“Fools” said I, “You do not know”

I published my last post on July 6th. Soon after that I went on vacation and I told myself that I wouldn’t write for that whole week but that I’d get back to it soon after that, it’s been over a month. It’s not writer´s block, it’s laziness, the thing that this blog was meant to help me overcome. I wanted this blog to force me to write and for a couple of months it did just that, but the moment I took a break getting back into the habit has proven quite difficult. So I thought that, given the nature of this blog, the best way to get back to writing was to find a fitting soundtrack for my laziness. And I can’t imagine a better one…

“Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again”

The Sound of Silence is a downer, that’s how my brother defined it one day when we were talking about music back in the day. He’s right, it’s a downer. Then again… so are Tears in Heaven, While My Guitar Gentle Weeps or It’s All Over Now Baby Blue. So the fact that it’s a downer has never been an issue. I think the song’s great, and while I wouldn’t play it at a party I love listening to it on my own, which happens to be my favorite way of listening to music. The Sound of Silence, or The Sounds of Silence as it was originally called, is a great song, my favorite of Simon and Garfunkel… one that when it’s not been recently overplayed has that goose bump feeling to it every time. Maybe that’s why I’m going with a different version today, it’s best not to overplay the original.

“Because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping”

I came across Carmen McRae’s version during the final credits of a worthless short film. Maybe I should be thankful because after discovering this version it’s the one I’ve listened to the most in the last 2 or 3 years, but the short film was truly awful. I like her deep voice and love the changes in rhythm she introduces into the song.  Every time I play it in front of my girlfriend I always get the same remark: “It’s good, but I like the original better”. Much like my brother, she’s right, the original is better.  Then again… so are Bob Dylan’s original versions of All Along the Watchtower, Mr. Tambourine Man or Like a Rolling Stone and that didn’t prevent Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds and The Rolling Stones from making pretty great covers. So, again, that’s not an issue. Carmen McRae’s cover is a great take on the original, and I highly recommend it as a way to “detox yourself” from the overplayed original. Something I’d recommend doing with a bunch of other songs as well, Hotel California, Stairway to Heaven and Satisfaction come to mind… (Any good substitutes for those?)

“In restless dreams I walked alone. Narrow streets of cobblestone”

I’m not sure I can pin-point significant memories which come to mind when I listen to the song. I friend and I did get asked during a joint verbal exam to explain what we interpreted from the sentence “Silence worries me”… and obviously we paraphrased a lot of the song’s lyrics in our answer. I once remember downloading a live version of the song which featured Bob Dylan… and obviously considered that my favorite version for a good year or two. During a short stint working in Latin America I remember my co-coworker having it as his ring tone… and obviously whistled the tune every time he received a call. I know none of those are particularly fond memories, but it’s only because it’s a song that’s often been around me and which I think I’ve heard too many times to be able associate with something truly personal or unique. I’m the one being a bit of a downer now. Pity.

“And in the naked light I saw. Ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening.”

I hope that whoever’s made it this far gives this version a chance, no matter how much you like or dislike the original. My blog post can be your equivalent of the shitty short film I had to suffer through. For me, who knows, maybe if I break out of my laziness it’ll become the song I uniquely and significantly remember for doing just that. I hope so.

“No one dare. Disturb… the sound of silence”

Beautiful lady, so dear to my heart

“You must forgive me, my unworthiness.” – Bob Dylan, Sara

I love songs with girl’s names in the title. I don’t know if that counts as a genre but it very well should, there’s a common element among songs that are boldly dedicated to a girl. I can’t play a single chord, but I can imagine that writing a song to girl knowing that she’s going to listen to it has to be a bit a challenge. There’s an element of exposure that I’m sure has to be similar no matter what type of music you play. So I’ll go ahead and keep writing, because I don’t know chords, but I do know about being exposed.

“You came up behind me, I saw you go by. You were always so close and still within reach.”

