Rock Commentaries: The Seventies Continued

The Seventies

1973                                                                                                 212

The Who               Quadrophenia

Pink Floyd             Dark Side of the Moon

Led Zeppelin         Houses of the Holy

1974                                                                                                   226

Cat Stevens               Buddha and the Chocolate Box

Harry Chapin           The Center of Taxi

Bowie                        Aladin Sane

Robin Trower            Bridge of Sighs

Eric Clapton             Let It Grow

1975                                                                                                       234

Joan Baez               Diamonds and Rust

Led Zeppelin           Physical Graffiti

Neil Young             Hurricane

ELO                         Cant Get It Out Of My Head

Springsteen             Born To Run

1976-1979                                                                                            252

David Bowie       Heroes

Aerosmyth           Dream On

Queen                   Bohemian Rhapsody

Jethro Tull             Songs from the Wood

Patti Smith            Because the Night

Fleetwood Mac     Rumors

The Ramones: Rocket to Russia

Pink Floyd           The Wall                                              265

 

Chapter IX: After the Seventies 

The Eighties                                                                                         272

Bob Seger             Against the Wind                                    276

Billy Idol               White Wedding

Talking Heads       Water Under Ground

U2                         Pride

Stevie Nicks           Seventeen

After the Eighties                                                       278

REM

Counting Crows

Joan Osborne

Creed                                                                               282

List: 30 Candidates for the Ten Best Lyric Songs                     288

Chapter X. Conclusion: Dialogue with Allan Bloom

               And The Philosophy of Music                                                      301

Appendix 1: Ten Happy Songs for Weddings                                                 321

Appendix 2: Ten Obscure songs

Bibliography                                                                                                 327

Footnotes

Index

 

 

             1973 Who Quadrophenia, Zeppelin Houses of the Holy Elton John,

 

 

1973 Quadrophenia

The dramatic setting of Quadrophenia is the life of the Punk on the sleeve, Jimmy the mod. He is stranded on a rock, having wrecked his bike, drunk and speeding, and somehow now stuck on that island with his life flashing, or crawling before him. The opera opens with the Sea, and haunting words, almost lost in the sound of the water:

(Horns)

Is it me for a moment?

Bell Boy, Bell Boy…

Love reign o’er me.

As Townshend explains, each phrase represents one of four aspects of the character of Jimmy, each played by a different member of the band. Quadrophenia is Townshend’s word coined to describe what threatens to be a four part schizophrenia, or, literally, a splitting of the “phrene,” which is the skull. Townshend claims that these four are unified through the opera (hence “I’m one”). This is the beginning and the end of what we are about to see, an attempt at self knowledge (“Is it me?”) that ends like the ascent of Dante’s Divine Comedy to paradise, in the reign of Love. A contributor identified as Braunbeck on Everything2.com has written of how the four themes are introduced separately then overlap…until these “blend seamlessly into one, creating a fifth, unique, defining theme as Jimmy finally realizes who he is.” He describes how the Intro appeared to him at age 12 as a musical Rubik’s cube. He calls this the psychological equivalent of “string theory,” the end or goal toward which we strive from birth until the grave: “To bring our various selves together to form the whole that is uniquely me or you”

Carl Jung discusses the quaternity and the unification by reference to the mandala symbols he found all over, in dreams and in art. The quaternity concerns the integration of the “self,” the imago Die, or image of God, considered by Jung as an “archetype.” The matter is a high level thing, since in the understanding of Jung’s Analytic Psychology, the integration of the self is the issue, after the integration of levels called anima and animus, and shadow. The first things of the unconscious to be encountered in the personal shadow are repressed contents and aspects. The recognition of our own shadow, the parts of ourselves we do not admit to ourselves, precedes the integration of the anima, in the things concerning love, or opens the way for love. The integration of the anima, in turn, gives rise to images related to the self, such as the child and the wise old man. On this level, the contents are those of the “collective,” rather than the personal, unconscious. In Tommy, this figure appeared as the wizard seen in The Amazing Journey.

Jung also has a theory of personality types. Introvert and extrovert are words he popularized. But he considers four functions, the intuitive, thinking, feeling and sensing functions, divided as quarters of a pie that is the whole person. For each, one is dominant, another secondary, and usually two unconscious. Some marriages compensate certain functions, while some are based on samenesses, and all are of course a mix of both. (Couples join because they are the same regarding first principles, and compensatory regarding functions.) Townshend himself is an intuitive-thinking type. The four functions of each member of the Who in the opera should relate directly to personality functions, with Jimmy and Townshend representing the whole person. But the self is the wizard, and a single thing, the wise man. He does not appear in Quadrophenia, and this is an argument that Tommy is the higher subject matter. According to Townshend, the character that was presented in what is like a “distorted dream view, Nik’s composite of the four members of the Who, called Tommy in “Rock is Dead,” became Jimmy in Quadrophenia, and all my hero needed was a few days to recover from being a Who fan” (Who I Am, p. 241).

Under the theme of oneself, the first song, “Is it me?” raises the question of himself, of who he is. What would one see if he could see “the real me?” The song is about the apparent mental problems of this young mod. He is already sent to see a shrink, and also brings his question to his mother, and the preacher, and implicitly to a former lover. This- being brought in for therapy- was a common experience of the troubled youth only beginning in the late fifties or sixties, and it is rather strange because the very circumstance, if not the principles of the science, precludes the possibility of it doing any good. The doctor cannot possibly see the real patient with whom he is to be concerned. We, in our psychology, assumed with this “therapy” method that the soul is like the body to be treated in medicine with a doctor visit, or a scientific version of the confessional, though there is little reason to assume this. The scientific objectivity of the doctor is different from friendship. A friend can help us bear a burden, and even take on part of our suffering. There are also terrible things about reality that we find difficult to face alone. Their truth can shatter the soul. Children and common persons often see and suffer more than they can bear. One of the most helpful things is friendship, and people pay professionals to listen to them, as observers outside our circle of family and friends. Freud introduced the idea of the “talking cure,” as neurotics seemed benefited by talking. Jung formally introduced the amplification of symbols in conversation. These things seem to do some good because they assist us in knowing ourselves. And sometimes we do not know what we mean until we say things to another person, or try to. At least the science of the doctor prevents him from interfering with advice, though he could ask more questions. But something about the doctor here, and in most circumstances with teens growing up, cannot possibly do any good, and at great expense. One would think the professionals would be the first to realize this, something obvious to a mod musician. Cat Stevens seems more likely to benefit Sad Lisa, or at least do no harm, by love and by knowing his limitations. He also might play her a beautiful song she might get lost in, as sometimes with common human troubles the solution seems to be to simply do something else. The one thing we can do that helps us is to cultivate knowledge, the knowledge of man, in whatever form this can enter any circumstance. Knowledge allows us to integrate certain particulars and experiences, providing a timeless context to images and things that come out of our own souls. But people must come to the questions for the most part on their own, or teachings will not be understood. Having the question often unlocks a writing or a mystery, where these things do not make sense until we have the fitting question, and then only to the extent that we do have the question. Consider the teaching of Jesus about the splinter and log in the eye (Matthew 7:1-5, etc.): therapeutic psychology will only be possible to the extent that we have, in Jung’s terms, integrated our own shadow, and perhaps a great deal more. But penance is our permanent condition, not something with which we are finished. More recently, the science of psychology has given up on the expensive and time consuming practice of these therapy sessions and turned almost wholly to drugs, which are prescribed in about fifteen minutes. A modern version would include a verse like the acid Queen, where they drag his mind about a while ‘till they come up with the concoction that makes him look most right, regardless of unknown “side effects.” But the question “Can you see the real me?” is raised in the young person so sent to the experts. Had he sucked up, on the assumption that the doctor has esoteric knowledge of the soul and truth of the patient, as is commonly assumed, poor Jimmy would be incurable, though perhaps it would not so much matter.

Can you see the real me, can ya?

I went back to the doctor

To get another shrink

I sit and tell him about my weekend,

But he never can take what it means. [But he never betrays what he thinks]

Can you see the real me, Doctor, Doctor?

Can you see the real me, Doctor?

I went back to my mother, I said I’m crazy mom help me

She said I know how it feels son, ‘cause it runs in the family

Can you see the real me, Mother, Mother?

Can you see the real me, Mother?

Can you see the real me

I’m [back] between the paving stones

The rivers of fallen rain

Strange people who know me

Look in behind from a window pain

A girl I used to love lives in this yellow house

Yesterday she passed me by

She doesn’t want to know me now.

Can you see the real me? Can ya?

Can you see the real me, Can Ya

I ended up with the preacher

Full of lies and hate

I seemed to scare him a little

So he showed me to the golden gate.

Can you see the real me, Preacher

Can you see the real me, Doctor?

Can you see the real me, Mother?

Can you see the real me?

There is the possibility that Jimmy is what would be called a borderline schizophrenic, as we do not yet have the category quadrophrenic. Psychological science has various categories imagined to describe maladies that are like bodily diseases or conditions. These categories are not themselves established scientifically, but drawn from common sense and the differing appearances of the various maladies. These maladies are indeed something, though science is in the same boat as everyone else regarding the first principles and the kinds. St. Augustine would surely not escape a category, and many errors are possible, for science as for common sense, when trying to understand the uncommon. Other categories are currently manic depressive, psychotic, while “neurotic” and “hysteric” have gone out of fashion. Homosexuality was considered a disorder throughout the twentieth century, though now,- with no new science, but rather a change of opinion- has become no malady at all, while “homophobia” threatens to become an illness. The criminally insane are called “sociopath,” intended to refer to their lack of conscience. Psychiatry wishes, as did Freud, to ultimately call these neurological disorders, something wrong with the biological functioning of the nervous system. And hence psychiatry wishes to treat imagined “chemical imbalance” with drugs supposed to restore or address the imbalance chemically.

The reason he may be borderline schizophrenic is both that this seems to run in English and Scottish families in a certain way and he is reacting strangely to certain perceptions, as will be elaborated in the song “Is it in my head.” Here he sees something strange about the rainwater flowing between the paving stones, in rivers like veins, and people who know him seem strange and react strangely to him.

Who is full of lies and hate, he or the preacher? He scares the preacher a little, so it is probably him, or both. But until the song “The Two Sides…,” he means it is is the preacher that is “full of lies and hate.” The golden gate is a beautiful double meaning: The Pearly gates are what the preacher is supposed to show us to, but he shows him to the Golden Gate Bridge, a place of suicide. The Doctor, Mother, and Preacher are all of no help to Jimmy, who sees through them. In addition, he asks the girl he once loved if she can see the real him. She does not want to know him now, now that he has become strange.

The girl is very important to the story, though one would not know it from the absence of love songs in Quadrophenia, and the absence of female characters. In the movie, Jimmy loses his girlfriend to his mod friend. The persona business, of “who I am” and the appearances of mods and rockers, is inseparable from love. Persona is also a formal term in Jungian psychology, meaning the mask we wear for others, and for ourselves. “What” one is is of course a different question, a philosophical question, though the question of “Who” one is may depend upon an answer to the question of “what” one is. (Hence, without knowing it, as it were, all psychology is based upon the presuppositions considered rather in philosophy. “Why” and “How” and “Where” are also involved in the question of “What.”) Our social persona is inseparable from our biologically based attempt to present an image in sexual selection. So the limit of this love brings Jimmy to the limit of the social persona, simultaneously. As Townshend comments: The angst of those teenage years in which we all feel misunderstood is easy to make fun of, but its real, and it brings my hero Jimmy to the brink of suicide.”

Suicide of a particular sort, the danger of teen suicide, is what is addressed in Quadrophenia, and is what makes this such a work of psychological art. Jimmy is in danger of killing himself in part because he is afraid of madness.

Instrumental: Quadrophenia

The instrumental includes all four themes, as Townshend explains, and encapsulates the musical theme of the whole. It is a good example for trying to see the relation between words, or meanings, and melodies. Eventually the melody of “Love Reign over Me” is introduced for the first time, with only the music and no words.

Cut my Hair

The first four lines describe the mod kid in his daily life, on the edge of leaving the home of his parents, or on the edge of adult hood:

Why should I care

If I have [you] to cut my hair

You’ve got to move with the fashion or be outcast.

I know I should fight

But my old man is really all right

And I’m still living at home, though it won’t last.

Then when the mod steps out onto the street, it is an electrifying transformation:

Zoot suit, white jacket with sideburns five inches long

I’m out on the street again, and I’m leaping along

Dressed right for a beach fight

But I just can’t explain

Why that uncertain feeling is still here in my brain.

The two worlds collide, but when he steps out as a mod, he is in the free adult world, the real world, or so he thinks. But there is some uncertain feeling, a restlessness that carries him through the story till he ends up on the rock. “Leaping along” is of course going out on amphetamines, called “leapers,” and the mood of amphetamines effect the rhythm or beat of the Who. The mods do leapers and go out on the beach at Brighton, where they get fish and chips and fight with the rockers, who are a different social class. The rockers ride motorcycles rather than scooters. They are probably rockers in the sense of adherence to a kind of music from the Fifties, including rock proper, as in “Rock Around the Clock.” This would mean that the mods are for better or worse, more progressive, or modern. They are the new thing, while the rockers are what was there previously. These divisions of social class are different from the divisions of gangs that we have so much of now. The rockers are mechanical rather than imitators of the rich in their slick dress, as are the mods. As a fashion phenomenon, the mods were actually governed by certain trend setters called “faces,” and under these were small faces. Hence the name of the band “Small Faces.” The key difference musically between the mods and the rockers is shown in the scene of the movie Quadrophenia, when Jimmy and his rocker friend are in divided public baths, each singing their different music, and almost start a fight over the songs, before they recognize themselves as old friends. Their friendship is probably from their pre-pubescent school days before the difference between mods and rockers mattered. When Jimmy’s girlfriend takes up with his best mod friend, this friendship with the rocker helps him to see through the illusion of the British system of social cast. The transcendence of social identity is necessary in his quest to answer the question with which the opera began, of who he is.

The kids at school have parents that seem so cool

And though I don’t wanna ham, mine won’t be their way

I clean my room and my shoes

But my mother found a box of blues

And there doesn’t seem much hope that they’ll let me stay.

Blues are amphetamines, though the word might also mean condoms. Again he steps out electric:

Zoot suit, white jacket with sideburns five inches long

I’m out on the street again, and I’m leaping along

Dressed right for a beach fight

But I just can’t explain

Why that uncertain feeling is still here in my brain.

Why do I have to be different to them?

Just to earn the respect of her dancehall friend

We have the same old row again and again

Why do I have to move with the crowd?

The kids will hardly notice I’m around

I work myself to death just to fit in

I’m comin down at home on the very first train from town

My dad just left for work

And he wasn’t talking.

It’s all a game

And inside I’m just the same:

My fried egg makes me sick first thing in the morning.

(A radio plays a news report of the fight between mods and rockers.)

A commentator identified as ByClone on Everthing2.com has written:

Jimmy says he became a mod to “Be someone different” but as the film goes on he realizes, with the aid of drink, blues and psychosis, that mods are all the bloody same. They don’t have minds of their own, they follow the hive mind of peer pressure, which Jimmy is sucked into to the point of helping beat up a childhood friend just because he is a rocker.

In the video, it is the mods and the rocker, and Jimmy is in tension with his own mods because of his friendship with a rocker, and the estrangement from his mod friend. The Greeks call a friend another self, and so he is estranged from himself. He realizes that the social world even of the mods is illusory, or, he manages to burst his box, spiritually.

The Punk meets the Godfather

This song is very difficult, and holds the mystery of the place of The Who in the whole story. According to Wikipedia, Jimmy goes to see a mod band perform, only to be disappointed that the band was just a part of mod culture that made up the audience.” Wikipedia then cites Townshend:

The hero goes to a rock concert. He pays his money, and he decides he’s going to see the stars backstage. And one of them comes up and says [something mean], and suddenly he realizes that there’s nothing really happening in Rock and Roll. It’s just another cross on his list.

The song “The Punk Meets the Godfather” is very hard to interpret, in part because it is not clear who is speaking each part. The confusion may be intentional. The dialogue is between a punk and a godfather, the “guy in the sky,” but because Jimmy is Townshend, it becomes the dialogue of Jimmy, through the band The Who he goes to see, with the record industry/mod society that led Jimmy to idolize becoming a “face,” a leader of fashion, or a rock star. The punk says:

You declared you would be three inches taller

You only became what we made you.

Thought you were chasing a destiny calling

You only earned what we paid you.

You fell and cried as our people were starving

Now you know that we blame you.

You tried to walk on the trail we were carving

Now you know that we’ve [framed] you.

I’m the guy in the sky

Flying high, flashing eyes

No surprise I told lies

I’m a punk in the gutter

I’m the new president

But I grew and I bent

Don’t you know, don’t it show

I’m the punk with the stutter

(My Generation)

You declared you would be three inches taller

Thought you were chasing a destiny calling

You only became what we made you

You’re watching movies tryin’ to find the feelers

You only see what we show you

Were the slaves of the phony leaders

Breathe the air that they’ve [sold] you

I’m the guy in the sky

I’m a punk in the gutter

I’m the punk with the stutter

(My

G-G-Generation)

We try to speak between lines of oration

You can only repeat what we’ve told you

Your ax belongs to a dying nation

They don’t know that we own you.

You’re watching movies trying to find the feelers

I have to be careful not to preach

I can’t pretend that I can teach

And yet I live your future out

By pounding stages like a clown.

And on the dance floor broken glass

And bloody faces slowly pass

The numbered seats in empty rows

It all belongs to me you know.

Repeat You declared…

The key to the song is something like this, that The Who are to Jimmy, and his idealizing of the face, as the record industry and society were to Townshend and the Who. Hence in the opening, the Punk speaks as a “superego” or as the nation would speak to the Rock star. So the punk is revealing to Jimmy what has occurred by singing sarcastically of the complicity of The Who in this, and this is what Jimmy sees through. Now the lyrics may make sense: You thought you would be taller than your fellows, but the star you became is what we made you. Now society blames them for playing rock while people are starving, and has framed them with the crime, after, as is said in the last stanza, pounding stages for them like a clown. His ax, the smashing of his guitar that was his trademark, is seen by the godfather as belonging to a dying nation, and this is perhaps the deepest window into the motivation of the godfather. The musician thought he could speak to the many between the lines, like a classical orator, but in fact the many can only repeat certain phrases, like “teenage wasteland.” “You” are watching movies trying to find the script devices used to lead the audience about, but in fact you ”only see what “we”, i.e., they, have shown you, and they present to you The Who. Because the nation is dying, and it will have no effect, society does not mind if he speaks, especially while the nation is making money off him. This is Townshend’s depressing conclusion about the value of his own life, and one can see from this song how Jimmy, like Tommy, is Pete. And Pete is a very bright fellow ! The Godfather becomes the bent president, and we are the slaves of the phony leaders. This is something like the failure of the prayer in Baba O’ Riley that “we won’t get fooled again.”

Side II

I’m one

The Dirty Jobs

Helpless Dancer

Is it in My head?

I’ve had Enough

The other songs are all very important to the story. In “I’m One,” Jimmy is a loser, with loneliness sinking in. He takes heart, “You’ll all see,” and claims to be “one.” With his Gibson guitar, he sets off to become the face of the faces, The Who for the mods.

The Dirty Jobs is very important, and the line “I am the man who looks after the pigs” breaks through. I sing it when I’m feeding the cats, as cat shepherd. It is to be understood in the context first of the faces, and significance of the social status of one’s job, and especially in light of the Bell Boy song, in the penultimate position at the end of the album. He is but a pig keeper, yet gets by. He is one who reveals himself too easily. He is getting dishonored, intimidated and beaten daily, but he is not going to sit and weep. He is a common man, like the one who drives the local bus. The bus driver recognizes him as one of them because they look the same. Jimmy’s “karma” tells him they are getting screwed again, and if they allow this to occur, it is them who will bear the blame, pain and shame. He concludes that he is young and has not done much, and is reminded how to fight. He realizes that his fashion world has been like the illusion of a child. Though he is mixed up about reality and appearance, still he knows what is right. This leads into the next song, the moral outrage of the helpless citizen.

Helpless Dancer

Something in us is going very wrong, though our efforts to change are suppressed or do more harm than good. The money driven world of computers, cost and receipts where people work does not address the real problems, like street violence and the lack of care for the homeless and the seniors. “If you complain you disappear / Just like the lesbians and queers,” as was the case in the old society, though the latter is still true. Though Jimmy next turns inward, it is important to understand the forces that do drive the world, how things got to be the way they are, and why things are the way they are, in order to change society in a meaningful way, without doing more harm than good.

