Excerpt: Lennon #9 Dream

From “Rock Commentaries”

1971: Shaved Fish: #9 Dream

John Lennon achieved some greatness apart from the Beatles. Together with “Mind Games” on Shaved Fish, the dream is a celebration of the mystery rite of love:

So long ago

Was it in a dream?

Was it just a dream?

I know oh yes I know

Seemed so very real

Seemed so real to me

Took a walk down the street

Through the heat whispered trees

I thought I could hear,

Hear, hear.

Somebody called out my name

As it started to rain

Two spirits dancing so strangely

[Ah! bawa kawa, posse posson]

Dream, dream away

Magic in the air. Was Magic in the air?

I believe, yes I believe

What more can I say

On a river of sound

Through the mirrors go round and round

I thought I could feel, feel, feel, feel

Music touching my soul

Something warm sudden cold

The spirit dance was unfolding

   The poem describes a very mysterious and beautiful experience involving love and rain. The song is said to have come to Lennon in a dream. At first he says he knows, at least that it seemed so very real, but then he admits, that he believes, and what more can he say?

   He was walking down the street in the heat, when he heard someone call out his name, and then they met as it started to rain, and their dance was like the spirits dance, as love brings the two to participate in what is like the dance of spirits, within the harmony of things lost from the beginning, in a conjunction of conscious and unconscious mind that is like walking in a waking dream. The harmony can apparently be entered briefly by two in love, and it is this brief contact that makes them both wish that the dance were permanent, and seek to recover the lost harmony in the end. But it is here that for a moment the divided human being can be as if whole, when the two participate in or incarnate the life of the soul which, if it were in one, would be the perfected soul. They are out of their minds, and at the same time more in them than they are likely to be again. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet dance like the two hands of a praying saint, and it is on this higher perfection that love depends for its magic. The two together and the singular soul are both in turn images of the Most High, or show what it means that the soul is an image of God, since here the overflow of the image allows indirect vision, by reflection. In love, the intelligible enters the visible, and so, some very strange things happen, as is commonly reported.

   Here is a nice note from one called Linclink on Steve Hoffman’s Music Forum:

In a weird synchronicity…there are two threads here tonight one on songs with “Sha La La” in them & one on the meaning of John Lennon’s #9 Dream chorus- “Ah! bowakawa pousse’ pousse'”
Well, here we go…when I was living in NYC (’94-’00) I deeply immersed myself in your basic do it yourself basement Shamanism…the mantra I made up was to evoke Love & Magic & it was “Sha La La, Ah Bowakawa Pousee Pousee; Ah Bowakawa Pousee Pousee Sha La La”, or if you prefer “Ah Bowakawa Pousee Pousee, Sha La La; Sha La La, Ah Bowakawa Pousee Pousee”.
The Sha La La was meant to evoke Love, as it’s been used in so many songs as something so jubilant & joyful, and the Lennon phrase because it came to him in a dream, but I had heard, though he didn’t know this, that it was an incantation & I used that to invoke Magic.
Well I became friends with a non-native New Yorker, from which country in Africa I sadly can’t recall the detail of, & when we were talking about mysticism one day I happened to tell him about the incantation/mantra I’d made up. His eyes got huge & he exclaimed, “How in the world do you know about ‘Ah Bowakawa Pousee Pousee’?!?!”. I explained it was from a John Lennon song, & while he didn’t elaborate a whole lot (he was fairly busy that day with customers) he confirmed that it was most certainly a phrase used in some non-Western, non-White (meaning race, not White vs. Black Magic) form of Mysticism/Shamanism. He used to call me by that name, as in “Hey ‘Ah Bowakawa Pousee Pousee’!!”, and get this huge grin on his face when he did so. He was very surprised & amused that any White New Yorker would have had any contact with this.
It came to Lennon in a dream, but it was a very Mystical dream, & I wish I could recall all the details (maybe I’ll look it up again someday), but he said he thought it was just a nice sounding phrase. I think it was a Magical phrase that was delivered to him. “#9 Dream” cracked the top ten (made it to #9 actually) & put a Magical incantation out across the airwaves (which I believe is VERY powerful medicine for the world), just as he might have done in the 60’s had “Across The Universe” ever become the hit single it should have been with “Jai Guru Deva Om”.

Ian Anderson on “Thick as a Brick.”

From gstormcrow on songmeanings, 2009

[paragraphs re-ordered.]:

After decades of listening to Tull & reading interviews from old magazine articles found on the Jethro Tull Press website, I believe the following quotes by Ian say the most regarding Thick’s lyrics.

(Excerpts from Ian’s interview with Melody Maker magazine published in their 12/07/74 issue):

   “‘Thick as a brick’; it really is a slang phrase from the north of England, where I spent my (well, some of my) growing-up years. To describe someone as being ‘as thick as a brick’ meant to describe them as being stupid, basically. You know, to be ‘thick’, as in ‘thick-headed’; thick as a ‘brick’ being a small, dense object. So I was really talking about people being intellectually incapable of absorbing whatever it might have been put across in those slightly spoofish, bombastic terms in the lyrics of the album.”
(Excerpt from Ian’s 12/23/91 interview on the US radio show, ‘In The Studio – Thick As A Brick’)

