Saturday 31 July 2010
Thursday 29 July 2010
I WANT SOME
I remember bringing home John Lennon's album 'Imagine' from Savins music shop in town, then playing it on the old Hi Fidelity record player and being blown away by each and every track. This one in particular, 'Gimme Some Truth' struck a chord with my rebel heart which at that time was crying out for some real answers. While Lennon articulated well the heart cry for truth, the life-changing answer for me was to come from another source and words spoken over two thousand years ago. I still love this song and relate to the energy and anger at everything smooth and phoney that seeks to sap the spirit out of us in these trying times.
Friday 23 July 2010
An 8-year-old girl went to her dad, who was working in the yard. She asked him, "Daddy, what is sex?"
The father was surprised that she would ask such a question, but decides that if she is old enough to ask the question, then she is old enough to get a straight answer. He proceeded to tell her all about the "birds and the bees."
When he finished explaining, the little girl was looking at him with her mouth hanging open. The father asked her, "Why did you ask this question?"
The little girl replied, "Mum told me to tell you that dinner would be ready in just a couple of secs."
Monday 19 July 2010
In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song - sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads - and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet". This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.
When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song - 13 bars in length - formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.
I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism.
The piece was originally recorded on Brian Eno's Obscure label in 1975 and a substantially revised and extended version for Point Records in 1993. The version which is played by my ensemble was specially created in 1993 to coincided with this last recording.
Wednesday 14 July 2010
I suppose that for most of us thoughts of our own mortality only arise when we come into close contact with death or illness. The passing of a loved one certainly underlines the fact that not even the fittest of us will stride this earth forever and we may reflect as to what mark we have made on this world during our short duration here. Recently I was engaged in finalising the inscription for my uncle Frank’s headstone, which will mark his final resting place at Kilquane cemetery. Frank was of the opinion that after death we are buried in the ground and that is that, no afterlife, no final judgement by a Divine being, no complications…you live, you die and that is the end
What is left then are the memories enshrined in the people who remain, good and bad. of the deceased. This scenario always struck me as being particularly bleak and what an anticlimax to a life lived well with all its multitude of ideas and actions, dreams and relationships. To envisage such an existence just snuffed out like a candle flame. defies our inner instinct of continuation and immortality. Take a great figure like Beethoven, was his death the full and final stop to such a rich and productive life, did his indomitable spirit simply bow out as his body folded in death ? Something tells me no, there is no sense in it all if we live our three score years and ten and then just shuffle off this mortal coil into a great cosmic void. Finding suitable words for Frank’s headstone had to ensure, to be true to what he believed ,that there would be no suggestion of continuation or a religious reference in the epitaph. At last I decided on a couplet from Michael Hogan’s (the Bard of Thomond) epic poem ‘ The Story of Drunken Thady' where he is addressing the subject of the Bishop’s Lady’s sudden demise. Hogan wrote, “An echo roused upon the hill / Dies in the wind, and all is still.” These lines convey the abruptness of a life interrupted and the unbearable silence of absence afterwards.
In Frank’s case we have lots of warm memories of the man and his life but even these will diminish as memory fades and those left behind themselves bow out. Shakespeare summed up our mortal countdown well when he wrote, “Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,/ So do our minutes hasten to their end…” Fine words indeed that convey the sweeping away of our lives by the inevitable march of Time. Jesus also spoke about death and saw it not as the end but a beginning of a different quality of life, eternal life ! He spoke many beautiful words but He uniquely backed them up with a power and an authority that confounded even his critics. Outside the tomb of Lazarus He simply said, “Lazarus come out” and his deceased friend came back from the dead. He described Himself as the Resurrection and the Life and firmly promised His followers that if they
believed in Him they would never die !
There are countless poems and human reflections that may comfort us in times of bereavement and loss but Jesus’ clear and emphatic statements alone offer real and tangible hope of a life that outlasts this one . Above every religious creed and every philosophical argument the simple Nazarene signed, sealed and delivered a new and eternal life through His life, death and resurrection from the dead. Talk is cheap and often cold comfort when we are stricken by the sting of loss and separation, for these times we need the reliable word of One who has been there and lives again to guide us home. Jesus lived a life of service to others driven by love, He hung on the cross for our sins held there by love and He ultimately conquered death and hell by the power of love. His love is true and sure, He does not fail or waver, we can place our fragile life in His and trust Him to do what He has promised - to give us eternal life. The old argument against the assurance of an afterlife, that nobody has come back to tell us, is wrong. Jesu died and did exactly that three days later, the only definitive word we have is His. as the Bible describes it, "He tasted death for us" (Hebrews 2:9)
My teacher told me to write you a letter. But there’s no point because you know everything there is to know already.
