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


Thursday, May 04, 2017

The Queen is dead boys, and it's so lonely on a limb...


So I broke into the Palace
With a sponge and a rusty spanner
She said: "Eh, I know you, and you cannot sing"
I said: "that's nothing - you should hear me play piano"


No fucking clue what the Hell is going on at Buckingham Palace*, although I assume some announcement in a couple of hours is on its way. It could be anything. Prince Philip could be dead, or the Queen's favourite corgi or maybe the Queen herself .

(Yes I know the media said the emergency meeting was CALLED by the Queen, but honestly I think she has people to do that for her. I know if I was a reigning monarch, the very first thing I'd do is rule that under no circumstances would I be required to have ANYTHING to do with ANY meeting EVER again.

(And as for the old racist Prince Philip, I just hope it wasn't the heartbreak caused by Malcolm Turnbull taking back that knighthood Tony Abbott gave the guy. If it is, I think British security should be on high alert at the funeral for a rogue Abbott wielding a sword determined to "knight" the corpse before its buried once and for all.)

All I know is, it sounds like as good an occasion as any for this Smiths track, in which, over a typically awesome guitar playing by the genius that is Johnny Marr, Morrissey does what he does best: combine genuinely witty lyrics with a seemingly bottomless self-pity.

* Update: Apparently the announcement is just that Prince Philip will be performing even less duties in the interests of the public. Like how is that even possible? And who is in charge of official racist abuse now?



Farewell to this land's cheerless marches
Hemmed in like a boar between arches
Her very Lowness with her head in a sling
I'm truly sorry but it sounds like a wonderful thing

I say Charles don't you ever crave
To appear on the front of the Daily Mail
Dressed in your Mother's bridal veil?

And so I checked all the registered historical facts
And I was shocked into shame to discover
How I'm the 18th pale descendent
Of some old queen or other

Oh has the world changed, or have I changed?
Oh has the world changed, or have I changed?
Some nine year old tough who peddles drugs
I swear to God, I swear I never even knew what drugs were

So I broke into the Palace
With a sponge and a rusty spanner
She said: "Eh, I know you, and you cannot sing"
I said: "that's nothing - you should hear me play piano"

We can go for a walk where it's quiet and dry
And talk about precious things
But when you are tied to your mother's apron
No-one talks about castration

We can go for a walk where it's quiet and dry
And talk about precious things
Like love and law and poverty
These are the things that kill me

We can go for a walk where it's quiet and dry
And talk about precious things
But the rain that flattens my hair
These are the things that kill me

Passed the pub that saps your body
And the church who'll snatch your money
The Queen is dead, boys
And it's so lonely on a limb

Pass the pub that wrecks your body
And the church, all they want is your money
The Queen is dead, boys
And it's so lonely on a limb

Life is very long, when you're lonely

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

'My tongue's a match and my veins are full of gasoline...' This might actually be how you do it


How does one "do" "it"? How does one produce scintillating, dirty, sweaty, fury-driven rock'n'roll to give a massive fuck off to every hypocrite and prick there is, while insisting you will throw any hit "right back", but, like, with only two people on the stage armed with a guitar and drum set?

Well, Shovels and Rope, Charleston, South Carolina's finest product, can probably provide some clues. The married due produce country infused with punk rock energy and a style carved out of endless shows on the road.


So, you better back up
I'll show you bad luck
Ooh you got me shakin in my boots like I was seventeen
My tongue's a match and all my veins are full of gasoline
I come upon ya like a hit of methamphetamine
Eyes roll back in your head
Well I tell you right now, you better watch your back
You can talk dirty til your tongue turns black
But if you're throwin into me I'm gonna throw it right back at you...
They got lucky with one?


We always back the underdog because he's the only one we trust
And if that ones for the winner, this one must be for us...
And they don't do a bad cover.


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?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A failed citizenship application to Australia in five years time


"Kiss the flag."

"Kiss the?"

"KISS IT!"

[kisses flag]

"NO! On the Union Jack!"

"Sorry."

"Here is your return ticket home."

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/speak-english-respect-our-values-malcolm-turnbulls-next-citizenship-crackdown-20170419-gvnq0y.html

Or alternately, if you fail to express the sort of love in this song by country punk act Sydney City Trash...



There's a nation they call Down Under
But I to me, it's on top of the world
But I love this nation so goddamn much
I'd marry it if it were a girl
And when you talk about this nation I love
Well it cuts me deep inside
Coz I seriously love
I mean actually love
Well I'm just so filled with Aussie pride....



A Dalziel and Pascoe Episode: A Summary


Anyone who knows me, like really knows me, knows two things:

1) I love murder mysteries of all sorts
2) I am completely up-to-date in all fields of popular culture.