“The way that I write allows a lot of people to interpret in their own fashion. I am not just saying one thing. I am saying a lot of things to a lot of people. The music means different things to different people.” “I want to insist that every listener makes a tiny bit of effort to reach the music and interpret what I am saying. My words put out feelers. It’s up to listeners to pick up on them and get from them what they wish – I’m not attempting to be clear-cut. I want to deal in terms that invite questioning. Balm for the masses is no use whatsoever.” “We do tend to judge music on its rhythms and whether you can tap your foot to it. But most of our music deserves to be listened to several times. I’m still listening to Beethoven and I still don’t understand what he is doing, but I’ll get there some day. God knows that whatever I ultimately make of Beethoven I will never derive the same interpretation as what was intended – and I hope he respects my right to my interpretation – but at least I have a willingness to try to understand it.” “I don’t really want to get into specific comparisons and explanations, especially about Passion Play and Thick As A Brick. I don’t want to start people off trying to figure out where the new album is in relation to the last two. Believe it or not, they all mean something.” “It’s distinctly worrying, because I know that the last few records have been difficult to listen to. WarChild, so I’m told, is a lot more accessible. I don’t know if I like that or not. I’ve started to worry that perhaps people will think it’s a simple record and they’ll play it at parties and they’ll play it when they’re stoned and they’ll play it in their car – instead of actually sitting down and making an effort to listen.” (Excerpts from Ian’s interview with Melody Maker magazine published in their 12/07/74 issue)

    [gstormcrow:] One common theme in most of Tull’s lyrics is an implied narrator, akin to a medieval court-jester, whom tells absurd jokes riddled with hyperbole to humour his audience while hinting toward specific similarities of actual circumstances or events. Since he is considered a fool and not to be taken seriously, the jester’s jokes can be either safely dismissed for their absurdity or thoughtfully pondered for the meaningful questions they pose depending on the audience’s mindset. Examples of Tull’s narrator/jester theme can also be found in the lyrics of Minstrel In The Gallery, A Passion Play, Skating Away, Solitare, Wind-Up, Lick Your Fingers Clean and Sealion to name a few.

Over-analyzing is of course exactly that — by definition ”over” means too much.

 

gstormcrowon October 09, 2009   Link
   So far, we have only to add the note that there is a double twist to the saying, and the muse may be having one over on Ian! But the wise of this society do not consider the thick with compassion. To persuade, one must see and feel from the point of view of the thick.
   Also, the poet himself appears briefly, in the lines following: And the love that I feel is so far away. He tells his beloved that that he is as a recent nightmare to himself. She responds not with compassion, but only to say that his turbulent inner life is “a shame,” an unnecessary misfortune (as distinct from an embarrassment).

Selection on “Christian” Rock, from “Rock Commentaries” IX

   In honor of Creed, we will include a list of ten Christian Rock songs, or songs that could be played toward the purpose by a christian rock band. These are songs that could make up a great Christian Rock concert, enriching a small and struggling genre. Why this should be is a good question, if one considers that there is fine Christian bluegrass music out of the middle of America. There is Christian classical, but not Christian Big Band or square dancing music. Some modes do not fit. The purpose of music itself is to glorify the Creator, as Henry Schaeffer says. There is some question here, though, of whether the rock beat is not itself corrupt and irredeemable. But if Christianity is also a soaring of the intellect, and enlists the greatest passions, one would think the rock mode might be especially suited, if one could find the right way, and this we think was done by Scot Stipe of Creed and in Jesus Christ Superstar to some extent. The acoustic or folk ballad type of explicitly Christian music is somehow easier to come by, and there are some among my simply best of all songs list below. But there will be no longer any excuse that there should not be very successful Christian Rock concerts. The first three penitent songs, and not explicitly Christian, though they demonstrate the recognition of wrong in a Biblical context. Locomotive breath, studied above with Aqualung, is included because the fellow caught as if on a tragic train ride ends by picking up Gideon’s Bible, though I am not sure I have understood the meaning aright. God stole the handle, or seems to the fellow to have taken away the means of stopping the tragic train.

15. In the Light Led Zeppelin

14. In My Time of Dyin’ Zeppelin

13. Take Me to the River, Talking Heads

12. Locomotive Breath Jethro Tull

11. House of the Rising Sun Eric Burden

10. Stealin Uriah Heep

9. Jesus Children Steevie Wonder

8. Aqualung side two (above)

7. All along the Watchtower (above)

6. Presence of the Lord Blind Faith (

5. Easy Livin Uriah Heep

This is a thing I’v never known before, its called easy livin’

This is place I’v never seen before, and I’v been forgiven

Easy Livin, and I’v been forgiven, since You’ve

Taken your place in my heart.

Somewhere along the lonely road, I had tried to find you

Day after day on that winding road I had walked behind you

  1. Love One Another Jesse Colin Young
  1. Love reign O’er Me The Who Quadrophenia
  1. Pride (In the Name of Love) U2

Antidepressants on BBC: The Oxford Study, Questioned here by Anti-psychiatry

    •    This news report began by saying that this new study has “proven” that anti-depressants are good for us, “ending all controversy,” “finally.” What it actually demonstrates is that for a pre-selected group, the drugs were more effective “on the average” than a placebo, or a fake pill, and that over an 8 week period (i.e., ignoring long term effects and discounting the initial bad reaction many people have to these drugs), for those categorized as suffering “moderate to severe” depression, while agreeing that antidepressants are over-prescribed for “mild” depression. These categories, mild, severe and the like, themselves are not established scientifically (but rather are set on the basis of a common sense judgment). Hence, far from proving that a million more people in the U. K. need to be drugged, and far from ending all controversy about antidepressants, the study only shows that slightly more than half of people who are very sad say they like the drugs for a little while. We knew that. What we do not know is why the BBC is sending out such drivel at such a time.

      The following are some of the tweets preserved as the news reports were released, in reverse order and roughly edited:

         They spent six years studying a pre-selected group, “120,000,” and never mention “SUICIDAL” tendencies as a known side effect on the BBC. As the old Mum says, “it says so right on the (f’n) can, those are the “side effects.”

