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

 

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

Falling under the wheels

Beach Boys “Wouldn’t it be nice”

A change of pace this week as we celebrate the life and times of Andy Lippincott inspired by the Beach Boys track “Wouldn’t it be nice”.

rs-7132-20120917-beachboys-624x-1347915327I am a great fan of Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury cartoon strip. I followed it every day in the Guardian Newspaper, it was something I always looked forward to reading.

Of all the characters Gary Trudeau created the one that touched me the most was Andy Lippincott. This was 1990, a time when the spread of HIV AIDS was beginning its relentless march across the world and the press in the UK was full of homophobic rants and religious fundamentalists were calling it the gay plague. Trudeau’s voice was the voice of compassion and understanding and he helped humanise the victims of this terrible illness.

The strip below is the one I read that morning in 1990 and shows Andy’s last moment as he passes away listening to the Beach Boys track “Wouldn’t it be nice”. 

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Falling under the wheels

 

I cried when I opened the Guardian and read about the last moments of your life,

I had followed the last tragic weeks as AIDS overwhelmed you

Even though you fought back, the disease just got stronger

Still you faced it with a stoicism I couldn’t understand.

I would have been angry and railed against the injustice of it all

You quietly passed away listening to the Beach Boys “Wouldn’t it be Nice”.

A lot of real people that I know have died since that day in 1990

Some I expected to lose, like my parents and aged aunties and uncles

Others, I thought too young to die, fell under the wheels of life

Death surprises us even though we know it is as unstoppable as the tide

As unforgiving as a jilted lover and as predictable as a footballer’s glib commentary cliche

 

 

 

©Jeff Price January 2018

Mary’s Girl Child

 

Loudon Wainwright III “Suddenly it’s Christmas”

merry-christmasA Very Merry Christmas to you all.

Three Score and Ten is taking a festive breather but just in case you feel neglected here is christmasa wonderfully seasonal song from the brilliant Loudon Wainwright III. A big thanks to all the visitors to my blog over the last nine months (nearly 2,000 views from 30 different countries) and a Merry Christmas to you all. Three Score and Ten will be back on Friday 5th January.

To keep you going until then here is a festive poem. It isn’t new, I wrote it many years ago but it is about Christmas and it is funny and I hope you enjoy it. It was written for the Christmas Party at the Dharma Banana in the legendary Fighting Cocks pub in beautiful down town Byker in 1999. 

Mary’s Girl Child

The Angel Gabriel:

Mary I am afraid I have to tell you

I know your head’s in a whirl

But it’s not the little boy you expected

You will give birth to a girl

 

Mary:

I was told by the Lord Jehovah

I don’t believe it, it’s not true

He said it was the Messiah

Look! All his clothes are blue

Three wise men cannot be wrong

I am positive, I got it right

They said the Saviour of the World

Would be born here.. tonight

 

Then God the Father spoke:

My gift you would shun

Is this the thanks I get

After everything I’ve done

She is the finest of your race

I am sorry, it has to be said

But if she’s not satisfactory

I’ll send a man instead.

 

©Jeff Price December 1999

Lost Love

The Streets: Dry Your Eyes

The pain in this song is visceral and it is in the tiny details that you can appreciate the agony that he is going through. I also love the way he combines the spoken word and the music by using a sung chorus to glue the whole piece together.

Mike-Skinner-the-Streets-007
Mike Skinner The Streets

Have you ever had your heart-broken? Of course you have , everybody has at one time in their lives. The first woman to break my heart was called Lynn. I met her when I worked in Bainbridge’s department store where she worked on the beauty counter selling eyelashes. The sixties was all about the eyelashes.

I had never experienced emotions like it before and it was amazing. When we were together I was elated and when we were apart I was anticipating our next date. We could talk for hours and in the way that young people do we explored our emotions and our bodies. 

There was one major problem, both of us lived at home with our families. Today, we would have got a flat together but in those far off days that was not how things were done. We had a wedding in the cathedral in Newcastle with the her looking amazing in her wedding dress and me looking a right idiot in a mourning suit but I didn’t care. I was in love.

