SELF PITY

These lyrics are from a Guess Who album released in 1973 entitled #10…Moe Berg (TPOS), whom I admire greatly, once posted that #10 was a “great album”…ironically, Jack Richardson, our long time Guess Who producer, once said in print “#10 is Ka-Ka”…I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder…I always liked these lyrics, and, for that matter, all of #10…oh well…to each his own…

SELF PITY

Sure like to boogie after death comes callin’
Sure like rockin’ when I’m far away
“Ooh Pooh Pah Doo” is lettin’ Jesse watch the heavens
Paint another picture while you’re turning grey

Everything I knew about was always American
Skip a stone lightly and you’ll be okay
Never really get my rockin’ feet to movin’
Till somebody’s singing “Not Fade Away”

Got mystery train fever, and I’m a believer
And go down Moses, and I’ll send you red roses
Despair, and death at an early age

You sang about truckin’ and the band had it movin’
If you were a lizard then you might be gone
A little self-indulgence never moved a mountain
Don’t need the fiddler yellin’ “Yeah, right on!”

You’re my angel from a wet salvation
You can buy and sell me so you shine me on
Your mama worked hard and the acid made you think about it
Why, mother water, are the days all gone

Got mystery train fever, and I’m a believer
And go down Moses, and I’ll send you red roses
Despair, and death at an early age

“ACT LIKE YOU CAN SING”

Flashback…the 1962/1963 year at St. John’s High, Winnipeg…It was my Grade Ten year and high school was a whole different game than Luxton School had been. I heard that the school would be putting on Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial By Jury”, and my friend Edd Smith told me he was definitely going out for one of the lead parts. I figured if he could, so could I. And guess what, folks…Edd and I BOTH got lead parts. He ended up being the Judge and I got the part of the drunken, philandering young goofball that was being tried.
Upon first scanning the libretto, I realized I had a hell of a lot of work ahead of me. Both Edd and I had huge blocks of dialogue as well as many of the most important key songs. My linear recall came in very handy while I committed those flowery speeches to memory. Having a lead part in this “huge” production immediately became a status symbol for me.
We spent a great deal of time preparing for the performances. We rehearsed at 8 AM every morning for months, an hour before everyone else started morning classes at nine. We stayed after 4 PM for weeks on end, rehearsing and refining and drilling the operetta while all the other kids were out being high-schoolers on the loose.
Mr. Hadfield, our eccentric, clever music teacher at St. John’s was at the helm of the bobsled for the entire production. It came off pretty well in the final analysis, and the following year when I started Grade Eleven, I automatically went out for the tenor lead in HMS Pinafore, another Gilbert and Sullivan masterpiece.
Before I knew it, I had gotten the part of Ralph (pronounced “RAIF”) Rackstraw. But here’s the twist. The plan was to do four nights of Pinafore towards the end of the school year. For every other lead part but mine, Mr. Hadfield had chosen two people. Each of the two students would have the lead part for two nights. He let me do my lead part all four nights…I was the only one who got to stay out front for every performance. I always thought that was cool, cool, cool.
Besides singing in the church choir for two or three years at St. Martin’s on Smithfield, those operettas were the closest I ever came to any kind of voice training. Ever since I can remember I’ve heard this phrase about singing from down in the lungs and not from the neck or throat. Quite frankly, I’ve never understood what the hell that means. Maybe it has something to do with opera or classical vocalizing, but in my universe, you just go for the fucking note. You either get it or you don’t. You’re either on pitch or you’re not. Anyone can sing, but not everyone has people who want to listen to them.
Know what I think about singing…? Ninety percent of it is lack of inhibition. I mean, other than a basic sense of pitch and rhythmics, which most people have, the thing that most great singers bring to the table is a complete lack of inhibition. They succumb to the moment, and without fear, become something or someone else.
Now, please don’t read this just one way. Lord knows, I’ve been in enough karaoke bars to have learned that some pretty rotten singers are constantly willing, even FRANTIC TO “succumb to the moment”. Herein lies the necessity of an audience. When someone has no business braying into a microphone up on a stage out in public, it is the honour-bound duty of the audience either to throw things at this defiler or boo them right the fuck off the stage.
“No failure for us, thank you…that’ll be quite enough.”
To fail at medicine or law or mathematics or sport is forgivable…but to fail at the business of fantasy…that’s its own death sentence. It’s like Escher’s serpent eating itself.
Even worse than that, if a person really stinks as a singer and still thinks they’re not bad and talks as if some kind of a “break” is the only thing standing between them and those Lear Jets and passport stamps, you never seem quite able to say the “right thing” or even anything acceptable.
Touchy stuff, this “singing”…
I’m trying to convey the thought of one of our uniquely great singers getting lost in the moment…Bono…there’s a good example. Bono’s voice is an instrument. His mannerisms indicate that he travels when he sings….succumbs to the moment. And if you ever see any of those early black and white film clips of Elvis on stage, I think you’ll see precisely the meaning of “succumbing to the moment with a lack of inhibition”. In some ways, singing is acting.
“What are you studying…?”
“Acting…I’m an actor….”
“So…act like you can sing !”