         Andrei Chipriani is the shrink who published the study reported on the BBC that I accuse of being profitable disinformation. Oh, and today, they add, only “60%” “Respond” to their “treatment,” and those are indeed the basis of their stupid study, just as I guessed:

    Tweet:…And, those few are probably pre-selected for those who report that they do feel better, disregarding the “side effects!” Antidepressants do far more harm than good, and the drug oligarchs (panels of shareholder value algorithmic bank accounts) can stuff them, perhaps with some “Abilify.”

       “Just don’t smoke weed for depression,” cause the f’n oligarchs might not be able to control the profits, and its less addictive than coffee! I have said I will believe the shrinks and society in general are actually concerned with depression remedies when they legalize weed.*

       Similarly, we might begin to trust the “professionals” in their efforts at rehabilitating people from heroin addiction if they would recognize the obvious benefit of marijuana to such an effort. We have just been subjected to an enormous, now uncovered Oxy-heroin scam, and the drug companies legal and illegal are still interfering with Congress and public opinion to retain this multi-billion dollar industry. One immediately saw genuine pain sufferers forced to cry out loudly because Congress began to limit Oxy for everyone, with a blanket law, rather than craft laws carefully to follow distinctions, and return to non opioid pain remedies so as to stem the flow of the children into the river of the heroin dealers. My own representative is still spouting such drivel. We saw invisible criminal actors organized to make money off the rehab efforts, rehab recruiting companies whose first question was what is ones insurance company, swallowing up the seven hundred some million dollars Congress threw at the problem to make it look like they were doing something. Investigative journalism uncovered and reported on such things centered especially in certain cities in Florida. Now it is becoming apparent that the same efforts are being redoubled into antidepressants.

       One cannot believe the combination of stupidity and dishonesty in the once trustworthy medical profession, where doctors once took seriously an oath to heal, period.

       Weed in small amounts churns the knowledge within the soul that compensates the conscious attitude, so that, as with dreams, the soul produces healing contents on its own. The shore line between conscious and unconscious becomes slightly more passable, and thought mildly awakens, which is why the old fashioned non addictive remedies, weed and coffee, and even the toxic and addictive alcohol and naturally grown, less carcinogenic cigarettes, were the politically correct ancient remedies, rather than the TOXIC AND ADDICTIVE self serving prescriptions of BIG PHARMA.

       I will not let them go for the death of the musician Nick Drake, apparently from an accidental overdose of prescribed antidepressants. They neglect the little practical inconvenience that suffering souls forget how much they have taken, or hurt so badly they do not care.

       The BBC “study” is a fine example of profitable disinformation. Strangely, it tells us what to conclude, telling us the study has “proven,” “finally” etc, and THEN it explains, in words that most do not hear, about how limited the scope of their stupid “study” is. What it actually claims to show is that on the average the drugs seem to perform better than doing nothing plus taking a fake pill, and that only for a few. And it is questionable whether the study even shows that!

    [Interlude] Sarcasm often does not come across in writing, due to the limitations of the written word. And so I have takes to marking sarcastic statements before saying the, as an exclamation point is often not sufficient punctuation. Comedy in general is based both on an ignorance and knowledge. Hobbes famously noted the satire of ignorance involved in every joke, as there is something we have to “get,” and it would not be humorous if we already knew or if everyone got it. Hence, comedy is inherently dangerous due first to the anger of the ignorant, which must be dodged, like the Fool in King Lear. But there is also a common sense truth at the same time, communicating knowledge. There.

    There are four great songs of despair in our study of lyrics, but I will not include these here. Rather, here are some remedial sad songs:

    Leonard Cohen — Suzanne

    Leonard Cohen – Farmous Blue Raincoat (Audio)

    Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat (Live)

    [sarcasm] Oh, but they meant only a certain kind of depression, “moderate” to “severe,”and admit antidepressants are over-prescribed for “mild’ depression. And what they “prove” they are more effective on the average than placebos, so a million more need to take them.

    [sarcasm] Here is the argument that overcomes the reasoning below on the “proof” final in the “Oxford U.” study addressed below: I am heard by some 20 people, while the drug manufacturers are on BBC. Can you not smell disinformation?

    Yeah, someone finally liked my Leonard Cohen tweet! Thanx again!
    In the news just now is the terrible shooting and our response to it is considering gun control and “mental health” remedies. So I tweeted:
    Now, BBC, do me a study to counter the reasoning that if a bad man, who does not care about others or believe that murder is wrong, then is made to feel suicidal with easy access to guns….[sarcasm] oh, but “all question has been put to rest forever.”
       I have one person right here who says antidepressants made her feel suicidal. “Its a side effect, they tell you when you take ’em. They know that, they say it on t.v., its just a side effect. But other drugs make me feel that way, too. Lyrica is another I cannot take…”
       That same person has a brilliant insight into depression that shrinks do not get because they are too interested in their sophistry, treating souls to make money and gain reputation. Mum said: The purpose of depression (in natures psychic hygiene) is CHANGE. Depression is how we adapt, and as with anger, when we set things right, it has a purpose, though no souls are properly ordered so sadness does get away from us. What if we use drugs to inhibit the natural hygienic function of sorrow? The tears that clear the eyes and then they sparkle?
    By the way, did they take into account, for example, whether those treated with drugs for moderate to severe depression had for example just lost a child or spouse? Usually they do not. By the way, we do admit there is such a thing as unnatural depression, but it is much more rare than the Big Pharma bank account shareholder value algorithm would find profitable for us to believe.