“Is it in my Head” is the song where Jimmy thinks he may be going insane. It begins from the conclusion of the previous song, as he sees a country starving on one hand and a man without a problem on another, as in Dylan’s “Hard Rain.” He hears the music of a heartbeat, but people laugh at him, again reacting strangely to him. He wonders if the problem is in his head from the start or in his heart. The next four lines are very interesting:

I pick up phones and hear my history

I dream of all the calls I miss

I try to number those who love me

And find exactly what the trouble is.

Does he hear vast things in small particulars? When the mystery begins to appear, it is startling, and the knowledge not immediately integrated. At least this is what seems to be going on here, as when the rivers in the paving stones looked like veins: One just never noticed. And do the phones, if he means headphones, not tell his history? He feels he’s being followed. Each word he says is a sentence, and he cannot respond to a stranger without asking philosophical questions, like “does anyone really know how to get downtown,” or “Does anybody really know what time it is?” Human words are pregnant with meaning we do not imagine, and indeed cannot contain. The mad see this. He is not mad, only surprised, if he is a bit shaky. And perhaps lonely, if he is counting the people who love him, as Jimmy is now completely alone.

In “I’ve Had Enough,” the hero realizes his mod rebellion has been misdirected. He heard the theme of “Love Reign Over Me,” and has had enough of climbing in the mod hierarchy, and for Pete, of being the musician. In a quatrain visible only in light of the Punk and the Godfather, He writes:

Don’t cry because you hurt them

Hurt them first and then they’ll love you

There’s a millionaire above you

And you’re under his suspicion

The first two lines are a statement of the godfather, stated sarcastically. The second two are the experience of Pete in the record business, but also the position of most people, which is indeed a bit scary to recognize. This is perhaps the point where he wrecks his bike and gets on the train for Brighton.

Side III

5:15

Sea and Sand

Drowned

Bell Boy

The 5:15 train is the host of Jimmy, who had just wrecked his bike, and is headed for the rock. The song makes sense again in light of the connection between Jimmy and Pete. Pete is concerned about the effect of the rock culture he has helped perpetuate, from the perspective made available to him through Maher Baba. Is it really good for fifteen year old girls to be adults in their knowledge of the things regarding sex? Lesbianism is foreseen, and he calls his fashion “he-man drag,” the masculine long haired beauty of a Daltry or a Plant, introduced in seventies rock fashion. And why should he care if they are sadly ecstatic that their heroes are news to them, meaning either new or, more likely, in replacement of the serious news.

In Sea and Sand, Jimmy is homeless, having been kicked out during a speech on morality by his drunken father. When he goes to the beach, he has a flashback inspired by a time on Brighton Beach with a lover in his mod days, when he was 19 (Who I Am, p. 245). His mod girl is a perfect dresser, and knows just how she wants him to be. A reference to the discussion of Rousseau on the importance of women to morality or the formation of the conventional character might be in order (Emile, Book V). Women, by selection, determine how the men will be, and while this is also true in reverse, there are many other things too that determine how women will be. Coming down from uppers, he and the girl met a group of mods seeking shelter from a light rain, under the pier.

Out of the mists of memory, he sees the Bell Boy. The Bell boy was once one who set the paces in front of a hundred faces, and Jimmy used to follow him in 1963. He still has a secret identity behind his Bell Boy badge. He still sleeps on the beach on occasion, but he spends his days licking boots as a bell boy, since he was so good as a mod at fitting in. So, he sees that the character formed by the image of how women see men leads one to become a Bell Boy for Bootlicking, a tolerable life for the many.

In the movie, he steals the boat to go out to sea, and winds up on the rock. He enters into delusion, with his girlfriend from the past, and just wants to die with her near. He sees men up high fishing, and comments that they have not yet seen enough of the world. He has not seen his hero, but is still diving down for pearls. He wishes to dissolve into the water, and imagines himself a drop of water, like a baby’s tear, seeking the great ocean.

IV

Doctor Jimmy

The two sides of Jimmy Cooper

The Rock

Love, Reign o’er Me

But Jimmy does not drowned or commit suicide. On his way to the rock, he has the battle with the shadow, the other side of himself, the repressed side that comes out when he drinks his gin. “When I’m pilled, you don’t notice him.” He wants to head back to civilization and fight the guy who stole his girl. This character, though, is capable of rape, and murder, as it is the animal in man. He is the man he wants to fight, who deflowers his virgin in disregard of her fellow. Something of this character is within the masculinity repressed so that culture can replace animal tyranny.

Somehow, though, the drop of water that was a baby’s tear has been dissolved into the sea to come down as rain.

Only Love

Can make it rain

The way the beach

Is kissed by the sea

Only love can make it rain

Like the sweat of lovers

Laying in the field

Love

Reign O’er me.

Love

Reign O’er me

Rain on me

Only Love

Can bring the rain

That makes you yearn

To the sky

Only Love

Can bring the rain

That falls like tears

From on high

He realizes then that he needs to get back home, and needs a drink not of alcohol but cool, cool rain. “On the dry and dusty road / The nights we spent apart alone” is Pete, as literally Jimmy has no one but himself and his new adult world to return home to, where he knows he should have left home at fifteen, and wonders why he did not then say what he means. He has indeed become who he is, as a drop of water in the Reign of Love over us.

 

Pink Floyd 1973 Dark Side of the Moon

Townsend did not understand Floyd when they first came out, as he says in the Rolling Stone interview.

“See Emily Play” is their most stunning early song, from the days of Syd. We were introduced to this by Bowie’s cover on Pinups, but Jack and I used to listen to Umma Gumma in his subdivision Kids loft over by Six Mile. “Wish you were here” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” would seem to be about Syd. Though he could not come along, the course he helped to set broke through. With the album Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd became one of the six or so greatest of the rock bands, even though the music is more akin to classical than to the fast beat of rock. It is slow, melodic and composed, carrying the emotions of deep themes, with occasional flashes of poetic brilliance. Side one is a work of art, a “perfect” album side, on what was for ages the number one of all albums.

The first song is called Speak to Me, and opens with strange sounds and a mad voice in the background. This is really a prologue to the song Breathe. The introductory theme is to live, not letting life go by without entering into it, against the background of the futility of business, and the inevitability of death. The rabbit digs his hole forgetful of the sun, and when the work is done there is no completion, but it is time to begin again, and there is only ceaseless activity. “The blind mole casts copp’d hills toward heaven” is how Shakespeare’s Pericles put it (Perikles, I, i, 101-103), adding that it is “to tell the earth is thronged / By man’s oppression, and the poor worm doth die for’t,” as in the title of a commentary by Howard White). The song “Money,” the big hit on the album, picks up the theme of the futility of business on side two. The best is to balance on the biggest wave, flying high if you ride the tide, of time and fortune, though still we race toward an early grave.

A musical interlude, called “On the Run,” serves as a transition to the immortal song “Time.” With the pressing beat of a ticking clock, the song is punctuated with the sounds of war, leading up to an explosion, then quiet, and the sound of feet running. The poetry of idleness begins in English slang, and emerges into a classic of English poetry:

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day

You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way

Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown

Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch for rain

For you are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking

And racing around to come up behind you again

The sun is the same in the relative way, but you’re older

And shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way

The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

(1973 The Gramophone Company, Limited)

As a painter who often gets to study on rain days, I always get wistful at the line “staying home to watch the rain.” Ten years slip by on this fellow, and it is as though he never got a start at any lifework or purpose. The next section of four lines rises from the English day to the perennial day. The astronomical perspective, of the sun chasing us around each day, coming up again behind us before we really get started toward its setting, shows the meaning of a human day in this song. It is always the same, and against this cosmic background, we age, deteriorate from smoking, and advance one day, or twenty-four hours, closer toward the time of our death. Plans of mice and men either come to nothing, or are merely written about, half a page of scribbled lines, often for the effort of an entire day. It is a poet’s poem.

Life seems to go by faster the older we get. My old neighbor, Mrs. Rakestraw, a long retired teacher, explained the reason: It is that each year is a smaller percentage or fraction of the whole time we have been alive, so that, for a five year old, one year is twenty percent of their whole time experience, while for us it is one fiftieth, and for some one eightieth of the time of our entire memory. I thought when I heard this that she had answered a great question long asked by mankind, as many notice this perception, and wonder why the same amount of time should seem shorter and shorter, like an optical illusion, but regarding our perception of time.

“Breathe Reprise” connects the song time to the song Breathe. From a warm hearth, he hears something in the distance, the only light on the despairing album Dark Side of the Moon:

Home, home again.

I like to be here when I can

When I come in cold and tired

It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire

Far away, across the field

The tolling of the iron bell

Calls the faithful to their knees

To hear the softly spoken magic spells

He understands what the people, the faithful, are doing in Church. They are drawn to hear what are like softly spoken magic spells that charm our souls. But this warm small happiness is off through a dark foggy distance from the poet alone at his hearth.

   “The Great Gig in the Sky” is almost entirely sung as the wailing of the singer Clare Torry, yet this may be the most beautiful lyric wailing ever recorded. The only words are those of the madman, who dominates the second half of the album. Here he says “I am not frightened of dying, any time will do. Why should I be frightened of dying, there’s no reason for it…” There follows the classic wailing. It is the crying out of all human sorrows, the sorrows of all mortality, severing our ties to life and the earth like an umbilical chord, measured by the steady time of the accompanying piano, then dissolving into the exhausted whimper of having cried oneself to sleep.

Us and Them” is about the futility of war and the senselessness of war to the particular people caught up in it. It is similar to the CSNY tune Wooden Ships, where two opposing soldiers meet after a cataclysmic battle they had been caught up in. A General sacrifices the lives of a whole front rank of soldiers in order to move the lines on a map from side to side. The absurdity of exchanging lives for scraps of territory is noted by Shakespeare’s Hamlet (IV, ii, 25-29), and became apparent in the stalemate in the trenches of World War I. The poster bearer tries to say it is a battle of words, but the soldier simply herds him inside with the others, subjecting speech to force. The fighting is all about those who have and those who do not, and the song concludes with a scene of a rich man rushing past a beggar, who dies for lacking the price of tea and bread. Then the album gets serious.

   Brain Damage of course reminds us of the experience of the band with the breakdown of Syd Barret, the founder of Syd’s Pink Floyd, with some hits, including “See Emily Play.” If the album had a title cut, this would be it, and it is here we see the meaning of the dark side of the moon. The lunatic is on the grass, remembering days and daisy chains and laughs, while the sane try to keep them on the path. But the sane, their folded faces held to the floor by the newspapers, are the lunatics in his hall. Then comes the refrain:

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon

And if there is no room on the hill

And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

The dam breaking is an image of the unconscious spilling over into consciousness, which is a good explanation of what it is that is occurring in some instances of madness. In Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” the same image occurs. The sun eclipsed by the moon, in the concluding song and line of the album, is a similar image, where the changing things eclipse the light of the eternal sun, the fleeting vacuity of time obscuring the light in the tragic despair of the human condition. No room on the hill refers to the Fool on the Hill, and this album, Dark Side of the Moon, was recorded at Abbey Road Studio. If there is no room there with the fool on the hill, he’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

After describing the efforts of society to keep the loonies on the path, the poem concludes:

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear

You shout and no one seems to hear

And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

The dark side of the moon is the side that is never seen from earth, apparently because the moon orbits and revolves at the same time. The dark side is actually partly visible from earth, in the phases and in the new moon. We used to joke that the “other” socks, the lost ones that go with the single socks that accumulate in one’s top drawer, are hidden on this far side of the moon, probably stashed there by the very little fellow that steals them.

1974 Buddha and the Chocolate Box: The word of love and music

Music

This album includes the best poetry of Cat Stevens. The album cover shows wrapped chocolates in gold foil, like the confections given as gifts. The sweetness hidden within reminds one of the description of Socrates by Alcibiades, that with his inner beauty he is like one of those statues of flute playing sileni or satyrs, with “little figures of the gods inside.” Alcibiades then says Socrates is like a piper far more wonderful than Marsyas, whose “tunes still have a magic power, and by virtue of their own divinity they will show which of us are fit subjects for initiation (Symposium, 215b).”[1]

The title song is not about Buddha alone but about both Buddha and Jesus. Jesus was hanged on the cross, and is still misunderstood, though “in the evening his love will lead the blind / In every corner there in your mind” We’ll remember this when looking at the first two stanzas of Sun / C79, where the question is “who can explain the light in your dreams?” The first song belongs to the genre of songs about music, like American Pie. Along with the last song, it is framed by gratitude for the life of music as a profession, though he hints that he may soon leave to rise in another sphere. The first stanza is about his dissatisfaction with the world, familiar from the song “but I might die tonight,” about jobs, and music offers him a career, a vocation in the world. The world is a “school for fools” which, however, requires of us that we find a way to survive, or make a living to the level of subsistence. Music, he says, can lighten us, brighten the world and save us. As opposed to trying to make ourselves richer, to sing is to put back your heart. As in I might die tonight, the reason is that our time is short, and he says this in a strange or shocking way to his friend, that then the “devil will get you back,” implying that those who seek money come from there:

Yesterday

I was on the edge hoping everything

Was going to work itself out

A good honest man

Doing the work of God

Trying to make things better for him

A lover of life

In a school for fools

Trying to find another way to survive

New Music, Music, New Music

Sweet music can lighten us

Can brighten the world

Can save us

My friend said

Well I think I found a way

To help make myself richer

I said “Don’t you know

Well it won’t be too long before

The bad ol’ Debil will get you back…

Back”…I said put back your heart

And sing, sing sing

While you know you’re still living

Sing, sing, sing

While you know there’s still

New music, music, new music

Sweet music can lighten us

Can brighten the world

Can save us

Take a look at the world

Think about how it will end

There’d be no wars in the world

If everybody joined in the band

Think about the light in your eyes

Think about what you should know

There’d be no wars in the world

If everybody joined in the show. Oh, oh.

Think about the light in your eyes

Think about what you should know

There’d be no wars in the world

If everybody joined in the show.

In the show–new Music

Sweet music can lighten us

Can brighten the world

Yesterday

I was on the edge hoping everything

Was going to work itself out

A good honest man

Doing the work of God, tryin to make things better for him

Lover of Life

In a school for fools

Trying to find another way to survive

In the center of the song he pauses and directs our gaze upward, beginning with considering how the world will end. It will end in war, and so he asks us to consider that there would be no wars if everyone would follow the way of sweet music. Then he asks us to consider the light in our eyes and what we should know, with the same refrain: there would be no wars in the world if everyone lived according to light, the best in us, and music of a certain kind, sweet music. In light of his subsequent conversion and renunciation of music, in hindsight, we see that the monastic path or that of the Sufi is already presenting itself to him, and that his conversion raises the question of whether he once had, but lost the faith that music could save us.

Oh Very Young

Oh Very Young belongs to the genre of songs written in the concern for the future generations of man, with CSNY’s “Teach Your Children,” and others. It asks the young, or those very young, younger than the musician’s generation, what they leave to mankind. That the body as clothing to be put off is a way of speaking about mortality. Rather than concern for our own lives, the mortality of the mortal becomes evident in a more poetic example when we consider the mortality of our parents, how we love them and how it is in the nature of things that even in the most fortunate circumstances possible we have to say goodbye, as they pass away and we will pass away. And it is the good done in the life lived, the patches on the jeans, which make the goodbye harder. Their dreams will vanish away, mortal like their father’s jeans. The question is what the generation will leave behind as their legacy.

Oh very young, what will you leave us this time?

You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

And though your dreams may toss and turn you now

They will vanish away

Like your dad’s best jeans

Denim blue faded up to the sky

And though you want him to last forever

You know he never will

You know he never will

And the patches make the goodbye harder still

Oh very young, what will you leave us this time

There’ll never be a better chance to change your mind

And if you want this world to see a better day

Will you carry the words of love with you?

Will you ride?

The great white bird into heaven

And though you want to last forever

You know you never will

(You know you never will)

And the goodbye makes the journey harder still

Oh very young, what will you leave us this time

You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

Oh very young, what will you leave us this time.

Our own mortality is addressed together with the question of how we live and tend the future generation. Each generation offers the possibility that we will change our minds, so that our worlds will see a better day. It poses the question to us: will we carry the words of love with us, so that the world will see a better day? This is the same as to ride the great white bird into heaven, and the response to anxiety about our mortality.

Sun / C 79

The song is the most honest answer to an illegitimate son about the circumstances of his conception, and so it is delivered at a time when the son can understand it from his own relations. But before he sits his son down to tell the story of when he met his mother, he tells him a prelude about the cause of all things, in the first two stanzas, or first eight lines. These are about the sun as the cause of the generation of all life in the world. And the world will bloom. The pairing of the fourth line of each of the first two stanzas reveals a teaching about the hidden or invisible light. It is the same sun, the cause of the greenness and the blooms, that lights the moon, and in the same way, the light is the light of dreams:

Sun is the reason

And the world it will bloom

‘Cause sun lights the sky

And the sun lights the moon

Sun is the reason

All the happy trees are green

Then who can explain

The light in your dream?

“Why are we here” is the question of the generation of all things, and this is caused by the same as the light in your dreams. But this light is the same as the light in love, which shined when he met the mother of the boy:

Sit you down

Sit you down young gentlemen

There’s something I want you to know

You keep on asking me

You keep on asking me, why?

Why are we here

It started a long time ago

Me and your mum on the night

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we met

I was on the road again

She was in C 79

I’ll never never forget

I’ll never forget that night, no…

We met in a back road behind the stage

She had the best figure by far

Huh, a thousand hours I’ve looked at

Her eyes but I

Still don’t know what color they are

Me and your mum on the night

Oh Lord, we met

I was on the road again

She was in c 79

She was a junkie then

And I was having a good time

Back on the road again

Oh mamma, I was on the road again

Back in suite 79

I’ll never never forget

I’ll never forget that time

Back on the road again

Oh I’m traveling that line

I was a pop star then

I’m still having a good time

The song is almost brutally honest about romantic attraction, for a father addressing a son, and this is part of its beauty. He stared into her eyes a thousand hours, and, as Taupin too said, he still doesn’t know what color they are. She was apparently traveling with them, and was in a hotel room. He recalls her beauty or her attraction, that she had the best figure, and was a junkie then. This makes it seem as though the mother of the boy has since died, or he might not say it. He was a pop star then, and one can see that at the time of his last very great album, he won’t be doing the pop star thing by the time, years in the future, that he has this discussion with his son. Even if he were no longer there, he could have the discussion through the song, and his son will one day hear him.

King of Trees

This song is the only hint on the album of the old theme of where will the children play in the modern world, made over by enterprise and technology. The song is about his love for the king of trees, beneath which his memory was stained by love. The way the poet speaks of the tree, it is like the love of the young for a wise man or even a way of life or a college, but he is really talking about a tree, perhaps like an incarnation of the tree of life. The tree is like the Buddha who “used to sit knowing /… Where you and me were going.” And everyone has seen the old oak trees with the names of lovers carved into them:

He was the king of trees

Keeper of the leaves

A deep green god of young

Love stained memory

We used to meet by him

Far from the hustling town

I loved you

Now they’ve come to cut you down

…down

He was the guardian of days

We held the same

Beneath the shade he gave

Shelter from the rain

Oh lord how it’s empty now

With nothing save the breeze

I loved you

Now they’ve come to burn the leaves

Don’t burn the leaves

And if my mind breaks up in all so many ways

I know the meaning of the words, ‘I love you.’

And if my body falls inside

An early grave

The forest and the evergreens

Are coming to take me back.

So slowly as I roll

Down the track

The forest and the evergreens

Are coming to take me back.

The forest and the evergreens

Are coming to take me back.

Please take me back

He was the king of trees

Keeper of the glades

The way he lightened my life

Makes me so amazed

We used to meet by him

Many years ago

I loved you

Now they’ve come to lay the road

Don’t lay the road

This sort of poetic regard for nature is not quite the same as the “tree huggers,” since it is the human life lived beneath the tree, the human memories, that make the tree and nature so worth preserving. The tree is a sort of divinity presiding over the love stained memories of youth, stained not in the sense of sin but, like blood stained, stained with the wounds of love lost long ago. And if his mind breaks up in madness, or if he should die, he will have known the meaning of the words “I love you.” The indirect quotation indicates that someone has said this to him, beneath the tree. The evergreens are related to immortality, and the forests to nature. He asks the forests and the evergreens to take him back, both back in memory and back into the spiritual condition we all were once in but have left. The tree reminds one of an old teacher, beneath whom friends and lovers would meet, and would be fitting for a funeral poem, though only in private. I am reminded of an apricot tree in my grandfather’s garden where I and my sister once climbed, ate and played, bulldozed to build a subdivision– paradise paved.

