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June 2011

Lyric For The Day 30.6.11 from You Got The Love by Florence and The Machine

Florence & The Machine 

Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air
I know I can count on you
Sometimes I feel like saying "Lord I just don't care"
But you've got the love I need To see me through

Sometimes it seems that the going is just too rough
And things go wrong no matter what I do
Now and then it seems that life is just too much
But you've got the love I need to see me through

When food is gone you are my daily need
When friends are gone I know my saviour's love is real
Your love is real

You got the love

-      From You Got The Love – by Florence and The Machine

It was an essay that one of my Evening Class students wrote that tipped me off to this great spiritual, originally released by Candi Staton but recently covered by the mega popular Florence and The machine. It is a powerful Psalm-like song of struggle and prayer and belief. It fits with an ability in Negro Spirituals to mix emotions.

When James Cone suggested that “Black Music is unity music” he went on to describe that in two ways; the uniting of people of course but also the uniting of emotions. “It unites the joy and the sorrow, the love and the hate, the hope and the despair of black people; and it moves the people toward the direction of total liberation.” This mixing of joy and sorrow is described by Cornell West, “The gospel in Afro-America lauds Calvinistic calls to transform the world, yet shuns puritanical repression… Life is viewed as both a carnival to enjoy and a battlefield on which to fight.”

Florence, whether she is aware of it or not has brought the carnival and the battlefield onto one stage every time she blasts this one out.

Lyric For The Day 29.6.11 from Creed by Rich Mullins

Rich 2 

“I did not make it

No it is making me

It’s the very truth of God

And not the invention of any man.”

-      From Creed by Rich Mullins

 I used this chorus last Sunday night in Church while interviewing our new Assistant Minister. I have pondered it all week long and then this morning my friend Andy Smitheyman used it as his Facebook status. It then shouted at me for the right to be a Lyric For The Day.

The Creed is a central song on Rich Mullin’s best work A Liturgy, A Legacy and A Ragamuffin Band, obviously as the core of the first section of that title. To hear and see it I encourage you to find the video where Rich beats away at his Hammer dulcimer out on the plains of Kansas (I presume!). Rich’s hammer dulcimer in the vast panorama of God’s creation is a very suitable setting for the song which is basically The Apostles Creed with the addition of this short chorus. The short chorus I think is from GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. Rich had two things he carried everywhere and demanded you responded to. One was Brother Sun, Sister Moon a seventies hippie movie about Francis Of Assisi ( I had to watch it in a trailer in New Mexico at an unearthly hour of the morning!) and Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.

What shapes us is one of the most vital questions about us. For Rich his Christian faith as laid out so clearly in the Creed was what shaped him. This was not something he made up. This was God’s truth and he laid his life open to its demands in ways that I have rarely seen in other human beings. Rich lived what he was singing. I still miss him.

Lyric For The Day 28.6.11 from Out Of Control by U2

U2 Out Of Control 

“You got Spirit

We’ve got soul

We got some big ideas

We’re out of control”

-      From Out Of Control by U2

This revisionist lyric of Bono’s particularly stood out for me at Glastonbury. Written on his 19th birthday, Out Of Control is a full on post punk bombardment and on the Boy album might have been seen as a young man in total confusion, quite literally out of control. Boy was a concept album of growing up and U2 were not comfortable yet about speaking too explicitly about their Christian faith; that came with the follow up October. There is a sense now, over three decades later, where Bono is not only revising the faith of that confused nineteen year old but also explaining the life he has lived since. “Big ideas” has been a phrase used by U2 to describe their art for at least twenty years and here we find their belief in God, their imaginations and their pushing the envelope way beyond the norm all squeezed into one short verse. The nineteen year old boy who wrote Out of Control could never have imagined a fifty one year old still with the same youthful energy for rock music and revolution. That youthful exuberance and thirty years of life experience can be even more potent!

U2 at Glastonbury - critique from the sofa


U2 at Glastonbury. The hype. The wait. The sense of history. The feedback! (without thinking I have put two of the band’s former names in to the first line!). When push comes to shove it was probably not the best U2 gig of all time. As a fan I would choose a U2 Tour over seeing them at Glastonbury any time. Having said that, it certainly was a happening. For us watching and listening on the BBC it was a chance to critique every chord, beat and word from our Friday night sofas; it was not for us to be able to review atmosphere or the thud on the chest power levels. For the rain drenched Glastonbury masses I reckon it was one of the gigs of their lives; for U2 one of those honours that gives the band as much of a kick as the crowd. A little wry smile between Bono and Edge at the end suggested that they felt they had winged it at times and from the sofa you could tell that it was a real battle but in the end the number one seeds came through undefeated! This was certainly a unique U2 experience. The rain lashed and Larry hated that, the stage seemed far too small for all Bono’s running, he admitted it was almost too slippery to move at all, the crowd which was not made up of their own fans for the first time in 25 years seemed too far away (Larry was vocal in his htared of that too!) and they were without all the lighting and sound advantages of their Claw. This was U2 as stripped back as it gets. The music had to do the talking.