And so, given this, I decided to provide an entirely accurate, all-purpose episode summary of every Dalziel and Pascoe episode ever made! And only 10 years after the series wound up!

A Dalziel and Pascoe Episode: A Summary

It is bleak in Yorkshire and the working-class streets of Wetherton, with their dull brick walls and faded curtains, seem grim. A dead body found in the local reservoir is even grimmer.

Dalziel and Pascoe arrive at the crime scene. Dalziel is grumpy because he has been woken up early after drinking too much whisky. Pascoe is already rolling his eyes and sighing at his superior's antics.

But when the dead body turns out to be directly related to Dalziel's past, things get murky. Dalziel is shaken, but refuses to speak about the case from two decades earlier, when he was suspected of corruption/investigated for police brutality/in love with a key suspect.

His behaviour becomes more and more erratic, driving Pascoe to despair. Finally, Pascoe confronts Dalziel and tells him: "I'm trying to help you here, Andy!"

Dalziel, hurt that by his friend's seeming lack of trust, growls furiously and storms out. He goes home to get drunk and mope miserably on his couch.

They eventually catch the murderer, but it is clear to all that the real crime here is what Thatcher did to the north.

It also turns out that Dalziel was above reproach all along. Pascoe apologises and they go to the pub to drink and mend their wounded friendship.

All men have secrets and here is mine
So let it be known
For we have been through hell and high tide
I think I can rely on you...
And yet you start to recoil
Heavy words are so lightly thrown
But still I'd leap in front of a flying bullet for you
So, what difference does it make?

Andy Dalziel might play this song to Peter Pascoe, or vice versa, if either of them where the sort to play The Smiths.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Jesus and the Rabbit: The True Story Behind Our Easter Traditions


It's like Christmas all over again. All the fun from a mass consumer frenzy aimed at propping up a tottering late monopoly capitalism in a death spin is taken away by politically correct libtard elitist cucks doing the bidding of ISIS.

For instance, I used to love hot cross buns until all of a sudden supermarkets would only sell those Halal ones with the cross replaced by "DEATH TO ALL INFIDELS" written in Arabic.

But some people still think the whole idea of a “War on Easter” as part of a general assault on Western Judeo-Christian traditions is a farce, because what the Hell has Jesus got to do with a rabbit or eggs, what has a rabbit got to do with Jesus or eggs, and what do eggs have to do with fucking chocolate?

Too few people know the real story, due to unfortunate editing out of the New Testament, but below is the actual truth.

***

One day, Jesus of Nazareth was walking home from Damascus, having drunken a little too much of His own Water-Into-Wine Homebrew(™) and eateth too little of His Own Brand of Freshly Baked Bread(™) in order to line His stomach, like Judas, who frankly spent most of his time trying to sort out the Son of God’s shit, kept saying He should.

As Jesus Christ Our Lord staggered down the dirt path, He fell into the mud on the side. And there lay Our Saviour until a humble rabbit just happened to hop by.

The rabbit watched the poor man flailing pathetically in the mud, not realising He was Our Saviour. Hopping up, he kindly asked the King of the Jews whether He needed any help?

Looking up, Jesus saw an honest soul and said simply: “I could murder a kebab!”

The rabbit knew the nearest kebab store still open at that time of night was all the way in Byzantium. But having only just been introduced to the historic Palestine region by the Romans, he also knew where to get the best ones in that city known today as Istanbul.

And so, taking pity on the Lord and remembering the state he was in himself just last weekend, the rabbit hopped all the way there and back with Jesus’s order of a lamb kebab with garlic and chili sauce.

“Oh that was awesome!”, a much-repaired Jesus said as he took his last bite and wiped some garlic sauce off His chin. “Thanks heaps!”

And then Jesus Christ Our Lord said unto the rabbit: “What can I give you to repay your kindness? For I am the Son of God and I can do miracles and shit.”

The rabbit thought carefully for some time. This was Our Lord and Saviour, so it had to be worthy. He definitely did not want to fuck it up and ask for something embarrassing or weird.

Finally, the rabbit spoke. “I have always envied the hen,” he began.

“Where the Hell is this going,” thought Jesus, but he said nothing for He was always polite, even after He’d had a few.

“And, well,” the rabbit continued, “look… tell me if you think this is a bit weird or anything, but I guess I’ve always… well fantasised is probably the right word. Yes. I’ve always fantasised about laying eggs.”

“What the FUCK?” exclaimed the King of the Jews.

The rabbit added quickly: “Yeah, and like, make them chocolate!”

“Mate,” said the Lord, sadly shaking his head, “it’s your wish, but fucking Hell, you should maybe see a psych or something.”

And with that, Jesus granted the rabbit the capacity to lay chocolate eggs. And the rabbit, whose name was Frank, laid many. Day in and day out, Frank laid chocolate egg after egg, eating his own products in a disturbing act of sweet self-cannibalism.