So you know what I’m thinking anyhow.
Calvin ( from Boston, but you knew that )
Monday 5 July 2010
The omens weren’t good leading up to the day. A duo playing at the Strand hotel on the eve of the gig assiduously avoided any music by the man and when a request for same was shouted up by a member of the audience the reply was arrogance and smart alec-ism personified, “ Yeah if you want to hear him he’s playing in Thomond Park tomorrow” Later in more contrite mode he elaborated, “I was actually going to do some Dylan tonight but I left it at home”. What he left at home wasn’t exactly clear, presumably the lyrics ! Hard to think that any musician worthy of the name could not rustle up a few bars of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ off the top of his head ! Later I met a mother and daughter who had travelled from Leeds just to see Bob Dylan perform the last engagement of his European tour at Thomond Park here in Limerick city. The mam was a die hard fan and daughter a regular Glastonbury head and aspiring Dylan fan, this was a sort of musical coming-of-age pilgrimage for her.
Sunday 4 th of July dawned grey and windy, more Autumn than Summer and once again the omens were looking less that favourable. Mags and I walked the short distance from Ardhu to the rugby ground joining a trickle of people on the same mission and took our seats on the East Sand. Our tickets were for the West stand but that was closed off, presumably because ticket sales had been less than anticipated. A stiff westerly wind tore through the Stand as proceedings kicked off with local band ‘The Last Days of Death Country’ whose lead singer comes from Pallaskenry, Mags’ neck of the woods. They played their hearts out to a small but enthusiastic band of supporters who had gathered on the pitch just in front of the stage. They sounded fresh and energetic and I would definitely like to hear them again. Despite the biting cold weather the onset of the music lifted the spirits and for the first time I thought this could be a cracker! Next on stage was ‘Aabama 3’ ,who were superb with their rap/hip hop collection and more than a few Gospel references thrown in. Great soulfull anthems to warm the body and bless the soul. ‘Seasick Steve’ was up next and rocked the stage with old time Blues riffs and down home spun philosophy. With just a drummer he rocked the crowd and produced a startlingly full sound that filled the stadium. Al the while the weather was blowing hot and cold with clouds clearing for spasmodic bursts of sunshine and the threat of rain always imminent.
David Gray then did his thing, and I must confess his performance left me cold and was the only dud note in the musical line up of the day. At around 8 pm every seat had been occupied and the stage side crowd had swelled as Bob Dylan entered the arena. The sun that had been playing hide and seek all afternoon now shone brilliantly making it difficult to see the band on stage, using the hand as a shield one could just about make out the black suited troubadour complete with a beige coloured trilby. While visually the sun dipping into the West almost obliterated the view of Bob, acoustically the 69 year old songster dominated the stadium with his distinctive raspy voice and arresting lyrics. And it seemed that Mr Dylan was in good form. As he sang for nearly two hours and reprieved many of his old classics like, ‘Blowin In The Wind’, ‘Lay Lady Lay’ and a somewhat changed version of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. He wasn’t in a hurry to leave and responded to an ovation by the 18.000 crowd to return and sing another handful of songs. This was a great performance by the song master and it was heartening for an oldster like me to see the generous mix of youth and age gathered together to soak in the living musical legend that is Bob Dylan. What finer way to spend American Independence Day than with one of her finest sons.
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
Lay, Lady, Lay
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
Just Like A Woman
Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
Tangled Up In Blue
Rollin' And Tumblin'
Tryin' To Get To Heaven
Cold Irons Bound
Highway 61 Revisited
Workingman's Blues #2
Thunder On The Mountain
Ballad Of A Thin Man
Like A Rolling Stone
I Feel A Change Comin' On
Blowin' In The Wind
Saturday 3 July 2010
My sleeping children are still flying dreams
in their goose-down heads.
The lush of the river singing morning songs
Fish watch their ceilings turn sun-white.
The grey-green pike lances upstream
Kale, like mermaid's hair
points the water's drift.
All is morning hush
and bird beautiful.
I didn't have flu