       Sarcasm: BBC A British study has finally ended all question: Antidepressants are good, and a million more people could benefit from them. I believe they simply asked, do you feel better, short term? W/o checking why these drugs seem to be involved in 100% of one kind of shooting.

       *The present efforts to grow “medicinal” weed are plagued by organized crime and again corrupt legislation. Growers poison the organic plant with phosphorous and other chemicals sold to growers to maximize profits off a limited number of plants set by law. Attempts are made to control seeds, and the original plant is bound to be a subject for genetic engineering.

Seasons in the Sun: Jacques Brel: La Moribond

   Seasons in the Sun is a poem by Jacques Brel, translated and popularized by Rod McKeuen, then reshaped for a popular song by Terry Jacks. It is one of only four great songs of transcendent sorrow or incredible despair of a sort that could not enter popular lyric poetry until the Sixties.

   In the popular version, the last section of the Brel poem La Moribond is changed to delete reference to his adulterous wife Francois, and include the Jacks section “Goodbye Michelle, my little one…” This is even more beautiful, and leaves the song an uninterrupted or uncomplicated tear jerker. In the Brel version, the Bohemian poet says goodbye to Emile his friend, with whom he shared wine and song, then to his Papa, for whom he was a black sheep submerged in wine and song, and Francois his unfaithful wife. This section is confusing, very sad, and even makes one laugh at its conclusion, as though he were to haunt her and her lovers. The Brel, in McKuen’s translation, reads:

“Good by Francois, my unfaithful wife.

Without you, I would have had a lonely life.

You cheated lots of times, but then

I forgave you in the end

Though your lover was my friend

And we hope not his friend Emile, but I fear that it is so.

   It is not the song of a suicide, but of one dying, moribund, or on his deathbed. The things he will miss in life are very beautiful- Springtime, birds in the sky and pretty girls, to his friend; little children, to his father, and flowers to Michelle. Brel, for Francois, has, “With your lovers everywhere, better watch out, I’ll be there.” But his forgiveness and the jesting tone indicate that he has been raised above the things of love by the perspective of mortality, and perhaps eternity.

   Here are the Terry Jacks/RodMcKuen lyrics, copied from Songmeanings.com.

Goodbye to you my trusted friend
We’ve known each other since we were nine or ten
Together we’ve climbed hills and trees
Learned of love and ABC’s
Skinned our hearts and skinned our knees
Goodbye my friend it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that spring is in the air
Pretty girls are everywhere
Think of me and I’ll be there

We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the hills that we climbed
Were just seasons out of time

Goodbye Papa please pray for me
I was the black sheep of the family
You tried to teach me right from wrong
Too much wine and too much song
Wonder how I got along
Goodbye Papa it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
Little children everywhere
When you see them, I’ll be there

We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the wine and the song
Like the seasons have all gone
We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the wine and the song
Like the seasons have all gone

Goodbye Michelle my little one
You gave me love and helped me find the sun
And every time that I was down
You would always come around
And get my feet back on the ground
Goodbye Michelle it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
With the flowers everywhere
I wish that we could both be there

Strange Fruit: Rock Commentaries

   Among the greatest of all lyrics is Strange Fruit, written by Abel Meeropol and sung famously by Billie Holliday, who may be said to have died of the sorrow from singing it. David Margolick (2001) wrote that Holliday’s mother objected to her singing the song, and she said “It could make things better.” Her mother answered: “but you’ll be dead,” and Billie said, “yeah, but I’ll feel it. I’ll know it in my grave.” So she intentionally and courageously faced down the fear of death.

   The song was difficult to sing in night clubs, because people came to have a good time, and this would put an end to that! But it would work at the end of the night, to send people home contemplative.

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

   By their fruit we will know them. These “gallant” scenes of the “pastoral” South are not forgotten, in part because of the courage of Meeropol and Ms. Holliday. For shame, take down that defeated flag and hoist the stars and stripes!

   The symbolism of bodies hanging from trees is like the crucifixion, and like that very eerie scene in an Arthurian movie when the knight Galahad comes to Mordred’s lair. The macabre contrast of fruit, flower and scenery with bulging eyes and burning flesh also makes the song give us chills from deeper than we know where. Not even Dylan or Neil Young produced this great a folk song, and this is jazz or blues.

   I knew a woman, Elise Emerick, who saw a lynching in Florida back around the twenties, when she was five. Her father, Mr. Du Champs, (I believe he was a Henry) tried to stop it, and told her to go on home and don’t look back.

   We have been trying to get Jack White, or some other Hendrix, to pull out the anger implicit in the sorrow of every note of the Billie Holliday version. I know this can be done, and with great commercial success, but the point is that right now in America, we need to wake up, and shout a loud, spirited “NO!” to fascism, tyranny and the destruction of our Constitution by domestic White Supremacists in league with foreign powers.

   A final point: The fruit and leaves in the first two line reminds of the fruit and leaves in the book of Revelation. The leaves of the tree of life are to be given for the healing of the nations, which are of course still plural nations, and bring tribute into the city of God that has come down from heaven. There are 12 kinds of fruit on trees on either side of the river of the water of life. The eating of the fruit of the tree of life is a great mystery, and it is said that this is not possible in this life in any sort, because of the body. But it is promised one of the churches (Ephesus) that to him who conquers, it will be given to eat of the fruit of the tree of life, along with the six promises: to not be hurt by the second death, to be given the hidden manna and a white stone with a new name written on the stone, power over the nations to rule them with a rod of iron and the morning star, to be clothed in white garments with his name not blotted from the book of life and confessed to the father and before the angels, to be made a pillar in the temple with the name of the father and son written on him, and to sit with him on his throne.