Jesus, meanwhile, soon found himself in even greater trouble. The pigs were after him for some property damage suffered by some very important bankers during one of His more out-of-control binges. By this time, Judas had had it and was not cleaning up after any more of Jesus’s messes, no matter how fucking Holy the Lord was. And so he gave Our Lord up to the cops.
Having attacked the authority of Rome, the wealth of the local financial elite and sold dodgy home-brewed wine that made a 4-litre cask of goon for $10 taste like the finest Champagne, Jesus was always gonna swing.

But this was not, as we know, the end of the story.

Jesus was crucified and then rose again after three days. Which was actually better than managed by many of the consumers of his Finest Fish Products (™).

History records that it was Jesus’s “friend” Mary Magdalene who arrived at His tomb on Easter Sunday and discovered His Holiness alive and well. But this is the full tale.

For three days, Jesus was kept company by Frank. The rabbit did not abandon his magical mate, but stayed with him, laying chocolate eggs for His sustenance until He rose to His Eternal Kingdom in Heaven.

Frank tried to tell people that Jesus had been alive the whole three days, and even had some very important messages to pass on to humanity, mostly about how awesome chocolate eggs were.

But people were not willing to listen to some rabbit, especially not one with a sick chocolate egg-laying fetish. Like, sure, the Roman occupiers were into some fucked up shit, but even they drew a line somewhere.

Jesus, however, did not forget the rabbit’s final act of kindness. He granted the rabbit Eternal Life and said unto him, “go forth and lay chocolate eggs then hide them for children on Easter Sunday, but not before fully stocking supermarkets for months in advance.”

And Frank the rabbit was happy. For he really, really loved laying chocolate eggs. Like, TBH, maybe a bit too much.

So please, ignore the Islamist conspiracy to destroy Easter by removing the word “Easter” from Easter eggs. Our Lord made it Frank’s Holy Mission to lay those eggs to be sold at marked up prices in the days before Our Saviour’s crucifixion and resurrection, and dramatically marked down in the days afterwards.


'He went to France, he went to Spain...' Country singer John Prine offers a different version of Jesus's story, yet fails to mention Frank the Easter Bunny.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

''Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky'... The Tossers include new version of The Foggy Dew on latest album



Things are pretty dire. What the world needs now is obviously another Celtic band releasing a new version of the old Irish rebel song The Foggy Dew about the Easter Rising. The Tossers, as ever, step up and deliver, ending their new album Smash the Windows with their version of track, first written by an Irish priest some time after 1919.



It is, as is to be expected from the Chicago-based Celtic punk veterans, a very solid version. It breaks no new ground, but there is no call for it to do any such thing. This is in keeping with The Tossers modus operandi, as a band without any pretence at "evolving" their sound, merely seeking to do what they've been doing well since the early '90s even better.

And that is being the self-proclaimed "world's loudest folk band", with a seemingly endless well of songs of drinking and carousing, of working-class people surviving an often hostile world of war and exploitation, and of Irish history and tradition, filtered through Chicago's Southside.



Of course, it might be said to be timely as the Easter Rising had its 100th anniversary last year. Also, amid the chaos of Brexit, the united Irish republic the rebels fought for may be closer than ever (in form, if not exactly the progressive social content the rebel's' Proclamation envisaged.)

But really... there is never a bad time to record a version of the best song about the Rising, when Irish rebels struck out for freedom as the horror of World War I engulfed Europe. By 1916, the British crown that was not just pillaging Ireland and impoverishing its people, but sending increasing numbers of young Irish men to their untimely deaths. in the conflict. Many Irish men signed up in a form of economic conscription -- the Crown's shilling beat hunger. But the threat of actual conscription hung in the air.

The contrast — between dying seeking to free Ireland from colonial chains versus dying for its colonial rulers in a faraway land in a futile war between empires — runs right through the song.

As the song declares in the second verse: "'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky than at Suvla or Sud-El-Bar."

And, later, reflecting on the "lonely graves are by Suvla's waves or the fringe of the great North Sea", it reflects how much better it would had those Irish men "died by Pearse's side or fought with Cathal Brugha".

The rising, of course, failed, but violent British repression swung public sympathy behind the cause of Irish freedom. As the song concludes "For slavery fled, O glorious dead, when you fell in the foggy dew."

The album also features an original track about another decisive moment in Irish history. Called "1969" it is about, as the earth-shaking events in that year in the six counties in Ireland's north still claimed by Britain. Irish Catholics, suffering discrimination and oppression in the statelet, marched for civil rights, only to face extreme repression, setting in motion the violent conflict known as the Troubles that wracked Northern Ireland the next couple of decades.