I’m trying to think of songs by female artists that have a man’s name in the title and I’m mostly drawing blanks. There’s Carly Simon’s Jesse… not really my cup of tea, Blondie’s Denis… which is a pretty shitty song that for some reason I like, Patti Smith’s Frederick… which I think is great, and the last I can come up with is Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee… which is an incredible song, but she didn’t write it. She even changed Kris Kristofferson’s lyrics so that it would be about a man, so that loses some points. Are there any good ones I’m missing? I’m sure there are.

“Sweet virgin angel, sweet love of my life”

I will always defend, at the risk of being criticized, that men are better musicians than women… but that’s only thanks to women. I’ll argue till the end of time (but hopefully it won’t come to that) that women stimulate men’s artistic creativity much more than the other way around. Musically speaking, women are a much better influence. I’ve never seen a woman use music to try to pick up a guy, never, but I’ve seen the opposite happen way too many times. My impression is that both male and female musicians share many types of motivation when they’re writing songs (it’s a form of expression, a way to have fun, a way to feel unique, etc.), but men have an extra source of creative motivation. They see music as a means for flirting, seducing, having sex, becoming more attractive… Did I say sex already? I think this shouldn’t be underestimated. How influential was the possibility of getting girls on the songs of Cohen, Dylan, Waits, Springsteen, Cash, Nelson and the others? I’d say a lot. I don’t think getting guys was part of the creative process for Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Aretha Franklin or Tracy Chapman. Not in the least.

“Loving you is the one thing I’ll never regret.”

So going back to my idea at the beginning of the post… I think is there’s a common element, exposure, in Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne, CCR’s Susie Q (not written by them), Van Morrison’s Gloria, Tom Wait’s Alice, Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, The Rolling Stone’s Angie, Rod Stewart’s Maggie May, etc. These songs had the challenge of appealing to a larger audience while at the same time serving another purpose; they needed to appeal to a specific girl. That’s tough to do, I’m sure many of them were able to accomplish the first but not the second. Who knows if Suzanne or Angela were the least bit impressed. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them thought “what the fuck is this corny shit?

“How did I meet you ? I don’t know. A messenger sent me in a tropical storm”

I picked the song Sara by Bob Dylan for two reasons: Sara was the name of my first post-puberty crush (a lovely girl based on the 5 minutes of accumulated conversation we had) and because it’s my favorite song within the ‘girl’s name in the title’ genre. I’ve listened to this song a hundred times, I love the lyrics as well as the way it fixates on the name: “Saraaaa, Saraaa…”. I really like that it reminds me of that girl back in high school. Since I hardly knew that girl, since I haven’t seen her since I was 16 and, especially, since I have absolutely no idea what she looks like, who she is or what she’s doing with her life, she can play the role of an “unidentified girl I’m attracted to” in my life. This concept, which I admit to improvising its name, is a very important one. I think we should all have the ability to imagine an unidentified person we’re attracted to, somebody we can’t quite picture but that we conceive as relatively tangible despite not being real. Somebody you can fish out if you’re listening to Sara or Suzanne and want to relate to the lyrics without linking them to somebody in real life. Some things remind you exactly of somebody you know, which is great, but other times this ambiguous figure can play the part. Ambiguous, but not completely. It’s a figure you’ve loosely based on this or that feeling, or experience, so it’s closer than something you’ve just made up. For me it varies, but many times it’s taken the shape of a grown-up version of Sara, whatever her last name might have been. That girl I one had a crush on and whom I thought all these great things of despite hardly ever talking to her. Mix that with a bunch of other traits I’ve thrown her way over time and there she is this unidentified girl I’m attracted to. It’s a good thing to have.

“Staying up for days, in the Chelsea Hotel. Writing Sad-Eyed Lady, of the Lowlands for you.”

