By The Landlord
"All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking." – Friedrich Nietzsche
"As people are walking all the time, in the same spot, a path appears." – John Locke
"The wisdom of age: don't stop walking." – Mason Cooley
"Don't threaten me with love, baby. Let's just go walking in the rain." – Billie Holiday
Welcome to the Bar. Walk this way. Take a Spanish stroll, parade, ramble on, step on. There are many songs that pertain to perambulation in titles or lyrics, but aren't really about walking, and in particular don't necessarily express the feeling, motion, momentum, pace or rhythm of walking itself. So this week, it's not about the lyrics, but music from instrumentals or any kind of songs in any genre that do. How? Let's walk and talk about this more …
I used to ride a bike almost everywhere, and still do to mostly get around, but when I have time, I have formed the highly beneficial habit of stepping out for regular constitutional strolls or strides, in sunshine or rain, listening to music on headphones to air my mind, body and soul. Every now and then a song comes on that is in perfect sync with the rhythm of my walk. It is as if heartbeat, body and music fuse perfectly and a high of simple happiness lifts my mood considerably. It all just clicks. I begin to feel a strange high, like I've become John Travolta a the beginning of Saturday Night Fever, or Lee Marvin purposefully striding to his tasks in Point Blank, or even Julie Christie strolling and swinging down the street in Billy Liar.
It's also a great way for the self to shake itself down and ideas to form. Writing and walking go hand in hand. But also it gives a sense of being at unity with the world. Down city streets, parks or canals, I often see others walking in parallel, marching along in sync with same rhythm and pace or my my private music, and I smile to myself, watching them unwittingly join in with this movement, in a deeper sense on the same metaphorical as well a literal path as me, expressing a primeval link, a rhythm of the human race. Perhaps I’m in sync with the music on their headphones. Why does music move us after all? Perhaps it is partly because it tunes into the natural movement of heart and limb. Is the perfect walking song, like our average walking heartbeat and step, somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute?
Walking is a wonderful thing to behold. We can perceive the identity of an individual we know by their gait as much as their face. The formula is basically the same, but everyone's walk is slightly different. Is a person's walking style formed by nature or nurture. As with many things, it's both. Last weekend a woman at a gig asked me if I was from Manchester without even having heard me speak. I laughed and asked her how she knew. She said I had the “Manc monkey swagger”, made famous by Ian Brown and Liam Gallagher. It must have been the mood I was in, because at other times I will stride with a more business-like purpose, or stroll lazily, or first thing in the morning, stagger stutteringly. But at the same time I have a walk, as we all do, whether it’s swaying, swerving, straight, swaggering, sexy, stiff, or even silly:
Let's get more into this. Walking is a musical emotion that says as much about our inside as our outside. It says things about our self-regard, our insecurities, our sexuality, how we copy each other culturally, So as well as the swagger, how else do we give away ourselves with our gait? Perhaps it's famous and distinctive like the camp Mick Jagger? or the John Inman exaggerated arm-swing mincing. Is that convincing? Do you do a bustle, or a slow, sly hustle? Do you walk with a bounce, as if you just weighed an ounce? Do does your walk upright, like toast? Or walk stiff as a post? Do you step like a goose? Or walk all wobbly and loose? And if you walk like an Egyptian, what's your prescription?
Is yours ungainly, all over the place, mainly? Is it painful walk, like blackboard scratched chalk, or do you flap your arms like a hawk, or move more sticklike, and cautious, like a stork? Do you walk almost too happily and bouncily, as if climbing an imaginary tree? Or is your busy, serious walk affected by mobile phone answering? Or is it an unhurried, cool slinky, Pink Panthering?
Animals are really far more natural walkers than humans, an talking of cat-like sexy walking, let's now explore footage of a catwalk fashion show in which a real feline shows how it's done.
But why do we walk at all, as opposed to crawling on all fours? Humans are perhaps strange walkers in the animal kingdom perhaps due to our evolution. Our spines are not properly formed for either walking or crawling. One theory is that apes began to walk upright in order to reach fruit that was higher up, or to cross rivers. Richard Dawkins meanwhile as just dropped into the Bar to offer up his theory, that it is more a matter of natural selection. Walking upright must have been also seen as sexier:
"Why did humans lose their body hair? Why did they start walking on their hind legs? Why did they develop big brains? I think that the answer to all three questions is sexual selection."
Walking is also a social and also political act, especially in synchronisation. It can be symbolic and powerful in protest from workers' rights Jarrow March, to the the Detroit Walk to Freedom, the walk from Selma to Montgomery, or Nelson Mandela’s fragile but powerful great walk to freedom in South Africa. Walking at New Orleans funerals, from the slow to the swing stage expresses much about life and death.
But as a form of entertainment, walking can also be spectacular and strange. Marching bands can be oddly fast, such as this from Ohio State University's marching band.
Or it can be strangely slow, as in Russia's Moscow Victory Parade, reminiscent of the Nazi goose step, but that’s not exclusive to that political movement.
But walking of course is a form of inspiration. "Walking is man's best medicine," said Hippocrates. "It is not talking but walking that will bring us to heaven," proclaims the clergyman Matthew Henry. The Irish musician James Vincent McMorrow recalls "vivid memories of walking around as a child with a cassette tape."
But now here's the modern jazz great Kamasi Washington on his creative relationship with this activity: "More When I was younger, I'd be walking down the street and suddenly panic because I had a cool idea and no way of getting it down - I'd have to sing it all the way home. Now I can hum it into my phone."
Bjork is a prolific walker. "I mostly write on my own, walking, outside," she tells us. "There's something about the rhythm of walking, how, after about an hour and a half, the mind and body can't help getting in sync. I have written most of my melodies walking and I feel it is definitely one of the most helpful ways of sewing all of the different things in your life together and seeing the whole picture."
And that sums it up rather nicely. So then, what songs or music evoke the feeling of walking in your collections. Place them in comments below and we'll find a path together. This week's Professor of Perambulation, I'm delighted to say, is another Song Bar debut guru, our old learned and most articulate friend, Abahachi! Deadline for all routes down this topic is Monday at 11pm last orders (please note this is now GMT, not British Summer time), for playlists published on Wednesday. The green light means go.
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