By The Landlord
Prince played ping-pong. Kate Bush stops listening to music and watches comedy. Sometimes we all just have to take a breather. It's been a bit of week, after all. Even more political lunatics are trying to take over. Everything has gone awry. It is time to take stock, and regroup. And so this week, the Song Bar is going to be your oasis of calm, your escape from craziness. So let's pour the tea, put our feet up, curl up with a book, watch telly, take a siesta, climb into a hammock. Or you might do something alternative. Laughter yoga, anyone? Turkish bath? Thai boxing class? Plate smashing? Gigantic chess? Game of Twister? Quality time with the cat? Or just stay in and get things done?
Relaxation means many things to many people and all types are popping into the bar this week to tell us how they do it. “Art raises its head where creeds relax,” says Friedrich Nietzsche. “Caffeine and stunts relax me,” says Nicholas Cage, with that manic look. OK Nick, here’s your espresso – now go and do some tumbles in our beer garden. Queen Latifah tells us she has a drum kit in her dressing room. “I play drums to relax and have some fun.” And here’s Noel Gallagher: “I have three kids and a cat and a busy, noisy house. I get more time to relax when I'm working.” And so off he goes to knock together some chord sequences.
And now perhaps the coolest dude of all, Usain Bolt, strides into the bar. That guy really knows how to relax: “I learned over the years that if you start thinking about the race, it stresses you out a little bit. I just try to think about video games, what I’m gonna do after the race, what I’m gonna do to just chill.” Usain certainly does that better than anybody, before and during the race - because if sprinters tense up they slow down. Before the race? I remember him smiling and chatting up a girl holding one of the kit boxes just a minute before the 2012 Olympic 100m final in London. And after? As I recall, he managed to relax considerably with the Swedish women’s beach ball team after the other gold medals.
As well as exercise, calm or vigorous, upright or indeed horizontal, relaxing is also a state of mind that can help unlock creativity or revelation. That very different kind of athlete, of the mental kind, William S Burroughs, tells us that: “Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” Some people might interpret that as drugs, others in the form of prayer. But others just have to keep busy. The travel writer Paul Theroux says: “I hate vacations. I hate them. I have no fun on them. I get nothing done. People sit and relax, but I don't want to relax. I want to see something.”
And then of course there's listening to, or making music. So your song suggestions this week can mention any form of leisure or other activity that talks about unwinding, or in turn, cries out for some form of relief. Some songs are also about wanting to relax, but not being able to. And the very process of songwriting, in expressing the previously inexpressible, is also a way to find calm.
So while this week’s topic is about relaxation, the music market and the internet is awash with “relaxation” and “chillout” songs. That might include whale song, meditation, or the sound of the sea. Now, if there's one thing in my book that is not relaxing, it's listening to the genre of "relaxing music". Surely 35 million plays can't be wrong can they if they click on stuff such as this. Well, no, if you consider that 35 million Scathophagidae aren’t wrong to land on shite.
But let us be calm, calm, calm… So also, if this week’s guru considers it suitable, then perhaps as well as suggesting songs about relaxation and leisure, you might fancy naming songs that also in turn help you relax. So here’s one of mine. Whatever is going on, Lambchop’s songs, even though the subject matter are often tinged with melancholy, always seem to have the required effect of the feeling of having enough time to inhabit the music with full attention. Somehow they have time, they unfurl like a leaf. After all, that is the secret of relaxation. To be fully immersed, to live in the present, and not be distracted or interrupted by the many things modern life does to us. To take just the right amount of time over things. Aah...
So then, who is this week’s referee of relaxation and conciliator of calm? I am delighted to welcome back another previous reader from the Guardian column who has now chosen to come to the new bar – EspressoBongo. Please suggest your songs below until Monday evening UK time for cups of joy served in playlists next Wednesday. Let tranquility reign and creativity thrive.
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.