I do not remember much about that time, large chunks have disappeared from my memory. All I know is that six months later she left. Later, I understood we were both too young and not emotionally equipped for marriage. Her Father had died not long before we met and she was a little lost and I must have offered some sort of security but she must have realised that I was not the one for her. Like in the song, I remember trying to persuade her not to leave but nothing I said made any difference.

In the immediate aftermath after she left I was devastated, depressed and miserable. However, it taught me some valuable life lessons. I found out who my true friends were. Even when I was miserable they stood by me. I learnt to stand on my own two feet and be independent.  After a particularly disastrous meal consisting of a “cook in the tin” steak pie, instant potato and peas I dug out a recipe book we had been given as a wedding present and I discovered a love of cooking that I still enjoy today.

Except for a brief encounter a short time afterwards I never saw her again. Soon after I heard through the grapevine she was seeing someone else. I have no idea what happened to Lynn but I hope she found love and that she has had a happy life.  

 

Lost Love

The taxi driver drops the small suitcase into the boot

She slips into the back seat and pulls her coat collar up

Water pulses onto the windscreen from a sullen northern sky

All that was found and lost she will leave behind

All that is unknown and terrifying she will face alone

 

© Jeff Price November 2017

 

Pointing Fingers

The Young’uns: You Won’t Find Me on Benefit Street

younguns
The Young’uns

There is so much I love about this song. The harmonies are magical and the the sentiments are brilliant. The title refers to “Benefit Street” a documentary that was broadcast on Channel 4 in 2014. It focused on the lives of those living on unemployment benefit and was a tacky program that exploited very vulnerable people.

You can check out the Young’uns on their website. Click here

The image of the North that some people have is of lazy and ignorant Northerners. It is a stereotype that was perpetuated by programs like “Benefit Street”. If you have ever been unemployed and had the indignity of “signing on” you will know that it is no picnic. If you are lucky enough not to have had that experience then watch the fantastic movie “I Daniel Blake” to get an understanding of how dehumanising the whole process it is.

My Father had various periods of unemployment and I have been through the same thing myself. One memory of my Dad was when I was eleven years of age. I was lucky enough to pass my eleven plus and I was sent to St Cuthbert’s Grammar School. This presented my family with a problem. Along with my school uniform, I was required to have a full sports oufits including football and cricket kit.

As my Father was unemployed at the time I knew getting all this kit would be impossible so I didn’t tell him about the sports kit. You were supposed to buy all the uniform from a shop in Newcastle called “Issac Walton’s” but it was expensive. My Dad managed to find a blazer somewhere else that was a similar but not quite the right colour and my mother sewed on a school badge (The Issac Walton blazer had the badge embroidered on the ST CUTHBERT BLAZERpocket). When sports day came, I told the teacher I had forgotten my sports kit and the next week I did the same.

As each week passed the threats from the sports master increased until I was eventually sent to the Head and was caned for persistently failing to bring my sports kit. What I didn’t realise was that they would inform my parents and when my Father got the letter he asked me what had happened and I explained what I had done. He went straight to the school and told them about our circumstances.

There was much wringing of hands by teachers and my Dad was embarrassed that I had lied to protect them from the expense. The school gave me a full sports kit gleaned from the lost property bin. I was a fine sight in my mismatched blazer and used and badly fitting sports kit. As you can imagine this was a something that didn’t escape the notice of the school bullies.

My poem this week is about the shame we are all made to feel when we have to apply for unemployment benefit.

 

Pointing Fingers

 

The shame sits like a stone in the pit of my stomach

It is wrought deep into the memory of my class

Forged from generations of pointing pious fingers

I stand with the motley crew of the sullen and crestfallen

All poorly shod and dressed in mean and shabby clothes

We are watched over by the honour guard of security men

In case our humiliation should erupt in understandable fury

Our stories are different but we all end up in the same place

Begging for what is ours and pleading for what we have paid for

 

We are not failures but those who have been failed

We are not unemployable just under employed

 

© Jeff Price 2017

The Wonder Years

Wonderwall: Oasis

wonderwallI listened to this track by Oasis over and over again trying to figure out what it was about and then it came to me in a flash, they are talking about their muse. Although, having read an article in the NME Oasis don’t agree with me but what would they know they only wrote it. Listen to the song yourself and let me know what it says to you.

