Songs to Learn and Sing

So… today is another one of those examples of polarization that I keep talking about.

Ostensibly about love, do a quick internet search and you will be presented with at least as many posts about how Valentine’s Day suuuuucks as you will find links to the ‘perfect gift/thought/outing’ to plan for/with a special someone.

Flipping back through what I’ve written the past while, I can’t help but notice an extremely un-cole-like preponderance of negativity and cynicism overshadowing my thoughts and the words I’ve felt compelled to share here on the WordPress.  So while I could (and almost did) write something about how this ‘Hallmark holiday’ is nothing more than yet another example of the hyper-commercialism of society and one of the many things that keeps us distracted from stuff we need to be thinking about, I’ve decided that it’s past time to lighten the hell up a little, and view the day in light of ‘best intentions’ and the celebration of the many forms of love in this life to which we should be paying daily attention.

We humans are social animals and we gravitate to one another for a variety of reasons- whether biological, emotional, philosophical, intellectual or otherwise.  This basic commonality is reflected in our myths and music.  It pervades February 14th and has become associated with, strictly, couple-y love (in the high Middle Ages the day was about courtly love- which had little to do with things like love within the bonds of marriage and more with those rules of chivalry that Don Quixote tried so hard to re-introduce) rather than love of a more general and all-encompassing sort.

I think this emphasis represents a missed opportunity.

Here in Ontario we have a long weekend ahead of us (thank goodness!) with Monday being the ‘Family Day’ statutory holiday.  Arriving in tandem with all the pink/red flowers, hearts, candy and cutesy teddy bears, we can take the opportunity to stop for a little bit and focus on the existence of love- in all its manifestations- than can be experienced as we travel these roads together.

I let the Shuffle Daemon take the wheel (since it has been brilliantly returning absent friends to me lately) and find me some tunes that speak to this theme of love-in-general that we need to get working for us.

I wrote about this guy- and mentioned this song in passing- the other day.  I think it’s one of my favourite being-in-love songs ever.  Straightforward and real.

‘I could be discontent and chase the rainbow’s end
I might win much more but lose all that is mine
I could be a lot but I know I’m not
I’m content just with the riches that you bring
I might shoot to win and commit the sin
Of wanting more than I’ve already got
I could run away but I’d rather stay
In the warmth of your smile lighting up my day
(the one that makes me say, heh)

‘Cause you’re the best thing that ever happened to me or my world
You’re the best thing that ever happened – so don’t go away

I might be a king and steal my people’s things
But I don’t go for that power crazy way
All that I could rule but I don’t check for fools
All that I need is to be left to live my way
(say listen what I say)’

Little Stevie Winwood.  The hope/assertion of fact in this song is just so veryvery human.

‘Think about it, there must be higher love
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above
Without it, life is wasted time
Look inside your heart, I’ll look inside mine
Things look so bad everywhere
In this whole world, what is fair?
We walk blind, we try to see
Falling behind in what could be’

Some people might interpret this song as being about the supernatural love of a deity somewhere.  Steve might even have meant it to be about that.  One of the great and beautiful things about music is its interpretability.  I think it’s about that human-to-human connection we all need.

‘Worlds are turning and we’re just hanging on
Facing our fear and standing out there alone
A yearning, and it’s real to me
There must be someone who’s feeling for me’

Interpret as you will.  I saw him at Maple Leaf Gardens when he toured this album.  Man, can that guy sing.

I love that movie.  And when Lulu sings the title song to Sidney Poitier/Mr. Thackery… my poor teacher’s heart overflows.  It’s a wonderful and innocent reminder of the impact that we make as we pass through the lives of others.

‘The time has come
For closing books; and long last looks must end
And as I leave,
I know that I am leaving my best friend
A friend who taught me right from wrong,
And weak from strong — that’s a lot to learn
What — what can I give you in return?
If you wanted the moon,
I would try to make a start… but I
Would rather you let me give my heart
To Sir, With Love’

I know, I know.  I write about these guys a lot.  How can you not?

It’s about family love and lessons and the reciprocity of both.

Although I could go on and on and on… Should dash and get my plans for the weekend started.  But there’s time for one final tune…

‘In a hand painted night, me and Gypsy Scotty are partners
At the Hotel Flamingo, wearing black market shoes
This loud Cuban band is crucifying John Lennon
No one wants to be lonely, no one wants to sing the blues

She’s perched like a parrot on his tuxedo shoulder
Christ, what she’s doing with him?  She could be
Dancing with me’

Ah, Mellencamp.  This tune just makes me smile all over.  It’s a buddy/road trip song about adventures shared and bumps in the road overcome (and Matthew McConaughey is in the video).  The line about the ‘Cuban band crucifying John Lennon’ is one of my favourite lyrics EVER.

Let’s all get some of that love thing made manifest this weekend- whether it’s in the company of that one special person, your family, friends, furry children, or sent across the wide world in representation of love for and pride in our home and native land- and those doing us proud at them there Olympic Games (I know, I said I wasn’t interested, and I have yet to watch any events/coverage, but between the medal count and the fact that our athletes/coaches/fans are making my proud Canadian heart sing… it’s hard to stay Grinch-y about it all).

Happy Valentine’s Day/Family Day/We-are-human-and-we-love.  It’s-what-we-do Day.

PS- I stole the title for the post from an Echo and Bunnymen Greatest Hits compilation.  The Shuffle Daemon didn’t see fit to add them to the mix, but I thank them for the inspiration, nonetheless.

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.

Please.

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!