Songs that can change a life #4

This IS kind of funny.  Especially the part about the Leafs…

Haven’t done one of these in too long…

I love music (in case you weren’t aware) and I have to admit that I sometimes over-gravitate to the same old songs (emphasis on old). This isn’t to say that I don’t listen to and appreciate new music- but there are certain songs that truly are like old friends.

The beauty of the Shuffle Daemon is that it brings these old friends back into my life when it’s been a while since we last hung out. The other day, as I waited for the metaphysical enigma that is the King streetcar, the SD reminded me that I hadn’t visited this old buddy in far too long.

Once upon a time a week wouldn’t have passed by without me giving it a listen. Seriously, some of my friends still hear this tune and think of me. It’s another of those story songs that I so adore. It tells the story- based in a particular time and place- of a town in economic collapse and the social conundrums that result.

And it’s The Jam.  N.B. The ‘posters’ in the video: “Anti Complacency League! Baby!” and “If we aint getting through to you- you obviously aint listening!”  I concur.  3 wonderful, jam- (and Jam-) packed minutes.

While I waited for that most elusive of streetcars (seriously- where do they go? At least 10 passed by in the other direction in the 20 (!) minutes I stood waiting. They have to turn around sometime. Don’t they?!?!  And who, exactly, decides that they should be short turning during rush hours when there are dozens of people fighting for standing room on the ONE car that is actually permitted to complete its route in its entirety? Yeah, we don’t need a better-functioning public transportation system downtown at all, do we Mayor McCheese? Useless subways in Scarborough are far more important…), those opening notes (in a live version I picked up somewhere) came over the headphones.

Not only is it peppy and catchy and undeniably well-constructed, it’s also experience-based recollection and social commentary that still rings authentic and important. Once again, more than 30 years after the fact (stuck in the 80’s this week.  Mea culpa).

The Jam were representative of the melding of punk, new wave, and mod revival that came out of the UK in the late 70s-early 80s. Based out of Woking, Surrey, they combined the anger that fueled punk rock with the stylish R&B and tailored appearance of 60s mods, and, like the Kinks (as I’ve said repeatedly) emphasized their Britishness through the subject matter of their songs.  They focused on issues that affected their working class backgrounds- in the community from which they hailed- and the social problems they saw in their travels across the UK as they played the clubs.

Paul Weller has crafted some of my veryvery favourite songs, ever.  (My Ever Changing Moods from his Style Council days, not to mention You’re the Best Thing… listen to them.  Seriously.)

Town Called Malice recalls his teenage years in Woking, part of the Greater London Urban Area.  The title of the song is a play on the 1950 novel by Nevil Shute, A Town Like Alice, although Paul had not read the book before writing the song.

The novel is, in part, about its heroine’s attempts to bring economic prosperity to a small town in the Australian outback, turning it into a ‘town like Alice (Springs)’.

Being an eminently talented wordsmith- and British to boot (the Brits are so wonderfully adept at word play- especially when it comes to ‘sounds like’ constructions and rhyming slang.  Sight tangent: I came up with the ‘subtitle’ of this little blog o’ mine- ‘Made of the Myth’- after having heard a news story about the ‘Maid of the Mist’- those tourist boats that take you up close and personal with the glory of Niagara Falls.  To this day, the ONE person who picked up on that is a British buddy of mine- who cottoned on immediately.  Such a way with the language, our British brothers and sisters…aaaaaand we’re back), Paul was more about connecting the rhythm of the book’s title with that of his creation- and the shared concept of towns facing hard economic times.

As a legal term, malice refers to intention- either expressed or implied- to do harm to another.  Now I’m no lawyer (understatement, that), but according to Wikipedia/Pythia: ‘In any statutory definition of a crime, malice must be taken… as requiring either: 1) an actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was done; or 2) recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not (i.e. the accused has foreseen that the particular kind of harm might be done and yet has gone on to take the risk…).’

Recklessness.  Hmmm.

