Fads & Fangles

H393 Old Grammophone by Ben Paul

Fads & Fangles

It started with vinyl,
Then moved to cassettes –
Now cameras use film,
And our watches use springs.
For all we progress,
So we harbour regrets –
The world has gone wireless,
But we long for strings.

We’re too young to ever
Remember those days,
But we switch-out the hoover
For artisan brooms.
I wonder what’s next ?
A typewriter craze ?
A love for old diesels,
Because of their fumes ?

We’re questioning science
Like never before –
We’re leery of vaccines,
We’re losing our spark.
I hope it’s a fetish,
And not something more –
We’ve no use for luddites,
Or Ages of Dark.

It started with vinyl,
Then moved to 5G –
It used to be fun,
Till the humour was gone.
But if it’s just fashion,
Then let’s let it be –
Be retro today,
And tomorrow move on.


Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com


The Nazis used to be quite rare,
With few who earned the name –
But now it seems they’re ev’rywhere
And free speech is to blame !
These random people on the net
Who think they get a say –
I call them out as fascists, yet
Their views leap by the day
I put them down, but still them come,
Replete with facts and stats.
I can’t believe how many scum
Are lurking in the chats.
They should be rounded up, the lot,
And left to rot in Hell –
And if you disagree, a spot
Gets found for you, as well…

Lying in State

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Lying in State

I fully admit, I don’t understand
This waiting in line.
Hours and hours, as if it’s a test,
Come rain or shine,
To be a part of history, they say,
To mark the moment –
To prove themselves her loyal subjects ?,
Or maybe beg atonement ?

I fully admit, I don’t understand,
As the World looks on  –
We’re not all doing this !, I cry,
Till my voice has gone.
I scoff and rant and pity them,
But I’m one of a very few –
And nobody’s lis’ning to me, of course,
They’re all watching the queue.

I fully admit, I don’t understand,
And I never will.
I hope this brings about a change –
No more standing still.
But right now, the status is in the quo,
The ink won’t leave the pen.
I’ve never felt so alien
To my fellow countrymen.

Qwerty Sonata

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Qwerty Sonata

I can hear her fingers dancing, dancing,
Over the keyboard, rat-a-tat-tat.
The tempo always five-to-a-heartbeat –
I can tell her typing, wherever she’s sat.
Her fingernails, a little too long,
A tambourine of bracelets, an octave higher,
Grounded by the bass of the spacebar,
And the leak of her headphones bringing the choir.
I can hear our fingers dancing, dancing,
Stretching for shift, then back to home –
The double-letter quavers, the patter of delete,
And the rhythm of return as a metronome.
But not all keyboards are tuned the same,
Staccato or reverb in stroke-length and gauge.
I like it the most when we harmonise together –
An orchestra of typists, filling up the page.

God save the Queen (but the Devil take the Plebs)

Google in sackcloth and ashes – Me Too or FOMO ?

God save the Queen (but the Devil take the Plebs)

And so it begins, the Toady Race,
The public performance of grief –
Saccharine and suffocating,
Preaching your True Belief !
Posters declaiming official tears,
Tributes gushing with pomp.
Change the stamps and coins and anthem –
Such a jolly romp !
Get that sobbing good and loud,
And really have a bawl !
Hope your knees are in good shape
For the curtsy and the crawl.
Show yourself sufficiently sad
For ev’ry arse-licked toast –
Bow and scrape and bob and tug
Till the knighthood’s in the post.

Vive la République !

In other news, I see we’re going to get a bank holiday for the funeral. But we will continue not to receive a bank holiday for Election Day. Priorities, I guess…


Brick for Brick

Recreations of Hadrian’s Wall and The Great Wall, by artists alas unknown.

Brick for Brick

I grew up with castles and churches and manors,
Their architecture feels like home –
While Indian temples and Chinese pagodas
Were glorious aliens in stone.
It all made sense that Kublai Khan
Had not one dome in his Pleasure Dome

But when I saw the Great Ming Wall,
It all felt too familiar –
It looked like something the Romans might have built,
Had they reached this far
Rounded arches, crenellations, arrow loops –
All quite bizarre.

