Tuesday, June 27, 2017

'Nobody knows when she started her skid' -- country songs as small lives writ large

One thing they don't tell you about the blues
When you got them
You keep on falling cause there ain't no bottom
And there ain't no end, least not for Lillian
Nobody knows when she started her skid
She was only 27 and she had five kids
Could-a been the whiskey, could-a been the pills
Could-a been the dream she was trying to kill
But there won't be a mention in the news of the world
About the life and the death of a red dirt girl
Named Lillian
Who never got any farther
Across the line than Meridian

(full lyrics)


Fuck country music. I don't know how to listen to song a like this, by veteran country singer Emmylou Harris, without tears. It must be a special skill some people have, like their own personal super power.

Of course, you say "country music" and people turn off, thinking walking cliches in stupid hats singing cliched songs... or worse... these days they think it means rich white frat boys in the horrific "bro-country" subgenre, with its "party on dudes... but on a truck" shtick and its intense objectification of women.

(Steve Earle recently called bro-country "hip hop for people who are afraid of black people" and if you think that was exaggerating, try listening to this fine example of the genre from Florida George Line featuring Luke Bryan.

To be honest, bro-country does not even deserve to be called a musical genre, any more than I should be considered a marine biologist because I can identify a goat. It's connection to country music is up there with the connection between Mexican fighting fish and the wombat. In fact, goats, the study of marine biology, Mexican fighting fish and wombats all have more in common with, say, Hank Williams Sr than "bro-country" does.)

But country music of the sort associated with what is sometimes called the "singer-songwriter" tradition, or possibly "folk" (tho that is an abused term too...) is as deeply moving and poetic a form of popular music as I have come across. Or at least as deeply moving and poetic as any other. It is an art form. And "Red Dirt Girl", from Emmylou Harris's 2000 album of the same name, is a great example of the genre. It is small lives writ large. Ordinary people's live turned into poetry. Fuck yeah.


Red Dirt Girl


Me and my best friend Lillian
And her blue tick hound dog Gideon,
Sittin on the front porch cooling in the shade
Singin every song the radio played
Waitin for the Alabama sun to go down
Two red dirt girls in a red dirt town
Me and Lillian
Just across the line and a little southeast of Meridian.

She loved her brother I remember back when
He was fixin up a '49 Indian
He told her 'Little sister, gonna ride the wind
Up around the moon and back again"
He never got farther than Vietnam,
I was standin there with her when the telegram come
For Lillian.
Now he's lyin somewhere about a million miles from Meridian.

She said there's not much hope for a red dirt girl
Somewhere out there is a great big world
That's where I'm bound
And the stars might fall on Alabama
But one of these days I'm gonna swing
My hammer down
Away from this red dirt town
I'm gonna make a joyful sound

She grew up tall and she grew up thin
Buried that old dog Gideon
By a crepe myrtle bush in the back of the yard,
Her daddy turned mean and her mama leaned hard
Got in trouble with a boy from town
Figured that she might as well settle down
So she dug right in
Across a red dirt line just a little south east from Meridian

She tried hard to love him but it never did take
It was just another way for the heart to break
So she dug right in.
But one thing they don't tell you about the blues
When you got em
You keep on falling cause there ain't no bottom
There ain't know end.
At least not for Lillian

Nobody knows when she started her skid,
She was only twenty seven and she had five kids.
Coulda been the whiskey,
Coulda been the pills,
Coulda been the dream she was trying to kill.
But there won't be a mention in the news of the world
About the life and the death of a red dirt girl
Named Lillian
Who never got any farther across the line than Meridian.

Now the stars still fall on Alabama
Tonight she finally laid
That hammer down
Without a sound
In the red dirt ground

BONUS!!! Swedish country sister-duo First Aid Kit play the song "Emmylou" dedicated to Emmylou Harris and other country singers at an awards night with Emmylou in the crowd and she cries!!!


I'M NOT CRYING, YOUR FACE IS CRYING!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bastards: A rumination on the state of Australian politics



Bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards bastards Lee Rhainnon seems alright, she has my solidarity.



Terrorists dressed in uniform
Under the protection of their law
Terrorise blacks in dawns of fear
They come smashin' through your door
You're not safe out there on freedom street
You're not safe inside the "can"
For their shotguns and their stunt gas
They're licenced to drop you where you stand
We say oh oh oh oh oooooh
Sad river of tears
Two hundred years in the river of fear

Friday, June 23, 2017

You can never hold back spring... Tom Waits on Jeremy Corbyn. Sort of.