If I had to pick a name for a song title I’m not sure which one I would choose (given that Dylan already took care of Sara, the good one, not the one I once met). There’s a name that would cover half of my grandmother’s name, an ex-girlfriend, a close friend, a fling and my current girlfriend’s nickname. I guess that would be a good candidate, although I think these songs should only be about one person, that’s were their value really is. I could pick my girlfriend’s real name, but would run the risk of hearing “what the fuck is this corny shit?” My mother’s name already has a few fitting songs so that wouldn’t be very original. No sisters, daughters or nieces. No lovers, no prostitutes, no ex-wives nor drugs I can subtly refer to by a girl’s name (I lead a very boring life…). I’ll need to keep thinking and fortunately my inability to strike a chord (a musical one, that is) has won me plenty of time. Meanwhile here’s one I relate to unidentified girl I’m attracted to.

“Saraaa, Saraaa. So easy to look at, so hard to define.”

 

Seen the arrow on the doorpost

“And I know no one can sing the blues, like Blind Willie McTell” – Bob Dylan, Blind Willie McTell

9 months is a short time. It’s not an under appreciation of child-birth, it’s just my thought for the day. Today my brother got on a plane, which tempted me to play John Denver’s Leaving on a Jetplane but I withheld. We’d been living in the same city (five minutes away from each other) for the last 9 months, but today he headed off to live somewhere else. It’s been the first time since I was in college that we’ve been living in the same city and it has been a lot of fun, but like I said, 9 months is a short time.

“I traveled through East Texas. Where many martyrs fell”

We have the same nose. Voice too. A lot of similar mannerisms. And we both love Bob Dylan. People say we’re very similar to each other, which is probably true, but at the same time I think we’re becoming more and more different over time. Which is great, don’t get me wrong. I’m a fucking fool and he’d be a saint if only he believed they existed.

“Smell that sweet magnolia blooming”

My brother’s a special guy. He’s a great brother, the best actually (as cliché as that might sound), but above that he’s a special guy. If I took out all the great things he’s done for me I’d argue I’ve never met anybody like him. If you ever bump into him, get to know him. He’s a special guy.

“He’s dressed up like a squire. Bootlegged whiskey in his hand”

Around 2005 he spent 6 months in China and came back with a suitcase full of burned CDs and DVDs. I looked though the CDs and he’d clearly been hitting Dylan hard. As you can see special and smart, sorry ladies, he’s not single. When I say listening to Bob Dylan hard, I mean he’d been listening to a bunch of live concerts, bootlegs and everything he could get his hands on. Blind Willie McTell had been the priced jewel from his efforts. He came back thrilled of having discovered this song that Dylan wrote about a blues man who lived during the first half of the nineteen hundreds. It’s a great song… really, it’s a shame he’s not single.

“But power and greed and corruptible seed, seem to be all that there is”

I’m taller. Actually we’re the same height, but I always look about a foot taller in pictures, so I’m taller. Funnier is still up for grabs. Taste in movies, me. Looks, up for grabs. Everything else… his. No doubt about it. So far I haven’t written much about one my grandfathers (I only mentioned him briefly in a previous post), but for the purpose of this post I’ll say that until he died he was the most honorable person in my life. A father of nine, a loving husband and an incredible grandfather, when he passed away we all had our wind knocked out of us. I cried like a baby, as did everybody else. It was hard to envision being without somebody who gathered so many good qualities.

“Them charcoal gypsy maidens, can strut their feathers well”

Now we’re a big family, and my grandfather influenced all of us in one way or another… but if you ask me who reflects his personality and good nature the most, it’s my brother. I used to think nobody had inherited my grandfather’s good nature, just a little of this and a little of that, but now I’m convinced it’s my brother who reminds me the most of my grandfather. Hardly ever a bad thought, if he has one hardly ever will it become a bad gesture, and if it does he’s always the first to realize it. I can’t say that of a lot of people. I’m grateful we shared the last 9 months because I think I’ve gotten to know him even better than I did before. I enjoyed my brother the brother as much as I always, with the added perk of discovering more about my brother the special guy, the one I was talking about before. I hope I get to live 5 minutes (or 10) away from him at some other point during my life. 9 months is a short time.

