The Rhythm of Life

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The Rhythm of Life

I cannot dance to seven-four,
It always sound so incomplete –
The lines are rushing, overkeen,
They jump the gun, they crash the scene.
It’s never seven-to-the-floor
That jolts me up out of my seat –
We talk in trochees, think in rhyme,
We walk and breathe in common time.

Heartbeats are waltzes, though –
Three-four and quick-quick-slow,
Atrium, ventricle,
In-out-rest metrical,
Pulse and diastole,
ONE two (three) ONE two (three)…

I cannot dance to seven-four,
I nod along, but off the beat –
It may be close enough for jazz,
But lacking somehow in pizzazz –
For music isn’t just the score,
We have to feel it in our feet –
And I have two, not one or three,
So what use surplus notes to me ?

My hips ain’t sound technicians,
My feet ain’t math’maticians,
So they’re losing their positions,
When the bar keeps on clipping,
When the beat keeps on slipping,
Till my sole fills the hole
With the wrong sort of tripping.

I cannot dance to seven-four,
I don’t possess such odd-timed feet,
I’m not a pro, I’m just a guy
Who wants to groove, not reason why –
And dancing shouldn’t be a chore,
I shouldn’t have to count the beat,
So call me boring, call me white,
But four-four lets me dance all night.

No Cover, No Sample

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No Cover, No Sample

Ev’ry thing I’ve ever heard is in me,
Running through me,
Lying low.
Ev’ry song and ev’ry word within me
Helps renew me,
Helps me grow.
I honour all who came before me,
Credit all who built my story –
Don’t forget and don’t ignore –
For without them, then I would not be me,
I’d have no core.
But all their work is cogitated,
Filtered, altered, complicated –
All I ever loved and hated,
Melts and bonds and stirs the pot of me
In which they pour.
Inspiration is no sin,
But make it ours, and make it new –
So add some flesh beneath the skin
And add some point of view.
All I saw and all I heard,
I freely borrow, freely quote –
But never, never word for word
Or note for note.

Unclip the Capo

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Unclip the Capo

We discovered her
As she busked beneath an underpass –
Homeless, I believe,
But her singing was pure class –
Just the sweetest voice of waifdom
And a simply strummed guitar
And we saw a mutual benefit
In crafting her a star.

We set a mic before of her
And we let her sing her soul,
And marvelled at her innocence
Undimmed by cold and dole.
And as she left us weeping,
So she turned and said with half a grin
“I’d like to try all that again,
But this time plug me in.”

She blagged a beat-up Fender
And she risked a power chord,
And suddenly her eyes were bright
As if she’d seen the Lord.
She spidered up the neck and slid back down
With whammy and sustain,
And asked the box crank her up
With tremolo and gain.

So by the time of bass and drums,
We couldn’t well refuse.
But oh, where was our angel
In this devil with the blues ?
“It’s always sounded this way in my head”
She said, “That’s how it swings,
But I’ve only had two hands before,
And only had six strings.”

Silicon Sideman

Silicon Sideman

The trouble with a drum machine
Is that it hasn’t got an ego,
Trouble with a drum machine
Is that it always keeps in time:
The fourth beat goes where the first three go,
As do the crash and click and chime.
Ev’ry beat created
Is so beautifully weighted
And it comes along precisely
When a beat’s anticipated.
With never a roll and never a fill
It just keeps beating,
Beat-beat-beating,
Beating on and on until
At last the plug is pulled, the button pushed,
The damn thing overruled and hushed,
And finally each tireless brush and stick is still.
The trouble with a drum machine
From marching boys to jazz to pop,
Is knowing when to make a noise,
And knowing when to stop.

The Merchantman Shanty

detail from Moonlight over the Bosphorus by Edward Hoyer

The Merchantman Shanty

“Work songs were banned in the Royal Navy”
                                                                                    – Capt A. Bakalarka

I used to sail with the king, I sailed
On a Royal Naval brig,
But there they wouldn’t let me sing
Whene’er we raised the rig

     So we hauled away in silence so,
     We had to heave without a ho,
     We dare not hum a quick-quick-slow
     Or the cat would make us holler.

We mayn’t disturb his majesty
     With a too-rye-ay and a yo-ho-ho,
For only lubbers sing at sea
     So let all singing go.

I used to sail with the king, I sailed
On a Royal Naval sloop,
But I couldn’t let my whistle ring
Whene’er we swabbed the poop.

     So we scrubbed away in silence, see,
     We had to dumb without a dee,
     We dare not hum a do-re-mi,
     Or the cat would make us holler.


We mayn’t disturb his majesty
     With a too-rye-ay and a yo-ho-ho,
For only madmen sing at sea
     So keep your whistle’ing low.

I used to sail with the king, I sailed
On a Royal Naval barque,
But I must not pluck a single string
Till safely after dark.

     So we sailed away in silence, aye,
     We had to hew without a cry,
     Unless the roaring wind was high
     And the cat can’t hear us holler.


We mayn’t disturb his majesty
     With a too-rye-ay and a yo-ho-ho,
For only sirens sing at sea
     So take your singing below.

The lines in roman are sung by the shanty man, the lines in italics are sung by the crew.

