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

 

Driving me Crazy

Pulp “Common People”

I love this track, it has everything going for it. A great tune, funny and at the same time interesting lyrics and no one can mug a video better than Jarvis Cocker. Jarvis was born  pulp-3-620x350in Sheffield in 1963, he and his sister were abandoned by their father when he emigrated to Australia, leaving his Mother to bring them up alone. The realism of working class life in the song doesn’t come from a book but from hard experience. Jarvis now works as a DJ on BBC Radio 6 Music.

The song tells the story of a posh girl who wants to experience what it is like to be working class.

Laugh along with the common people,
Laugh along even though they’re laughing at you,
And the stupid things that you do.
Because you think that poor is cool.

Have a read of the full lyrics here.

pulpI think this is a brilliant song and also a story of our times. Working class people seen as a curiosity by those who have privileged lives. What became Poverty Tourism or Poverty Porn in those dreadful reality shows like “Benefit Street”.

Jarvis said himself about the song “I’d met the girl from the song many years before, when I was at St Martin’s College. I’d met her on a sculpture course… I was studying film, and she might’ve been doing painting, but we both decided to do sculpture for two weeks… It would’ve been around 1988, so it was already ancient history when I wrote about her.”

Although never confirmed by Jarvis it is widely believed that the woman who inspired the song is Danae Stratou, wife of Yanis Varoufakis, a former Greek Finance minister. Stratou studied at St. Martins between 1983 and 1988 and is the eldest daughter of a wealthy Greek businessman.

Having read this week’s poem several times, I am struggling to find a connection between the song and the poem I wrote but that’s how it works sometimes. I listen to the song, I make notes, I write and sometimes the muse mocks me. 

Driving me Crazy

 

I want to cook like a poet

Seeking out the unusual ingredient

Combinations no one else has thought of before

letting each one compliment the other

The flame for just the right amount of time

Seasoned so that every note sings to perfection

 

I want to drive like a poet

Cocooned inside the cab alone with road

Thoughts wandering further than the car can ever go

Following different routes to the same place

Sometimes stopping to admire the view

The journey just as important as the destination

 

I want to write like a poet

Sure of each verse, every dot and comma

Picking the perfect word and placing it in the perfect place

Using a metaphor that young people will write on walls 

With a rhythm that vibrates across continents

And a last line that makes the reader

Cry

Laugh

Angry

Want to make the world a better place

 

© Jeff Price June 2018

 

 

 

 

Dreamtime

Lindisfarne “Meet me on the Corner”

If ever there was an iconic Newcastle band it would have to be Lindisfarne. They are best known for their hit song “Fog on the Tyne” which is seen by many as an anthem for Newcastle (Along with “Blaydon Races”) It is also the only song I have ever sung on a stage.

The band has been through many line up changes over the years and has disbanded and rebanded (just made up that word) a couple of times and is also famous on Tyneside for their Christmas concerts at the City Hall which are always popular and always sell out. For me the band peaked during the years when their main song writer was Alan Hull who sadly died suddenly of a heart thrombosis in 1995 aged 50. lindisfarne

I picked this song rather than “Fog on the Tyne” just because I like it more. I imagine it is about drugs but there could be another meaning. Let me know what you think.

Hey mister dream seller
Where have you been.
Tell me have you dreams I can see?
I came along, just to bring you this song,
Can you spare one dream for me?

My dreams slip quickly away from me in the morning. I imagine they have some urgent business and need to be off as soon as possible. I am left with only fragments and sometimes feelings of joy or sadness. They never make much sense and feature things like looking for a lost car in a car park or finding new rooms in my house that I didn’t know I had. 

My poem this week is about my dreams and therefore makes little sense.

Dreamtime

 

I walk down streets of sullen staircases which spiral upwards

Entering hidden rooms I watch the walls wheeze and stretch

Straining to hear muffled voices I look around

A ghostly figure stands silent by the window ledge

I try to speak but my mouth is stuffed with straw

Above me swimmers flap their frozen wings

My car hides behind a lamppost sniggering and snuffling

I try to find the keys but they are just beyond my reach

Scolded by my boss for being ten years late for work

I retreat to the rooftop and look down on a unfamiliar city

 

©Jeff Price June 2018

 

Third Time Around

Scouting for Girls “She’s so Lovely”scouting for girls

I can not listen to this track without remembering the day I went to a friend’s wedding which took place in St Mary’s lighthouse in Whitley Bay and as Kate walked down the aisle my friend Simma sang this song.

 

kate fox
Kate Fox

I like a good wedding. It is at this point I can hear my Brother say something sarcastic like “Is that why you’ve been married so many times?” It does sound bad to say you have been married three times but in reality, the first time was a brief mistake of a teenager.
The second marriage lasted a long time and I am still with and very much in love with the third Mrs Price. We have been together now for nearly twenty years. I have two daughters from my second marriage and Lynda has three daughters. Our five daughters consider each other as sisters and Lynda’s daughters call me Dad.
We are a slightly dysfunctional but happy family.