No one can deny that this one is timely — in a way the band could not have predicted. The life and activism of veteran Irish republican leader Martin McGuinness, who died on March 20 died aged 66, was defined by the events of 1969 in his beloved home town of Derry, at the very centre of the storm. I talked about all that in my last post, but the song also tell the tale.




1969

Long ago, far away, far across the sea
There were those in Ireland who had marched for equality

So that everyone would know
Everyone would know
That civil rights are something now
That everyone should know

Oh and still I hear their voices cry

God bless Ireland
And keep her evermore

They were burned and battered everywhere
By cops and mobs of men
And still they walked and still they marched
Unto the bitter end


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

'And the damned barbed wire gets higher and higher': Behind the town Martin McGuinness loved so well




Since leading Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness died aged 66 on March 20, much ink has been spilt on the life and legacy of the ex-IRA fighter who helped negotiate Ireland's peace process. Praise and sometimes slander, from highest offices around the world to ordinary people, have come the way of the deceased man from Derry in Ireland's north. 

But how many of these bastards have bothered to use McGuinness's death as a great excuse to bang on about one of the greatest songs most famously sung by possibly Ireland's greatest-ever folk singer as part of one of the great Irish folk bands? Huh?

A whole bunch of people have missed this rather obvious trick. But no more! The absence of Luke Kelly and the Dubliners in discussions of Martin McGuinness's life and times ends here! I WILL END THIS AND I WILL END THIS NOW!

Yes! You can listen BELOW to Irish songwriter Phil Coulter's classic song "The Town I Loved So Well", first recorded by the Dubliners in 1973. 

It describes the Derry that McGuinness, like Coulter and thousands of other working-class men and women, grew up in. It captures the tragedy of the violence that wracked it from the perspective of the working class who were its victims. And YES there is much more to say and GODDAMN IT fear NOT I go on to SAY FUCKING BUCKET LOADS OF IT DOWN BELOW IN THIS VERY POST! 

But first, before anything else should even be thought, much less said... first... Luke Kelly.


In my memory I will always see
the town that I have loved so well
Where our school played ball by the gasyard wall
and we laughed through the smoke and the smell
Going home in the rain, running up the dark lane
past the jail and down behind the fountain
Those were happy days in so many, many ways
in the town I loved so well 
 
In the early morning the shirt factory horn
called women from Creggan, the Moor and the Bog
While the men on the dole played a mother's role,
fed the children and then trained the dogs
And when times got tough there was just about enough
But they saw it through without complaining
For deep inside was a burning pride
in the town I loved so well 
 
There was music there in the Derry air
like a language that we all could understand
I remember the day when I earned my first pay
And I played in a small pick-up band
There I spent my youth and to tell you the truth
I was sad to leave it all behind me
For I learned about life and I'd found a wife
in the town I loved so well 
 
But when I returned how my eyes have burned
to see how a town could be brought to its knees
By the armoured cars and the bombed out bars
and the gas that hangs on to every tree
Now the army's installed by that old gasyard wall
and the damned barbed wire gets higher and higher
With their tanks and their guns, oh my God, what have they done
to the town I loved so well 
 
Now the music's gone but they carry on
For their spirit's been bruised, never broken
They will not forget but their hearts are set
on tomorrow and peace once again
For what's done is done and what's won is won
and what's lost is lost and gone forever
I can only pray for a bright, brand new day
in the town I loved so well

The song is a great demonstration of the talents of Luke Kelly as a folk singer, as he hits lines bemoaning a sudden and devastating shift towards violence with ever greater force.

The song starts depicting a working class community that suffers poverty (the men are on the dole, though the women work in local factories), but with a strong sense of community and pride. The narrator leaves and later returns to find a town "brought to its knees" by violence, with the "army installed by the old gas yard walls, and the damned barbed wire grows higher and higher". Kelly's voice is almost broken with barely suppressed anger as he declares "My God, what have they done?", before insisting the town's spirit is "bruised but never broken" and they set their eyes towards peace.

It is a song about social realities in the folk tradition, and is not explicitly political. It is no "rebel" song, and while it bemoans British military violence there is no suggestion of sympathy for the armed resistance McGuinness helped lead in the 70s. If anything, the reference to "bombed out bars" suggests the violence, from all sides are fuelling the singer's despair and grief.

But this doesn't reduce its capacity to capture the reality that made McGuinness who he was.  When it was clear the armed struggle could not bring about a speedy end to the war, while the violence wrecked havoc on all aspects of society in Ireland's north, McGuinness was part of the push for an end to armed conflict to shift the struggle to peaceful means.

The ;picture of Derry, and what happened to it in the Troubles,  provides a great frame to understand Martin McGuinness.

Born the son of a tailor in 1950, McGuinness grew up poor, in the working-class (and largely Catholic and nationalist) Bogside in Derry. Leaving school at 15, he worked a series of low-paying jobs. He was working as a butcher's apprentice when, in 1969, he witnessed one atrocity against his community too many and joined the IRA.

