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February 2011

Lyric For The Day 28.2.2011 from John Wayne Gacy Jr by Sufjan Stevens


“And in my best behaviour
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid”

          From John Wayne Gacy Jr by Sufjan Stevens

This is a song about a serial child murderer with a killer ending! Stevens’ uses his literary prowess to build a character sketch of a horrible man but just as you are horrified by the broken humanity of someone else Stevens turns the judgement on himself in a “but for the grace of God go I” and you are left searching your own soul for what you hide from the world. “All have sinned and fall short...” as the apostle Paul put it. Chilling and sobering!

BOB GELDOF - How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell


I have always been a Bob Geldof fan. He’s up there with George Best and Glen Hansard as my favourite Irishman; controversial if you know my writing past! I bought the first two Boomtown Rats singles, was a radical disciple of his Feed the World efforts (realising that it was indeed in keeping with my own Christian faith), thought he was brilliant live at Greenbelt in 1992 and have bought all his solo albums on the week of release! Not that the last two were any good but Vegetarians Of Love is a wee gem that I so love going back to and Deep In the Heart of Nowhere, though very much set in the eighties, has some wonderful moments!

Still, the last two have not been his best so should I have risked the new one and would I have had it not been that early part of the year where nothing else is released! I don’t know but I am glad it was and I did! Geldof is in his 59th year as he tells you on the cover but he is vibrant and edgy as ever. Not that he is being innovative and let us face it we are not expecting the 59 year olds to be Sufjan Stevens are we? No, Bob takes all the influences that he loves and adds his own quirky voice and philosophies. There’s a Tom Waits’ megaphone happening on Blowfish, maybe the least successful track, there’s a Crosby Stills and Nash harmony happening on Mary Says and Here’s to You has a lazy meditative George Harrison slide guitar sound. The majority of the songs have a European feel and Vegetarians Of Love’s loose, fiddle feel is the best comparison but the most exciting thing for me is that not innovative worldwide it is new ground for Geldof. Silly Pretty Little Thing would have been number 1 had he released it in the late 70s! Catchy and sunny and radio friendlier than Robbie Williams!

I also love the Godisms from our ardent agnostic secular saint! In his very first solo release This Is The World Calling Geldof sang “There’s so much beauty I wish that I had believed enough to pray” and it would seem that that is a good strap line to his entire catalogue. To Live In Love sees love as Divine and definitive to our human existence, Here’s to You is a literal prayer for friends, family and the earth itself and the funny biographical throwaway extra track has devils and God playing their part in the drama of Geldof’s entire life.

Lyric For The Day 22.2.2011 from Isn't It A Pity by George Harrison

Isn't It A Pity 

“Isn't it a pity
Now, isn't it a shame
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity”

 From Isn’t It A Pity by George Harrison

One of George Harrison’s finest moments. Even on his amazing triple record All Things Pass this stands out. Cowboy Junkies do a great cover too. When listening to All Things Must Pass you should always remember that it was written during the break-up of The Beatles. Songs like All Things Must Pass, Wah Wah and this are infused by such events. These lyrics could be a real poetic description of those dying days of four best friends who are losing what made them spectacularly special because they were using each other and taking each other for granted.

It is a good parable of how we all treat each other. Isn’t it a pity has no solutions. It is a melancholic sorrowful warning of what we have done to each other since Cain and Abel.  

Lyric For The Day 21.2.2011 from Looking For Your Life by George Harrison


“Oh boy, you’ve no idea what I’ve been through
Oh lord, I feel so stuck that I can’t get to you
Had no idea that I was heading
Toward a state of emergency
I had no fear where I was treading
I only found it out when I was down upon my knees
Looking for my life”

          From Looking For My Life by George Harrison

My eastern mystical friend George leaves us with another spiritual truth on this song from his posthumously released album Brainwashed. The only place to get true perspective on our lives is when we are in a prayerful surrendered position before God. If you are looking for your life then you will not find it by gaining the world, as George Harrison had the experience of achieving to heights few other humans will ever reach, but as Jesus put it by giving up yourself; and falling down and acknowledging God.

