Lindsay Was My First Love

I was never a massive fan of The Waterboys- I appreciate what Mike Scott was doing, the Big Music and Celtic influences, and I’ve danced to The Whole Of The Moon just like the rest of you have- but when Fisherman’s Blues came out I was never able to play it all the way through and fully enjoy it. Having said that I love A Bang On The Ear. I’m a sucker for those rat-a-tat-tat narrative songs, where the rhythm and the rhyme rattle along, telling stories, especially in this one where Mike looks back at the girls in his past he’s loved.

A Bang On The Ear

To pick a verse almost at random-

‘Deborah broke my heart
And I the willing fool
I fell for her one summer
On the road to Liverpool
I thought it was forever
But it was over within the year (oh dear)
But I send her my love
And a bang on the ear’

I like the way he throws in the homely and prosaic (chicken soup say). I like the reflective quality of the words, the lightness of touch and the wordplay. It’s also in the way the song fades in and out, like it could have started earlier and carried on longer.

I suppose the daddy of these songs is Dylan’s Tangled Up In Blue, a tour de force in painting pictures with words, rhyming couplets describing a life lived (whether it’s Dylan’s actual life, an imagined life or a composite of people’s I don’t know). Tangled Up In Blue switches between tenses, the present and the past, while Dylan narrates a number of scenes that got him to where was then-

‘She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam I guess
But I used a little too much force’

and later…

‘I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the axe just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Workin’ for a while on a fishin’ boat
Right outside of Delacroix’

and later still…

‘I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the cafes at night
And revolution in the air’

What both these songs have is an authority and the voice of experience. What we get is the rush of words, a pile up of images and autobiography that becomes universal but with different names and places. And you can picture them being written- once the first line is there and the rhythm gets going, it all coming out in a flood, fingers banging away at typewriter keys.

Tangled Up In Blue

Then there is 88 Lines About 44 Women by The Nails, an obscure 1984 single from a US post-punk band. Over a pleasingly basic Casio backing track Marc Campbell delivers deadpan narration, describing each one of 44 women in 2 lines, (some  he admitted were real and some imaginary). In a 2018 light you could argue that reducing women to a single characteristic, often based around sex, in a list for comic effect is a little sexist but this is so well done with so many good lines that I think it stands.

An excerpt from the middle-

‘Pauline thought that love was simple
Turned it on and turned it off
Jean-Marie was complicated
Like some French film-maker’s plot
Gina was the perfect lady
Always had her stockings straight
Jackie was a rich punk rocker
Silver spoon and paper plate’

88 Lines About 44 Women

John Peel loved it. In a nice twist, 30 years after writing the song, Campbell got in touch with one of the women in the song through Facebook (Tanya Turkish, she of the leather biker boots) and they became a couple.

Tomorrow Is A Long Time

Watching Martin Scorcese’s Bob Dylan documentary on Friday night was a bolt from the blue. I’d seen it before but not for a long time and it’s ages since I’ve properly listened to any Dylan. There doesn’t seem much doubt to me that he completely changed the form of popular music in the early 60s and carried on doing so through to late 60s, more so (single-handedly) than anyone else- the words mainly (but not only) and what a song could be about, the fusing of street poetry and beat poetry to firstly folk music and then to rock music (for want of a better term). He set the standards and in 1965 and 1966 he looked sharp as fuck too (which is not the only thing but is important). This song was recorded live in April 1963 at New York Town Hall but not released until the strangely compiled Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volume II in 1971. I’ve loved it since I first heard it sometime in the late 80s.

Tomorrow Is A Long Time

Like A Rolling Stone

The daddy of all the ‘Like A …’ songs is Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone, one of those songs that tops lists and thoroughly deserves to,a man moving ahead of the art form, faster than all the others. A six minute long 7″ single, with a whip crack start, amphetamine energy, wired organ and some of the best lyrics ever- crazy poetic verses and sneering, questioning choruses. Dylan’s version is the original and definitive. 1960s mods The Creation had a go, a little polite with the backing but a decent stab I suppose.

Like A Rolling Stone

Absolutely

In 1966 Bob Dylan was so hot he could toss off songs like this as album tracks. And he looked like the coolest man on the planet.

Absolutely Sweet Marie

Dear Landlord

I’ve had a bit of pang for listening to some Bob Dylan recently, something I haven’t really had for a good few years. There are several different Bob Dylans and I can’t say I’m interested in them all equally. Obviously the speed freak, Afro- haired, sharp suited and pointy booted, thin wild mercury music Dylan of ’65-’66 is the King of the Dylans and the New York, Suze Rotolo- accompanying Dylan is up there too but my favourite Dylan is the Byrdcliff, post-motorcycle crash Dylan- the Dylan of John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait (the ‘what is this shit?’ album) and New Morning. I like the back to basics of it all, the pared down sound (especially on JWH), the way the songs are simple and loaded with biblical imagery and sweetly sung (he’d given up the cigs at this point)- and the reinvention, the country music instrumentation (redneck stuff to the hippies). Even the white shirt and hat and flip flops look. The songs on the whole sound very worked out and finished, polished even, but by and large Dylan turned up in the studio, ran through them once and then drummer Kenny Buttrey and bassist Charlie McCoy recorded their parts having heard them once. The bass parts are great throughout, clear and bouncy and melodic, the drumming spare and precise.

Dear Landlord

Also from this time was the oddly titled More Bob Dylan Greatest Hits, presumably put out by CBS  in an effort to sell some records after Self Portrait came out and bombed. It has a strange tracklisting, a real mish mash, no sense at all in the sequencing and some lesser known Dylan songs that are without equal- Watching The River Flow, Tomorrow Is Long Time, When I Paint My Masterpiece, I Shall be Released, Down In The Flood. On reflection though I think my favourite Dylan song may be Tangled Up In Blue (mid 70s Dylan, just before I lose interest).

I’ll Keep It With Mine

Nico may have been one of the coolest looking girls of the 60s  (Exhibit A, the shots of her with The Velvets). Despite her looks and Teutonic cool she was shoe-horned into the group against their will by manager Andy Warhol. She was deaf in one ear and often struggled singing in key but her voice on the banana album works perfectly as a foil for Lou Reed’s nasal drawl. Her solo albums can possibly be best described as an acquired taste. She got to know the big shots of the 60s scene too- Jim Morrison, Brian Jones and Bob Dylan all stepped out with her at some point, Dylan writing I’ll Keep It With Mine for her, a lovely little song that you can find below.

Addicted to smack for fifteen years she lived with Salford’s number one punk poet John Cooper Clarke, flitting between London and Didsbury, Manchester, walking distance from where I grew up (which seems a bit odd now I think about it. How did we all live near a member of the Velvet Underground?). Nico died in 1988, suffering a minor heart attack while cycling in Ibiza, cracking her head on the pavement. A life less ordinary, even if it was ‘brushed by the wings of something dark’ (to quote Nigel Blackwell).

I’ll Keep It With Mine

Or Else You Gotta Stay All Night


It’s been quite Mary Chainy round here recently and I was going to leave it alone but then this appeared on the mp3 player on the way to work- Jim Reid’s solo cover of If You Gotta Go, Go Now. It’s nicely understated, sounding like a good demo rather than a polished song, just Jim and guitar mainly. It’s a Bob Dylan song- you knew that didn’t you?- written in 1964 but not recorded by Bob til a year later. It’s been covered by scores of people- the Flying Burrito Brothers, Manfred Mann, Fairport Convention (in French), Johnny Hallyday (in French presumably) and Cowboy Junkies.