The following video is simply profound, and identifies the strange fruit with the trees in Eden and the Christ hanging from the tree in the crucifixion:

Strange Fruit – the story behind “The Song of the Century” via

 

ELECTIRC HARP and Strange Fruit for Jack White

6/30/2017:

We just sent Jack White the idea to electrify the classical harp. I hinted at bowing it, too, but their still way too cool to talk to a mere philosopher. We want him to convert the Billie Holliday blues song Strange Fruit into a Rock-blues song, translating  what she does with her voice into electric blues guitar, and rage rather than sorrow, or sorrow yielding to our rage at the rising fascism that would again take power in America if it is not opposed, as by American Folk culture. Now there is a theme that could sound like Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused. We suggest like Uriah Heap in Easy Livin‘ with Hendrix on guitar. Its all in there!

 

mmcdonaldon June 30, 2015   Link

Rock Commentaries IX Selections: U2 and White Stripes

   Here are three rock songs, two especially Christian, from Chapter IX of my Rock Commentaries. (These are difficult to access on the Menu, but if one tries they will come up, and you can print them out to read more easily.) But these songs keep coming up, for reasons that will become apparent if one is following the logos. I wish Jack White could see my reading of the last two. He would be glad, I am sure, that someone has read the lyric.

Pride (In the Name of Love) U2

   This song is a reflection upon those who have laid down their lives for mankind, fulfilling the teaching of the Lord, “greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It is foremost a monument to Martin Luther King Jr., as a minister of the word and a sacrifice for liberty. The last line explains the title: “They could not take your pride/ In the name of Love.”

One man come in the name of Love

One man come and go

One man come he to Justify

One man to overthrow

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?

One man come on a barbed wire fence

One man he resist

One man washed on an empty beach

One man betrayed with a kiss

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?

Early morning, April 4th

Shots rang out in the Western sky

Free at last, they took your life

They could not take your pride

In the name of Love

   For the first two, he who came to justify and he who came to overthrow, he may have someone in particular in mind, though it is not clear who: Some two like Luther and Martin Luther King Jr, who is the primary object. To justify and to overthrow are the actions of political conservatives and revolutionaries, and the song is especially moving because it is about the love of mankind that inspires these in political action. Justification by faith is of course the teaching of Martin Luther, at the start of Lutheranism. But the meaning is also to make more just. The one who comes on a barbed wire fence reminds of those who fought the Nazis in Europe, and those washed up on a beach conjures images of Normandy or the Pacific Islands. The one betrayed by a Kiss is the only line directly Christian, but it sets the human actors in the pattern of the image of the martyrdom of Jesus. His abandonment, betrayal, rejection and crucifixion by mankind whom he came to save is the betrayal in the name of love. Finally there is the assassination in Memphis of Martin Luther King Jr., against the background of his statement recently in the mountaintop speech that they, the American blacks, were to be “free at last.”

   All of these are under the teaching “Greater love has no man than this: That he lay down his life for his friend” (John 15:13). Christian political teaching is more difficult than Christian rock music, but this is an example of a Christian political teaching. It has often been said, at least since Machiavelli, that Christianity makes men effeminate and more willing to bear injuries than to inflict them in grabbing at the goods of the world, wealth and power. The truth in practice, as indicated by Mr. Skinner, is that a vast majority of U. S. Army Rangers, for example, are Christian, and very religious. There is also the saying that there are no atheists in the foxholes, as the nearness of death makes men serious. My old friend Bud, though, was in the battle of the Bulge under Patton, and he is a natural philosopher. “One man on a barbed wire fence” refers to a famous picture of an anonymous U.S. soldier caught in barbed wire, shot and left there, in World War II. And public servants, in domestic affairs as well, sometimes are inspired in their dedication by the example of the greatest love. Average police men, blue collar par excellence, can be understood at best to risk and lay down their lives daily. It is sometimes necessary and right to prevent evil from doing harm by force. But this is especially true of those who, like the demonstrators trained in nonviolence, are prepared to take blows and return none, like Mr. Zweig among the Freedom Riders. They show how Christianity can be active politically while remaining what it is. It is fullness in one place, the spiritual, and emptiness in another, the worldly assertion.

   The title of the song is Pride, because the one who killed King could not take his pride in the name of Love, the name by which he did these things and died.

White Stripes

   The inspired guitar riffs make us glad to find lyrics to justify the intense energy. Jack White shows that the rock strain continues to develop into the Twenty-First Century. We have not studied the band much yet, but are quite taken up whenever “Blue Orchid” or “Seven Nation Army ” come on the radio. We are very proud that the Whites come from Detroit, and join our Michigan Rock Hall of Fame. Jack is, of course, on his own now, and we are glad to see him playing with the Muppets and Garrison Keillor.

2003 Seven Nation Army

The guitar riff became famous when played at sports events, though no one much gets the meaning. It is a rare example of a marching beat, like martial rather than religious music, though it is in fact uniquely both at once. I sang parts of this song this morning when I woke up. Some songs one has to live in order to understand. All fibs are told to protect the innocents.

   It is said on Songmeanings.com that the title comes from the way Jack heard the word “Salvation Army” when he was a child. But that is opposite the meaning. Meg White, the drummer, has said that “Jack basically wrote the song around the idea of this guy who comes into town and all his friends are gossiping about him. It gets to him so bad that he wants to leave town, and then he decides not to. Jack eventually did leave Detroit.” These things will give us a place to start in understanding the song, which even grows in intensity from studying the lyrics.

I’m gonna fight ’em off.

A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back.

They ‘re gonna rip it off.

Taking their time right behind my back.