Derry is the second largest city in the six Irish counties that Britain retained when Ireland was partitioned in 1921 at the end of the War of Independence that ended direct British rule over 26 of Ireland's 32 counties.

To ensure a population in the partitioned state that was "loyal" to the Crown, it was established with an artificial majority of the largely loyalist Protestants, with the largely nationalist Catholic population a minority (Derry, however, has a clear Catholic majority).

The state was set up on the basis of Protestant supremacy, with Northern Ireland's first prime minister James Craig famously declaring it "A Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people."

Run along sectarian lines, Catholics suffered poor services, housing and were denied access to many jobs, often reducing to living in slums. Local voting rights were granted to those who owned property. As many Catholics didn't own homes, they couldn't vote. In Derry, this meant that despite Catholics being the majority, the town was run by bigoted pro-British Protestant unionists.

Most of Northern Ireland's working class were Protestant, but within the working class, the poorest and most deprived were overwhelmingly Catholic (and nationalist).

In his funeral oration at McGuinness's graveside, his long-time comrade and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said:
Like many other Derry ‘wans’, Martin grew up in a city in which Catholics were victim of widespread political and economic discrimination. 
He was born into an Orange State which did not want him or his kind. Poverty was endemic. 
Unsurprisingly, such injustice sparked opposition. Inspired by the US civil rights struggle, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was formed in 1967 to campaign for equality for Catholics. The response to peaceful civil rights marches was extreme violence — especially in Derry.

Extra-legal loyalist gangs and the infamously sectarian and violent Royal Ulster Constabulary viciously attacked marchers. When marchers sought to defend themselves, attacks grew into anti-Catholic pogroms.

Catholics in mixed or largely Protestant areas were driven from their homes, which were often burned — turning the Catholic areas of cities like Belfast and Derry into besieged ghettos. Adams, in his 1997 memoir Before the Dawn, describes police snipers on building tops, opening fire on any Catholic they saw move. At this time, the IRA was all but non-existent.

In 1969, tens of thousands of Catholics were forced from their homes, many fleeing across the border into the Republic of Ireland — at the time, the largest forced movement of people in Europe since World War II.

The besieged population did not take the repression lying down, and brutal attacks by police and loyalist gangs were met with barricades and riots as people sought to defend their communities. In January 1969, with barricades erected, the nationalist areas of Derry (including the Bogside) declared their areas "Free Derry" — a liberated zone, protected by residents armed with clubs, rocks and petrol bombs, in which the sectarian authorities were barred from entering.

In August 1969, three days of violent street fighting between the RUC, which used CG gas (the first time it was used against civilians within the British state) and the nationalist community,  known as the Battle of the Bogside broke out, sparked by attempts by a notoriously sectarian Orange parade to march through nationalist areas.

With the community undefeated, the British government took the fatal decision to mobilise British soldiers, sending them to the Bogside.

The Troubles had begun.

The British military failed to take control of Free Derry until 1972 (while the IRA operated openly, defending the area), but the path to full scale military conflict was opened.

In his graveside oration, Adams continued:
I remember [Martin] telling me that he was surprised when his father, a quiet modest church going man, marched in the civil rights campaign here in Derry. 
The Orange State’s violent suppression of that civil rights campaign; the Battle of the Bogside, and the emerging conflict propelled Martin into a life less ordinary.
Listen to the song again with this context.

With British soldiers on the streets, the conflict spiralled into war, as a civil rights struggle morphed into an armed struggle for national liberation.

To crack down on the newly re-energised republican movement, the British authorities introduced internment in August 1971. Doors were smashed in, homes raided and hundreds of overwhelmingly Catholic men and women (most of whom weren't active republicans) were interned without trial, often tortured.

In Before the Dawn, Adams describes a terrible event in the working-class Catholic neighbourhood of Ballymurphy, where he lived. The day interment was introduced, the British Army set up a "free fire" zone in the area. For three days, soldiers opened fire on sight on anyone within their line of fire — shooting 11 civilians dead, including a priest who ran to to aid a wounded man and a mother of eight, on the streets desperately trying to round up her children to keep them safe.



This massacre predates the start of the IRA's bombing campaign. There has never been any justice for the atrocity. The soldiers responsible came from the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment. Five months later, on January 30, 1972, the same regiment opened fire on unarmed civil rights marchers, killing 14 in the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre.

McGuinness, a leading IRA member in  Derry at the time, witnessed the events on Bloody Sunday. In an April 1972 Irish Times profile of McGuinness entitled (to McGuinness's embarrassment) "The Boy Who Rules Free Derry", he said:
The worst I ever felt was Bloody Sunday. I wandered about stunned, with people crying and looking for their relatives, and I thought of all that about honour between soldiers. The British Army knew right well we wouldn’t fight them with all those thousands of people there, so they came in and murdered the innocent.
Think of this context and listen to the song again.