You can never hold back spring
You can be sure that I will never
Stop believing
The blushing rose will climb
Spring ahead or fall behind
Winter dreams the same dream
Every time

You can never hold back spring
Even though you've lost your way
The world keeps dreaming of spring

So close your eyes
Open you heart
To one who's dreaming of you
You can never hold back spring
Baby

Remember everything that spring
Can bring
You can never hold back spring


We could fucking use some spring in Australia, and not just coz it is really fucking cold right now.

Flogging Molly Friday: 'They're only paddies just paddies, don't dig them too deep...'

'...you need all your strength boys and they're replaced easily.'





Well, I worked on a railroad, for tuppins a day
I drank down one penny, the other I'd save
I hammered my hammer, for God knows how long
Well, into madness, with each setting sun
I put my hair down, and I dreamt you were here
With me by the old tree, where no one could care
Far away boys, far away boys, away from you now 


I'm lying with my sweetheart, in her arm's I'll be found
T
hen the sun belched upon me, you were no longer here
Lying in you place was my hammer and my gear
So I stamped out the fire that kept us both warm
The ashes were falling, like the snowdrops of old
We came to a mountain, dynamite and she'll blow
A big hole in that rock, like the one in my soul

We buried four workmen, they dug themselves well
From four empty coffins, to four early graves
"They're only paddies just paddies, don't dig them too deep
You'll need all your strength boys, they're replaced easily"
With the heat I was melting into your sweet lips
Ah, your kiss takes me back, takes me back from all this
Far away boys, far away boys, away from you now
I'm lying with my sweetheart, in her arm's I'll be found


Someone said it was Christmas, not a tree was in sight
The only thing growing was my will to die
'Till the gaffer said "Men, your work here is done"
He said "I'll see you in hell, on that train we died for"
Never again, will I smell your sweet drink
But a piss-stained old gutter where, your lips used to be


Far away boys, far away boys, away from you now
I'm lying with my sweetheart, in her arm's I'll be found
Far away boys, far away boys, away from you now
I'm lying with my sweetheart, in her arm's I'll be found


"Far Away Boys", but Irish-American Celtic punk band Flogging Molly off their 2000 debut album Swagger. About Irish labourers, subjected to super-exploitation in horrendous and frequently deadly conditions, to build railways in England or possibly America (both featured cheap, disposable Irish labour, but the phrase "tuppence" in the first verse suggests the song is set in England).

This horrific exploitation of migrant workers is not just a thing from past centuries -- as the frequently deadly conditions for migrants workers preparing for the World Cup in Qatar shows. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

'There is hope where you can't see it, there is a light after the storm...' Corbyn, neoliberalism and Shovels & Rope



The British elections certainly didn't go according to plan.

A humiliated Theresa May looks to form a decidedly unstable government via some agreement with a bunch of fanatical Presbyterians from Ireland who are convinced they are British, despite all available evidence suggesting they are actually definitely from Ireland, and whose social views have not advanced since 1690, and whose agreement to prop up the Tories is based on reinstating government programs of Catholic burning or something.

But a bigger story is the scale of the successful campaign by Jeremy Corbyn, his team and left activists around a popular Manifesto that breaks with austerity and neoliberalism. This campaign's success defied predictions of almost all pundits and polls.

Is this important? I'd say that depends how bothered you are by the horrific catastrophe of the Grenfell Tower inferno in London, where repeat warnings by residents were ignored by the cost cutting privatised company running council housing in dangerous conditions that are repeated in tower blocks the poor live in across the country.



If you think a further kicking of the poor to worsen such conditions is neither here nor there, then maybe the success of Corbyn's campaign can be viewed on grounds of "well that was surprising, that is interesting isn't it, an election manifesto about NOT kicking the shit out of ordinary people prove quite popular with ordinary people? I guess this crazy ol' world will never fail to surprise us, eh?"

But for those strongly opposed to a society that sacrifices the majority to ever worsening conditions amid growing inequality, while the poorest and weakest are sacrificed, literally, in bonfires... the fact that Corbyn was so successful, and consolidated the hold of "Corbynism" on Labour's leadership, and has helped energise a mass movement, led by youth who were inspired to turn out in huge numbers to vote for an alternative FOR FUCKING ONCE... well it means something more.

I mean, everyone told young people Corbyn was a no-hoper, at best a decent bloke with nice ideas but who'll never get anywhere. But it didn't work, they turned out in the largest numbers for years because the people telling them this have done nothing but spit in their faces. Meanwhile, the Manifesto Corbyn has touting actually promised them something when no one had ever offered them anything before. Not really.

And their response?



Within Labour, which is now the largest left-of-centre party across Europe with as many as 800,000 members, the Great Neoliberal Orthodoxy has been overturned. There is the growth of a mass, youthful movement around the politics of solidarity and hope.

