went shooting with the Father of a girl I was going out with. He was a farmer in Northumberland and I was trying to impress him. He liked to go duck shooting.  There was an area of his land that the ducks would fly into at dusk. He would hide behind a camouflaged fence and shoot a couple of them. He never shot more than two at a time (They were for the pot).

He told me that a couple of fields away someone had flooded some land to use as a commercial duck shoot and they would have ten or more guns blasting dozens of ducks out of the sky. He hated that. He said a hunter should never take more than he could eat. He flooded part of his land so the ducks had somewhere else to go but the ducks had to pay their rent.

It is easy to take a very binary view of hunting and this farmer taught me that things can often be more complicated than they appear. Although I fired a gun a few times at the ducks I never hit one and I decided that guns and hunting were not for me.

Across the Pond

 

Flight plan locked and destination in sight

It has been a long flight from Siberia

Five thousand kilometres as the duck flies

Crossing the Northern coast twenty minutes ago

Our destination and a much needed sleep beckons

 

The new moon reflects on the pond’s surface

Feet down and wings arched for landing

Suddenly a flash of light and a crack of thunder

We land in a cacophony of panic and noise

The pond scattered with blood stained feathers

 

In the silence that follows our fears evaporate

The water is soft beneath our bodies

The moon slips behind a cloud and darkness hides us

Gorging on midge larvae and pond weed

We offer a prayer for the two who did not make it

 

© Jeff Price July 2018