Poetry and song Lyrics can mean something very different to different people, it depends on your experiences of life. My understanding is shaped by my experiences and in the poetry I am writing for this blog I am sharing that understanding with the reader. 

This blog has become my muse, the discipline of having to publish the blog every Friday has galvanised me into writing. It is easy, when I have no deadline, to put things off until tomorrow but a deadline works wonders for my creative juices. This is the thirty fifth post and it means I am half way through the blog. I promised myself that I would publish seventy new poems inspired by seventy artists with seventy different tracks and it feels good to get half way. Over the last 35 weeks there has been over a thousand visits from 25 different countries and I would like to say a big thank you for the support and the positive and encouraging feedback. 

My poem for this week is a tribute to my muse. My journey as a writer has been a frustrating one. I still have a vivid memory of fifty years ago when a teacher ridiculed a short story I had written in front of the whole class. The shame and the embarrassment still lives with me today but somewhere deep within in me was a voice that was never still and that compelled me to write even if it was in secret.

When I was fifty three, with the support of my other muse, my wife Lynda, I enrolled at Newcastle University. I did a full time master’s degree in poetry and creative writing. It gave me permission to call myself a writer (Although I still find that an odd idea) and now myself and my muse have a much more public relationship. 

I am looking forward to the next thirty five weeks.

The Wonder Years

 

She would whisper sonnets to me in the dead of night

Sometimes fragments of verse or snippets of stanzas

Building blocks of ideas and incongruous images

I fed her new words from in between the covers of novels

Reading her poetry from McGough, Mitchell and Shelley

Images from Elizabeth Bishop and punch lines from John Hegley

She loved the urban language of John Cooper Clarke

There was even a liking for Wordsworth and Keats

I bought her poetry magazines, chapbooks and pamphlets

Still she whispered and still the words could not find a voice

Then the dam broke and the words cascaded out

We enrolled in a school and studied for a degree in poetry

I became a Master and she became a Mistress

Now she will not leave me alone and follows me everywhere

Her night time whispers have become all day entreaties

The days are shorter now and there is still much to do

©Jeff Price November 2017

 

Big Boys Don’t Cry

I’m not in love: 10cc

This is a wonderful love song full of understatement and pathos. Love songs don’t have to be sloppy and sentimental. The build up in the song is tremendous and the way they produced with the multi layered voices makes this an absolute classic. If you want to know how it was done check out this video.

One of the lines in the song is a woman’s voice saying “Big Boys don’t cry” which is 10ccrepeated several times. In the video the band explain that they got the receptionist in the studio to come in and say the line. 

We Geordie boys were brought up to be tight lipped and stoical rather than being open about our feelings. I often saw my Father angry in my youth but didn’t see much of his tender side. I was the rebellious teenager and he was the ex-soldier who was used to people obeying his orders. When I was much older and he was in his eighties my Mother was struck down with Motor Neurone Disease and my Father became her carer. She could not speak and her movements were very restricted. He cared for her with great tenderness and affection. I have a very fond memory of the two of them watching TV one night and my Father stretching across to my Mother’s chair and taking her hand. Although this seems like a very slight thing to me, it summed up the over fifty years of their marriage. 

For the poem I took the line “Big Boys Don’t Cry” and imagined that hard northern boy who thinks expressing your emotions is wrong. It is a stereotype that hopefully is dying out.

Big Boys Don’t Cry

Hard as nails me, not some soppy girl like you

You’ve gotta suck it up mate , push it down

What ever you do, don’t let her get under your skin

Once she thinks she’s got you, you’re done

She’ll take you for everything you got, believe me

I’m a lone wolf, no woman tells me what to do

Except me Mother, she’s a diamond, know what I mean

Worked hard all her life, brought me up single handed

Yeah, still living there, she wouldn’t know what to do without me

 

© Jeff Price October 2017

 

The Beer Can of Spring

Parklife Blur

I was never sure if Parklife was a song or a spoken word piece set to music either way it was a wonderful and very original example of Brit Pop at its very best.