Harry Chapin Taxi

The central lines of this song are intentionally obscured, and I had never heard them in my life until I looked them up, though I had long heard tantalizing fragments.

The song is a story, about driving a cab one night in Hollywood as a failed musician and getting his long lost love, a successful actress, for a fare. Its beauty is the opposite of the theme of the jilted lover gaining some satisfaction by success. It is heart rending, and listeners comment on the internet of how everyone has one such long lost love, “The kind of love you never recover from,” as in the Christine Lavine song.

It sounds like he loved her in high school days, when they used to park in a dodge. He was aiming to be a pilot, and she an actress. She left him, and became this actress he drops off at her gated house. She gradually recognizes him, where he knew her immediately. She says “We must get together,” from which he knows it will never be arranged. She gives him a nice tip. Then there is the famous section:

Another man might have been angry

Another man might have been hurt

But another man never would have let her go

I stashed the bill in my shirt.

The first obscure word reveals that the wild man who lives and hides inside him is a “wizard:”

Oh, I’ve got something inside me

To drive a princess blind

There’s a wild man, wizard, he’s hiding in me

Illuminating my mind

Oh, I’ve got something inside me

Not what my life’s about

’cause I’ve been letting my outside tide me

Over till my time

Runs out

The wild man within is a wizard, and he illuminates our minds, or the minds of these great songwriters. Townshend’s Tommy too sees the wizard. This illumination is by an aspect of the archetype of the wise man, as any good Jungian will explain. Here the wizard or wild man, who in Britain is named Merlin, is hidden within his low condition of Taxi driver to the stars, but the illumination of this is what his life is truly about. It makes it possible for him to see and write:

Baby’s so high that she’s skying

Yes, she’s flying, afraid to fall

I’ll tell you why Baby’s crying

Cause she’s dying

Aren’t we all

In light of death, her happiness seems shallow, and we suspect that the sorrow of the song is that he had her secret. He compares the fulfillment of their young dreams for each:

And there she’s actin happy

Inside her handsome home

And me, I’m flyin in my Taxi

Taking tips

And gettin stoned

I go flying so high

When I’m stoned.

Her acting the part of suburban happiness is analogous to his flying high by getting stoned. So success is empty, not much different from failure. In fact, it is within what he saw as failure that he conceives the song. Then, when Taxi became a hit, it was he who found success, even the footlights. In the sequel to Taxi, she has left 16 Parkside Lane, and he finds her in an apartment. She seems happier, and has learned how to smile. They spend an afternoon talking, and he comments on how we do not even know what we mean until we have these conversations, and “all the words run out.” He leaves her money, though she won’t take it.

Harry Chapin has some more lyrics that break through to a peak: One is the refrain:

I Wanna learn a love song

It’s only half past eight

I wanna learn a love song

Before you go away

This turns out to have been a true story about how he found his wife.

Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy (all lyrics C.1973 Superhype Music, Inc)

The Song Remains the Same introduces the album, and becomes the opening song and title of the live album He says he has had a dream, a crazy dream in which anything he wanted to know he might know, and he was able to transmigrate, traveling to any place, as he will when he is “flying,” to Kashmir. For this reason, we should hear his song and sing along, and something that is small in us,­ music or song,­ will grow. For you know, whatever place one is in, the sunlight of California, the rain of Calcutta, or the bright starlight of Hawaii, the song remains the same.

The Rain Song

Fans at one concert booed in impatience at the slow rain song, showing that the ocean is still the plebs. This song is a thing of rare beauty, and demonstrates the excellence of Zeppelin at light as well as heavy, or at music, not just rock. It is reported to have been written when George Harrison challenged Page to write a soft or melodic song. As a painter / scholar, we love the rain because it means a day off, and sometimes leisure to read and write, and play this song:

It is the springtime of my loving­

The second season I am to know

You are the sunlight in my growing­

So little warmth I felt before

It isn’t hard to feel me glowing–

I watched the fire that grew so low.

It is the summer of my smiles­

Flee from me, Keepers of the Gloom

Speak to me only with your eyes

It is to you I give this tune.

It ain’t so hard to recognize­

These things are clear to all from time to time.

Talk, talk

I felt the coldness of my winter

I never thought it would ever go

I cursed the gloom that set upon us

But I know that I love you so

But I know that I love you so

These are the seasons of emotion

And like the winds they rise and fall

This is the wonder of devotion–

I see the torch we all must hold.

This is the mystery of the quotient–

Upon us all a little rain must fall.

It is the spring of love, a reawakening after love once died. “Talk” is associated with coldness and a gloom that had set over their love, and now he asks her to speak to him only with her eyes. The song is a gift to her, as in Bernie Taupin’s “Your Song.” When he says “these things are clear to all from time to time,” he is seeing the mystery through love. He seems to mean the poetic sight that allows him to speak of love and seasons, and Keepers of the Gloom and such, the “seasons of emotion.” They rise and fall like the winds. Through this, he sees the wonder of devotion: it is a religious experience, “The torch we all must hold,” when we bear light. The love was previously described as a fire that began as a small glow. What he speaks of is a particular mystery, that of the “quotient.” In mathematics, this is the number of times one number can be divided into another, or the outcome of a division problem. In English, the word is used for the tithe, which is one tenth, and of the Sabbath, one day out of seven to be devoted to the Lord, and so might refer to offering or sacrifice. The rain is also a mystery, but it falls from heaven onto us, as Lao Tzu says, when heaven and earth come together, “a gentle rain will fall.” The Quotient of heaven and earth is the gentle rain, baptismal, or at least like holy water, that precipitates when heaven and earth come together.

Over the Hills and Far Away

This is a song of leaving, but also a song of philosophy, or setting out on the journey. “Many times I’ve wondered / How much there is to know” may be the most philosophical line in all of rock, and is surely liberal arts poetry, inviting and fueling the quest for knowledge.

Hey lady­, you’ve got the love I need

Oh maybe­ more than enough

Oh Darling Darling walk a while with me

­

Oh you’ve got so much.

Many have I loved

Many times been bitten

Many times I’ve gazed

Along the open road.

Many times I’ve lied

Many times I’ve listened

Many times I’ve wondered

How much there is to know.

Many dreams come true

And some have silver linings

I live for my dream

And a pocket full of gold

Mellow is the man

Who knows what he’s been missing

Many, many men

Can’t see the open road

Many is a word

That only leaves you guessing

Guessing ’bout a thing

You really ought to know.

The song begins as a conversation with his new love of the “Rain Song.” He explains to her that he has loved many times, and been bitten, and many times set off from love alone. He has lied, and listened to lies, and the failure of love, or dreams that come true like a storm or a bad dream, has left him in the pursuit of knowledge. These bad dreams, though, have silver linings, and he lives a life dedicated to turning these dreams into a pocketful of gold. Now, he tells her, the man who knows what he has been missing in the life of the open road is mellow, that is, in love he does not care if she leaves him, because he finds his complete life in higher pursuits. As King Henry V tells his Kate, though he loves her, he will not die for her love (King Henry V, Act V, ii, 149-150) like Romeo. One can only do this once, or maybe twice.

He knows this way is rare: Many cannot see the open road. It is the road gazed on from the failure of love. A clue to a cryptic line of this song is given in the song that follows it on the album, “The Crunge.” This is about that “thing you really ought to know.” “Many is a word that only leaves you guessing / I guess you found a thing you really ought to know” is followed by “I ain’t gonna tell you one thing that you really ought to know.” What the word “many” leaves one guessing about is who are the few. Trying to find the bridge, repeated in the live version of “Whole Lotta Love,” has the dual meaning of a bridge in a song and the symbolic meaning of the way to get across to the other side. The song “The Crunge” does not have a bridge.

The Crunge is very strange. Chris Welch says it happened by accident in the studio, throwing together different blues lines, and they were seriously going to make a dance craze to go along with it.[2] One possible meaning is that his good thing is the girl in the newspaper, which refers to masturbation that is the result or practical response to his past love having other loves. He goes to this woman in the newspaper to avoid being called Mr. Pitiful, which is what can become of a faithful man while his love is unfaithful, left alone in his desire. Another possible meaning is that he has a real prostitute or stripper that really lives next door. This seems less likely because of the line asking her what she wants him to do, love her while she loves some other man too? Which he could not really say if he were the unfaithful one. But “many” is the word that only leaves us guessing.

Houses of the Holy is the title cut left off the album of the same name, but included in Physical Graffiti. It is the only Zeppelin song that is explicitly Satanic, in the one line “Satan and Man.” and according to our hypothesis in this section, we will guess that it is written or heavily influenced by Page. The album itself, though, contains a number of gems.

In “Dancing Days,” Plant seems to have found his queen without a king in California. What a great summertime song! He has found his flower and his power in his woman who knows. He starts up his song of true love, “You’ll be my only / My one and only / Is that the way it should start?” Her crazy ways appear in her beautiful clothes, characteristic of the hippie woman, emissaries bringing colors into the world. As they begin to chime, they drink, and the “evening starts to glow.”

 

No Quarter.

The title of the song means no mercy, and these messengers who trudge through the snow mocked by the devil give and ask no mercy. Is it, like the “Battle of Evermore,” consistent with soldiers in the army of the Prince of Peace? The song begins with the contrasting warm domestic scene where those at home wait for those who are like warriors. The scene is in the North, and one is reminded of the German and Russian winters. Yet they are not literally warriors, but messengers. Their news is important, and must get through, not to know enemy battle lines, but “to build a dream for me and you,” connecting with the theme of the new day that will dawn for those who stand long. This key line allows us then to return to the song, which is about intellectual or spiritual warriors. That they hold and ask no quarter indicates for example why they were not too concerned with bad reviews, and did not much attempt to explain themselves nor beg to be understood. It is their seriousness to hold, and their courage to ask for no quarter of mercy in their mission. The analogy between literal and spiritual warriors reveals the higher meaning of the Immigrant Song, as the invasion of the Zeppelin into British culture.

   “The Ocean” is about the fun of doing concerts, and of the party, “rockin in the grain.” The Ocean is the sea of humanity, which is how he can wonder if the ocean he sings to has lost its way. This song gives Plant a very simple image that is comprehensible to most their audience, and sets them on the same page regarding the images. He used to sing on the mountain, but, well, first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain. The mountain was washed away by the ocean, possibly when the ocean lost its way, which is to stay within the shore. He used to sing from a high place, but now he sings for a future ocean, for the next generation. This is the best interpretation of this line, and of the pictures on the cover, of his own naked children ascending the ruins called the Giant’s Causeway, in Ireland.[3] On the inner sleeve, drawn by a friend of Page, a naked man holds a naked child up to a rising or setting sun, which is just over the ruins of a castle. Because of Page, one wonders if this is an allusion to child sacrifice, the abomination of the idolatrous religion of Baal and much of the world that was dissolved by Abraham and Moses. That he sings all his songs to the girl who won his heart is Plant, and innocent, but one sees the problem with the Crowlean direction. Another reading is that the child, and the future generation, is being offered for impregnation by the “giver of light,” held by these to be Lucifer, whose name means illuminater or luminous. As the morning star it would be associated more with Venus than the sun. If Ocean is seen as similar in meaning to Houses, comparing the magic of a concert with a house of worship, it would have a dark shade. The word “Hell” is removed from the printed Lyrics of the title of the Ball to which they are going in “The Ocean,” so that we must admit that Plant is oblivious to the danger.

Elton John and Bernie Taupin 1973 Daniel 

Daniel is travellin tonight on a plane

I can see the red tail lights

Headin for Spain

I can see Daniel wavin’ goodby

Lord, it looks like Daniel

Must be the clouds in my eye

They say Spain’s pretty though I’ve never been

Daniel says it’s the best place

That he’s ever seen

He should know, he’s been there enough

Lord I miss Daniel

Oh I miss him so much

Daniel my brother

You were older than me

Do you still feel the pain?

Of a scar that won’t heal

Your eyes have died

But you see more than I

Daniel You’re a star

In the face of the sky

Daniel is a song of parting and compassion for a brother, and so might be classed with songs of friendship. Daniel is the older brother of the poet, who has lost his vision in war, and the song is a lamentation for his brother and his sight. He is leaving for Spain, and his brother is sending him off, describing what he can see, and each line is underlined by the blindness of Daniel: “I can see the red tail light,” “see Daniel waving goodbye,” “That he’d ever seen…” “Clouds in my eye.” Spain is like a paradise to him, and so the goodbye is a bit like death. “They say Spain’s pretty” and “heading for Sain” are lines I never heard clearly until I read them, opening the meaning of the song.

Bowie 1973 Alladin Sane

Who will love a lad who is insane? It is the most divested condition of all. “If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman?” as Three Doors Down would ask three decades later. The interest of Bowie in madness first appeared on The Man Who Sold the World, in “All the Madmen,” where he, or the character he invents to sing the song, satires the treatments of modern psychology and chooses the world of the mad over that of the “sad men roaming free.” Pink Floyd, too, would comment on the insanity of the sane world that tries to contain the mad.

The cut up method is evident on this album, and the jazz piano hitting scattered notes is like the thought or speech of the mad, hitting apparently random notes that are actually part of a fractured picture. Gathering clues from Songmeanings.com, two themes are evident in addition to madness, going off to war, to Paris, and something like dating, with sake or champagne, are evident. One reader reports a statement of Bowie that its about “young men partying before being sent off to war.” The three dates are before the start of each of the world wars (nagronomai), if the third were to start within “Five Years.” The splicing together of the themes is then like Simon and Garfunkel in the song “Parsley, Sage…” splicing together the war and love stories. One sees then that the cut up method does not mean there is no meaning, but rather is a clue to the meaning. The addition of a third theme raises the question of who then is mad, the mad or the sane who cannot get around sending the young to war. Alladin Vein was going to be the title of the album, meaning, among other things, who will love a boy to no purpose, or love in vein. “Millions weep a fountain / Just in case of sunrise.” The weeping of mankind like a fountain, “like garden waterpots,” says Lear, is set against the possibility that there will be sunrise. This is the character of the whole album.

The title of Jean Genie means to combine Jean as in blue jeans and genie as one in a bottle. Written for the amusement of an actress, the song seems to be about a New York City seducer that is a danger to young pretties. The maracas imitate a rattle snake, and he sits like a man but smiles like a reptile. He’ll love you, but just for a short while. Poor little greenie” or innocent, she is. He has a seducing line and may pander beauty and nutrition snake oils as an entrance to the pretties. By contrast, as it seems, he, the poet or lover, is so simple minded he can hardly drive a car, and loves to be loved. This is what the unsympathetic say about the lover.

   Time is a surrealistic philosophic reflection on our vulnerability to the passing of time, in a series of strange and beautiful images about how time creeps up on us. “You’ve left your coat behind” refers back to the very early Bowie, where “buy me a raincoat” is similar to “gimme shelter.” Billy Dolls of the New York Dolls had died, demanded by time.

Breaking up is hard

But keeping dark is hateful

I had so many dreams

I had so many breakthroughs

But you my love were kind

Though love has left you dreamless

The door to dreams was closed

Your park was real and greenless……

So the reflection on time was caused by the subjection of love to time.

Drive In Saturday

A clue to this song is given in the history of its conception. As Pegg reports, Bowie was riding sleepless on a train between Seattle and Phoenix in November of 1972, and from the window saw…

…the moon shining on seventeen or eighteen enormous silver domes. I couldn’t find out from anyone what they were. But they gave me a vision of America, Britain, and China after a nuclear catastrophe. The radiation has affected people’s minds and reproductive organs, and they don’t have a sex life. The only way they can learn to make love again is by watching films of how it used to be done…This takes place about the year 2033.

The particular future story is an amplification of the common or universal nostalgia for lost love:

His name was always Buddy

And he’d shrug and ask to stay

And she’d sigh like Twig the wonder kid

And turn her face away

The images are magical, and I’d swear I recall them myself: “Perhaps the strange ones in the dome…” The book is Jung, and it accompanied him in love.

Part II of the song is about Jung, and it is difficult to see how the two parts are related, unless this were the book they would borrow at the dome if they were to try to be in love again. “Like the video films he saw” connects the experience of Jung to the experience of the poet back in the sixties.

“Jung the foreman who prayed at work” refers to our authority Carl Jung, whom Bowie has read at least a bit. Bowie sees he is the foreman of the psychologists. That he prayed at work refers to his combination of science and religion in the scientific study of the images produced by the human mind. It is called “phenomenology,” meaning that the scientist can set aside the question of the truth of beliefs and study the fact that people believe or imagine this or that. The images are seen as images, and the important things about man can then be readmitted to scientific study. He prayed that his hands and limbs would not burst in the effort to “keep formation” amid the fallout of modernity. The next lines are intentionally difficult:

Cursing at the astronnets

He stands ensteeled by his cabinet, He’s

Crashing out with Sylvian

The Bureau Supply for aging men

With snorting head he gazes to the shore

Which once had raised, the sea that raged no more

Like the video films we saw

And did he lose his love this way? Is this romantic crisis not the crash course for the ravers? But is it not eros and the crash course that allows us to hear the raging sea? Does he refer to Jung’s open affair in old age, mentioned in Memories, Dreams and Reflections ? If he is still talking about Jung, the poet presents an image of the aged Jung gazing off in the direction where the sea of the unconscious was once lively and raging, though no longer is so. Bowie will take up the torch when he is “Tall in this room overlooking the ocean, on Station.

   Panic in Detroit is one of the greatest rock songs of all time, showing what rock is in a certain way.

It is a story of a sixties radical in Detroit. Pegg writes that Iggy Pop had flown to a Bowie concert at Carnegie Hall, and “spent the night telling David colorful tales of the Detroit revolutionaries he had known during his youth in Michigan.” He looked like Che, the romanticized Cuban communist revolutionary, whose efforts helped Castro to institute such a golden age that Florida continues to host the refugees. This Detroiter was an armed hippie, member of a group called the “National People’s Gang,” with a gun he keeps concealed, showing his humility. He was lonely, and dies by suicide after pulling off a robbery to fund his activities. For some reason, the poet cares about him, and is involved in his circumstance. He may be a fan, if he asked for an autograph.

Putting on some clothes I made my way to school

And found my teacher crouching in his overalls

I screamed and ran to smash my favorite slot machine

And jumped a side of cars that slept at traffic lights.

Is the revolutionary his school teacher? For some reason he runs from school in crazed anguish through the city, as in a dream. So, the revolutionary hears the sirens coming for him after the robbery and shoots himself. He poet finds him slumped across a table, and describes his being dead as “a gun and me alone.” He’d left him an autograph. It says: “Let me collect dust / I wished someone would phone” He goes to the window and stares a while in paralyzed contemplation while a couple planes go by.

The song is another Bowie criticism of the extreme left wing conclusion of the sixties revolutionaries, as in Cygnet committee, where one ends up old and bitter. “Let me collect dust” means that the message of this figure as an image is to leave this revolutionary stuff in the “dustbin of history.” What he really wanted was not a communist utopia, but someone to phone. The real problem is human emptiness or loneliness, to which he turns for the course of music in the seventies. The profundity of Bowie as a thinker should not be underestimated. It is not that Bowie is not radical enough to be a revolutionary. In “1984,” he imagines he’ll be looking for the treason that he knew in ’65.

1974

Robin Trower Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs is the bridge in London between the tower and the executioner’s platform. The song is the long walk crossing the bridge of sighs to one’s death. The sudden end of the song is the jerking of the rope. This is a great and under appreciated album, with “Fool and me” and “Day of the Eagle” well worth considering.

We do not yet have a clear idea of what the day of the eagle is. But it is the “eagle not the, dove,” the comma being the big clue. The mood of Trower’s blues is more masculine than the hippies, and so Trower may indicate another direction of the seventies change from the sixties. Yet the lyrics reject strife and rule for love and music, especially the blues. The blues guitar of Trower is so stunning and powerful it has been compared to the psychedelic Hendrix, so that the lyrics seem at first an excuse for the guitar. But the album hangs together as a whole, or has a logos, as will appear.

The opening line of the first song sets the blues theme of the album:

I saw a light just up ahead.

But I couldn’t seem to rise up from my bed..

“Too Rolling Stoned” is similar. Here, the romantic blues sets the scene. And what is “it” that is like a weight that brings him down, the “it” that is in his mind and soul telling him things he cannot be told, saying “watch for the love?” Is this not the music, that in “About to Begin” flows up from the ground?The first song is a leaving love song, a breakup or separation” I need some time, I got to be alone / Got to think it over on y own” But he watches for the love, livin’ in the day of the eagle not the, dove. It is the soaring eagle that goes with the tightly composed intense blues guitar.