It's not hard to see how the likes of McGuinness ended up IRA volunteers, responding to such conditions with guns in their hand.

McGuinness may have become a leader of note, but his story was typical of his generation. Young working class men and women, looking to live ordinary lives, were driven to resist by violence and oppression.

A story told often about young working class men from nationalist areas being "lifted" by the British occupying forces, interned with trial and tortured — despite frequently having no involvement in republicanism. Instead, they were interested in the same things as young men everywhere — watching sport, getting drunk, trying to get laid.

But once released, the previously apolitical youths would search out their local IRA recruiter.

Adams pointed out in his 1997 memoir Before the Dawn, the working class nationalist in Ireland's north were not better or worse than anyone else. They were neither devils nor saints, just ordinary people facing extraordinary violence. Neither inherently pacifists nor predisposed to violence, they didn't want war but were willing to fight one when they felt they had no choice.

And with that reality of ordinary people — will all the good and bad that comes with it — came good and bad in the armed conflict.

There was incredible bravery, resilience and sacrifice. (None are more justly famous than the 1981 hunger strikes in which 10 men died rather than give up their dignity in the face of the Thatcher government's heartless cruelty).

This existed along with reprehensible violence that can not be justified no matter the cause. (One infamous example is the 1987 Remembrance Day bombing, when an IRA bomb went off at an Remembrance Day event at a War Memorial in Ennskillen in Northern Ireland and killed 10 civilians. The incident was described by Sinn Fein as a "huge tragedy" and Sinn Fein's An Phoblacht criticised it as a "monumental error". The IRA unit responsible was disbanded. The IRA had not intended to kill civilians, instead aiming to target British soldiers, but such deaths were always a strong risk with such bombings.)

The point is not whether both aspects have equal weight — I think the republican movement, whatever it did wrong, was trying to respond as best it could to a horrific situation not of its own making. Merely to point out that people enter such struggles with all their flaws and imperfections, not helped in this instance by the role of militarist thinking in the republican tradition.

(There is something sickening about the lecturing of one side of a conflict, which did not start the conflict, by those writing in safety who have never lived through one thousandth of the suffering of the nationalist community in Northern Ireland.

And when pointing out the reprehensible, it is reprehensible not to point out the sheer scale of the violence dealt out against not just active republicans but the general Catholic population during the Troubles, who were targeted for cold-blooded mass murder by loyalist death squads operating in collusion with the British state. This ugly truth is proven in great detail by Anne Cadwallder's 2013 book Lethal Allies: British Collussion in Ireland.)

McGuinness and Adams, especially, grasped that the issue was not simply which side had greater cause or was responsible for more suffering, but finding a way to resolve the armed conflict so the struggle for republican goals — and to advance the interests of working class people who bore the brunt of the conflict, from all sides — could occur in a peaceful framework.

 As a few commentators have pointed out, there were never *two* Martin McGuinnesses, a violent terrorist first and a peacemaker second. Rather just one with the same goals, who proved willing to adapt strategy and tactics through experience. Adams put it in his speech at McGuinness's funeral:
"There was not a bad Martin McGuinness or a good Martin McGuinness. There was simply a man, like every other decent man or woman, doing his best."
Keep this in mind, then listen to the song again.

The best evidence of that intent — to do his best for the community he came from, lived in, loved and sought to serve as best he could — came with the turn out to McGuinness's funeral. Thousands accompanied his coffin and is made its way down the streets of his beloved Bogside.

McGuinness's funeral, March 23.

Looking at the pictures of McGuinness's tricolour-draped coffin almost lost in the sea of people, I wracked my brains to think of a single living Australian politician whose funeral would generate such a response. I finally concluded a few could — but only to ensure the bastards were definitely dead and buried.

Make no mistake. The town McGuinness loved so well sure loved him back.

"The Town I Loved So Well" may not be a rebel song, but here is one about Joe McDonnell, one of the republican prisoners who died in the 1981 hunger strikers.


'And you dare to call me a terrorist, while you look down your gun...'

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Five covers of Tom Waits you need in your life right now! It will blow your mind in the most amazing way possible!!!



Number four actually gave me chills!!!

Yes that is click bait. I mean, yeah, listening number four on this list gives me fucking chills. Listening to a Tom Waits song always give me chills.

But if just one person is conned into listening to a single Waits song, then the end most certainly justifies even the most irritating means.

And we do need more of the sheer glory that is Tom Waits in our lives. For fuck's sake, Donald Trump is running rampant, the latest climate science is terrifying and the Western Sydney Wanderers are struggling to hold on sixth in the fucking A-League (and don't even mention what allegedly passes for the Wanderers' Asian Champions League campaign).