360_walkman_0630It was one of the songs I listened to on my Walkman when out with the dog. (For any young people reading and are wondering what a Walkman is… check out this link).

In the eighties my children nagged me into getting a dog with the promise that I would not have to do anything as they would care for it. That promise soon evaporated and like a thousand parents before me, I ended up doing the early morning walk before work. Just around the corner from our house was an inner city park with a bowling green and benches. Near by was a hostel for the homeless and as the mornings got lighter a day would come when some of the residents would be sitting on the benches enjoying their first drink of the day.

It always lightened my mood when I saw them for the first time in spring. The lighter mornings and the warming air would bring them out of their hiding places until the days shortened and winter returned.

It is many years since I lived near the park. The dog is long gone and the children have grown and have lives of their own. Yesterday, coming back from a Sunday morning visit to the town I found myself strolling back through the park. The bowling green has gone and the park now boasts a restaurant and a coffee wagon that dispenses over priced beverages to the joggers and the parents watching their young children play. There was no sign of the drinkers maybe they have moved on or more likely, the hostel has closed.

The Beer Can of Spring

 

My dog and I walk through the city centre park

The air is clear, the wind slight and unassuming

Clocks have turned and the sun is out of bed

Winter’s cold is lifting and the frost has gone

Turning a corner by the bowling green

There crowded around a park bench are

Two men, a boy and a toothless woman

Each one swigging beer and smoking rollies

I am greeted with a “Ya arreet mate?

 

Spring has arrived with the first pull of a ring can

The dog is fascinated by the smells

Giving each one of them a thorough sniffing

“Whatsa dog’s name” I tell them “Todd”

They are content because the first drink is easy

It will steady the hand and blur the brain

When I return for the dog’s evening walk

They will be squabbling and their faces sullen

But on this congenial morning they are happy

And I am grateful for the good fortune of my life

 

© Jeff Price October 2017

 

The Red Wedding

Bridie Jackson and the Arbour “Scarecrow”

Bridie Jackson and the Arbour where the house band for Radikal Words, a night I ran at Northern Stage in Newcastle. Then they became famous and I couldn’t afford  the fee

Bridie-done

they rightly deserved and we parted. I also had the pleasure of working with Bridie on the “RiverRuns” a stage show we wrote and performed with a group of poets, writers and singer songwriters. The song I have chosen is “Scarecrow”. A wonderful haunting song from the pen of Louis Barabbas. Sadly, The Arbour are no more but Bridie continues to perform and record her music’

I have been to and indeed taken part in a few weddings in my time but in that strange way the muse can sometimes take you, as I listened to the track, I was also thinking of the Labour Party (stay with me on this one). In the 1970’s I was a member of the Labour Party Young Socialists and also an enthusiastic supporter of the Militant. The relationship fell apart following the Miners Strike and what I felt was the betrayal  of the Labour leadership and factional politics of the left.

It has taken a long time for the wounds to heal but the revitalised and reinvigorated Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn have got me once again handing out leaflets and knocking on doors. Jeremy stuck with the party rather than going off in a sulk like I did. From the back benches he fought what must at times seemed like a hopeless task but he prevailed. Marriage is a bit like that for it to work you have to work through the tough times as well as enjoying the good ones (there… got there in the end).

The​ ​Red Wedding

 

You dressed in a red flag for our wedding

I was wore faded jeans and a slogan t-shirt

​You​ ​were​ ​older but I loved where you had come from

I​ ​promised​ ​you​ ​my​ ​undying​ ​devotion

You​ ​offered​ ​me​ ​the​ ​full​ ​fruits​ ​of​ ​my​ ​labour

​I​ ​became​ ​more​ ​demanding eager for change

You​ ​slandered​ ​my​ ​friends​ ​and​ ​then​ ​expelled​ ​them

I walked out disillusioned and bitter

You started dressing like a bank manager

I reluctantly supported you at the ballot box

You went to war and rained death on civilians

I cynically sulked on the sidelines

You found a new voice and rediscovered your heart

I want you to give me a second chance

 

© Jeff Price October 2017