Sheep Mayn’t Safely Graze

Photo by Nick Bondarev on

Sheep Mayn’t Safely Graze

We rack them out between bridges and nuts,
And crank till they must reply.
And those low, low throbs that we feel in our guts –
Well, the sheep feel them too, by-and-by.
But it’s never their bleats or their baas that are scored,
It’s never their voices that sing from each chord,
And it’s never their own requiem we applaud.
In life and in death, so their tension will always be high.

How many hundreds of thousands of sheep
Have our symphonies dispatched ?
Every cello has reason to weep,
And scream as its sinews are scratched.
How many flocks must we cull to the muse ?
How many sacrificed lambkins and ewes ?
On the altar of Bach shall their entrails ooze.
They live for this music, but always do strings come attached.

Hickory Sticks

broken drumstick close up dark dirty
Photo by abednego ago on


Hickory Sticks

Why do I hate Phil Collins ?
Well, I try not to hate anymore
But why do I so dislike Phil Collins ?
Do I ?  I’m not so sure.
I still think Air Tonight is a classic,
At least, till the kit kicks in –
The rest, I mostly could leave ’em,
But if you dig ’em, I guess you win.

No, the reason I hate…no, never hate,
But maybe biting my thumbs,
Is all because he single-handed killed the 80s
With his drums –
His thudding, crushing, reverb-hushing,
Stop-and-starty gated drums !
His all-commanding, corp’rate-branding,
Undecaying zombie drums !

It’s not all of Phil Collins’s fault, of course,
He only rubbed the lamp,
And soon the genius was loose
To spread itself through desk and amp –
Producers loved its soulless beats
That never swing or soothe,
And ev’ry engineer beheld
The emperor’s new groove.

It took us all the decade to wake up,
Ten years too late,
To suss the subtleties we’d lost
When drumskins don’t vibrate.
How many tunes that now sound dated,
Could instead have sounded great ?
So this is why I curse Phil Collins –
Cos he opened up the gate !

But what do I know, and what does he care ?
He’s loved by thousands ev’ry day –
So he’s the famous millionaire,
And I’m just the whinging, self-smug square
Who cannot even play.
So I don’t like his drums ?  So what ?
Is that the best I’ve got
To think that I can moan away ?

You know what I hate about Phil Collins ?
I hate how he makes me hate.
How all of my petty ugliness
Is rising to the bait.
He lets me let myself off the hook
And lets my mouth run free –
As if my taste is the only taste,
And I dare you to disagree.

So sing it, Phil !
Sing it inspite of me,
Sing it to frighten me,
Out of my combative them-and-us cry.
Ignore my stridency,
Forgive my overkill,
Try to enlighten me –
Live and let live till we die.

I guess this is where the toms come in,
The final chorus beckons, I see.
Could we just let them ring out for once, do you reckon,
Just for me ?
Ungate my heart, take me out of the 80s,
And into a decade of long decay –
Or else let’s part, and never be haters.
Bang the drum – not fade away.



Delay Pedal

press to........delay


Delay Pedal

Strike a note – an A – with a delay to fade away and underlay the next you play.
Strike a note – an E – and you will see how easily it echoes free within the key.
Now slide away and do you see how this delay shall carry me
Across the stay, the next, and three, till they decay in filigree ?



Te Deum

Village Choir by Samuel Grimm


Te Deum

The hymns we used to sing at school,
The same we sang again in church –
With dreary verse by dozen verses,
Crawling by as slow as hearses.
Hymns we had to sing at school
Beneath the master’s gaze and birch,
We mumbled and we croaked along
In vain attempt to kill the song.
Amazing Grace,
Thou art no friend –
Oh, will thy tortures never end ?

But maybe those Victorians
Were not so grim in what they wrote –
They knew the lack of vocal fires
Within the souls of conscript choirs.
Those mutton-chopped Victorians
Were scoring for the weary throat –
Just make it monotone and slow,
And not too high and not too low.
Oh, Rock of Ages,
Hear our shout –
Pray let thine organ drown us out !

Of course, they almost killed the music,
Almost beat the rhythm from us –
Generations, stripped and cold,
With not one note that we could hold.
But still… there sang another music,
One with joy and lust and promise –
Yet the faithful still can’t figure
How the Devil’s tunes are bigger…
Hallelujah !
Mutants rule !
With our song Bright and Beautiful !