And...The Edge! Oh my but that man is a guitar hero. In front of that power house rhythm section, that seems good looking (Larry) and pose (Adam) but should never be underestimated, the Edge lacerated the night with guitar riff after guitar riff. It was big and loud and as heavy as anything that had ever been played on this historic stage. It was a consistent onslaught of rock genius. Bono manfully tried to keep up. At times he perhaps over did the little song snippets but this is Bono, from the Greek word Bonoio “to overdo everything.” There were moments during Stay and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For in particular when he never sounded better but I had to listen on radio for while and felt the sound was much stronger there. Outside their Claw and the minute detail of their 360 Tour there were a few loose moments but the heart won out and Vertigo, Beautiful Day, Pride, Sunday Bloody Sunday pounded the ears with rock’s finest tunes. Personal highlights were the earliest songs, I Will Follow and Out Of Control; heavy, raw, sharp, punk!

Most fascinating of all in a U2 set is what Bono is trying to do underneath the main themes. He is always throwing in deeper thread, for those with ears to hear. What would he do at Glastonbury? Two moments were crucial. Firstly a rather shaky version of the old hymn Jerusalem and the second from the same Blake poem, originally known as And Did Those Feet In Ancient Time, he blended a much more effective snippet into Bad. He later spoke about it being a pilgrimage for him though when he looked at the other three they looked back blank he spoke of his companion being Waterboy Mike Scott (“just found God where he’s always been”). That Greek word Bonoio also means “Christian obsessive.”He went on and on about how, never mind Stonehenge, the oldest Christian Abbey in Europe was here in Glastonbury and it is another of those moments when Bono is playing the redeemer. Certainly for the U2 set, it was the spirit of the Abbey in ascendance, particularly the congregational singing on I Still Haven’t Found...! #

(loads of U2 articles on this blog - under U2...Baby Jesus Under The Trash)


U2 Protest at Glasto 

Channel 4 News have just spent some time grilling me about Bono’s financial matters. As if I would know! As if it is anyone’s business. Today of course it is everybody’s business as some clever group of artistic agitators intend to do some stunt at Glastonbury to shame Bono by suggesting how much tax he has avoided by moving the band’s publishing company out of Ireland where the tax was high. Perfectly legal but, say the begrudgers, could their recession hit homeland not do with some of that tax.

I have a myriad of answers to the protestors, the most important of which I dealt with in the article featured below; silencing one of the sharpest social justice voices of our time! Idiocy! My other answers are based around what I know of the financial dealings of U2. This was a band who should have left Ireland when they signed their first record deal; everybody else did. U2, however, made a decision to contribute to their own country. They set up their homes, spent their money, set up businesses, helped out other peoples’ businesses and paid their taxes. Though publishing royalties were tax free for a time, all other taxes were way above the UK or America. They decided to pay the higher taxes! It would be interesting to know who has paid more tax in Ireland than U2. Yet, they who’ve paid perhaps the most are being accused of evasion.

Then there is their charity giving. I am aware of various charitable contributions of U2. I couldn’t put those in my book Walk On; The Spiritual Journey Of U2 because they were never made public. Bono has a policy that comes from his Biblically shaped worldview that charitable giving should not be done for all to see; Jesus said that the right hand shouldn’t know what the left hand is doing! U2 were once offered £25,000,000 for the use of a song in a car commercial. They said the temptation was to give it to charity but they would then have to have declared that they had given it to charity! They take their giving seriously.

A television series once looked at the way wealthy celebrities squandered their millions. After the U2 episode the anchor man looked the camera in the eye and confessed they could find nothing but admiration for how U2 handle their finances. This is the band under the protests. The guys who have tried to be more accountable and the guy who has used his wealth to challenge the world’s social injustice become the objects of cheap stunts! Catch yourselves on!


