By The Landlord
“The whole world's going home with blue plastic bags,
Six bottles of Stella, Jacobs's Creek and twenty fags …” - Malcolm Middleton
“Everybody sooner or later has to drop the luggage and the baggage of illusions.” – Carlos Santana
“I travel without barely any luggage. Just a second set of underwear and binoculars and a map and a toothbrush.” – Werner Herzog
“What I love doing more than anything is trying to pack myself in a suitcase. I can hardly contain myself.” – Tim Vine
From the sack-and-a-stick hobo to the a lord and lady arriving at the Grand Budapest Hotel with 24 matching-leather trunks and suitcases, from the fashionable handbag model to cornershop plastic shopper, from the school satchel to the smart briefcase, from commuter to itinerant, citizen to pilgrim, they are everywhere. We all have them, and they denote much about human beings – psychology, function, wealth, class, status and social trends.
Now, there’s usually bags of room at the Bar but this week we’re crowded out with loads of luggage, from handbags to snatchbags, man-bags to postbags, swag bags to courier bags, rucksacks, backbacks and panniers, wallets and purses, baby carriers to record bags, tote bags, shoulder bags to bike bags. Not to mention piles of guitar cases, because musicians in particular spend their lives packing, unpacking and living out of them, so it’s no wonder then that contained in the world of songwriting, there are plenty.
We all begin life in a bag of sorts, but that’s not the kind we’re looking for, unless it’s that as famously remarked upon by the extraordinary Dame Edith Evans, upon hearing how John “Earnest” Worthing was reportedly discovered inside one as a baby in Victoria Station. The best moment in the 1952 film version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Has anyone said one world carrying more comedic emphasis or outrage than this?
Handbags are certainly one of several inflated elements to the fashion industry. Might you covet, for example a Gucci, Hermes, Balenciaga Lariat, Ralph Lauren, Fendi Baguette, Christian Dior's Lady Dior, Alexander McQueen’s Skull Clutch, Bottega Venetta’s Woven Hobo The Louis Vuitton x Murakami Sologne, or Givenchy’s Antigona?
So in some people’s world’s the bag is all about the outside, not what’s inside at all. It’s a classic expression of surface values. One element to song nominations this week is mention of particular styles and brands. Halston, Gucci, and Fiorucci were mentioned by Sister Sledge in their massive 1979 hit He’s the Greatest Dancer, and got a big product placement sales boost.
But what kind of bag do you have? I suppose it depends on the occasion, from shopping to socialising. Back in my schooldays, I remember that it was de rigeur to carry your stuff in an Adidas plastic sports bag, or if you were well flash, one made by Head or another superior make. And the cool thing was to carry it slung over the shoulder until your hand and wrist went numb. Then one week, I remember laughing when bunch of French foreign exchange school kids arrived, and they all wore what seemed to be identical luminescent backpacks. They looked like aliens to me.
But what and how much do you put in a bag, whether for daily use or travelling? What’s best to brave customs and the luggage carousel, or the overhead lockers? Bags can, in turn, be as much about what’s contained as much as the container. Swedish musician Jens Lekman is here, and in that very succinct, neat way he has, remarks that: “What I can't fit into my suitcase is probably something I don't need.” I suppose that's a good way of being creative too. Self-edit. Only bring what you need. Or then again some just throw in the whole caboodle:
Performers are generally expert packers because they do it so much. But that isn’t always the case. Expert packer? Not Macca. On 16th January 1980 Paul McCartney got stopped in Tokyo’s Narita Airport when on tour with Wings, Linda and his family. He was carrying a whopping eight ounces of marijuana in his suitcase, and spend nine days in jail, leading to a tour cancellation.
But bad bag packing isn’t always so calamitous. In the 1960s two of then Rolling Stones squeezes Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull, presumably in a somewhat high state arrived in Tangiers to find that all they had packed in their suitcases were seashells. Handy. Still, probably lighter than rolling stones. Oh, plus a sari and an Edmond Dulac picture book.
Packing minimally is good, but perhaps the best solution might be this magic carpet bag used by this nanny. Cor blimey, Mary Poppins!
Plastic bags are a curse on the environment, especially for our seas of course, and should be instantly fazed out. But bags aren’t always for carrying, but are, in many different ways, being carried. Let’s enjoy this sequence from the Sam Mendes film American Beauty, when the eccentric, secretly drug-dealing boy next door Ricky Fitts, shows his girlfriend this film of a dancing bag carried by the breeze.
Bags are used as metaphors and in idioms, and that’s another way to address this topic. Getting the sack, for example? That phrase has its origins in in the pre-Industrial age in the context of hired workers carrying their own tools, but then being laid off when no longer needed. In France since the 17th century, there appeared the phrase 'On luy a donné son sac’, and 19th-century variants northern Britain you could 'Get the bag' or in London 'Get the empty’.
In terms of more musical ideas, let’s not let the cat out of the bag. Cats though do love to climb back in to bags and boxes, just as young children do. But why? Is that a comfort thing, or some sort of womb-return evolutionary throwback? Could this be related to what the kangaroo does with its pouch?
So then, this week’s chief and very expert baggage handler,examining luggage that’s very much likely to include guitar cases and record bags is that superb regular – carrying your songs, the ideally named takeitawayGuru! Place your songs in the comment containers below for deadline on Monday UK time 11pm, for playlists published next Wednesday. It's going to be a right carry on.
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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.