“And I know no one can sing the blues, like Blind Willie McTell”

Female spirit of independence

A couple of years ago I traveled to Guinea-Bissau for work. I knew a little bit about the country before going since some of the work I was doing was related to projects being implemented in the capital of Bissau and two other regions of the country. I loved it, although I would still say I know very little about it.

A year before going I can confess that didn’t know anything about it, other than it was in West Africa and that they spoke Portuguese. To my disappointment the second of my “well documented facts” was really only half-true since even though Portuguese is the official language most people speak creole or in some case the language of their specific ethnic group (of which there are plenty of…)

My first contact with (good) African music goes back to when I was 19 or 20, and it was thanks to my uncle who I talked about briefly in another post when I mentioned he got me hooked on Neil Young thanks to the album Harvest. He’s probably the most wide-spread music fan I know. He likes music from all over the world, has a huge collection on his computer and is always trying out new artists from all sorts of genders. To his benefit I must say he’s got pretty good taste.

So it was him who some random weekend introduced me to few well-known artists which I’d never heard of, such as Habib Koité and Amadou et Mariam, both from Mali, or Youssou N’Dour from Senegal. They were all pretty good. It wasn’t my favorite genre, but definitely music worth exploring and great for branching out every now and then.

When my work lead me to learn a little more about Guinea-Bissau I wondered if any good artists had ever come out of there. I had not fucking clue. I think I even asked my uncle, he had no fucking clue. I later learned that Guinea-Bissau, mostly because it’s extremely poor, is a country that is often overlooked, and it’s very hard for elements of its culture to be showcased at the international level. Music being a clear example.

Although to my surprise, after a little research I found out that in the last 50 years (or so) there have been a few artists which have made it out of Guinea-Bissau and have been recognized internationally. One of those is the band Super Mama Djombo, which I discovered after watching a documentary on medical evacuations taking place in Guinea-Bissau. The film was well made, it did a good job shedding light on the severe health situation in the country while at the same time integrating cultural aspects like local dancing and, most of all, music. One of the songs in the soundtrack was titled Baliera, which even though in the movie it’s performed by a young artist I tracked it back to Super Mama Djombo, the original composers and a band whose story is very interesting.

The band was formed in the mid-sixties when most of the members were kids at a boy-scout camp, later growing up to record their first album in the seventies. Their name, the ‘Mama Djombo’ part, is that of a female spirit that was popular among the beliefs of independence fighters at the time. Guinea-Bissau gained independence in 1974 and the band grew in popularity while becoming politically active. After a very successful career, extraordinary by Guinea-Bissau standards, the group separated in 1986… but reunited in 2008 to release a new album called Ar Puro. The song Baliera is from that album and it’s pretty damn good. I recommend giving it a chance, push through the first 10 seconds (which sound like any random African song) and see if you like this electric folky-rythmic, at one point jazzy, tune… recorded in Iceland, but straight out of Guinea-Bissau.

I couldn’t find the lyrics and I don’t speak creole. So no lyrics in this post, hopefully a song you like:

I’m not as pretty as I was

“And you be the Captain, and I’ll be no-one” Kasey chambers, The Captain

The longest relationship I’ve ever had lasted 5 years. Well, actually, a little over 5 years. It’s with out a doubt the relationship that’s taught me the most, so I remember it well.

“Well I have handed all my efforts in, I searched here for my second wind”

It was her birthday a couple of weeks ago and I sent her an email wishing her all the best. We usually exchange emails about 2-3 times a year and birthdays are always one of those times. It got me thinking… could I remember what I gave her on any of the birthdays we were together? I could not.