When the words won’t come
And the rhymes run dry,
When the tunes won’t hum
And the airs won’t fly,

When the metres break
And the scans won’t flow,
When the beat won’t take
And the one won’t go,

When all the lyrics stutter,
And when all the choirs mutter,
And when all rhythms splutter,
Sing along, sing along !

We cannot all be nightingales
With perfect breath to fill our sails,
Or even decent banshee wails –
We were not built for song.

We have no need to score each stress
To make ourselves be heard –
If tending slightly to a drone or whine.

But if you’re rendered music-less,
Well, take our flat and spoken word
That life goes on in monotone just fine.



That Old Old Song

love song


That Old Old Song

I must have heard ‘I love you’ sang,
In ev’ry song they always sang,
A hundred thousand times
Or more –
And wanted to believe it…

I must have heard them sing about
The love they had to sing about
A hundred thousand times,
I’m sure –
And who could disbelieve it ?

And yet, no matter how they sing it,
Still their songs can never swing it –
Love is not, and they can’t bring it in,
No matter how they rhyme.

Have they got nothing else to sing,
In all the world and ev’rything ?
Because their endless songs are wearing thin
The hundred thousandth time.

I must have heard ‘I love you’ sang,
I must have hoped and also sang,
A hundred thousand times
Or more –
And never did achieve it.



After the Aftermath

broken vinyl


After the Aftermath

I heard a cautious plucking
Of a rubber-banded string,
And a nervous, tuneless whistle,
And a doorbell’s lonely ring.
While the birds were oddly quiet
Till a starling risked a ping,
And a chorus of the grazing ewes replied.

As note by chord by tonic,
So the melodies returned –
For all we needed silence,
They cannot, will not be spurned.
We’ve lost them many times before,
But somehow never learned –
On the day beyond
The day the music died.

I heard the constant background hum
Change key,
To slowly raise the dead –
From tinnitus to industrial thrum,
In C,
Inside, outside my head.
From the tapping in the plumbing
To the footsteps that I tread,
Even my heartbeat was a drum
Which would not be denied.



One, Two, Three, Dead



One, Two, Three, Dead

Where are all the protest songs ?
Where is all the agit-pop to tell us ev’rything is wrong ?
I hear they’re out there, chanting still –
But somehow never reach me, and they prob’ly never will.

Where are all the protest songs ?
I mean, I know that pop has always
Been obsessed with love and lovers.
It’s rare than politics belongs
Beside the sugar on the airwaves,
Saving all its love for brothers.

They try to set the world to right,
But only in a quiet corner of the dial, late at night,
And fight-the-power-chords and tears
Are never crossing-over into unsuspecting teenage ears.

Best to use the tools you find
By marching to a funky beat
And tapping into pop’s romance –
For if you want to move the mind,
Then first you move the feet,
By making earworms of your chants.



Compulsory Mechanical Licence

assorted title cassette tapes
Photo by Vova Krasilnikov on


Compulsory Mechanical Licence

Sing it if you want to,
Cos I cannot stop you.
Pay me my royalties,
Do with it as you please.
For once a song is out there,
Then it’s out there for ev’ryone –
It’s out there for evermore,
They’re all out there together.
Until I’m dead for three score ten
And then it’s all for free forever.
But until that day,
If the author gets their pay,
Then the artist gets to sing away.
Permission isn’t theirs to grant,
And nobody tells anyone they can’t.



Desert Island Diss

on the beach


Desert Island Diss

Eight songs ?  Just eight songs ?
Then how will I even survive ?
Eight thousand is nearer the mark
To keep my spirits alive.

Eight song played back-to-back
That’s half-an-hour-ish, tops.
Just half-an-hour of paradise
Until salvation stops.

Washed ashore with a gramophone –
The wind-up kind, I’m guessing.
You’ll need a bigger bribe than that
To get me to confessing.

It always sounds such agony,
This torpid, tropical clime –
I’ll take the grimy, busy rain
Of cities ev’ry time.

There’s Bill and the Bible, as well, of course,
So that’s the loo-roll sorted,
But for my pick of luxury,
I’d like to be deported.

Eight songs ?  Just eight songs ?
Is that all you’ll allow ?
If music is so rare and cruel,
I beg, please drown me now…