One key to the broader context of the song Bridge of Sighs is that it is inseparable from the romantic blues, as in the two songs surrounding it. It is about a condemned prisoner crossing the bridge on the way to execution. The wind shows that the song imitates the walk across, ending with the jerk of the rope. It is especially meant as an allegory of the human condition in general- making this a very dark or tragic blues tune. “Been a long time crossing Bridge of Sighs” is the journey of a lifetime. The sun and moon sit unforgiving, without mercy enough to move the tides to wash the condemned man clean. He asks why the skies are so unforgiving and so cold, and then describes how the “gods look down in anger on this poor child.” Where even the gods have wrath, the blues hold sympathy.

“In this Place” follows immediately upon the abrupt jerk of the rope at the end of the Bridge. The place is filled with empty space because he has gone to think it over on his own and lost. Here he’s on his knees pleading for sympathy. Before he lost he, he knew her face would always comfort him, and even now, her love shines for him in the emptiness of this place. The place is not Hell, but analogous, being banished from the sunshine of love into the emptiness of solitude.

“The Fool and Me” is a friendship song, and a good excuse for upbeat blues guitar.

“Too Rolling Stoned” is woven together out of proverbs. “A stitch in time saves nine” is the saying, meaning that the right action on time prevents much trouble and effort later. The stitch in time almost saved him, but he is nine, like the nine stitches going through the same old grooves. The stone rolling is time proceeding, and he gets some bad news, probably on the romantic blues front: The takers get the honey, while the givers sing the blues. So he gets too drunk and tries to sit out the circus at eight, probably a concert he was supposed to play. Then after the transmigration of “Too Rolling Stoned,” there is the mystic experience song “About to Begin.” It is about music, as is the next song, “Lady Love,” comparing love to music. In what is like a magic spell, he perceives new life, which is a bit of a surprise after the darkness of “Bridge of Sighs.” This fairyland includes the source of music,as it flows up from the ground, “taking all who hear that sound.” It is ethereal like the substance f a dream, and if one tries to grasp it, it disappears. He hears a voice and music playing in his ears or in his head. In Lady Love, too, he heard a voice and it soothed me / a simple tune and it moved me.” He decides from this that man is “a fool to be leaving dreams of love passing by like the seasons.” These last two songs turn blues of despair into hope. He hopes to wake up to find her there waiting, the love that moves him like the voice and tune he heard. Finally, he must plead, after all, for a little bit of sympathy. The world proceeds between the strong light and the weak man. But the wings of love can transport us above the way the world walks. “See and let yourself be seen” is like a stepping out into the world animated by love. So, “Watch for the love.” It is a soaring eagle.

Eric Clapton Let it Grow 1974 

Standing at the crossroads / Tryin to read the signs

To tellme which way I should go / To find the answer

When all the time I know / Plant your love and let it grow

Let it grow, Let it grow

Let it blossom, / Let it flow

In the sun the rain the snow

Love is lovely / So let it flow

Lookin for a reason / To check out of my mind

Trying hard to get a friend that I can count on

But there’s nothing left to show

Plant your love and let it grow

[Refrain]

Time is getting shorter / There’s much for you to do

Only ask and you will get / What you are needing

The rest is up to you

Plant your love and let it grow.

How beautiful the guitar, and the electric guitar, can be when one only touches the right notes! This simple and eternal song of nature and the things that grow reminds of Adam tilling in the garden, and all that is in the end important and lasting of our time and our love in the world. Only ask and you will get what you are needing / The rest is up to you” is a prayer to which we are advised by wisdom, showing the place of prayer and human effort together in the agricultural enterprise that shows the purpose of human life. This is one of the best examples of the hippie exaltation of love, revealing a sophisticated understanding of love in the context of human life, rather than for example, as a mere emotion. Mr. Clapton is, in 1974, winning against his heroine addiction and with Ms. Boyd.

1975 

Bob Dylan

Tangled up in blue is written on well by Oliver Trager, who leans toward thinking the song about a series of romances, rather than one. But the force of the story is made by the sameness of the woman. Nor does it seem to be about Joan Baez, but one that he loved earlier and wished, but was not able, to marry. The parents of the girl who thought him not good or rich enough, in a high school aged romance, may have lived to see their daughter leave for the counterculture, become a druggie, and eventually divorce a husband and become a dancer and prostitute. This is not contradictory to her having been married when they first met, though it is an odd circumstance, I’m sure it does happen. She ended up with the “he” who started dealing in slaves, and this means he was a pimp, and may have even pimped his wife. This vindication behind the song is central to its meaning, and would be lost if he were telling of three different loves, whatever the raw material for the song was. (He probably never did personally work as a cook or on a fishing boat, though one never knows.) Their breakup left him out on the road with the proverbial rain falling on his shoes. Tangled up in blue is the sorrow of his journey from the time of this lost love. When he meets up with her again, they go to her house and smoke and read poetry, in a scene of incredible beauty that may well have actually happened. As Trager points out, the poet from the thirteenth century is probably “Dante and his verses to Beatrice, the unrequited object of his desire”[1] “Every one of his words rang true and glowed like burning coal, pouring off of every page” of the Paradise canto’s of the Divine Comedy like it was written in the poet’s own soul, from how he loved her and for this love suffered his purgation.

 

Joan Baez Diamonds and Rust

In addition to its great beauty, this song is important because the one she remembers and loves is Bob Dylan, and we all love him a bit through her vision of him. It is some ten years after the event of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan that Dylan apparently called her from a phone booth in the Midwest, sending her back “a couple of light years ago.” The voice she’d known was heading for a fall, and Dylan was derailed by troubles beginning with a cycle accident. The second verse begins:

As I remember your eyes were bluer than Robin’s eggs

My poetry was lousy you said…

I’ll bet he won’t say that of this one, as is part of the point. Ten years ago, she bought him cufflinks, and he bought her a diamond, and then they didn’t marry. The memory, the meaning of the imperishable, has rusted. A most unchangeable thing has deteriorated like one of the perishable metal compounds.

She makes clear that he was already a legend when she met him, as though she wrote with the lines in mind “ When we meet again, introduced as friends, please don’t let on that you knew me when /

I was hungry and it was your world.” As he strayed to her, he was “The unwashed phenomenon / The original vagabond.” His time with her was a being lost at sea, (rather than being on either shore). The girl on the half shell would be Venus in the famous painting. The impression is something like Odysseus lost at sea, the consort of a goddess. Joan Baez may have been the first of the hippie chicks, or the folkie elder sister of the hippie chicks, as we used to call them, if the expression now needs pardon. Her love of Bob Dylan is way beyond a Hollywood star romance, approaching the American equivalent of royalty. This song proves as much

The fourth verse then breaks through to great beauty. It reminds of a song done by Judy Collins, “I Remember Sky,” in which she remembers a love with snowflakes falling around.

Now I see you standing

With brown leaves falling all around

And Snow in Your hair

Now you’re smiling out the window

Of that crummy hotel

Over Washington Square

Our breath comes out white clouds

Mingles and hangs in the air

Speaking strictly for me, we both could have died then and there

The memory arises and is present, as she twice says, “Now I see you….,” as though memory was so alive it became a vision. The vision is in New York City, where Washington Square was, like Bleeker and MacDougall streets, central to the folk scene. As Sean Wilentz relates, Washington square was where the folk musicians would gather, ever since one man, George Margolin, began playing there after the war. By the early 50’s it was the center of where the folk musicians would gather and play, with Pete Seeger and Dave Von Ronk crystallizing folk into a movement. Joan and Bob played together in the early sixties, and were a couple from 1963 -1965. Their breath freezing and hanging a while is indeed like their poetry and folk voice becoming more permanent than usual, for voices outside that special time. She loved him, and he did not stay. So she must clarify that it is only for her that they both could have died in that moment, as though all were then fulfilled. As they went separate ways, Dylan famously renounced politics or being the mouthpiece of movement, while Baez embraced this, founding many important organizations and assisting, for example, amnesty International. Dylan played, for example, at Harrison’s concert for Bangladesh, but his charity stopped short of politics, in order to be a musician. He phones her being nostalgic, and she is too deeply wounded to have any more of his diamonds and rust, of permanent things that go away, of immortal love scattered by the winds of time. And the guitar rolls out the sorrow like weeping. This is one of two songs of 1975 that is a looking back to the great love ten years later. The second is Zeppelin’s “Ten Years Gone.”

 

       Zeppelin Physical Graffiti

Kashmir

Three mysterious teachings are allusions of of a description of an ascent, in each of three sections: the elders, the pilot and the father of the four winds.

Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face

Stars to fill my dreams

I am a traveler of both time and space

To be where I have been

Secret [sit with] elders of a gentle race

This world is [has] seldom seen

Talk of days for which they sit and wait

All will be revealed

Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace

Whose sounds caress my ear

But not a word I heard could I relate

The story was quite clear

Whoa-oh-hoh, whoa-oh-wa-oh

Oooh, oh baby, I been flyin’

Lord, yeah, mama, there ain’t no denyin’

Oh, all I see turns to brown

As the sun burns the ground

And my eyes fill with sand

As I scan this wasted land

Tryin’ to find, tryin’ to find where I been

Oh pilot of the storm that leaves no trace

Like thoughts inside a dream

Heed the path that led me to that place

Yellow desert screen

My Shangri-la beneath the summer moon

Will return again

Sure as the dust that floats high in June

When moovin’ through Kashmir

Oh, father of the four winds, fill my sails

Across the sea of years

With no provision but an open face

‘Long the straits of fear.

Whoa, whao,

When I’m on, when I’m my way

When I see, when I see the way you stay

Ooh, yea, ooh yea, when I’m down

Ooh my baby let me take you there

   Kashmir is liberal arts poetry at its peak. It is a song of “flyin’,” of study that has become a transmigration to speak with elders about things that will be revealed. To be where he has been, he has become a traveler through time and space, a traveler in thought, as in study with the Hebrews or the ancient Greeks, or Indian or Sufi magi. He has spoke with certain elders about the days for which they sit and wait. While these might be Norse myths, it is much more as though he had spoke with John and Paul or other elders about the coming of the messianic kingdom. The Jews sometimes report having been taught as if by Isaiah, and Enoch was similarly educated in transports. After spending time with the works of the ancients, especially the dialogues of Plato, their mind actively influences the student, for example in demonstrating something implied but unspoken, and then it is as though they were actively indicating or communicating as in a conversation. The Platonic dialogue, in mysterious structures, allows Socrates and Plato to actively educate us as though they were living and present. Though it is only in part, and of limited extent, that this is possible at all is truly amazing, and a small consolation of mortality, the mortality of even the highest human things. John himself was called to “Come up hither,” and Paul is similarly unable to speak about his journey to the seventh heaven. The tale is interspersed with descriptions of hot days in a barren land, and nights of stars to fill his dreams, beneath the summer moon. This is the first of two mentions of dreams. The message or teaching is communicated in talk and in songs of lilting grace, which is a light, tripping, springy or buoyant rhythm. This was clear enough to him when he heard it, but like Paul or Bottom in his dream, he cannot say what it was he then heard. This is all a trying to find where he has been. He calls to the pilot of the storm that leaves no trace, like a ship through the water, or thoughts inside a dream. Like lucid dreaming, when the dreamer realizes that he is dreaming, thought or rational activity within a dream is a kind of waking in dream, a conjunction of conscious and unconscious mind. This conjunction is the pilot who leads one to that place. He calls the pilot to follow the way there, as toward the desert near Kashmir where the dust rises in the heat of the yellow desert. This wasted land is probably the spiritual invitingness of the bodily inhospitable desert, though it may be the barren world, which has seldom seen the transcendent things, that is scanned as “this wasted land.” The last of the five sets of lines calls for the father of the four winds to fill his sails, or to inspire him across the sea of years, or on life’s journey, without provisions except his own willingness to expose himself to the straights of fear, faced as a sailor passing through a dangerous channel.

At the end, it suddenly becomes a love song. His transports are when he sees the way she stays, his high joy. The change of scene seems out of context, until his “let me take you there” becomes a love call to take her along in spiritual transports to his Shngri-la. It has all along been addressed to her, to tell her he’s been flyin’, and where he’s been. When linked to the rest of the Zeppelin songs story, it becomes a call to that impossible love of the Zeppelin blues, and to the lady of Stairway, or maybe to that woman who’s never been born, to come along with him into the heights.

The odd thing is that the words of Zeppelin never express a cruel emotion, except maybe in their war songs, or in the merciless meaning of “No Quarter.” In battle, no quarter means that the soldiers receive no requests for mercy on the part of subdued enemies, or even that they take no prisoners. There is nothing recognizably evil in any of their music, while there is much that contradicts evil, or appears, to us at least, as very beautiful and good. It is as though Page, in their one Satanic lyric, associated this with things that are by nature, or in themselves good, rather than with malice. So even the most thoughtful of the musicians that might claim adherence to the dark side do not really believe in these things, or to the extent that they, like those who play with Oija boards, do not know what they are getting into.

The Rover

The Rover is a difficult song to read, let alone interpret. There is something about “rockin’” and “rollin’,” which seems to mean happily staying in the arms of the one loved (rockin’) or leaving on the road in love (rollin’), interspersed with brilliant four line sequences that are surprisingly deep and high, and worth wondering about. The first four lines are a baffling enigma:

I’ve been to London, seen seven wonders

I know to trip is just to fall

I used to rock it, sometimes I’d roll it

I always knew what it was for

He’s traveled all over, but knows that to trip or leave is only to fall­ as from the bliss of love? He probably does not mean trip as in hallucinogenic drugs. He used to rock it sometimes he’d roll it, but always knew what it was for. What is it? The best guess is “love” in the complete sense, including sex. But then, in the next four lines, he suddenly addresses a change of opinion or ways, as that coming with a new age, and this is a theme familiar already from the hope in Stairway that the piper will lead us to reason and a new day dawn, or the announcement of Going to California that the children of the sun begin to awake. Here the old world, called the flat world, is crumbling in the present blight, and there is the hope “if we could just join hands,” the same as “if we all call the tune.”

There can be no denyin’

That the wind’ll shake ‘em down

And the flat world’s flyin’

In the new plague on the land

If we could just join hands

If we could just join hands

If we could just join

It is the wind, the same that whispers to the lady in “Stairway,” that is shaking them down, in the destruction of the old world. He himself, when sent by heaven to the fields of plenty, saw the kings that rule these fields, and still he hears the call of the river as when out camping, by the firelight beneath the purple moonlight. In an especially powerful line, the wind, the same that will shake ‘em down, is said to be crying of a love that won’t die out. This is paired with the call of the poet to his lover, who is lying on the dark side of the globe:

In fields of plenty when heaven sent me

I saw the Kings that rule them all

Still by the firelight and purple moonlight

I hear the rusted rivers call

And the wind is cryin’

Of a love that won’t grow cold

My lover she is lyin’

On the dark side of the globe

If we could just join hands

If we could just join hands

If we could just join hands

yeah…

Beyond the part of the earth that is in night, what is the dark side of the earth? The image becomes universal, something like the wish in “We Are the World,” but here it is a wish to join with the dark side in some imagined unity. And if this were possible…Returning to the love level of the song, we see why he is staying and going at the same time, or doesn’t know which way to go. We recall the one lost to the depths of Mordor. His lover on the dark side will not join hands.

You got me rockin’ when I ought to be a-rollin’

Darlin’, tell me which way to go

You keep me rockin’, baby, then you keep me stallin’

Won’t you tell me darlin’, which way to go, that’s right.

The key to the song is the analogy between the love and the universal message regarding the new world. In light of the questions of our mortality and legacy, the song poses us a question, whether the new world is rising from the shambles of the old.

Oh, how I wonder, oh how I worry

And I would dearly like to know

I’ve all this wonder of earthly plunder

Will it leave us anything to show?

In another profound line, emphasized in the music as was “And the wind is cryin’,” the significance of our lives and actions is underlined:

And our time is flyin’

See the candle burnin low

Is the new world risin’

From the shambles of the old?

If we could just join hands

If we could just join hands

If we could just join hands

That’s all it takes

Our time is brief, and our candle is burning low, near to the end. Our spirit takes off when we hear this line, alive in the significance of life against the foil or backdrop of time and mortality. All it takes for the new world to arise is that we join hands. If we, in our age, could achieve a universal peace, we would be left with something to show for all the wealth for which we’ve plundered the earth. But would this not depend on the lover on the dark side coming along? That is, it is not by force but by persuasion, and, as with Persephone, success in this persuasion is unlikely.

Ten Years Gone is about the return of an old love, the lost woman, in memory and imagination.

Chris Welch lets slip that she gave Robert an ultimatum, to leave music and settle into the suburban life,[1] as was given to Bernie Taupin in “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” It is astounding to think that there is a woman somewhere for whom this song is written, and to wonder how she hears it.

Then as it was, then again it will be

An’ though the course may change sometimes

Rivers always reach the sea

Blind stars of fortune, each have several rays [our separate ways]

On the wings of maybe, [downing] birds of prey

Kind of makes me feel sometimes,

Didn’t have to grow

But as the eagle leaves the nest, it’s got so [not too] far to go

Changes fill my time, baby, that’s alright with me

In the midst I think of you, and how it used to be

Did you ever really need somebody, and really need ’em bad

Did you ever really want somebody, the best love you ever had

Do you ever remember me, baby, did it feel so good?

‘Cause it was just the first time, and you knew you would

Through the eyes an’ I sparkle, Senses growing keen

Taste your love along the way, See your feathers preen

Kind of makes me feel sometimes,

Didn’t have to grow

We are eagles of one nest,

The nest is in our soul

Vixen in my dreams, with great surprise to me

Never thought I’d see your face the way it used to be

Oh darlin’, oh darlin’

I’m never gonna leave you. I never gonna leave

Holdin’ on, ten years gone

Ten years gone, holdin’ on, ten years gone

The three line prelude says that it will again be as it was, just as rivers reach the sea. The rivers flow is a proverbial lyric image, from many songs, drawing an analogy between the natural necessity of love and the gravity and geology that leads rivers toward the sea. For the lyric, which is unpublished, I like “each our separate ways” because the motion of the song, after the capsule of the prelude, begins with the time, ten years ago, that the lovers parted. Is it not downing birds, like young birds beginning to grow feathers? This too would fit best in the context, as they set off into their separate uncertain fortunes. These memories make him feel sometimes he didn’t have to “grow,” which is the reasoning that reconciled him their separate fortunes. He wonders if all that growth is not regrettable, having cost their being together. But “as the eagle leaves the nest”… is like the line in Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady,” “to see the heaven in your eyes is not so far / That I’m not afraid to try and go it.” These are lines that give us chills, living them and having lived them. The light seen in the eyes in love sets the lover on a journey to find heaven. As the eagle leaves the nest, its not too far to go.

The next two lines return to a summary, in the present, where he thinks of the lost woman amid the changes filling the time of his life on earth without her. He then breaks powerfully into the lines that every left behind lover wants to sing to the lost one, asking whether they themselves have ever suffered the things the lover suffers, since it is clear that the one loved did not love them in return. And will she ever remember him? The unfortunate part is that she will, but in a way similar to that in which the lover himself might remember women who professed to love him, in loves he could not return. But he says it was for her just the first time, and so he knows she would remember him. I believe this means virginal, and that he refers to the special natural attachment that occurs in the sacrifice of virginity. Along our same line of reasoning that began from Konrad Lorenz and his ducks, the union of lovemaking at the consummation of marriage unites souls by nature, and virginity adds to the prosperity of the union. The same is at the conception of children, the root of the family, and hence all political society for man, who is by nature filial and political.

In the profound last stanza, he describes her returning to him in his dreams, and how through time they have, though apart, remained connected in soul. But this is not revealed until the sixth line. She, or the former love, still inspires in him the sparkling eyes and keen senses of the lover. This phenomenon is one of the blessings of love and a mark of genuine love. There is a great inspiration to life and to the noble, or to excellence, which comes from the conception of love, and any theory of love must account for this empirical phenomenon. Through their connection in soul, it is as though he were able to taste her love along the way of their separate journeys, and see her feathers, now grown, as they are preened. He can still see the beautiful through his connection to her in soul. They are “eagles of one nest, the nest is in our soul.” The connection is mysterious and literal: those joined in love become one soul in a very mysterious sense. Now, often following the trauma of lost love, the lover will dream of the one lost, or be visited, something like the phenomenon of phantom pain in amputees, or the illusion in Airplane’s Com’in Back to Me. She returns to him in his dreams as a vixen, which is a female fox. Before the word fox came to mean a beautiful person of the opposite sex, in the late sixties, a “hottie” as they began in the nineties to say, the word applied to female humans meant a “shrewish or ill-tempered woman.” Spoken here by Plant, she almost becomes like a Lilith spirit that visits him in the night in erotic dreams, as “Silent woman in the Night you came…” But in this profound dream experience, he sees her face again as it used to be, and is of course greatly surprised, as this is Ten Years Gone. He cannot but be still holding on to the lost love.