“I’ve kicked myself at times because I’ve lied”

I didn’t give up, these last two weeks I kept on thinking… and a few came to mind. The last year we were together I was living abroad and I sent her a foot-long panoramic photograph. I remember the picture, she was standing pretty along a ridge that overlooked the craters of two volcanoes to her left and right. I think she liked it… Then I remembered that our first year together I gave her a reproduction of the first page of a British paper covering the fall of the Berlin Wall (a time in history I knew she particularly liked). I think she liked that as well… Finally, the last one I could remember was a fancy hour-long couple’s massage at a spa. I liked that…

“So I will have to learn to stand my ground. I’ll tell ‘em I won’t be around”

So I’m happy I was able to remember 3 out of the 5, even though the massage got me thinking that I kind of mailed that one in and that I could’ve come up with something better. She was a great girl and I have absolutely no regrets of spending 5 years of my life with her. Our relationship should have ended 1 or 2 years before because we seemed to have different expectations, but we had a lot of fun and, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the relationship taught me a lot.

“And if I tread upon your feet, you just say so”

That was not the relationship I wanted, but it taught me what I want out of one. When I look back I always think it was time well spent, 5 years was a bargain when I think about what I took from the experience. Plus I met a great person, from a nice family, that I still keep in touch with today. I don’t remember the fights, the struggle of being long distance (3 out of the 5 years) or the periodic discussions on “where is this going?” whenever it came up that I might go off to work abroad. I remember the good stuff. We traveled to more than a dozen countries, shared a ton of laughs, made friends in common and enjoyed seeing each other become something better than what we were when we first met (at least in her case). There are only a few people I get really excited when I hear something great has happened to them, she is one of them.

“Did I forget to thank you for the ride”

This song is for her. Well, actually it’s for me, to remind me of her. I really like this song, but she loves it (or perhaps loved, who knows). She once told me that she listened to it occasionally when she missed me. I honestly don’t miss being with her, but I’ll take a page out of her playbook and use it to remember her… that I like doing.

“I tend to feel as though I owe one to you”

 

Trying to please to the calling

“Well, it’s a marvelous night for a Moondance. With the stars up above in your eyes” Van Morrison, Moondance

A few months ago I asked my girlfriend a very simple question: How many men (ex-boyfriends, admirers, flings, friends…) have told you that the song Brown Eyed Girl Reminds them of you?

“A fantabulous night to make romance, ‘Neath the cover of October skies”

She laughed, digressed a little bit saying she liked the song and then kind of insinuated that a few might have. I’m sure they have, she’s a pretty girl with dark eyes. I didn’t get the number, but my guess would be no less than 3. I can’t blame them really, Van Morrison released an incredible song with the overall message being “you’re my brown eyed girl”, what else needs to be said? Somebody should try to measure the amount of sex that Van Morrison has brought to this world, perhaps only rivaled by the amount induced by Leonard Cohen. Aren’t people at MIT looking into this? Undoubtedly there’s a significant group of guys out there who should send out a collective ‘thank you’ to Van Morrison. I’m definitely one of them, but not because of Brown Eyed Girl.

“And all the leaves on the trees are falling, To the sound of the breezes that blow”

I have never, never, never used the Brown Eyed Girl line and I think every woman should roll their eyes if they ever heard it used on them, but then again who am I to judge. I’d probably love it if somebody told me I remind them of Neil Diamond’s Solitary Man, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird or the Highwaymen’s Highwayman. So let’s just all say thank you, thank the artists in question and, most importantly… enjoy the sex or at least get a kick out of somebody rolling their eyes at us. Hopefully it’s the first, but the latter can be fun too.

