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Write Here, Write Now: 10.16 – Kyrie

David Fanshawe – Kyrie (African Sanctus)

Quite often I will call my children in for lunch or supper and they are so absorbed in their Playmobil world, that I don’t think they are being rude in not coming to the kitchen, they have just got themselves so involved with the characters and the stories they are creating, that they just don’t hear me or register the meanings of the words. I may be being charitable, but it seems to take them a few repeated requests to respond and join us.

I mention that in relation to tonight’s song because, back in 1978, David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus received one of its world premieres at Worcester Cathedral and our family had tickets to go and see it. My friend wasn’t interested in it at all, and back then I didn’t fully appreciate the appeal of the innovative combination of African and other world music with classical and Christian choral music. However, I was intrigued enough even back then to want to go.

But then my dad found out that David Fanshawe was giving a talk a few days before the concert – would I go with him to hear? At the time he asked me, a few hours before the talk was to start, I was deeply involved, with my friend, in some Lego construction project, with pieces spread out all over the floor. My friend wasn’t interested and I was torn between staying and going. It might have been worth a listen, but I was too absorbed in what I was doing to tear myself away.

I don’t know if, had I gone, David Fanshawe would have made a big impression on me. The music was I think fun enough, a bit like the instrumental ‘Zambezi’ probably would have been my honest reaction back then. What I remember was the internal conflict about the talk. In the mid 80s I decided I would go with my dad to the ETH in Zürich to witness a talk by an English physicist with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The fairly unknown Stephen Hawking made a reasonable impression on me with his pre-Brief History talk for science novices, so maybe I learned from my mistake, or maybe they balanced each other out. I think now, whenever an opportunity comes up to try something new, I do try to grasp it with both hands and enjoy the experience.

As to this song, it is magical in the way it glides from muezzin’s call to choir’s song, then meanders between the two, no false notes between the two, before fading.


Write Here, Write Now: 10.14 – Friends

Led Zeppelin – Friends. “looking for what I knew

The third Led Zep album. I remember one of the sisters of my friend had this LP, complete with the rotating volvelle. It was intriguing as it seemed less straight ahead rock, and more pastoral/acoustic in the overall style.

There comes a point in trying to remember a friendship that was some 40 years in the past, however pivotal, that the striking memories and the broader recollection of character, the emotional associations, the environmental context have been described and I find myself wondering if that was all there is is left of the 5-10 years we knew each other – flickering mental images? Not even conversations, but vague ideas of what he brought out in me, filtered through and shaded by so many encounters since those days.

I don’t remember us listening to particular songs, just that there are record sleeves and cassette inlays that stir up mud from the pond of my deep memories. But listening to Friends now, there are resonances and associations triggered that seem valid to draw attention to.

The greatest thing you ever can do now, is trade a smile with someone who’s blue now

My friend died in sad circumstances. Our life paths and choices had taken us far away from each other in the decades since I left Worcestershire. I’d lost touch with almost everything about him, and he would have been a very different person than the boy I knew. There is very little chance that I could have made a difference. Many people pass through our lives, and we pass through the lives of many others in our turn. Some relationships, connections, exchanges will inevitably be shorter-lasting than others. And yet, seeing a video of him shortly after I’d heard the bad news, there was something of the friend I knew in the expression on his face, the intonation of his voice and and particularly the look in his eyes. Early years form the core of who we are and that remains like the central tree ring in the trunk of our ever-developing being.  Of course now it is idle speculation, but who knows what long-forgotten connections would have been reactivated if, for some reason, we’d found our ways into each other’s lives again.

It’s very easy just…

Knowing the right thing to do, having the courage to reach beyond the normal patterns of behaviour, finding the right words to say at the apposite time. Sometimes I feel these things are beyond me. There have been several times over the years when a passivity on my part, a lack of understanding of what the other person is going through, a selfish or thoughtless choice of action have left me wondering if I had acted differently, the person involved might still be alive. Again, idle speculation – in the end, we all go.

And yet some things stay the same. It strikes me how amazing that the song I am listening to now is exactly the same pattern of sound waves as was the case when listening to it back in the seventies, almost as if it was a portal to a previous era.

It’s not, and the past cannot be changed. But it does no harm to try to remember and celebrate those we used to know.

Write Here, Write Now: 10.12 – Another Monty Python Record

Monty Python – Another Monty Python Record

As a break from all the heavy rock/metal, another record that we used to play so often that we knew it off by heart. This was long before we saw the films or the repeats of the TV series.

Listening to it now, phrases come back almost before they are uttered right from the first apology. I’m reminded how we liked it so much that we made our own sketches with silly voices on cassette.

There was so much more to it than just silly voices, of course. Crude humour, high brow references dropped , songs, puns, abrupt ends to and starts to sketches, drama, satire of British TV and radio done believably and with confidence.

Many of the references soared way over my head back then. I had no experience of the originals that were being ripped to shreds, nor of the character archetypes that exist in British culture as much now (in other forms) as they did in the late 60s, early 70s.

