I just watched The Cure be inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame, lower case deliberate. I actually think that Robert Smith deserves the accolade having enjoyed his whimsical sense of despair from a distance for many years.
Then suddenly it goes all Janet Jackson on me and I reach for the balm of discord and heroic Wagnerian posturing that Godpseed! You Black Emperor provide.
I am still not sure why we were watching the hall of fame other than it may have been better than CNN recreating the eighties which I lived through and was not so bright and breezy as the commentator was making it sound. It was also not quite so fluffy either.
‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! you have to enjoy any album that comes with instructions, play this way A1, B1, A2, B2 with the B parts being on the enclosed 7″ record. Enjoy the inscrutable poster and the vaguely terrifying lonely square building that appears to be the subject of an impending disaster as you listen.
I remember hating anything that could be considered country music.
I remember scoffing at the thought that anything from Nashville would be worth hearing.
I remember the first time I heard Townes Van Zandt and all that changed.
We were living off a small road close to Sefton Park, it was a terrace with a stoop. We shared one room on the ground floor of the building, the ground floor was cheaper as it was more likely to get broken into, we adopted the principle of leaving a window open thinking that our blasé approach to security would ensure we never lost anything. For the larger part this seemed to work, we only got broken into once and they never took anything as our meager possessions were to say the least rudimentary, generally second hand and looked the worse for wear.
One Sunday morning as we tried to overcome the excesses of the night before with coffee and cheese and onion pasties we were drawn into the street by the sound of something different. There were guitars mandolins and a texas drawl, “So close and yet so far away…” there was a yearning a tenderness and a forlorn hope. “You built your tower so strong and tall, can’t you see it’s got to fall some day…”
There was a truth here beyond the usual punk rock and reggae playing in the street on a Sunday morning. Off in search of these sounds, actually only to the next stoop in the terrace. Sitting smoking with this unusual music pouring out of the window was our smoking neighbor leaning against the rail of his stoop listening to Delta Momma Blues by Townes Van Zandt. Many a wise word was spoken and many a thought shared with the understanding that Townes may well be a genius.
Later on we learned he had been covered by everyone, was an unpredictable performer and may well be America’s greatest song writer, but that’s only an opinion and everyone has one.
The covers classic Townes, the nonchalant observer of life leaning against a New York tenement stoop as a young couple make out in the shadows. At times simultaneously light and dark the album ends with the harrowing Nothin’.
The album ends with the final thought:
“Your back aint strong enough
and maybe there was never a truer final statement on any record.
To be honest I still don’t care for too much country music, although I am now willing to admit there may be some fine songwriting going on.
Nashville has produced some fine records by lots of people.
I guess I hav grown a little, I still however have to sit still if I happen to hear Townes Van Zandt, his plaintive voice demands attention, his lyrics speak a truth sometimes regardless of the arrangement around the song.