“And when you come my heart will be waiting. To make sure that you’re never alone”

I know I need to thank Van Morrison, but in my case for Moondance. It’s been my favorite/go-to romantic song for years, as well as my favorite Van Morrison song in general. I first heard it as a teenager in the 90’s when my father bought one of his greatest hits CD that featured Moondance (third track). Although I didn’t start to really like him until several years later, when I began driving and I picked up that same CD to listen to in the car. I remember at the time I was using my grandfather’s car which he wasn’t using anymore. It was 20 years old at the time and it’s still running today, it’s as boxy a car as cars get… and for some reason it has a CD player my grandfather decided to have installed. Inside that shitty car without power steering I discovered how good Van Morrison was, and in the upcoming years discovered the seductive powers of Moondance. I don’t think I’ve used those seductive powers much to my advantage, but I definitely discovered they were there. Ripe for the picking, pro bono courtesy of Van Morrison. Well, not really pro bono at the time, but for the moderate price of 15 bucks.

“Can I just have one a’ more Moondance with you, my love. Can I just make some more romance with a-you, my love”

The doctor wants to give me more injections

“Connection, I just can’t make no connection.” The Rolling Stones, Connection

Today I woke up to news that an old professor of mine has become the favorite to lead a fairly large political party in Europe. The move would be part of the party’s rejuvenation process after a poor performance in the recent EU parliamentary elections. It might not happen, but it brought back memories of his class which was one of the best I took back in college. At the time he seemed to have a pretty promising career and at the personal level he was a pretty bright guy, with a good sense of humor and great social skills. He could teach too.

“My bags they get a very close inspection. I wonder why it is… that they suspect ‘em

It’s not that I had forgotten about that class, or the teacher, until this morning, but what I had forgotten that he had a blog! He shut it down soon after my class with him ended, but I remembered checking it out a few times back then. It wasn’t a blog about politics, just a kind of personal blog where he posted interesting articles, book recommendations and, as you might have guessed, music he liked. I liked that.

“They’re dying to add me to their collection, and I don’t knooooow if they’ll let me gooooo”

The year was 2008 and Martin Scorsese’s documentary Shine a Light (mentioned in a previous post) had just come out. My friends and I were a bit disappointed by the film, but 2 hours of listening to The Rolling Stones is never a bad choice so it we still enjoyed it overall. The problem was that it wasn’t The Last Waltz, it wasn’t No Direction Home and that it would even later pale in comparison to his next documentary about George Harrison (which I loved).

“Everything is going in the wrong direction”

Weeks after seeing the film, during the semester I was taking the class in question, I went on to the teacher’s blog and was surprised to find an entry linking to a live performance of Connection, a Rolling Stone’s song I really like. The next day after class I caught up with him during a break, or after class, and couldn’t help but mention his blog. He kind of laughed it off saying something like “Oh yeah, the blog. I like posting things every now and then”. But I didn’t really give a fuck about the blog, I wanted to know why he’d posted Connection. So I followed up with a mystical comment along the lines of “So Connection…”

“But all I want to doooo, is to get back to youuuu.”

So we got down to music…. and he admitted to being a Keith Richards fan but not that big on the Stones, poor ignorant… (well, probably not poor and definitely not ignorant). He told me he’d been to see Shine a Light, had also thought it wasn’t great but had enjoyed revisiting a few songs he hadn’t heard in a while, such as Connection. With that answer he passed my test. He posted a few other songs before closing the blog which were completely atrocious, but I decided to give him a pass solely on Connection. I hope he gets chosen to lead the party, partly because back then he seemed to have the chops to make for a good political leader, but mostly because there was a point in his life he decided to post Connection on a shitty blog. That, I respect.

Thoughtful, impassioned, they easily open their minds

“Through the eyes of a child this world is truly divine” – The Tulips, Summer Song

After a horrible winter season and a stretch of cold and rainy days that has lasted well into May, I’m glad to say… it’s about summer. At least in my city. It’s usually my least favorite season, but not this year, this year… it’s about summer.

“All the kids, they want today, the world’s problems to go away, it’s about summer”

My grandmother passed away in April of 2012. She had 9 children, 7 sons/daughters-in-law and 8 grandchildren who looked up to her and loved her to death, she was unique. It’s been a little over two years and I still miss having her in my life, but as much as I miss her I also like being able to remember her so well. She was giving, loving and caring, but also fun, witty and passionate, for all that I’m fortunate to have spent 26 years of my life so close to her.

