By The Landlord
"What difference is there, do you think, between those in Plato's cave who can only marvel at the shadows and images of various objects, provided they are content and don't know what they miss, and the philosopher who has emerged from the cave and sees the real things?" – Desiderius Erasmus
When I'm on stage the savage in me is released. It's like going back to being a cave man. It takes me six hours to come down after a show." – Angus Young
"If there hadn't been women we'd still be squatting in a cave eating raw meat, because we made civilisation in order to impress our girlfriends." – Orson Welles
It's been quite some week in the news. The UK government has dug itself, and us, into a deeper hole over Brexit as two more rats crawl out of the dirt and abandon their commitments. Meanwhile a pig-faced, psychopathic narcissist is visiting the nation from across the pond, costing millions in police security in a place he is most unwelcome. And 11 or more men and a nation's hopes and dreams, and escapism from genuine problems, were dashed when a bag of air didn't cross a line at the right place. Shame.
But the best news happened in Thailand, where 12 schoolboys were miraculously rescued from certain death from a cave filling up with water. The operation, taking all of them, as non-swimmers, out through a 3-mile, treacherous, half-submerged passageway, was an incredible act of teamwork, bravery and ingenuity. So that's why this inspiring achievement leads to the surface of our thoughts, and to air this topic.
Are you a cave person? That is, not a hairy brute who beats others to death with bones, but someone who likes to explore, or burrow below, whether that's into natural cave or any variety of subterranean dwellings or modes of city transport, or secret, underground sites. Some find caves calming, peaceful and cool (especially during the current climate) others find them dark and terrifying, a deathly grave. Perhaps it's got something today with how we experience emerging from the womb. Or whether your eyes are particularly sensitive to light. Yet caves are very important to our species culturally. They may well be the very first place where art was created, as well as music, with those bone drum sticks beating a steady rhythm to dance, ritual, passion and violence.
Under cities, modern forms of caves are big news. We've been making cave holes for centuries, often at the cost of many workers' lives, from Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Thames tunnel using his, and the great inventor James Henry Greathead's tunnelling shield, to the ambitious project of big mouth entrepreneur Elon Musk and his, well, Boring Company, possibly digging for CO2 gas as well as trying to show off his submarine where it's not useful. Secret, sometimes forgotten subterranean transport links are all over, or should I say, under many cities. And the super-rich are currently cave-creating mad – making swimming pools and cinemas or secret man-cave sex chambers (well who knows?) all over the place. The trend is to borrow lots of cash, and not build up, but burrow down.
But natural caves can be beautiful places, hewn by water and other elements, filled with bejewelled rocks, minerals and fossils, stalactites and stalagmites, from common karst caves to sea caves to grottos, primary caves formed from lava, glacial caves to fracture caves, talus to Anchialine caves, ancient cathedrals of otherworldliness. So your song suggestions might mention any type and what they are useful for - hiding, smuggling in or living in, or in reference to our cave-dwelling past.
We can go long – perhaps with Kentucky's 405-mile stretches of Mammoth Cave, or the 208-mile-long Sistema Sac Actun in Yucatán, Mexico. Or go deep down more than a mile into the Krubera Cave in Georgia, or Vrtoglavica Cave in Slovenia. Or enter in our imagination, the massive Sarawak Chamber, in the Gunung Mulu National Park in Malaysia (a whoppingly echoey 400 x 700 x 80 metres inside).
Some are so exquisitely beautiful there are like some alien world of fantasy. Let's take a peak into these, the first two of course having musical associations:
Caves are the first art galleries. France and Spain contain hundreds of cave paintings, the oldest being red hand stencil in Maltravieso cave, Cáceres, Spain, thought to be 67,000 years old. And among depictions of hunting, fighting, and fucking, some include music, such as this rather beautiful Indian specimen:
But what about music made in caves? Here are more images, with a bit if "cave music", to get you in the mood:
Caves can also be great venues. The Peak District Cavern in Derbyshire has been the site of Pulp and other gigs. But let's give this venue its proper name, and have a look at Jarvis Cocker and co doing their thing down The Devil's Arse
Going underground of course may refer to the London tube – a cave or sorts, and ripely inspirational for many songs, but the word underground also has other associations, and might come into a play metaphorically, with associations or being anything from cool to innovative, subversive, or could mean dark, dodgy, illegal, and downright dirty.
Is there a mole in here? Things from below ground often have an unfortunate association of unattractiveness. American performer Ze Frank is fascinated by the naked mole rat: "It's like the ugliest freakin' creature in the world. It is so radically, unbelievably disgusting. And the star-nosed mole is also. It looks like it snorted a firecracker. They live way underground, and to get footage of them is basically impossible." Don't blame the mole-rat, Ze. There's no point in looking like a film star if you're spending your time in a world where nobody sees. And there's also bats.
Other troglodytes are coming up en masse through the Song Bar cellar (Oi! Leave those beer taps alone!) and among them are this week's various visitors wanting to have their say about all manner of cavernous associations, often as a figure of speech. Most are here to talk about the underground in a cultural sense, but when Chuck Palahniuk announces – "There will always be an underground," – we can also take it literally.
Brian Eno has popped in for a swift one. "Feelings are more dangerous than ideas, because they aren't susceptible to rational evaluation. They grow quietly, spreading underground, and erupt suddenly, all over the place," he says.
And here's that master keyboard behemoth who could be well imagined playing a big organ underground, Jean-Michel Jarre: "I was always interested in mixing experimentation with pop music, and Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream - we were all doing it at the same time, just very isolated from each other, all in our different cellars, in different worlds, without the Internet - underground in every sense."
But now it's time to emerge from this cavern of words and hand the keys to the chamber to this week's wonderful torch-bearing guide, the terrific takeitawayGuru, who will help lead through who knows what musical chambers to be discovered. I'm sure it will be a fun place to get lost, and it will no doubt be well lit, and we'll all, I hope, safely emerge, blinking in the light, as nominations deadline approaches on Monday at 11pm UK time, for playlists to peruse on Wednesday.
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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.