Lyric For The Day 20.2.2011 from Devil's Radio by George Harrison

Devil's Radio 

“I heard it in the night
Words that thoughtless speak
Like vultures swooping down below
On the devil's radio

I hear it through the day
Airwaves gettin' filled
With gossip broadcast to and fro
On the devil's radio”

          From Devil’s Radio by George Harrison

We start a week of George Harrison lyrics to celebrate the birth of The Beatles’ guitarist on February 15th 1943 with this lovely little biting lyric; full of humour and every day application! Apparently Harrison saw the words Devil’s Radio on a Church notice Board. Gossip is an everyday annoyance come evil. The Devil’s Radio is a great image; and a good song from Cloud Nine.

Lyric For The Day 17.2.11 from Here's To You by Bob Geldof

Geldof 2 

“Here’s to you and all our friends

May God protect us until the very end

All the places that we go

Everybody that we know...”

  From Here’s To You by Bob Geldof

To a lovely reflective and contemplative George Harrison-esque slide guitar our old agnostic friend, and many times Kingdom bringing in the Church’s absence, Bob Geldof closes his new album with a prayer! Then in the fun throwaway biography in 3 minutes hidden track he gives the Lord the credit for the salvation he experienced after the devil made his beloved wife leave him. Lots of God on here! Love it Bob!

Lyric For The Day - from Let The Truth Sting by David Gray (Pt 1)

A Century's End 

“On and on
Body willing, mind undone
One pain ending while another begins
Lies, ruin, disease
Into wounds like these
Let the truth sting
Let the truth sting
Let the truth sting”

          From Let The Truth Sting

I remember while researching my book The Rock Cries Out listening to the first three David Gray albums in one morning. At lunchtime I needed a rest. My soul had been so pummelled by Gray’s wise prophetic insight that I could take no more. Gray was a real artist before commerce took its ugly way with his muse. A Century’s End has some soul blowing songs of which Let The Truth Sting has to be the most audacious and successful. The gnarl in his voice scrapes across words that are so socially aware and throw out this challenge to lavishly pour the truth into the lies, ruin and disease of a society.

It doesn’t take the follower of Jesus to many nano seconds to equate this with Jesus saying, “You are the salt of the earth.” One of the powers of salt is to heal deep in the wounds. Jesus and Gray are very much on the same page here. Let The Truth Sting is a rallying call for social transformation. Sing!

STARTING OVER; The Making of Double Fantasy - KEN SHARP

Ken Sharp 

I found this a fascinating book. It is an interesting layout. Ken Sharp never gives opinion or commentary but merely allows the major players in the historical piece. You therefore get the stories and quotes from all the session players, producer and engineers and anyone else professionally involved in the making of and publicising of the record. The downside of this is that sometimes we get the same information from a range of players but over all if you are thinking that there could not be enough for a book out of one record then you will be proven wrong. I found myself caught into it; maybe not gripping but intriguing.

The mood of the sessions really comes through. The players, all major session men of the time, are all like kids in a sweetie shop when they find out that they are playing with a Beatle; the Beatle who had been in hiding! They are all fans. They are all a little in awe. They all find lennon in great mood and friendly form. He seems to want to be one of the lads, excited to be back in the studio and keen to enjoy every minute. 

Double Fantasy, the record in the works and therefore under scrutiny was of course supposed to be a conversation between lovers, John and Yoko’s songs turn about in the track listings. For those of us who have followed Lennon’s career and read the other biographies, particularly the sensationalist critiques like Albert Goldman, there is an interesting take on the state of the Lennon’s marriage and nothing but love, love, love comes through here. Interviewers who spent as much as three week with them did not believe they could be bluffing them; these were two forty-somethings very much in love.

There are a few things that I learned too. Now being a hammer dulcimer fan through the work of Rich Mullins and more recently Eric Angus Whyte I was fascinated to learn that there was one on Watching The Wheels. Even more fascinating is that the hammer dulcimer player, Matthew Cunningham was a street musician as they couldn’t find a session player in all of New York. That Cunningham didn’t seem to know Lennon and only picked up who he’d played for a while later is even more interesting. The Cheap Trick saga is also a drama worth having teased out. What they would have brought to the whole record is worth some trajectory but why there version of I’m Losing You wasn’t used is also dramatic intrigue. Rick Nielsen sending Lennon a guitar as a gift is also a lovely little crum!