The only telltale signs were in the watchtowers,
And their roofs –
Simple saddelbacks, slightly concave,
They were hard-hill-hatted booths.
Not like the four-square hips of the Romans –
Projections providing proofs.

Except…on many of the towers we see,
These structures are robbed away.
And we’re left with familiarity
That’s out-of-place, astray.
Was it built-up piecemeal, really ?
At this point, who can say ?

From what I can see in images, the watchtowers had roofs that were a mix of hard-hill and hanging-hill, the difference being that the latter had slightly overhanging eaves as in the image below.

Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com

To be clear, saddleback roofs (aka gable roofs) were not unknown to Romans, but not I think used atop their watchtowers.

Arbeia Gate by Michael Kooiman and Limes WP 3/26 by Carole Raddato, both showing recreations of what is believed to have stood.

Breezeblock & Plasterboard

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Breezeblock & Plasterboard

I live in the suburbs
In a box made of ticky-tacky –
It’s small and it’s samey,
And won no award.
It’s not to conform,
And it’s not to be strange or wacky,
I live here because here
Is all I can afford.

I grew up around here,
Then I went to the university
And I came out with a large debt
And I found my first job.
And it paid not a lot,
Except for in uncertainty,
So I tried for a mortgage
For a key on a fob.

There’s a Barratt, there’s a Redrow
There’s a Wimpey, there’s a Jubilee.
Where’s the woodland, where’s the meadow ?
Oh, please don’t ask me.

But all they would give me
Was a box made of ticky-tacky,
But it’s dry and it’s plumbed-in,
If no pleasure-dome.
I raised up my children
And worked as a gopher-lacky,
Trying to get by
And make it a home.

So spare me your distaste
How I went to the university –
And spare me your prejudice
Of me and my peers.
I don’t have your millions
Or a co-operative nursery,
Yet I struggled and I made it
Despite all your sneers.

Blame the council, blame the builder,
Blame the bubble, blame the rising-sea.
If it all seems out of kilter,
Then please don’t blame me.

This is a response to the song Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds.

Audience Participation

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Audiences Participation

Ooh, they’re singing a song…
And I think we know this one ?
Aren’t we clever ?
I say, why not clap along,
To show we know this one ?
Now altogether !
Ignore the grumps among us
Who just think it rather rude –
Come on, let’s shout !
I bet the cast will thank us
For our effort to intrude
And drown them out !

Verco Verco Brico

Encore at the End of Time by Rodney Matthews

Verco Verco Brico

I learned so much of what I know of poetry
From the joys of pop –
I soaked it up, subconscious, in no hurry,
Drop by golden drop.
The verse, the chorus, the linking-bit inbetween,
And the bridge that would soar –
The words were the fuel in the polished machine,
In structures as old as lore.

I never knew how I knew it at all,
But I knew it all,
When I heard the chorus call –

And the songs remained the same,
That’s how they’re made,
For any old hit you can name –
A-B-A-B, occasional C,
It’s all a game,
Repeat to fade.

I learned so much, I even learned surprise
When the form was messed about –
I loved it when they threw me, played me wise,
From frustration or mischief, no doubt.
From starting with the chorus before the verse,
Or adding a verse when it ought to end –
It felt illicit, and I longed to immerse,
In my iconoclastic, mixed-up friend

I never knew how I knew it was wrong,
But I knew so strong
When I heard that rebel song –

Cos the songs can’t stay the same –
We need new tricks
Not more of what the past became –
A-B-A-B, you’re boring me –
Let’s change the game,
Let’s re- the mix !

Come on, pop, I’m looking to you
For something new,
To change your key.
So come on, pop, don’t let it be,
Let’s tear on through
This boogaloo !
I need you, pop, to shake the tree,
Rejecting their authority,
A-one, a-two,
That’s what you do –
So do it for me !