Around 2008 she began to get pretty sick, slowly at first, but it got progressively worse until she was pretty ill the last couple of years of her life. She had several surgeries in her track record, but most noticeably her memory began to fade. It was tough seeing a person who had been so energetic, who had raised 9 children, who liked to go mushroom picking on weekends, who loved going for walks or who kept the plants in her terrace in tip-top shape, have to spend most of her day in a sofa, a wheelchair or in a bed. However, as sad as the overall situation was when you were with her you kind of forgot about all that. My favorite days back then were those when I’d be able to pay my grandparents a visit, stay for lunch and just hang around with them in the living room until they inevitably dozed off for a nap.

“All the neighborhood catch the love. All wanna get along, in the summer.”

Which brings me to mention my grandfather (excluded from the 9+7+8 listed above because he was in a league of his own). As much as my whole family loved and cared for my grandmother, we were always blown away by how my grandfather dealt with her illness. He lived those years caring for her, putting his own health at risk and never losing faith (which he had a lot of) that she could get better. He was outstanding. Everyone in my family did everything they could to help out, but what we did can’t compare to what he did on a daily basis. I’m sure I’ll write a post (or twenty) about my grandfather, so for now I’ll just say that he was outstanding.

“All the kids, they want today. Look ya in the eye and say its ok. It’s about summer.”

In 2011 I saw the movie The Music Never Stopped, which tells the story of a father who reconnects with his son when he’s informed that he’s been in an accident and has developed a brain tumor that prevents him from forming new memories. The movie is decent (not great) but I really liked the premise of the story, which is that the father begins reconnecting with his son through music. Through his favorite songs the son’s able to remember things from his past and the father’s able to interact with him. It sounded a little familiar….

When my grandmother was in the hospital she’d have days where she could hardly be bothered to talk, yet whenever we’d sing her a song from back in the day she’d liven up. Even though she couldn’t remember why she was in the hospital or what they were doing to her, she’d all of a sudden remember the lyrics to a song and sing along, it was incredible. As I was watching the film I couldn’t help but make the link. We sang her a bunch if different songs, songs she’d listened to for years throughout her life, but for some reason for this post I wanted to take a song from the movie. The movie soundtrack is great and it includes artists such as The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles and a bunch of others. However, the song that stuck with me after the movie was from a hardly-known band called The Tulips. I barely know anything about them, all I read online was that they formed in the 60’s, that their lead singer died electrocuted and that the group dissolved soon after that. That’s it. I doubt I’ll ever hear much about The Tulips, but their song Summer Song I’ll fish out every now and as usual I’m sure it’ll put me in a good mood.

“It’s about summer”

In the pouring rain…

“Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs. Of every head he’s had the pleasure to have known” – The Beatles, Penny Lane

Why was she humming Penny Lane? I’ve wondered that a few times. It’s not a bad song, but hardly one of The Beatles’ best. It is catchy, I guess that could’ve been it. Although maybe there’s another reason, one I’m not sure I’ll ever find out.

“In Penny Lane there is a fireman with an hourglass, and in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen.”

I worked with her for two years, the second of which sharing a desk while we typed away on our piece of shit laptops. Hipsters would’ve loved them; I thought they were pieces of shit. It was a great working relationship, we discussed the projects we were involved in, we stopped every now and then to chat about… well, anything really… and we had fun joking around. Our jobs weren’t very stimulating, but we had great times. So I wonder, where did Penny Lane come from?

“Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout..”

We talked about music occasionally, we both loved the classics: in her case Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky… in mine Dylan, Cohen, Waits, Joplin, Van Morrison, Lennon, Baez, Petty, Harrison, McCartney, Jagger, Richards, Fogerty, Townshend, etc. (just a much better list in general). Yet we still managed to find a lot of common ground, and talking about music was commons practice during our last months working together. Even so I never asked her, why Penny Lane?