ON DANCER, ON PRANCER

early hope and early meaning
called the troops, begat convening
varied tales of buried treasure
sacred fear and golden measure
once a fortnight, once a year
variance betrothed to fear
weak reaction, different levels
thugs for Jesus, heaven’s devils…

friend or foe will fawn in glory
often spoiling pretty story
for the meek or for the lesser
sent in fear the dark confessor…
oh the water, boil with sinning
fake remorse and false beginning
real potemkin, how it teaches
spread the light to outer reaches…

sadder visage borne in failing
mother weakened, infant ailing
where to rise a force of saving
all the while the shadow braving
bring the coaches, bring the carriage
now encroaches fatal marriage
joining now are form and thinking
start parading, start the drinking…

pardon me for vast illusion
dress me down for this intrusion
silly me to speak of honour
at behest i’m now a goner…
tune the ear to different drumming
something chilling this way coming
is the heartbeat now a warning
riding shotgun for the morning…?

hurting head and walk in thunder
reputation sliding under
younger woman, girlish dreaming
desperate man with birthday screaming
ticking, tocking, loving, blurting,
lying, saving, mocking, hurting,
running, looking, almost praying,
always watching, always paying…

maybe next time i’ll be “dancer”
pull the sleigh and fly with “prancer”
could be worse reincarnations
might be awful complications
could be steeped in dark disaster
could be serving evil master
rather be the flying reindeer…
wouldn’t you…?

SISTER THE LIE

as proudest wolf he ascends to stage
sister the lie will permeate and evade
sister the lie has come to stay
her sorry victory ultimate
revealing shallow coffers well beneath a dying sun
sullied soul…
once sold, so long ago…
and cheaply, in the running, for the blood
the blood which flows past veins of caution…
he stands chesty, basked in false acclaim,
and counts the squalid fortune of the lost
even now he is the lesser of the losers,
the least of the lower…
waging in a canyon of abandon
wherein the failure echoes endless…
ascension to divine difference
i rejoice at not being that i pity
i am not that i have studied not to be
i rejoice at the lessons, many and lurid
’tis noble to stand corrected,
put right by observation
and not be tempered behind the backs
of those who smirk in silence…
to him who has failed so fully as to let me slumber
there can never be the thanks i owe…
the paper-mache general summons duteous troops,
with some compelled to belief of redemption
some compelled to pray for another chance
yet they do not…they are content…
sister the lie is able and flushed…
this and other evenings.

SHARP, SHARPER, SHARPEST

hated hun in guise of prole
winner’s wake compelled to troll
future signals deepest fear
sacred sister naught to hear
empty efforts thwarted soon
daily battles far from boon
shaky man from troubled child
seldom praised but soon reviled
stranger here his thoughts to bend
faded start to pallid end
kindest gods deny their backing
grandeur now be sorely lacking
none be hidden, none concealed
none to power, none to wield
tired phrases, less than splendid
mercifully, the joust is ended…

amen.