 

In My Time of Dying

This is a very Christian and delightful blues song, which it seems to me that Plant slipped past Page again by pretending that the spiritually good message was tongue in cheek or not entirely serious. The lyric was covered by Dylan, and comes from an old blues song by Blind Willie Johnson, who found it as an old Negro spiritual song performed on the street in Louisiana. Wikipedia includes a note to Psalm 41:3, “The Lord sustains him on his sickbed, in his illness thou healest all his infirmities (Oxford),” or “allays the malady when they are ill (New American).

In my time of dyin’

Don’t want no body moan

All I want people to do

Is take my body home

Meet me Jesus, meet me

Meet me in the middle of the air

If my wings should fail me, Lord,

Please greet me with another pair

St. Peter,

Won’t you let me in

I never did no harm

Gabriel, let me blow your horn

To ask for another pair of wings if his own should fail is a line of genuine humility regarding his own inspiration, and profound. The theme of wings is carried over from Ten Years Gone, and is related to flying throughout Zeppelin. Wings are for soaring, as in Kashmir. He has my vote with St. Peter.

 

In the Light is the song that opens Physical Graffiti, but as a summary it can be addressed last. When he says “Now listen: woe o woe…” we see how only the histrionic Plant can express such a thing. It is sang again to the lost love, as it seems when he says the winds of change may blow around you. As you would for me, I will share your load reminds of Bowie’s Rock and Roll Suicide, when he says “You’re not alone.” The song finds the golden rule in friendship that is beyond lost love, in the face of mortality and the possibility of suicide, (or giving up, or submission). If you feel that you can’t go on, just believe, and in the light you’ll find the way.

A swan song is the song that swans sing when they die of a broken heart. Swans, it is said, mate only once for life, and die when their mates die. As the group reaches its peak and then disintegrates, the seriousness of the path of Page becomes more evident to Plant. Heroine may have preserved Page from progress in worse things. At the disintegration of Zeppelin it is rumored that Plant became superstitious about “bad karma” due to the Satanic dabbling of Page (Davis, p. 257, 288). This seems not to cohere with the “pact” story, which therefore seems false. (By “Karma,” they mean the eastern teaching that what one does comes back to him, something like a boomerang.) This shows that Plant, and the lyrics that guide the meaning of the songs of Led Zeppelin, are something different from Page himself. The union of musicians and managers that made up Led Zeppelin was transitory and surprisingly fragile. Misfortune began to hit the band with a car accident involving the family of Robert Plant, and the excesses of a life without limits, heroine and drunken ravings of Bonham, began to make the making of music impossible, as the story is told by Stephen Davis. Strange English tax laws forced bands into exile, and prevented them from staying more permanently in the Idyllic English country settings that allowed for their best writing and composition. But there always was a difference and tension between their home lives and the wild liberty of their tours in America, and this background proves to be important for understanding their imagery, for example in “Ramble On” or “Going to California.”

Philosophically, Plant is a hippie, and, in his high liberty, inclines toward peace, love and “the good things, and the sun that lights the day.” Plant is not especially Christian, but is inspired by Tolkien and the tradition of the English poets, who preserve and cultivate a rich tradition of the imagination that is not entirely dependent upon the Christian tradition, but is local or “pagan “in origin: talk of such things as fairies, goblins and spirits, creatures of the middle realm of the imagination.[2] In the Medieval world, before the lightening bolt of science cleared the air of such things, most, including the saints, believed that these things exist, but are mostly malevolent. Angels appear to be the only good messengers or mediators between man and the divine. We no longer believe in Zeus and the pantheon, though we have little better explanation of things like the hospitality toward travelers or the things of love, fortune and fate, and the effects of love on our perception, or “The cause that makes great warriors great / and heroes seek their home again,” etc. The tradition of English poetry attempts to preserve a Greek-like ability to consider the images without believing that they are “real,” or, as the people imagine, material. In this way, the tradition of English poetry preserves the imagination without contradicting the Biblical teaching, from Abraham, against idolatry. The Tolkien inspired streak in the lyrics of Plant attaches his imagination to “peace and tranquility” and a fundamentally sound imagination, reaching up to the idyllic imagination of happiness and a love of the soaring heights of the intellect.

The contradiction, for example between the love of Black American blues and the race purity thought of the Nazi’s, does not really become conscious for them. But one wonders, similarly, how the Peacenik Plant can explode with warrior music like the Immigrant’s song, the repressed warrior spirit, in the form of a song about a Nordic attack on England, or what the meaning of the merciless “No Quarter” (if that is a part of the meaning) might fit into the Plant imagination. These opposites cohere because there is a bit of each in each of these two friends.

Tolkien, through the Oxford school that includes C.S. Lewis, is not antichristian, but entirely consistent with Christianity, on the level of the human and the imagination, as distinct from the spirit or intellect, the divine in man. The question for the Christians must be where is the high imagination in their music? Where are the Christian apocalyptic songs, seeing the sky filled with things mortals never know? Though Page could not do this on his own, the fact that he works with and accepts the poetic vision of Plant means that there is some thing in Page that is human in a common sense way, and just may save him, as it did his music, from being wasted in the service of nothing, or worse. It is this human streak in Page, as it seems to us, which allowed him to accept the good things of the human soul, and made Led Zeppelin the sensation that it was and is.

The heaviness of Zeppelin is that of the “white blues” of unrequited love. Meanwhile, the soaring heights call the one loved to a happiness that remains imaginary, and cannot be achieved in reality. This imagined happiness of love leads rather into the heights that are contemplative, touching on apocalyptic themes and a high contemplation near to philosophy. This touch of the higher things was absent from the first album, until Plant began to write more of the lyrics. Its debut is on the second album, in the songs “Thank You” and “Ramble On.” It is developed further in the acoustic leaning third album, where the blues are continued in “Since I’ve been Lovin You,” and something new breaks out in the Immigrant Song. On the fourth album, considered their best, “Stairway to Heaven” became the leading rock anthem of a generation for a decade. Stairway combines and contains both the heavy and the light, the blues and the imaginary happiness, harmoniously. The blues have become folk blues in the acoustic beginning, while the imaginary breaks through as hard rock at the end of the song. Their combination is in music a bit like the combination of comedy and tragedy in the drama of Shakespeare. The heavy is especially the blues inspired rock blues of lost love, while the light develops out of the sorrow of lost love into the ethereal heights inspired by the liberty of the road and the imagination of the California musicians. It is to California that the poet of Zeppelin must ramble on, so that in Zeppelin music, lost love initiates the spiritual quest that will lead to some of the highest images crystallized in the spiritual journey of rock music. The music of Zeppelin indicates something of the direction in which we might find poetry and music that can accompany the spiritual ecstasies of the liberal arts and the quest that is philosophy. The high imagination of Zeppelin is set off by the lost love expressed in their early blues, from which their lyrics ascend toward contemplative heights.

There is a sense in which the movie The Song Remains the Same is a disappointment, and the accompanying live album, while occasionally brilliant, is on the whole, a failure. Led Zeppelin never reached their potential in concert. They might have performed the greatest rock concert of all time, had circumstances allowed them to work well for even a few months at a stretch in the time of their peak. For reasons related to the general chaos surrounding the band, they are on most occasions much better musically in the studio than in concert. This is not surprising, since the harmony of the four elements that are the musicians of Zeppelin is a very fragile thing. It is here we might have seen certain things at their peak which will never be. Fans are often left to imagine the studio versions played live, which for the most part never occurred.

Zeppelin concerts were very long, as they have a superhuman amount of well composed hit tunes, more than any band, with the possible exception of the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Their music as a whole contains a logos that is the event of Led Zeppelin, and might have provided an outline for the ultimate concert. It corresponds to the journey that was the quest of Zeppelin. While our commentary must proceed chronologically, the logos should be kept in mind, and will be the key to the path of the meaning of Zeppelin. In such a concert, the path might begin much as they do, with songs like “Rock and Roll” and “The Song Remains the Same,” and here “Celebration Day” is a good capsule or summary of the general meaning. After this introduction, a set must follow the course of the blues that launched their career, the blues of the failure of love that bursts out as the early Zeppelin blues lead to the near madness, culminated in Dazed and Confused and Communication Breakdown, and Since I ’v Been Loving You.” These blues, again, are prominent on the first two albums, gradually receding, though present still on III and IV, in “Since I ’v Been Lovin’ You” and When the Levee Breaks.” There are then the songs of leaving, like “Babe,” “Ramble On,” “Misty Mountain,” “Four Sticks,” “Goin’ to California,” and “Over the Hills and Far Away.” There is an acoustic detour, where the compositions sometimes rival CSNY in their harmony and ascent. Tangerine, on III, is central, as it is not a song of losing but a song of loss, or not of leaving but of having left. It is also, strangely, the one lyric known to be especially written by Page. Gallows Pole is also a conclusion of the eros that led to the Killing Floor, as will be explained.

The leaving becomes instead a spiritual transcendence, when over the misty mountain there appears the “Battle of Evermore” and the question of the “Stairway.” Following a break, as at the theatre, the Immigrant song and no Quarter (Live version) make up a strange section of war songs, where one hopes that the referent is some kind of intellectual jihad, rather than a literal Nordic invasion (as we’ve had enough of that sort of thing.) Kashmir is the highest point of vision in the whole of the lyrics of Plant and Zeppelin, as the elevated composition, requiring orchestras to fully produce live. Elders talk of apocalyptic days, there appears the pilot of the way of thoughts inside a dream, and the wind of the Father of the four winds all in a moment of transcendence that is to the physical world only a man watching the dust blow high in June in Morocco, though in spirit moving through Kashmir. “The Rover” is also written from this intellectual peak, and like the “Song Remains the Same,” intends to sum up the career of Zeppelin. “Night flight,” “In the Light” and “Ten Years gone, a retrospect on the loss of the love that set off the whole journey, the Heartbreaker, as it had then been “ten years and maybe more” since he first set his eyes on her, and the loss of the best years that, together with the open road, is the truth of failed love. “The Ocean,” is about playing (their only example for this sub-theme), and the ocean of the grateful fans for whom they play, and who play back for them like the ocean. “Thank You,” a Song of eternal love that can be played at weddings, and one of the best, might conclude such an ultimate concert. This would include all the essential Zeppelin perennial tunes, or the best of Zeppelin, and the few left out might be least missed.

It strikes me that Pink Floyd’s The Wall is a study of how tyranny, and even modern tyranny, might be connected in its rise to rock music. Asked which historical figure he would most like to meet, Page is reported to have answered “Machiavelli.” (Davis, p. 211). It is at this fringe that the artists lack self control, and like women, children, and democracies, must actually encounter crises before they can respond to them. We will only restate that love and friendship are contradicted by this way, and so it leads to extreme unhappiness. When Page went on stage dressed as a Nazi Storm trooper, (Davis, p. 280) he may as well have become possessed, a most slavish condition. This period coincides with the introduction of heroine and the disintegration or self destruction of the band. The contradiction between this thing that emerges from the opened unconscious and the black bluesmen to whom Zeppelin owe their origin only demonstrates the reason, or self refutation of what the master of these guitar riffs fell into personally.

 

Neil Young Hurricane

Once I thought I saw you

In a crowded hazy bar

Dancin on the light from star to star

Far across a moonbeam, I know that’s who you arte

I saw your brown eyes turnin once to fire

You are like a hurricane

There’s calm in your eyes

And I’m getting blown away

To somewhere safer where the feelin’ stays

I wanna love you but I’m get so blown away.

 

I am just a dreamer

And you are just a dream

You could have been anyone to me

But for that moment you touched my lips

That perfect feeling when time just slips

Away between us on our foggy trips

You are like a hurricane

There’s calm in your eyes

And I’m getting blown away

To somewhere safer where the feelin’ stays

I wanna love you but I’m get so blown away.

(c.1975 Silver Fiddle Music)

Helen was not really in Troy, but only an image was there” So goes the Palinode of Steisochoras sung, as Socrates tells Phaedrus, before he lost his sight. The beautiful is not in any particular city. The lover can be caused to attach the image to anyone, and this is a realization that frees the failed lover. The patriot must know that his allegiance would be commanded by any nation he happened to be born into. So while particular loves seem fated, because those who find one another fit together and are joined in soul, still it is true that had this particular one not been about, the lover would have loved another. Hamlet, in his play, has the king reflect for his wife that if he dies, she will marry another (Hamlet, II,iv) ). Love resists the teaching that marriage is for this world. Not that he will easily love again, but it is that love, which is for us once, involves the casting of the illusion by the mind that gives or sees the light of the particular one.

“Your secret’s safe and still well kept” They spent the night together when she cried, and he hardly slept. Then she must have told him she thought she lost her soul, because he answers “even Richard Nixon has got soul.” That is, we cannot lose our soul, in one sense, and in another, that she worries about is good, and shows she has not lost it.

 

“Long may You Run” is a song about a car, as he seems to be selling a trusty old car. “With your chrome heart shining in the sun.” He wonders if the Beach Boys are not now driving the car.

Aerosmith Dream On

This is one of my favorites for noticing just what the lyrics are, rather than yet what they mean. Oh sure, you always knew it was “like dusk to dawn,” “dues in life to pay,” and “is in books written pages.”

Every time that I look in the mirror

All these lines in my face getting clearer

The past is gone

It went by like dusk to dawn

Isn’t that the way

Everybody’s got the dues in life to pay

I know nobody knows

Where it comes, and where it goes

I know its everybody’s sin

You got to lose to know how to win…

Half my life is in books written pages

Live and learn from fools and from sages

You know it’s true

All these things

Come back to you

Sing with me

Sing for the year

Sing for the laughter

Sing for the tear

Sing with me, if it’s just for today

Maybe tomorrow the Good Lord will take you away

Dream on, dream on, dream on…

Dream on till your dreams come true

Everyone likes the song especially because of the anguish of recognizing that the one we love could be taken away tomorrow, or today, so life is this temporary gift we fail to appreciate. Some lines are surprising to see printed: “It went by like dusk to dawn” is surprisingly beautiful, as he sees his face lined with age, and the past is gone. No one knows from where or to where. But we always forget mortality and the moment, and forget to appreciate the one we love. Everyone’s sin is to need to taste misfortune in order to know how to live in success. So “sing with me, if its just for today…” What is to be done, but to dream on, aspiring, till dreams come true. That is what song does.

 

   1975   ELO Face The Music

Midnight, on the water

I saw the ocean’s daughter

Walking on a wave chicane

Staring as she called my name

And I can’t get it out of my head

No I can’t get it out of my head

Now my old world is gone for dead

Cause I can’t get it out of my head

Break down / On the shoreline

Can’t move. It’s an ebb tide.

Morning, don’t get here tonight

Searching for her silver light

And I can’t get it out of my head…

 Bank Job. In the city.

Robin Hood and William Tell, and Ivanhoe and Lancelot

They don’t envy me.

Sitting till the sun goes down

In dreams the world keeps going round and round

And I can’t get it out of my head…

(Lyrics from Songmeanings.com)

Jeff Lynne is the author of this song, and a contributor identified as Junkkillit on Songmeanings.com has by far the best interpretive commentary. He begins: Midnight on the water describes the setting, place and mood where love can be inflicted.” Then he writes:

The ocean’s daughter is Venus, the goddess of love who was born from the waves. She is not the object of his infatuation but she is the cause of love occurring between people, similar to Cupid’s role in causing people to fall in love. Chicane in this context means trickery, and the goddess of love, walking on the waves, uses her powers and one is tricked and falls into this helpless condition…In the next line, the goddess called his name and he fell choicelessly in love…”It” is not a particular girl, but love’s situation, which is desperate. This song is about love’s situation…Searching for her silver light- a way to appease the goddess so she may release him from his love trap.

When he shouts about Robin Hood, etc, he means that those heroes do not envy this poet’s challenge, more difficult than what they faced.

That is one of the best lyric interpretations I have ever seen- hats off! In Hesiod, Aphrodite, the “girl on the half-shell,” is not exactly a daughter of Ocean, as are Wonder (Thaumus), Iris, Electra, and the “beautifully singing Hesperides.” She is rather born later, of the foam that arose from the genitals of Ouranos, or sky, thrown into the sea by Kronos at the start of the reign of the Titans (175; 190). The furies arose similarly from drops of blood. But she arises from the water of ocean, and is attended by Eros and desire, though not synonymous with these. Walking on the water is what Jesus did, and she, as Aphros or foam, floats. Both among mortals and immortals, she was allotted from the beginning “flirtatious conversations of maidens, smiles and deceits, sweet delight and passion of love and gentle enticements” (205-206). So it is not clear that she is not an “epi-phenomenon,” as materialistic psychology holds “consciousness” to be, at least until their names are called by love, as Leonard Cohen knows, and their old world too is gone for dead.”

Bruce Springsteen

1975 Born To Run

In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American Dream

At night we ride through mansions of glory in the suicide machines

Sprung from cages out on Highway Nine, chrome wheeled, fuel injected and stepping out over the line.

Baby, this town rips the bones from your back, it’s a death trap,

It’s a suicide rap, we got to get out while were young

Cause tramps like us, baby were born to run.

 

Wendy let me in, I want to be your friend

I want to guard your dreams and visions

Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims and strap your hand ‘cross my engine

Together we could break this trap

We’ll run till we drop, and baby we’ll never look back.

Will you walk with me out on the wire

‘Cause baby I’m just a scared and lonely rider

But I gotta know how it feels.

I wanna know if love is wild

Girl I want to know if love is real

Can you show me?

Beyond the palace hemmi-powered drones

Scream down the Boulevard

Girls comb their hair in rear view mirrors

And the boy try to look so hard

The amusement park rises bold and stark

Kids are huddled on the beach in the mist

I want to die with you Wendy on the streets tonight in an everlasting kiss

The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive

Everybody’s out on the run tonight, but there ‘s no place left to hide.

Together, Wendy, we could live with the sadness

I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul

Someday, girl, I don’t know when, were gonna get to that place

Where we really want to go and we’ll walk in the sun

But till then, tramps like us, baby we were born to run. 

This song vies with Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” and perhaps “Highway Star” for the title of greatest of all biker songs, and probably takes the prize. It is uniquely a biker love song, and shows more clearly than any social commentary what it is that these are looking for. A commentator on songmeanings, (thesmellyone) draws attention to the “American dream.” The setting is the runaway American dream, the contemporary America in which they work during the day, but from which they must escape in the summer evenings and nights.

The bells initiate a hypnotic ascent of the spirit, and this fellow, this speed demon character imagined by Springsteen, is wholly alive. The song begins with the thrill of riding, contrasted with their daytime lives of working men. (These, the noble bikers, do not live by criminal enterprise- much.) At night they ride through mansions of glory on the suicide machine. Their spiritedness inspired by their love for the mansions of glory, the night air and the night city highway, sails past the fear of death. Steppin’ out over the line is first the lane marker on the highway, as when one is passing a slower vehicle.

In the second set of verses, he speaks directly to the girl about the town, or the worldly daylight world. It rips the bones from your back, is a death trap and a suicide wrap, from which they have to escape while they are still young. To stay is a form of suicide, a spineless life, and the town is a trap. “See my daddy in bed and dyin…” as the Animals said when they were saying the same thing. The suicide machines are alike suicidal, but allow one to ride through the mansions of glory, to which the city is transformed for them. As noted by Belanger, a recurring theme in our music is this “We’ve gotta get out of this place If it’s the last thing we ever do,” (Burdon). The theme reminds one of the allegory of the cave, and the attempt to escape the city. Springsteen relates this to the runaway American dream in which we live.

The third set of verses brings in the theme that makes “Born To Run” a love song. In a most classic line, the biker lover asks her to “let him in,” that is, into her soul so that they might live together. For souls to be together, even in marriage and friendship, is fairly rare, but is an aim of true love. He asks to be her friend, and to “guard” her “dreams and visions.” One wishes he were the one loved by Stevie Nicks! This is related to the madness in his soul, with all of which he would love her. To tell a vision is most vulnerable. Since dreams are paired with visions, he seems to mean the dreams that occur in sleep, rather than those paired with hopes, though he may as well mean both. Love, and the imagination of a world where they will walk in the sun, are outside the day-world of the result of the American dream. The picture of the girls combing their hair and the boys trying to look tough and see them captures the beauty of the summer evenings on the city cruzing strips.