The fact that, while Corbyn has failed to form a government this time, he is very well positioned to do so sooner rather than later around a Manifesto that says "For the Many, Not The Few" on its cover and actually fucking means it ... is not just stunning, it is heartrendingly, beautifully hopeful.

Derek Wall, an ecosocialist and activist involved in Green politics since 1979, which is a fucking long time ago, and who is the joint international coordinator for the Green Party of England and Wales, put it simply an article on Green Left Weekly:

For the first time in my lifetime, the left in Britain are making dramatic gains.

We have lived through, and are still living through, a dark neoliberal nightmare where people and planet are sacrificed.

The rise of Corbyn (and similar left political breakthrough in other countries) is not The End of it, not by a long way. Hell, here in Australia, we haven't gotten close to even looking like seeing this type of political breakthrough.

That is without even getting to the challenged a Corbyn-led government would face if it won government from powerful entrenched interests, notwithstanding his platform actually being little more than reasonable. For a taste, you could just look the intense financial blackmail applied to Greece when they elected Syriza on a perfectly reasonable platform of not letting Greece be strangled to death. Syriza finally capitulated and abandoned its democratic mandate with the banks threatened with total collapse -- all done to send a strong message to ordinary people across Europe that they should STOP asking for FUCKING REASONABLE THINGS if they know what's good for them.

And that is not even discussing the fact a Corbyn government would formally head an imperial state whose actual democratic content is not quite as strong as it claims on the label, and would need to be countered by strong mobilisations from below.

But the Corbyn movement is a serious challenge to all this that brings hope of a struggle that may end the neoliberal nightmare, for the sake of the many and fuck the few.

It is hard to know how to fully put this into words, so I will do what I love to do, which is a) use a song and b) make that song by the glorious country folk husband-and-wife duo from South Carolina, Shovels and Rope, from their 2014 album Swimming Time.


Said I thought it would be colder
You put your head upon my shoulder
Ain’t it funny
How time just seems to run
What the hell have you been doin'
Not too sure, guess mostly movin'
I’ve been spinnin' for so long
Now I guess I’m spun 
Like the widest river
Like the brightest morn
There is hope where you can’t see it
There is a light after the storm
But won’t you help me to get through it
I’ve been flailing like a child
My mistakes, they are so many
For my lovin heart is wild 
Not quite old
But far from young
Body bold
With a youthful tongue
Like a kiss held out of context
I can’t separate my mind
We can set this boat on fire
We can leave it all behind 
Like the widest river
Like the brightest morn
There is hope just up ahead
There is a shelter safe and warm

 I am NOT crying! Fuck you. You don't deserve another Shovels and Rope song, but I'll give you one any way.



...I’m going down a long road, maybe it's the wrong road
But either way I gotta find my way back home again
It's too late to turn back now, gotta get the lead on out
Gotta find some way to make it right on

And nobody knows it like you do babe, nobody knows it like you do
Nobody knows it like you do babe, the lengths we will go to

There must be some other way, I just don't know
Gotta get myself back up on that high road
 
But nobody knows that like you do...

What is that??? MORE??? Fucking Jesus, OK in the spirit of sharing I offer this... Shovels and Rope covering Nick Lowe's classic "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding




As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside,
There's one thing I want to know:
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

...And as I walked on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.
'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away, just makes me want to cry.
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

Alright now fuck off.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Strong and stable, I presume

Sorry, sorry, I've just woken up. What happened in Britain? I am assuming there is a strong and stable Tory majority and the incompetent loser Corbyn got smashed, teaching a lesson to the apathetic youth who didn't bother to show that you have to play the game to get anywhere?

Just like those wise voices all said?




Wednesday, June 07, 2017

This Vogue Piece Proves Jeremy Corbyn Has Sold Out To Bourgeois Values

Tomorrow, Britain will vote in what is pretty widely considered the most important British general elections in years. On one side of British politics, you have a bunch of elite, pampered, born-to-rule overpriviliged arseholes whose brains are too small to imagine anything but a cruel status quo whose victims they patronise and insult with empty platitudes and vacuous rhetoric.

And that's just the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party! The actual Tories are even worse.

But on the other you have a youthful, growing, determined mass movement of people who want an end to anti-poor austerity measures, oppose the privatisation of health care, who want to stop selling arms to brutal regimes like Saudi Arabia and end bloody Western interventions that kill large numbers and create the conditions for the sort of horrific terror attacks in Manchester and London.

And this movement is coalesced behind one man: Jeremy Corbyn.

Much maligned by the political and media establishment, who treat him like some sort of bad joke, the veteran socialist MP has defied expectations ever since he entered Labour's leadership race in 2015.

Armed with a powerful Manifesto that represents a decisive break with austerity and proposes tilting the scales in favour of the working people against the 1%, his campaign has turned what looked like a Tory rout into a potentially very close run thing.