“On the corner is a banker with a motorcar. The little children laugh at him behind his back”

I can’t remember exactly when it first happened, but my guess is that it was around the fall of 2012. It was just a random day at work and for some reason she began to hum Penny LaneNa, na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na-na… I love The Beatles, so I nodded along as I typed on my computer (I may have even made a poor attempt at whistling the melody, that sounds like something I would’ve done). The song struck me as an odd choice for her, but for some reason she got into the habit of humming the song fairly often during the next few months. The most I recall saying is something along the lines of “Oh, Penny Lane, nice song”, but that was it. After she began going back to it pretty often I began to wonder, why Penny Lane?

“Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes”

Did she just hum it for kicks? Did she like the catchy melody? Did she listen to it growing up? Did it have some romantic meaning? Had she made love to it? Had she seen McCartney play it live? Has she actually been to Penny Lane? I’ve often wondered… I probably should have asked her at the time, but it’s one of things where I’ve become more curious over time, a little bit more every time she hummed it. One option would be to ask her now, because as I mentioned before, my current girlfriend used to be my co-worker (I’ll let you put two and two together…). I know I’ll definitely be tempted to next time I hear her humming it, but I kind of like the option of just wondering… why Penny Lane?

“There, beneath the blue, suburban skies”

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling

“As long as I gaze on, Waterloo Sunset, I am in paradise.” – The Kinks, Waterloo Sunset

After talking about Streets of London just two days ago, I began remembering a trip I took to London in 2007. The trip cost me a friendship, but clearly not one that was worth having. So in retrospect, I gained the memory of a broken friendship to the tune of The Kink’s Waterloo Sunset, in exchange for a poor friendship… let’s call it a win. Although a close one, he was a good friend for a while.

“People so busy, make me feel dizzy, taxi light shines so bright”

He was my age, but his girlfriend was 2 years younger. She came to study at the same university as us when she turned 18, a nice girl. They made for a horrible couple, but they were nice people. For a year all three of us were at the same university at the same time, so I became friends with her as well. He even called me up during a semester he was abroad because she was going through a stage of depression and wanted to see if I knew of anybody who could help. Like I said, we were good friends.

But I am so lazy, don’t want to wander, I stay at home at night”

2007 came along. I was finishing university, he was already working and she had just left to study in London her third year of college. I didn’t have too many classes and had flexibility to travel every now and then, so one day we were talking and agreed that I’d go visit her. All fine and dandy. I book the flight, get ready for the trip and get a call from her the day before saying that perhaps it’s better if I don’t stay with her because my buddy, the “he”, thinks it’s not a good idea. Lovely…

But Terry and Julie, cross over the river, where they feel safe and sound”

So having been fucked over by not one, but two of my friends (because let’s face it, when your partner’s being a dick, sometimes it’s best to tell them “stop being a dick, he’s just sleeping on the couch”), I called up a good friend I had in Bournemouth. I asked him if I could catch a bus and stay with him for a few days instead. On a day’s notice he said “sure, no problem” and I spent a few days visiting Bournemouth and getting plastered with his friends. That actually was lovely.

“Millions of people, swarming like flies ’round, Waterloo underground”

- 7 years later: I don’t know what’s become of him. I get the occasional email from her. They’re not together… and I just spoke to my buddy from Bournemouth last week even though we’re an ocean apart.

- My thoughts today: I was happy with the girlfriend I had at the time. They both knew that. All I wanted was a couch to crash. To visit a friend. And to visit London. After that, salvaging that friendship would have been a waste of time. I think.

“But Terry and Julie, cross over the river, where they feel safe and sound”

The funny thing is my friend, the “she” this time, felt so bad she insisted on getting together in London before I left for Bournemouth. I agreed, so I went to pick her up at her apartment. Which was conveniently located, at Waterloo Station.

“Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station, every Friday night “