Are you ready,
Ready to leap right off this ridge ?
Into the space beyond the dials ?
Into our hungry ears ?
To see what’s at other end of this bridge,
In the unfamiliar miles
Of the pregnant years ?
Just because we’ve played three minutes,
Who says that it’s time to stop ?
To push things past the social limits,
Isn’t that the point of pop ?

Examples of unusual song structures that struck me over the years:

OMD often used an instrumental hook as a chorus, as does Seven Nation Army.  Del Shannon’s Runaway used an instrumental in place of the second verse.  The Byrds’ version of Mr Tambourine Man has a chorus, a verse, a chorus…and that’s it !  Does that make the verse more of a bridge…?  Except it feels it lasts too long for that…  This feels like a cut-down version of AABA (many ‘Great American Songbook’ tunes, like Somewhere Over the Rainbow), where the verses are doing all the heavy lifting with just a single bridge coming in the latter half.

Speaking of verses, repeating the opening stanza at the end of the song is quite common (Nights In White Satin, Annie’s Song), but Paper Planes by MIA repeats all of its four verses as soon as it sings them, so we hear the first verse twice before moving onto the second, which then repeats before the third etc. Killing In The Name uses the same verse (and of course the same chorus) before it’s extended bridge section that you’ll never hear on the radio, and Mr Brightside effectively repeats the entire song in the second half. Not to mention I’m Henery the Eighth I Am

Sometimes an instrumental would come early, after the first chorus instead of the second (Pipes of Peace, The Importance of Being Idle), followed by a repeat of the chorus which we perceive as the climax, but then proceed with the second unexpected verse while not actually being any longer.

Some songs reduce the chorus to a single line, like The Sound of Silence.  Perhaps this is less ‘chorus’ and more ‘refrain’.  Conversely, songs that could be thought of as all chorus Love Me Do and There She Goes.  Other songs, like many by Def Leppard, deny us the chorus the first time through, moving from pre-chorus straight into the second verse.

Metal has often seen songs as more of a symphony, and not just in terms of guitar solos – they often have more lyrics and parts than three-minute pop – for instance, Metallica’s One develops midway into almost a different song, and doesn’t even circling back to its origins.  Even more medley-esque is Happiness is a Warm Gun, where the parts only feel loosely related.  Another song which wanders yet finds its way back home is Bohemian Rhapsody, yet keeping us on our toes through the journey (or at least it did when first we heard it, way back when).

Some songs seem to introduce the bridge for the first time, but then forget to repeat the chorus, so we have an outro instead, like Immigrant Song, Flash, or What Do You Want From Me.

But best of all wae the songs which refuse to keep under five minutes, and not just by repeating the chorus too many times.  Some like Suede’s The Asphalt World make us think they’re winding down, but the coda turns into an intermission as they kick themselves up again and regain their momentum.  I get this sense from I Feel Love as well, as long as you don’t have the bastardised cut-down radio version.

Of course, not every song can have a bizarre structure, nor should it, but neither should we feel compelled to follow the formula when the song wants to go somewhere different.  If only, following AAB, the Rainbow had led us to a C instead…?

Soap Bubbles

A still life by Marcel Christ

Soap Bubbles

There’s a poem that I meant to write,
Back when I wrote a them ev’ry day,
Back when I still had things to say –
I should have said it then.
And now, I don’t remember quite,
Except it would have been a hit –
Before it faded, bit by bit,
And stayed within my pen.

But humour me and let me quote to you
Some lines I almost wrote –
Some lines I never got to know,
Yet knew were quite the best I’d ever show.
Ah well, no point lamenting,
Or resenting one that floated off instead –
Although, I sometimes wonder
At the hundred things that moment might have said.

There’s a poem that I meant to write,
Back when the poems wrote themselves,
As passionate as magic spells –
I should have cast it then.
And now, the page is far too white,
And now my metre’s far too slow.
I had my chance, and let it go –
It won’t come round agen.

But sit with me and let me read
A few more lines I never freed,
Some lines I never knew I knew –
Adieu – into the ether with god-speed.
Ah well, no point regretting,
Or forgetting all the other ones that stay –
I wrote too many verses
To waste curses on the one that got away.