Most of all, Jeremy Corbyn represented the ordinary person. Not just in policy, but in his decidedly unfashionable dress. I deliberately avoided saying "proudly unfashionable" because I am not sure it would have ever entered his head until recent weeks to feel pride in his attire one way or the other.

That means a lot to many people, myself included. Even here in Australia, I have been inspired at the sight of a man aiming to lead a whole nation while dressing like a high school geography teacher just before his fortnightly trip to the laundry down the street.

My own fashion sense is famous. I have perfected the "woke up too hungover and late to do more than throw on yesterday's crumpled clothes while dashing for the door" look, which I have honed over years of waking up hungover and late and throwing on yesterday's crumpled clothes while dashing for the door.

Corbyn was an inspiration. There was that time he met a baying media outside his front door in socks and shorts with a daggy, brown-striped short-sleeved shirt, and you knew that wasn't a calculated decision.

His wife probably said to him as he opened the door "Oh you are not greeting the hyenas of the capitalist press out to smear and demonise you in order to crush a movement of working people seeking to use your leadership of the Labour Party to push back against the elites destroying all that is decent in society dressed like that?"

To which a genuinely bemused Corbyn no doubt responded with "What?" before walking out to put his logical, carefully thought-out case that the interests of the majority should be put before a too-powerful minority and, as another point, perhaps weapons programs whose function is to obliterate millions of lives with a single push of a button isn't the wisest course.

'Look why are we spending tax payers money on these weapons of mass destruction while starving the NHS of badly needed funds? Sorry, what? Where did I buy my socks?'

But Corbyn has changed.

And it is not just that the largely wonderful Manifesto includes a compromise for the veteran anti-war campaigner by including a commitment to not scrap nuclear weapons. No... far worse than that.

Of late, Corbyn has started dressing... and it pains me to write this... snappily. 

Yes, the very thing that defined the soul of Labour's socialist leader has been thrown out the window in favour of carefully chosen outfits that exude... there is no other word for it, unfortunately... they exude style.

If you think I am exaggerating consider the fact that Corbyn's sartorial shift has been noticed and praised by none other than Vogue magazine itself!

On June 5, Vogue was moved to write:

WHO is Jeremy Corbyn’s stylist? He must have someone advising him on his wardrobe. For while the shifty suits remain at least one inch too large for his wiry frame, Corbyn’s certainly turned a corner in the long old road to chic. 
As one Twitter user commented after his confident performance on BBC1’s Question Time on Friday evening, it is a very skilled individual who has “turned the Corbyn look from a freight train-jumping hobo into a vaguely credible-looking adult”.

As if there is anything wrong with the "freight train-jumping hobo" look! I call it the "I'm Pretty Sure this T-shirt Has One Wear Left And that Beer Stain Isn't Really Noticeable" look.

I mean, this has been a feature of Corbyn's career for a long time. Check out this clip of Corbyn responding to a Tory whinging about "Labour scruffs" (he even names Corbyn) not dressing of a standard fitting of parliament. (I guess when working extend imperial power across the globe while crushing working people at home, you should at least try to wear a decent tie.)



And now Jeremy Corbyn wears outfits so nice they draw comment from Vogue!

Look at him now!


God.


Oh Jesus.



Ok that baseball cap is just taking the piss.

I mean honestly, here is a reminder of how Corbyn used to dress.


Yes those are socks with sandals! Red socks, of course!



"What is wrong with brown anyway?" Nothing I can think of, Jezza.



I don't even know what you can technically call that sort of "all tracksuit" action, but I know I call it awesome!

And I know what many of you are thinking. "Really comrade, the fucking election is tomorrow. Now is not the time to be bringing up such criticisms, no matter how important and eloquently expressed as they are on your wonderful, well-written blog!"

I get it. It is a crucial election and Corbyn-led Labour must win. But that does not mean we must lose our critical faculties! Or choose to be quiet on the things that matter out of some cheap electoral opportunism!

The day we cease to speak out on the things that matter is the day we begin to die, as a very wise person, whose name I cannot be bothered googling right now coz my fucking Internet is so slow it's driving me insane, once said.

But, despite my strongly worded criticisms here, I wish to still emphasis that, from Australia and with full solidarity, I support a vote for Corbyn's Labour. I merely do so critically, and well aware of the limits of a supposed anti-establishment socialist entering Westminster in a tailoured suit.

Oh well, here is some Manic Street Preachers anyway.



What price now for a shallow piece of dignity?
I wish I had a bottle
Right here in my dirty face to wear the scars
To show from where I came

We don't talk about love we only want to get drunk
And we are not allowed to spend
As we are told that this is the end