‘Better stop dreaming of the quiet life
‘Cause it’s the one we’ll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus
‘Cause those rosy days are few

And stop apologizing for the things you’ve never done
‘Cause time is short and life is cruel but it’s up to us to change
This town called Malice…

…The atmosphere’s a fine blend of ice I’m almost stone cold dead

…A whole street’s belief in Sunday’s roast beef
Gets dashed against the Co-op
To either cut down on beer or the kids’ new gear
It’s a big decision in a town called Malice.

The ghost of a steam train – echoes down my track
It’s at the moment bound for nowhere –
Just going round and round

Playground kids and creaking swings
Lost laughter in the breeze
I could go on for hours and I probably will
But I’d sooner put some joy back in this town called Malice’

Standing on that street corner in the freezing cold, waiting for the public transportation- a ‘hot button’ election topic- to show up, those lyrics echoed in ways they have never done before (and, as I’ve said, I’ve know the song by heart for over three decades).

Reckless malice.

Since Ford is determined to continue playing the Media Star, at least he is admitting that the new YouTube programme is nothing more than a glory-seeking, extended campaign ad.  Okay, maybe he didn’t say that exactly… He is welcoming questions from ‘all around the world’- and most of them are concerned with the sideshow that he has become, internationally.

Gotta say, I’d really prefer a mayor who is more concerned with the state of our city and its citizens than with shoring up his image and reinforcing his narcissistic need to ensure that the spotlight remains focused on him and his own deluded self-image and -importance.

The rights to Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, by Toronto Star reporter Robyn Doolittle (one of the three journalists to first view the ‘crack video’), have been sold and will likely be made into a film.  Setting aside what I may or may not think of Doolittle, I am outraged that it seems to be acceptable to be keeping this guy’s name and image in the media.

National ‘newspapers‘ are already casting the film.  We are continuing to reinforce his lack of judgement, self-serving and unsupported sound bites, and his knowingly reckless behaviour.  And I’m not just talking about the shit (yes, I said ‘shit’- I’m PISSED OFF) he pulls in his ‘private life’.  Believe me, waiting for the 504 streetcar on Sunday, I had a loooooong time to think about his ‘transit plan’ and the mess that he has made worse in the three years since he was elected to run the city.

He is at least as big a train wreck politically as he is personally.  THAT seems to be getting lost with the spotlight being continually shone upon his antics.  He is not a clown.  He is not a ‘celebrity’.  He is the elected leader of the largest city in Canada and he has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to uphold the responsibilities of that role.

If we are to be subjected to this buffoon on all varietals of media between now and October (and then, hopefully never again), how’s about we pay closer attention to the truth of the matter than the sensational circus of shame.

Expressed or implied intent to do harm.  Foreseeing that harm will be done, and recklessly charging ahead regardless.

Sounds like Malice to me.

We’re ‘at the moment bound for nowhere- just going round and round.’

‘It’s up to us to change this town called Malice.’

Listen up, fellow Torontonians.  Join the Anti-Complacency League.


PS-  From the ridiculous to the sublime… this is making headlines all over my news feeds- especially those that come from my beloved Royal Ontario Museum.  The discovery really has nothing to do with this post- nor with the stuff I usually talk about- except that it is demonstration (if further remains necessary) that destroying our natural wonders for the sake of economic expediency also leads to the destruction of all those things buried beneath the surface of this here world of ours- natural AND of human origin- that help to tell our stories.  Can’t wait to check out the previously unknown species!

15 comments on “Songs that can change a life #4

  1. Wow! I can’t tell you what a shock it was to come across a video of The Jam. And this song, to boot. I saw Paul Weller perform this acoustically in Boston in the early ’90s. What a voice. And what a song. I was too young/too out of touch to realize the problems the UK was going through in the 1970s, but I can listen to The Jam, The Clash and a few other talented groups and get a real feel for the despair that likely pervaded life in the dirty industrial cities and crumbling outlying areas.