And I been talk’in to myself at night because I can’t forget

Back and forth through my mind behind a lit cigarette.

And the message runnin’ through my eyes says leave it alone.

 

Don’t want to hear about it:

Every single one’s got a story to tell.

Everyone knows about it.

From the Queen of England to the Hounds of Hell.

And if I catch you comin’ back my way, I’m gonna sell it to you.

And that ain’t what you want to hear, but that’s what I’ll do.

And the feelin’ comin’ from my bones says find a home.

 

I’m goin to Witchita.

Far from this opera for ever more.

I’m gonna work the straw

Make the sweat drip out of every pore.

And I’m bleedin’ and I’m bleedin’ and I’m bleedin’ right before the Lord.

All the words are gonna bleed from me and I will think no more.

And the stains comin’ from my blood tell me go back home.

   “Leave it alone,” “find a home,” and “go back home” may be the lines where the lyric structure again provides a clue to a coherent reading. When the line is compared with that which occurred in the same place but a different stanza, the meaning becomes clear. One sees a development, where the song teaches him how to deal with it.

   This is, like “Blue Orchid,” a response to infidelity in love. This is “white” blues at its best, like Zeppelin, rarer, perhaps, in “black blues, like “Heard it through the Grapevine.” And like the Zeppelin song, “everybody ‘s gonna know” is an embarrassment, here the embarrassment of the fooled lover, as when these things appear in the tabloid press. “From the Queen… to the hounds” is an interesting way of describing the expanse of the public, considered “Everyone.” “No time for spreading rumors / Time has come to be gone.” “Their gonna rip it off. Taking their time right behind my back” is then obvious. “Leave it alone” is, then the same as “Get behind me,” as will appear momentarily. “Don’t want to hear about it / Every single one ‘s got a story to tell:” Ones own romantic suffering is incomprehensible and nothing, like dust in the wind, to others, who cannot hear or comprehend the cries of the agony of the true lover. But it may be the writer who no longer wants to hear the tale that many have to tell him. “Sell it to you” might just be gangster talk for murder, the kind found in the ballads, or in Hendrix’ “Hey Joe.” The pain of the cuckolded lover turns to outward rage. (The line could also mean he is going to lie to her, or him, the third party, but this is the lesser possibility. One lyric prints “serve it to you,” like divorce papers, but that is not the word on the video). His rage is the temptation. But the message comming through his eyes says leave it alone. Instead, He wants to go to Wichita, far away from the soap opera things of his Detroit love world, as he shows the mitten of Michigan in the video. “Work the straw” might refer to cocaine, as one suggests on Songmeanings, but it is more likely literally straw, as in, lose oneself in hard farm work in the straw fields of Kansas or Nebraska. Or maybe it was the fields around Nashville.

   When he sings “bleed’in” on the video, he wipes tears. Now the poetry gets real: Bloodsweat occurs in the scripture, and is known to occur literally, to humans in times of great strain. It may be at the edge of his humanity, and again, the agony of the lover is not understood, or is beyond communication, as the agony in the garden was for that one, in analogy. He is bleeding “right before” or into the presence of the Lord. This is the imago Dei, and the lovers death in soul is like the crucifixion by analogy. Simon’s words trickle down from a wound he has “no intention to heal.” “All the words are gonna bleed from me, and I will think no more.” The blood is his thought and poetry. As the message from his eyes said “leave it alone,” his poetry, the stains from his blood, tells him to go back home, since now he has none. The root of the rage of infidelity is related to this goal of love, for which one does not need the particular one loved. The “Salvation Army” has indeed prevailed over the rage that opens the song. But that is not the “Seven Nation Army” at all. One might consider Revelation.

  Blue Orchid is about the corruption of innocence, probably in love, though the song has been read as being about molestation, and may carry this meaning as an undercurrent. Commentators, as on Songmeanings, note that a Russian child sex ring was named “Blue Orchid.” But that is not the meaning here. The reason that it seems the song must be about love and infidelity is the line “Your lips taste sour / But you think its just me teasing you.” The lyrics are these:

You got a reaction.

You got a reaction, didn’t you?

You took a white orchid,

You took a white orchid, turned it blue.

 

Somethings better than nothing

Somethings better than nothing, its giving up.

We all need to do something.

Try to keep the truth from showing up.

 

How dare you.

How old are you now anyway?

How dare you.

How old are you now anyway?

 

You’re given a flower

But I guess there’s just no pleasing you

Your lips tastes sour.

But you think its just me teasing you.

 

You got a reaction

You got a reaction, didn’t you

You took a white orchid

You took a white orchid, turned it blue.

 

Get behind me

Get behind me now anyway.

You got a reaction.

You got a reaction, didn’t you

You took a white orchid.

You took a white orchid, turned it blue.

   “Get behind me” is of course what the Christians say when the Devil is near. It probably comes from Matthew 4:10, after the temptation, when Jesus says “Be gone (hyp-age).” The snake enters the Video right at “Get behind me.”“Your lips taste sour” does not fit a molestation. It is rather a broken love, though the lines “How old are you now anyway,” and “How dare you” make the rock anger fit a molestation. “Turned it blue” would then be as in the blues, a love turned from innocence to sorrow by infidelity. We will try to read the song this way, and see if it remains coherent.

   “You got a reaction” would be like a response to the excuse that she was just trying to get some reaction from him, an aloof lover. “We all need to do something” and “How old are you now anyway” then fit with something like that she did some other guy while he was away. “It’s giving up” is to give up on the love, to choose the appetites over love. This is the failure of the love in one of the tests that show true love. Is she so immature that she must have something for the appetites even at the cost of love? “You got a reaction” is then that she destroyed their love, his innocent love, turned it blue, and now he does not want her anymore. The reaction is “get behind me,” “anyway” repeated from the question “How old are you now, anyway.” From the song “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” the white orchid is the lapel used at weddings.