That doesn’t matter because almost all of the sketches are just funny in their own right. Also, now I get more than I did then, and the jokes come thick and fast, even through the longer sketches.

Write Here, Write Now: 8.8 – Dilema

Los tradicionales de Carlos Puebla – Dilema

Another track from the Coffee Lands CD. But whereas that one was by a full-voiced charismatic man in the middle of life, this is from an elderly Cuban who doesn’t seem to sing on the track at all.

It’s got a lovely easy guitar melody playing throughout and a double bass being thumbed in the background together with mild percussion. In fact the guitar melody probably is Puebla’s voice, pausing where it is not needed, making space for the sung words, or indulging in sweet guitar acrobatics, sedate, genteel and never outstaying their welcome.

The words are a puzzle. Basically, stop crying. Here, have a handkerchief – wipe your face. The dilemma of the title is – do I say these things to the crying person or not? An unusual pairing with the music underneath, it’s like my gran is singing the song, ready with a handkerchief and a bit of spit to clean off the muck on my face.

Write Here, Write Now: 8.23 – Justify a Whole Lotta Love

Wax Audio –  Justify a Whole Lotta Love. The song doesn’t remain the same, eh readers?

Madonna takes on John, John-Paul, Jimmy and Robert. Though there’s not much of the Bonham beat in this track.

With an opening snarl from Percy, the track quickly builds up a rhythm that keeps going throughout the song. Jimmy’s riff makes an appearance, tautly captured in little bursts. before returning to more words from the Led Zep frontman as he struts the stage with his stuff like a preening cockerel. The Justify my Love synths play as consistently through the track as the rhythm and are pretty much the only reminder that it’s not just a Led Zep song put to the visuals from a Madonna video.

That is until the elapse of a full 2 minutes when we first hear from Madge -as if she’s expecting foreplay before she performs. Languorously, lasciviously and completely in control, she sings four lines of her chorus, before letting Plant off the lease for a lot of vocal acrobatics accompanied by the grumbling rubble of Page’s guitar.

Every now and then Madonna steps up to the mike to remind us she’s still there, but the strength of her role in this mash up seems to be the absence of her singing. As if she’S rationing out her presence –  a little bit of Ciccone goes a long way to drive the English boys wild, but wild in a way she wants it – marshalled by the taut and volume limited rhythm of the track to give great traction towards the track’s climax.

I think it is a great pairing. Whole Lotta Love is a real cliche that I have heard too many times in the same order. This track takes some of the amazing vocals and instrumental playing  and freshens them up in a new setting. As for Justify My Love, Led Zep jab a big cable of fizzing electrons deep into its nether regions and reanimate its decaying husk.

Mashups – a way to reinvigorate the  listening pleasures of a jaded palette dried out by too much half listening to the same old rock.

Write Here, Write Now: 8.18 – Relax Billie Jean

MsBlueCat – Relax Billie Jean. “The Best of three” – sometimes, the easy path is the best.

Nothing very sophisticated or complicated about this mash-up, that is pretty much Billie Jean with a few frills thrown in from Frankie and Deep(ie). And there’s nothing wrong with that. Like a warm bath, there are few surprises, but a pleasurable immersion in familiar sounds, albeit placed in slightly unexpected places to tease and mildly surprise.

The Billie Jean bassline and drumbeat bumping along in the background make for a nice bouncing musical bed. And what delightful bedfellows we have – lots of space around Michael’s taut vocals for calming interjections from Holly – “Relax (Michael)” and occasional samples of that oh-so-familiar riff from Ritchie.

This is no longer a song about unwanted pregnancies, delayed sexual pleasure or arson, it is a neutered and meaningless paean to chilling out and dancing. And what’s wrong with that?


Write Here, Write Now: 7.4 – Frontier

Dead Can Dance – Frontier. “I see the proud man”.

I was intrigued to see that this Dead Can Dance song came up when I typed frontier into my music search. (It was that or The Corrs, The Avalanches or Loop Guru). In some ways younger than Donald Fagen, in other ways much older – in the music influences they pursue. One a maximalist music production, the other much more still and focussed around a few austere instruments.

Deep humming and drumming on an old can with knee bells chinking is what the opening sounds like. Then the singing starts – what sounds like Cocteau-like made-up words actually have meaning.

I like the tin can battering, together with the distant hammering ,  it contrasts nicely with the haunted cathedral acoustic humming. On this occasion, Liza Gerrard’s vocals don’t do anything for me.

How might the two songs relate? Well, I suppose the Dead Can Dance one could be from the woman’s perspective on the morning after the night before with Donald.

“The bloodstains on the floor.
He left, he’s left.
He’s gone today,
He’s gone back”

That would match with what I’ve heard of the sleazy reputation of Steely Dan, even if it is mere coincidence.

Musically, the more I listen to the Dead Can Dance track, the more Fondly I remember the Donald Fagen song for the lasting impression that the complex interweaving instruments left after multiple listens. Like many Dead Can Dance songs, it’s good to have in the air around, creating an instant atmosphere. But the impression fades as soon as the track ends. I like the band, but more their later stuff, particularly Aion.