Lyric For The Day 23.6.11 from getting Ready For Christmas Day by Paul Simon


“I got a nephew in Iraq it's his third time back 
But it's ending up the way it began 
With the luck of a beginner he'll be eating turkey dinner 
On some mountain top in Pakistan 
Getting ready, oh we're getting ready 
For the power and the glory and the story of the 
Christmas day”

-      From Getting Ready For Christmas Day by Paul Simon

I love Neil McCormick but how he reviewed this as a secular song last November is a mystery. Admittedly, as I say in my album review, Jesus is not explicitly referenced but he does feature in the word Christmas and the power and the glory makes reference surely to the story that is about him! That Simon duets with the voice of damnation preaching black minister Rev Gates recorded in 1941 surely leans to a Christian influence!

What Simon does is set the scene on the rest of his record. Here in the one song he weaves Christmas Day and the foreboding of Judgement Day, judgement of war and much more. There is this quite fascinating weaving of the God that Hebrews says it is a dreadful day to fall into the hands of and the God whose arms are open to the Prodigal returning abundant in love and grace. It creates great tension in the song... and so in life...

Lyric For The Day 22.6.11 from The Afterlife by Paul Simon

Paul Simon 

“After you climb, up the ladder of time, the Lord God is near.
Face to face, in the vastness of space, your words disappear.
And you feel like swimming in an ocean of love, and the current is strong.
But all that remains when you try to explain is a fragment of song...”

-      From The Afterlife by Paul Simon

Paul Simon on judgement day, who would have believed it! This for me is one of his most brilliant moments from So Beautiful Or So What. What Simon does here is that in the poetry and the music he creates a sacred artistic moment that feels overwhelming as, no matter what we think about judgement day, a face to face with God must be like. Simon imagines a transcendence beyond Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks moments where ordinariness is infused with the extraordinary. Simon goes beyond those moments of deep earthly feel of eternity and sets you into eternity itself. The vastness, the space, the love, the strength. When he finds himself in such a space Simon finds humour to deal with the overpowering experience and asks God whether he needs to sing Be Bop A Lula or Ooh Papa Doo? Just as you the celestial moment is burst by a laugh you are drawn back to something more profound. Does Paul Simon’s life work that he can offer to God just a few songs? Are they meaningless? Have they eternal purpose? And my contribution...?   



“Can you imagine us years from today/Sharing a park bench quietly/How terribly strange to be seventy.” It seems that when Paul McCartney turned 64 Paul Simon phoned him up and sang When I’m 64 down the line. Perhaps in October Macca can return the compliment and joke by singing Old Friends down the phone to him. Once you come to terms with the fact that Simon is 70 you then need to come to terms with the fact that he is actually doing better work now than he was when he was young and hip and thinking it would be strange to be seventy. Fair enough, songs in this collection might not become as classic as Sounds Of Silence, Bridge Over Troubled Waters and The Boxer but there is a creativity about Simon’s recent work that is more imaginative than the three chord strums of Homeward Bound.

Since his iconic album Gracelands Simon has been messing with sounds and rhythms and his last album Surprise had Brian Eno on board as a kind of sonic consultant. Though Simon himself suggests in the free Making of... film with the CD that he went back to the guitar and voice for the songwriting process on this record. Perhaps but his sounds and samples and rhythms make this an intriguing and creative piece of music. Blending his singing voice with the preaching voice of a Rev. Gates sermon from 1941 in Getting Ready For Christmas Day is unique and wonderful. Simon’s voice can move from almost spoken word to lovely melody. There is always something happening; artistically very satisfying.

Lyrically Simon is always an original. He finds so many angles, not only for one song but within one song. They are angles that no one else sees. He can then neatly seat humour right beside, if not in the middle of, profundity. It all seems to be conversational and Simon has a lot to say. The most fascinating thing about So Beautiful Or So What is that it is drenched with God! Simon again says in the short film about the making of the record how he discovered after a few songs that God was in them all. He admits he is not religious but that God seems to turn up a lot in his songs. Never has he appeared more than on these songs. We find ourselves at Christmas Day and Judgement Day. There are blessings, prayers, lots of light. That would be the overall shade. In the midst of war and hard times, doubts and wrong decisions there is multiple rays of sacred light and hope and love.

If we go back one last time to the Making Of... film Simon says that after a gig last year Paul McCartney came back stage and said to him, “Aren’t you a Jew?” Macca is not renowned for his interest in anything religious or theological but he nails something. There is no explicit naming of Jesus on this album. He is referenced as “Son” and obviously gets name checked on Christmas Day but the theology around God on this album are not Jewish but implicitly Christian. When you add this religious intrigue to the musical template and lyrical dexterity it makes for one fascinating piece of art. It is in many places so beautiful and not one second of it says so what!