The fifth set of verses is the crisis, showing a picture of the highway jammed with many broken heroes on something like a last chance attempt, when there is no place left to hide. This causes him, the character, to enter a tragic love poem about the place or where it is that his longing takes him, or the place that his love would lead him to take her in their imagined escape, where they will walk in the sun. He promises to love her with all the madness in his soul, and they could live with the sadness. But till then, and for this reason, they were born to run. Like “Born to be Wild,” they are born this way, or are this way by nature, rather than having made themselves this way or been educated to be this way.

The desire that leads him to transcend the town is restated in a synonym: He wants to know if love is “wild,” or by nature and astonishing, or whether love is real. The desire to know love is the desire that leads him whizzing past the fear of death. When he asks her to show him, the wild highway song comes full circle as a love poem, and it is clear that the place he wants to go, or the true inspiration for his taking up the suicide machine, can be entered also in this, potentially non-tragic way. As with knowledge too, there is something that cannot be known unless it is seen in proof, as with whether love is real. This is the desideratum, the decisive or crucial demonstration, or the revelation.

1975 Queen

Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the more difficult, though one of the more interpretable of songs. The band is said to be protective of the secret of the song, to keep us guessing. It is done in five sections, which a note on the internet site Songmeanings.com explains, contains five sections with different modes of music in the same pattern as the five stages of death, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, developed as a theory by Elisabeth Kubla-Ross. If so, the connection between the modes and the meanings might be revealing. The song is, literally, about a murderer or killer in prison awaiting trail and likely execution. The first section…

I.

Mama

Just killed a man

Put a gun against his head

Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead

Mama

Life had just begun

But now Iv gone and thrown it all away

Mama ooh

Didn’t mean to make you cry

If I’m not back again this time tomorrow

Carry on, carry on as though nothing really matters

II

Too late

My time has come

Send shivers down my spine

Body’s achin’ all the time

goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go

Got to leave you all behind and face the truth

Mama

Any way the wind blows,

I don’t want to die

I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all

Nothing really matters to me

“Any way the wind blows” refers to a character criticism of the modern youth, that because we have no principles, we are blown about by whatever happens to us, rather than approaching life with a set plan.

He then sees himself, as the small silhouette of a man on trial:

III. I see a little Silouetto of a man

Scaramouch, Scaramouch,

Will you do the fandango?

Thunderbolt and lightening

Very very frightening

Galileo, Galileo

Galileo, Figaro Magnifico

I’m just a poor boy…

Nobody loves me

He’s just a poor boy from a poor family

Easy come easy go

Will you let me go?

Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me

For me, for me

Let me go

We will not let you go

I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me

He’s just a poor boy from a poor family

Spare him his life from this monstrosity.

The defendant and the advocate plead not that he is innocent, but that he is poor and should be spared from “This Monstrosity.”

Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go

Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me

For me, for me.

He may plead the mercy of the court not because he is innocent, but because he will be punished already in the afterlife. A “Scaramoush” is said to be “a disdainful character who appears as a boastful coward.” So, what occurs is that the judging voice appears, to say something like “slave, will you dance!” The poet or protagonist then laments that Beelzebub, the Devil, has a devil set aside for the torment of the guilty after death. Bismillah is said to be an expression that means “in the name of Allah,” and so is an Islamic expression (Bi-smi-Allah).

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye                       [anger]

So you think you can love me and leave me to die

Oh, baby

Can’t do this to me baby

Just gotta get out

Just gotta get right out of here.

Nothing really matters

Anyone can see

Nothing really matters to me.

Here, as it appears, we get into the meaning of the song. The outburst of rock, in the “anger” stage, is anger about being spurned in a bad way by one who once seemed to love him, but now has left him to die. Get out of here, a familiar theme, means get out of prison, but this is the non literal or truer level, and so he may be suicidal. Our guess then at the mystery of the song is that his cruel dismissal by one he loves is compared to death sentence, as though he were guilty of murder. All men are said to be guilty of the fall of Adam, and to participate in the sin of Cain, even, as Jesus teaches, when we are angry at our brother. Rejection in love is like a sentence of death for our mortal nature. For this, we are not owed love. As above regarding the thief in Paul Simon’s “Somewhere they Can’t Find Me,” love brings images of crime. Suicide is a crime because it is a murder, and hence our irresponsibility with our own lives is like manslaughter. Is the man he has killed himself?

Any way the wind blows

Nothing really matters to me.

 

   One can see in this song that rock wants to become rock opera. The title of the album is A Night at the Opera, after the Charlie Chan Movie of that name. The song is like a small drama, condensing a story in a snapshot that is like a dream, or daydream, from the anger at the loss of love in a jilting.

1975 Bowie Young Americans

 

The song “Young Americans” is a rolling stream of comment on the American character. It begins with a paragraph on American unions, very much in agreement with Bloom: It took him minutes, took her nowhere, and she would have taken anything.

But the freak and his type all for nothing

Misses a step and cuts his hand

Showing nothing he swoops like a song

She cries “Where have all papa’s heroes gone….

Have you been the un American

Just you and your idol singing falsetto ‘bout

Leather leather everywhere and

Not a myth left from the ghetto

Sit on your hands on the bus of survivors

Blushing at all the afro sheeners

Ain’t that close to love?

Well, ain’t that poster love?

It ain’t that Barbie Doll

Her heart still broken, just like you and

Ain’t there a pen that will write before they die?

It is on this album, with “Fame” and “Fascination” that Bowie reintroduces dance music into British rock, before what was called “disco.” The line was continues on Low and Station to station. Bowie has often been the creator of fashion, and here, coming out of the Ziggy stardust phase, he sets us dancing again. “Win,” a sad song, and “Right” are more melodic, slow dancing pieces from the album.

 

Fleetwood Mac 1975: Rhiannon

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night

And wouldn’t you love to love her?

She rules her life like a bird in flight

And who will be her lover?

All your life you’ve never seen

A woman taken by the wind

Would you stay if she promised you heaven?

Will you ever win?

Here is one to add to Goldstein’s sub genre of songs about ethereal woman or an idealized image participated in more or less, not by all but by many women. Wouldn’t you love to love her? She is the soul and so the one sought by the lover as such. Stevie participates in her, but she is of course not Ms. Nicks in particular. Rhiannon turned out coincidentally to be the name of a female figure from Celtic Myth, though this seems entirely fitting. She rules her life like a bird in flight. The sky in the poetry of Ms. Nicks is worthy of comment, and it is this she might bring him, though he would not stay even if she could promise heaven to him. She is soaring and unattainable as a wife, a sort of woman that emerged especially in the sixties, and with rare exceptions did not exist prior to this time. She is rare, and this one would stay if only he could see her, but he cannot. She asks if he would stay for the promise of heaven, and then, since he would not, she asks if he will ever win, having set aside the true love with whom he might soar. She is unattainable because he cannot see her, and this is the legendary tragic tension at the root of Stevie’s poetry.

She is like a cat in the dark and then she is the darkness

She rules her life like a fine skylark

And when the sky is starless…

Janet used to sing this song to our black cat Sophia (rest her cat soul). In the live version on the album Crystal Visions, Stevie says “she is your darkness.” As Jung writes, the anima figure is the key to the darkness of the hero’s soul, as the darkness of the unconscious holds the key, even to the crystal vision. This song opens with her imagination of how it ought to have gone, when he said “stay,” and “don’t go.” In a tear jerker, she knows, in his true soul, the lover’s soul he never lived, that he says to her “I still cry out for you.” This is why the song requires the sobering return from the transports of the imagination of the eternal lover:

Dreams unwind

Love’s a state of mind

`You can go your own way, call it another lonely day.

Landslide

I remember seeing my own face in the mirror of the old man’s truck as we were helping him to load his things. He was moving back down South with his brother to die among relatives. I was alone in Grand Rapids that summer, my own lover gone and the writing quite on the wall. That’s when I heard the song Landslide.

The song is at the end of the illusion that is love. It is her love that has been taken down, given up or dis-mantled. She ascends a mountain, and turns around to look on her life from this higher perspective. She sees her own reflection in the white of the snowy hills, which is in a special sense what one sees when one sees love dismantled. That is why the taking down of her love is the same as the destruction of her own image seen on the hills when the landslide brought it down.

The next verse is the salvation of the lover. From the peak of the mountain, she turns to look up at the sky, and asks the question of what she calls the “mirror in the sky.” This mirror, which is of course the Lord or the highest, is for this poet here in the place of God. Whatever it is, it allows us to see ourselves from an elevated perspective, and this provides a perspective from which the lover is preserved. She asks a philosophic question, “What is love?” She asks if the child within her heart can rise above the changes and seasons of her life. The child is of course the divine in the soul that is, or can be, born from the union that is the transitory love, and the painful meaning of this transitory love can be this child in the heart that is not transitory. Then come the enchanting lines of the song, that she has been afraid of changing, for having built her life around her beloved, and from this everyone understands the image of the landslide.

 

Bowie 1976 Station to Station

This album is a peak for Bowie, with many classics, “Stay,” “Golden Years,” and two that will be among his most lasting, though they rarely receive airplay now, “Wild is the Wind” and “Word on a Wing.”

 

   The song “Station to Station” is autobiographical, about the poet, the thin white duke.

The return of the thin white duke

Throwing darts in lover’s eyes…

Here are we

One magical moment touches the stuff from where dreams are woven

Bending sound

Dredging the ocean, lost in my circle

Here am I

Flashing no color

Small in this room overlooking the ocean

Here are we

One magical movement touches the stuff from where dreams are woven

Here am I

There are we

One magical movement

From Kether to Malcuth

Here are you

You drive like a demon from station to station

The return of the thin white duke throwing darts in lover’s eyes

The return of the thin white duke throwing darts in lover’s eyes

The return of the thin white duke, making sure white stains

Once there were mountains on mountains

And once there were sun birds to soar with

And once I could never be down

I’ve got to keep searching and searching and oh what will I be believing

And who will connect me with love

Wonder who wonder who, wonder when

Have you sought fortune, evasive and shy

Drink to the man who protects you and I

Drink, Drink, raise your glass high

It’s not the side effects of the cocaine

I’m thinking that it must be love

It’s too late to be grateful

It’s too late to be late again

It’s too late to be hateful

The European cannon is here

I must be only one in a million

But I won’t let the day pass without her

It’s too late to be grateful

It’s too late to be late again

It’s too late to be hateful

The European cannon is here

Should I believe that I’ve been stricken

Does my face show some kind of glow?

It’s too late to be grateful

It’s too late to be late again

It’s too late to be hateful

The European cannon is here

It’s too late

The European cannon is here

The song has many allusions to Shakespeare: the duke is especially the magician duke Prospero, who buried his magic book deeper than could plummet sound (The Tempest, V, i, 56-57; Pegg, p. 209). Pegg relates Bowie’s circle to the magic circle in which Prospero holds the Italian princes spellbound in penance. The Hebrew words refer to above and below, in the tree of life, from heaven to earth, and the poet is the mediator between. Pegg (p. 304) cites Bowie:

Station to Station…they do refer to the Stations of the Cross, but then I took that further and it was actually about the Cabbalistic tree of life, so for me the whole album was symbolic and representative of the trip through the tree of life.” Bowie further compares the album to a spell, at times “quite beautiful” and at times very “disturbing.”

The spheroth Kether is also called the “crown of life,” (Revelation 2:10), the mystical crown of the wise that is their wisdom (Proverbs 14:24; 12:4; 4:8-9). It is wisdom, of the sort that does not reign unless connected to the earthly kingdom, by poetry and statesmanship, as demonstrated by Plato and Shakespeare, and is indeed the new European canon, and would be the basis of a new music of the spheres. Golden Years, too, means of course the best years, the years of the life of the highest part of the soul, or of wisdom. The lyric includes:

Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, angel

Look at that sky, life’s begun

Nights are warm and the days are young

For a “thousand years” would be a millennium. It is a happiness song, for dancing, and tells her he’ll stay with her, and nothing will touch her in these golden years. He played this with Fame on “Soul Train.”

“Stay” is among the most beautiful of all songs, but there is not much to say about it. It is simple, only a man stuttering to ask a woman to stay, now and forever, a part of the bird dance thing. But one who will stay is what the lover seeks in all our music.

“Wild is the Wind” is similarly simple, a song like Lennon’s #9 dream, an attempt to capture the high wild spiritual experience of love, called soaring

Love me…say you do

Let me fly away with you

For our love is like the wind

And wild is the wind

Wild is the wind

Give me more…

For we’re like creatures in the wind

And wild is the wind…

You touch me

I hear the sound of mandolins

You kiss me

With your kiss my life begins

Your spring to me

Warm things to me

Don’t you know your life itself?

Like the leave clings to the tree

Oh my darling, cling to me

For were like creatures in the wind

And wild is the wind

The song will go on our list of songs that can be played at weddings, especially because it says “cling to me,” echoing scripture.

Word on a Wing

In this age of grand illusion, you walked into my life out of my dreams

I don’t need another change, but still you forced your way into my scheme of things

Sweet angel born once again for me

Lord, I kneel and offer you my word on a wing

And I’m trying hard to fit among your scheme of things

Just as long as I can see you.

Never stop this vision flowing

I look twice, and you’re still glowing

It’s safer than a strange land

But I still care for myself

Lord, Lord, my prayer flies like a word on a wing

1976 Frampton: Baby, I Love your way

Shadows grow so long before my eyes

And their moving

Across the page

Suddenly the day turns into night

Far away

From the city

So don’t hesitate

Because your love

Won’t Wait

Ooh baby., I love your way

Wanna tell you I love your way

Wanna be with you night and day

Clouds are stalking islands in the sun

I wish I could buy one

For the season

 

Moon appears to shine and light the sky

With the help of some fireflies

I wonder how they have the power to shine, shine, shine

I can see them, under the pines

So don’t hesitate

Because your love

Won’t wait

Ooh baby I love your way…

For those who watch sunsets, this is a love call song like “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” The poet is sitting on a hillside as evening grows toward sunset, with his book open. He is still for a while, as shadows move across the page. The song manages to portray the moving of the sun. Then, as he persuades his love, the day turns into night, the moon and the fireflies come out.

Heart: Crazy on You 1976

This song of unrestrained passionate love has a poetic gem in especially four or eight of the lines:

If we still have time, we might still get by

Every time I think about it I wanna die

With bombs and the devil the toils keep comin

No way to be easy, no time to be young

But I tell myself that I was doin alright

There’s nothin left to do tonight

But go crazy on you

Crazy on you

Let me go crazy, crazy on you

My love is the evening breeze touching your skin

The gentle sweet singing of leaves in the wind

The whisper that calls after you in the night

And kisses your ear in the early moonlight

And you don’t need to wonder, your doin fine

My love, the pleasure’s mine

Let me go crazy on you…

Wild man’s world is crying in pain

What you gonna do when everybody’s insane?

So afraid of one whose afraid of you

What you gonna do?

Crazy on you…

I was a willow last night in my dreams

And I bent down over a clear running stream

I sang you a song that I heard up above

And you kept me alive with your sweet, flowing love

Crazy on you…

This song is about “sex.” Its beauty is that it is sung by a woman, and every male lover appreciates the sentiment. Amid the troubles of life and the insanity of our world, with absolute concerns like war and the devil, there is this peaceful place where she can “make the world go away,” as the old song says. The poetry in these eight lines is astonishing: first, her love is the soft evening breeze and the rustle of leaves, the whisper in the night that catches him in the moonlight. Then in dreams he was a willow bending over a stream. She sings him a song that she heard up above, and he, who is the stream, waters her to life with his love.

1977 Jethro Tull Songs from the Wood

Songs from the wood, is one of the best of all songs about music, and what it is these forest whistlers think that they are doing. He brings to the people songs from the forest, to heal their wounds and balm their pain.

Let me bring you love from the field

Poppies red and roses filled with summer rain

The Whistler

I’ll buy you six mares to put in your stable,

Six golden apples, bought with my pay.

I am the first piper who calls the sweet tune

But I must be gone by the seventh day.

Chorus: So come on- I’m the Whistler

I have a fife, and a drum to ply

Get ready­ I’m the Whistler.

I whistle along on the seventh day.

All kinds of sadness I’ve left behind me

Many the day when I have done wrong.

But I’ll be yours for ever and ever

Climb in the saddle and whistle along

Deep red are the sunsets in mystical places

Black are the nights on summer’-day sands

We’ll find the speck of truth in each riddle

Hold the first grain of love in our hands.

This gemstone may hold first place in the genre of love call songs. Six golden apples, and six mares, he will present her, for he is the “first piper.” He is the best of his trade, and a very successful musician, as he displays himself in his enchanting love call. “The Whistler” must summarize the hunting girl song, in which the secret bard stumbles on an aristocratic hunting girl. It is the finest pick-up line of all time, and we hope she went with him on the seventh day. It is a true love, as he says he leaves behind him sadness and sin, but would be hers forever and ever. The final stanza is a pinnacle of liberal arts poetry, calling the beloved to traipse about the landscape together, finding mystical places and the truth in riddles. I once had a dog that would go traipsing and hunting with her boyfriends as some sort of love rite, so deeply is this beauty implanted in nature.

Cup of Wonder

May I make my fond excuses for the lateness of the hour?

But we accept your invitation, and would bring you Beltane’s flower.

For the Mayday is the great day, sung along the old straight track

And those who ancient lines did ley will heed this song that calls them back

Pass the word and pass the Lady

Pass the plate to all who hunger

Pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass

The cup of crimson wonder

Ask the green man where he comes from, ask the cup that fills with red

Ask the old gray standing stones who show the sun his way to bed.

Question all as to their ways and learn the secrets that they hold.

Walk the lines of nature’s palm, crossed with silver and with gold.

Chorus

Join in black December’s sadness, lie on August’s welcome corn

Stir the cup that’s ever filling with the blood of all that’s born.

But the Mayday is the great day, sung along the old straight track

And those who ancient lines did ley will heed the song that calls them back.

“Beltane” is not a goddess, but is May Day. The singers excuse themselves for barging in so late, but they bring the flower of May Day, a song that calls the ancient singers back. The Chorus then calls for the passing of all goods, including the lady, as though a bard’s bash had broken out. They pass the words of wisdom and cup of crimson wonder, which is red wine, with a hint of the sacramental wine

In the second chorus, “cup” replaces “word.”

The green man is going to be some local folk figure, whether a man of the green or a green guy, like the Green Giant, who in America has had to go hawking vegetables to be remembered, after mother nature herself took to hawking butter. The stones are those like the ones at Stonehenge, and the folklore is that these cause the astronomy, a playful or primitive thought. The lines of paths, as those leading to Stonehenge, are walked as the lines of the palm of a hand, in palmistry.

Because the Night: Patti Smith / Bruce Springsteen

Patti Smith shapes up this Spingsteen blue collar song, turning it into a woman’s song bursting in rock passion. It is a good example of the power of the sound and lyrics together. The poetry of Patti Smith becomes a philosophic comment on lust, and shows the role of rock in expressing the strong emotions of marriage. Lust in love is almost holy, and the poet discovers this on her own. Far from repeating herself as she spells her way through the lyric structure, her subtle variations retain much beauty from the Springsteen version, while adding the pathos that makes this early punk song a classic rock ballad.

Take me now, baby, here as I am

Hold me close, try and understand

Desire’s hunger is the fire I breathe

Love is a banquet on which we feed

Come on now, try and understand

The way I feel when I’m in your hands

Take my hand come undercover

They can’t hurt you now, Can’t hurt you now, Can’t hurt you now

Because the night belongs to lovers

Because the night belongs to lust

Because the night belongs to lovers

Because the night belongs to us

Have I a doubt when I’m alone

Love is a ring, the telephone

Love is an angel disguised as lust

Here in our bedroom till the morning comes

Come on now, try and understand

The way I feel under your command

Take my hand as the sun descends

They can’t touch you now, can’t touch you now, Can’t touch you now

Because..

Because..

With love we sleep

With doubt the vicious circle

Turn and burns

Without you I cannot live

Forgive the yearning, burning

I believe its time too real to feel

Touch me now, Touch me now, Touch me now…

Because tonight there are two lovers…

If we believe in the night we trust

Love is an angel disguised as lust, within the soul that says, “without you I cannot live.” We read that the hunger belongs to desire. Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe is how the websites print that line. The fire she breathes is desire’s hunger, and in this love, the Dragon is disarmed. The beloved is a banquet, and where there are two giving themselves in love, there will be the human fulfillment of the conjugal union, and, incidentally, the peak of pleasure in physical nature.

Fleetwood Mac 

       Rumors

The haunting love of Stevie Nicks for Mick Fleetwood lurks from beginning to end of many of the better songs of Fleetwood Mac, some six or eight of which stand out as exceptional.