Third time Around

Love for us was autumnal
A late flowering
We were retrospective lovers
Caught up in new beginnings
Scarred but not cynical
Scared and a little cautious
At times like excited teenagers
Rediscovering our emotions
Learning how to trust again

© Jeff Price June 2018

The Unexpected Chime

James Taylor “You’ve got a friend”

This is a track of its time. I have sometimes thought James is a little too “middle of the Road” for my taste but this track means a lot. Like me James Taylor is in his 70th year and is one of the best selling

jamestaylorfolk singers of all time selling over 100 million records. He is a prolific songwriter but I have chosen this track which was written by Carole King. King said the song was inspired by James Taylor song “Fire and Rain” which contains the line “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend” 
The track reminds me of all the good friends I have made over the years and also of those I have lost, some because they died or those friends who drifted away because their lives changed or mine did.

Yesterday I went to a hospital to collect a friend whose husband is terminally ill. She cannot drive and relies on others to give her lifts. She says she has been cheered by those who have stepped up and supported her and saddened by those who did not.
There have been times in my life when friends have stepped up for me. When the first Mrs Price left I was devastated but also amazed at the small acts of kindness that meant so much. The friend who came around with some food and a bottle of wine and listened while I wittered on about how sorry I was for myself.
On another occasion, after my second marriage broke up, a random woman in a pub chatted me up and although it came to nothing and was no more than a flirtatious few moments, I remember even today how I felt as I walked home with a smile on my face for the first time in ages. She will have no memory of it and doesn’t know that all those years ago she gave back hope to a broken-hearted stranger.
There are friends who you don’t see too often but when you do the years just seem to fall away. There are those who, although they are gone, you still remember with love and affection and one in particular who still visits me in my dreams.

My poem this week is about the spaces left by absent friends.

The Unexpected Chime

 

They’re are shared secrets in my house
Talk of things that have passed
and of things that are to come

They’re are empty wine bottles in my house
Crushed cans of Bavarian Beer
and discarded pieces of chocolate wrappers

They’re is music in my house
From bands who broke up years ago
and singers who sing no more

They’re are empty places in my house
Stacked with silent dining table chairs
and food strewn plates and stained coffee cups

They’re is poetry in my house
In books that line a bedroom wall
Signed by poets who write no more

They’re is hope in my house
From half forgotten small acts of kindness
and the unexpected chime of a doorbell

 

This Poem

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: The Message

This song is from 1982 and is widely acknowledge as the first Hip Hop song to make it into the charts (or the first Hip Hop song). This video is a bit dated but worth a watch. The lyrics are amazing:
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with the baseball bat
I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far
Cause a man with a tow truck repossessed my car

Despite the fact this record was released thirty five years ago nothing much seemed to have changed for people of colour in the USA. The Black Lives Matter campaign has highlighted the fact that police seemed to have a shoot first ask questions later policy for black people.

A disproportionate number of young black men end up in prison and the number of black homeless people is now estimated at 500,000. African Americans are only 12.6 percent of the country’s population and yet account for more than 40 percent of its homeless population.

My poem this week is about a teenager called Napoleon Beazley a young black man who

beazley008a

was involved in a car jacking during which a man called John Luttig died. It happened when he was 17 years old and although convicted as a minor he was still executed by lethal injection after spending eight years on death row. Napoleon said at his appeal.
“It’s my fault,” Beazley said at a court hearing , at which a judge set his execution date. “I violated the law . . . and I violated a family — all to satisfy my own misguided emotions. I’m sorry. I wish I had a second chance to make up for it, but I don’t.
Although Beazley had no final words, he left a written statement in which he accepted responsibility for the crime but opposed capital punishment. “No one wins tonight,” he wrote. “No one gets closure. No one walks victorious.”

The quotes are taken from an article in the Washington Post by Paul Duggan. For the full article click here

This is not to say that Napoleon Beazley should not have been punished or in any way to mitigate what he did but to execute someone is not the answer. I have always opposed the death penalty, it does not make people safer or deter those who would kill. The law rightly acknowledges that murder is a dreadful crime and that it deserves a severe sentence but to kill someone because you believe killing is wrong is nonsensical.

Eight countries in the world allow the execution of young people who have committed a crime when they were age 18 years of less Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Yemen, Iraq and USA.
Since the USA Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1990 over 1,500 people have been executed.

This Poem

This poem shot John Luttig during the theft of his car on April 19th 1994
This poem was one of three men involved in the attack
This poem admitted that in the instant after it killed Mr Luttig
This poem was full of regret at the stupid and pointless waste of a life
This poem was seventeen and wasn’t old enough to buy alcohol or cigarettes
This poem was old enough for The State of Texas to sentence to death
This poem took only a few seconds to kill John Luttig
This poem was kept for eight years on death row in a cell 6 x 9 feet
This poem admits the killing of John Luttig was a senseless and heinous crime
The killing of this poem by the State of Texas was premeditated and in cold blood
The State of Texas executed this poem for a crime committed by a child

© Jeff Price March 2018