(Soul Surmise will be looking closer at some of the songs in the next week)


Rory Mc US Open 
On Saturday, waiting nervously for Rory McIlroy to tee off in the third round of the US Open, I wrote on my Facebook status, we need to get him through these next 27 holes to see how he swings on the 10th, final day... that swing will reveal the destiny of the next 15 years of golf!” Last night that shot, at the par 3 when the pressure of a Major really kicks in, was so perfect that it almost went in the hole. After watching the previous 27 holes nervously I leaped off my sofa and did a jig on the spot, hailing loudly what I believe, that that shot was the dawning of golf’s new era; the Ror with a Lion on one of his head covers had put to an end the era of the Tiger; look at his little grin after he tapped in and Rory himself knows that that was the moment!
Readers of Soul Surmise will know that I haven’t always believed (see article linked below). If I wasn’t an atheist, when it came to Rory’s destiny, I was certainly agnostic. I had no doubts that he was, as the commentators were suggesting on Friday. the best striker of a golf ball ever. It was whether he had the head to be a winner. In sport that is the little extra that not everyone has, that no amount of ability can overcome, that actually can destroy even the most immense of talents. It was almost revealed to us in that same final round. From tee to green Sergio Garcia probably matched Rory but missed putt after putt with the bizarrest putting grip I have ever seen. Why? Because he was close to winning Majors at 19 and now his head is so fried that he can’t take the pressure of that penalty-shoot-out eighteen times per round.  
What concerned me even more since Augusta was that I had got to chat to someone very close to Rory who not only shared my post Masters doubts but suggested that the whole camp including Rory were perhaps doubting more than me. That was also revealed during that wonderful last round yesterday when his good buddy Graeme McDowell was asked if this was a monkey off Rory’s back and he replied, “more like a guerilla!”
However the guerilla is gone and Rory McIlroy stands at the very top of his sport this morning, aged 22. I, as one of the doubters, need to give credit to Rory for overcoming his own doubts. For a player of his ability his two tournament victories until yesterday was very poor. The battle was in his head and the best swing in golf couldn’t help him. He had to beat the demons inside. With that victory and the confidence found this week history is literally a blank page for him to write a story. I watched every hole of those last two rounds very nervously. Next time I will be much more relaxed. So will Rory. We might be more frustrated about that Masters’ meltdown come August if he wins the next two majors.
During my Facebook statuses over the weekend some have suggested I was a little extreme. Was it not enough for Rory to do his best and grow into his vocation. No! Firstly, you don’t grow into sport the way you do into the medical or legal profession. When you have gained the experience to be phenomenal you are too old to put it into practice! You need to strike when the opportunity is there because Michael Owen grew out of it not into it and there are many more like him. Nor was it acceptable for Rory McIlroy to be second twice in a row like Jason Day or to be world number one like Luke Donald or Lee Westwood without winning a major. Rory himself has declared himself way above “a good career.” If you read his statistics this season why is it that he has led three Majors and almost won all four whereas he hasn’t really threatened the same way on the weekly tour? Why did he miss the tournament the week before the US Open? Rory McIlroy is playing golf to win Majors. Forget the money or the weekly tournaments. He is setting up his game to peak four weeks per year. When he told his headmaster at 11 that he was going to be a professional golfer he didn’t mean a good one. He meant a great one. He meant one of the best, if not the best, in history. That dream is now more than possible; a few more putts and he can fulfil!    
Another wee thought from a Northern Ireland sports fan. Two US Opens in a row for our wee piece of land, two hours long and two hours wide! Not only that but even if Andy Murray wins Wimbledon could that wee country win two BBC Sports Personality of The Year in a row! We’ve been known around the world for some heinous stuff. Thank yous to our sportsmen and women who shine a very different light on us! It is a happy place this morning!

Lyric For The Day 17.6.11 from Hold Me Jesus by Rich Mullins


Surrender don't come natural to me
I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want
Than to take what You give that I need”
 - from Hold Me Jesus by Rich Mullins

Music has been used and indeed often times abused by the Church as an evangelical tool. Oftentimes as Rich Mullins put it they have made “cheap clichés out of timeless truth.” Alongside that evangelism for many years was a music ministry where our Church pop stars toured from Church to Church teaching through songs and maybe even in the spiel between songs. Many times the art was weak.    

Today’s Lyric For The Day shows how it should be done. Rich Mullins at his very best, digging deep into the soul and excavating the “stuff of earth” that gets in the way. These few lines are a depth charge that could literally ripple on for the rest of my life. It asks the critical questions. It declares the wisdom for holy living. It disturbs my attitude to God and selfish pursuit of worthless acquisitions and reminds us of God’s grace fired love to meet all of our real needs.