Dreams

1977 Gentoo Music, Inc and Now Sounds Music

Now here you go again, you say you want your freedom

Well who am I to keep you down

It’s only right that you should play the way you feel it

But listen carefully to the sound

Of your loneliness like a heartbeat

Drives you mad

In the stillness of remembering what you had

And what you lost…

And what you had…

And what you lost

Thunder only happens when it’s raining

Players only love you when their playing

Say…Women …they will come and they will go

When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know

Now here I go again I see the crystal vision

I keep my visions to myself

It’s only me who wants to wrap around your dreams

And have you any dreams you’d like to sell?

Dreams of loneliness, like a heartbeat drives you back

In the stillness of remembering what you had

And what you lost

The poetry of Stevie Nicks excels in the character of the jilted lover, the statement of how the finer souls think and feel in this circumstance. The beauty of this fine soul is the key to her best lyrics. The failure of her love is of course the story behind half of her greater lyrics. The apotheosis of the song begins with “when the rain washes you clean.” Here, the consciously secular imagination of Nicks hits on the image of baptism, as a washing clean from his erotic playing of the field that would allow for him to know, or to see what he might also see, if dreams of loneliness should drive him to return to her, who alone could be with him in a way the others could not. These do not love him except while he is employing them, like a coach or bandleader.

She sees what she calls the crystal vision. The visionary has learned to keep her visions private, as should be with that sort of thing, since to tell visions usually leads not to communication but misunderstanding. The song “Crystal,” on the Buckingham-Nicks album, indicates what the vision is:

…like the love that had finally, finally found me

Then I knew in the crystalline knowledge of you

Drove me through the mountains

Through the crystal lake and clear water fountain

Drove me like a magnet to the sea.

“It’s only me” is the she of “well who am I to keep you down.” She is only herself, but as the one who loves him, she is in truth for him the one, that is the one who’s love could have saved him. She is the only one who wants to be with him where he dreams. I read the line “have you any dreams youl’d like to sell” as an invitation to come along into a life of making music together, converting dreams, such as the Crystal Vision, into songs and treasures. She thinks immediately, though, of dreams of loneliness, and skips poetically to a prophecy, if he did have any such dreams. Dreams of loneliness will drive him back in the stillness of remembering what he had and what he lost. The prophecy may be only a lovers wish. But she already begins to haunt him with the love he could not see with his heart to receive. It is this transcendent agony that brings her the song of Songbird:

For you, there will be no more cry’in

For you the sun will be shining

And I feel that when I’m with you,

It’s alright

I know its right

To you, I’ll give all the world

To you, I’ll never be cold

‘Cause I feel that when I’m with you,

It’s alright,

I know its right.

 

And the songbirds are singing

Like they know the score,

And I love you, I love you, I love you,

Like never before.

And I wish you all the love in the world,

But most of all, I wish it from myself.

 

Gypsy

This may be the best song ever written about female friendship. It is said to be for a friend of Ms. Nicks who died of Leukemia. They were gypsies together, and the song opens with her remembering things they had, lace and paper flowers from the way they were together. As often describes the case regarding the lyric of Stevie Nicks, there is an automatic writing quality that allows for inspiration amid a pleasant strangeness: one would not come up with such words if they set out to write such a song about friendship. And yet the product is like the best thing he has ever seen:

So I’m back to the velvet underground

Back to the floor that I love

To a room with some lace and paper flowers

Back to the gypsy….that I was….to the gypsy…that I was….

And it all comes down to you

Well you know that it does, well…

Lightning strikes…maybe once, maybe twice…

Oh, and it lights up the night…

And you see your gypsy…

You see your gypsy…

To the gypsy that remains…

She faces freedom / with a little fear…

Well, I have no fear

But only love…

And if I was a child

And the child was enough

Enough for me to love

Enough to love…

She is dancing away from you now

She was just a wish

She was just a wish

And her memory / is all that is left for you now.

And you see your gypsy

You see your Gypsy

For the Gypsy / That remains

Who faces freedom / With a little fear

I have no fear / But only love

And if I was a child /And the child was enough

Enough for me to love / Enough to love

The sight of her friend was like the flash of lightening in the night. The gypsy that remains is herself, and she admits then overcomes the fear of the future in the perils of the liberty of the character of the gypsy that the two shared together. She thinks of herself as a child, and her love of a child as enough to sustain her in the future alone without her friend. This reflection, on fear and the child, frames the memorial statement of the funeral song. “She was just a wish” is similar in meaning to Shakespeare’s “we are such stuff as dreams are made on.” A recent thing revealed about the later song Sara may be related to this sorrow for a lost friend that is no more.

Seventeen

This song is about the beginning of her inspiration into a life of music, from the first time she saw “him,” when she was but on the edge of seventeen years old. As the dove sings, so she was then set to song. It is a mystical experience that actually occurred, and so she wandered about the hall, and found not an answer, but the call. It is the call of a night bird, a lonely sound in the dark, and she becomes Rhiannon. She is one flying on the dark side with whom the poet of light in Robert Plant could indeed join hands, had one such as Plant happened to have been where another happened to be.

Silver Spring

Time cast a spell on you, ‘cause you wont love me

You’ll never get away from the sound of the one who loves you.

He has to hear her songs on the radio, verifying the truth of her love, and his error. This would be a fitting conclusion to her career if she were never to be visited by the muse again.

 

1977 Kansas Dust in the Wind

I close my eyes, only for a moment, then the moment’s gone.

All my dreams, pass before my eyes a curiosity.

Dust in the wind, all they are is Dust in the wind

Same old song, Just a drop of water in an endless sea

All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see.

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.

Now don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky

It slips away, and all your money wont another minute buy

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.

Everything is dust in the wind.

Kerry Livgren CBS Records, CBS Inc.

In the movie Bill and Ted’s most excellent adventure, their time machine takes them back to ancient Greece, and they visit a lecture of Socrates. Socrates is standing there saying the same thing all those years ago that Kansas taught Bill and Ted here in the third millennium. Socrates was not a big repeater of Heraclitus, though, who is the one who said “All is change” or “all is in flux.” Even that. And it is always true! But recognizing the impermanence of the things we hold on to in this world is preparation for either Socrates or Jesus. as a reader who compared the teaching to Ecclesiastes, “All is vanity.” He does not literally mean everything, because he excepts the earth and sky. And on which day was the face of the deep. movement and the waters, created? While the present earth and sky are said to pass away, heaven and the changing things may be always, in some form. When the missionaries wanted to persuade King Lucius of the Britons, about the second century, to adopt Christianity, they famously compared our brief lives to the flight of a bird through the hall where they were gathered. While people seek wealth as though it were the remedy, money cannot exempt the rich from mortality. It is the same for immortality through writing. A small ripple absorbed into a vast infinity. Our effect on future generations is only a bit more significant. The fellow who invented the wheel, or domesticated dogs and fruit trees, is long forgotten, though he still helps us to this day.

The first line is the slipping of each moment into the past. Heraclitus is said to have said we never step into the same river twice. In the second line, he reviews his dreams as a whole, which pass before his eyes an enigma. He calls these dust in the wind, the first time the phrase occurs in the song. The other two times, it is we who are dust in the wind.

This might be the first song I ever heard, as it happened to be on the radio when the scales came off my ears, and I realized that songs have meaning we can gaze in to.

Bowie 1977: Heroes 

I,

I will be king –

And you,

You will be Queen

Though nothing will drive them away

We can beat them

Just for one day

We can be heroes

Just for one day

You, you can be mean

And I, I’ll drink all the time

Cause were lovers, and that is a fact

Yes we’re lovers, and that is that

Though nothing will keep us together

We could steal time

Just for one day

We could be Heroes for ever and ever

Whatcha say?

I, I wish I could swim

Like Dolphins can swim

Though nothing, nothing will keep us together

We can beat them forever and ever

We can be heroes

Just for one day.

I, I will be king

And you, you will be queen

Though nothing, nothing will drive them away

We can be heroes, just for one day.

We can be us

Just for one day.

I, I can remember

Standing by the wall

And the guards (gods) shout above our heads

And we kissed

As though (there were) nothing before

And the (fate time) was on your side

We can beat them for ever and ever

We can be heroes

Just for one day

We could be Heroes

Just for one day

Well nothing and nothing will help us

Baby were dying

So you’d better not stay

We could be sailors

Just for one day.

As is said, in every girl there is a princess and in every boy a prince. I will be king and you queen is the imagination of Princes and princesses that is of the essence of love. There is no love that does not aim implicitly toward this, which is rendingly beautiful in the tragic context of a doomed love. Prince and princess, King and Queen, symbolize the aristocratic element in the soul awakened in love. The conventional images of these things, of kingship and princesses, refer to natural truths about the soul. The Dolphin is another symbol of the soul, and there is a relation of this image to the mystery of how princes become kings. The Dolphin is a creature of two elements which breaks through the boundary between the two, as an old teacher explains, a magical creature if one assumes that man alone is a spiritual animal. With just a few other animals, dolphins can be shown to recognize themselves in a mirror, and have been known to help sailors. Together with Elephants, Dolphins are the first of animals it is forbidden to kill, to which might be added the higher primates and the sea horse, which, like Swans, mate for life. Pegg cites Bowie’s forward to his wife’s book “I am Iman,” which refers to a story A Grave for a Dolphin, by Alberto Denti di Pirajno, about a doomed love affair of an Italian soldier and a Somalian woman who swims with a Dolphin, and the Dolphin dies when the woman dies. How are the two related? One would need to swim in this way to transcend the mortality that dooms all love, and casts an especial doom on this song’s love, which will never become the full growth into kings and queens, as it would if love were able to cultivate these two throughout life. The Dolphin saved the guitar player and singer Arion, called by his song, in the story from Herodotus (Book I). They are sometimes known to help the shipwrecked humans, and just might know what they are doing. Dolphins, like sailors, cross over to the other shore, as is shown in Shakespeare’s A MSND, where they would swim there to gather treasures with the pregnant mother of the Changeling.

“We’re dying, so you’d better not stay” refers of course to their doomed love, so that she does not stay the night. It is the opposite of the song Stay, which is from the beginning of love, showing a consistent theme.

The wall is, again according to the discussion of Pegg, the Berlin Wall, and if it is the guards rather than the gods that shout above their heads when they kissed as though there were nothing before, there is a political context also to this doomed love. It is immortality in the present moment, to which the lover calls her when he asks “whatcha say,” an optimistic embrace of the immortal truth in the doomed present by which it could be classed with “Touch me in the morning,” songs of a lover with the leaving beloved.

 

The Ramones 1977: Rocket to Russia 

As Hendrix said, “we’ll never have surf music again…until the Ramones!” But here the surf music is joined to the Spector Ronnie and the Ronnettes wall of sound to imitate and dramatize a wave of elemental emotion. Dance music returns to rock here at the origins of Punk, just before the Pistols messed it up with safety pins and all. The Ramones are deceptively deep minimalist artists. They reduce the lyric emotions to their elements, making their ballads surprisingly beautiful. With a bite of sarcasm mixed with just fun pop dance music they begin the recovery of the right wing politics previously rejected. With Lou Reed and David Bowie, we have begun to move beyond the hippy rock of the Sixties and early Seventies. The stunning album cover, produced by a member and a friend, is done in a cartoon style borrowed from a child’s geography book we had in the sixties, before PC prevented such uncouth caricatures. But the Ramones are almost all in good fun. Our favorites are the Rasta man in Jamaica and Fidel, with his cigar. The Rocket would seem to refer to the conquest of the world for liberty through music: the album is such a thing.

The Cretin Hop is named after a street, in term named after a French Priest Creti’an where the Ramones fans would dance. It also sounds like a race of man from the past, in the glory days of ancient Crete. From the video’s on U Tube of the German concerts, those guys are asleep! Have we no pictures of Hoppin Cretins? At Royal Oak Theater in 1977, we hopped like wildkids. We borrowed the Suburban from the parental units that night and drove a load of Punks, seven in all, down for the show. We were the class of 78, and the class or 77 had some famous artists who introduced Punk to our High School. We all know who they are, too, one wore a jacket and looks just like DD, there in the High School Yearbook. Another, we were just talking about that concert in his driveway the other day, almost forty years later!

Rockaway Beach too is a fun dance song, about a local beech. The Punk beat is well adapted to tapping teeth, so he is “chewin’ out a rhythm on my bubble gum.” It is Bus Ride that is too slow, and besides they blast Disco, so they will take another rout, and hitchhike. There follow three sad love songs, a break-up song, “Locket Love,” and then a despairing breakup song. These are Punk ballads. “Locket” is just beautiful poetry, if it is a bit harsh. Sheena is an archetypal groupie. The Whiskey Au Go Go is where the first hippies turned from surf music to psychedelic rock. Now Sheena is returning to New York. Side One then ends with “We’re a Happy Family.” This is a sarcastic song about themselves, exaggerated into a  commentary on the generation growing up to parents of the sixties. “Thorazine” is the first word in a commentary on modern psychiatric medicine. Thorazine (chlorpromazine) was introduced in the late fifties to treat schizophrenia by inhibiting dopamine receptors. This lead to the revolution in psychiatric institutions, where a safer, more human environment could be made by suppressing the brains of the mad. Side effects include “tardative dyskenesis,” a twitching similar to punk rhythm gutar. This commentary on modern psychiatry continues in “Lobotomy” and “Well” on Side Two. A lobotomy is the removal of the front of a guys brain, as occurred to McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The best medical advice that money could buy persuaded the Kennedy family to have this done to Rosemarie back in the Fifties. There is no scientific knowledge on which lobotomies are prescribed, and no ethical reasoning either, but the subjects do indeed stop saying funny things and causing trouble. “Tell ’em” and “cerebellum” are another ironic joke. DDT is a poison pesticide sprayed on everyone in the fifties and sixties, until we began to realize that we just cannot do such things and be well. “Well” is of course psychological health or happiness, the goal of psychology. The pesticide is playfully his remedy for keeping happy while the slugs and snails are after him. As the Americans tried to cure the problem of garden pests with DDT, so modern psychiatry treats garden variety psychosis with drugs that are worse than the original pests. Psychiatric medicine is poison, and the Americans fall for it just like they did DDT. Cha-ching! The American way. The American concern with slugs and snails is a psychosis. Nor is Thorazine the proper prescription for being a Punk. Punk here is a rejection of psychiatry, the modern authority regarding the health of the soul. Punk anger is expressed through sarcastic comedy. “Future’s Bleak / Aint it neat?” and “No Future” become punk themes. There is something to the punk rejection of the authority in their world that is based on common sense, and a liberty-securing defiance that will fight if one does not leave them alone. Their bleak future is the result of the world they have been given, not one of their making. “Neat” is a word from the beatniks, meant as a sarcastic glance backward. Holy smoke. Daddy’s broke.

Ramona is the word written on the shirt of the rider on the rocket, and the song “Ramona” was once titled “Rocket to Russia.” No one has even attempted to account for this. The lyrics seem to be about a flirtatious groupie with whom the writer fell in love. She seems to be the essential Ramones groupie, a pilgrim punk chic. But there is more to her than Sheena. The key lyrics seem to be:

I let her in, if your wonder’in why

Cause (or: when) she’s a spy for the BBI

I let her in and I started to cry

And then I wanted to die

We do not know what BBI means, but there are those who spy for them. The Ramones are an American band, from New York, of course, eating re-fried beans in Queens. If it is the British Bureau, it may have occurred on tour, or the U. S. may have used the British to get around that little thing in the Constitution once interpreted to mean they cannot spy on us, especially for cultural and artistic reasons. The effect of falling in love with one who turns out to be a spy is first that he began to cry, and second that he wanted to die. Indeed, as for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it is very disturbing, even to the roots of one’s citizenship, to have love used to enter ones soul in spying. No one has ever been held accountable for such an act. Yet, since the idea that it is fine if we prostitute our citizens for the purpose of spying on them has recently become assumed, and after all, “what have we to hide” – if we ever did stand up and hold these governments accountable for what was done, achieving meaningful recourse and firing those responsible for such a blatant and complete violation of our Constitution, then it might be understandable why “Ramona” the song is the rocket to Russia that secures liberty. Otherwise these parts of the meaning are incomprehensible.

Ramona may be the subject of Locket Love. The latter could not be a Sheena. “I Don’t Care” follows “Locket” in the arrangement of Side One, so like Ramona, it is one that took him to the edge. She had a lovely locket, a badge or picture, one that never does try to expose her for what she put him through. “I can’t give you anything” may show that he has recovered or become “well.” He is offering himself in courtship, but like the lyric love, has nothing to offer.

“Why is it always this Way” is the tragic conclusion that shows that Punk humor is gallows humor. He just saw her, who seems just a girl in the neighborhood, going to the laundry mat and waving to him, and now she is- again chemo-metaphorically- encased in formaldehyde, like the anatomy subjects from High School class. He just does not know why he cannot let her go. The implied criticism of the psychology-governed modern world, evoking the Punk reaction, is a profound statement or musical accompaniment of the anti-psychiatry movement. This voice has quietly and steadily gained momentum ever since.

The Wall 1979

As summarized by Brian McCollum in the Detroit Free Press (10/ 24/ 10), The Wall “follows the protagonist Pink from a turbulent childhood in postwar England through his struggles as a rock star psychologically distanced from society.” The Wall refers first to this psychological alienation. Over time Pink becomes walled off from all human contact, and this proves to be a prelude to what may be called a political form of demonic possession. “The Wall” then takes on a political meaning, if this had not already occurred in the sections on education. In taking on political meaning, the concept of the wall connects psychological isolation with political despotism and twentieth century tyranny. The unified theory of human action which can contain both psychology and political theory within a single study has not been pursued since the time of Plato and Aristotle. But in order to understand the wall, we must study politics and psychology together.

Tracks 1-2.

The fundamental message of The Wall is a prophetic warning against tyranny of the right wing sort, arising out of British music, or out of the same currents present in British music. This, which will be our thesis or argument regarding “The Wall,” will take some showing, but to begin: there is a connection between the rock star biography of Pink and the tyrant who goes on stage as his “substitute.” That is why the prologue to the whole, with the MC followed by the song “In the Flesh,” is the same as the prologue of the substitutes’ rock concert in the second half. The concert that we are attending becomes the show that Pink is performing the day after his near suicide. This is one of the keys to reading The Wall, and is obvious once it occurs to the thoughtful viewer, though it is not so clear to the average rock station listener. Other similar keys are the connection between the tyranny defeated in World War II and the new Skinhead movement, and the connection of the birth of Pink, his father’s death, and the perverse rebirth of Pink.

In the prologue, He says “If you want to find out what’s behind these cold eyes / You’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise.” This is Pink having been transformed through a journey of education, romantic failure and near suicide, concluding in what is like a nervous breakdown. He becomes as though possessed, or taken over by the tyrannical character of the substitute. The genesis of the tyrant is patterned like baptism, but it is not, or is the opposite. Drugged so that he can continue performing, Pink becomes as if paralyzed, while the tyrant takes over his body. The rock star then becomes the tyrant, with the arena and the fans becoming like participants at a Nazi rally. The message of the art is especially self-critical, of the possibility for evil inside the artist and the rock star himself. Hitler was of course a failed artist, like Manson, and Nietzsche aims at the artist in inculcating his “Will to Power.” The opera “The Wall” is critical of the whole phenomenon of the rock band, huge concerts, and the cow-like adoration of rock fans, as things that prime us for tyranny. There is an obvious connection to the tyrant Hitler, as the World War II sub-theme is brought full circle. This tyrant, though, is British, as is shown in the line “Would You like to see Britannia rule again / All you have to do is follow the Worm.” The Opera draws us a portrait of how the tyrant can arise, allows us to see into his character ahead of time, encourages liberty in opposition to it, and, as in prophesies of the end times, advises “Run.” In this, we worry that the opera has shown, as did Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the “age and body of the time” its “form and pressure” Hamlet (II,ii, 22-24)”

The connection between this tyranny and the portrayal of British education seems to be that the same virtue of obedience instilled by the schoolmaster is useful in preventing us from opposing the tyranny as it arises. The same structure that British education had been molding the subjects to fit into has become the scaffold supporting the future tyrant. Our endurance of surveillance and our willingness to give our liberty over for the comforting arms of Big Mother are also presented as things that prime us for this tyranny. In the end, the bad dream is made to stop, and after the trial, in which Pink is accused of showing feelings and of being crazy, he emerges with his fellow artists outside the wall.

