Four-Four Forever

Photo by Robin McPherson on

Four-Four Forever

Pop – music for optimistics,
Music for singing at two ayem.
Vinyl that wears its gist on its sleeve,
And makes us believe in them each times we play them.
Sure, we may attempt to rebel,
Claiming to be serious nerds,
But when we hear its tempo swell,
We find we still know all the words.
Cos pop music is just so poppy,
Music for yelling “There’s no-one can stop me !”
It’s music for happiness,
Music for crying to,
Brings out our best when it’s not even trying to.

Pop – music for earworm farmers,
Music for dancing the daily commute.
It pierces our armour, it captures our cortex,
Deep down in the vortex and never be mute.
Our parent, they just don’t get it,
Just as their folks just didn’t get our parents in turn,
And we likewise just can credit
What turns-on our kids these days – but no cause for concern.
So keep the upbeat up, we’ve learned,
For ballads and minor keys have to be earned.
Some say it’s artifice,
Some say it’s cash –
A flash in the pan, they insist – but oh, what a flash !



Don’t tell me that you don’t use backing,
You’re out of breath but your voice ain’t cracking
You’re throat is rough but you still sing higher
You don’t fool me, you’re a liar liar !
I know, I know, you don’t havta stand stock still
To still be making a sound,
But the more you move, the more you end up shrill
From all that jumping around.
There’s a reason op’ras are static,
No-one wants their divas asthmatic
As half their notes are drowned.

It used to be so easy to mock you
Without a single mic on a stand –
These days they’re tiny, it’s harder to knock you
Phoning it in – but soon we’ll clock you.
The more you rock like a tick-tock band,
The more you rely on a helping hand,
With your live feed cut and your vocals canned.

You can wave your arms,
You can shake your butt,
You can flash your charms,
You can jiggle and strut,
But if you wanna be clear and pure
Then keep one foot firm on the floor. 
And don’t pretend to be a flyer –
You don’t fool me, you’re a liar liar !

Now I agree that the single’s better,
And sometimes live you lose the odd letter,
But don’t pretend you’re a multitrack choir –
You don’t fool me, you’re a liar liar !
I know, I know, you’re not on the radio now,
You need to put on a show –
But the more you move, the more you moo like a cow,
The more you croak like a crow.
There’s a reason Broadway has dancers,
So the singers aren’t breathless prancers
Swallowing their mi re do.

It used to be so easy to bust you,
With none of your guitars plugged-in.
These days, you’re wireless – we have to trust you,
That what we hear is you, and just you.
Dance if you must, and thrust and spin,
But don’t pretend with an innocent grin
That you don’t commit the original sin.

You can do the bop,
You can do the bump,
But not the hop,
The skip, or jump,
If you wanna be belting-out that solo,
Then don’t be bouncing around like a yoyo.
And don’t pretend that you never tire –
You don’t fool me, you’re a liar liar !

Every time this poem is read aloud, I want the speaker to also be performing a complex dance routine.

I also wrote an extra section below for the twelve-inch version:

Lip Sinking

Are you ready to answer back ?
Let’s jump on the spot till our voices crack.
Don’t ask your techs to mute your mic,
Just pant along as much as you like.

And one and two and three and four
Not with a whimper but a roar !
And five and six and seven eight,
Don’t swallow them, articulate !

You got the lungs to go agen ?
You ready to sculpt some oxygen ?
I can’t hear you, let me guess,
I’ll take your wheezing as a “yes”.

And one and two and three and four,
Let’s drop them down to the basement floor,
And five and six and seven eight,
Let’s hit the heights to the Pearly Gate.

You’re puffing and blowing from all your jerking,
Don’t deny your throat’s on fire –
There’s no shame showing how hard you’re working
Be a gasper, not a liar liar.


Photo by Nothing Ahead on


Stripped-down and unplugged,
Going back-to-basics –
These are words that fill my ears with dread.
Guitars strummed and harps tugged,
Waxed and polished double basses,
Drummers told to stay at home instead.

I don’t want your simple sound,
I want music complicated
I want synths that growl and pound,
Electrified, not automated.
Full of intricate design,
Not simply autotuned and gated –
I want music of its time,
Not scared of being dated.

Hashed out and doped up,
Family-friendly faceless,
Perfect songs for sending off the dead.
Slowed-down and moped-up,
Going back to basics –
These are words this fill my soul with lead.

Tinny Tonic

Pet Work Translation Tools by Son Luu & Pedro Oliveira

Tinny Tonic

When songs go on too long,
When six minutes should be three –
Well, that’s when they change key.
Your skeleton-solution,
Revolution-by-indentikit –
It doesn’t pick the lock, but bludgeon it.
Nothing says you’ve run out of ideas
Like modulation,
Crunch-changing gears by slurring-up the speed –
Won’t you spare my tears
From your pinched-throat oration,
Your goodness-me vibration to make my ears bleed ?
I wish it were an octave that you’d shifted,
Or used harmonies,
And not just drifted-up a third
For yet one more reprise.
And please, don’t start ad-libbing
Like a gibbering MC –
There’s a reason why they call this bullshit ‘scat’.
Your climax won’t excite me
By just singing out of key –
The sparkle in your tonic has gone flat.

The Rhythm of Life

Photo by Pixabay on

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

Photo by Mike on

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

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

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,
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 peep 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.