These, of course, are not simply "Tom Waits songs". They are five great covers I stumbled across while trawling YouTube.

It seems to me that ii is a basic, self-evident truth that Tom Waits is an incredible songwriter. I mean some things are just a fucking given, even in this strange age of alternative facts.

However, I am forced to accept, though I do not pretend to understand, that Tom Waits famed ultra-gravelly voice is something of an "acquired taste" and the voice can put-off for some from enjoying the remarkable storytelling and song-writing craftsmanship of which Waits is one of the greatest practitioners.

Waits voice is actually a tool to express emotion and serve the story telling. There is a sense that Waits just sounds like a Cookie Monster impersonator (or vice versa) , and, yeah, he sometimes does. But his voice is actually quite versatile and used in range of ways, including a sort of falsetto.

A recent New York Times article described Waits' voice, in a somewhat breathlessly OTT way, as:
An instrument of subtle melodic grace and brutal rhythmic power, his voice breeds metaphors as much as it delivers unmistakable sounds. It’s a worn leather bag, a broken chair, a lost dog that has just found his owner, a day without rain, a children’s choir with strep throat and the purest producer of deep feeling I’ve encountered. The last one isn’t a metaphor, I realize. 
More prosaically, Waits has a falsetto and a basso, a holler and a croon. It’s a voice that can take in the full breadth of human experience, on songs like “A Little Rain” or “Last Leaf,” managing, in its gentleness, to find new ways, through story and through image, to put the listener elsewhere, to put them deep inside a song.
Personally, I think as good an example as any as to the value of Waits' voice is his beautifully sweet song to the love of his life, who he was soon married -- 1980's "Jersey Girl". It is a song whose sweetness threatens to  overpower but for the way Waits' voice grounds it, brings the soaring sentiment of love down to Earth.

The beauty of its sentiment is contrasted with the harshness his voice, making it even more moving -- a man whose voice suggests suffering losing himself in the joy of finding true love, itself a love grounded in the very real urban landscape of New Jersey.

(Bruce Springsteen famously made the song a concert standard, and he also knows how to deliver a song like this with just enough dirt to carry it. An example of what happens when you fail to moderate its sweet core is Bon Jovi's horrific cover, which you can check out for purposes of scientific research.)

But... regardless... there are plenty of ways to skin a tale of a broken heart, and these covers all present Waits songs with vocals that serve the stories without grating any poor sensitive eardrums.

On his 2007 Orphans triple album of previously unrecorded tracks, Tom Waits divided his music into the broad categories of "brawlers", "bawlers" and "bastards". Three of these five tracks fall clearly into the "bawlers" category ("Alice", "Hold On" and "New Year's Eve"), which is probably the one on which Waits has most built his songwriting reputation. These are tales of heartache as people ground down by society struggle to find a way to keep on going.

One of the tracks fits pretty clearly into the "brawlers" basket -- "Bad As Me", a raucous tale of joyful sinners from his 2011 album of the same name.

And the other doesn't really fit exactly into these categories. "Clap Hands" is from Waits classic 1985 album Rain Dogs, his album inspired by living in New York, in which he presents the city's streets are overflowing with drunks and weirdos in a surreal dream-scape. The song, and the rendition below (second on the list), captures that pretty well.

Full playlist




Alice


'And so a secret kiss brings madness with the bliss...' 

That line has always struck me. This is beautiful rendition of a song filled with a bittersweet melancholy.

At the start, Evan Ivey, who I know nothing else about, says the song "saved my life". I don't know what prompted her claim, but she is not alone. You can read a moving account by blogger William Henry Prince in which he explains in detail how a Tom Waits song did, in fact, save his life.

There is also a Reddit discussion of people discussing how listening to Waits saved their lives, and I can believe it. Waits certainly makes me want to save this world from the rapidly developing eco-holocaust coz what is the point of achieving something as glorious as Tom Waits' output only for it to be destroyed along with the rest of human civilisation? You can hear Waits' equally spine-tingling original.


Clap Hands


'Said steam, steam, a hundred bad dreams, going up to Harlem with a pistol in his jeans...'

The Dirty Diary's YouTube account has some similarly great versions of other Tom Waits songs, as well as some other impressive dirty blues all recorded in his home. This is not a million miles from the original, but still a stunning effort and, like all five tracks, probably more immediately accessible to someone not already a Waits fan. Hear the original.


Hold On


Down by the Riverside motel
It's ten below and falling
By a ninety-nine cent store
She closed her eyes and started swaying
But it's so hard to dance that way
When it's cold and there's no music...
I have to admit, I did not expect to like to like this as much as I do. The three acts combining for the cover -- Burroughs,  Hi Ho Silver and The Native Siblings -- all seem the kinda middle-class indie kid music that brings out a savage allergic reaction in me that often comes close to requiring hospitalisation.