At the end of the introductory tracks, there is a plane crash, the crash of a World War II fighter plane, and a child is born, almost simultaneously. The opera is amazingly similar in this to the rock opera Tommy, as it is also the biography of a post war baby who grew up to become a musician, having lost his father in the war. Things look well, sea warm and sky blue, but there is stormier weather ahead. The song is titled The Thin Ice. The song says that if you should go skating on the thin ice of modern life, the life followed by the silent reproach of millions of emotional people, do not be surprised if a crack in the ice develops, and you “slip out of your depth and out of your mind, with your own fear flowing behind you as the water that gathers atop ice on which one is beginning to sink. Somehow, the life of fame and the reproach or criticism of so many makes one vulnerable to the cracking of the conscious surface, and the emergence of the unconscious that characterizes madness. And this is what we are now to be shown.

Tracks 4 and 5 are about what he, the character, Pink, has inherited in his biography, first from his father and then from British education. Track 7 is about the third part of his inheritance, from his mother. His father’s death is called his having swam across the ocean, leaving just a memory and a snapshot, and the subject searches for his spiritual inheritance. What he has been left was just a brick in the wall. This is the first time the wall is mentioned. He says that what his father has left him is, in prophetic hindsight, just a piece of the wall, and that in retrospect, all human endeavor has proven to have been part of the historical process that was all along the building of the wall. As it seems to me the flashbacks to his father’s World War II experiences indicate that what his father has left him is somehow this problem to deal with, and it is not only that his mother, having lost her husband, has become over-possessive. His father has left him the problem of the wall, or the trouble in the soul of Europe that led to twentieth century ideological tyranny.

What is the wall? When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the album and song were there as an apt expression, though no one was quite sure how to apply the one meaning directly to the other. Reagan said: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” And then, to the amazement of the world, in 1991, it happened. In concert, it was suggested that the wall is built of the things that divide us and lead to war. In the images projected onto the wall, in the 2010 performance by Waters, there is an attempt to hold an antiwar message and teaching: a reminiscence of the horrors of war, the loss of fathers, and brief suggestions of Islamic terror. Pictures of Al Qaeda terrorists were shown on the wall, along with soldiers returning to surprise their children. There were pictures of the people suffering from our prosecution of these wars. As Mr. Waters seemed to suggest, the wall is somehow the walls that divide us, and lead to war. It is the tides of nations in which we may be swept along to war without our own choosing, yet by necessity, as when ones nation is attacked. Flying the plane into the wall seems a nicely done allusion to the attack of September 11, 2001, except that an implication may be that this was an attempt to bring down “the wall,” as though the wall were some global financial concern.

The wall is something like Hobbes’ Leviathan; the artificial person that is the nation, and not only the nation, but somehow every nation, the whole artificial world constructed by human society for us to inhabit. It is the artificial structure of humanity that turns into the tyranny. In the 2010 performance by Waters, comparison was drawn to Big brother, which he had written on the wall with brother crossed out to read “Big Mother.” The wall is Big Mother, as distinct from the tyrant himself. The tyrant is also called “the Worm.” If the tyrant is the Antichrist, the wall might be the structure that turns into his kingdom, or perhaps the Babylon he attacks (Revelation 17). It is that in which we are just another brick, so, the amalgamation of us, though not as humans, but as citizens, or rather subjects, factors and minute fractions of the general will. The wall is also built up by the little things that in hindsight appear to have been just pieces of the amalgamation of the tyranny. Pink asks Mother, “should I help build the wall?” In a related meaning, it is the tyranny that the subjects are put up against by the tyrant, when he orders each kind: “up against the wall.” It is also, in the opera, the “writing on the wall” (“Another Brick in the Wall III”), as Daniel saw in Babylon (Daniel, 5). This is something like that on which a sealed fate is sealed, or that on which a sealed fate is seen or proclaimed, and in The Wall, this is also part of the meaning of the wall. And finally, the wall is that which Pink finds himself behind in the suicidal isolation. This isolation is the result of the construction of the wall through the first half of the opera, leaving Pink behind the wall, waiting for the worms to come.

Track 5 On Education

When the song on education is performed, local children are enlisted from each city, and these have a wonderful time shouting down the schoolmaster character, represented by the large puppet produced by the artist Gerald Scarfe. Waters says he has to explain that the song is in no way anti- education.” Even if this is not quite true, it has become an enjoyable part of education in the character of liberty, as a comic thing that is purgative of the anger or pent up spirits of the students, and not harmful. Still, the song does literally say that we do not need any education. The song is a criticism of education intended to improve education, opposing the petty tyrannies of the British schoolmaster. The discipline that makes American schools seem like soft prisons, which seems necessary to preserve order so that learning can occur, is derived, through the one room school houses, from the British tradition. The question is whether the discipline does not exclude genuine education by imposing an artificial and irrational culture upheld by rewarding cowish acquiescence, though this may be a proper preparation for the business world. The message is a rebellion against this tradition in education, in the name of the liberty that leaves the children alone in their essence, or leaves them in liberty while cultivating them, by genuine education. Genuine education is a great deal of fun. This begins in their liberty in drama to shout down the schoolmaster and to reject thought control, and this too is a lot of fun.

The teachers in the British education of Pink would hurt the children not at all as the tyrant does, but by derision and humiliation. The dark sarcasms are meant to be humiliating, subjecting the spirits of the students. It is a soft sort of despotism, aiming at thought control. It involves elemental behavior modification techniques, traditionally known as animal training, but all for the good of the subject: If you don’t eat your meat, how can you have any pudding? The parents then thrash the children at home if they go out without doing their homework. The purpose of this education is to produce bricks in the wall. One is again reminded of Townshend. So the children shout down the teacher. It is this sort of education that, the opera argues, we do not need. What we do need, though is precisely education, of a genuine sort which includes the fruit of the efforts of the artists like this one, banging their hearts against the wall to improve our culture by making us more free and able to better preserve our liberty.

The seventh track is Mother, the third part of the inheritance of the character formation of Pink. Her loss of her husband has left her in this way overprotective, clinging to her child as all she has left in the world. The song is set in the pattern of a series of great and small questions, and then the answer of the mother. He asks various ultimate questions touching on the radical uncertainty of modern life, as well as human life in all times. They are questions about the world and what will happen to the boy, questions that a mother cannot answer: “Mother, do you think they’ll drop the bomb?” From this universal, terrible question of the modern age, which everyone represses in order even to go about our days, he shifts in the second line to a petty personal concern about his own fortunes in the world: Mother do you think they’ll like this song? Will the world try to crush his balls? Should he help build the wall? Run for president? Trust the government? Or is it just a waste of time? He is going to let his mother decide all his answers to these questions for him. She is the over controlling mother of a musical prodigy. She won’t let him fly, like his father in the war, but she might let him sing. He wonders whether his place in the music industry is a helping to build the wall, and the lure is to make money helping to build the wall, by flattering the audience while corrupting them, and becoming among the architects of culture. Townshend and Waters agree, and in certain parts carry the same message.

The character is called by Jung the “devouring mother,” who seeks to keep her son in exchange for permanently providing the security that young boys are given. Though there is no direct mention of Big Mother, the mother in the seventh track is related to the society that does the same.

She protects him, but she is also going to put all her fears into him, and ultimately make all his nightmares come true. The mother is going to keep control of Pinks love life. His last in the series of questions is whether a prospective woman is good enough for him, dangerous to him, or will break his heart. Mother promises to check out all his girlfriends to make sure no one dirty gets through, to wait up for him to find out where he’s been, keeping him permanently as her “baby,” reminding of “baby blue” in the introductory song Thin Ice.

The final line is shocking. It is about the wall. He asks Mother, did it need to be so high? The line is heart-wrenching, and refers to his madness, eliciting maternal compassion, about philosophical failure against insurmountably high challenge of the Wall. He will indeed hurt himself going over it.

Tracks 8-16 of the first half are a bit hard to follow. The section begins with Goodbye Blue Sky, and this is like a flashback to the blitzkrieg, the bombing of London as Britain entered the war Pink is led into confusion and then romantic failure, which leads to what is like a nervous breakdown, ending what is like suicide. It may have been a suicide attempt, and the half closes before the intermission with “Goodbye Cruel World.”

What seems to be occurring is that, in some working out of his inheritance from his father, he answers the call of the voice in “Empty Spaces for something to use to fill the empty spaces in the wall. Pink is on tour, and blasts into the wide world of infinite choices presented to the successful rock star. In “Young Lust,” he is visited by a prostitute while simultaneously, he calls home to find a strange man answering the phone. As he recognizes that over time, his marriage has grown cold, he snaps. The prostitute’s reaction shows his catatonic outward appearance. Inside, he feels his chain coming off, and cold as a razor. He sends the whore into his room to find his “favorite ax.” She runs out, and the doctor is summoned. Inside, he is asking his wife not to leave him, but then, in cruel tyrannical self sufficiency, realizes that he doesn’t need anything, no walls, no drugs to calm him, or anything at all. Completely walled off, as the last few bricks are put in place, the first disk ends with his suicide note.

The Wall Part II

After the Intermission, the second disk opens with the song “Hey You.” It is a prologue in which the author steps out of the opera to speak directly to the music fans that he is trying to reach, those lonely and those aging, etc. He tells them “Don’t help them to burry the light / Don’t give in without a fight.” But then it is said that this hope was only fantasy, as the wall was too high. Pink could not break free. He was driven mad by the attempt, as is stated in the first of many metaphors for madness, that the “worms ate into his brain.” The final verse returns to hope, calling again to the young rebels, one breaking bottles in the hall. The song finds hope in our standing together. After the concert was over at the Palace, and the lights came on, I found myself saying, quite loudly, the line from Nemo, when all the fish were in the fishing boat’s net, and Nemo tells them “Everybody swim down.” It was his plan to overturn the boat, and free his fellow fish from becoming part of the harvest.

The third track, Nobody Home, finds our rock star Pink in a condition like that of one in some kind of luxury mental institution, with his personal belongings and his poem book, as well as access to cocaine and a piano. The inner experience of madness is astonishing: He has electric light, second sight, and amazing powers of observation. Madness in some forms is like autism in which some ability, such as music or mathematics or memory, is combined with deficiencies that cut the subject off from the usual human world, so that observers are amazed that such prodigious abilities are present in one otherwise so handicapped. It is sometimes genuine abilities that increase the isolation and compound the problem of madness. Pink has “wide starring eyes” and a strong urge to fly, but nowhere to fly to. He returns to the heartbreak of his phone calls home.

Vera Lynn is a famous World War II singer, called the sweetheart of the British empire,” who entertained the troops over the BBC with songs like “We’ll meet again.” The song is as if sung by some living veteran asking if anyone remembers Vera Lynn This enters like a flashback to his father and his father’s world, or even his father’s soul, like a ghost. After the song Vera, Bring the boys back home is a drive that would almost have saved his father, so that he might return like the soldiers in the film clips shown on the wall. These songs occur like a dream in the coma of “Comfortably Numb.”

This is one of two songs written principally by Mr. Gilmore, whereas the rest are written primarily by Roger Waters. The doctor comes in to drug Pink for the show, and the verses alter between the rock star on the inside, barely able to perceive those around him, and the doctor.

While Pink is out, he has a recollection of an experience he had in the delirium of a fever as a child. At first he recalls that his hands felt like two balloons, but then says he can’t explain, that it would not be understood. When I myself was a child, I had a fever, and in the delirium recall something very large next to something very small, and the comparison was staggering and nauseating to my mind. I also saw worms, earthworms, crawling through their holes as ants are seen. Then I remember seeing black limousines, like a presidential motorcade, going around a curve in an asphalt road, with rows of trees alongside it. For years, a comparison of large and small might trigger my memory of these fevered dreams. The recollection emerges with greater clarity again later in the song:

When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse

Out of the corner of my eye

I turned to look and it was gone

I cannot put my finger on it now,

The child has grown, the dream is gone

I have become comfortably numb.

This is the closest thing to a glimmer of light in the whole dark story of Pink and his struggle against the wall. Our apprehension of the fundamental truth is what is like a child’s dream, dimming as we are numbed with age, but glimpsed on the fringes of the child’s perception that is likened by the structure of the poem to the delusion of the fever. This is the last moment of peace before Pink is hurled out again to perform, and is submerged in what is like a possession by an alternate personality.

In the seventh track “The Show Must Go On,” Pink tries to back out of what is like a Mephistopholean deal for his soul made by the musician in exchange for stardom. But there is no backing out, and he is drugged and forced to continue.

The performance, with the strange introduction by the MC, is a repetition of the opening of The Wall. In “In the Flesh,” he emerges as tyrant. The opening lines are the same as the opening lines of “In the Flesh” on the first disk. We are about to see why the evil one says “So you thought you might like to go to the show.” Repeating the introductory phrase, this is a stunning statement of the connection between the desire of the many for rock concerts, where many are moved as one by the piper, and the desire for tyranny. Bowie said Hitler was the first rock star, and this connection is behind what he meant. The two phenomenon are very close, as a football game and a real battle are close, and between High Schools, one sometimes turns into the other. The tyrant is about to make the drama a reality in the drama, in order to vividly pose the question of this sort of tyranny to the audience by having it leap off the stage. He pretends from the stage to turn the concert into a real Nazi style rally, complete with executions:

…To feel the warm thrill of confusion and space cadet glow

I got some bad news for you sunshine

Pink is not well, he stayed back at the hotel

And they sent us along as a surrogate band

Were going to find out where you fans really stand

Are there any Queers in the audience tonight?

Get em up against the wall…

The reason that people go especially to a Pink Floyd concert is well stated as this confusion and glow. But Pink he tells us, has been left comfortably numb back at the hotel, and he has been sent as a replacement. What has actually occurred is that this is Pink drugged and possessed by the character of the tyrant. He then begins a Nazi style purge, beginning with homosexuals. He then proceeds to other groups, Jews and coons and one in the street who just doesn’t look right. all those different are put “up against the wall.” The scene reminds of what Saddam did when he took power, dragging many from the Iraqi parliament to be executed. But it is especially like Nazi tyranny, in its focus on all those different, beginning with gays, and proceeding to Jews and others. On the CD, in the transition to Run Like Hell, he asks are there any paranoids in the audience tonight/ The song is dedicated to all the weak people, who are told to run. Then in Waiting for the Worms, this tyranny is described in further detain, as it seeks to “weed out the weaklings,” in a “final solution,” pursuing the “Queens and the Coons and the Reds and the Jews,” as did the Nazis, and seeks to send their “colored cousins” home.

The song opens with German counting, because the right wing tyranny is like that of Hitler. But the saying is “Would you like to see Britannia rule again? / All you have to do is follow the worm.” The program of restoring the British empire would be like the nationalist platform of German restoration that brought Hitler into power. Fascists, unlike “reds,” are extreme nationalists. The right wing totalitarianism is based on principles of race and biology rather than class and economics, and is nationalist rather than universal, without regard for particular nations, as is the communist ideology. This kind of tyranny is unlike anything that ever existed before the twentieth century. Yet the principles and nature of the tyrant were understood in Greek political philosophy. The tyrant is described in Plato’s Republic as enacting bad dreams (574 e-575 a), and as one transformed into a ware wolf (565 d-e). The worst sort of tyranny is a perversion of the intellect, and the opposite of royal rule symbolized in the crown of a king. The twentieth century sort is worse than the garden variety of tyrant because the circumstances of modern technology and the modern nation allow tyrants to pursue world empire beneath ideologies of utopias to be bought at the price of mass murder. More can be said, though this is not the place.

What Waters has shown in the Wall is the emergence of this tyranny from the artist character of the musician, and from contemporary music. We saw this happen before our eyes, when the neo-Nazi skinhead culture emerged from punk rock, which had in turn emerged from glitter, which emerged from the British rock of the late sixties. Suddenly, with Sid Viscous and the Pistols, Punk music turned right wing and violent. Where this comes from is a mystery, but we see the same thing presented as a warning in The Wall.

Jung too, notices that expressionism in art prophetically anticipated the turn from outward material things toward the inner processes and the growth of interest in psychology over the second and third decades of the twentieth century. Then he writes: “…all art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconsciousness.” The fear is that the wall is prophetic, not in some miraculous way, but in the way that Jung teaches that the artists show what is emerging as a constellation or collection of archetypal meaning in the in the collective unconscious.

In the song “Stop,” Pink attempts to escape or awaken from his nightmare. He wants to take off his uniform and go home, but he is waiting, walled off in “this cell” because he must know, has he been guilty all this time?

He is thrown in Jail, and descends into madness. In the song The Trial, there is every metaphor for madness: Toys in the attic, Over the rainbow, surely gone fishing. One is reminded of the Alice Cooper allusion, and the comment on the meaning of transcendence in The Wizard of OZ. In the song Bohemian Rhapsody, there is an imaginary trial. The trial in madness also occurs in Shakespeare’s King Lear, where Lear imagines the trial of his daughters. It is the imagination of a trial where we plead the justice of our posture and actions, as a way of thinking these things through.

He is accused of showing feelings, but the schoolmaster says he should have opened up more to him.

Artists and the bleeding hearts

Its not easy, banging your heart against some mad bugger’s wall

Pink has arrived outside the wall

The English slang returns

In the 2010 show, Big Brother was written on the wall, and Brother was crossed out and replaced with mother. Big Mother more characterizes the emergence of a tyranny through what Tocqueville calls Soft Despotism. The jest goes that while we are spared genuine tyranny in America, popular will leads to a sort of soft despotism, where, for example, the government is extremely concerned with such things as smoking, while allowing a huge prescription drug industry to experiment with an array of emotion and psych-altering drugs, often with disastrous and fatal side effects. The warning of the piece, its prophecy as art, is of the danger that tyranny will emerge through Big mother, rather than the more masculine tyranny of Orwell’s Big Brother. Technological surveillance is an instrument of Big mother, who will for example be watching us to see if we smoke, etc. Government health care implies such an interest in the habits of the citizens that there will be simply no limits: anything thought advantageous will be done. Children are now being tagged like animals, which would of course prevent all sorts of terrors that are implied by liberty.

A camera showed on the screen, and the saying “Big brother is watching you,” from Orwell’s 1984. Ironically, video surveillance of auditoriums and stadiums can now be quite intense, providing the security from terrorism that makes it possible to continue to go to large events. Presently, the power of surveillance is under free government, and so is used rationally. The people like it when it provides security from crime, but dislike it when it is intrusive. The free peoples of the West would not allow technological surveillance to be used tyrannically, but this depends on the continuation of free government. Survey Surveillance! We must first demand that our representatives know what is being done. We have so far been content to allow the most extensive surveillance and information gathering for the pettiest of advantages, with little regard for the purposes to which this can be used. For example, companies may collect lists of vulnerable senior citizens to target in marketing, etc. Regarding the government, people frequently say that since they have nothing to hide, they do not mind. To this, there are eight reasons that they are not thinking of: Criminality, prejudice and error of law enforcement, the fact that harms due to unreasonable intrusions cannot be compensated, Legitimate secrecy, of a common sort, due to our vulnerability to the ill intentions of other, and a rare sort, for example, the right of a secret agent not to reveal himself to local police. Included in the latter is the right, for example, of the opposition party not to have their psychiatrists bugged, as in the Watergate case. As privacy is eroded, more of the private is forced into the public view, with the imposition of public opinion to rule even in peoples households. An example is the interest of employers that workers not smoke or drink, even at home. As the public view expands, the public view in free countries will have to allow things not previously admitted in public, or things which depend on the difference between public and private, like Marijuana smoking. One can see how fundamental this apparently petty issue becomes, as it is on this question that search into the insides of our bodies and our medical histories is allowed to both government and employers. One is indeed reminded of Orwell’s character Winston Smith, hiding from the cameras.

[1]    Chris Welch, Led Zeppelin, p.109.

[2]    Davis, p. 132; Case, p.67 : …the most valuable quality that Robert Plant brought to Led Zeppelin–sincerity. Unlike Page and Jones, who kept a certain measure of professional distance from their work, Plant was a wholehearted convert to Rock and Roll. He really did cry over albums like Love’s Forever Change, he really did ascribe to the hippie visions of Buffalo Springfield and the Jefferson Airplane; he really was haunted by the pure emotionalism of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. Offstage, Plant liked getting high and reading J. R. R., Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which led him to non-fiction studies of Celtic and Norse mythology, spiritual explorations he and millions of longhairs took very seriously. Above all, his love for the black music of Chicago and the Mississippi Delta was such that he knew the blues like a fire and brimstone preacher knew the Bible: quoting the bitter poetry of lemons and trains, steady rollin’ women and worried minds had been absorbed by him to a degree that it had lost its literal meaning or authorial attribution and become a music of its own. Robert Plant’s intuitive blues feeling was not the collector’s scholarship of Page, but it would sound the cultural reference of Led Zeppelin.”

[1]    Translated by Michael Joyce, in The Collected Dialogues of Plato, p. 566.

[2]    Chris Welch, Led Zeppelin: The Stories Behind Every Song, p. 91.

[3]    Ibid., p. 84-85.

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