In the main I found myself reaching for the album again and again, listening for the little bits of instrumental or vocal or lyric info. It allows you to reach into the minutiae and there are lovely things to find. This and the Stripped Naked edition of the record have certainly placed this higher in my favourite Lennon albums.

For fans, a very worthwhile read.

Double Fantasy Stripped reviewed

Sometime In New York City



From the same small town, Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, as Diana Krall and Allison Crowe, Melissa Hill makes you wonder what it is in the water that can breed three such talented pianist, singer songwriters. On this superbly recorded live record Hill takes that jazz piano that Krall has minted in the mainstream and adds her own mark. She is younger, edgier and adds a rock attitude to the jazz base; much more than Ms Krall getting married to Elvis Costello has done for hers! There is great variety too across the album with a superb band playing their different parts with a consistent quality.

Melissa Hill’s voice is also a revelation; strong and loud and yet she can use it in all kinds of shades of vulnerability and gentleness as on Innocence. A quick glance across the titles Sunshine, Radiance, Groovin’ and Joy tell you that this is up music. People have said that it is not easy to create good art from a happy place. Hill begs to differ and fills these songs with love, motherhood, travel and faith, the glass on top of her piano always half full and at times actually bubbling over. And that is a good description of her playing. Hill bubbles at the piano and then throws some radio friendly melodies on top. Yes, as a writer she might still be developing her craft but this is a giant leap forward from her previous studio work and songs like Jamaica, Sunshine and Love You Anyway should be on every Canadian radio stations playlist.



So I am reading Hot Press 800th Issue Special and Glen Hansard (The Frames and The Swell Season) is preaching it. I am not surprised at that since in the couple of times that I have met Glen he was an authentic antithesis to the musician seeking celebrity status. He has always seemed to be an ordinary fella playing extraordinary music but always wanting to remain who he always was. That he would be ranting about the greed of the Celtic Tiger years in Ireland describing it as “pigs at a trough” was no surprise. I was inspired, as I often have been by his music and interviews, by his idea that we needed heroes now, artistic if possible, who would heal the nation of greed and bring it back to a caring place again. His comment “I really believe that we’ve been f******  around with sacred s*** in Ireland and the karmic rooster’s coming home,” leads me to surmise the sadness of the Christian void.

Here’s an artist aware that we are dealing with the “sacred” and that we have done wrong by it and when you do wrong by it there are consequences. Preach it brother! Where the picture blurs for me is when he looks for that scared. The very last place this generation of Irish artist is turning is Christianity. How can this be? How far the Biblical prophetic tradition have we drifted that a nation of saints and scholars would be unaware of the core of its contents? Glen’s critique could be out of any of the books of the prophets. They too lambasted the greed of a people messing with the sacred and poetically proclaimed the karmic rooster coming down the line if not already arrived.

That Hansard and his Hot Press buddies could grow up in Christian Ireland and instead of turning to the Christian diagnosis and solution at this stage suggests hundreds of years of the Church having been unfaithful to the whole counsel of God. The Scriptures are an antithesis to greed from the get go. Humanity’s first and crucial error is to reach beyond ourselves in an attempt to be something more and as a result ending up something less. God’s strategy to put it right is then a people who will act not as the other nations but be less interested in greed and more interested in the poor and the alien. It is when God’s people fail to do these things and fill their houses with ivory and own summer houses at the cost of the poor that the prophets really rage. Jesus has equally erudite critique of “pigs at the trough” recklessness. In the end instead of “pigging at the trough” to be more than he was, he emptied himself and sacrificed his life that humanity might find out exactly what they were designed to be again.

Yet, Hansard speaks of spooking the fairies and the only reference to religion is the Talmud; at least the Jewish side of Judeo-Christianity is getting a mention. However, it is a indictment to all of us who teach the Scriptures and attempt to apply it in our own faith communities and then to influence our neighbourhoods, cities and nations that when the “secular prophets” diagnose the symptoms of our malaise, as succinctly as Glen Hansard has done in Hot Press, that Christianity is not a part of the conversation. To work!