   As Allan Bloom teaches, jealousy assumes that the beloved owes the lover love for being loved, though that is false. Marriage is a bit different, and lovers exchange promises of fidelity as a safeguard against these emotions, so difficult for humans to deal with. In love, though, the passions and appetites of the true lover are wholly attached to the beloved, and he does not desire the hottest hottei naked right in front of him, believe it or not, but rather, only the beloved. Infidelity then demonstrates the failure of the lover to inspire that “ant-eros, the love in return that is the goal of the lover, according to Plato;s Phaedrus. It is indeed giving up, and there is no recovery, though marriages might limp along for practical reasons.

   The video for this song is an artistic masterpiece. The clothing of Jack, as well as the conclusion with the white horse, are disturbing, but the interpretation shows the meaning. The dancer woman is the anima, or an “anima figure,” and it said that Jack took up with her after the video. Indeed, she is sneaking in, so if it were not for other lines, it might be a woman who snuck in and made the singer corrupt his marriage, and he may intentionally make this ambiguous from magnanimity.  It is also possible that infidelity led to infidelity in the lover, the one speaking. “You” could be the one who snuck in, a seducer, but that does not fit with all the lines. The apple has this meaning, though, the destruction of the innocence of his marriage. The white horse is again the pure heart or spirit, as in “ride a white mare in the footsteps of dawn,” the vehicle of the pure passions that carry the true lover. The horse is masculine. The perversion of one brief scene is the corruption of innocence that is the theme of the song. The appetites adhering to the white horse show that in the lover, as human, allows for the rage in projection, against his own anima or soul. Anger is always due to the projection of that in the soul of the one enraged which is like what was acted upon by the perpetrator. Hence, we will stick to our first reading that it is the same event as Seven Nation Army,” as the only coherent reading of all the lines. Otherwise, one would approach these matters with all the concern of a Lao Tzu, and there would be nothing for the song to work through. But it arrives, again, in “leave it alone,” find a home, and “get back home.”

   Jack White is a master.

I Started A Joke: Barry Gibb

Copied from Songmeanings, this is one of four candidates for the greatest songs of human despair of all time.

I started a joke which started the whole world crying
But I didn’t see that the joke was on me oh no
I started to cry which started the whole world laughing
Oh If I’d only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed hurting my head from things that I said
‘Till I finally died which started the whole world living
Oh if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed hurting my head from things that I said
‘Till I finally died which started the whole world living
Oh if I’d only seen that the joke was on me
Oh no that the joke was on me

Also from Songmeanings, the highest rated comment:

General Comment  by musiclover68on October 08, 2005Link

Let’s say for every joke you tell, you cause others to cry. Lets say every tear you shed causes laughter in others. Imagine that your death is the cause of the people in this world living. Not existing, but living. You are not a Christ figure. The tone from the music suggests the speaker is more of the reason that people aren’t enjoying life at the present. Your mere existence is simply a hindrance to the world. The speaker is tormented. Crying to an empty sky and hurting from “things that he said”. The speaker is tormented by his past words. For he now realizes that they have placed him out of love and acceptance from the world. They have left him abandoned and it is all his fault. In short, the song is about the remorse and isolation that comes from words and actions that have caused irreparable harm to many. It is the realization of youthful immaturity, that, in itself, only hurts the self. End to End, the joke is you

   Except that Barry Gibb never harmed anyone, most likely. Still, at Christmas, the song reminds us of the despair and loneliness of Jesus. His mother, too, is not told at the Annunciation what she will face at the foot of the cross.
   Hey Donney, was he a “success?”
   Here is an old comment I left on Songmeanings:

   This is a very hard song to read, and we will try to comment on it in a way that does not detract from the meaning. At any rate, we are the “listeners themselves” who “have to try to interpret it themselves,” as Barry said. The inspired song came to him following a bit of nervous collapse. Mr. Gibb heard the melody in the four engines of a plane he was riding in, knew immediately what he had, and stopped the plane to work out the song. Were he not a wealthy songwriter, he might be considered abnormal and drugged. The reaction to things said is like things said in awakened states, and the way these things can grate one as they come back later upon reflection. Socrates would say he had a little man at home with a stick who would beat him for his errors in speech. Prudence in speech is a high virtue, and the “bridle of speech” perhaps the highest continence. The things he said, in line four, is the joke that opens the song in line one. That the joke started the “whole world” crying is difficult, and in trying to understand the universal effect, people have mentioned Jesus, the Devil and Hitler. Another possibility is that the Joke is this song, which everyone in the world has now heard. In 1967-8, he may be introducing a new kind of despair into the expression of ballads, as such things were not said in public previously. But in what way is the Joke on him? Around the time of this writing, he had gone into a fit where he could not stop crying. They had just done the song about the mining disaster, for example, then he saw a train wreck and was unable to help the injured on the scene. The joke being on him would fit with the sorrow expressed by inspiration in the song shattering his soul a bit, as it does to see the deeply sad things covered over so we can just get through our days. If one will look at the skies and run their hands over their eyes, one will see into the meaning of this line a bit: it is an involuntary gesture of anguish universal to man, as is waving and such. It means that we look to the highest things for an explanation one does not expect to find, and clear our eyes as though they must be blurred over, given what we are seeing (while perhaps exclaiming: “Arrgh!”).  Mary Lee Foote, at NaPathon.net, mentioned above, reads his falling out of bed to mean “out of his dream state into reality.” Has he seen the principle of tragedy, that Providence upholding the just is not what the world is about, or is not quite what is going on here? That his death starts the whole world living is indeed like Jesus, but is also like the poet, whose “words trickle down from a wound” he has “no intention to heal” (Simon). The poet, and indeed the soul, is an image of God, though those who do not look above the soul can become confused by this. The alienation is that of one whose joke makes everyone else cry, and whose death allows others to live. The “schizophrenic” can be that alone, that alienated from human community, which makes even parrots pull out their feathers. The scapegoating of the mad is half their malady, or causes an additional injury to the soul. That the joke is on him, though, is that the sorrow he saw brings him down, and this is part of the principle of tragedy that he has seen.