    Like you, there once was time when a day didn’t go by when I didn’t listen to The Jam, but decades later I still know not only the words to most every song, but every voice intonation, guitar chord and drum roll.

    I have a friend, who I haven’t seen in decades, but who also loved The Jam, who once said one of his visions of heaven included it being like a giant concert. All the bands that you liked were in their prime and playing, and you could go from stage to stage as you pleased. I’m not sure the church fathers would see it this way, and we may have been gooned up on liquor when he was telling me this, but it was a nice thought.

    Anyhoo, thanks for putting a good song back in my head.

    • colemining says:

      CBC! I know! The fact that the songs are as reflective of current situations is both sad (for all of us living in those situations) and demonstrative of the power that music retains. The songs are both timely and timeless. And Paul has one of those voices that is like an old friend to me- immediately recognizable and consistently welcomed with gratitude and everlasting fondness.

      I hadn’t seen the video in ages until I went looking for it to link- the posters and the sense of alienation/despair AND searching for positive action were so completely resonant with how I was feeling- in Toronto, in 2014… I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of the song in so long. Toronto is on the slippery slope to becoming that town called Malice- and it’s making me crazy.

      That sounds like heaven to me. Truly. I think I’d like your friend. The bands I’d like to see in eternal rotation? What a wonderful list that would be.

      Thanks for reading- glad I could reintroduce you to our mutual old friend!

  2. Denmother & Helen says:

    Spreading some heavy like your way today, Colemining. Heading out to the streets of Toronto now as a matter of fact. Happy drug-free Valentine’s Day! (well, I can’t speak for Ford)

    • colemining says:

      Thank DM and Helen! Will be hitting those same streets once I’m released from work- perhaps our paths will cross. Mayor McCheese will be out for a steak dinner (according to his latest radio interview)- so I will avoid steak houses (and Etobicoke) and remain untainted by his heinous presence. Enjoy the day!

  3. LindaGHill says:

    Can’t Rob Ford be impeached or something? If I followed the news more closely, I’d probably already know the answer to that question. 😛

    • colemining says:

      I’m just afraid that he’ll be re-elected.

      • LindaGHill says:

        Torontonians wouldn’t, surely!

      • colemining says:

        Oh Linda- TORONTONIANS wouldn’t, but there’s no telling what the suburbanites might do. Polls are saying he’d still get 35% of votes- or something equally ridiculous. Hoping that a strong and UNIFYING candidate declares SOON so we can move forward from this terrible period in our history.

      • colemining says:

        Yes. And I’m not sure that it’s avoidable. Toronto Life has a great article about the lines of ideological/political division in the city. I appreciate gaining the perspective offered by the writers, but I’m not sure how we overcome the realities and get to the point where we can all work together. That’s going to require a strong and charismatic leader- and I’m not sure that there is anyone out there capable of turning around the shitstorm that has resulted from the Ford Family Circus.

      • LindaGHill says:

        Run yourself? 😀

      • colemining says:

        I thought about it, Linda- even went to City Hall for a ‘become a candidate’ meeting. The system is just too dysfunctional- as are our current councillors. I seriously can’t see myself keeping sane while trying to work within an environment in which rants and lies and a complete lack of respect and decency have become the norm.

        And I don’t have family money, like some council members, to be able to focus the requisite time to run an effective campaign. Plus, I’d never win. I’m too ‘downtown elite’ to play in the ‘burbs.

        Maybe a few years down the road I’ll reconsider. But, for the moment, I’ll have to figure out other ways to work for the betterment of my hometown.

      • LindaGHill says:

        At least you understand your own strengths and weaknesses. I wish you the best of luck should you decide to go for it. 🙂

      • colemining says:

        Thanks, Linda. I think I first need to figure out a way to promote active and positive discussion- as opposed to polarizing debate- in the larger community before throwing my hat into a political ring. We shall see.

  4. […] I love my hometown. I talk about it quite a lot. Here, for instance. Or here. […]

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