Soundtrack to the Revolution

Soundtrack to the Revolution

Say you want a revolution ?
You wanna be a street-fighting man,
Raging hard against the masterplan ?
But violence is no solution –
However much the Man is to blame,
You’ll never beat him by killing in the name.

We won’t be televised
As we meet the new boss, city on fire,
Between the barracades, over the wire.
You wanna be mobilized
By standing in the way of control
As the Eton Rifles take their bloody toll ?

You wanna fight the power ?
Then let the records turn turn turn –
With ice-pick vocals to make ears burn.
Cometh the finest hour,
Then lock up the guns & ammo – it’s clear
That we’ve gotta sing our way through here.

Fernando, can you hear the drums,
Rocking the free world, rocking the casbah –
Let’s sing for a year that we’re dreaming after,
Until the reckoning comes –
And the lost cause chord at last gives birth.
To give peace a chance, for what it’s worth.

The Critic’s Lament

detail from The Art Critic by Norman Rockwell

The Critic’s Lament

If you don’t like this then you’re a moron,
If you do like that then you’re a lout,
If you’d rather t’other, then I guess you’re on your own –
For even when the way is shown,
You’d rather do without.

If you don’t like this then you’re a cretin,
If you do like that then you’re a square –
Yet now, for all my years of selfless vetting of the muse,
So you masses never have to choose,
It’s like you just don’t care

How can you reject my spotless taste
In favour of your own ?
Or let my perfect wisdom go to waste
Despite my megaphone ?
For who will sing the praises of the chosen
That they’ve scarcely earned,
And who will prick the egos of the posers
Once their backs are turned ?

So if you don’t like this then you’re a heathen,
And if you do like that, you’re thick as planks –
For I alone am high priest to this seething sea of stars,
I’m crushing dreams, inflicting scars –
Yet still I get no thanks !

Acid Verse

Acid Verse

Lis’ning to psychelic music,
Joss stick sending up a stream,
Lava shadows on the ceiling,
Red wine drifting off to dream.
Don’t need drugs to taste the acid,
Just an over-yellow mind-
It’s gonna be one of those fitful nights
When the gears of my conscious grind.

Too much psychedelia,
It’s not from the drugs, this trance, though –
I swear, just wine, and a lack of coffee,
So why do the colours dance so ?

I guess that I must be dreaming ?
I really hope that I’m dreaming…
Cos if this is really psychotrope
Then I’m trapped inside a kaleidoscope.

I guess there are folks who deal with this ev’ry day –
Does it make me a bad person to say
That I never wanted to end up that way ?
Like this way.  Like slipping down the slope.

Lis’ning to psychelic noodling,
Playing somewhere, distant, bleak –
It’s gonna be one of those endless nights
When the door of perception creak.

Too much recycled dioramaa,
But if not drugs, then what have I taken ?
If only I’d swallowed some bloody caffeine
Cos I need to reawaken.

So why am I still here dreaming ?
Or what am I not here dreaming ?
It’s not any pills from off the shelf,
But maybe my brain has brewed some itself ?

Maybe it’s cloning its own serotonin all day,
Or morphing endorphins to help it to play.
Or doped-up on dopamine, drooling away ?
Who’s to say ?  Is it madness by stealth ?

Lis’ning to psychedelic mumbling,
Needle jumping, stuck on repeat –
It’s gonna be one of those Mobius nights
When Alice can’t find her feet.

Too much psyched-out sepia –
I don’t even own a secret stash,
But these uninvited thoughts wanna dance,
Now this party’s about to crash.

Can I still hope I’m nothing but dreaming ?
I gonna need help if I find I’m not dreaming
Cos I just don’t know how I’m gonna survive
If I’m right here awake and I’m streaming this live.

I don’t want to crash, but I don’t want to stay,
So help me to crash to an overcast day –
Cos there’s so many colours, I can’t find my way –
Help me, pray, when the DTs arrive.

Lis’ning to spaced-out psychic music,
Sometimes my mind is not my friend,
Cos psychedelic may sound angelic,
But it’s based on the blues in the end.

Pump Up, Soak In, Churn Out

Pump Up, Soak In, Churn Out

Ev’ry time we turn the music on
And spin that single, dream that dream,
We’re really lis’ning to the Man.
For ev’ry time we place that needle,
Fire that laser, hit that stream,
We’re all just following the Plan.

Rock & roll ain’t noise pollution,
But it sure is toxic waste
To manufacture vinyl, drop by drop.
And digital is nothing without phones,
Upgraded in a haste –
The beat goes on, the beat must never stop.

The constant chemicals that we abuse
Ain’t pills and coke,
They’re plastic pop and heavy metal ores.
For all our music’s rock music in the end,
To burn and smoke –
We’re so unhip, we groove to dinosaurs.

And where is all this power from to fight the power ?
Nukes and coal.
Our phones get fat while the rainforest gets thinned.
How can we let the sunshine in
To let the records roll ?
The answer, dudes, is blowing in the wind.

Too Fast

Too Fast

Pop tunes reckon that they haven’t got long,
So they splash their chorus in the first few bars –
They’re terrified of the fingers that skip,
They’ve got no time to take a trip.
The ear-economy for any song
Must reach us in shops and lobbies and cars –
There’s no slow build-up any more,
Just one-two-three, then four-to-the-floor.