mmcdonaldon September 07, 2015   Link

Leonard Cohen’s 1985 Intro to Suzanne on U-Tube

   Here is what it means to identify virtue with the possession of money. In the Introductory conversation with his audience before a 1985 performance of the song Suzanne, Leonard Cohen describes how one of his aids came up to him with a paper, told him it was just the standard music contract, and he signed it. He soon learned that he had signed away the copyright to his greatest song. In a religious mood, he says it it is probably fitting that he not make money from it. It may be the best example of divine inspiration in lyric poetry, showing how love is related to the image of God in the soul.

   No one helped him. None of the business people in the audience said “this must not stand.” No lawyers lept up, no judges, but Leonard Cohen was left alone. No Warren Buffet came to promote a virtuous cause for the benefit of humanity. The shysters seize the law to use as an instrument in vice, but we, the community, sit idly by and allow this to occur.  We do nothing for others with our wealth and power- sure they might have fed him-until they come for us, and it is too late. None of this rubbish is necessary if we would only stand up, but we will not, or cannot see how to stand up in the right way. The gains of the petty shyster are short lived, and involve selling ones soul and future for a handful of dirt. It is, however, a bit galling to have the rich praise themselves, deride the poor as though poverty were a surety of vice, the lack of the virtues they consider themselves to possess. And now Betsy is the Earl of Education. Useful fools.

   Cohen was impoverished, and had to go back to work, giving us some of the world’s greatest poetry and performance. He may have done even more had evil not infected his life in this way. Go, you rich men, and judge of his virtue. Judge of the success of Jesus hanging on the cross. Quickly, now before the time is past.

   No one helped him. No one said “This must not stand.” No one with money and power- goods that come not by virtue but by accident, if sometimes in combination with some honest effort, but for which these never cease to praise themselves, spending more time preening themselves in a mirror that will soon be broken than they do gazing into the scriptures (Paul writes Kat-optridzomai,) “as in a glass.” But Suzanne holds the mirror. And what is reflected in the mirror?

   But on a lighter note, NPR reports a 1600 year old joke about a miser who willed his estate to himself. When Socrates was told that the tyrannous ones had sentenced him to death, he is reported to have said, “and nature them.”

Bob Dylan Lately

   Bob Dylan has recently declined to travel to Switzerland to accept the Nobel Prize, and I have just learned from the BBC that he once declined to appear at the White house. The Dylanologist cited said the reason was money, as he just made 7 million doing two sets of 18 songs in California. Surrounding the Nobel Prize, there was speculation that it was that old Dylan arrogance, which I too share with him, as a systematic smart ass. But I want you to consider another possible reason.

   Dylan maybe freaked out a bit when he became very great, back in the sixties, and suddenly the FBI is spying on him and someone seems to have threatened him for an appearance on stage. They wanted to make him the poster-boy for the hippie movement, and what he said and did suddenly effected not only the direction of music, but world politics, and in a way one cannot always control. Dylan graciously remained a singer, an American Folk singer, with a mission like Woody Guthrie devoted to the mission of music.  He also remained a human being, setting off on a Spiritual journey that brought him to the Jewish teachers and for a while, and maybe still, even to Jesus. He was being just what he was so that he could do his proper work, rather than be distracted by the world. What appears as arrogance is a necessary defense and a humor based often upon tautology which indicated what one would need to see in order to understand him: “I am a song and dance man,” “It’s not acid rain, its just a hard rain,” etc. I think those things happened just before the cycle accident, and a bit after his sorrow over the booing of the old folkies. (He always was very sad about that, I thought inordinately). He may just not like travel, even in a big way. Why get on a plane these days?  Why go be a celebrity? But to play music, rather than to take great honors in a public forum, he fearlessly appears. He is not like most men, caring foremost for wealth and fame, so when that world judges him, they are bound to misunderstand.

   I have two of his songs ranked not yet in the top ten lyric poems of all time, but he is surely the only competitor with Cohen for greatest lyric poet. Well, there is Lennon and McCartney, Townshend and Waters, and perhaps Plant, but that is still probably true.  Paul Simon, too. Now I am thinking that it is mere personal preference that kept Hard Rain and Sad Eyed Lady out of my top ten, since these are like prophetic, and there are probably one or two others that good that I have not fathomed.

   The only time I saw Dylan was in Ann Arbor here, just before the Sixties Rock nostalgia or recognition of just how great this stuff was. Donovan once played around here at a bar, but I missed it. But Dylan stood there in his hat, while up in the seats to his left, I soaked up some great learning from his posture, like being mesmerized at the forearms of Leon Russel. Dylan then seemed a bit rusty, at the start of a return to touring or playing again. I thought Elvis Costello, who backed him up with an acoustic solo show, maybe should have had the band that night.

Winter’s not gone yet, if the wild geese fly that way

                                                                                        The Fool in Lear

You don’t need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows

                                                                                           Bob