But... and I don't know anything else about these acts... this is an affecting take on one of Waits' best  heart-wrenching "story" songs. Hear Waits' original.


New Year's Eve

'The stars looked like diamonds, then came the sirens. And everyone started to cuss...'

I had never heard of Madison Ward and the Mama Bear -- a son-and-mother folk duo -- before this very solid cover of a track from Tom Waits 2011 Bad as Me album. It is a story song in a similar vein to  "Hold On" and, in a just world, would be to New Year's Eve what The Pogue's "Fairy Tale of New York" is to Christmas.

It is great cover by an act that, listening to some more from them, definitely seem worth following. And, as I said at the start, their cover gives me chills. Hear the original.


Bad As Me


I'm the one with the gun
Most likely to run
I'm the car in the weeds
If you cut me I'll bleed
You're the same kind of bad as me
FUCK I LOVE SHOVELS AND ROPE! My love of Shovels and Rope rivals my love of Tom Waits, and if you've made it this far into this post you'll grasp how big that praise is for me. I could rant a lot about Shovels and Rope, but that is a topic for another blog post (like this one).

I'll just note their combination of deeply affecting harmonies with the dirt and sweat of rock'n'roll, served up as a raw, dirt stained duo is second to none, performance wise. And here... they dedicate themselves to Tom Waits and produce an energetic, electric cover worthy of The Great Man himself. You can hear the original here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

'Give me a drink!'


'Son of bitch! Get me a drink!'

This truly is a song for our times.

I think here Nathaniel Rateliff from the wonderful soulful R&B combo Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats speaks for all of us right now. I dare say anyone who tried watching Donald Trump's latest surrealist performance art/press conference, caught up on the latest climate science, or even just had the misfortune of watching the ridiculous so-called performance the Western Sydney Wanderers put on to lose 2-0 at home to the Central Coast Mariners, for fuck's sake.

Jesus fuck, get me another drink.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Banning gingers from power? Tough, but fair


This is a tough call.

This placard appeared at Sydney's refugee rights demonstration on February 5, called in response to bickering between the Orange Freak and the Australian government over a deal to illegally traffic desperate human beings from the isolated, offshore, torture camps Australia holds them in to the United States of America, where brown people are, like, not exactly fucking loved right now.

It makes a controversial point. In the interests of full disclosure, I am obliged to point out I am, actually, one of them.

I am a ginger. A ranga. One of "the Orange People". A carrot-topped possessor of some fire-crotched Fanta pants. (Actually... maybe just pretend I didn't refer to my own crotch on this blog and we'll all sleep better at night.)

This is a sensitive issue for me. A life-long history of savage bigotry, of the sort it is hard to bring myself to even describe... but... and a trigger warning to victims of gingerphobia... but it includes a childhood in which ... god this is hard... but it includes a childhood in which I was repeatedly called "Bluey".

This despite the fact that I was, and indeed am, demonstrably not "blue" in any way. My hair colour is clearly orange, of the sort popularly called "red".

Too little research has been carried out into the long-term affects of such demonstratably false nicknames being applied to innocent children, too young to comprehend the social context... but I can only assume my long record of sustained adult (and teenage, let's be honest) alcohol abuse must at root be tied back to this false characterisation of my hair colour.

My point is... the rise of Donald Trump has brought with it a terrifying rise in hate. For instance, the very day after he won the elections, I personally witnessed a clear cut example of Trump-fuelled hate right here in Sydney!

Yes! An angry Mexican abused me just coz I'm orange!

He saw me, came right up and angrily pointed his finger as he almost spat out the phrase, "Your people!"

My first response, when I got over the shock, was like, "Hey dude! #NotAllGingers, yeah? Like #GingerLivesMatter!"

But then... once I calmed down and thought it through... I was forced to admit the prick had a point.

And so does that placard.

Because there is something us Orange People don't talk about much, even among ourselves. And it is that we have always known, deep down, if we are willing to admit it, that a ginger would destroy the planet.

It is just one of those things. Of course it would be a fucking ranga.

We are just broken somewhere deep inside.Whether from the schoolyard abuse or some deep flaw in the DNA that produces the deformity that is red hair... I cannot say. But yeah. A fucking ranga. Just fucking had to be.

That protest placard is a tough call, yes, but fair. Ban all orange people from holding any office now. Except maybe in Scotland, otherwise they'd never find enough bastards to fill their devolved parliament.


Down by the Riverside motel
It's ten below and falling
By a ninety-nine cent store
She closed her eyes and started swaying
But it's so hard to dance that way
When it's cold and there's no music
Oh, your old hometown's so far away
But inside your head there's a record that's playing
This bears no relation to the rest of the post, it is just you can't get enough Tom Waits.