"For each of us our own being is the fundamental issue." - Martin Heidegger
The breadth of this topic provided a panoramic overview of the human agent, something less possible with topics more limited in their purview. Thoughts; feelings; impulses; intuitions and the sub-conscious were evident in songs called out. As too, a complex array of cares and concerns, faced with varying degrees of insight and fortitude. Often too, these songs did not "speak for themselves". Some have the opacity of dreams, raising interesting questions about the writer's intentions. Carl Jung saw dreams as a means of observing and analysing the world, expressing what the psyche does not yet fully know or understand. For dreams one might easily substitute art and the artistic endeavour, particularly with storytelling and its offshoots, the cultural form human beings initially focused on and developed. Anyway, with that thought we'll make our start on the music.
Amon Düül II and 'A Short Stop At The Transylvanian Brain Surgery', is replete with the symbolism that Jung called: "the best possible formulation of the psyche", though even he might have struggled to decipher what is intended here. On the plus side, the song soothes even though disquieting angst seems to lie at its heart. A Sunny Day In Glasgow's 'In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry In The Tradition Of Passing), oscillates between ecstasy and something darker, acknowledges the power of dreams, and incorporates its own striking symbolism: "Like geometry this is killing me, I stent my Roman hands, and let them go".
It might be comforting to see The Deep Freeze Mice's, 'Teenage Head In My Refrigerator' as a sexually charged dream, though that's probably not the case. For my part, I'm temperamentally disinclined to see it as an admission of psychosis and homicide. Rather, I have come to see an ascetic sensibility sublimating angst through fantasy.
Sexual anxiety, arising from arrested development, lies at the heart of Garfunkel And Oates' wickedly delicious 'Handjob, Bland Job, I Don't Understand Job': "Now I'm on a full-blown investigation, to unlock the secrets of ejaculation, I need a translator like I'm reading Balzac, to crack the Rosetta Stone over your ball sack". Not great music perhaps, but very sharp, and the greatest fun.
It was the humour in the title 'I Palindrome I' (They Might Be Giants) that was the irresistible magnet drawing me to that song. Shades of the theatre of the absurd here, with an egocentric, covetous, self-loathing, and very possibly homicidal son, and an understandably wary mother, locked in a hopeless cycle of watchful skirmishing.
'This Is How You Spell HaHaHa, We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux Romantics' explain and claim Los Campesinos. The song defines neatly, and ultimately sweetly, the ambivalence we find in even our most treasured relationships. "This is not an existential crisis" the song claims when fracture of the partnership looks assured. But the more we define ourselves in terms of an other or others, the more prone we are to just that very sort of crisis, I found myself thinking; though perhaps 39 years of marriage influenced that musing.
Returning to Heidegger, he held that the way we face our issues determines the nature of our existence – moral man or mouse (excusing the gender bias). In 'Eating The Bear', Joan Armatrading declaims nothing if not the strength and determination to confront challenge and personal jeopardy (real or metaphorical); existential "good faith".
The Soft's Machine's, 'Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening' is a mighty work. You expect some kind of love song, but the "you" might well be God, making the song of the "God Is Dead" type. Nietzsche famously proclaimed the end of the hegemony of Judeo-Christian beliefs and ethics, and foresaw a world of striving and suffering gyrating between the poles of nihilism and the false certainties of totalitarian systems. Robert Wyatt paints such a rootless world and pleads : "Give me the truth, give me the truth". A clarity of thought about what is always needed in human affairs, that certainly does not go amiss today when rational and informed debate is compromised by social media, and drowned out by cries of 'fake news' and recourse to 'alternative facts'.
The Turtles, 'Chicken Little Was Right' is, so to speak, a bird of a different feather. It sketches a nuclear shadowed dystopia, but promotes disappearing into some wild to plant lemon trees, as a worthwhile antidote. The impulse to flight! Hmmm!? Not to knock the tune though, I loved it.
It was the "suicide" in Jackie Leven's 'Young Male Suicide Blessed By Invisible Woman' that aroused curiosity, since self-extermination is not that much discussed in song; at least, to my knowledge. The tune has a harmonic lushness helping to give benediction to the act: "Glory be to you, as you walk into the sea, let the water close behind you, in your brine eternity". I'm never sure what to think of suicide, though the estimable Albert Camus invoked Sisyphus to argue that in the midst of a life however absurd, we can still give the fates, gods, or whatever, a "fuck you" finger: or as Samuel Beckett had it so pleasingly: "You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."
OK then, time to wrap up quickly as I'm rabbiting. My favourite song of the week was Felt with 'Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow' which broaches the challenge of effective communication across the voids that separate us all. While Indians In Moscow and 'Jack Pelter And His Sex-Change Chicken' is an amusing curio about a widely accepted panacea for life's travails; 15 minutes in the spotlight, any spotlight including, it seems, English regional news programmes!
Amon Düül's Articulate Aardvaak and Many Other A-Words A-List Playlist
Amon Düül II – A Short Stop At The Transylvanian Brain Surgery
A Sunny Day In Glasgow – In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry In The Tradition Of Passing)
The Deep Freeze Mice – Teenage Head In My Refrigerator
Garfunkel And Oates – Handjob, Bland Job, I Don't Understand Job
They Might Be Giants – I Palindrome I
Los Campesinos – This Is How You Spell HaHaHa, We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux Romantics
Joan Armatrading – Eating The Bear
The Soft Machine – Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening
The Turtles – Chicken Little Was Right
Jackie Leven – Young Male Suicide Blessed By Invisible Woman
Felt – Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow
Indians In Moscow – Jack Pelter And His Sex-Change Chicken
Brigue and Badinage B-List Playlist
Just a random bunch of songs with great titles that I liked:
The Movement – Stinking Peanut Butter Love
Billie Holiday – Gimme A Pig Foot And A Bottle Of Beer
The Gourds – Ham-Fisted Box Of Gloves
The Ramones – The KKK Took My Baby Away
The Faces – You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything
Tony Joe White – They Caught The Devil And Put Him Jail In Eudora Arkansas
Sam The Sham And The Pharoahs – I Couldn't Spell #@!%
Mental As Anything – If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too
Penguin Cafe Orchestra – The Sound Of Someone You Love Going
Ricky Warwick – When Patsy Cline Was Crazy And Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues
Desmond Dekker – It Mek
Guru's WIldcard Pick:
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Titular spectacular: songs with provocative, strange, or humorous titles.The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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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.